The “S” in PRISM stands for stereotype replacement. Gupta guides us through a few examples, again saying a word and asking us to be mindful of the first association that appears in our minds, and then inviting us to consider alternate examples, adding depth and complexity to our automatic associations. I found the practice to be simple and helpful, something I can easily do on my own when I notice stereotypical associations arising in my own mind, and something I can teach others to do.
Anu Gupta: Breaking Bias with Mindfulness
I’ve begun a course in Insight Timer by Anu Gupta called Breaking Bias with Mindfulness and plan to post short reflections on the lessons here.
I’ve been using Insight Timer, a meditation app, since 2012. I usually just use the timer and meditate in silence, or maybe meditate to some ambient music or sounding bowls. But this year they’ve been honoring Black History Month by featuring guided meditations from Black guides, so I decided I’d give some of them a try. I’ve been so impressed. Lalah Delia’s Energy Cleanse: Sacred Waters is a beautiful guided imagery taking you through a waterfall and beyond. Alexandra Elle has some great guided writing exercises, including one on affirmations and a letter for self-forgiveness. Lauren Ash has a well-rounded practice that includes breath work, a body scan, and connection with intuition, all on top of hip-hop inspired background music.
And my favorite has been the sessions from Rachel Ricketts. She describes herself like this:
Rachel Ricketts is a thought leader and champion for Black and Indigenous womxn. As a racial justice activist, lawyer, healer, speaker + author, she educates white folx on their role in perpetuating white supremacy, and helps folx of colour heal from internalized oppression. Rachel hosts workshops that promote racial justice and offer solutions for all hue-mans to dismantle white supremacist heteropatriarchy, heal from racialized trauma, and better connect with themselves and each other.
Her session Lovingly Exploring Our Emtions connects our personal emotional experiences to oppressive, exploitative systems, which I think is crucial in helping would-be activists develop self-interest in the work of resistance and collective healing. I appreciate her warning to address our own pain before or at least as we engage in collective work, so as to cause more good than harm. I also appreciate her acknowledgement of Eastern religious and spiritual traditions that have provided the foundation for many of the meditation practices that are taught today. Her Breathing and Being With the Earth helps us connect to trees and the Earth, ancient sources of calm and wisdom and vitality.
The crown jewel in her library so far, in my opinion, is Stepping Into Spiritual Activism. I think it probably summarizes her mission. It is her invitation to those who want to dismantle white supremacist heteropatriarchy to first dismantle it within themselves, thus avoiding the “spiritual bypassing” she sees often among activists. She gives different advice to white folks and people of color, and acknowledges we’ve all been affected. It’s so good, so helpful, so important, so unflinching and compassionate and well-done. It reminded me of conversations I’ve had with a fellow anti-racist worker about my desire for an activist space that is not owned by a particular religious or spiritual tradition but that welcomes everyone to bring their own religious and spiritual beliefs and practices into the activist work. If we don’t make space for those, I think we rob our movements of deep wells of inspiration and motivation and healing.
I encourage you to check some of these out, regardless of whether you’re interested in meditation. If you like what you hear, consider paying the creators! You can donate directly in the Insight Timer app. Rachel Ricketts can also take donations via Patreon or Paypal.
The book is divided into seven sections: Transforming Justice, Stop, See, Open, Choose, Ask, Proclaim, and Remember.
I’ll begin by getting my mild criticisms out of the way. First, I feel the tone of the book is a bit too professional. Hoang feels superhuman when writing of her college days, love of Scripture, evening hymn sings with her family and times of stillness and prayer at the office. It’s easy to get the impression that she’s never stopped caring, that she’s faithfully practiced all these disciplines as long as she’s known them. It was hard for me to relate at times. This is balanced some, however, by her descriptions of how hard it can be for her to stop and rest or pray. It’s also her first book, so it’s fair to say that she’s still finding her voice. In the end, it may simply be a matter of taste.