Black History Month on Insight Timer

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.


Counseling for social justice, part 1: Can we learn from counselors of previous generations? Can we learn with them?

It’s been difficult to find time to write for anyone other than my professors for the last five years, but I want to start trying. I’m interested in writing about trying to become a professional mental health counselor with a strong focus on social justice, since it’s been difficult for me so far.

Here’s the dynamic I think I’m noticing: for good reason, elders in the counseling world want young counselors-in-training (CITs) to adopt a posture of humility and learning. They want us to recognize that there is so much we don’t know about treating our clients well, and to be dependent on them to learn. That is well and good. It is true that we have much to learn.

But Sue, Arredondo and McDavis was published in 1992, and I imagine it took quite some time to get incorporated into the way that CITs were trained. This means that many of today’s counseling elders likely came up in a system in which Eurocentric approaches to mental health were the largely-unquestioned norm. I imagine that is still the case in a lot of places. In my Theories of Counseling course, we didn’t get to theories that start to question those norms, postmodern theories like multicultural, feminist, narrative and collaborative, until the last two chapters of the book and the last week or two of the semester, when we were already rushing to finish our final papers and the class. So you could say that a strong social justice perspective is still lacking in counselor education. Of course, I can only speak for my own experience, but since my program is close to becoming accredited by CACREP, which places many requirements on curriculum, I’m sure the experience is not wildly different for others students in CACREP programs. I’m grateful my program has some faculty with social justice orientations that compensate for the dearth of it in the curriculum. One of them is responsible for bringing the Multicultural Issues in Counseling course into the twenty-first century by imbuing it with a focus on social justice.

So, while I understand that I and my fellow CITs have much to learn about counseling, treatment planning, note writing, etc., I wish that counseling elders would more readily acknowledge that they may be less practiced in questioning norms than those of us who’ve grown up in a world where doing so is increasingly an expectation. If they did, it would be easier to combine the best of what we each know, rather than falling into the age-old trap of indiscriminately rejecting the values of the previous generation.