Manifestations of Colonialism…..

**originally posted for my other blog/site on January 30, 2014**

Manifestations of Colonialism…..

embedded deeply in our unconscious, in our first chakra. Say whaaaaat?  Minerva what are you talking about? I’m talking about the pains of our ancestors, I’m talking about the pains of colonialism that manifest themselves every day in our thoughts, actions and interactions and in the root of our energy beings as people of color.

My yoga journey has given me a new perspective and spirituality that helps me make sense of all the different facets of my being. I am a firm believer that we are all energy beings, along with everything else on this planet, and we all have a piece of the Divine in us. We are linked to each other and to the universe through this divine energy. The chakras (which I will go into deeper next week so check back then!) are seven energy centers in us, which house our spirits, energy and personal power. Our first chakra or root chakra is where we house the energy of our ancestors and our psychological stability originating in our family unit and early social environment.

Our ancestors were brutally stripped of their pride, cultural traditions and customs, ripped apart from our native lands and families. Broken down so that we could believe that there was/is something naturally inferior about our color-full skin and bodies. We are often told that slavery ended a long time ago and we should get over it. The fact is that it did not end that long ago in the U.S.’s history, it still happens today in other parts of the world, and shows up in different ways in our current societies. Also, the further we get from exploring the pains of our ancestors the heavier carrying their burdens becomes for us. Science is now jumping on board with knowledge that has been well known and respected for centuries by sages in India, showing that trauma experienced by parents are passed onto their children through the changing of the parents DNA.

It is no secret that my mother instilled the fear of just about everything, EVERY SINGLE THING in me since before I was even born. She is afraid of flying, heights, elevators, swimming, boats, enclosed spaces, unknown spaces, etc, and for a good chunk of my life, so was I. There were many times in my life where I proclaimed my mother was my hero and at other times the exact opposite. I think it is safe to say many people can relate to the ups and downs of any family relationship. My relationship with my father was basically nonexistent my whole life. He left when I was two, but since his mother lived in the same building as me, I would see him every now and then. For a long time I referred to him as just my sperm donor.

Understanding that pain is a natural part of our human journey, I think it is important to recognize that what matters is how we interact with that pain. The pains we inherited and the pains we experience. Are we running from it? Are we sweeping it under the rug? Are we allowing ourselves the space and time to sit with ourselves? Can we look into our souls and offer ourselves the gentle kindness needed to heal our wounds? The same kind you would offer a crying kid who just scrapped their knee. Are we looking for the patterns in our lives and where they manifested from so that we can begin to walk a different path? Or have we become so comfortable sitting in the darkness that we refuse to turn on the light for fear of what we will see? Do we understand the messages we receive from society about our bodies, our abilities, our families, our worth and how debilitating that is to our psyches and our souls?

When we lose touch with our lineage, we allow things like Jay-Z’s hideous lines in Bey’s drunk in love song to pass, we go back to our native countries to have deadly procedures done to our bodies to fit into an unrealistic ideal of beauty, we see our neighbors as strangers, and unhealthy family situations as normality. We see the earth as something we can abuse, something that is here to serve our needs of overconsumption and nothing more.

As George Santayana wrote: those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. Negative emotions consume our health. So while it important to sit with our negative emotions and pain, we cannot dwell in it for too long. It is important to take the time to look into our ancestral history, our colonial past, but it is also important to start right at home. What have you been carrying that actually belongs to your mother or your father? My relationship towards both my parents drastically changed when I began to do this, to understand what I was holding that did not belong to me, when I started to understand and learn what it was like for my mother growing up, what it was like when my mother and father were indeed together in a ridiculously violent relationship, and putting all the pieces together. Obviously I am not done, hence why I am spending a month in my mother’s home grounds- Puerto Rico and three weeks in my fathers- Dominican Republic.

I know not everyone has the ability to just pack up and go visit our ancestral lands but as Thich Nhat Hanh says we “inter-are”. Therefore, if you want to begin the healing, you can do so from the comfort of your home. Set up an altar space, place some family pictures and anything else that makes the space sacred to you (for me, I had fresh flowers, pictures from both sides of my family, a poem describing my intention, other things given to me from dear friends, a Ganesha statue- he is the remover of obstacles, sage and my mala beads) and dedicate some time each day where you can sit by it and just be present in that moment. Do not try too hard to force the thoughts out of your head, just let the thoughts run across your mind, look at them, acknowledge them, and then move on. Bri Maya Tiwari offers a focused-breath meditation in her book that sparked my own journey that I want to share with you:

1: Inhale through your nose and direct the breath deeply into your abdomen. Now take time to become aware of areas of your body where you are holding on to stress. Do you notice tightness around your eyes? In your jaw? Your chest? Your belly? Bring your awareness into these areas, and spend a few minutes in each, observing the subtlest sensations and movements. Now direct your breath into those places of tension where the discomfort of tremor, conflict, pain, numbness, or constriction are present. Exhale slowly through your nose. Repeat this process three times.

2: Direct your next intake of breath into the area of stress with a definite intention to release this stress. Slowly exhale the breath, and feel the inner spaces expanding in and around the area of stress. Feel yourself becoming calmer and more relaxed.

3: Take a deep breath, and as you exhale, pay attention the send of peace permeating your body.

Repeat these steps five times.

paz & namaste mi gente!