I’ve been away for a couple of weeks, and though I’m sure that I felt my absence more than anyone else, my guilt is giving rise to a little writer’s block as I sit down to compose this week’s post. My inner perfectionist, unswayed by the fact that there’s no crime in taking a couple weeks off from your blog when you get married, is nagging at me, fueled as it is by the fear of inadequacy, failure, and rejection. When I started the most recent iteration of this blog, I wanted it to be a place where I could be honest about my growth process in a way that might be helpful for other heart-centered leaders who are out here just trying to make a difference. One of the things that I have learned is that my belief that I must be perfect in this process is more of a hindrance than a help, and may even be partially responsible for the ways in which I perpetuate fear and trauma and oppression in the world.
There’s no point in beating around the bush. This post is about spiritual surgery. About identifying the aspects of our current way of being that do not serve our purpose or our values, and severing from them. Next week, I will join seven other men and four guides led by Jeddy Azuma of the Rising Man Movement in the desert in Death Valley, California, in order to begin a process of spiritual death and rebirth culminating in four days and four nights in solitude, fasting from food and all the other distractions of modern life. I am choosing to do this because, like my esteemed colleague Kahseim Outlaw put it so well on a global virtual COVID townhall call yesterday, we cannot change the world without changing ourselves first.
I was a co-moderator on yesterday’s global COVID townhall call with my friend and brother Brian Jenkins, who completed his fast in the desert six months ago. The purpose of the call was to join together people from all backgrounds and perspectives to talk, listen, and be heard around the topic of the COVID-19 vaccine. The coronavirus pandemic, and our collective response to it as a species, is just one of many global crises facing humanity right now, and Brian and I believe that the way we respond to it matters. Whether we are divided by fear or united by love, our descendants will feel the impact of our collective decision for generations. And so I was dismayed on the call when I learned that I was the only person present who had been vaccinated against COVID-19. I was dismayed not because I believed everyone else on the call should do what I chose to do for my health, but because I saw in the absence of other vaccinated folks the belief that we have already done our part, and the belief that there is no point in creating dialogue and building community with people who choose not to get vaccinated.
There is a long-overdue evolution taking place in white antiracism work today. That evolution is the shift from white antiracists pointing the finger at other white people as the problem to antiracists of all stripes doing the deep inner work to identify the ways in which even we unconsciously contribute to the perpetuation of injustice. It is a shift from blame and othering and us-vs-them thinking to vulnerability and responsibility and we’re-in-this-together thinking. It is a fundamental shift in consciousness away from shame and projection and into courage and acceptance.
Two years ago, I had a powerful spiritual experience that rocked me to my core and woke me up to the fact that I wasn’t living my life in accordance with my beliefs and values. I believed then as I do now that human civilization is dependent (like an addict) on the exploitation of human and non-human bodies and that this exploitation is not ethical or sustainable, and yet I was not actively involved in finding positive solutions. Not yet aware of the upcoming pandemic, my sights were on the impending climate crisis. My takeaway from the experience was that I needed to dedicate myself to becoming the kind of leader that stood for love and justice and healing at a time when most other leaders were just interested in finger pointing or denial. In order to do this, I intuited that I would need to invest more in my own healing, and in my relationship with the earth.
The road has not been easy these last two years, and I have had to face off with uncomfortable aspects of my own psychology that I’d managed to avoid fully confronting for most of my 38 years. Recent challenges have included major depression, family conflict, and unemployment. I know I’m not the only person to have struggled in these ways, and I know that there are many more ways in which I have not had to struggle. For instance, I did not lose any loved ones during the pandemic, I did not lose my home, and I did not get sick from COVID. On the same token, the last two years have included plenty of joy, connection, and accomplishment as well. I managed to find a collective living situation that is healing and nourishing, I got licensed as a marriage and family therapist, started my own private practice, got married, and am expecting my first child in February.
So as I prepare to embark on this journey that will mark the ending of my boyhood and the start of my next phase of life, I’m trying my best to be aware of it all. The joy, the pain, and the connection to the bigger picture. I fully believe that another world is possible, one in which we work together to take care of each other and the one planet that we (sh)are. But it won’t happen just because we want it, and it won’t happen if we don’t do what we have to in order to become the people who can make it happen. For me, it starts with realizing that my story of inadequacy is an illusion, but a powerful one. One that cannot be healed without walking right up to it with only faith and love as my companions.
What about you? What do you need to heal in order to be the version of yourself that you know you can be? Tell us in the comments. Shame is so 2019.
Nauser Bear is a licensed marriage and family therapist in California (LMFT#123099; licensed with the BBS as Nicholas Jon Reynolds) and a coach for HELPAs (Healers, Educators, Leaders, Parents, Activists & Artists) wanting to build a life of sustainable selfless service. To work with Nauser, send an email to nauserbeartherapy at gmail dot com, call (510) 394-5373, or schedule a free 20-minute consultation by clicking here.
Disclaimer: This blog and comments on it do not constitute medical or mental health advice. If you are in need of support and live in California, contact me to set up a consult to see if working together is a fit. Otherwise, seek mental health support in your area. If you are in danger of hurting yourself or someone else, please call 911 or the National Suicide Prevention hotline, which is available 24/7, at 800-273-8255.