Buddhism, Yoga

Protect Your Energy

Hello readers,

The following post is something I wrote yesterday. I am in much better spirits than I was during the writing of this post, but I felt the message was an important one that warranted a post. Thank you for taking the time to read this, and I hope it resonates with you.

These past couple of days have been hectic. As I write these words, I feel a languor permeating my being. I feel it in the heaviness of my steps. I feel it in the way I withdraw into myself. I feel it in the way I keep my interactions with people to a bare minimum. This is not me.

I need to mind my energy and the way I allow the environment and people to affect it. I have been working hard, moving around without stopping to breathe, taking on people’s negative energy, and I have not done any work outside of work to manage all of it. This fatigue and rancor are the result of not doing the internal work.

I cannot give outside forces or people anymore control over my energy and wellbeing. I need to stop. I need to meditate. I need to primal scream. I need to hit the yoga mat. Whatever it takes, I need to mind my energy. It is a precious resource that I cannot afford to leave unprotected.

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Buddhism, Politics

The President of White— I Mean, All Americans

“I will refrain from uttering words that can cause division and discord, or that can cause the family or the community to break.”

~ Thich Nhat Hanh

This quote is part of a longer explanation of the Fourth Mindfulness Training, one of The Five Mindfulness Trainings. President Trump should meditate on this quote because it provides a framework for being an effective leader that unites instead of divides. Unfortunately, our president uses rhetoric that divides by consistently attacking people of color, especially Hispanic migrants by referring to them as rapists, drug dealers, gang members, etc. Let’s not forget that he referred to Hispanic migrants coming here as an “invasion”.

This kind of rhetoric not only divides our country; it sews discord and chaos by putting all Hispanics at risk. These negative labels affixes targets on the backs of all Hispanics because let’s be real: white supremacists do not see the difference between illegal migrants vs. US citizens. Patrick Crusius from the El Paso shooting did not distinguish. I read his manifesto in the wake of the massacre. He referred to illegal migrants and Hispanic citizens as “invaders” because he saw all Hispanics as a threat to the conservative stronghold in Texas and jobs. To white supremacists, all Hispanics are invaders. We will never belong in their eyes.

By indirectly referring to Hispanic migrants as invaders, and telling four Congresswomen of color that they can leave the country, Trump is not leading this country. He is using his bully pulpit to marginalize people of color and stifle our voices instead of listening to them. Trump claimed he was going to be a president of all Americans. By consistently attacking migrants of color and politicians of color, the president has proven that he is the president of all white Americans.

I hate to use this kind of language, but I believe Right Speech also consists of speaking honestly. And honestly speaking, our president is a racist. Another element of Right Speech is not saying things that we do not know to be true. I am certain of Trump’s racism because he is on record saying racist things out loud and on Twitter. Therefore, don’t at me.

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Books

The War Against Us

Currently reading: Anarcho-Syndicalism: Theory and Practice by Rudolf Rocker.

I recently finished War Against All Puerto Ricans: Revolution and Terror in America’s Colony by Nelson Denis, a must-read for those who are interested in understanding Puerto Rico’s history and relationship with the United States. In a few words, we were referred to as “mongrels” and incapable of self-governance. This dehumanization created the justification by politicians and businessmen to take over the island and exploit the land as well as its people.

I am grateful to take on this book as an Afro-Latino man who knew very little about Puerto Rican history. This work helped me understand that there is a war against us. By us, I mean all people of color. The same tactic of dehumanization is still utilized in the present. We need to look no further than the way our government describes my fellow Hispanics: rapists, drug dealers, gang members, etc. By associating Hispanics with crime, the government is stripping undocumented immigrants of their humanity by presenting them as brutes capable only of heinous crimes, not as families seeking a better life.

The Trump administration utilized this rationale to lock people up in concentration camps. And before anybody tries to tell me that they are not camps, academics agree with that term usage. Camps or detention facilities, the point is we are locking up kids and treating them like animals. This kind of relegation to Other status is not just being imposed on those seeking asylum; we also see it with citizens.

Just a few days ago, we saw the president tell four congresswomen of color to go back to where they came from. I watched with horror as people, including some of color, agreed with these remarks. We as people of color will never be welcome in this country. Look at AOC, Omar, Tlaib, and Pressley. These brilliant women are rightful citizens who were duly elected to the House of Representatives. Despite 3/4 of the squad being born in the United States, and one being a naturalized citizen, our president still sends the message that they do not belong here. And to add insult to injury, when asked if he is concerned that people saw the tweets as racist, Trump responded, “It does not concern me because many people agree with me.” I saw this for myself in my Facebook feed and on Twitter.

The support for Trump’s remarks sends a disturbing message: we as people of color will never belong here. Even as citizens, there are people like Trump who think we need to go back from whence we came if we do not tout the same blind nationalism. My response to that is simple: the purest form of love is the kind that praises when it is warranted and constructively criticizes when it wants to improve things for all parties involved. I pray the squad continues to show its love for the United States by constantly seeking ways to improve this country. As demonstrated by the xenophobic rhetoric and the concentration camps, there is a lot of work to be done.

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Books, Buddhism

Carpe Liber

Currently reading: Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton.

Hello everyone,

I apologize for the lack of updates. Lately I have been preoccupied with my coursework. I am currently studying Library & Information Science. My head has been in my textbook and online readings for my courses. So far, the challenge for me has not been with the coursework. I have been submitting my assignments on time, and getting full credit for my work. I need to improve on balancing work and leisure.

I love to read books. You can usually find me with a book everytime you see me, either in my hand or in my messenger bag. I never leave home without a good read by my person. My leisure reading has taken a dip for obvious reasons. I am not saying this is a horrible thing. This is also not a complaint; this is an acknowledgement of a change. I need to learn how to manage my time better because I noticed that I have been devoting all of my time to required and optional readings for my courses. I also need to learn to have fun as well to ensure that I do not burn myself out.

I need to remember to breathe and to enjoy what life has to offer. Sometimes I tunnel vision on my work at the expense of ensuring my brain gets rest. Rest is important for retention and avoiding getting stressed out when challenges present themselves. Going forward, I am going to return to my breathing, return to myself, and remember that there are more things to life than work. I am going to start by picking up where I left off in Jurassic Park…

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Books, Tarot

The Heart of the Cards

Currently reading: When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Life Matters Memoire by Patrisse Khan-Cullors and asha bandele.

A few weeks ago, I decided to buy the Rider-Waithe Tarot deck. My interest in studying the craft stems from a few things. First, there is the Persona video game series, a franchise I enjoyed playing as a kid, which features the Major Arcana as a being/monster categorization system. Second, I had a reading done by a friend before which piqued my interest in understanding the cards. These experiences led me to buy my own deck and Tarot for Beginners by Barbara Moore.

I decided to do my first reading a few days ago. For my first reading, I decided to go easy with the One-Card method. For my first question I chose to ask, will I do well in grad school? In less than two weeks I will be working towards my master’s in Library and Information Science. This will serve as an opportunity to embark on my journey towards a career related to my passion: books. Since it’s been eight years since I have been in school, there is a tinge of excitement as well as nervousness. With these emotions coursing through me, I decided to try my Tarot deck with this question.

That day I drew the Magician Card. The Magician points a wand towards the sky. According to Moore’s description of the card, the wand symbolizes one’s will. With the free hand, the Magician points to the ground. He is channeling the power of the universe in order to effect change in the physical plane. The chalice, sword, and pentacle symbolize material resources needed to translate one’s will into a reality (Moore, 40). Now that I have assembled the images of the card, the next step in the reading becomes assembling all of these symbols into what it all means in relation to grad school.

The primary role of the Magician is utilizing knowledge and resources to effect change. The card is telling me I have the knowledge and the resources to make my dreams possible. It is up to me to channel the energy and utilize the resources to make my dreams into a reality.

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Books, Buddhism

Deep Breath

Currently reading: Dune by Frank Herbert.

These past few days have been a test of patience, patience that I momentarily lost. I am planning to pursue my Master’s in Library & Information Sciences. My union is giving me the runaround with my financial aid. Without this financial aid, I may not be able to go back to school. I do not have 2 G’s in my bank account. Despite this setback, I am finding solace in the novel Dune by Frank Herbert, specifically the training of the enigmatic Bene Gesserit.

The Bene Gesserit are a sisterhood that trains mind and body. Due to their training, they are able to detect falsehoods and even control people through the use of their voice. The training of the Bene Gesserit resonates with me because a lot of their training involves breathing exercises. In Buddhism, meditation involves stopping what you are doing and focussing on your breathing as well. Lady Jessica received this training and passed this on to her son Paul, our protagonist. We see this training in the first chapter when Paul engages in the “mind-body lessons his mother taught him,” which consisted of “three quick breaths” and reminding himself that “all things/cells/beings are impermanent.” (5) Whenever difficulties come their way, they rely on their breathing to master themselves and overcome obstacles. The most poignant example of this training in practice is the desert storm scene.

When the Harkonnens seek to eliminate Lady Jessica and Paul, the chase leads them to a desert storm. Paul’s plan involves steering the ship into the storm in such a way that they ride on top of it to elude pursuit. When they ride into the storm and lose control of the ship, they returned to their training to introduce calm. They also invoked a litany about fear: “I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past me I will turn to see fear’s path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.” Life is unpredictable. It will throw you curve balls. You will not always have control in the same way that Paul has no control of the ship in the storm. The good news is it will come and it will go. And you will still be here.

I need to remember my own training like Paul and Lady Jessica remember theirs in times of trouble. I cannot allow bureaucratic bullshit and inept imbeciles to take me out of my element. This setback I am dealing with is my desert storm. Everything seems to be going wrong, but I am not going to panic. I need to follow Paul’s example. When captured by the Harkonnens, for example, he goes back to his Bene Gesserit training regimen to keep himself “poised, ready to expand any opportunity.” (209) By staying calm, Paul was able to seize the opportunity and escape from the Harkonnens. If I panic, I will be blind to my options. With that in mind, I will be like Paul and seek refuge in my breathing and see what options manifest.

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Books

When Perception is Deception

Currently reading: Assata: An Autobiography by Assata Shakur with Forewords by Angela Davis and Lennox S. Hinds.

We are an image-driven society. Day after day we are bombarded by smartphone notifications, memes, advertisements, etc.  These images are used to manipulate the masses toward compulsively checking social media pages, buying products, consuming food and beverages, molding our reactions to current events, and other subtle forms of manipulation. When it comes to race, image is utilized to steer the masses against minorities. We see this in the way the image of the savage is used against Black people. This kind of image manipulation is prevalent today when the Trump administration uses the Latino gangbanger stereotype to stoke anti-immigration sentiment. These images share the common element of being rooted in ignorance. 

The image of the savage was utilized by the United States to justify enslaving Black people. In Barracoon: The Story of the Last “Black Cargo,” Zora Neale Hurston interviewed Cudjo Lewis, the last survivor of the Middle Passage. Cudjo’s account details the various false stereotypes white people held about Africans. In the case of the savage stereotype, one of the characteristics is nakedness. 

The sweeping generalization of African nakedness does not match the reality Lewis knows. He explains, “We come in de ‘Merica soil naked and de people say we naked savage. Dey say we doan wear no clothes. Dey doan know de Many-costs (Kroo boys) snatch our clothes ‘way from us.” (55). This description unravels the image of the savage for the nonsense that it is when analyzed against the facts. Africans had clothing until they were stripped away by the slavers and their coconspirators. Nakedness is not the only characteristic that the image of the savage tries to push. Another false idea is the notion that Africans were cannibals. 

When discussing how his children were treated, Cudjo describes how they were teased and called cannibals: “All de time de chillun growin’ de American folks they picks at dem and tell de Afficky people dey kill folks and eatee de meat. Dey callee my chillun ig’nant savage and make out dey kin to monkey.” (73) This image proves absurd because Cudjo and his family are far from partakers in human flesh. He had a garden he tended to and grew food which he shared with his family and continued to share with Hurston when she visited him. Cudjo is living proof that the savage stereotype is just that: a stereotype. It is rooted in ignorance and paranoia. This dehumanization of Africans by representing them as cannibals served the purpose of turning white people against Black people in order to justify enslaving and brutalizing them.  

The use of false image to create a false perception persists to this day in the United States. Even in the 21st century, our government creates a boogieman in order to instill fear and turn the country against certain groups of people. We see this use of image manipulation in the Trump administration and how they create a false perception with regard to migrant families. 

President Donald Trump relies on the image of the Latino gangbanger to stoke the flames of anti-immigration within the United States. When discussing the issue of border security, Trump conjures up MS-13, a gang originating within Los Angeles whose members are mostly of Central American origin. Trump claims that we need to protect our borders from the gang. By constantly mentioning MS-13 in connection to illegal immigration, and conveniently omitting the families that are seeking asylum in the United States from countries racked by violence, Trump creates this false perception that most of our illegal immigrants are gangbangers. Trump takes the anti-immigration rhetoric further by dehumanizing them: “These aren’t people, these are animals, and we’re taking them out of the country at a level and at a rate that’s never happened before.” [1] This dehumanization sets the foundation for legitimizing his harsh zero tolerance policy which consisted of separating families and placing illegal immigrants in camps (see also: internment camps). Centuries since the Middle Passage, our country still tries to create a boogieman to instill fear and turn the population against minorities.  Before, it was Black people. Now we are experiencing this fear mongering with the specter of MS-13. 

Meanwhile, law enforcement agencies concluded MS-13 does not pose a significant threat to the United States. When discussing the threat level of the gang, Tom Manger, the police chief in Montgomery county, explains, “MS-13 is certainly a threat, just not the one the president is making it out to be.” [2] This is coming from a police chief working in an area “where the gang has one of its largest concentrations”. [3] The purpose of inflating the threat is to create a false threat for the country to turn against and legitimize our severe anti-immigration policy. The aftermath of the zero tolerance policy unraveled the MS-13 threat for the bullshit that it was. The recent migrant family separation crisis demonstrates that the people coming in are people just like us, not ruthless gang members intent on harming us. 

In order to combat these false images, we need to embrace the practice of Right Thinking. When confronted with an image put forward by the media, ask yourself: “Are you sure?” Is this image rooted in reality? Or is it rooted in ignorance and paranoia? If we do not engage in this practice, we risk being taken for a ride by politicians bent on deception in order to achieve insidious ends. 

Sources:

[1] https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/17/us/trump-animals-ms-13-gangs.html

[2] https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/01/us/politics/ms13-gang-threat-trump-policy.html

[3] ibid.

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