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On Doing the Work, "Being a Good Ancestor", and the Gift of Layla Saad's 28-Day Challenge

If you asked me 10 years ago where I stood politically, I would have said that I preferred to stay out of politics. I would have told you that paying attention to the news was depressing and made some cynical statement about how nothing ever really changes anyway and left it at that.

I’m not sure I could pinpoint the exact moment that things shifted for me, but I certainly know that my sense of urgency around involving myself in social issues was massively heightened during the US presidential campaign of 2016, when I was confronted with more open bigotry, sexism, xenophobia, ableism, and other painfully hateful world views than I could have ever allowed myself to believe existed in our country than before. If there is any gift that has and will come out of this very dark period in our country’s history, it is that we are finally having the opportunity to see the truth of who we are and make conscious decisions about what we wish to do about that.

Over the past few years, I have felt compelled to seek out more education around social issues and to find ways to become more engaged around these issues. I’ll be honest and say that this process, even as minimally as I’ve stepped into it, is overwhelming. The problems feel so big and so numerous and the impulse to simply throw my hands up and walk away is real. But you can’t unknow things. And I’ve found myself being increasingly tailed by a shadow of guilt and shame that I know won’t be dissolved through intentional ignorance.

I won’t pretend that I’ve become an avid activist in the past few years. There are people out there doing big work, standing on the front lines, raising their voices and leaping into action in the name of shaping our world into a better place for all. These people are our modern day heroes and I admire them from the depths of my soul. They inspire me daily to become more engaged, to find my voice and the ways in which I can impact positive change. They inspire me to stay with the discomfort and do the work.

What “doing the work” looks like is going to be different for everyone based on who you are, what resources you have, and what unique gifts you bring to the table. For me, as a white woman from a privileged background whose career focuses on wellness and healing, the work right now is about educating myself and sharing what I learn with my circle of influence. It means listening and learning from people who are more deeply rooted in the work than I am and then putting my support behind their efforts. And it means taking a deep and honest inventory of the ways in which I contribute, intentionally or not, to the issues we are facing as a global community.

With the current political climate of the US, it is all but impossible to not see the deep sickness that runs through our society in the form of racism. While I have a rudimentary understanding of institutionalized racism throughout the world, and in particular in the US, there is so very much more for me to learn about the nuances of how this cancer impacts our nation and individuals on a daily basis and one of the voices that has been most helpful for me in my process of inquiry is that of Layla Saad, also known as @wildmysticwoman over on Instagram. Layla is a writer, speaker, and poet whose work focuses on spirituality, race, feminism, and leadership and the dynamics between these cultural phenomena. She is a strong, compassionate, and incredibly gifted leader, and if you’re interested in finding a space to begin to dig into your own relationship with these topics, I highly recommend checking out her work, which you can access from her Instagram profile, linked above.

Layla recently opened up an offering on her Instagram feed in the form of a 28-Day Challenge titled #MeAndWhiteSupremacy. You can  read more about the challenge and what it entails here, but it is essentially a free opportunity for anyone who benefits from White Privilege to examine and explore their relationship with White Supremacy and ultimately to grow, heal themselves, and heal our world as well.

It would be an understatement to say that this challenge was triggering for me from the first moment it showed up in my feed.

The very term “White Supremacy” makes my skin crawl. It brings up such a sense of shame that I don’t want to utter or write the words. But, as someone who has spent years doing deep personal healing work and exploring my own shadow, I know two things: 1) If you are being triggered, then you are coming in contact with something that is in need of healing. And 2) We cannot heal something if we can’t even name it or look at it head on.

My first instinct was to choose to do the challenge on my own, in a journal, instead of sharing my responses on her feed. The idea of having this conversation in a public forum truly terrified me (and still does, to be honest). I’m scared of saying the wrong thing or not doing it right. I’m scared of unintentionally causing pain or anger in others as a result of my own ignorance. I’m afraid of my own shame and the grief that comes with being confronted by ugly truths. I’m worried about how my own engagement will be perceived by those around me, especially in my professional and spiritual communities, where everyone can get down with “Love and Light”, but few really want to dig into the stickiness of Shadow.

For all of these reasons, it is deeply uncomfortable for me to speak about race as an issue (Layla actually addresses this very phenomenon of “White Silence” in today’s challenge prompt), but if I am going to choose to step into the work that I know is absolutely necessary for the healing of our society, then I am going to have to pay the price of my own discomfort. And weighed against the absolute atrocities that so many have experienced and continue to experience under institutionalized forms of oppression, I’d say that it’s a pretty nominal fee.

So here I am. Naming it. Committing to do the work, to go deeper and deeper as I uncover new layers, and to share it, as openly as I can, so that I can be what Layla refers to as a “good ancestor”, contributing in the ways that I can to a better world for all of us and our future generations. If you feel like you might be ready to step into this work as well, I would be honored to have you join me. Let’s have the conversations that matter. Let’s do more than just hope for change. Let’s be the ones to create it. Even if we do it imperfectly. We have to start somewhere, so let’s begin right here, right now.

**I would also like to make a note about the gift that Layla is offering through this challenge. The work she is sharing is deep work. She is creating an incredibly powerful container for growth and self-discovery and she has stated that she is doing this for free because she feels called to. She is setting aside time and energy to create and share an offering with the potential to create massive healing and, in the process, is no doubt navigating deep inner processes to be able to gracefully and compassionately hold a container for collective shadow work around an issue that impacts her in such a personal way. Yes, this work is confronting for me as a  white woman. Yes, it is challenging to show up for it. And yes, I am incredibly grateful to Layla for creating a space for me to look in the mirror in order to develop deeper awareness of how I show up and where I have room to grow and become more of the type of person I want to be. While Layla is offering this work for free, her work is absolutely worthy of financial compensation (and substantial compensation, at that--if you’ve ever worked with a coach, you know that this type of work is not cheap), so if you choose to participate in this challenge or follow her free offerings and feel that you have benefitted from them, please feel free to support her work through by making a donation to her Paypal or by purchasing a subscription to her Patreon account. It’s just one more way that we can put our money/actions/energy, where our mouths are and support the people who are on the front lines of the movement to create true, positive social change.

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