Authored by Leanne Alaman of Embodied Contribution
Can you be a little gentler?
I ask myself,
Can you be a little gentler?
I am asked by my mom,
by trans people
by people new to the US and to English
by people younger than me
by Gaia, Pachamama, Mother Earth
by life itself.
The answer is I can be. Whether or not I will be is another question…
Manifest destiny was my failed attempt at gentleness.
I wanted a life that was gentler than the one I had. I craved the power to own my life so I could force life to be gentle to me. I ventured out into unfamiliar landscapes to conquer “new” worlds. I went out in search of ownership.
I did not realize that ownership did not require an outward journey. What I longed for was already housed inside of me. An inner landscape I could mold and shape as I saw fit. An inner landscape of interpretations I could mold to be the coziest home. An inner landscape of beliefs I could shape to be gentle in every way I needed.
The challenge of owning landscapes outside of myself is that the land is not mine alone. I can not own them. They are the commonwealth. The commonwealth exists for all to benefit from, enjoy, care for, and tend to.
When I focus on everything outside of myself, I lose focus on everything inside of myself. Everything inside of me does not seem like much inside a traumatized worldview, a colonized worldview. Inside my colonized worldview I experience the deficit of everything I have lost. So my everything seems like nothing.
I play out this deficit with imposter syndrome or arrogance; the act of over-performing my value to prove it exists. The root of the experience of deficit snakes back to where I lost the land where my people are buried.
My homeland. The soil where my people danced, loved, married, created life, died, alchemized into soil that blossomed into life that danced, loved, married, created life, died, and blossomed again, and again, and again in an unceasing tidal wave of life.
My homeland was swollen with the abundance of this endless process of enriching the land with life, love, and death.
Down at the level of soil, my homeland was my people. The soil of my homeland contains all my people who were, waiting to nourish all my people who would be. This rolling wave of life, enlivened by death, spilled endlessly forward. When the wave of life washed over my new and tender skin, I was welcomed into my lineage.
But I am a wave of life who knows only deficit. I have no memory of my life before scarcity.
I cannot hear the abundance of which Indigenous people speak. Indigenous people say sacred land, but colonized people hear important land. We think, “Yeah. It’s important to me too. I’m going to build condos here and make a lot of money.”
We cannot hear the word sacred. It is too abundant to exist inside the scarcity of a traumatized worldview. For now, the meaning of sacred land is beyond my comprehension.
Sacred includes everything. In trauma, I reject aspects of myself and my life to survive but, in doing so, I lose my connection to those aspects. I lose my connection to everything that lives inside me. Without my connection to everything, I lose my connection to sacredness, which includes everything.
The void of deficit seeks fullness. Looking inward offers solutions, but they are wrapped in terrifying packaging; Shame, terror, grief. There might be everything inside, but who would unwrap such a gift?
The longing for everything and sacredness aches deeper still. Who am I? Why am I? There must be a gentler answer than the one that stalks me. It cannot be true that I am nothing…
I refuse to look inwards, so I look outwards. I dream of owning everything outside of me. Everything outside of me is a pale facsimile of what I truly want, but I am willing to settle. Inside, the boarded-up ghost towns of my inner landscape house a dust-covered prize wrapped in forboding packaging: ownership of my life.
But I am looking outward…
Having run out of land to conquer on Earth, my hungry eyes turn towards the stars. I will make it to Mars, and then everything will be better. I chant it until I believe it. The chant builds into a religious fervor. I am enraptured by everything I will find in this newest “new” world.
I have forgotten the many final frontiers I have already conquered. I have forgotten that I never find my prize in the new “new” worlds.
I conquered “new” worlds as many cultures in many times.
I was not taught history. I do not know the wave of devastation that washed over my battle-hardened skin each time the newest “new” world did not give me everything I hoped it would.
I learned through my own devastation. I do not find what I truly want outside of myself.
I gently turn my focus from the zealous drive outward to the abandoned landscape within. It is time to go on a quest through this inner landscape, unwrap my terrifying gifts, claim my prize, and level up.
I wrap my courage in a cloak of forgiveness. This adventure will not be perfect.
This adventure will be worth it. On this quest, I will win more than gold I leave behind or my place in a history that won’t be taught. I am on a quest to win the gold that can never be taken from me.
I win a sparkling clarity about my sacred place of honor in the universe and the sacred place of honor reserved for those around me. I find sacredness.
My gold shines like the sun.
I begin to embrace everything in my inner landscape. Naturally and easily I release the old plan; to oppress the outer landscape and its inhabitants and force life to be gentle to me. I do not need the outer world, the commonwealth, to be under my control. I do not need it to be perfectly manicured or 86 degrees.
I do not need the outer landscape to agree with my views on political or social issues. The outer landscape can be how it is, and I still experience gentleness.
The gentleness comes from inside, my ancestors chuckle. Life is funny sometimes. By turning inward towards what was always there, I found everything I was searching for.
I know now that everything inside of me is no meager offering. I see myself as the sacred everything I have always been.
By engaging with everything inside of me, the exhilaration of power and endless expansion is mine to embrace and enjoy. I am not hurting anyone and no one can stop me from owning everything.
So in answer to the question, Can you be more gentle? Yes. I can and I will.
I have ownership over everything, so today I will make everything gentler.
In what ways is everything you want wrapped up in a feeling like fear, shame, or grief?
In what ways could you respond with gentleness to everything inside yourself?
Enjoy this Tinydesk concert by Raveena that exudes gentleness.
Until next time… deepen and discover!
‘Embodied Equity,’ a limited-series guest blog authored by Leanne Alaman, focuses on deepening our understanding of justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion (JEDI) by deepening our listening to the teachings of Mother Nature, our wise and humble teacher.
Hi, I’m Leanne! I provide paradigm-shifting equity support to organizational leaders and well-meaning individuals to move past well-meaning into well-doing. There are many ways to build your DEI capacity by working with me. Learn more here.