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Systemic Change Starts with a U-Turn

It has long been thought that social and racial activism start by “doing” things in the community to change the system from the top down. While sometimes this is true, it has become more clear over the past four years that the change truly needed comes from the bottom up - from our own internalized systems deeply steeped in our harmful cultural norms. Our suffering comes from our roots (Nicki Myers,12 Step Recovery) which are colored with generational trauma, and fundamental belief systems that catch us in a false sense of self. Therapeutic work is about uncovering those basic beliefs and looking at whether they are true or whether they are conditioned patterns that may have been helpful at one time but no longer serve us.

 

Some contemporary mindfulness teachers who have had a heavy influence in my philosophy include: 

  • Leslie Booker

  • Reverend Angel Kyodo

  • Lama Rod Owens

  • Resmaa Menakem

  • Tara Brach

Their teachings have led me to to offer therapy rooted in doing a “U-Turn” (Tara Brach) to understand our own constricted systems and beliefs from which we operate. When we examine the foundations of our culture we can see how all humans struggle from conscious or unconscious systemic trauma. Emerging research shows that inequity, loneliness, and rugged individualism are responsible for the United States rating #1 in world mental health problems.

Part of my practice is to undo these systems by starting from the inside-out. The following belief structures (identified by Tema Okun, cited by Showing Up for Racial Justice) cause the most communal harm to my clients:

  1. Either-Or Thinking

  2. Competitive Thinking

  3. Rugged Individualism

  4. A Sense of Urgency

  5. Fear of Open Conflict (Niceness vs. Kindness)

  6. Paternalism (Structural hierarchy)

  7. Wise Discernment between Comfort vs Safety

  8. Perfectionism

  9. Belief in One Right Way

By doing this work in therapy, together we can be the change we wish to see in the world (Mahatma Gandhi). We can also learn to nurture ourselves and bring the work we do into our personal relationships and communities. 

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Hip Hop Therapy

Hip Hop's outspoken nature crosses boundaries and tells the truth about our world. Hip Hop Therapy is a combination of narrative and music therapy, and more recently is identified as a method of somatic healing. In 2004, I had the honor of collaborating with Dr. Edgar Tyson, the founder of Hip Hop Therapy, to research and apply Hip Hop to my therapeutic interactions. Hip Hop Therapy has evolved into a uniting, culturally-relevant and empowering technique to engage clients of different socio-economic backgrounds and teach the relevance of therapeutic skills in a relatable language. 

I recently obtained a certificate in HYPE (Healing Young People thru Empowerment - letsgethype.com) to teach a therapeutic modality of Hip Hop to groups. My current endeavor involves creating an accessible, interactive workbook that integrates Hip Hop lyrics with the 8 Noble Truths of Mindfulness.