Many wonder the reasons that people often point to the color of their skin, the texture of their hair, their ancestry, history, gender, and other embodiments. And yet as the song by India Arie so keenly states, “I’m Not My Hair,” we are not the images presented in this world. Yet through these images we perceive each other. The focus on Gabriel Douglas’ hair while she was making history is an example of seeing images and not people. Our perceptions can lead to misinterpretation and then to harm and suffering. For this reason there are sanctuaries created to heal the suffering caused in the misinterpretation and ultimate oppression, personal and systematic, within our society.
In an essay titled Bearing Up in the Wild Winds (from the book Dharma, Color and Culture), I wrote: What is suffering often felt by people of color? There is no one answer. But I suspect that we have been taught to love everyone and then have felt betrayed and angered when that love was not returned. We have been deeply wounded by this betrayal and have searched out ways to recover the loving people that we know ourselves to be. We have created names for ourselves, such as “people of color” in order to label the pain. We have created sanctuaries to heal and still have yet to emerge for those sanctuaries for fear of being hurt once again. What happens to a hurt people? We forget that we are butterflies bearing up in the wild winds. We forget that we are tender from the suffering.
Any path of healing or liberation requires one to be exposed. So, the path of Dharma for many is to first take sanctuary where you can comfortably share your story and be seen–without other’s guilt, explanation, or justification. Within that sanctuary there is learning the true interrelationship of each other (whether everyone knows it or not) and understanding our lives, as relative and absolute–as tangible and intangible, material and spirit. We come to the path of easing our suffering by having a complete view of suffering, or having an awareness of our intention. Are we willing to release that which causes us to suffer? In sanctuary we learn complete speech and whether or not we are insistent in getting our point or story across while disregarding others–how we talk to each other and cultivating forgiveness when we harm others. We learn how to say to each other and to ourselves, “I am doing my best. I am still learning how to be the love longed for. I see you.” These are some of the things the Buddha taught as the path out of suffering. These are some of the things we left behind in our indigenous ways when we lived closed to the earth.
With dedication we can emerge from our sanctuaries aware of the mass hypnotic state in which we all have been subject to. We surface better able to see others more clearly as living beings with all the same conditioning. Why even our pets have some of the same conditioning.
On our path of life we can cease being hypnotized by everything including one another. We can return to the wisdom in our bones that know this true life and that know the nature of our true hearts. This way we can all go in peace.