How can I manage my unwieldy, volcanic anger as I’m being swept away in the rising tides of grief?
How can I make myself heard in a way that isn’t at the expense of my well-being?
How can I fight the exhaustive, depressive feeling that racism is so pervasive and permanent in our culture when my life feels so finite?
How can I ever create a sense of safety when I am literally shielding my face and body from potential violence from walking down the street?
If I am trapped within my fears, will I ever be free? Can I truly live my life if all the oppressive and violent forces of racism want me to suffer—and die?
Not knowing what else to do, I turned to my mindfulness practice for refuge as I have before in times of crisis. Needing this refuge is the very reason that I founded GaneshSpace, a community organization dedicated to unlearning internalized biases and limiting beliefs through the practice of mindfulness for those who have ever felt othered. This time, my limiting belief was that I was trapped, as an Asian woman, between my actual safety in my surroundings and my perceived sense of danger. Though I had suffered from racism before, this was different. I no longer had the clarity to know when a loud sound or a lingering glance was actually as dangerous as I perceived it to be. I was drowning in fear and paranoia, waiting for someone to attack me. My normal daily life suddenly became a minefield for my raging anxiety.
In the days, weeks, and months, following the shootings, I sat with that complex discomfort in my meditation practice, exhaling and letting go of the fear with each breath. Through my breath cycles, I was reminded of my resilience—the one that was built after years of already enduring racism, the one inherited from my parents’ courage as refugees and from all my Asian ancestors who came before them.
It was this resilience that enabled me to sit with the most uncomfortable feeling I had ever felt in my life: that perhaps I will never be safe.
I was left with the question: Now what?
I ultimately realized that despite all the oppressive forces working against me, I still had a choice: I could either continue to suffer and let them wield this power over me and my psyche, or I could take that power back by living a life that prioritizes my joy, my love. That was the biggest act of resistance I could take for myself and my API community.
It is my deepest hope that you will be able to do the same. Stand in your power. Love deeply. Live joyfully. In my view, these are the greatest acts we can take for ourselves and each other.
And if you are feeling trapped and afraid, know that you are not alone. I invite you to sit—with yourself, with me, with all your Asian siblings and ancestors—and know that resilience lives deep within you. Even if it’s unfair that we should need to be so resilient in the first place—that we, as a marginalized community, have had to continue to endure systemic oppression and discriminatory violence—we have still persevered.
If you want to lean on this resilience more but you don’t know where to start, as we often say in our community at GaneshSpace: Start with your breath. Though sitting with your breath in mindfulness meditation can be overwhelming, it can help you calm your nervous system in anxious moments. And over time, it can help you build resilience and gain more clarity about yourself and your environment in the midst of discomfort.