Imagine a calm voice guiding you through the next few minutes. Softly, the voice tells you:
Close your eyes. Take deep breaths and listen to your heart. Ask yourself, how does my skin feel? Am I warm or cool? Slowly inhale, then while exhaling, push any residual thoughts out of your realm. Blow them away. Now imagine yourself surrounded by friends, by family, by comforts. Does this change your breathing? Your temperature?
After helping you imagine your casual, celebratory gathering, the voice alters the scene:
Now, imagine the faces around you change. They become something you are not – a different race, or nationality, or gender. Now you are an outsider. Again, check your breath, your heart, your temperature. As you explore potential discussions with this new crowd, how do you react? Do you want to stay, or would you like to run?
The voice above was that of Tommy Woon, Dean of Multicultural Life at Macalester. At a meeting for Live It recipients and other community members interested in reflecting on ways of knowing, Tommy led a session of somatic inquiry. I found the first portion where I imagined my family and friends challenging. Would everyone get along? Probably not. Would there be some undercurrents? Most likely. Putting myself in a hypothetical picnic with all my favorite people seemed too far-fetched for me to fathom. But I could quickly turn the proverbial table when he asked us to become “the other.” I have played this role many times – for example, at the United World College, and volunteering in Thailand where I was the only foreigner and the only English speaker in certain villages – and I will be this person again during Dakota Birthright.
I admit the envisioned situation where I became the minority was slightly tense. I don’t remember exactly, but I expect my breathing became shallower. As I sat there, eyes closed, imagining this scene, I thought of what I wrote about in my last post – whether I would share the parable of the two-headed snake. Again, I noticed I might not be at perfect ease imagining myself as an outsider taking a leadership (rather than facilitator’s) position in a community I don’t belong to. Nonetheless. I have enough intimacy with the circumstance that I know I won’t run. I’ll stay, start a discussion, and maybe even lead some somatic inquiry.