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Heal Racism In Your Body, Mind, And Soul

It’s been eleven months since the events in Ferguson. In that time, Baltimore has seen riots, a Virginia college student was violently arrested, nine people were shot in Charleston, and five churches burned to the ground below the Mason-Dixon line—among other events.

We clearly need an honest conversation about race. And, this weekend, one group is doing just that.

“It starts with the truth,” Anurag Gupta, founder of the Brooklyn-based non-profit startup Be More, said. “There are so many people who have a hard time saying the words ‘race’ or ‘racism.’ If we don’t acknowledge the problem, how can we create solutions?”

This Sunday, July 19, Be More will address the problem with a community event at Brooklyn Zen Center. The respite-like workshop, entitled Heal Racism in Our Body + Mind + Soul, will offer group discussions, yoga, and meditation. Gupta will be joined by Vasudha Gupta—his sister—and Leslie Booker.

“We each have a body, mind, and soul,” Gupta said, “and while it is individually ‘ours,’ it is also part of a collective mind, body, and soul.”

Agreeing, Vasudha added “when one person is harmed, that action does not effect just one person—it effects a collective community. We chose singular terms for the workshop’s title as they allow us to show solidarity, connectedness, and collectiveness.”

Each workshop leader will offer a specialized angle to the event—Gupta for the “mind” portion, Vasudha for “soul,” and Booker for “body.”

“Connecting with another human being is so powerful. And connecting with another human being who is a stranger is even more powerful,” said Vasudha, who will offer guidance as participants pair off to share individual experiences—any pain they may feel, any burdens they may carry.

Gupta, a seasoned mindfulness meditation practitioner and 500-hour trained yoga teacher, “will be leading a meditation sit that is tailored to healing racism. And that’s all I will say for now. You should come and experience it for yourself!”

In early 2014, Gupta, 29, left his law job and founded Be More with a mission to organize Millennials and eliminate racial bias through evidence-based training. He brought his sister on board to serve as the group’s operations arm.

“Almost half of Millennials are of color, and it is up to us to determine the future we want to see,” Vasudha, 25, said, explaining that the concept of race is not a scientific reality, but a social one. “I do think things have improved, but I also think that we have a long way to go. The story of race that we’ve inherited is over 300 years old, and it will take time, persistence, and consistency for us to unlearn and undo its effects.”

“People often think ‘I’ve had this conversation before, do we have to keep talking about it?’” Booker added. “The answer is ‘yes.’ We need to have these conversations in a way that does not push away, shame, or guilt, but rather ask people to step up into their humanity.”

Booker first met Gupta, while he was still practicing law, through the People of Color Sangha at the New York Insight Meditation Center. “He was really interested in the intersection of mindfulness practice, yoga, and social justice, so, obviously, we hit it off immediately!” she said.

Booker will offer yoga and embodied mindfulness practices that can be used as resources when certain emotions arise in daily life.

“Our bodies offer so much information and we tend to not pay attention to it,” she said. “We can’t do much about the feelings or the thoughts as they bubble up in our bodies, but we can choose to respond, as opposed to react, to them. I’m hoping that this workshop will offer folks more options and teach them that, sometimes, the most skillful thing to do is be still—to take a breath, and clear the mind—before moving forward into physical action.”

Who is the workshop for?

“It’s for anyone who has been left feeling angry, sad, frustrated, numb—fill in the emotion—,” Gupta said. “It’s especially important for our Black siblings who are often silenced by our larger cultural norms, to express their rightful indignation at the systemic forces that devalue their lives.”

He then quoted Ella Baker: "We who believe in freedom cannot wait until it comes."

“We are in this for the long haul,” he continued. “We must demand and enable it. And energy, confidence, and community are necessary components to take action.”

Heal Racism in Our Body + Mind + Soul will take place on Sunday, July 19, from 10am-12pm at Brooklyn Zen Center. For more information, click here.

—Michael Laskaris

—Illustrations by Valeria Clark

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