“U’i (Beautiful)

My brother

on top of Koko Head peak today

any other day

he may be lost

or just on other mountaintops

Diamond Head

Lanikai Pillbox 

Some days he is small 

in his head

bible in hands

pain, remembrance of

days lost as a kid

We all had to grow up

a little too fast

we all had to survive

a little too much

to make it through days

as skeletons floating

like piñatas 

above winery land

We were hot air balloons 

in Calistoga

on days our childhood house

was always in mode

of lights out and violence

Now you walk outside to see 

colorful fabrics high in the air

flames giving way to

speed and light to

fly away from this life

to be bigger than this life

Brother

you and I

they and us

we aren’t kids anymore

it’s like we took those shades off and

see this new panorama

see this scenery

see these murals with messages

broadcasting how we don’t belong

to our skeletons of sad children

We can be anywhere

like you are now

in the Honolulu hills

Oahu beaches

pineapple mountains 

and palm trees

There is nothing bigger than your grace

bigger than you

e kūlia i ka nu’u

Photo by Georgina Marie, Tropical Flowers in Rural Country, Ukiah, California

e kūlia i ka nu’u” is a Hawaiian proverb meaning “strive to reach the highest”.

-Georgina Marie, Poet in Residence

Burning: Inside and Out

Experiencing personal racism is exhausting. It’s on the news. It’s in my mail. At work when I get some. It’s even in my family.

As I navigate this heat,–let’s call it Traumatic Racial Stress Syndrome, because that’s what it is–it’s as if the land around me is burning. The air is choked with its gritty scent. My home and possessions are threatened by active danger.

My retreat is to a place within where I have learned to cool my embers with the balms of healing. Even so the heat, smoke and flames are always at the door. They wait at the supermarket. Lurking in the woods is commonplace. Don’t even think of getting your brows done.

This is what it’s like to be a Black-Skinned Woman in 2020 America. It’s hot all the time–fires burn on every TV show. Every dinner party is laced with it. My actions are never good enough. I must learn my place or pay the price. I wear my papers on my skin: I do not belong.

Edissa completed production of a short documentary September 2020 and submitted it to several film festivals. She’s working on her next film and hiring a new Contributing Writer for Karma Compass.

Radical Honesty As A Method of Healing

Photo by Terrillo Walls from Pexels


Ah — the internet, overrun with so much discussion about self-care. People mention self-care to promote candles, to sell subscription services, and even foods. In a time like this, there are so many things changing and called into question in our country. Self-care, for some, can feel like a selfish, banal activity that should be on the back burner. 

How can we move through life with clarity without self-care? Self-care is not all vision boards and affirmations. Sometimes it is as simple as telling the truth and accepting our lives with radical honesty.

Honesty as a healing practice

Studies have shown that being mindful of being accurate in our narratives can lessen symptoms like headaches and tension in various muscles of the body. Being honest can be challenging for those who may have had an upbringing that fostered or even encouraged hiding your emotions, thoughts, opinions, and motivations from others. Small steps toward radical honesty is a powerful way to change your perspective and feel more empowered.

Overcoming fears

Changing your perspective can be equally as humbling when you have historically been secure in your experience but have had some trauma occur in the last few years when conveying your truth to others. Here are some tips to overcome your fears of practicing radical honesty:

  • Envision the events of your life after telling the truth. Sometimes we can mentally practice our responses if we prepare for the possible outcomes. Many times, real-life events are much less severe than we had imagined.
  • Push the envelope. Begin to tell truths to yourself that might feel a bit uncomfortable, i.e. you do not like your career. When you can accept these facts, you are a bit closer to changing your life. 

You do not have to do anything to change your circumstances until you are ready, and able, to be honest, will keep you safe from others forcing their ideas on you, or you inaccurately selling yourself.

What to expect

Your family, friends, and co-workers will know what to expect from you because now, your emotions, thoughts, and actions are aligned. Over time, you will want to change those circumstances that do not fit what is best for you, or you have made peace with them. 

Protect Your Heart and Relationships

August de Richelieu from Pexels

COVID-19 is often deadly because of pre-existing conditions that suppress the immune system. One of these is heart disease. While a poor diet and a lack of exercise can contribute to a weak heart, dysfunctional relationships can do so, as well.

Here are several examples of this: a significant other that always offers you a cake when you are trying to lose weight, and does not accept your answer, or individuals that have specific thoughts and feelings about events that have happened in their lives, but project those emotions onto you. Individuals that routinely dismiss your wants, needs, and ambitions and “friends” that may actively sabotage your efforts to improve yourself or your life may need closer examination.

“But it is not that bad.” 

We try to tell ourselves that we can handle what life gives us, and that is a great way to maintain motivation. But what are the outcomes of constant interactions with those who put you down? Are they maybe otherwise challenging to be around? You may experience:

  • Lack of trust
  • Hopelessness
  • Depression
  • Anger
  • Trouble sleeping or eating
  • Anxiety
  • Feeling distracted
  • Self-sabotage
  • Difficulty accomplishing tasks
  • Physical illness or discomforts like teeth grinding, eczema flare-ups, etc.

This list is not exhaustive, but as you can see, not setting and defending firm boundaries in your relationships can create havoc in your life if left unaddressed.

How can you tell if you don’t “gel” with someone?

Some people, like family, are not very easy to avoid sometimes. In cases like these, it may be helpful to keep your contacts with them as restricted as possible. Strangers on the street can sometimes be easier to deal with — but always use your discretion. When in conversation, do your best not to overshare. Do not become too invested in the outcomes of your exchange with this person. Keep in mind that you define your happiness.

Transforming your relationships

Attempt to cultivate radical honesty about what you think and feel. Physical sensations may manifest as a way to let you know what your emotions are if you can not seem to name them. Stop to notice and accept them without judgment. Gently but firmly share with others how you feel, and state that you would like for your boundaries to be respected. Some people you may come across have no idea about how you are receiving them. Others you may have to, unfortunately, let go. 

“Seaside Obituary” A Poem by Poet in Residence Georgina Marie

I remember it exactly as the day it was:

gray, overcast, the air salty

from pounding waves the coastal winds learned to master 

To get there, you had to enter a winding road

where each side of the concrete pathway 

was lined with standing gods in the shapes of redwoods

the scent of the air pungent with pine and petrichor 

as it entered the pickup truck windows

rolled down just enough to feel the chill 

I was his daughter, once 

This day may have been the last day it was apparent

 

A drive to the ocean side

A walk through old settlement grounds of Jenner

Place of original windmills, place of migration

He bought me an abalone hairclip

He ripped seaweed from rocks to humor his daughter 

to feed his grumbling hunter stomach

How I long to remember how gentle this day was

how softly he tore the long, dirty green leaves from rugged rocks

contrasting how often his hands and words hit harder 

than the ocean hits sea stacks that have existed 

long before the sand we once stood on ever contained memory

  

How strange, what is revealed when remembrance 

chooses to reveals itself to you

how a sense of lonely becomes an unraveling tide

controlled not by the moon but by memory that pushes and pulls

opening neurological seascapes of muted recollections

that still call my name 

The ocean will always outlive us

I have outlived him

Photo by Georgina Marie, Limantour Beach, Point Reyes, California

This is my first post with Karma Compass! You will see poems from me on grief, trauma, healing, and more.

-Georgina Marie, Poet in Residence

Maintaining Our Stories As We Fight Injustice

Every day is an opportunity to make history — and to study it. Human existence is cyclical, and it is important as we move forward that we are aware of the behaviors we have and that of those around us. Jacob Blake’s 2020 shooting will undoubtedly be reported in detail in the news media, with the usual public personalities weighing in on what has happened.

Changing representation

Let’s look at the past for a second. Whydah was a major slave port in the kingdom of Benin, as well as the namesake of the pirate ship Whydah Galley.

According to one European, who visited in 1692–1700, Whydah exported some thousand slaves a month, mainly taken captive from villages in the interior of Africa. According to records, ten traders would round up 100 or more slaves at a time as cargo.

Currently, the Whydah is a museum found in Cape Cod, Massachusetts. The site focuses more on pirate history than its deep involvement in the African Holocaust.

While it is commendable that it is a museum at all given this country’s history with maintaining African artifacts and narratives, the glaring absence of narratives concerning the slaves and their families, save for a few, is a concern.

Truthful, consistent media

In the present day, the officer who shot Blake, the city in which the incident occurred, and other specifics have all been named. For the next few weeks, pundits and politicians will offer their take, and citizens will righteously and angrily protest what happened that fateful day.

What happens in the future? Contrarians may begin their common refrain: he shouldn’t have been there in the first place. Why did he take this course of action or that?

Some time may elapse, intersecting the relationship between truth and sanity — alternative theories arise, and discussions about minutiae begin to blur the lines of honest conversation. Because so few answers are provided for each incident of horrendous police brutality, every report is met with hysteria, instead of sobriety and solutions.

After the hysteria has died down, we mustn’t allow ourselves to be manipulated and told that we were just imagining things; it really wasn’t that bad, and we believe the wrong information. It is here where an alternative timeline of events is introduced, and we begin to think that maybe we were crazy, after all.

Owning our story

It is as critical to bringing swift action to injustice as it is to be outraged about it. Brainstorming actionable steps and then working them also brings radical change. We have to tell our own stories and represent ourselves, for ourselves.

Boundaries: An Important Complement to Healing

As part of our ongoing discussion of healing our own ailments, it’s time to consider the ways we invest in our well-being. As the old adage say, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” I believe it. Whether it’s PTSD, a physical injury or an emotional trigger point, the more an element of pain is activated in our bodies, minds or psyches, the more we are primed for recurring illness. That’s the law of the land. In a sense, our pain receptors, physical nerves, emotional buttons and hyper vigilance to trauma get atrophied in the “on” position.

In the same way that we cannot heal a sprained ankle by running on it, we cannot cure ourselves if we continually reactivate our pain receptors. Unfortunately, by design, our pain receptors are more easily activated than our joy and happiness and positivity receptors owing to our wiring that enables our auto-responsive defense mechanisms. In other words, we are built to feel pain quickly and easily so we can get out of the fire fast, with the least amount of damage. This generally works great most of the time. But, many of us unconsciously keep the fire burning when we don’t need it, and constantly insert a hand in it to see if it’s still hot. You may laugh even if you’ve done it yourself.

Maintaining a strong physical, mental or emotional boundary is akin to dousing the fire that threatens to consume everything in your path. So why are so many of conditioned to believe we have no right to personal boundaries? This is a rather important question to explore with a mental health practitioner if possible. And, even if counseling is not possible for you in this moment, I give you full permission to put up health barriers that protect and insulate your emotional, physical and mental health from any and all forms of disease, harm and dangers, including all of the following.

Learn to create, protect and enforce Your Personal Boundaries in all these areas:

  • Toxic people: relatives, family, friends, coworkers and strangers
  • Physical threats: aggression, micro aggression, trauma, violence, sexual assault and abuse from people or animals or other entities
  • Predation: energy vampires, financial drains, sabotage, time waste and unreciprocated/one-way investments that deplete your resources and ability to thrive
  • Personal harm: activities, foods, sounds, media, relationships or areas that trigger negative sensations, fatigue or the release of stress hormones
  • Learn to understand what are Healthy Boundaries with this worksheet

Of course, there are many ways to enforce our personal space to protect our loved ones from injury. Mindfulness, awareness and contemplation are important tools for discerning where the fires are, so that we can give them our loving attention. Just as you wouldn’t allow a child to run in front of a car, you get to erect a beautiful boundary around yourself that reduces any future harm and pain, so you can concentrate on healing past situations. Once you you are able to protect your boundaries as part of your routine self-care, you can look to remedies like tea, medication, therapy or Reiki to bring your equilibrium into a normal range.

Reiki Master Edissa is working to heal from 49 years of life as a Black Woman.

Photo by Ashton Huntsman for Living Artist Project

Resources for Survivors of Sexual Assault

You’re on the other side, now what? Methods of healing sexual trauma can include art, music, spoken word, or any other creative outlet. You may already have creative training — but if you do not, don’t fret. Some resources may be free or low cost to get started.

Create your own space

If you can not find a venue that allows you to share your creative gifts in the world, you can create your own website or start a YouTube channel for free. Creating your own website gives you the freedom to speak frankly about the issues important to you without being censored by a third party, a la Facebook.

Talk therapy

If you can afford talk therapy and would like to try it, give it a go! Psychotherapy can be highly transformative when approached thoughtfully and consistently. One thing to keep in mind when searching for a therapist is seeking someone who is familiar with or empathetic to your unique story while challenging your thought patterns with compassion. 

Some questions to think about are:

  • Does this therapist have extensive experience with sexual assault survivors?
  • How spiritually inclined is this therapist? What are some ideological deal breakers for me?
  • Does he or she start appointments on time and engage, or are they simply “phoning it in?”
  • How comfortable am I with taking psychotropic medication, if recommended?
  • Do I feel centered and connected to the work, or do I feel misunderstood?

Books as refuge

Perhaps you are gifted with words or like to doodle. A composition book or a Moleskine may be the tool you need to unlock your deeply hidden emotions. Some creatives report that the movement in their wrists helps them not focus on the pain. 

Readers have plenty of books to choose from as they sort their feelings out. Here is a small list of books to get you started.

Things We Haven’t Said: Sexual Survivors Speak Out, edited by Erin Moulton

The Complex PTSD Workbook: A Mind-Body Approach to Regaining Emotional Control and Becoming Whole by Dr. Arielle Schwartz

How to be Safe in An Unsafe World by Dr. Harold Bloomfield and Dr. Robert Cooper

The Body Keeps Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma by Dr. Bessel Van Der Kolk

A great podcast to listen to while you clean or drive:

The Left Ear, with Dakota Johnson

This Happened, by a survivor

Honor yourself at all times

Go to therapy at whatever price point you can afford. Get your pain out. You deserve to heal from your sexual assault.

Sexual Predation in the Workplace

Recently, we have been talking about surviving sexual predation. Because prevention is quite crucial, it is critical for not only the target but the would-be assailant to monitor their behaviors.

In the post #MeToo era, reports show that more men have become afraid of working women, especially alone or in close quarters. However, certain men can take this opportunity to get creative with their ways of relating to women, instead of feeling indicted for being a man.

Creativity is how you combat rape culture.

What is rape culture?

Rape culture is “an environment where sexual assault is normalized and excused in media and popular culture.”  An example of this could be one individual telling another person that they wouldn’t engage with or do a favor for a person unless there was sex involved. Another is pressuring partygoers to drink to release inhibitions, or only promoting employees that you deem sexually attractive while demeaning everyone else. 

One of the more tragic aspects of rape culture is the silence and shaming that both men and women perpetrate against victims who dare to speak up. You may hear things like, “What took her so long?” or “She’s just trying to ruin his life,” or “He just couldn’t handle her, that’s all.” 

Mothers may look away from the children who are being assaulted by a family member. This behavior is a bid to save herself. Employees are often forced to quit because of a hostile environment. This lack of support increases the likelihood of revictimization of the target later on. 

So how do we get creative in our interactions with others? Women often find that there is a premium placed on their level of attractiveness, as perceived by hiring managers, friends, potential suitors, and even the guy who can help her in aisle 5. Her beauty or lack thereof can be a boon or a bane, and it seems there is nothing she can do about it.

Some tips for a healthy workplace

  • If you are a hiring manager, be sure to look at all candidates’ qualifications. 
  • Understand that no one is “asking for it.
  • Look them in the eye. 
  • Ask what their hobbies are and listen actively. 
  • When your new hire begins, do not request that he or she change their style of dress just because you are not attracted to or “agree” with it. If the new hire is doing their job and conforming to the dress code, there is no need for further discussion.
  • Do not make comments about sexual trysts, preferences, or expectations.
  • Honor others’ personal space — this includes personal effects and time spent at the office.
  • Promotions should be meritorious and can triangulate employees when sex is involved.

Unlearning Oppression (Lesson 14): July 4th Peace Action

It is a known fact that Indigenous Women experience a disproportional percentage of the violence in American society. The consistent predation on Indigenous women in the United States is an example of Violent Racism in action; the sustained, documented and permitted murders is Government-sanctioned lynching of our courageous Earth defenders. Indigenous Women and girls’ disappearances go unnoticed, uninvestigated unprosecuted and unquestioned by those in authority. Their murders are equivalent to the ongoing lynching of black men and women. This has to stop.

Let Indigenous Women and Girls Thrive!

Your Radical Solidarity is required to bring renewed and continued attention to the plight and condition of Indigenous communities in our country. We must make amends, reparations and heal the historic harm imposed on the original People of this land.

Lesson 14: Dedicate July 4th to non-violent remembrance and action for Indigenous Women, Girls and Families who have been historically hurt, raped, massacred and disappeared since Europeans invaded North America. Honor them with prayer, donations, awareness and respect. Avoid fireworks, gunfire and other militaristic displays of aggression as a show solidarity with Indigenous communities suffering and mourning from trauma, deprivation, cultural destruction and grief.

Here’s a short lists of organizations that you, your family and church can donate resources, time and support now more than ever. Unfortunately, the Indigenous community is also hit hard with Covid-19 because of historically-imposed Systemic Racism. From everything I understand, Indigenous people were steadfast allies to enslaved Africans during legal American Slavery. Let’s do our part for them, now.

It is time for the United States of America to follow suit with the Canadian Government‘s move to give the necessary attention, money and resources to the plight of disappeared, murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls. We need accountability at all levels of Federal, State and Local government to protect our Indigenous communities from further harm. Start with your support and donations this July 4th.

“It is no longer good enough to cry peace; we must act peace, live peace and live in peace.” ~Native American Proverb