Dear people who voted for Trump:

This message isn’t to those of you who feel proud or satisfied with the outcome of your vote. If you feel this way, then you can stop reading now. I’m not here to change your mind.

This message is for people who may now feel regret, shame, or guilt for having supported Trump. There may be days when these feelings are just a passing sensation or thought. Maybe you hear a family member mocking him, and the image of a different ballot card crosses your mind. And there may be other times, perhaps during one of his tweeting rampages, that these feelings plague you for days. If you fall in any degree of these categories, this message is for you.

This isn’t to shame you. It’s to give your permission to the feel regret, shame, or guilt that’s been showing up in your life if that’s something you need.

There’s a lot of voter bashing happening on social media. It’s understandable. This US administration is putting lives at risk, and people are scared and angry. I speak as a Canadian person who’s been living in Korea for twelve years. In those twelve years, I’ve gone through varying degrees of emotions related to our neighbors to the north. For the first few years, I’d call myself stupid for choosing to live next to a country whose president launches some form of weapon each spring.

Then, as time passed, I adopted the South Korean sentiment: it’s always been this way, and it won’t change, but we aren’t really at risk. Now, I’m less nervous about North Korea, and more worried about the United States. Kim Jong-un almost seems sensible compared to Trump. Almost. And I’m not the only one who feels this way.

But I’ve gone off track a bit. Back to my point about giving you permission to feel what you’re feeling.

It may be hard to hear people insulting you or even threatening you. You may feel angry or ashamed when you hear all this. You may even feel afraid for your life. It’s my sense that this isn’t encouraging you to speak out against Trump. Maybe you feel safer to defend yourself or to remain quiet. It makes sense. Why would you say or do something if you feel this way?

It seems like there’s no way out of it for you, right? So why am I writing this?

For two reasons: people make mistakes. Or it might be better to say, people make emotional, uninformed, or spontaneous decisions. I’ve made some, and I’m sure many people have too. Voting for Trump may be one of these.

The second reason for writing this is because I don’t believe putting people on the defensive is particularly useful. I also don’t think people who behave in defensive ways contribute to the healing of a society. And while I think it’s important to have the freedom to express anger we have about societal problems, it can’t stop there.

There’s a point where the anger has to transform into action. Otherwise, the person who is expressing anger is also contributing to the problem.

So what do I mean by behaving in defensive ways? Here’s a personal story. I realize this example doesn’t have the same gravity as putting a president in office. My intention isn’t to make light of the seriousness of the political situation the world is facing due to Trump. I’ll get to that later. But I think my experience will help clarify why I’m even bothering to write this message.

For years I was ashamed of myself for not speaking Korean. This internal shame was brought on by years of hearing people — often strangers or acquaintances (ie: bank tellers, teachers I worked with, distant family members…) — say things that varied from, “Oh wow, really? Don’t you think that’s disrespectful to your family?” or “You ought to be ashamed of yourself.” So my internal defense mechanism sounded like this, “Yeah, you’re right. I should be ashamed. What kind of person am I? Worse yet, what kind of wife am I? I clearly don’t have my priorities straight. I should have tried harder to learn Korean. I’m so uncaring. I’m one of those ignorant foreigners.” Then I’d burn myself out by adding Korean lessons to my already heavy schedule.

Other times, when I was tired or annoyed, I’d say something like, “Don’t blame me. Blame my husband. He never speaks to me in Korean. But HIS English has improved a lot since we’ve been together. If he had more patience, maybe I’d be speaking Korean just as well by now.” Then I’d look over at him, and he’d be looking at his feet. By blaming him, I had just shamed him.

None of these defense strategies were helpful. My relationships suffered because of my blame and shame lens on life.

The shame would often consume me. It was underlying all my interactions: at work, at home, with friends. I often second guessed myself with people, and it definitely didn’t encourage me to learn Korean.

As much as we think shame will motivate someone into action, it has the opposite effect: it encourages us to defend or to retreat. None of these approaches contribute to expanding understanding and growth within a community.

When someone says something hurtful, we have three response options: to blame or shame ourselves; to blame or shame others; or to respond compassionately to others and ourselves. In my example, there was a lot of blaming and shaming. So what would a compassionate response look like? The first step might be to create the space to listen to you, Trump supporter, without judgment.

It doesn’t mean you’re off the hook for having done what you did. Like in my case, I realize that not learning Korean has caused my Korean family some hardship. I know it’s uncomfortable for them to interact with me. I know that me not being more fluent could be a safety issue somewhere down the line. I’m accountable for this.

But when someone acknowledges my struggle, I’m more able to listen to their worries. When I feel someone is showing me compassion, I’m more willing to take the steps to change. It could be the same for you.

When someone offers me a compassionate response, I feel a sense of expansion. More is possible. I’m more able to remember a Korean term, and I’m more willing to practice speaking with a stranger. When someone blames or shames me, I contract. I lash out or hide.

All this points to the difference between expansion and contraction.

By offering you permission to feel regret, shame, or guilt, I hope I’m offering you the space to expand. Maybe I can offer you an opportunity to create positive change in your community. I know many people would love this change very much.

Find someone safe to share your feelings with. Find someone who will allow you to expand into something new. And if you can’t find that person, send me a message by clicking here.

Sincerely,

Josette

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Everyone has their place in this world and everyone has their process

It’s rare to see mushrooms in the forest behind our house. But during a week this past summer, they were everywhere… and so many different types! Tiny and pancake sized ones; tight clusters and spread out villages; yellow, white, red, brown, and blue ones; some that looked like freshly baked buns; old ones; dying ones; freshly popped out ones; some with thin stems and others with thick ones.

All these varieties were just waiting for the right conditions so they could emerge. They needed rain, heat, plus the right type of soil to expand into their uniqueness.


I think that’s what we do too. We need the right environment to flourish into our true selves.

South Korea has done that for me. There’s something about this land, the people I’ve met, and the circumstances I’ve encountered that have helped me get back to my center. It’s not easy to explain why.

Since moving to Korea twelve years ago, people have often asked me when I’m going to move back to Canada. I understand that my family and friends back home care about me, and want me closer. And it’s not like I don’t want to be close to them. It’s also not like my proximity means I love them less. 

In Korea, people ask me how long I plan to stay here. I understand. It makes sense to assume that the land where we grew up would be the land we are meant to live our adult lives (assuming we aren’t forced to move due to war or an environmental tragedy). 

There seems to be something almost illogical, if not inherently wrong about choosing to live in another country. At least that’s the feeling I get when I hear these questions. 

I’ve often wondered if I’d get the same questions if I were living in a European country or Australia. I’m not so sure. I can understand why friends and family might be concerned that I’m living in South Korea. It’s not like the peninsula gets the most positive international news coverage. I also understand why my Korean friends wonder why I live here when life in Canada is often idealized.

But there’s nothing illogical or wrong about it. There’s no justification or explanation necessary. Like those mushrooms, we all have our own unique place in the world to emerge into.


I used to try to make sense of why I choose to live here. It’s not like it’s been perfect. There are many things I don’t agree with that happen in this country. I’ve also struggled with adapting to certain parts of the culture. But I have a feeling this happens to everyone, no matter where they choose to live. 

I’ve stopped trying to explain myself. All I know is that it feels right. It felt right the first time I set foot here. I felt free. I felt at peace. I felt at home. 

Each place we choose to live in is part of our process. It’s a manifestation of what we need to learn. I now know I had to come to Korea to learn some very important lessons. So why question this? We don’t know what another person needs to learn in this lifetime. 

If you’re curious to learn what lessons a certain place could have in store for you, you might enjoy this discovery. I recently learned about astrocartography, which basically charts how different places on earth could affect you based on your astrological reading.

Because I use astrology to gain insight, not to predict my future or explain my past, when I read what South Korea meant for me astrologically, I was pleasantly surprised. It made so much sense and reflected a lot of my experience.

The MC line represents the realisation of lifetime goals and the safeguarding of important social standing. Connection with planet Chiron leads to fundamental changes of your personal views regarding these. Traditional value systems lose their meaning, your ideals dissolve and your ideas of success or a career start to transform.

This change is mainly due to some deep personal crises whose origin lies in connection with professional disappointments. A feeling of not being able to complete your tasks can add to your insecurity.

You query the sense and purpose of your previous activities. You feel manipulated and rebel against all expectations in search of your own destiny.

Far from all convention, you enter a new field. You gain insights from humanistic and psychological teaching as well as esoteric understandings. Your personal wishes and egotistically motivated interests become less important. That is why these regions are particularly suited to the healing professions. You experience an increase in energy as well as recognition and acceptance.

Note: You can get your reading for free here: AstroClick Travel Horoscope.

But you don’t need to have your charts done in order to know where you need to be. Take a deep breath. Let it out slowly. Then, take a few moments with these questions:

  • In what environment do you feel most at ease?
  • Where do you shine the most? 
  • What does your body tell you about where you are now?
  • Where do you feel free, or at peace, or at home?

You might realize you’re already in the mushroom cluster that was meant for you, or maybe you’ll understand it’s time to find the village you’ve always been curious about.

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Giving and TAKING credit where credit’s due

A few years back, a colleague and I were asked by our director to write material for a potential teacher-training course. It was going to take a lot of our time and energy, but we were excited about what we could come up with. At one point I mentioned we should credit it, “created and developed by Josette and (insert colleague’s name).” He winced and said something along the lines that he wasn’t in it for the recognition.

I get it. The ego is a strange beast. But at what point are you standing up for your voice, — for your good work — and at what point are you stroking your ego’s pride? What I heard my colleague say is that there is a link between putting our names on our work and being egotistical; I heard that playing big and celebrating my voice is something to wince at; I also heard that it’s more acceptable to make myself small, or better yet, invisible.

Two questions came out of this: don’t we risk giving away our confidence, power, and self-trust by making ourselves small? And, why is recognition a bad thing anyway?

Making myself small

This has always been a challenging topic for me because there are so many mixed messages about what’s considered positive behavior around putting ourselves out there. It’s more acceptable for me to be modest, but if I’m too modest how am I going to stand out? It’s less egotistical to let someone else praise my work because if I talk about myself then I’m full of myself. So what if no one ever talks about my work? Am I just going to wait in the shade until that happens?

When I gave the first draft of my chapter to our editor (and prolific writer in her field), she sent it back saying I was giving too much credit to one of my references. She told me to rewrite a whole section by owning the work I had done with his work and by taking him out of that part of the equation. He wasn’t the one in my classroom experimenting with his ideas: I was. At that point, his work had become mine.

I was confused about how much credit I could take because I believed it wasn’t acceptable to shine. I thought it wasn’t my work to celebrate. The line between his work and mine was so blurred I couldn’t even see myself. It took longer than it probably should have because my confidence was put to the test, but I finally balanced out that equation.

Recognition vs. celebration

I understand why people cringe at the idea of recognition. I think it has to do with the intention behind it. Do I want to be recognized because I want to take a step up the ladder, not caring about what others think? Or would I like recognition (acknowledgment, appreciation) because I value connection and learning with others, especially in relation to my soul’s work?

One way I make sense of this idea of giving and taking credit is by putting myself in the position of the person who created the technique/activity/research I’m using. I imagine the hours they experimented, observed, and assessed their area of interest. I ask myself, “how would they feel if they read my work, saw themselves in it, but didn’t see any reference to themselves?” I imagine they would feel hurt and disappointed.

Maybe I’m influenced by Byongchan‘s work. When I see him labouring emotionally, creatively, and physically over his art so he can come up with a signature piece, I imagine the joy he might feel when it’s seen and celebrated for its beauty. I can’t speak for him, but I know I feel quite happy when others acknowledge his work.

You can substitute his work as an artist with any other creative endeavor, which I clearly connect to teaching. The joy of my craft comes from the process of creating what I feel called to and then sharing that creation. And while my sharing doesn’t guarantee it will be acknowledged — and I don’t do only to be acknowledged — there is a sense of encouragement that comes when my work is celebrated. It gives me the courage and energy to keep doing the work. Looking at it this way, it’s helpful to substitute recognition with celebration.

I understood my colleague’s intentions on that day. And maybe my ego was more in control than my gentle inner artist/teacher. Maybe that’s what he sensed. But as I look back on this moment, I now understand I’m not interested in lowering my voice or the voice of others for fear of being seen as egotistical. I want to celebrate the good work I do, as well as the good work I see around me. This is part of the way the world keeps evolving in a positive forward motion. As long as I’m in the business of creating and collaborating, I plan to give credit to the voices of my community. I’ll gladly take that credit as well.

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40 things I learned this year

Turns out 2017 may have been just as magical as 1977. I was born in 1977, and in a way, I was reborn in 2017. This is evident from the list you’ll see below. This is also the year our first child will be born. Like I said, pretty magical.

I’d love to know which listed lesson stood out for you, so please leave me a comment. It would be fun to write a full blog post on that particular topic. These were hard to boil down to only a few sentences!

A large portion of what I’ve learned this year comes from the alchemy of the Ayurveda Yoga Teacher Training (Leadership) course; the Emerge mentorship program with Elizabeth DiAlto and 21 other women; and Terri Cole‘s Real Love Revolution course. I’ve also learned a great deal from my baby-to-be. There’s nothing like a body forming in your womb for you to gain perspective. Talk about alchemy.

In no particular order (except that the first one pretty much encompasses them all), here we go!

1. Everything I’ve ever needed has always been inside of me.

2. Being part of a community who is on the same page is necessary for me to live the abundant life I want. Without the supportive and loving women and men I’ve surrounded myself with this year, I never could have become the person I am now.

3. Asking for help is helpful! That’s why this world is full of people with their own unique strengths: to help each other.

4. Having an accountability partner who helps keep my spiritual, emotional, and professional goals in check is conducive to success. I’m so grateful for mine, April Monique. Check out the important work she’s doing with helping people live whole, brave, and loving lives.

5. When I put myself out there, I get positive results. Sure, I may get negative reactions, but it’s by expressing myself and connecting with others that life emerges. It’s exciting stuff! It’s good to dream, but I also have to do.

6. Witnessing someone’s suffering is more helpful than saying “the right thing”. Hearing “I witness your suffering,” or “I witness you during this challenging time,” does something pretty miraculous to the heart.

7. Healthy boundaries are incredibly important and necessary in order to live a calm and content life.

8. Codependency ruins relationships. It’s a common, and often accepted, way to function, but it doesn’t have to be that way. You also don’t have to be in a relationship with someone who is an alcoholic, a drug addict, or who is highly neglectful for you exhibit codependent behaviour.

9. It’s helpful to know the difference between discernment and judgment. Judgment puts power outside of me. Discernment puts power within me.

10. There are topics I can talk about with some people but not with others. Knowing the difference saves me energy.

11. Letting people have their own experience, and relinquishing control over others or outcomes, keeps me from feeling stressed and anxious.

12. Confidence comes from evidence.

13. I don’t need to be an expert. I can own what I know now and even teach from this place. A fifth grader can teach a fourth grader.

14. There’s power in the pause.

15. When I do things that don’t resonate with my heart, I end up feeling resentful. I know I’m feeling resentful when I blame others or I complain about the environment I’m in. Whenever I feel resentful about a person or project, it’s a good sign I need to get out of the situation or relationship, or at least change my approach to it.

16. Perfectionism is a sign I’m not dealing with my uncomfortable feelings.

17. I have more to learn about surrendering to and receiving the natural flow of the Universe, but it’s one of my most intriguing points of growth.

18. When I speak my truth and I don’t fear what others will say, I feel so much more energized and ready to do more work than if I have to conform to what I think others want me to do. Doesn’t that sound so convoluted? That’s because it is. Just be you.

19. If I’m worried about how much people are judging me, it usually means I’m judging others as much.

20. Being able to clearly articulate my values has helped me put in perspective concepts that have challenged me, and helps me make better decisions about my life.

21. Life is full of paradoxes and the more I accept this, the happier I am.

22. When I let go of trying to control the outcome, I allow miracles to happen.

23. It’s okay for me to change my mind if the decision I made doesn’t feel right. It doesn’t mean I’m not reliable. It means I know myself, and I’m evolving.

24. All I need to do to make a decision is listen to my intuition, but this listening takes practice.

25. Grounding myself in my body is essential to my mental health. It helps me tune into my intuition so I can make decisions I can stand by.

26. It’s important to have people in my life to honestly and openly talk about my problems, but true answers come from within.

27. The opinion of others can derail me quickly, so it’s really not helpful to ask for it.

28. We project of our feelings and experiences onto other people, and it’s important to check in to see if the story we tell ourselves is actually true. Our imaginations can get us into trouble.

29. While culture brings so much beauty and diversity to the world, and it should be respected in many ways, it isn’t something we need to put on a pedestal. It can brainwash us into believing certain things about ourselves that probably aren’t true.

30. I can’t get over the ridiculous idea that’s been perpetuated in most cultures for years: that women are weak. Women’s bodies are the embodiment of strength an resiliency. We go through menstrual cycles (not to mention everything that goes along with this), pregnancy, and birth, and come back from all this kicking more ass. How is this weak?

31. I’m in awe of the female body. It’s an example of the ultimate surrender. I’m not doing anything except eating, resting, and exercising, and my body is creating a human.

32. It’s taken pregnancy to help me understand that my body is pivotal to my self-development.

33. Working with my body improves my mental health. Doing a daily breathing and movement practice makes me feel calmer, more relaxed, and more present.

34. Baby moons are a thing, and I’m glad we learned about this as a way to transition into parenthood. Life will never be the same, and it was important to honour that.

Guam – August 2017
35. The menstrual cycle is a superpower, and I’m grateful I can experience its wisdom.

36. It’s okay, and healthy, to cry. I still struggle with this — I still apologize when I cry — but I hold back less than I did. Feeling shame for crying is not helpful for anyone.

37. When I don’t allow myself to feel feelings, most importantly the “ugly” ones, they control me.

38. Looking at the dark spots in my life is the only way to make room for lighter moments. It’s worth honestly looking at mistakes I’ve made or pain I may have caused. Having this witnessed by someone I trust helps make that light come in more clearly. It removes blocks I didn’t even know existed.

39. I have a lot to learn about equality, diversity, and inclusivity.

40. Forty feels fabulous.

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My White Privilege Story

I’m a white, Acadian-Canadian woman, raised Catholic in a predominantly white community, currently living in South Korea. I could easily say that what happened in Charlottesville isn’t my story. But having had a geographical closeness to North Korea and USA’s bids for superiority during the decade I’ve lived here, I’ve learned that what happens in the USA affects much more than the USA.

I write this from my experience, and I’ll probably do a messy job of it. I’ve accepted that. What I write might make people uncomfortable. I accept this too. I’m not looking to explain, debate, or justify anything I share, and this isn’t a time for comfort.

I do hope, however, that by writing this I spark something sacred and courageous within you. I hope my sharing empowers you to shine your own light.

Darkness can’t remain dark once you shine a light on it. What happened in Charlottesville is an example of how the darkness has strived. I’m committed to doing my part in making sure it doesn’t envelope more than it already has. As Peggy McIntosh writes in her article White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack:

“To redesign social systems, we need first to acknowledge their colossal unseen dimensions.”

So to do this, I’m writing about ways I think I’ve contributed to racism and how I think I’ve benefited from white privilege. I understood why it was important to share my story after watching Brené Brown’s Facebook live video. And I found the resolve to write this after watching Vice’s documentary on the Charlottesville protests. As I’ve written about before, this documentary is something I normally would have avoided, but avoidance is what got us into this mess, and again, this isn’t a time for comfort.

Ways I’ve contributed to racism

Last week I posted this image of overt and covert white supremacy on my Facebook page. This encouraged a short discussion about the term “white supremacy” and the need to unpack the terms listed under “covert white supremacy”. My intention in posting the pyramid was to raise awareness regarding how white people might secretly, if not unknowingly, be contributing to racism. Then I suggested that we may need to create a more precise pyramid to make sure the concepts weren’t misleading.

Although I’d like to do this, and hope someone does, I’ve decided my time is better spent doing my own messy and imperfect unpacking. So here goes:

  • I’ve been teaching English as a foreign language from a mostly euro-centric curriculum in South Korea for the past 12 years. I can refute linguistic imperialism, and work on promoting English as a global language, but I can’t deny that my job was built on the shoulders of white Europeans who colonized Asian, African, American, and Oceanic countries.
  • I’ve used racist terminology. This was when I was much younger, but regardless, I did it.
  • I’ve remained quiet while others made racist jokes. This was also in my younger days. I’m not justifying having done this. I’m just providing a timeline because I’ve changed.
  • I’ve remained quiet as older people belittled the economic reality of people of color, especially that of African-Americans and First Nations people in Canada. I didn’t know how to speak up to these people I’m supposed to respect.

I may be in denial of a few more. I’m not sure. That’s the sneaky thing about racism, or maybe implicit bias; we can sometimes be unaware of our racial conditioning. But the more I unpack, and shine a light, the more aware I’ll become. And in this awareness, change becomes possible.

But there’s a bit more unpacking to do.

Ways I’m benefiting from my white privilege

In her Facebook live video, Brené Brown explains that, “privilege is not about how much you work; it’s about unearned access and authority,” and that “privilege when it comes to race is about unearned rights.” So because I’m a white, English-speaking woman from North America with a Catholic upbringing, I have many unearned rights.

My unearned access and rights have served me well in Korea. I can complain all I want about being stared at, and about being treated differently because I’m not Korean [i.e. microagressions (but also nothing like the microagressions many others experience)], but the underlying reality is I’m benefiting from my white privilege, especially as it pertains to my income and social status. Things have changed in recent years, but there is still a widely held preference in private and public schools to hire white teachers, preferably from North America, Australia, or England. I’ve never had to worry about my white skin or blue eyes being grounds for scrutiny. There’s something unjust about this.

I know there are many other ways I’m benefiting without merit, and I think that just by unpacking what I shared about my career as a teacher could reveal a lot more, but this post is long enough.

I’m still not sure what will come from telling this story. I sense it has something to do with spiritual activism. I also know I’m tired of being controlled by darkness, and maybe by sharing my story with you, you’ll come to terms with how tired you are too. If that’s the case, please know you aren’t alone. There are safe spaces for you to share your truth, and to let your light shine. This blog is a place to start.

RESOURCES:

Courageous conversations:

Resources for healing and action:

  • Consider your position on using language that shames people who don’t share your position by watching Brené Brown’s video at 20:50. She starts off with,”Shame is not a motivator for better behaviour. Shame ignites two things: rationalization, blame.” She then continues to explain how you can speak to people with different beliefs without shaming them.
  • Marianne Williamson’s talk after Charlottesville where she encourages American citizens to learn more about their history and strategies for non-violent resistance.
  • 198 Methods of Nonviolent Action – I recommend choosing one item from this list, and cut and pasting it to Google. Here you’ll find examples of what that action looks like, and how you might carry it out.
  • Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha) by Mahatma Gandhi

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