Session Two Activities
Before We Were White
Below is the activities portion of your session two homework assignment for White Awake's 2021 Before We Were White online course.
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Activities for Session Two
Throughout the course, we will ask you to do two main types of activities: an outdoor, nature communion activity and an ancestral altar activity. If you didn’t have time for the activities portion of your first homework assignment, please go back and read through it now. The first assignment gives you some important introductory information about each type of activity. Because the main action to take with homework one was selecting a place for each activity, you can easily combine the first homework assignment with the second assignment, outlined below.
When you visit your outdoor spot this week, we encourage you to do the following things:
Spend some time simply noticing what is around you. Engage through your senses – what do you see? What do you hear? What do you smell? What does the air, or movement of the air, feel like on your skin?
Notice and identify any plants or animals you know; notice and invite curiosity about any plants or animals you do not immediately recognize. Notice also natural elements such as rocks, dirt, water, etc. Notice any patterns you see (like, where the water collects; where things are growing; where soil is exposed; etc).
If you have time for a reflection, we invite you to bring this question to your outdoor spot:
How can I be in right relationship with this place?
In asking, you may be asking about this particular spot; you may also be asking about the general area or region where you live, inviting the beings you are physically close to in your outdoor spot to speak on behalf of the larger place.
When you ask, maintain a receptive state. See if you can notice things like body sensations, emotions, or images, textures, and sounds that come to mind (ie, non-word-based thoughts). When word-based thoughts arise, look for simplicity and freshness to indicate a response. Regardless of how you might frame this activity, re your spiritual beliefs, we can all agree there are responsible ways to steward or be in right relationship with a place. This activity is an invitation to consider what this could mean where you are now. You might be called to do something very simple and mundane, like picking up trash off the ground!
Leaving a gift – Receiving a gift
One last activity, which you may choose to repeat multiple times as you take the course, and which you may begin this week or next week:
When you go to your outdoor spot, consider taking a gift with you to leave there. You may want to leave bird seed or healthy bread crumbs or other appropriate food. You might take a small crystal or stone that holds a special intention for you. You might take thread or yarn (made from natural materials) that birds could use when it’s time to build their nests. You might take a bit of a meaningful plant such as tobacco, sage or another artemisia (artemisia’s are used in folks traditions around the world for cleansing), or you might bring corn meal, wheat flour, or some other kind of seed or grain. Be sure, of course, that what you leave will be healthy for the physical space. You can, if you have nothing else on hand, always consider plucking a hair from your head and leaving it on the ground or wrapped around a twig or leaf.
Having left a gift, you may notice a small offering that this place wants to make to you. Again, don’t take anything that could harm the space. But things such as a stone, acorn, bit of soil, shiny rock, fallen leaf, feather or last year’s fallen birds nest might catch your attention. If you notice a small gift, say thank you (having left your own gift in return) and bring this item back home with you. Gifts from your outside spot can make a nice addition to your ancestral altar.
Ancestral Altar Activity
There are two components to your assignment for your altar this week. First, we suggest placing an object or objects on your altar that relate to one or both of the following two categories:
Family of origin
We hope you will select one or more objects that connect you to your family of origin (birth or adopted). You may also consider objects that hold a connection to your ethnicity or culture. And/or you can simply select an object from your own childhood, which in turn invokes your entire family line. Items that have been passed down to you, or saved from childhood, are particularly potent, however any object can be imbued with meaning.
If you have pictures of beloved dead that you have a strong and positive connection to, we invite you to place one or more photos on your altar as well.
Natural elements & sensory appeal
In addition to objects or photos that represent your ties of kinship, we invite you to place one or more objects on your altar that represent an element of nature, such as a candle, bowl of water, stone, leaves, etc.
We also invite you to place on or near the altar some things that appeal to your senses, such as a beautiful piece of fabric, natural incense, or something that makes a pleasant noise.
Through these items your altar not only represents your relationship with family or human kin; your altar becomes a space that reminds you of your absolute belonging as a child of this earth, a species on this planet, connected to all that is through your body and your senses.
In addition to placing these types of objects on your altar, we invite you to begin to think about an aspect of the course we will describe in more detail when we meet for session two.
For some of our sessions together, we will be working with guided meditations designed to make a spiritual connection to our ancestral origins (and/or engage with what we are learning through the use of our imagination, depending on how you look at these things).
Any time we work with ancestors, its good to do so within a protective container of some kind. As I mentioned in Session One, we are bound to have challenging energy within our ancestral line (whether you look at this as ghosts of troubled dead, or simply unfortunate things in the past that can have ripple effects through multiple generations that bring challenges forward today).
So, when we are doing guided meditations, and when you are doing work on your own, we would like you to do so with the help of a protective companion. You can consider this to be a real, spiritual presence or simply a calming, soothing image/idea to call to mind, depending on your beliefs.
Some examples of who this protective guide or companion might be: a family member you love and trust who has passed on; an animal companion you were close to that has passed on; a natural place or specific tree, mountain, vista, waterfall, etc that you have a strong relationship with (if you select a nonhuman guide, it could be helpful to imagine it manifested in a human or animal form); a deity, teacher, or leader from any tradition or lineage you are a part of (such as Tara or Kuan Yin for Buddhists; Jesus or the Holy Spirit for Christians; etc).
You do not need to decide on this companion right now, but we hope you will begin to consider who this companion might be. If and when you know, you might bring an object onto your altar that represents this guide or companion, as well.
While describing these activities required some lengthy explanations, we hope you will find the activities themselves something you can connect to with simplicity and ease. You never need to do everything we write down – we hope you will consider these things as possibilities from which you choose the actions that resonate with you and with which you can most easily connect.
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