Author Archives: Elana Stanger
On the anniversary of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday, in the 50th year since his assassination, let us take some time to think about his important message for the world, and for each one of us, its beloved inhabitants.
I think that one of the important points that may be distilled from MLK’s work to make interracial justice, equality, and harmony a reality, is to become more open-minded about people. As we still strive to develop The Beloved Community of which MLK spoke, we must embrace all kinds of people, from all walks of life, in all of our glorious diversity. Our differences are what make us special and able to contribute unique and precious gifts to the world at large.
Let us be less afraid to welcome new people into our circles of family, friends, acquaintances, and even business associates. Let us be less judgmental, more inclusive, and more welcoming.
When someone feels excluded, they know it and it hurts. Let us try to open our arms a little wider this year, and for the rest of our lives, to let someone special in, a little bit closer.
How do we get to know someone new? Well, let’s begin by being curious – not nosy however. We are not Peeping Toms trying to vicariously enter what may seem to be the more exotic lives of people who may seem different from us. We are not there, becoming friends, to exploit another’s experience. For example, if one of us is financially rich and another of us is financially poor, by all means, do open your arms wide and get to know one another, but do not assume the poor one has less, or the rich one has more, to offer to the relationship. Treat everyone with respect, dignity, and lovingkindness. Offer good listening, compassion, and understanding. As you do, the friendship will gradually blossom, opening forth its petals to sunlight, to further nourish the both of you.
By being open-minded and non-judgmental, we do not limit ourselves to the point of constriction, where our world becomes small, our relations minute, and our happiness faint.
This year, and all of the years of our lives, may our hearts grow big as we welcome in the stranger, to find new friends. Let us make friends with strangers until there aren’t any more strangers, only friends among all of us.
Unity Theater is an interactive, improvised arts-based theatrical experience for healing racism and all social oppressions, to bring about unity through song, storytelling, chanting, movement, deep breathing, meditation, creative visualization and civic dialogue based on the original artwork and music of Saint Angel. It also features a community development component to aid us all in taking collective community action. Diversity Arts will begin presenting Unity Theater in the next several months. Centered on Saint Angel’s art to touch the heart and songs to soothe the soul, we have the starting point for a healing revolution. Together, we are setting the stage for peace, love, justice and unity as we build a mobile sanctuary for civic engagement that restores faith, hope and love in our world. It’s time to let our hearts soar.
Unity Theater is a process for helping us, essentially, build more love and light in the Universe. It is a container in which a safe space is created to explore issues of our cultural diversity and unity through artistic expression. We do this for the Highest Good, taking into account that we are, each and every one of us, special and unique creations, formed like none other, into exactly who we are and who we are meant to be, by a precious and good Creator, the Holy One, God. Of course, we also exercise our own free will in the continued creation of ourselves, and it is thus important that we channel our wills for the highest good. This brings good health and well being, not only to ourselves, but to everybody on Planet Earth.
When we build intercultural unity through Unity Theater, we are serving the Highest Good of ourselves, of Humanity, and of Planet Earth. We are honoring God and Humanity, life itself, and spreading light, good, and joy to everyone, everywhere.
As we have all been hurt by the injustices of oppression, Unity Theater provides a safe place to heal and express our emotional pain associated with these wounds as well as positive feelings, holding out hope for a new day. Within the loving arms of a special and diverse community, we express the truth within our hearts and souls, healing ourselves and each other as the performance of Unity Theater winds on. We create a space for listening. As stories of pain and promise are told, we listen with openness and a non-judgmental stance, accepting what comes. The tears may roll down our cheeks, our hearts may open, our laughter may be released. We may come to see our unity, to know our oneness. And through this process, we are moved with everyone present, to work together for positive change within our communities and our neighborhoods.
In this way, we may positively channel our difficult emotions for positive change. Anger, pain, frustration and disappointment– the by-products of social oppression– must be channeled into something beautiful, constructive and positive for healing and productivity to take place. The expressive arts are a way to heal as we channel our emotions constructively, explore ourselves and heal our hurts, and then feel cleansed by the healing process, thus enabling us to give to and receive support from others who may be culturally the same or different from us, and to go out into the world shining our newly strengthened light.
We have used and heard common metaphors for anger in everyday conversations with coworkers, colleagues, friends, family members, and teachers.
- “He blew his top.”
- “She flipped her lid.”
- “I was beside myself.”
These are examples of people becoming separated from their minds in a psychological process of dissociation that is designed to protect us in some instances, yet it may also leave us vulnerable as we may become separated from the ability to do our best thinking. And we need to do our best thinking — to put our thinking caps on, rather than flip our lids — when it comes to working together to end prejudice and oppression. We need to employ all of our mental capacities and cultivate our mind’s clear thinking in order to build justice and peace.
We often don’t get anywhere with anger when we express it to others, albeit in a non-therapeutic context. We need a safe, therapeutic space in which to express the anger, sadness and outrage that are the natural by-products of being treated unfairly, with racism or other prejudices such as sexism, ableism, ageism, classism, sizeism, and even men’s oppression– that which is targeted unfairly at men.
The theory of building intercultural unity through the Unity Theater performance works because, together, we create a safe space for dialogue and community-building where we realize we are all oppressed in some way, we state that this oppression isn’t right, this oppression doesn’t feel good to our hearts/minds/bodies/souls/spirits, and we affirm that we are all one, all connected here, on this Earthly Plane, in this one vast moment, we call “Life”. We want to make the whole place better for everyone, out of the love we feel for each other in our hearts and souls.
This works because…
We remember that we are and have always truly been connected. Learning, erroneously, that we were all separate and thus only out for ourselves, to greedily get the most we could while others suffered, was not the correct teaching. If we followed in this way that we learned, it was not the correct path for us. We were erroneously taught that in order to get more for ourselves, we had to take from others, and put them down, in order to justify — erroneously — our “right” to take from them. We thought we benefited from the injustices of racism, sexism, homophobia and heterosexism, ableism, etc., when instead, we created a rat race on a treadmill spinning faster and faster inside a cage of no tomorrow. We wake up each day, spinning our wheels like we can’t get enough, spinning ourselves into a cycle of Earth’s destruction. And most of all, we wake up feeling like Rats! (Of course, real rats don’t deserve a bad name; they are also just another of God’s creatures with a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness!)
It is time for rebirth and renewal, and a healing or tikkun of our whole world with new values of loving each other, all life, all God’s creations, the Planet Herself…
Building Intercultural Unity Through Unity Theater will help us all find our way back to the Garden [of Eden]. Through these theatrical and therapeutic means — the expressive arts and dialogue — we return to God. We laugh and we cry together until there are no more tears of sadness, only joy. We come together to express our piece, and find our peace… and our wholeness. Amen.
Elana Felice Stanger, L.C.S.W., a.k.a. St. Anger a.k.a. St. Angel
How do we maintain hope at times like these when the media tells us that so much is wrong with our world? We are told daily that the lives of immigrants, Muslims, Mexicans, women, Jews, People of Color, LGBTQI People, and just about everybody else, don’t matter and are in danger. We feel as if we are being put in a position where we must fight for our lives and our safety or die. We worry that will not survive if we sit idly by and do nothing.
We must condemn the hatred and animosity of our enemies while not becoming like them ourselves. This is a difficult job. We must stay centered within ourselves, our hearts, and our minds, for the Highest Good of the Universe to manifest. How do we take the higher road, when we are scared for our very lives and our very survival, and at the same time, take care of our hearts?
How can we be a force that grows stronger in love, truth, light and peace, rather than becoming like our enemies who choose to espouse hatred, lies, darkness, and violence? The wicked mindset of White supremacy and those who spew racist hate speech, commit violent actions against good and innocent human beings, and harbor racist beliefs toward those same good and innocent human beings is abhorrent. We must understand this mindset as antisocial pathology in terms of psychology.
It may be possible to treat these people psychologically. However, it is more important that we focus on ourselves and our own mental health concerns, taking care of ourselves first, before going out into the terror of the lions’ den to convert and coax racist White supremacists from out of the darkness and into the light, although some of us may have the resources and inclination to do this work.
It is hard to accept that someone who we have elected to be the leader of our beloved country, a country of beautifully diverse individual citizens and groups, espouses these same erroneous beliefs and mindset.
Therefore, I would now like to suggest a few supportive exercises to sustain and grow our mental health while having to combat racism and White supremacy. Turn of the TV, the phone, the computer. Then, do these four things: (1) rest, (2) sit in meditation and practice deep breathing, (3) take quiet walks in nature, and (4) write down your thoughts and feelings in a journal. These practices that will help us find inner peace, quiet, balance, and will make us all more effective activists, healers and artists fighting for the Truth, Worth and Dignity of All of Us.
Remember to Rest
Rest is important. I offer some guidance on rest here: Remember to Rest.
Meditation and Deep Breathing
If you do not already have one, start a daily practice of breathing deeply for 10 to 20 minutes. I offer some guidance on meditation practice here: Daily Meditation.
Walks in Nature
Go to a neighborhood park or the woods if you have them nearby, or just take a quiet walk around the block, taking in the sights and sounds and practicing deep breathing as you walk. Stretch and relax your limbs. As you walk, let the chatter in your mind dissipate as you find your quiet center. Stand near a tree and feel yourself calmly inhale the oxygen it is producing for your breathing pleasure. Feel your heart calm down inside of your chest as you breathe. Turn up the corners of your mouth slightly into a relaxed smile. Remember it takes fewer muscles to smile than to frown, so turn that frown upside down…
Writing in a journal or notebook can help you sort out your thinking. Placing the stressful thoughts and feelings outside of you so you no longer carry them around inside of you where they can fester, contaminate your precious mind, and create a sense of overwhelm, is possible. Just write everything down, your fears, your cares, your worries… You might just feel so relieved by the time you are done, that you feel ready to run a marathon, literally or figuratively. As you write, you might also come up with some great ideas to execute in the work of social justice and building intercultural unity!