Saladin Ambar, PhD, Associate Professor of Political Science at Rutgers University-New Brunswick was interviewed on the Circle of Care webinar, Understanding racial disparities in the Covid-19 pandemic. This webinar series was created by Amy Wright Glenn, founder of The Institute for the Study of Birth, Breath and Death. He stated that the true viral contagion confronting us is white supremacy, unfettered capitalism, and spiritual emptiness.
My expertise surrounds spiritual emptiness. What is it? Religions are the handed down traditions and establishments that profess a certain belief system and worship style. Spirituality is the cosmic intelligent energy that animates our body and mind so we can experience life.
When I was growing up, I was deeply religious. Many of my family interactions were hurtful and unloving which caused much confusion, sadness, and suffering. I was taught there was only one right way. We did not say we loved each other, no hugging, and we seemed to only criticize and blame each other for our own unhappiness. God was someone who judged me severely and loved me conditionally. With this belief, I was filled with fear and angst. Yes, I survived yet felt lost with nowhere to turn. The world of violence and hate did not make sense to me. I thought if this is how the world works, I do not want to be in it. To me this is spiritual emptiness.
This emptiness fueled my teenage pregnancy, my divorce at age 23 with three small children, my financial situation ($80/week as Ellie from the deli). My upbringing positioned me to feel like a victim. Life happened to me and frankly I felt helpless and hopeless to better my situation. When I discovered my own personal power and exercised it in a way that aligned with my true spirit nature, my experiences and circumstances improved.
George Floyd's death, the COVID-19 pandemic, and the rioting have shown me it is time to actively understand our inequalities. By participating in Say Their Names and Women of Color online events, I learned that black parents have talks with their children about race. My parents lacked the communication skills to give me the sex talk and racial prejudices were overheard, seen, and felt. When we are children, we are defenseless. Unprocessed emotions get physically stored in our minds and bodies causing us to keep a dysfunctional cycle going. We want to survive so we adjust to our environment.
My belief is that our parents gave us the best they could. Now is the time for each of us to root out our own prejudices. We need to become conscious of our thoughts and feelings. When we allow them to flow through us, we free ourselves from past conditioning. In this compassionate space, we can offer healing to others. Sometimes my own thoughts tell me to give up, or this is too hard. Awareness is the beginning, reframing the thought comes next then taking the appropriate action. We need to be willing to change and do our part.
Anyone can feel empty inside. Take time to know who you really are by spending your time journaling, reading uplifting messages, prayer, meditating, being in nature, enjoying your body and mind. To be the change we want to see in the world, we need to let spirit fill us up.