Wrapping up the month of contemplation of the Disability Justice principle of Recognizing Wholeness. I have been holding a few aspects of this principle:

  1. Recognizing each of our wholeness: we are perfectly whole and worthy as we are, outside “commodity relationships and capitalistic notions of productivity. Each person is full of history and life experience.” (Sins Invalid)
  2. What supports me to recognize and embody that wholeness, and what gets in the way?
  3. What is collective wholeness, and what’s in the way of it?

Just sitting with the idea of being perfectly whole as I am is so deep. The idea that I am whole gets challenged everywhere, from internal and external sources. Internalized shame, the idea that I am bad at the very core, reveals itself in layers upon layers. Sometimes it’s clearly triggered by an event, sometimes I notice it as ongoing background mental chatter, and sometimes I notice that it seems to have complete control over my behavior. The extent of it gives rise to grief — how much of my life, our lives, has been suppressed by this assumption that i am not whole, not worthy? I want to feel this grief, to really take in the extent of the harm this assumption does. I don’t want to be asleep to it, asleep to the ways I perpetuate it.

I can see ways I inherited this shame from my family, but before them from all the systems that dominate the culture I live in. People are agents of systems. We reinforce the systems because we’ve internalized the system’s ideas.

Ableism is kind of a perfect expression of the idea that we are not whole. Certain bodies are wrong. Certain minds are wrong. We must conform or strive to conform if we have any hope of belonging. And clearly, what kind of bodies and minds we are supposed to have are determined by capitalism, white supremacy, and heteropatriarchy.

I want to spend more time paying close attention to the conditions that support me to recognize wholeness. What comes to mind now are:

— Spending time with non-human nature
— Spending time with people who recognize wholeness or who are practicing with it in some way
— Spending time with people who embrace the parts of me that I tend to reject
— Cultivation of kindness, compassion, tenderness
— Cultivating awareness through stillness and life meditation — deep listening to self and others
— Noticing shame and judgment, their presence and absence
— Cultivating political analysis — looking for the systemic roots of the lies we believe about ourselves
— Cultivating openness to new ideas
— Cultivating discernment about where and with whom I spend time
— Physical reminders, altar/s, tattoos, art
— Taking wholeness as an anchor, returning again and again, remembering

Clearly dharma practice has been helpful here, but I know my dharma communities alone have not been enough. I need fat liberation community. I need disability justice community. I need actively anti-racist community. I need deeply political community that is really committed to uprooting systemic delusion, working toward systemic change, practicing with and embodying the change we want to see, individually and collectively. All of these are important in helping me hold and honor the truth of my own wholeness.

I started talking about collective wholeness in my previous post a bit. I feel like there are a few aspects to this, too. And probably many more that I can’t yet imagine. To me, a whole community is one in which everyone is valued as they are. A community is not whole if it is systematically oppressing or silencing certain groups of people. This is mirrored on the personal level, too, in the ways we exclude parts of ourselves, cutting ourselves off from our own wholeness. I’m thinking if we all recognized our own wholeness, it would be easier for our communities to really embody that wholeness. But I think both approaches are important — they work together. So while we work on our shit, we need to work on our systems too — our families, our groups, our organizations, our communities, our laws, our infrastructure, our whole culture. AND, I wonder what other ways there are to think about it, from folks rooted in more collective cultures. I feel like my cultural conditioning around individualism is so deep that I don’t understand other ways of being, it’s really a stretch for my mind. I look forward to deeply exploring the Disability Justice principles of Cross-Disability Solidarity, Interdependence, Collective Access and Collective Liberation in the months to come. There is so much to learn.

Thanks to so many friends and comrades who teach me in various ways about Recognizing (and embodying a sense of) Wholeness. So many of you.

[Image description: A close-up photo of fat, white, gender-ambiguous Max looking downward toward the camera, not smiling and defiantly not hiding their large double chin. They have a shaved head, mostly covered and surrounded like a halo by a pale blue and black plaid fishing hat. They are wearing dark, red-framed sunglasses and a black t-shirt with cats that says HISS in orange-yellow ombre letters — a feline play on the 80’s glam hard rock band, KISS. Behind Max is the ceiling, wall and large window of a brightly-lit cafe.]