You Are a Force of Nature
July 5, 2016
Your Triggers Are Your Spiritual Practice
October 11, 2016


In this time of instant local and global video communication, the longstanding racial divide in North America is visible for all to see.

This is an opportunity for myself and other white people to ask ourselves how we passively or actively permit hate-mongering rhetoric, violence and brutality directed at Black people, Muslim people, Latinx people, First Nations people, Asian and Pacific Islander people, immigrants of color, and trans people of color.

If we believe that Black children should be able to play in public parks without being shot down; if we believe that Black women and men should be able to commit minor traffic/vehicle violations without being murdered;

If we believe Black and Brown and Muslim and immigrant and trans folks of color have the right to practice their religion, drive cars, use public restrooms, go to their jobs, raise their children, embody their authentic gender, breathe, and simply exist, then it’s time to do something.

What each of us does will depend on our resources, health, access and skills, but it is time to:

Do some self-education/self-reflection:


Take action.

We can work with other white folks:

We can support movements led by people of color:

As a white person, I believe it’s my job to support other white people to co-create a racially just world with people of color.

One way I do this is by coaching white anti-racist educators and activists, and supporting them to work through the traumas that undermine their effectiveness and joy in life.

I also do this by offering Healing Oppression workshops.

Finally, I support white people to co-create racial justice by sharing my research and writing.

Resources for Challenging and Dismantling Oppression

If you are exploring what it means to be an over-privileged person (ie. a white person or man or able-bodied person or citizen in this racist, sexist, ableist, anti-immigrant culture) then these resources are for you.

If you straddle both privileged and oppressed identities, these resources are also for you.

If you want insight into what stops you from integrating social justice activities into your daily life, if you want to practice new behaviors that support the liberation of oppressed people, then these writings are for you.

Finally, if you want somatic and psychological insight into how folks with privilege “tick,” these writings are for you.

Intro to the Two Lists of Articles

Oppression operates at institutional, cultural and individual levels. Healing oppression involves collective efforts to shift social and institutional structures. It cannot be a solo or merely psychological endeavor.

However, since my area of expertise is helping folks heal their bodies, spirits and psyches, my writings emphasize the somatic, psychological and trauma-informed aspects of healing oppression.

I prepare individuals and groups to access self-love, self-awareness, accountability, and resilience as they engage in collective, cross-difference collaborations to create structural changes (policies, laws, funding, reparations, etc.).

I believe that this approach complements other approaches to dismantling oppression, because we interact with institutions, culture and each other with our bodies and psyches. And it is our collective bodies and psyches that create social change.

Feel free to share this article and these lists with your communities. If you share excerpts of my writing, please credit me as the source. Thank you.

List # 1: Resources for White People Who Want to Challenge Racism 

These articles have specifically been written from my perspective as a white person speaking with other white people about our white privilege and racism.

  1. Towards A Psychology of Unlearning Racism: A Case Study of a Buddhist Unlearning Racism Course for White People

This is my dissertation from 2006. It describes and makes theory from observations and pre and post participant interviews of a Buddhist Unlearning Racism course for white people that I created and co-facilitated in 2000.

Full of mistakes and lessons learned, with some useful tips for folks who want to educate and motivate white people to take anti-racist action. If you are looking for a specific topic, there is a detailed Table of Contents.

  1. Interview with Urusa Fahim, Ph.D.

Urusa Fahim, a clinical psychologist and Transformative Learning professor, was the Diversity and Outreach Coordinator at Spirit Rock Meditation Center at the time of this interview.

She asked me about what I learned from my dissertation research about the psychology of how white people unlearn racism, and the role that Buddhist practices can play in facilitating that awakening.

  1. Signs and Symptoms of White Racial Shame (Otherwise Known as Shame Survival Strategies)

A cheat sheet taken from my dissertation research conclusions, about the predictable biology-based behaviors that white people employ to avoid feeling shame about our/our ancestors’ participation in racism and white supremacy. Useful for identifying what white racial shame looks like and how it reinforces racism.

  1. From White Racial Shame to Empathy for People of Color Part 1

The relationship between shame and lack of empathy in all humans, and how shame reinforces oppression. I describe some methods for awakening cross-racial empathy in white people.

This article includes suggestions for communicating effectively with liberal white people about racism, and motivating them to take anti-racist action.

  1. From White Racial Shame to Empathy for People of Color Part 2

Theory and practical information on how white people can cultivate a virtuous cycle to increase both our self-compassion and our empathy for people of color.

  1. Awareness of Unfairness: Thawing Out From Internalized Dominance

How children are conditioned and numbed into accepting oppression and the oppressor role. The “thawing out” from numbness-to-injustice journey.  Practices to support that journey.

  1. Obstacles to Being an Ally

A personal essay about how my own history of personal and social trauma kept me from being an effective ally/accomplice to people of color.

  1. Unraveling the Armor of Privilege

How being conditioned into the privileged/oppressor role traumatizes us, and causes us to build up somatic armor to survive that trauma. A somatic explanation of why it is difficult to “give up” privilege.

How to unravel these layers of defensive armor in order to reclaim our humanity and sense of connection with all people.

List # 2: Resources for People Who Want to Transform Oppression 

This second list includes articles about oppression that are relevant for folks who inhabit privileged and/or targeted positions in society.

These articles apply somatic, spiritual and trauma-informed wisdom to support collective efforts to heal and transform oppression, and look at the individual, interpersonal and inter-group dynamics of folks who are healing from internalized dominance and/or internalized oppression.

Two of the articles from the first list are repeated here, since they straddle both categories.

  1. Surviving Oppression; Healing Oppression

A look at how ancestral, community-wide oppression survival strategies both take care of and limit those of us who have inherited them. How to honor and move beyond old survival strategies to create a just world.

  1. From Victim Body to Creative Body

A somatic perspective on how oppression robs our bodily sense of agency, and how to reclaim that agency.

  1. For Occupy Oakland: Why Meet in Separate Groups?

A brief essay on why it is important for white people and people of color to do their initial unlearning racism/recovering from racism work in separate spaces.

  1. Awareness of Unfairness: Thawing Out From Internalized Dominance

(described above)

  1. Unraveling the Armor of Privilege

(described above)

  1. 10 Ways That Shame and Blame Hurts Social Justice Efforts

The dangers of and antidotes to the shame and blame that shows up in social justice communities.

The last three articles bridge spiritual practice and social justice work. 

  1. Sacred Disruptions

An exploration of the role that shake-ups and disruptions play in spiritual awakening and social transformation.

  1. Bring Forth What Is Within You Part 1.

The importance of continually unearthing our blindspots and implicit biases, for the sake of spiritual growth and social justice.

  1. Working with Contraction: Practices to Sustain Social Change (with Buddhist Peace Fellowship)

Individual and group body-based, trauma-savvy practices for sustaining resilience in Engaged Buddhist and social justice activist communities.

I hope you find something useful here.

Be well,


Feel free to share this article and these lists with your communities. If you share excerpts of my writing, please credit me as the source. Thank you.

Click here to book a Somatic & Intuitive coaching session with Dr. Vanissar Tarakali. 

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