Move your mind, Move your body, Move your soul.
In the last two weeks, I have witnessed people at work "calling out" the facial expressions they see their colleagues wearing.
"Look at your face, Pam!" my new boss said to my colleague, "I promise, this is actually going to be fun."
I wasn't sure what she meant. Pam asks really good questions and she looked, to me, like she was thinking & processing what my new boss had just said.
It is not just her. On multiple occasions lately, I have heard:
"I can tell by Janet's face that she doesn't want to talk about it."
"What do you know? I can tell you know something."
"If you are ever feeling like you need a laugh in a meeting, pan your camera to Amanda's face."
It is not funny.
Some might say that these are harmless comments, bringing some levity to a heavy business conversation. But when I talked to those who were "called out" - for their faces, no less - what they heard was questioning their competency, their interest, their dedication, their self-awareness.
They heard: You're negative/pessimistic. You're not on board. You're not trustworthy.
What may have been presented as a joke really isn't funny at all. It also is not accurate.
It is not True.
There have been many studies and articles discounting this practice. Two were recently published this spring as some companies are attempting to use Artificial Intelligence (AI) to identify emotions based on facial characteristics.
The long and short of it is: emotions (which are varied and not sufficiently understood) can be expressed in all sorts of different ways. Expressions can be informed by social and cultural norms.
The Atlantic article notes that the assumption that we can "read" others' faces for emotion is biased, often upholding the systemic oppression of BIPOC, women, and other communities. Black people are deemed angrier, for example, or certain people are happier than others.
All this to say, it feels as if it's become the new "Smile, honey" and I'm not up for it.
Is there a dark side to meditation? Can there be such a thing as too much meditating?!?
I had a curiosity the other day about conspiracy theories and meditators. I will admit, I am a little bit of both. I meditate regularly (although not as much as I used to) and I have a *healthy* dose of skepticism about life in general. Is one at all correlated with the other?
There have been spotlights shone on the fact that many in the (white) wellness industry have been "infiltrated" by Q Anon. There are platforms that were once dedicated to a better understanding of vaccines (what is in them, choice to receive) and now have leapt to the consitutionality of being asked/told to wear a mask.
When I was deep in my meditation practice, I went down a number of rabbit holes, seeking perspectives beyond my own thinking, seeking purpose, finding connections where connections may or may not exist. Why was this?
I noticed friends and celebs (or people with larger platforms/audiences than my own) starting to use my preferred language (around "light", "energy", "discernment", "living your truth") almost against me. The language was becoming radicalized, in my opinion. One prominent white woman in wellness even referred to her online community as the "radical light" instead of "radical right" - and one day she freudian slipped in saying the wrong phrase. I listened to a few more episodes. I felt off kilter and was told I must be experiencing cognitive dissonance (another big term in the trauma-wellness-conspiracy world).
Then I turned to the Brain.
I'm taking a neurobiology course for fun right now through Coursera. I love the brain. I am fascinated by how it works and impacts our perceptions, behaviors and reality. And so I wondered if there could be a biological connection between we women in wellness and our penchant for conspiracy theories. Now, I am at best an armchair dabbler. I am not an expert at all. This is totally just me trying to figure out a reason for this reality I find myself in. OK, caveats complete...
Studies demonstrate that meditation increases dopamine levels in the brain. Now, dopamine is awesome. One of it's jobs - is as the "reward" neurotransmitter. It's the feel good sensation we get after we do something with success, eat a cookie, or get a certain number of likes on our IG post. This article is a great discussion of how dopamine works in terms of rewards and also highlights the connection with dopamine and the identification of patterns. So it stands the reason that with the influx of dopamine, our brains might be hunting for more connections and patterns - potentially seeing patterns where they may not exist.
Once we think we see patterns, our confirmation bias continues to find data that supports that claim. Social media's algorithms work exactly this way. Giving us the information that we think we already know - fueling our beliefs (and keeping us online, and hopefully buying their stuff longer). In fact, in writing this piece at this very moment, I AM WORKING THIS WAY. I am reviewing articles to support my view. Damn.
As mentioned in all of these articles cited (and more), we are in the midst of a very uncertain time. "Uncertain times" breed more cults, disinformation, and conspiracy theories as we all try to make sense of our world. The more we are awash in this fear zone (even if we are actively working to be brave), the more our brain works to create patterns to make sense of our lives.
And here I am - doing the same - trying to make sense of it all.
You gotta feel it to heal it.