June 26


A dream

At school, M stabs? Or shoots? Madison in the chest. It is like a modernist Shakespeare play – no weapon, no blood. But the intention, all the emotion, the charge of an essential relationship flipped over … to reveal a sudden moment’s impulse that cannot be reversed. It’s all very much school – nothing dreamy. Zach is there, too, in a similarly charged way. Their big boy bodies ricocheting: creating, of a mundane present, a complex future. I can’t recall the plot of the second part, but the dream – and my waking in bed – is infused with irritation and anger with people and systems that don’t see trauma: the interconnectedness of all of us who have attended this event is invisible to them. We are all together and this is just one piece of the dance. We are all hurt, all doing harm. The authorities? Doctors? In the dream want to separate us out from each other – they don’t understand. They think one is victim, the other perp. But this – after years of dancing – was the grand climax: the most intimate they’ve ever been.

June 20



a bottle of 


Found open and undrank

In a familiar workspace

Call it my classroom

Everyone does

Carried it outside, where a 

Dogwood blooms in a cement sea

The leaves were already radiant 

With rain

emptied the 


Over the tremulous branches

A miracle! 

Touched a leaf

love you!

Movement like breath, sun like blood

Bend, bow, turn

The bottle 

threw in the trash

With so much else

One part of me here,

One there


June 13


Waking from dreams in the garage surrounded by my intimate family to crow calls and those red poppy explosions again. In the dream, I was asking people – a child being forcibly dressed for her dance recital, a man doing grunt work for an extraction company in a destroyed field –

“If women ran the world, if women had been running the world, do you think you’d be doing this right now?”

I tried to speak to my chosen subjects, to help them feel the real possibility … “What would we be doing?” … “Cuddling? Taking care of things? Being in our shared pleasure?”

May 29

0815The careful student says what she knows and not more than that.

She listens for what she seeks to understand

My name is Devon Frances Riley. I identify as a woman; a white, cis, queer mother. Pronouns: she, her. They is fine, too. I have a student who’s been using ‘they’ all year for me, and they’re not wrong. 

I am where dare and Rebecca are, which I repeat here in chorus, a chant: the watershed/ ancestral lands of the Chinook people – Kathlamet, Kalapuya, Clatsop-Nehelem, Multnomah, Clackamas, and more, including the Confederated Tribes of the Grande Ronde. For me that is NE Portland, which has more recently been a homeland for large parts of the African American community of Portland, whose togetherness is being actively displaced and decentralized by ongoing gentrification in which I have participated. 

My ancestors are Irish, Scottish, English. On my father’s side, they are for now mostly forgotten. On my mother’s, the Bible’s record goes back to County Cork. It is my intention this summer to do deeper research through my parents, who have lived on many unceeded lands, including the place of my birth and strongly land-based upbringing, on ancestral lands of the Shoshone Bannock people in what I call Idaho. 

I appreciated so much what Tada said in the first session, naming that they are trying to figure out how to say what I do. Yes. I work and play with words and am always attending to the slippery space where language can both clarify and obscure. I read all of your typed offerings in this living language handed down through colonization – and am grateful. Thank you for sharing. 

I owe a debt of responsibility to the chosen spiritual traditions that have raised me: Westernized Raja and Hatha Yoga and Westernized Zen Buddhism. I hold myself able and capable of contributing to the trajectories of these evolving praxis in a way that includes more. In this I have been privileged to study with angel Kyodo williams and Lama Rod Owens, as well as Michael Stone and Michelle Cassandra Johnson. 

Including more for me has been made possible by practices and teachers from Body Mind Centering, Cranial Sacral Therapy, Alexander technique, Psycho-spiritual parenting (Marion Rose), interpersonal neurobiology, training and embodied engagement with trauma and chronic pain, the work of Judith Blackstone, the HAES model, reading so many stories, being with people (mostly women) who have been interested and willing to share their experiences, and spending years of long, tender days in my garden with my children. 

Currently, I am spending long, tender days with youth in an alternative high school, talking about race, breath, words, and the mystery. 


April 16


The private class I taught Saturday (before everything fell apart?) was as concise a transmission of the core points of my work as I can remember…

  1. Most people are as strong as they need to be to be able to do what they want to do. It is accessing and utilizing that strength that is challenging. 
  2. The parts of us that do too much do it because they believe they are saving us from collapse/ obliteration.
  3. Accessing strength or balancing strength is a cycle between encouraging other parts to do more and encouraging over-used parts to do less.
  4. Responding to exhaustion (in over-used areas) by choosing rest/ practicing yield helps facilitate nervous system impulses that facilitate sharing the work
  5. Making small ranges of motion and slowing gestures down help facilitate sharing the work by asking different parts of ourselves to show up 
  6. Considering family patterns can help us perceive internal anatomic and physiologic strategies/ patterns of use and strength (and vice versa)
  7. Exploring movement patterns that help us feel resourced – whether through rest or resilience (ability to move in and down or ability to move out and up) – is a more functional, loving road than exploring movement patterns that are goal oriented
  8. You Have more freedom than you’re using
  9. Freedom means choice, creativity, ability to access resources internally, ability to accept support, ability to ask generative questions/ get curious, ability to move away from center without losing center
  10. Paradigm of hardening and collapse
  11. Paradigm of the nest or tangle: when the spectrum disappears and we can only do it ONE WAY or not at all (hardening/collapse) we have moved out of whole self and into the story of the tangle
  12. The tangle is what protects a moment of wisdom that was too much truth to tolerate
  13. Unwinding the tangle is a nonlinear, stop/go/observe/rest engagement *with the tangle* 
  14. Each of us is sufficient to our own tangles if and when we are accepting of support
  15. Staying present w physical sensation and urge (push, pull, withdraw, collapse, rest, harden, flee, freeze) allows us to be in relationship outside of time/narrative


April 15

14Clara is so so sick. Again. She has lost her faith. All she can do is suffer and endure. She doesn’t trust her body, or my love. Last night, in the fevered dark, she repeatedly, insistently, told me that I don’t love her. Not really. “You hate me because of what I do.” I assured her again and again that I heard her, that I am so sorry it feels that way, that I do love her so much and always. “It’s not true.” She would reply. “You don’t love me. You only love my sister. I’ve done a bad thing so you hate me.”

Marion Rose sent a message yesterday about our children translating from the universe for us. I look at Clara, fingers interlaced over her heart, wet cloth on her forehead. She asked to lay “just on my own” because I was behind her, trying to support her. She is so angry and sad. I don’t understand how she is looking at the world, and that is where I tend to go to try to understand messages. Maybe, though, that is one of these ways where I abandon my own perspective – disappear myself – in order to try to receive or interpret messages. If I do it Marion’s way … then what Clara says is to help me understand what I am feeling. (My urge is to capitalize that I, italicize it) Am I stuck in a feeling that the universe doesn’t love me? That my parents/partner/friends don’t love what I am doing or trying to do? I suppose, yes. It is part of what I was sharing with Holly yesterday, that I feel like a burden on the earth, on BIPOC communities, and yet, in my own community, where I belong, I struggle to be seen. I worry that people find me unkind or irritating, abrasive, overly intellectual, constantly political, impossible to relax around, hurtful, judgmental. I don’t know how to share my wants and needs from a place that draws people to me. I feel the race stuff so deeply, so personally. I truly am an abolitionist. But I feel performative – and afraid of being perceived that way – when I try to contact others around intersectionality, truth, reality. 

Clara kept saying, “That’s not true.” And in my exhaustion and undivided presence, I knew that partly what she was saying is that there is no way for me to convince her of my position. As long as she feels what she feels, that is what truth is for her. I couldn’t find a way to fully settle into what she was communicating – I said, “what makes you say that?” Because it was false for me. But how can we connect except to attend to what feels true to the other? Nolan can’t possibly see what I see, not having had any of the experiences I’ve had in the last 12 years that have brought me to this perspective. So then how could it be my job to influence him for the sake of the oppressed in this country who have no shot at shifting his truth to include or respect theirs? 

What is it? That sharing my truth would damage people? Our relationship? That it is too dark? Or, selfish? Is that what I fear? Or do I fear that my perspective comes from a desire to take up

No space



No harm

Are these really different?



April 6


Unwrapped, unrolled the rug. Cut camellias from the squatter yard. Made the crudite tray, twice. Popped the popcorn, dressed it well. Put things away, wiped counters, swept. Greens to the bunnies. There is a sleepover birthday party happening right now, but I’m not in charge. I can hardly stand to be in the zone. So much goofy. So much chatter and bunch. A lot of small people I want to get to know, or care for, or who I am already attached to and want to protect. It’s just not that time of life. I can’t both be me and be in the mix … with them. Eleven! One sweet girl, close to my heart, who got the first evidence of her first cycle this very day. They are all over the map. Two of the ten-nearing-eleven-year-olds here are years out from that pivotal moment. “Close the door,” I say to them. “Write your name on your cup.” I know their names and I smile and ask them small, easy-to-answer questions. But I am just a shepard. I don’t speak sheep.

March 25

08aI want to come out here by saying that I am considering for myself how I can continue to show up in this group. I am at my limit in a lot of ways and especially, after our last meeting, I am struggling to maintain a sense of possibility around anti-racist work in the larger context. I will continue to do the work: it has been 7 years since Trayvon was killed, and going back is not an option. All the paths of my life have brought me to this. But for the first time in this journey, I find myself in the first loop on the Cycle of Empowerment: I am exhausted, and I am afraid. I don’t blame POC, of course. And maybe I feel this partially because I can no longer distance myself from white people in the way that I have. On the outside, I think most people who know me would locate me in the Collective Action area: I can say yes and give daily examples for each of the actions there. I have changed my daily life completely in the last two years to make this possible. On the inside, though, it is hard for me locate hope. It is hard for me to feel that anything will ever be enough. I can’t possibly crave comfort because it is so hard for me to feel it. In any given moment, I move toward discomfort, and drag my family and friends with me.

There is a temptation to justify myself by explaining what the last month, or the last year, has held – how fully immersed in whiteness; cultural, institutional, and personal racism; and trauma I am everyday. If there is anything I learned from years of watching social media interactions around racial justice, though, it is this: as a white woman, it is never helpful for me to center my experience in a public way when race and racism are what is being discussed. 

To an extent, this is why we have affinity groups: to lessen the harm my emotional self-centeredness may cause. 

As a long time meditation practitioner and source of compassionate support in many people’s lives, I can say with confidence that shutting down my (or your) emotional processes or shaming myself (or you) for how I (you) feel is a great way to feed white dominance, patriarchy, and capitalist manipulation. That said, there are more and less appropriate, responsible, aware, and authentic ways to be present to our responses, emotions, and urges. 

Which is I guess to say: when and how I show up to this group is my own work, my own concern. Like Angeline, I’m not sure I want to hang my evolving beliefs up somewhere and look at them everyday. I definitely considered not sharing any of this. I feel the risk of doing harm almost continuously, and I navigate the threats borne of my own conditioning as well as I can. But I think we all, often, consider not sharing. I think we all feel fear. And I benefit pretty much every time someone else shares. 

Old belief: The USA is a mostly safe, mostly free place, with deeply problematic politics and beautiful, dramatic, living land that supports me, physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually.

Current belief: The USA is a terror state, based on paternalistic racial and capitalist domination and exploitation, historically, presently, and internationally. My access to support through connection to the land is rooted in how I – as a educated, middle class white person – benefit from, or am protected from, the American practice of terrorizing people, animals, and plants. 


Old belief: People are basically good and kind and want to learn from and support each other. 

Current belief: People have the capacity to be kind, curious, and empathetic. Biologically, each human requires a huge amount of unconditional support from people experiencing connection, love, cultural authenticity and integrity, as well as stories, dances, songs that make sense of the chaos of emotional and metaphysical experience. When this support is not available, people are basically afraid, angry, and ignorant. 


Old belief: “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

Current belief: Healing is possible, but trauma and alienation alter the (inner and outer) landscape in ways that make healing less likely.


Old belief: The truth is inherently good, if painful.

Current belief: The truth is inherently neutral. Too much truth is trauma. Not enough is ignorance.


Old belief: Race is a mistaken mental image and can be altered with education.

Current belief: Race was born of colonialism, which was born of Capitalism, Patriarchy, Violence, and Trauma. All of these forms of division and hierarchy inform each other, and shape communities, which shape relationships between people, which literally shape the next generations. 


Old belief: History is in the past, but expresses itself in the present.

Current belief: Time is not linear. Time lives in the body. Trauma can be both buried and uncovered.


Old belief: Hope is a useful feeling that connects discomfort with action.

Current belief: Hope is a physiological belief that comfort can be accessed. 


Warring beliefs

  • Comfort is a feeling of being safe and held that we learn in our cells during gestation and infancy.
  • Comfort in white supremacy is like cheap sugar in Portland Public Schools: a substance used to manipulate, excite, control, and distract the masses. 


Old belief: BIPOC have access to a sort of righteous wisdom and deep joy born of not being co-opted by white dominance.

Current belief: I cannot predict the mental, emotional, or physiological state of any BIPOC based on my ideas of their life experience. 


Old belief: Industrial and institutional systems can be altered to benefit more people.

Current belief: Industrial and institutional systems put in place to create and maintain white dominance will by their nature morph to sustain white dominance. 


Old belief: Anti-racism work (intersectional feminism) makes more space for me to be me. Uplifting the least privileged uplifts us all.

Current belief: Sometimes, doing the work just feels like work. It turns relationships into work. It turns my life into a measurement: did I do enough work?


Old belief: Walking toward discomfort increases my opportunities to grow spiritually; I have both privilege and support; I can always dig deeper. 

Current belief: My limits are real. It is not morally responsible or spiritually developed to ignore them.

March 8

09aOh, the intersection of trauma and systematic oppression. 

It is hard to hear my students talk about the medications they are on. Increasing levels, loss of appetite, increased appetite, vomiting. Sleeplessness, nightmares, anxiety. The imperative to stay still! To tolerate long hours indoors with many children and few adults; to do what you are told to do: stay focussed, don’t skip class, don’t talk. When people scold you, don’t giggle, don’t run away, don’t talk back. They explain how hard it was to be good, and maybe the medication will make it easier. 

I ask if they have considered the possibility that nothing is wrong with them. 

J tells me about being tackled by this principal at his old school. He talks about the way they used to to talk to him, telling him that he would never graduate, that he was destined to be a bum and a drop out. They asked him, he says, the first time they met him, if he was in a gang. If I didn’t know better, I’d be shocked. He tells me about how ICE came to his door and – disrespectful! – came past him and took his step dad away by the arm – in front of his four year old son! Now his son is all messed up, he says, with autism. They try to talk to the step dad on the phone in Honduras and can hear gun shots. We don’t even talk to him now, Jaden sighs. 

M and the bug in his ear. 

N’s mother laughing about a story I was telling, as N seals himself inside his hoodie, laughing his laugh, almost falling off his chair, oblivious to social cues as to how to handle himself, and she says, “that is just one of those autism things, you know?” And I think: omg. Of course he is autistic. That is the most helpful. How did I not know? How the fuck did we get here?

A and E and D want to go to Wonderland, the penny arcade. Just the three of us, A insists. Who knows what E wants. She wants to be with her boyfriend, laying under her cat. D wants to be with J. But they would go. They could, maybe, have a day of just being young, together. I can see doing that. 

T, cursing at the perfect miniature snow person she’s sculpting out of playdough, says that after we spoke highly of her at parent teacher conferences, her dad cried. Because, yeah. Likely, no one at a school ever had before. 

J and J and T and S and V. They understand Explicit and Implicit. They see themes. I think they believe me (a little) when I say that we can understand ourselves and our world more deeply by thinking this way – by not only looking for meanings, but looking for how we construct meaning, together.


March 3

07REFLECT:  Catalog carefully the primary voices that informed you as a person and shaped your thoughts and values in these areas:

  • Your closest friends
  • Mentors or people you’ve looked to for guidance
  • Teachers/Bosses/Advisors who impacted your learning or career path
  • Authors of the books you’ve read in the last year

Comprehensively list them and note the racial identity of each. Once you’ve examined the primary voices in your life, connect back to the listening exercise from our second session and write a reflection about what you discovered through the examination of the primary voices in your life and post in the group.


Applying this lens to my memories of what I heard about race in my early years emphasizes what I already believe to be true about how I learned to be white and to recognize or relate to Blackness, which is that it was primarily non-verbal. My parents were strongly of the “everyone’s equal,” “colorblind” mold of relatively mobile, privileged, racially isolated, northern white families of their generation. Because I grew up in proximity to Native American communities, and my mom did work representing and selling their art, I was aware of our status as immigrants. This was furthered by my grandmother’s family bible with her primarily Irish genealogy laid out inside the front cover. When the idea of our “Irishness” was talked about, though, it never satisfied the yearning in me for meaning. I wonder now if the facts, without emotion, weren’t enough to capture my imagination, or feed my soul’s longing. 

All through my youth, I had a sense that what set Native people apart was their rich culture, connection to the land and its other inhabitants (which mattered a lot to my family and our community also) and understanding of where they came from. I don’t remember my mom sharing anything about the atrocities endured by these communities, or the complications inherent in their need to perform and sell their cultural heritage for whites in order to survive as artists, though I assume she understood some of this herself. There were several adults in my young life who were positioned to educate me more deeply about how Native people were supported and shaped by their cultures – a white guy, friend of my mother’s, who married and was inducted into the Blackfeet; and my sixth grade teacher, a white woman who spent the whole year educating us in the different practices of the NW Coast Native peoples, their homelands, and their art, including modern work of living artists. When I think now of how these two people communicated with me, there was a mixture of facts and emotion, an indication that there was beauty and meaning here for me, for us. I can’t think how exactly I understood this, but I could feel that though I could never be Native, knowing about Indigenous people and being near them was of benefit to my humanity. 

I contrast this in my memory with a total blank around the cultural context of Blackness. I loved Lamar Burton; my dad loved Teddy Pendergrass and The Doobie Brothers. I watched Sesame Street and saw the delight of those neighbors in their diverse world. And it helped form my sense that Blackness was something very distant. Not bad, but a sort of caricature: simple, flat. By the time I was in high school, dancing to hip hop, reading Zora Neale Hurston and Maya Angelou, my ability to listen without listening was laid down deep. Or, to say it better, to listen without reflecting. How tangled and hurtful that world seemed – so far from my own. 

I had a high school English teacher – the first Southern white person I ever knew (and one of the only, still) – who came to teach us straight from college when I was a junior. She was five years older than we were, full of urgency about things that made me roll my eyes at her obvious vulnerability. The combination of her accent, her professed feminism, and her lack of classroom management skills (she yelled at us, and cried) sparked in me a deep desire to distance myself at all costs. She had us read Absalom, Absalom, which shook me up, but not because of the opening it provided to notice whiteness – because of the intellectual modernity of the text, which I was primed to analyze. 

It’s true that there were no Black people anywhere near where I grew up, but I don’t think this can fully explain the disconnect. My guess is that the adults in my world could tolerate the way that Native stories made them into immigrants, but they couldn’t face the way that Blackness made them White. 

My parents and their friends did recognize and give some factual language to what was not good to do or be: Nixon, Reagan, segregation, overt racism, impoliteness. My father would tell me that for the years in his young childhood when he lived on the edge of hunger in Delaware, racism was very real. His father, he would say, was a racist. The tone with which he said this indicated that it was something to be ashamed of, but also a sort of antiquity – once common, no longer useful. I can recall, too, the awkwardness as he recited out loud some racist bit of language from his father – a sort of artifact for us kids – and laughed (from discomfort? Confusion? enjoyment?), while my mom made disapproving (and silencing) eyes at him across the table. There would be no further investigation or explanation, that much was clear. 

I was alerted in my group last time we met that I tend to interpret body language emotionally, and here above I’ve done that. The way that my mother created silence in my home was through body language: a briskness in gesture, pursing of the lips, sudden getting up to do a suddenly important household chore. Before this finality, there was a way of drawing back, gathering herself: limbs in, back straighter; or of reaching out with one hand to press the hand or thigh of the offending party, or with her eyes, a sudden purposeful coldness, lips pursed. 

I interpreted these gestures as warnings. They defined a threshold that was not safe to cross. To cross the line would mean disconnection.

I read yesterday in James Baldwin’s “A Talk to Teachers”: 

“Now all this enters the child’s consciousness much sooner than we as adults would like to think it does. As adults, we are easily fooled because we are so anxious to be fooled. But children are very different. Children, not yet aware that it is dangerous to look too deeply at anything, look at everything, look at each other, and draw their own conclusions.”

After this last meeting, I am looking back and seeing how it was almost like there was layer of “bad” white people who separated us from Black society. Nixon, people who voted for Nixon. Reagan, people who voted for Reagan. The backwards people who were named “racist,” that shameful, antiquated thing. In school, the difficulties of american history were easy to push off: slavery a problem of the South, colonialism a problem of the past. In each instance, the white people who were actually in contact with Blackness were made evil by it. I don’t think anyone said anything like this to me directly. But I was listening between the lines.

James Baldwin says that, “In order for me to live, I decided very early that some mistake had been made somewhere. I was not a “nigger” even though you called me one.” This feels so important to me. The Black teachers I’ve had through books in the last five years, by insisting on their own humanity, and on the practice of truth telling in this twisted system, have helped me as much as any spiritual teacher I’ve had. Claudia Rankine, James Baldwin, Rita Dove, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Roxane Gay – all have insisted, in the context of race, on being heard in their uniqueness, through emotion and fact. Like Angeline, I can feel both anger at and frustration with my parents and teachers for stunting my humanity by segregating my consciousness. But I also feel how untouchable it must have felt for them, how deeply they still fear their own disconnection, so that they flinch when I say the word “white.” 

My other major teachers in the last ten years have been children and their parents. I don’t know how to fit these people into the categories that Rebecca gave. I guess children are my mentors. Knowing a few Black babies and children intimately and others casually, and sharing the intimate work of growing and protecting and understanding children with their parents – Black, white, indigenous, mixed – has exposed so many of the dumb ideas I developed as a kid about difference and distance. When I miss my mountain home, my ten year old reminds me of how blessed we are to live in a place where there are black and brown people. And she is so right.

In a moment in a staff meeting last week, while a white colleague was speaking over a black colleague, I discovered myself getting physically tighter. I didn’t want to listen to her. I didn’t want to be associated with her behavior. And she reminded me very much of myself. I didn’t know, in the moment, quite how to intervene. I thought of what Rebecca shared about working through her motivation in the form of feelings and beliefs, and checking her thoughts, or ideas, against what we know about White Supremacy Culture, before going on to action. I vowed to stay with what I was noticing without doing anything for the moment. And the place where I was able to listen to my own communication, in that moment, was again in the area of body language. As I attuned to my own body, I knew that I was partly responding to the body language of my Black colleague who was being silenced – how withdrawn he looked: his chest low, his eyes down. He drew his hand slowly over his face. My white colleague leaned forward, her head reaching into the space in front of her body, her words a continuous tumble. I came back to my own form, seeking to open the space around my heart, to find a softer breath. I could feel the urge to go toward one of the them or the other – to get in between them, and protect him from her. 

This emotional response felt like white saviorism to me. And after the role-play in our last meeting, I am trying to think of ways to go toward my white colleague in a way that is not just about disarming her, but also about exposing my own process to her. It feels more humble if I am just sharing with her what I am working on around race, but I’m still not sure how to do that. I feel pretty solid, though, that giving her my mom’s patented ice eyes is not going to be the way forward!

I’m struggling with the sense that this colleague (the white one) is somehow my “responsibility.” I for sure believe “if not me, who?” And “if not now, when?” I can find a way to approach her with compassion and try to start a race conversation, without making it about her at first. But part of my struggle is that my practice shows me quickly how it isn’t about her. As soon as I get involved, it is about me. What I see, what I feel, my history, my worry. Yes, I see how much work she has to do – like I have so much work to do – and she will keep doing harm, not out of racism, really, just because her undone work – her personal work – keeps her from being present to her own humanity. And in the context of white dominance that results in her undermining his. But here I do not feel superior, or somehow like a mentor. I feel reflected in the world around me.