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  • Writer's pictureIlin Shieh

Reflections on Culture

With the Black-lives-matter and all lives matter movement, I'm beginning to reflect on my history with the so-called White American culture and my own Taiwanese culture. I took an honest look, or as honest as I could, and I have to admit that I've been acculturating myself to White America for the sake of survival from the moment I landed in the USA twenty-three years ago. But no shame whatsoever. In retrospect, I have a lot of compassion for the need to conform.

What was surprising was that having gone through ethnic studies and what felt like multi-cultural trainings during my time at UC Berkeley, the desire to align with the White American culture to gain acceptance remained subversively strong. This is a complexed issue. On the one hand, it's a no brainer that dominant media simply showed White faces a lot more than minorities. I am happy to see that gradually changing. On the other hand, and more in stealth, there was the propagation of a certain brand of meaning-of-life. I became acculturated to see power-over as the primary means of survival and ultimate goal to life. The scary thing is that I did not learn it in textbooks, in fact, we were taught to be the opposite, to value community and multi-culturalism. However, the real-world structures were something entirely different. My architectural training were unapologetically and appallingly Euro-centric. Education systems were set up for personal achievements and the eventual corporate climb. Where as in most East Asian cultures, collectivism is the primary means of survival and community harmony as ultimate goal to life.

Now I am a long way from pure collectivism and conservative Taiwanese values. I have the fight within me and I have the will and impulse to shine as an individual. However, through reflection and meditation, I also saw that that fight was in part inflamed by Western ideals, and do not necessarily align with my true nature. In other words, American education trained me to be in fights for [fill-in-the-blank] (justice, freedom, equality, etc.), whereas in my childhood culture there is just flow, and the middle-way, and loving my culture directly, loving my neighbors, and loving who-I-am - without even needing to have the concept defined in words. It was just a natural state of being. The Western culture dichotomized wholeness, and peace and harmony became polarized into a mental exercise. In my spiritual nature, I simply be and love. And I'm talking about *trying* to be utopian, but the direct frequency that makes my heart open and relax and my physical and emotional bodies soften and non-inflamed. It's the resonance of rest.

So while minorities are fighting for equality and justice, I'm taking this opportunity to reflect on how this fight itself is still using the oppressor's language and remaining in the same paradigm. Which means no paradigm shifting results could come out of it. The only way is to simply be and practice the resonance of what it means to be truly at rest and receiving nurturing energy. What that means for me is to keep sending compassion to that part of me that was conditioned to stay and function within the White American paradigm, or even conservative Taiwanese culture as there are tremendous systemic issues there too; and keep releasing the language of domination as I create a new paradigm of being for myself that's not based on ideology, but on what resonates directly with wholeness and ease.

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