By Dr. Rotraut Jampa Wurst and James Young
The winter holiday season is upon us. That, coupled with the new omicron variant of COVID has increased stress for so many of people. For many folx, seeing friends and family is a major theme during this time of the year. With the new variant, people are experiencing not only fatigue from the pandemic, but also the stress of deciding to travel, host, or even see loved ones this year.
However on top of the pressures of the holiday season, LGBTQ+ folks, have an added stress known as SOGI stress. SOGI (Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity) stress is the kind of added pressure of having to live with the challenges of a cishet normative world that is also, at many times, transphobic and homophobic. External factors such being physically harmed, misgendered, dead-named, or ridiculed for one’s attractions creates an added stress that cishet folx don’t have to manage. Additionally, these external factors can cause internal stress, such as added anxiety, hypervigilence, and cognitive distortions (like expecting to be rejected). These internal and external stressors of SOGI stress compounds the pressure many LGBTQ+ people feel during the winter holidays with having to see family members that might not affirming.
The good news is that since the start of the pandemic, The LOFT LGBTQ+ Community Center has rebooted their weekly meditation session CALM (Centered At LOFT Meditation). These meditations are facilitated by Queery’s Program Director, James Young (They/He). Queery calls these meditations Queer Zen Meditation.
Which ever name you use, each session is a free non-traditional virtual meditation session held in a queer-centric space. This means that one’s idenity will be affirmed, reducing SOGI stress simply by being in community.
And although The LOFT and Queery are both non-profit organizations located in White Plains, NY, since the start of this reboot, CALM/Queer Zen Meditations have had many folx joining in to destress and breathe with more ease from all over the US, including: Baltimore, California, Colorado, Conneticut, Kentucky, Maryland, New Jersey, Washington, and Washington DC. Furthermore, folks have joined in internationally as well from: Canada, Czechia, England and Germany.
Speaking of Germany, Dr. Rotraut Jampa Wurst (She/They) has been a regular participant since CALM/Queer Zen Meditaiton presented at her first International Queer Buddhist Conference in late October. And since the weekly meditations are held at 5:30 PM EST, and she lives in Germany, she stays up late (11.30 pm CET) to join us due to the time difference. Asking her about her experience, this is what she offered:
“I live in Germany and stay up late to join in every week to be part of the community. I look forward to the guided meditation and the songs, which always has a theme. It’s always fun and after the meditation, I always feel empowered. It’s the one day a week where I feel like I can really breathe.Dr. Rotraut Jampa Wurst aka DJ Jampa Sausage
Speaking of breathing, as a saxophone player and rapper, I need to be able to breathe deeply, and these meditations help me play and rap better.”
Over the last several weeks, Jampa has been connected to various members of The Loft and Queery team. We talked about meditation as well as the the #queerypronounchallenge (https://www.instagram.com/queerypronounchallenge/) which focuses on the importance of sharing and respecting people’s pronouns.
The meditations and talks inspired her to create a composite painting of three of the members of Queery: Jeff, Blair and James (shown below). Their dog, Bong Bong even made it into the paiting!
Aside with joining CALM/Queer Zen Meditation on a weekly basis, painting, and other artistic adventures, Jampa is currently working on details for the next International Queer Buddhist Conference. These are some of the ways Jampa reduces her stress, SOGI or otherwise.
So, what are your plans this holiday season to reduce your stress? Would joining in a queer-centric community meditation practice be useful to you? If so, please look for one that works with your schedule or simply find a queer meditation video online. You can also register for CALM/Queer Zen Meditation and join on us live on Thursdays from 5:30 – 6:30 PM EST.
And not only during the festive season, may we all continue to find our connections and encourage others to find theirs.