Radikal Life S1E14: Connect with Andrea Durham
Sun, Nov 13, 2022 12:15PM • 1:07:43
people, connection, world, thinking, person, life, connected, understand, resourced, happened, module, labels, hear, created, trinidad, kindnesses, big, curiosity, struggled, caribbean
Marina Patrice Vare (they/them/MP), Andrea Durham (she/her)
Marina Patrice Vare (they/them/MP) 00:00
Hello. Thanks for joining us for the Radikal Life podcast. Maybe you’ve heard us say that our weekly podcast guest is a Module Leader and you’ve wondered what that’s all about. Radikal Life: The Manual for Optimal Being-ness is a holistic, self-paced learning and coaching program for people seeking an optimized experience of being human. We’ve focused our program around 14 verbs: breathe, cleanse, clear, connect, create, do Intuit, meditate, move, nourish, rest, stretch, strengthen and think. Each of these verbs makes up one module of the manual, which was created by a Module Leader we believe embodies that verb. The Manual for Optimal Being-ness is ideal for people who’ve already done some healing work with a therapist, a healer, or on their own, and who are feeling pretty well-grounded and stable, but really want to grow into the next iteration of themselves. We found that most people have areas of support and skill-building that they still want to cultivate. Our Connect Module Leader has described this as progressing from functional to fabulous. Learn more about Radikal Life: The Manual for Optimal Being-ness over on our website at Radikal dot Life. Now on to today’s interview. Hello, and welcome to the Radikal Life podcast. My name is Marina Patrice Vare. My pronouns are they them and MP. And we’re recording for you today on the unceded lands of the Lenni-Lenape peoples. I’m excited to be here today with our Connect Module Leader, would you like to introduce yourself?
Andrea Durham (she/her) 01:46
Hello, my name is Andrea Durham, and I am a personal and professional coach, as well as an attorney. And I created the Radikal Life Connect module. And I’m happy to be here to talk about it.
Marina Patrice Vare (they/them/MP) 02:02
Awesome. Would you like to begin by sharing what identities and communities are important to you.
Andrea Durham (she/her) 02:10
The world. Honestly, I think what’s important to me and how people perceive me are often two different things. Yeah. So I I’m female, cisgendered female, I am an immigrant. I have multiple identities, whether it’s as a person of African descent or a person of Asian descent. I think that those are enough to start with.
Marina Patrice Vare (they/them/MP) 02:48
Yeah, sure. I, you know, I appreciated the first piece you said there about the way that the world perceives you versus the way that you perceive yourself. I think that that’s a an important piece. And I know you and I have spoken several times about your experience here in the US as an immigrant, right? And how people have a particular perception of you that doesn’t match your perception of yourself. So that just that was the first thing that was on my mind there. Is there anything you want to say about that?
Andrea Durham (she/her) 03:14
Well, I think that people can get very attached to labels as identity, whether you give yourself that label, or somebody else gives you that label. And for me, what’s important is to recognize language, language changes, circumstances changes. Did you view yourself at five the way you view yourself now?
Marina Patrice Vare (they/them/MP) 03:40
Andrea Durham (she/her) 03:42
And we can give ourselves a break just to be who we are. I absolutely believe in supporting how people identify themselves as a way to allow others to move through the world safely and myself to move through the world safely. However, I think often we get so attached to labels, that we never go under it to really explore who we are. And I believe that everyone has such extraordinary things inside them, that if we limit it to a label, we’re missing a lot of what that person actually is.
Marina Patrice Vare (they/them/MP) 04:17
It’s really interesting what you’re saying there. And I’m thinking about it in terms of connection, right? Because there are some particular like, I’ll speak for myself, like some ID identities, that feel really important to me to be in community with folks that share those identities and share some of those experiences. And also there’s also this piece about wanting to see people for the fullness of who they are, right, and that really is how we make connection, right is that making space for the fullness of people beyond what we perceive about them, you know, initially.
Andrea Durham (she/her) 04:53
Yeah, and also that I fully understand labels in terms of this is how I tell, you know, like my label as an immigrant. It’s just a fact. How that plays out for me it can really vary depending on where I am. And even in what country
Marina Patrice Vare (they/them/MP) 05:12
Andrea Durham (she/her) 05:13
Marina Patrice Vare (they/them/MP) 05:13
Andrea Durham (she/her) 05:15
And so, you know, I’m a part of the Caribbean community, I’m a part of, in some ways, an Indo-Caribbean community. And we can kind of like just keep drilling down, drilling down, drilling down. But there’s still Andrea. Yeah. And Andrea hasn’t changed. I can move through many different communities and have different support systems, and express myself. And certainly, you know, this summer I was in the UK and I went to the Notting Hill Carnival, which is something that Caribbean immigrants took with them wherever they went around the world. And to some people, it might be an incredibly vulgar display of human behavior. To me, it’s like, Oh, those are my people.
Marina Patrice Vare (they/them/MP) 06:01
You sent me some beautiful picture of those events.
Andrea Durham (she/her) 06:04
And, you know, one community’s way of self expression may be very different than another communities. But it doesn’t mean that the people inside that community don’t all have the same needs the same desires. And sometimes when we talk about labels, it just becomes a way of short handing people, as opposed to saying, Yeah, I can be many different things. That’s the beauty of being human that we can be so many different things. But if we’re only asked to stay in the box, that and the other thing is, you can only be as big as someone else’s idea of you if that’s where you want to stay. But there is so much more to being human. And we can use labels, we can use identities, but not as a straightjacket more as a way of easily kind of sharing ourselves. But with the understanding that we want to go deeper.
Marina Patrice Vare (they/them/MP) 07:13
And I have a few questions I think I want to hit upon. But one of the things that comes to mind specifically because I know this to be an important part of the way that you connect with folks is this sense of curiosity, right. And I know you have said to me that, like your particular combination of identities, has created a paradigm of curiosity for you. And I want you to talk a little bit about why that’s important and how it relates to connection. But I also know it to be the way that you approach others, right, is from a very humble place of like, I couldn’t possibly know you better than you know yourself. And so I’m wondering if you would also comment on that.
Andrea Durham (she/her) 07:59
I think that it’s part of my own growth as a human being that that has come about and also being an immigrant and being a person that in in 2020, you know, wherever we are in time right now we’re calling mixed race, you know, I’m still human. But I am curious, because I’ve used this example with you the World Cup. Versus World Series example, where I came to the country in 1974. And when I came, I heard about this thing called the World Series. And I, of course, thought that meant, you know, many countries are playing. So I’m Oh, what countries are playing? Because I come from a world where when you say use that word, it means the world is included in that. And of course, I got a very different response than I was expecting because I didn’t understand the paradigm, you know, being a child. And in my world, when you said World Cup, what it meant is that as many countries in the world as wanted to send a team, they competed, and then whoever won won, you know, they beat out everybody else in the world.
Marina Patrice Vare (they/them/MP) 08:36
Yeah. Yes, yes.
Andrea Durham (she/her) 08:42
And at the time, Pele, was you know, from Brazil was like the biggest he was like God really he was. And so the concept that world meant something different. But then I still had to move through the world knowing that there was all of this other information, but the people that I was engaging with didn’t have that information. And it wasn’t part of their paradigm. And so even as they viewed me they viewed my family they viewed so many things, it was from a particular paradigm. And it’s not that the paradigm was wrong. It’s just, there’s more. And they didn’t realize that there was more. And so for them, it meant that I needed to do things a certain way, I needed to behave a certain way. And I needed to think a certain way. But there was all of this other stuff that I knew and experienced and brought with me.
Marina Patrice Vare (they/them/MP) 10:26
Andrea Durham (she/her) 10:26
But that didn’t really matter. And so for me, it is important, and not that I’m perfect at it. But I try to really approach people from their understanding of who they are, as opposed to my labels for them and my limited understanding, because even with like the World Cup, kind of in my head, there are still many things I don’t know. But part of the journey of life is learning and growing and exploring and saying, Okay, this works for now, that won’t work in five years, or that’s fine. And I, I value that. I value that we can explore, we could learn, you know, I’m also a Unitarian. And one of our principles is the, the responsible search for truth and meaning. So and I, you know, saw that as Oh, yeah, that’s me. I’ll sign up for that. Yeah. Just know, you know, when you go out into the world, yeah, people do a lot of things, but leave a little room for learning more.
Marina Patrice Vare (they/them/MP) 11:42
Yeah, I heard a couple of things in there. And you have used this example with me enough, like across contexts, that it has really stuck with me. Our family is gearing up to watch the World Cup. And so it’s been in my mind, because we also Philly was in the World Series. And like you know, so both of those things have been very, like present recently. And what I heard there is that in a lot of ways, when you came here, we were experiencing people in a much like narrower concept of how wide the world was, right?
Andrea Durham (she/her) 12:15
Marina Patrice Vare (they/them/MP) 12:15
And I’m just, I’m putting myself there, right. And I’m also thinking about, like, just how often I’ll see news and be like, Oh, I don’t actually know much about that. Right? When it’s outside of the US, I mean, even things in the US, but like, particularly things that are in other countries where I’m just like, Oh, I have to dive in and read this. And then sometimes reading a piece of news about what’s happening elsewhere, I have to go back and like and look for other pieces of information, right, which is, I think, a very like Americanized perspective of what’s happening in the world. And I’m thinking about the number of times that you’ve told me that your family, right, in Trinidad has, like, you know, called you and said, like, Hey, did you know this is happening?
Andrea Durham (she/her) 12:57
Yeah. Oh, my goodness.
Marina Patrice Vare (they/them/MP) 12:58
And so I just, I’m thinking about that as well. And I’m wondering if there’s any thing you want to share there?
Andrea Durham (she/her) 13:02
Yeah, I think the most prominent memory, for me of that was the whole January 6, incident, or whatever people are calling it now. I have my own words, but we’ll leave that for now. And I’m at work. And I get a call from my sister. And my sister says you have to turn on the TV. They’re overthrowing the government. And how my sister found out is that my cousin in Trinidad calls her from Trinidad and says, Your government is being overthrown. Are you okay? They were calling to find out if we were okay. And my sister’s like, What are you talking about? That doesn’t even make any sense. And she’s like, turn on your TV, your government is being overthrown. And to the rest of the world that’s what it looked like when the government was being overthrown. So my cousin in another country 3000 miles away, calls my sister in real time to tell her what is happening in Washington, DC. My sister then calls me and I think we’re all kind of, you know, blown away by what we see happening. Yes. And it was just wow, you know, my cous somebody else in another country had to call and tell you what was going on.
Marina Patrice Vare (they/them/MP) 14:18
Andrea Durham (she/her) 14:19
Or I remember a long, long time ago, some people may remember this, the whole Branch Davidian thing with the FBI and how they stormed the ranch in Texas and, and I remember going home to visit on a trip and of course, I was working, so I don’t watch TV during the day when I work. And but my aunt is a housewife. And my aunt sat there and she could tell you blow by blow what happened from when the FBI moved in and who did what next. And I’m sitting there and I’m listening to her and she is basically a housewife in Trinidad, recounting something that has happened in Texas in the United States, and she could tell me Oh no, that didn’t happen, this is what happened. And I was like, Okay. Because our expectation is that, yes, of course, you’ll know what’s happening with you. But you’ll know what’s happening around because we share a planet. And even more. Now, with climate change, we really have to be aware of what’s going on because it’s life or death. And so, yeah, those were two little examples of that.
Marina Patrice Vare (they/them/MP) 15:31
No, those are great examples. And I think it also I’m going to call it back to when, at the beginning, when I said, What identities and communities are important to you, and you’ve said the world, like you meant that very literally, right?
Andrea Durham (she/her) 15:42
Marina Patrice Vare (they/them/MP) 15:42
And I, I really have appreciated that about your perspective, because you often bring me out of a much narrower focus of like, sort of what I have understood about the world and your curiosity has often for me, made me more curious about something. And so that, for me, has been a really important part of our friendship. And I just, you know, wanted to name that, because it has been, it has shaped me in a lot of ways. I’m wondering if you want to talk a little bit about when you think of connection, what kinds of connections come to mind?
Andrea Durham (she/her) 16:14
I think like many people, it would be family, communities of origin, whether it’s your nationality, or, you know, people doing ancestry and things like that now, and it’s like, Oh, where do you come from kinda thing. So I think that people think of that initially, and I think of that initially. But I also part of the deep understanding that there’s more than that. And I think this Connect module certainly came out of that. But even before I did the Connect module, there, there was something in me that was like, there’s more, we are more connected than disconnected. And I actually believe the whole disconnection thing is propaganda.
Marina Patrice Vare (they/them/MP) 17:06
Yeah, there’s some really beautiful stuff in your module really about how deeply we are connected and how far back we’re connected. And I really, one of the things that I took away from that is just this short view versus like, long view of history. And I’m wondering if there’s anything that you want to add there?
Andrea Durham (she/her) 17:24
Yeah, I think that coming from the Caribbean, but also having Asian Indian ancestry. When people think of history in the West, they maybe go back two to 5000 years, depending on who you talk to. And other part Oh, well, 10,000 years ago, that’s, that’s why that river looks like that, or that’s why. Oh, goodness, and the the name is escaping me now. But I remember when I was in India, and we went to a place where they had built sundials before people were running around with watches, and I mean, really old. And the sundials were accurate to the millisecond before people were even counting milliseconds in the West. And so I think that when we think of history, we often Oh, yeah, well, you know, maybe the Roman Empire, or maybe the Greeks, okay. And I love in the West, when they say, you know, history begins in Sumer. For you, perhaps, but we know that there were cities 10,000 years ago, and there’s a little figurine that I passed around in my workshop, and it’s called the Venus of Willendorf. We know that that figurine was carved between 25 and 30,000 years ago, you know, it’s not like people weren’t here. And so even when we are talking about identities, we can identify ourselves in a certain way now. But people just like us, just like us. Were there 25,000 years ago, they were identifying themselves differently, but they were they were there. Because we wouldn’t be here if they weren’t there. And I think that’s, that’s part of the connection as well that we have to understand that we’re not new or special. We’re a part of an abundant chain of humanity. I know we probably have never considered that you have something in common with somebody 25,000 years ago, probably never thought about that. But in order for us to be here, those people had to be there. And there’s a Sappho quote that I love. Something like years from now They will think of us. And and I’m, you know, kind of bumbling the quote, but I love it because yeah, I don’t think I had any personal knowledge of Sappho before I started reading some of the poetry and was like, Oh my goodness, this is so beautiful. This person was thinking, not just about their immediate circumstances and their immediate lives. We’re, like 2000 years beyond that, but that writing is still there for us to know. They were thinking of us. And we can think of them.
Marina Patrice Vare (they/them/MP) 20:34
You know, one of the things that I hadn’t really thought through until I was going through your module was related specifically to just like, I think I have not thought that far back, right, because I have such a challenging time imagining the material conditions of people’s lives. And it was really interesting for me, you make a compelling case, right, about actually the internal experiences of our lives across time, right. And the thing that we do have in common there, and I’m wondering if you want to say anything about that.
Andrea Durham (she/her) 21:12
Well, I did a workshop last Sunday, and one of the things that I was talking about is, you know, I come from an island in the Caribbean. And the the indigenous peoples, the pre Columbian peoples called it the land of the hummingbird. And one of the things they came up the yoke of the Orinoco River in that goes to Colombia and Venezuela, and came out into the Atlantic basin, and they would come to this island. And one of the reasons they came to the island was because there are so many beautiful birds. And today, we have a bird sanctuary there, but it is a haven for bird watchers. So let’s think about, Okay, five to 600 years on this should have been like 1498. But let’s think five to 600 years, people were looking at this same thing. They were appreciating the fact that there were these beautiful birds on this island. And they came to see them and people come in now from all over the world. Just to sit we have I think, like 18 species of just hummingbirds.
Marina Patrice Vare (they/them/MP) 22:24
Andrea Durham (she/her) 22:26
We like the same stuff.
Marina Patrice Vare (they/them/MP) 22:28
Yeah, that that desire for something beautiful, and of the natural world is a thread through our humanity.
Andrea Durham (she/her) 22:36
We can appreciate beauty. We certainly know what it is to fear, we know what it is to feel pain. But we also know what it is to love our children and to want our dear ones close. Yeah, you know, we we want because we wouldn’t be here if people didn’t take good care of other people. We literally would not be here. And I think the call is we are here now. But in the Native American sense, shouldn’t we be thinking out seven generations? Shouldn’t we be as Sappho said waiting here for someone to think of us? but because we’ve created the space for them to be?
Marina Patrice Vare (they/them/MP) 23:19
Yeah, I mean, that shift in perspective, for me to really think about people’s like internal drives and experiences made it much more possible for me to imagine, like much further back in history, and I do I really appreciate this idea of in the future, they will think of us and also the gift that we could give by creating a future where what they think of us is, like, maybe not from like an ego centric place, but like from like, you know, if you think about some of the things that like didn’t exist. Like, well, let’s even talk about like, just literally, like when I was in high school, the Internet was not something that I had access to, right. And so like if we think about some of the things that have been brilliantly created by human beings, right, and the fact that like, we can, you know, agree or disagree about the utility of like, communicating through the internet, right, but we have access to information that like we just didn’t have, right. And so like when I think about things like that, I’m like, what kind of amazing pieces of imagination, can we move forward and bring, you know, into the future? So that folks have them as you know, so they are better resourced instead of less resourced, right.
Andrea Durham (she/her) 24:36
Oh, absolutely. You know, I certainly was born before the internet before international travel took off before. A funny little story is my uncle told me the story that when my father first came to the United States, he would have to send a letter back to his father to say I will call the local store because most people didn’t have phones in their homes. I will call on this day and this time, and my uncle said everybody in the area would come gather around just to hear the phone ringing from America. Now my cousin is calling my sister to say check your TV. So the world has changed dramatically. And the technology is a tool, we can use it for good or for ill. The call is to use it well.
Marina Patrice Vare (they/them/MP) 25:25
Andrea Durham (she/her) 25:26
And to use our resources as well.
Marina Patrice Vare (they/them/MP) 25:28
Yeah. I just am, I’m having a moment of like, imagining, you know, what people will be grateful for, like where, or, like, better for because it happened, you know, to be created in our lifetimes. I would love to hear a little bit more about who or what shapes your thinking about connection.
Andrea Durham (she/her) 25:54
You’ve known me long enough to know, one of my big things, you know, as a female identified person, is women’s empowerment. And so, you know, I’ve been thinking about all of these connection things and having various things. And as I said, you know, part of my ancestors took a 10,000 mile journey from Calcutta to the Caribbean, another set took that mid atlantic journey, not by choice, either group. You know, whether it was enslavement or indenture, not choices that we would make for ourselves. But an understanding that I’m connected to these people and understanding that there are lots of us that are connected. Or even yeah, I travel a lot. And so seeing that I could, you know, I’m in Romania, and I’m seeing Roma people, but I know that their traditions look a lot like North Africa, like North India, and just seeing all of these things. And so connection, I think, has always been there. But it wasn’t until the course that I was doing last year, where I really came across the whole concept of Mitochondrial Eve or M-source, and the fact that it’s actually bigger than you think, because we are all literally connected. You know, we can all trace our DNA to a single person. And in addition to that, that, you know, we have a very present physical connection on our own bodies that tell us even before we were breathing, even before we were born, that the only reason we’re here is because of connection.
Marina Patrice Vare (they/them/MP) 27:39
Yeah, I mean, I’m still taking that in, right, we’ve had this conversation several times. And you know, I remember you telling me, it’s been well over a year since you and I first talked about Mitochondrial Eve. And I’m still like, integrating that into my awareness and understanding. And I, you know, I think sometimes the science stuff scares me like, where I’m just like, that’s I don’t understand how that happens. But on an intuitive level, it really makes a lot of sense to me. And then, you know, a couple of months ago, when you said to me, like, well, you can literally put your hand over your navel and know that you are connected. That really like it brought it to me in a really like embodied sense. And I think it keeps getting richer, the more like we talk through it, the more I think about it, it really does get richer and richer.
Andrea Durham (she/her) 28:28
I think that once you realize, and I think the universe did it this way on purpose that you walk around with a body, but on your body is a very present, physical reminder that the only way you got here was because you were connected to someone else. And the only way that person got here was because they were connected to somebody else. And then it goes back in an ubroken line, for between 150 to 200,000 years. Yeah, it’s it’s big to take in.
Marina Patrice Vare (they/them/MP) 28:58
Andrea Durham (she/her) 29:00
But I think that is the purpose of connection. It really is to dispel the propaganda of disconnection.
Marina Patrice Vare (they/them/MP) 29:08
I love that. I would love to hear a bit more about your spiritual beliefs and how that helps you approach and understand connection. I know you to be a quite prayerful person and so like I, I just have, I would love to hear you say more about that deep connection that you experience.
Andrea Durham (she/her) 29:31
For me, I, I am a Caribbean person and part of it is for many Caribbeans I can’t say all but I can say many. We don’t really view the physical and the metaphysical as two different things. That’s a very, very, very western empirical idea of how you look at the world we tend to come especially in Trinidad from so many different parts of the world that we brought our beliefs with us and so well, the supernatural is just the next step. You know, and I would all I’ve spent time in Christian, mostly Christian circles. But in both Charismatic or Pentecostal and non-charismatic circles, and one of the things that charismatic, Oh, we don’t believe in all of that hocus pocus stuff. And my question to them would then be Well, why do you pray? Praying is metaphysical. And I absolutely believe in the power of prayer and the power to, you know, support people, not simply physically or financially, but to support the spiritual, just for them dealing with the spiritual forces around them. And I prayed for you this morning.
Marina Patrice Vare (they/them/MP) 30:48
Oh, thank you. Those ones go a long way. I know.
Andrea Durham (she/her) 30:51
Well I, I just think that that that’s how you care. That you, you know, you harness the resources that you have, and whether it’s a good thought that you have for somebody, or words that you use, or just standing in a space and kind of holding them in the whatever, however you want to do it. But I believe that that energy is real, and that its power. And I believe it is universal. And you know, I am a believer in God. But for some people that that is an overwhelming concept and word and also a painful one, depending on what and I respect that. So as I said, I’m the Unitarian, huge contingent of Unitarians are atheists. I’m perfectly comfortable in that space, because I don’t think what you believe has to change what I believe and we can still go forward together.
Marina Patrice Vare (they/them/MP) 30:56
Yeah. Yeah, I really, I love that. And, like, I just want to echo back that like that I don’t believe that what I believe right has to like or what you believe, has to, like diminish, right, what I believe and I think that that is I’m gonna circle that back to your sense of curiosity, right, is that I really appreciate the way that you allow space for there to be multiple truths. Right. And that is it’s a core belief of Unitarianism. For sure. I think one of the spaces that I have always understood in your in the way that you talk about God, right, is that it is very expansive, right? And I am thinking about this sort of trio of quotes that you shared in your third class. And I’m wondering if I want to pull that out here or not like, do you want to dive into that a little bit? Because I think that that was for me, it really speaks to sort of this deep connection across religious and spiritual traditions. And also, because I think that it it helps me see the way that you understand the world in a, like in a very, like, concrete way. Like in a way that I’m like, Oh, I can I understand that. I could explain that to someone else.
Andrea Durham (she/her) 33:04
Marina Patrice Vare (they/them/MP) 33:05
Yeah. We went dark. There we go.
Andrea Durham (she/her) 33:08
And even you and I’m trying to remember the quotes now. But let me put it to you this way.
Marina Patrice Vare (they/them/MP) 33:09
Andrea Durham (she/her) 33:14
You are the parent of three children. Are they the same?
Marina Patrice Vare (they/them/MP) 33:19
Andrea Durham (she/her) 33:20
Do they want the same things?
Marina Patrice Vare (they/them/MP) 33:22
Sometimes, but usually only when it’s things like pizza and movies.
Andrea Durham (she/her) 33:28
Do they express themselves in the same way?
Marina Patrice Vare (they/them/MP) 33:29
Andrea Durham (she/her) 33:32
Do you love them any less?
Marina Patrice Vare (they/them/MP) 33:33
Andrea Durham (she/her) 33:35
Marina Patrice Vare (they/them/MP) 33:36
Because I really believe that they are all a manifestation of the divine and that my role is just to be in relationship with them. Yeah.
Andrea Durham (she/her) 33:45
Have they taught you things?
Marina Patrice Vare (they/them/MP) 33:47
Oh, my gosh, yes. Yeah.
Andrea Durham (she/her) 33:51
Marina Patrice Vare (they/them/MP) 33:52
Wildly different things sometimes, and sometimes not the lesson that I’m looking for but.
Andrea Durham (she/her) 33:56
Marina Patrice Vare (they/them/MP) 33:57
Andrea Durham (she/her) 33:58
And the power I love that the elephant analogy where you know, one person’s touching the trunk, one person is touching the tail, one person’s touching the leg. Let’s understand that, as human beings, we are finite. And I had the blessing of a Hindu grandfather, and a spiritual Baptist grandmother. So and they were married lived in this and it’s funny because you know, we celebrate Diwali. And my grandmother is not even Hindu. But she was the primary cook for Diwali you know. And I struggled for a long time I was an evangelical Christian, as you know, and one of the things I struggled with was the limited idea about God. And I would always have to go back to Hinduism to say, No, no, no, it’s bigger than that. It’s bigger and as big as you think it is, it’s bigger than that.
Marina Patrice Vare (they/them/MP) 34:52
Andrea Durham (she/her) 34:53
And too, I believe and it’s my belief that the being that created us and allows us to be that being wants us to shine. And but we do, because we keep clinging to all of the things well, you know, you are this label or that label or and therefore, this is what you do. And this is how you are. And why, as I said earlier, while we can have those labels, we’re more than that. Even the people 25,000 years ago 100,000 they were more than that, which is why we’re here. And so, I struggled sometimes as an evangelical because, you know, if you look up at the sky and see how big it is, can you count the number of stars, can you count the grain, which, interestingly, if the Bible says as well, you can’t count the number of grains of sand on the beach, try with your best computer. But, you know, there’s more. And if we approach things, and even our connection is a paradigm of, this is what I know. But I’m gonna leave a good bit of space for what I don’t know and grow into that. And then once I get there, there will be more to that. But I think that’s why we’re here. And that the basis of that is the connection that we have going all the way back. And that connection, and the fact that your navel tells you you were connected before you were, as I said before, before you were born. And before you took your first breath, you were connected, you were plugged in. And that, you know, we can have difficult relationships with our parents, grandparents, you know, the relatives that we know. But what I’m talking about is the life force itself that created you. The life force itself that said, you will be here. That connection is a very, very real you know, it’s what pushed us into this space. That is our birthright now.
Marina Patrice Vare (they/them/MP) 37:16
Yeah, and I am thinking about this sort of idea that like the very same thing that animates me animates you. And so it’s just a for me, that was a perspective that really it gave me a greater sense of, there’s something more to people that I dislike or disagree with, right? Or like, right, this, you know, you and I have talked about this idea of like seeing the divine in every person, right. And that is not easy at all times. And it is not. But the there is something about that approach that makes it impossible for me to diminish people to their worst behaviors and their worst, you know? Yeah, do you want to say more about that?
Andrea Durham (she/her) 38:06
Sure. And it doesn’t mean we have to, you know, closely embrace everyone, or we have to be discerning people about what is safe or appropriate for us, you know, I know there are certain places that just wouldn’t be safe for me. I don’t hate those people, I just know, in that circle, I would not be safe. And sometimes it’s not even a matter of physical safety it can be a matter of mental, emotional, or even spiritual safety. You know, there are circles where people have a particular understanding of something. And so if I’m in that circle, it won’t serve me, it will actually be a lot, a lot of hard work for me to maintain myself in that space, which is, you know, kind of why I had to leave certain spiritual communities, It did not serve me to be the best me I could be. But it doesn’t mean those people don’t have a right to exist. It doesn’t mean those people aren’t also fruit of the Divine, and also more specifically, fruit of that mitochondrial Eve, or that M-source person, because we don’t really know what they called themselves. But yeah, anybody you see is a product of that connection. Anybody? You know, think of the worst people you can think of they’re the product of that too. And, as I said, it’s not that we have to fully embrace everybody and love. But we do have to recognize that people do have a right to be here. And because I think it feeds into to the second class in the module, which is about abundance, because often we approach things with a paradigm of scarcity. Well, you know, there’s only so much and I gotta get mine first and, you know, we got to make sure and it’s Like, well, think of the billions of people that had to exist just for us to show up. I mean, it’s literally beyond the millions. We are a product of abundance. And part of our job is to express that. But if we’re, if we’re not taught that if we’re not clear on the fact that, that abundance is the standard is the truth, that connection is the standard is the truth, then we go off in really bad directions. I mean, just think, you know, if Columbus got on that ship and said, let me go see who was here and let me embrace.
Marina Patrice Vare (they/them/MP) 40:43
Yeah, what could I learn from them?
Andrea Durham (she/her) 40:45
What can I learn from them? How could I share with them? And because interestingly enough, we know that many of those people were willing to share. How different would it be? So much of the pain is generated by us. You know, and it’s generated from our fear and from our belief that we aren’t connected to each other. And that somehow, you know, one of the things I also talk about is, in the classes is, you know, that hierarchy well, I’m above you.
Marina Patrice Vare (they/them/MP) 41:19
Andrea Durham (she/her) 41:19
No, no, we all got here through a womb. All of us.
Marina Patrice Vare (they/them/MP) 41:25
Andrea Durham (she/her) 41:25
Somebody smarter than us designed that.
Marina Patrice Vare (they/them/MP) 41:31
Beautiful. Yeah. Do you want to tell us about perhaps an important memory that you have related to connection?
Andrea Durham (she/her) 41:43
Um, actually, I thought about that, when I was reading through some of the things. As I said, I travel a lot. And there are times, many times I travel alone. And one of the things that has always struck me is the willingness of people who I don’t know, have never met to be kind and helpful. And I remember I was in an airport in India, and I think I was had was leaving like Calcutta or something like that. But you know, I’m in the airport. And I walk through, and there’s a guy there who’s helping me for a little while, but this woman, she was sitting with all of her bags, and she saw me and she’s like, You come you come you have to sit here with me, you come and you sit here with me. I never met her before. I’ve not seen her since. And first of all, I was just stunned. But something prompted her to make sure that I was okay. And I’m kind of getting teary. Because you have to come and sit here with me. And she, you know, wanted to make sure that I got on the plane she wanted to, and it was, you know, connection, and that she thought I was worthy of her care. And I have had that happen many a time in traveling, because sometimes I’m not even speaking the language. And people have just stepped up and out of nowhere sometimes and it’s Thank you.
Marina Patrice Vare (they/them/MP) 43:29
Yeah. Yeah. And I think it speaks to that, you know, that internal desire for connection across, you know, language across place across everything, right, that that there is something about the way you move through the world, right, that that is attractive to people that you’re encountering. And I think that that is like a vital like lifeforce about you that I you know, that I’ve seen in action and I know, and, and accessible right to others as well, like just that desire to be in deep relationship.
Andrea Durham (she/her) 44:10
And I, and I think that it’s way more about them
Marina Patrice Vare (they/them/MP) 44:15
Andrea Durham (she/her) 44:15
Marina Patrice Vare (they/them/MP) 44:16
Tell me more.
Andrea Durham (she/her) 44:17
The people that I admire in the world are people like Mother Teresa, or Raoul Wallenberg, or you know, Oskar Schindler. These are people who, if you look up their backgrounds, they could have lived very comfortable lives. But they decided that they could be catalysts in the world to care for others. And to this day, I don’t think we we still don’t know what happened to Raoul Wallenberg. But basically, he saw the Holocaust happening. He was like, This is wrong. Let me see who I can save and who I can help.
Marina Patrice Vare (they/them/MP) 44:17
Andrea Durham (she/her) 44:18
I admire those people because they get onto the playing field, not because of their own direct interest. But because there’s something deeper inside of them that says, We all matter. And so, you know, even in those situations where people have been kind and helpful, it wasn’t about me, it was about them. Like, I still remember this woman, and she, she just you have to come here and sit with me. And she just pulled me. I didn’t, I didn’t even but what a powerful and extraordinary person. And, you know, it wasn’t like she gave millions because I think people often say, Oh, what, you know, when I get to this place, then I can do better than I can. And it’s like, no, she just saw me realized I was alone and was like, Okay, that’s somebody’s daughter, that’s somebody’s sister or what but her heart.
Marina Patrice Vare (they/them/MP) 46:06
Andrea Durham (she/her) 46:07
And we can all do that.
Marina Patrice Vare (they/them/MP) 46:11
Well and I’m also just thinking about that, that desire to meet someone, right? When they are so open to you as well, right? Like to, to have that offer, excuse me, that offer of care and to really like step in and accept and receive that. And what a key component that is of connection, right? Like not just the giving, but also the the being willing to receive and open. Yeah.
Andrea Durham (she/her) 46:39
Yeah, it was. I mean, for me, it was just because, you know, it’s not like I could hang out with people in the airport, I was off by myself. And, yeah, I still remember that kindness. And I remember the kindness of so many, many others who just, Okay, well, you wait here with us until you know, things get better. Or I was coming out of Mother Teresa’s burial site, because the hospice and the burial site in two different places. And I walked out into the street, and I very, ignorantly thought, yeah, I’ll just get a taxi. It wasn’t that easy. And this man just saw me. And he’s like, where are you trying to go? He, you know, because and I was like, Oh, okay, I’m hearing English, because I
Marina Patrice Vare (they/them/MP) 47:24
Andrea Durham (she/her) 47:25
And he hailed a taxi, he explained to the taxi driver where I wanted to go. And I got into the taxi and I’m and I remember thinking, I don’t know where this man is taking me. And the taxi driver took me exactly to where I needed to go. And, you know, those two people could have done things very differently.
Marina Patrice Vare (they/them/MP) 47:47
Andrea Durham (she/her) 47:49
But they didn’t. Why?
Marina Patrice Vare (they/them/MP) 47:52
Andrea Durham (she/her) 47:55
And that’s enough. That’s enough. That’s why we’re all here. That’s how we can show up.
Marina Patrice Vare (they/them/MP) 48:01
Well, and I am just thinking for me how lovely it is to share this space with you, and have you literally be cataloging these kindnesses. Right, because I think that that is a very particular approach to being in the world. And, you know, I think that there is, I mean, those are certainly offerings of gratitude, right? But I think it is I will say, sometimes when I am struggling, I’m in a place of like, grudge or discontent, or, right, and I sometimes forget to like, run back through that Rolodex of kindnesses. And so I’m just, I’m thinking about that, like, right now, in this moment, as like a practice as something that I could like, literally take away from this moment, and like, you know, move out into the world with and experience greater depth of connection because of it.
Andrea Durham (she/her) 48:52
Yeah, and I’m not perfect, you know, I have my not so good days. But your question was definitely a prompt to remember all of the kindnesses and also to expect it because of the abundance. And if we actually look back, and it’s not that horrific things have not happened and have not happened to us, personally. I mean, how I became a Unitarian is because I was robbed. And I had left my old spiritual community, and I really like my father, you know, said that Well, you definitely need to go see somebody because when things like this happen to people, you’ve got to take care of yourself. And so I got a therapist, but what I realized is I knew that spiritual community was something that really, really supported me. So out of that very, very bad circumstance. And it’s funny, nothing happened to me in India, but I get back to the US and, you know, that’s where the robbery happens right in front of my house. And you know, it took me a while to get over because you know, trauma. But that’s what led me to where I am now. So I, I think that I do a class on resilience actually, I’m doing it with a group of people. And one of the things about resilience that they talk about is finding the good. Because it’s very easy for us to dwell on the negative, it’s very easy for us to, you know, live in fear, because of even very real things that have happened to us. But if we can hold on to the good, there’s an awesome TED talk on it. But if we can hold on to the good if we can search for the good and find the good. That can be the most empowering thing for us, even as we struggle.
Marina Patrice Vare (they/them/MP) 50:48
Yeah. Interesting. I’ll have you tell me about the TED Talk. And we’ll drop it in the notes. In the shownotes. I’m thinking of, I’m wondering if it’s the same one I’m thinking of, but I don’t want to derail ourselves on a hole. But yes, this, this idea, that connection, right? It does help us build resilience, and also helps us to find our footing in the face of trauma. Right? That makes a lot of sense to me. And it squares with my own experience. And I will say that it for me, it’s not like a silver lining kind of thing. Like, oh, let’s put a shiny like, Oh, this is a good thing that happened to you package around it. But it is a reflection that I can take back of I’m still here, right? Like, despite some really terrible things like I am still here. And that is not just because I managed to move through the world myself, right? It’s because of a lot of support, and people that believed in connection, that I managed to survive some of those things. And I think that that is a really, it’s a powerful, like commentary on resilience, right? Like that many of us have lived through things that we shouldn’t have had to live through.
Andrea Durham (she/her) 52:02
Marina Patrice Vare (they/them/MP) 52:03
But that like we we did, right, and we’re here and that, that choice to then keep moving into connection and being in relationship, I think is a really, yeah, that’s just what’s resonating with me right now. That’s where I can feel that in my body.
Andrea Durham (she/her) 52:20
And I also want to say because, you know, I break down connection into connection with yourself, connection to others, and then connection with the world. Because a lot of it has to do with our connection to ourselves. And how do we value ourselves? Yeah, how do we think of ourselves and sometimes we, you know, I know as, particularly as female, you can get some very negative imaging, but in many, many identities, you can have very negative imaging. But self connection is really what and I think that’s why we have that belly button because it starts with the self. And it starts with that ability to separate yourself from the trauma from the bad thing and not make the bad thing you or, because because I come from certain cultures, you know, it was very common, and still in many, many parts of the world very, very common to blame people when bad things happen to them.
Marina Patrice Vare (they/them/MP) 53:25
Andrea Durham (she/her) 53:26
Oh, well, if you hadn’t if if you didn’t exist, it wouldn’t happen.
Marina Patrice Vare (they/them/MP) 53:30
Yeah right. I know if you weren’t XYZ. Yeah.
Andrea Durham (she/her) 53:32
Sometimes it gets that bad. And the connection to yourself is what can really help to propel you to even stand enough to then take make a connection outside of yourself. And I think that that’s a really, really critical thing to understand. You know, one of the the tools that I use is just smiling and not smiling out just smiling by yourself, and you can feel the change in your body as you smile.
Marina Patrice Vare (they/them/MP) 53:33
Andrea Durham (she/her) 54:05
Because I think that we were intended to be able to self soothe. And you know, and laughter laughter. Yeah, something outside you can be funny, but you’re the one laughing. Yeah, and the endorphins are flowing because you’re laughing. And so I think that that’s another like extraordinary thing that the universe did. You know that, that we can start with ourselves? We we can, it is actually very, very important to connect with yourself first. And I talked about you know, because then you can have relationships by invitation rather than desperation.
Marina Patrice Vare (they/them/MP) 54:44
Yeah, I really love that language.
Andrea Durham (she/her) 54:46
And for me, it’s you know, and that’s a thing that you have to switch in your brain because in many ways we’re taught well, you go outside, you find someone to love you. You find someone to validate you you find some no, no, no, no, no.
Marina Patrice Vare (they/them/MP) 54:59
Andrea Durham (she/her) 55:00
You came out of the womb whole and perfect, regardless of what your body looks like your abilities. No, no, you you are a product of an abundant connection. You’re worthy right there you show up, you’re worthy.
Marina Patrice Vare (they/them/MP) 55:14
Andrea Durham (she/her) 55:15
And take that as the barometer of how you want to move through the world. And whatever the messages are coming at you, you have the power to discern, is this going to support me or is not going to. And it’s not like it’s a growth process that you have to go through. But I think it’s so critical, because the connection doesn’t start outside your it starts with you. And the more you can build resilience, the more you you can build yourself, then when you do engage outside yourself, it’s for very different reasons.
Marina Patrice Vare (they/them/MP) 55:55
Andrea Durham (she/her) 55:56
You don’t have to tell me I’m worth it. When your resourceed. Yeah. Because I show up believing I’m worth it. And I’m looking for whether or not you’re going to treat me like I am.
Marina Patrice Vare (they/them/MP) 56:05
That’s really a beautiful, yeah, shift in ways to think about being in relationship, right? And the whys of being in relationship, right? If it’s not just to like, get your needs met, because in some ways, you have resourced yourself, right. And I don’t mean it in the sense that, like, everyone has all of their needs met all the time. But I mean, that like when you have a deep source, right, that you know, you are connected to, and you know, you’re worthy, like the types of needs that you’re exchanging are really different.
Andrea Durham (she/her) 56:34
They’re very different. And also, we look at people rather than looking at them as targets to meet our needs. We look at them as co-creators, how can we work together to do what we need to do? And, you know, one of the things when we think about like the divorce, rate, we think about broken relationships, and, you know, I identify as female, and I’ve heard the long list and both from my male and female friends and other, you know, trans ones. But Well, they didn’t do this. And they did, because how you approach the person was, well, you had a list of what they were going to do for you. And when they didn’t, you know, tick all the boxes on that list. You thought they weren’t of any value.
Marina Patrice Vare (they/them/MP) 57:18
Andrea Durham (she/her) 57:19
And what does that do? Because what that means, if somebody has a list of are you?
Marina Patrice Vare (they/them/MP) 57:25
Yes, sure, right.
Andrea Durham (she/her) 57:27
You don’t have to live that way. We don’t have to treat each other that we’re social beings were designed to engage and be with each other. But we don’t have to mutilate and step on each other, just to be supportive of one another. And because, you know, I, you don’t want to discount the needs of to be together with other people that that’s all legitimate human need, but also just being able to connect with yourself and not be going out and looking, Well, if you don’t tell me that I look pretty today then we are not going to have a good day. I know people like that.
Marina Patrice Vare (they/them/MP) 57:45
Andrea Durham (she/her) 58:04
Because they need that. They don’t want to look inside first. And it can be hard. It can be really hard. Especially if you’ve been taught that inside of you is not good.
Marina Patrice Vare (they/them/MP) 58:18
Andrea Durham (she/her) 58:19
You know, and then we get that messaging a lot as well. But it’s like, no, you show up here out of a womb, you’re worth it. That’s the truth of the universe. You’re worth it. Because 150 to 200,000 years of lifeforce energy is what shocked you into this plane.
Marina Patrice Vare (they/them/MP) 58:38
Andrea Durham (she/her) 58:39
It’s abundant. It shot you here. What are you gonna do?
Marina Patrice Vare (they/them/MP) 58:44
I would love to hear about how your personal practice looks like like what how are you cultivating connection for yourself. Because I know we all have hard days too right. And we have things in our lives that pull our energy and that can be really exhausting. And we know that disconnection is a reality, right? And so how is it that you’re keeping yourself connected?
Andrea Durham (she/her) 59:12
First of all, I am an introvert. So I always have to kind of go back and be in my little cave and but I’m a big television watcher, and I use it for lots of different things. So whether it’s spirituality or comedy, or just, uh, you know, as you’ve mentioned earlier, I’m incredibly curious. So I love just learning things. And now that we got like 80 million channels on cable whether it’s the flea market and what they’re making there, but that is actually how I recharge. Ah TV is a big one for me. The other thing is just smiling and laughing and I had not realized how much I smile until someone pointed it out to me. She says, Every time I walk by your office, you just smile. And I thought of it. Yeah. But I just thought, Oh, well, that’s the appropriate thing to do when you see someone. Yeah. And so those things, I try to laugh a lot. I do have a spiritual community, which which I find, not just supportive, but also feeds my curiosity. So I can do the women’s empowerment class, and I can do like all kinds of things that fill me. And that feed my curiosity. And that help me to do things that support others. Yeah. So those are some of the things that I do. And then of course, I, I believe in God, and I believe that I’m a child of God. And I don’t think that that’s about perfection, or, you know, fitting into someone’s box of who you are. But I, I feel that connection very deeply, I do feel the connection to my ancestors very deeply. So the long story, but I’ll tell you about that another time. But they did show up in a tantric yoga meditation, just like my family, because, you know, they just show up. They don’t ask. But I do feel that and that was part of, you know, going to India, it was not that I planned to go to India, but but it just organically happened. And just understanding that I’m no better or no worse. I am entitled to my bad days as my good days.
Marina Patrice Vare (they/them/MP) 1:01:47
Andrea Durham (she/her) 1:01:48
We don’t have to have that expectation that everything’s gonna be Disney. You know, as somebody said, you know. It’s okay not to have a good day or a good week or a good month. But it doesn’t mean you’re not connected, it doesn’t mean, you know, and I do want to put in a plug for not relying on our emotions as the barometer of reality.
Marina Patrice Vare (they/them/MP) 1:02:12
Tell me more.
Andrea Durham (she/her) 1:02:13
Our emotions can inform us. But just because we feel disconnected doesn’t mean we are disconnected. Just because you don’t feel like being a parent. That doesn’t mean you’re not a parent.
Marina Patrice Vare (they/them/MP) 1:02:28
Andrea Durham (she/her) 1:02:29
And so, sometimes there’s a huge emphasis on just how you feel. And it’s not that our feelings are not valid. It’s just that they are not the only barometer of truth.
Marina Patrice Vare (they/them/MP) 1:02:40
Mmm, I appreciate that.
Andrea Durham (she/her) 1:02:42
And so when we feel less than and I have felt that many a day, or not big enough to handle what is coming at us, or we just have to go back to the baseline of what is true.
Marina Patrice Vare (they/them/MP) 1:02:57
Andrea Durham (she/her) 1:02:58
Because we can feel insecure, and not enough. But then is it really true? Is or is it somebody’s idea about who we are? And I think we were talking about that there’s this Bruce Lee quote that I love and it’s, you know, like To hell with circumstances, I create opportunities. Because you have people think a lot of things about me. All right, you keep thinking those things. And the real work is for me not to think those things about myself.
Marina Patrice Vare (they/them/MP) 1:03:33
Oh, I hear you there.
Andrea Durham (she/her) 1:03:35
And so, just really, really understanding what my feelings are understanding what my needs are. But going back to the baseline of what is true, and being empowered enough to kind of override a lot of those negative beliefs and feelings, enough to get to the next spot where you you make the best decision for yourself. Because often when we don’t feel good, we make real bad decisions.
Marina Patrice Vare (they/them/MP) 1:03:59
Andrea Durham (she/her) 1:04:01
And so, humanity it there’s a phrase common to man and even that’s gendered but it’s, you know, common to humanity. We’re all going to go through it at some point. That’s just life. If we expect it to be perfect, then we probably already lost the battle. But we can go through it holding on to the truth and even reaching out and holding on to somebody else’s hand like that woman because I wasn’t expecting that woman to be so like, almost like a mom and she you have to sit here with me. You know, but if you need that,
Marina Patrice Vare (they/them/MP) 1:04:46
Andrea Durham (she/her) 1:04:46
if you need that. You can find it
Marina Patrice Vare (they/them/MP) 1:04:49
and it shows up in unexpected places at unexpected times.
Andrea Durham (she/her) 1:04:53
Yes. Like an airport in India.
Marina Patrice Vare (they/them/MP) 1:04:57
Love it. We’re getting close to my final question here for you. And I’m wondering if there’s anything that’s on your mind or your heart that we haven’t hit on yet that you want to make sure we have a chance to share.
Andrea Durham (she/her) 1:05:11
I would just encourage people to really look into the Connect module and into connection, because it’s the basis of everything of how we move through the world. And I and particularly for people who are not feeling like good right now. Look into it. It’s there for you.
Marina Patrice Vare (they/them/MP) 1:05:36
I appreciate that. Well, let’s close with what is your vision for Radikal Life?
Andrea Durham (she/her) 1:05:44
For me, I’m a coach. And I’m all about tools. And I look at Radikal Life as a toolbox with 14 tools that you can learn how to use them to improve your life, because that’s what you use a tool for you use a tool to improve your life, or to improve something to fix something to take care of something. That’s that’s what I look at it as, as a toolkit that you can use to really live a radikal and empowered life. Because we live in a time where we get to make a lot of choices, and sometimes it can be overwhelming. But if you think back even 100 years ago, when the choices that people had, and you see you have way more than they did. Use it well. And here’s a toolbox to help you use the privileges and opportunities that we have. Here’s a toolkit to help you use do it well.
Marina Patrice Vare (they/them/MP) 1:06:51
Mmmm, I love that. Thank you.
Andrea Durham (she/her) 1:06:54
Marina Patrice Vare (they/them/MP) 1:06:54
It’s been a pleasure to chat with you. Thank you so so much.
Andrea Durham (she/her) 1:06:58
Marina Patrice Vare (they/them/MP) 1:06:59
Thank you for joining us, head over to our website at Radikal dot Life to sign up for your free Radikal Life Starter Kit. Our website is R A D I K A L dot L I F E. The Radikal Life podcast is produced by me Marina Patrice Vare and edited by Cassidy Vare. Our theme music was created by Mark MeeZy. Radikal Life is a co-creation with Manjot Singh Khalsa and Radikal Healing. Connect with us on social media, Radikal with a K. We’re on Instagram at Radikal underscore Life underscore 22 and Facebook at Radikal Life.