Hi, and welcome to this episode of the Intersection on the Spectrum Podcast. The Intersections on the Spectrum podcast is the brainchild and passion project of Doug Blecher and Kelly Bron Johnson. Created to discuss intersectional issues within the autistic community and give visibility and amplification to typically marginalized oppressed under-recognized for erased identities and issues. We aim to introduce you to the people and stories you may not have known about but needed to hear and hope that by seeing yourself represented in the community allows you to feel seen.
Doug Blecher (00:38):
And today we are thrilled to have Monetta Wilson join us. Mo thanks for taking the time to talk with us today.
Monetta Wilson (00:48):
Thank you so much for having me.
Doug Blecher (00:51):
Absolutely. And one of the first things we always ask each guest here on intersections, because we have so many different identities, is what are the identities that you're most connected with?
Monetta Wilson (01:05):
For me, I feel like the best way to describe it is a multi-ethnic black woman from the global south. I feel like that's what represents me the best.
(Kelly)I like the multi-ethnic black woman. For me, I often say I'm mixed race black and that depends on, like, I find the perception when I say that depends on what, like I feel like I'm being questioned sometimes about my blackness, if that makes sense.
(Monetta) I feel like everybody gets questioned about their blackness no matter how obvious their blackness is because of the social constructs around blackness. I feel like the only time the your blackness doesn't get get questioned is if you're in a service role.
(Kelly)Well, that's it. That's, I was gonna say, you know, if I'm in front of the police <laugh>, nobody's wondering how black I am. Right. If I'm going for a job, no one is questioning how black I am. They know I'm a little black for sure. So they go, oh, she's not white <laugh>. You know, when I'm at the hospital nobody's questioning how black I am. So yeah, that's, that's such a good point. Yeah. Probably make a whole podcast just on that <laugh>. Yeah, yeah. Sorry Doug. Don't worry. Bye. <laugh>.
(Monetta)I today, today's Tuesday I a podcast I was just on called Yoga in Black is coming out today and we almost did the whole podcast on not being recognized as the yoga instructor, even though your name is on the advertising material, the signup material, and you're standing in front of the class and I forget her name, who is the podcast host, was like, yeah, I have the headset on and everything. I'm the one playing the music and they
Still think someone else is here to teach the class. So yeah.
Kelly Bron Johnson (03:03):
Wow. Yes. Wow. I had something like that when I went, actually I was contracting to go into a business to teach English as a second language and I got there and I'm in, not like business business but business casual and blazer and everything and I, I'm go, I've got my, my little briefcase and I've got all my stuff and I say that I'm there for my appointment to meet somebody. And they're like, what? And I'm just like, well, I'm the English teacher. And they're like, oh, I thought you were selling chocolates. Like they thought I was coming in at the desk to sell them something. I was like, oh, okay. Right. <laugh>.
Monetta Wilson (03:44):
I do not have the words <laugh>. I know. Because no matter how many times you hear stories like this, every time you hear a new one, it's still somewhat shocking. Also knowing the fact that there are people out there who will immediately jump and say that it didn't happen.
Kelly Bron Johnson (04:03):
Oh yeah, of course. Of course. Anyway, deep breaths. Deep breaths. So let's go to some of the, the writing that you did for Neuroclastic. You talked about how you might be autistic at that time when you wrote the article last year and that you were ready to start exploring your autism. So now over a year later, what have you learned about yourself during this exploration?
Monetta Wilson (04:28):
I think the most important thing for me is to accommodate myself. Like I really, really super struggle with auditory processing. Finally figuring out, well, sensory processing on the whole like getting air plugs that work, wearing them as much as I need to, giving myself time to rest, to decompress, recognizing things like meltdowns, shutdowns, just understanding the things I was going through have been like what's been the most important for me? Understanding that the things I experienced are real. Like I'm totally hearing that light bulb, like that's, I'm not making it up. I'm actually hearing that light bulb even if no one else is hearing it. Those sorts of things, like just the validating, like my experiences, those have been the most important for me. But also like learning about the political implications. For example, when the article came out, a group of people who I mentioned in the article basically bullied me online, even though I said that was one of the reasons I was afraid to identify as autistic.
They basically bullied me online, made up stories called me transphobic because I said white trans person was given more grace than I was in a certain situation. And so learning the political implications, like people being, having their children taken away when they're diagnosed as adults, the countries that won't let you immigrate if you have a diagnosis, the people who are just waiting to take advantage of you. So those have been the most important things for me. Learning to accommodate myself and learning about the political implications and the people who are out there to, to harm you. So both like good and bad.
Kelly Bron Johnson (06:46):
It sounds like you gave yourself permission to accommodate yourself. and you stopped gaslighting yourself. I think it's super important.
Monetta Wilson (06:53):
Kelly Bron Johnson (06:55):
And when you mentioned that like giving yourself permission to, to say no, to use the accommodations that you need, I was thinking about the barriers that exist, especially in the workplace or even at schools, right? When people ask for accommodations and when we see, I mean, if people only realize how we struggle to accommodate ourselves when we're asking for an accommodation, it's, we've gotten to such a point. Like if we're asking somebody else to accommodate us, we've gotten to such a point where we're not, we're beyond even accommodating ourselves, if that makes any sense. Yeah, no, it's so much work to do that , right? We're not just asking for fun, it's not easy. Yeah. There's a limit to how much we can push ourselves, if that makes sense.
Monetta Wilson (07:45):
No, it makes total sense for me, like growing up I was always accommodated without even needing a diagnosis. I was accommodated. Like I grew up in the Caribbean with a lot of cousins and when my mom would go to work, I would be at one of the houses with all the cousins of all the moms who was working and I would be inside reading when all the cousins were outside. And that was totally fine in my family, but people who would come to visit wouldn't understand why they weren't forcing me to go outside to play. And so growing up being accommodated in ways like that, in like not being forced to eat certain foods and then as an adult, like for me this was important because like you've been accommodated your whole life in many ways. Not like that. It was perfect, but in many ways.
And then you're an adult and people expect you to do things like you never had to do. Like to this day I had to like relearn if my mom me, you are not going to like this. Do not eat it. I'm not going to eat it. Because she's had lots of years of knowing like exactly which textures totally freak me out for some reason, at some point in time I felt like I should be trying to eat the things, but why? I forget what point I was making <laugh>, I forget what point I was making about this. But yes, by the time, oh yeah, by the time we like ask for something. Like for me it's always like I cannot do discord voice calls. I don't know what it is about the processing of audio. I cannot be in there for longer than like 10, 20 minutes. And like people will get upset about that. You know what, that's a problem you do you, there are other options than discord voice goals. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, if you can't use that, I'm sorry. I am going to
Doug Blecher (09:56):
Preferred method of communication. Definitely. I, you know, I know you're a yoga instructor and I've done uh, yoga off and on for several years now, but frankly I don't think I'm very good at it. <laugh>, I don't know what I'm doing. I'm just wondering for those of us that are autistic, disabled and chronically ill, if we're interested in, potentially starting to do yoga and you we think that might add some value to our lives. Do you have like some advice on how about starting?
Monetta Wilson (10:35):
Okay, the first advice, which goes for everybody, the first instructor that you find you might not like. So keep going until you find one that's right for you. I would say if you're disabled, all of those things, try to find someone similar to you if you can. That's always like an easy way to find someone similar to you. And then if you're going to go the self-learning method, you want to learn, for me the three things that people should learn are the history, the philosophy of yoga and a little bit of anatomy. Those three things are going to help you understand why you're doing what you're doing. And I think for a lot of chronically ill disabled and neurodivergent people because we've had to become partners in managing our health, in managing our bodies, we have a lot of knowledge about our bodies. And if you're going to practice on your own, you are going to need that knowledge to craft the practice that's going to work for you.
And for that, I recommend three books. For anatomy this book called The Key Muscles Yoga by Ray Long. It's really good for people who need to see things. So there's pictures of the yoga poses and it's like, imagine you peel the skin off a human being and it shows you the different muscles, how they in the poses. Vital yoga, a source book for students and teachers. I think it really explains like the different ways people come to yoga and the different types of yoga there are. So I really like that one as well. And you don't have buy books by the way. You can like get them from your library using the various apps and stuff and the heart of yoga, developing a personal practice. If you're going to practice on your own, it's by T. K. V. Desikachar . And I think it's really good for helping people understand that there are different approaches to yoga.
They say there are many paths but one yoga and I think for people who are going to practice on their own, those three books are a good place to start. Cuz you could just do the asanas and we could be here four days with me talking about this <laugh>, you could just do the asanas and you don't know why you are doing them and you haven't learned to do like self-reflection and like take time to pause to figure out what you're doing and how what you're doing is affecting your mind, your body. So it's important to like get the background knowledge. And an important thing that like we often overlook is figuring out what you want to get out of yoga and then observing what you're actually getting. I always say it's hard, like that's the hardest thing. Like I always say that when clients come to me and they tell me I'd like to lose weight, nine times out of 10 they don't actually want to lose weight.
They want something else. For example, I had a client come to me and tell me she's not losing weight. She wants, helps losing weight. But what she wanted was external validation from people telling her she looked good, better posture and better mobility. Those are what she actually wanted. We started working together. I told her let's, let's see where we go. I always tell people, let's see what happens. You won't know what happens until you start. And one day she says to me, I looked at myself in my, in the mirror and I was standing like those ladies that in the bank that I always, always stand behind and wanted to stand like. And so she wanted to be able to stand tall and like she, for her, those people exude confidence and she wanted to be able to do that. And she came in another day and she said to me, I turned my head to reverse my car without having to turn my body. And so she'd wanted better mobility but she didn't know how to put that into words. It's, those are important things that get kind of get lost in contemporary yoga because people tell you what you should be getting and why you should be going. And for me it's about letting people experience and explore and figure out for themselves, which was a long way of saying start where you are and learn as you go.
Kelly Bron Johnson (15:30):
I think that internal process is what is so important about yoga, right? Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, I follow on Instagram, her Instagram handle is, mynameisjessamyn and she's fat, she's black, she's lesbian, she's doing her yoga and she talks about her inner struggle while she's doing poses and how certain poses have been very difficult for her. And she talks about how she moves her body and how she has to redistribute her weight in order to get into the pose. And she does it sometimes pose that she doesn't like doing right. So she's amazing because I find it's that process, that internal process is what is more important than the movement itself almost it seems. So somebody to follow if people are interested.
Monetta Wilson (16:11):
Yes. She's very popular. A lot of people identify with her.
Kelly Bron Johnson (16:15):
Yeah. And just to, just to see a different body doing it for once <laugh>. So yeah. An interesting question about, first you're talking about people should learn the history of yoga as well. What's your take about cultural appropriation in the yoga community and what do you do in your practice when we're talking about let's say harm reduction approach?
Monetta Wilson (16:35):
Okay, so for me when we talk about cultural appropriation is really a complex issue for me because of my, actually like when people look at me, all they see is a black woman. But actually I have more Indian ancestors than blacks and that's complex because of how my ancestors came to be in the Caribbean. So and why my ancestors were disconnected from their culture. Because if you know anything about caste system, you know it was some of the lower castes who came to the Caribbean as indentured laborers. So there's that for me personally. But when we're talking about cultural appropriation, the most important thing is for yoga to be accessible. A lot of yoga that has been culturally appropriated by white people, by upper middle class, upper class skinny white women is not accessible. It's not accessible for many reasons. It's not accessible because of cost.
It's not accessible because people who are different don't feel welcome in those spaces. It's not accessible to fat people, to minorities. It's not accessible. So one of the easiest ways to reduce harm in yoga spaces is to make yoga inclusive and accessible. So some of the things we can do to make sure we're not culturally appropriating is to teach more than asana. So most places it's about the poses, it's about getting in the poses, doing the poses, doing more advanced poses, poses, poses, poses. A lot of the time it's about perpetuating harms of supremacy culture, like talking about glorifying skinny people, like making people feel like their bodies are not good enough. That happens a lot, not just in yoga but in a lot of fitness spaces. A lot of people have come to yoga through like dance gymnastics and they just perpetuate the harms of wherever it was they were before.
So we want to, we have to, everybody has to do the work of unpacking supremacy culture, unlearning supremacy culture across the board. We have to be teaching modern asana. We can't just be, if you're teaching just asana, it's a stretch class, it's a workout. We have to be creating in our students different expectations. We have to be not performative. A lot of the yoga out there is who looks better and that encourages hypermobile people to hurt themselves. Hyper mobile people will be doing a seated forward fold with their chest on the ground and they're not feeling a stretch at all that is harming them, that is not serving them. So it's about learning to teach different kinds of bodies and encouraging people to explore other parts, like just dropping it in there and encouraging people to explore their breathing, guiding them. For me, I'm not so much telling you what to do, I'm guiding you.
I'm saying let's try this and see how we feel. Let's also try this and see how we feel. And giving people permission to be like, you might not feel anything here, you might not feel anything today. Creating that acceptance that is antypical to supremacy culture and helping people to heal, to come away from stuff like that. Another important thing is to center South Asian voices. I spoke earlier about the other podcast I did where we talked about why people don't think I'm a yoga teacher, even if they signed up for yoga with Mo and I'm Mo and I introduced myself. You find in contemporary yoga spaces, the people who do the best are not the South Asian voices. So there's, I always mess up her name, Susanna Barkataki, okay, I'm, I'm messing her name. But she is really one of the people doing the work of decolonizing yoga and there's a bunch of others and I should probably make a list sometime <laugh> and share it.
But there's a bunch of people doing the work of decolonizing yoga, talking about the difficult things in yoga, like talking about how castism, how casteism is part of yoga, for example. The yoga we learn in the West came from one of the upper casts of the Indian culture and how they suppress the lower casts, how certain casts were not allowed to practice yoga. It's important to learn all of that so that we can make decisions for ourselves, which was me again being super long winded and I hope all of that made sense. No, it was great. It was perfect. One last thing I want to say is like when you then take all that information, one thing I say to myself is I forgive myself for what I did when I didn't know better. And now that I know better, I do better. So we have to accept that we are going to keep learning, that we are going to make mistakes, but the important thing is to correct any harmful behavior that we engage in. Okay. That's it.
Doug Blecher (22:23):
And and one of the yoga classes you're an instructor for that I'd love to learn more about is chair yoga. I know that chair yoga can be really helpful but I think there are a lot of misconceptions about it that prevents people maybe from participating. What would you like people to know about chair yoga that maybe they just don't know?
Monetta Wilson (22:46):
I don't know what exactly it is, but I'm always shocked when I hear about the different misconceptions people have. Like I exist in a autistic global south rural yoga bubble where like there's no yoga studio around me, which is why I became a yoga teacher to begin with. So first of all, I don't know a lot of the misconceptions, but I'm learning them and one of them is that chair yoga is for old people and people who are mobility challenged and um, no <laugh>, the simple answer is no, chair yoga is for everybody. It's just, it's just the way, actually it's for me so I can teach it, it's easier for me, it's accessibility thing for this instructor so she can teach everybody on an even footing. But like some of our strongest, most active people chair yoga can be an accessibility thing for them because sitting down in the chair to do yoga might be one of the only ways they get to slow down and not push themselves than if they were in a more rigorous practice.
And chair yoga can be super gentle or it can be more rigorous. Like it depends on how you use the chair as a prop. It's just giving yourself permission to be in your body and letting you, giving yourself support. Like think of the chair as more of like support. It's not even about whether you can sit on the floor, you can sit on the floor during a chair yoga class, you can sit wherever. It just, for me, when I teach my monthly chair yoga class, it means all of, most of our poses will be seated poses. And you are not, your body's not going to have to work to hold yourself up. You are going to be supported in the chair and then we can explore if it's shoulders, if it's neck in a safer, more comfortable way. That's what it's about more for me because we want people to be able to come to yoga and a lot of people like the idea of yoga being at different levels begin an advanced, that's a colonizer mindset. When I show up to class, I teach who shows up. It's about figuring out, experiencing your body, being, experiencing, being embodied and learning about your specific body more than anything else.
Kelly Bron Johnson (25:25):
I've never thought about the levels that way. That's, that's fascinating and it makes sense if people think, oh, if I go up, I'm an intermediate yogi, right? <laugh> I'm the highest level now. Like it's like people getting like little medals, but I was thinking like karate does levels too, but they, it's in a different kind of context because there's a lot of responsibility that comes with those levels. Whereas yoga, I think people just, it's true they, they have the beginner intermediate advance because it makes them feel good. And like you said, a chair yoga can be just as challenging or it can be somebody, it's super challenging for somebody cuz again it's about the mindset. So having them stop and slow down and go back into their body and challenge those ideas that they might have had. Well, oh well I was so amazing at this and now I'm in this chair and I can't move the way I want to. So fascinating <laugh>. So in addition to your yoga practice, you also provide wellness coaching and an aspect of that coaching is a weekly embodiment practice where you help people become an expert on their body by discovering the best embodiment practices for their specific needs. So what type of practices have you found that can help people better Monetta Wilson (26:42):Understand their bodies?
Monetta Wilson (26:43):
I think we, we talked a little bit about some of them, but yeah, here's the thing. Supremacy culture makes us gaslight ourselves like from an early age. And so for a lot of us that leads to disconnect about our bodies. That leads to us learning to not listen to our needs, not accommodate ourselves, not fulfill our needs. For my wellness coaching, it's really like, I really individualize it a lot because like I said, first of all, most people cannot even verbalize what it is they actually want. So we are going to have to do different things based on the person. For example, like with the embodiment practices, while I'm like teaching you different poses, different movements, I'm also pausing to ask how does that feel? And then like based, if you say, well I feel this, I'm like, okay, let's try this.
So it's kind of like an experiment. It's not one size fits all. Wellness practices are never one size fits all because bodies are not all the same. And then we'll do different things. So we'll learn how to like observe our bodies and change things based on how our bodies are responding, which can be really, really difficult if youve been taught to ignore your needs. For example, like schools don't let you go to the bathroom when you want to pee. Something as simple as that can have long lasting effects in other parts of your body. Self-reflection is a really huge part of yoga as is meditation. Like meditation teaches you to observe your thoughts so you can learn, like to figure out the thoughts you're having. Some people can't observe their thoughts. And also like journaling, like writing, writing what you feel, writing what happened, writing things you saw, those might seem like really super simple, but at the end it's to help you.
Like you, we do all those different things so you can figure out, I was feeling super anxious and I wrote about it and I felt better. So the next time I feel super anxious I'll write about it and see if I feel better. And if every time I feel super anxious and I write about it, I feel better, then that's a way for me to deal with my anxiety. But you won't learn that until you start doing it and maybe you'll learn when I feel super anxious and I write about it, it doesn't help me, but when I feel super anxious and I start moving around, I feel better. So that's kind of the process of figuring it out and some of us can do that by ourselves, but some, a lot of people don't know where to start or how to go about doing it. So I'm providing support in that. And while we're talking about, it was supposed to launch on June 1st, but I had a thing happen and I needed to pull back so I could heal from the thing that happened and I haven't launched it, but I will be launching a special package of one consultation in three sessions of like a mini version of that for people who they can't afford the bigger packages. I'll be launching it soon when I have the energy.
Kelly Bron Johnson (30:32):
So yeah, respecting your own boundaries is, it's super important. But I think what it sounds like is that you're offering people the tools, the tools that they might not have had. And I think a lot of us grow up without a lot of the tools that we need to identify our feelings to process those feelings, to do what we need to do for self-care. And I think we talk about self-care a lot, but not really explain what that actually means, <laugh> and what we're doing when we talk about self-care. You know, for me, like it was a whole revelation I guess when I learned that, that I have to do self-care every day and that if I'm waiting until I'm already stressed before I do it, then it's, it's crisis zone that's, it's not that it's too late, but it, it is kind of too late <laugh>, you know? Yeah. You know, I wouldn't have gotten to that point if I had taken the steps before every day like five, 10 minutes a day and just, you know, pulled back.
Monetta Wilson (31:27):
Yeah. For me, because I have fibromyalgia, endometriosis and doctors always are like, are you sure you are in pain? Are you sure you're not making it up? I've had to learn the other things that mean I'm in pain. For example, if I'm cranky, if I feel like super tired, I have to like slow down stop and be like, wait a minute mo, are you actually in pain? Do you need to take your pain meds? You're a little cranky. Do you need a nap or are you actually in pain? And nine times out of 10 I'm actually in pain because I've taught my body to ignore the pain. So it just doesn't tell me you are in pain anymore. It's like I just get cranky. And so that's how like it manifests for me and learning to not like overexert myself so I don't crash is very complex because the world wasn't built for us, so we have to figure out how to live in that world. Yeah. Self-care. No one tells you what self-care is, but hopefully I feel like we use capitalism. The problem is capitalism.
Kelly Bron Johnson (32:45):
Monetta Wilson (32:46):
I was about to go on a rent, but you know what the problem is? Capitalism. Capitalism and productivity culture. That's the problem. Say about it. Otherwise we'll be here for hours.
Kelly Bron Johnson (33:00):
But that's what it is. You know, I actually wrote an article recently about perfectionism and how it, it's part of a toxic white supremacy culture and somebody's like, oh, I had never thought of that before. And I was like, yeah, there it is. You know that the whole concept of perfection, of productivity and all that is it's all from the same garbage and we need to dismantle it. <laugh>.
Monetta Wilson (33:24):
Look, I have been sitting like with the thoughts of how supremacy culture gives the idea that there are certain actions that if you do it, you will benefit from supremacy culture and you will like, you will win. But no one wins. No one wins. Even white men doing all the oppressing are not winning the richest, like the richest people are not happy, right? They just keep, that's why they keep hoarding wealth and oppressing and hoarding wealth at the cost of lives because they're unhappy And, and we could go down like a yoga philosophy, like deep, deep hole of like why they keep doing those things because they're searching for the thing that they don't actually know what they're searching for and they think the money will give it to them and they're going to keep doing the harmful things they're doing because they're not getting the thing they're wanting to get.
That the world has told them, if you make enough money you will x and, and no, like they're like, if you are a alpha male, blah de blah and you control your woman, then you are winning. And then they do that and they feel unfulfilled because no one actually wins in supremacy culture. No one actually wins. Like all the oppressing you are doing is not actually making you feel fulfilled, but it has supremacy, culture, capitalism, all of that has created this milestones that tell you, you got a house, you got a car, you got a boat, check, check, check, win a
Kelly Bron Johnson (35:12):
Plane, a jet, yeah
Monetta Wilson (35:14):
A jet check, check check win <laugh>.
Kelly Bron Johnson (35:18):
And then you see them going on adventures, you know, to go see the Titanic because they're missing something in their life. They've got to go so far down into the ocean to try and find and find some fulfillment and then they kill themselves in the process, which is a shame <laugh>. But that to me, that's what it was. It was, I'm searching for something, I'm looking for adventure, there's no price on this. Off I go, doesn't matter because there's, they're so lost, they're so lost that they went and lost themselves <laugh>,
Doug Blecher (35:55):
So many unhappy people. But it sounds like Mo that the things, things that you do can help people bring a little bit happiness into their, more happiness into their lives. So for people that might wanna learn more about what you do beyond this wonderful discussion, how can they go about doing so?
Monetta Wilson (36:15):
So if you go to my website, monettawilson.com, you can find links to all my social medias. You can contact me if you have like a direct question as my body allows, I will try to keep updating it. My goal is to have weekly blog posts, but it hasn't happened. I have been struggling with various things since 2017 and I have to create realistic goals for my life. But if you go to my website, you, you'll find my links. I'm on Instagram, Facebook Mastodon, Twitter and I just started a TikTok. So whichever one of those or none of those you feel comfortable with or you can sign up for my newsletter. Those are all the ways to keep in touch with me and my random, a lot of thoughts about supremacy culture, but also about how we can accommodate ourself in wellness spaces.
Kelly Bron Johnson (37:21):
Wow. Thank you so much. So thank you for everyone for listening today. And if people are enjoying these stories, aside from visiting us on our website, please stay in contact with us on email intersections on the spectrum gmail.com especially if you would like to share your own story after listening to all these other inspiring stories, I would love to hear from you.