Sunday, July 15, 2018

No One is Replaceable



Almost exactly a year ago, my coworker died unexpectedly. The news hit me harder than I anticipated, particularly because we weren't close. Now a year later, my heart still twinges with grief. My company has long since replaced him – someone new writes for us – but in reality people are not like auto parts and therefore not replaceable.

I notice in American culture we tend to believe the opposite; we commodify others, especially in the context of romantic relationships. How often do we say to someone after a breakup, “You'll meet someone new”? As if the new person will act like putty and exactly fill the vacant space? I realize it comes from a well-meaning place, but Eric's death shows me how not true this perspective is, for me anyway. We hired someone to literally fulfill all the duties Eric left open, but the new guy is no Eric. He performs his job well, but he's not a replica of Eric.

People are not mechanical parts. Photo by Aaron Barnaby on Unsplash.

Going back to dating, I notice the same thing – I still miss certain things about my exes. Each new man brought something different to the table, but they didn't erase the person before. Instead of acting like putty, each person has a place in my heart that is theirs and theirs alone, but they share the space with others. No one is forgotten, and no one is replaced, including me. Up until about two years ago, I feared once I died it would be like I never existed, which I think stemmed from inherited family trauma. On my mom's side, almost all of my relatives were killed in the Holocaust. Entire swathes of my family are a big question mark. In some ways, it's like they never existed because I know nothing about them, but it's not true: They did exist.

Even though I don't know the names of my distant relatives, they still existed. They still impacted the people around them, including those who survived. And their loss still left a mark. Eric's loss still leaves a mark. It always will because he's not some cog in a wheel I throw away once it stops functioning.

My spiritual teacher says, “If one ant meets a premature death, it will disturb the balance of the entire cosmos. Therefore, nothing here is unimportant, not even an ant.” I don't think I fully imbibed that statement before. Today I understand it on a whole new level – how each and every being is important, significant. Even the overlooked and often maligned ant is precious, loved, important. Each person, each relationship, be it personal or professional, is special. It's a disservice to ourselves and others to pretend differently.

I dream of a world where we realize each person is irreplaceable. A world where we realize each relationship occupies a place in our heart. A world where we understand every living being is important and precious.

Another world is not only possible, it's probable.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Love Among Hate



On Saturday, I cried while sitting in my bathtub reading a fictional book set during World War II. The characters are imaginary, but the circumstances are not. I cried thinking about the atrocities that my own grandparents endured, and I cried thinking about the atrocities people continue to endure. Even now, children sit in jails, unwashed, covered in lice. Thank goodness a lawsuit is underway, but still. Why do we do this to each other?

According to my spiritual philosophy, people reincarnate. And not only do they reincarnate, they evolve. Evolve from what? They start from the simplest organism and get progressively more complex until finally reaching human form. What that means on a practical level is some people are only one step removed from animals. Some people are still guided by their baser instincts and unable to access higher levels of their consciousness. Before someone sends me an email and says many animals behave better than some human beings, I will say, yes, you are correct. Many animals, especially domesticated ones, shows high levels of compassion and love. Wild animals though? Not as common.

I like how hearts permeate the darkness here. Photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash.

It would be easy to say some human beings just aren't as evolved and leave it at that, but human beings are complicated. It's not only about evolution, but also about what propensities, or vrttis, we choose to engage with. Some people derive pleasure from cruelty and hatred. In New Age circles, people liken this to operating from the lower chakras, or energy centers. However, in my spiritual tradition, that's a little too simplistic. Almost every chakra point has positives and negatives. For instance, the throat chakra is associated not only with sweet expression, but vitriolic expression as well. We all have the capacity for both good and evil within us.

Why am I bringing this up? I'm suggesting the importance of holding on to our empathy. We've all seen movies where the tortured become the torturers. Where victims become perpetrators. I'm not suggesting good and moral people of the world just “be nice” to neo-Nazis and their ilk and hope the ensuing treatment will change their minds. I'm not a pacifist by any means. I firmly believe in the use of force when necessary. However, I also think it's important to not fuel hatred within ourselves. To remember we are all human beings, worthy and deserving of love and respect. For instance, even prisons should be like a reform school, according to my spiritual teacher. And the person in charge should be a teacher who is trained in psychology and who has genuine love for society.

Why does he say this? I don't know for sure, but I'm guessing it's because merely turning one group of people after another into inferior beings merely perpetuates the abuse cycle. There's that famous poem from Martin Niemöller about how first they came for the socialists and he did not speak out because he was not a socialist, and then eventually they came for him and there was no one left to speak for him. Not only does he suggest speaking up for others, but he demonstrates how hatred travels from group to group.

What I'd like to see is a world where we halt hatred in its tracks. A world where we remember all human beings, regardless of their race, nationality, gender, sexual orientation, etc., are human beings. A world where we treat each person as a sibling, a member of our universal family. A world where we take corrective action, but we do it with love in our hearts. A world where we sow love among hate.

Another world is not only possible, it's probable.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Uneven Progress



I am depleted today so I'm recycling this post from June 2016.

I have to admit, I’m disheartened by the state of the world. I’m not feeling optimistic in the face of the bigotry, sexism, and xenophobia that seem to be crawling all over the place like beetles darting out from an overturned log. Right now the world seems bleak and due to become bleaker.

However, at times like these it’s important to gain some perspective. As you know, I’m a fan of astrology, particularly archetypal astrology, which is articulated in the book Cosmos and Psyche. One of the things I enjoy about the book is it offers a historical look at our world through the lens of astrology. A part that’s pertinent is the reminder that every period of advancement is followed by conservative backlash. For instance, 1960-1972 was a period of empowerment, an eruption of the revolutionary impulse in virtually every area of human activity, and then the early 80s brought a systematic backlash of all the various movements that dominated the 60s.

 It's unsteady, but it's still progress. Photo by Rita Morais on Unsplash.

My spiritual teacher says something similar: “[M]ovements are systaltic. If the phase of contraction is made more stringent by the application of force, a forward galloping jump occurs in the following phase of expansion. Evolution which takes place as a result of this forward galloping jump is properly called revolution. Similarly, if the phase of expansion is prolonged by the application of force, then the following phase of contraction will undergo greater inertia.”

When I look at even our most recent history I see that to be true. We are like a great hulking Frankenstein’s monster lurching toward the horizon. One foot is progressive and one foot is conservative, but each foot steps forward at one point or another. However, the monster is still always advancing, albeit unevenly. Overall, we as a society are progressing. It’s hard to see that sometimes in the face of all the ick we’re experiencing, but when I look back, I also know it to be true. As a woman, I still have more freedoms than my grandmother, and even my mother had. Yes, there’s still a lot of sexism to be sure, but overall things are progressing.

I’m going to quote my teacher again who says, “There are some people who are pessimistic. They say that the society around us is very bleak … Pessimists say this because they have never made any detailed study of human history, nor do they care to. Had they done so, they would certainly be optimistic, because if they had looked carefully at the symptoms of pause, they would have realized that significant preparations were being made for the subsequent phase of speed. So under no circumstances should human beings be pessimistic. That is why I am always an incorrigible optimist, because I know that optimism is life.”

Right now I’m honing in on the part about the subsequent phase of speed. Yes, right now things are not so great, but I’m reminding myself this is the cycle of life. Movements surge and then die. And right now I need to keep focusing on the progress that is being made and will continue to be made. I need to keep dreaming about the future because like us, while Frankenstein’s monster may progress unevenly, he does progress.

I dream of a world where we remember the history of human society is one of expansion followed by contraction. A world where we remember despite how it may look at any given moment, we are advancing. A world where we realize an uneven gait may not equal a sprint, but it’s still a step forward and that’s all that counts.

Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

And Then There's a Bloom



I want to live in the fast lane. I don't mean snorting cocaine and spending money like there's no tomorrow. I mean I want things to happen quickly like fire – swift, consuming, noticeable. Instead, things happen like a seed planted in dirt – slow, unassuming, subtle.

Here's a true story: In January, I planted California poppy seeds. In March, everyone else's poppies started to bloom. Mine did not. I checked my poppies frequently, searching for signs of buds. Each day I stared at verdant green leaves, but no hints of orange. Finally, in about mid-May, the first bud appeared and then suddenly, a flower. It thrilled me to see orange after so many months of waiting. I beamed from ear to ear and pride swelled within me. But note, it took months, MONTHS, for my poppies to catch up to everyone else's.

Seemed apropos. Not my poppy, but mine looked just like this.

Right now, I feel like those poppies, behind the times. Many of my friends are progressing in their lives. They're buying houses, getting married, having babies, starting businesses. They are dating new people, starting new jobs. Things are not perfect – I am privy to their challenges as well as triumphs – but stuff is happening in their lives. The same is not true for me. Instead, I am a poppy plant with no hint of a bud.

A part of me thinks something is wrong that I'm not cycling with my peers. I'm not blooming while they are. However, I'm reminded of what my spiritual teacher said regarding movement. Movement is systaltic, like a heart beat. Do you know how a heart pumps blood? I learned this ages ago in AP bio. A heart is like a syringe – it fills up with blood, pauses at fullness, and then pushes all the blood out. In all of life, we experience this cycle. It's the natural order of things to expand, pause, and contract.

I think I'm still in the expanding phase. I haven't reached fullness yet. I'm still pulling nutrients from the soil. When I look at those around me, it's hard not to compare myself with them. I know, I know, comparison is the thief of joy. I know compare usually leads to despair. I know I'm not doing myself any favors by comparing my life to anyone else's, yet, I'm doing it anyway. It's hard not to. When I think about my poppies, when I think about life being systaltic, I feel a smidge better because I'm reminded I am in my own cycle. It may take longer for things to bloom, but that doesn't mean they won't.

I dream of a world where we remember we each have our own cycles. A world where we realize sometimes things happen quickly and sometimes things happen slowly. A world where we realize there's not much we can do about timing other than to take the required action and let go of the rest. And then one day, we'll look and see a bloom.

Another world is not only possible, it's probable.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

The Truth Will Set Us Free



A few weeks ago I flew back to North Carolina. I visited the place of my childhood and found everything to be slightly familiar, but altogether vastly different. My childhood home burned down and in its place stood tall trees, grass, and shrubs. My elementary school also no longer exists. My favorite place (the library, of course), closed and moved to a new location. Walking around I couldn't comprehend all the changes because in my mind, things stayed exactly the same. It's a dangerous thing to only live in your head and not see reality for what it is.

I think part of what we're experiencing here in the U.S. is the dichotomy of delusion and reality. On one side, we have people (like those in power) who lie ceaselessly, who convince themselves something is true when it's false. My sister reminded me during our North Carolina visit that we live in a post-truth world. That's why we have such a thing as fake news. It's nothing new, propaganda has existed for ages, but now we're seeing it more and we're fighting it more. It's important for me as a journalist and a yogi to stick to the truth as closely as possible.

Searched for "truth" and this is one of the pix that came up. Photo by Johannes Plenio on Unsplash.

In Sanskrit, the unchangeable entity is Sat. The external manifestation of Sat is satya, or benevolent truthfulness. My spiritual teacher said, “Only satya or truth triumphs and not falsehood. Whenever there is a clash between truth and untruth, truth’s victory is inevitable. … Untruth, being a moving phenomenon, may attain a temporary victory on its march, but never a permanent one. … Falsehood does not win because it is relative, it is ever-changing.”

I bring this up because I think it's important to acknowledge a truth about the United States. With every atrocious thing spewing from the current administration, people say, “This isn't the real U.S. This isn't the U.S. I know and love.” Oh, but it is my friends.

As much as we don't like to admit it, the United States was founded on horrors similar to what we're seeing now. We decimated Native American tribes. We regularly separated black people from their families under the guise of economic progress. Our country, the land of the free and the home of the brave, always carried a footnote, which is those things were true only for some. Our current president is carrying on the imperialist tradition. That's not to say all Americans feel the way he does. It's also not to say the U.S. hasn't made great strides in equality for people of color, for women, for various sexual orientations, etc., because it has. But it would be disingenuous to say the behavior of the people in power in the current administration is “un-American.”

What does this have to do with my visit to North Carolina? Being there I gained more perspective of my past and was able to see a fuller picture. I finally saw the truth, and as the saying goes, the truth set me free. I'm grieving all that I lost, but first I had to see it. Until we collectively recognize our country's racism, sexism, and prejudice, we'll never be able to move forward. Until we see our true selves, our true past, we'll never be rid of it. We'll never be free.

My spiritual teacher is an optimist, and so am I. I know one day we will all be free. That no matter our immigration status, the color of our skin, our gender, our sexual orientation, or anything else, we will receive equal treatment. But first, we have to tell the truth.

I dream of a world where we remember the truth will prevail. A world where we stamp out falsehood and come to grips with reality. A world where all people are treated with love, kindness, and respect. A world where each person is valued for the beautiful and precious beings they are.

Another world is not only possible, it's probable.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

The Rarity of Human Life



I've been asking myself what can I contribute to the conversations surrounding Anthony Bourdain's and Kate Spade's suicides? Much has already been said about seeking help; how that's easier said than done what with costs and budget cuts; and instead of putting the onus on a depressed or suicidal person to reach out, to reach out when we see people struggling. I agree with all those things. And after reading an article in USA Today by Kirsten Powers about how we also have a cultural problem, I realize where I can contribute.

In her article, Powers asserts many people are struggling to find meaning and purpose in a society that values materialism. On top of that, many feel alone, isolated, and misunderstood. All of those factors play a part in suicide. I think the best thing I can do with this blogpost is to remind people, myself included, that we matter.

This picture makes sense once you read the next paragraph. Photo by Jack B on Unsplash.

According to a Buddhist text, one day the Buddha spoke to a group of monks. He said, “Monks, suppose that this great Earth were totally covered with water and a man were to toss a yoke with a single hole into the water. A wind from the west would push it east; a wind from the east would push it west; a wind from the north would push it south; a wind from the south would push it north. And suppose a blind sea turtle were there. It would come to the surface only once every 100 years.

Now what do you suppose the chances would be that a blind turtle, coming once to the surface every 100 years, would stick its neck into the yoke with a single hole?” And the monks answered, “It would be very unusual, sir, that a blind turtle coming to the surface once every 100 years would stick its neck into the yoke.” And the Buddha replied, “And just so, it is very, very rare that one attains the human state.”

That's pretty incredible if you think about it, and it reminds me my life is precious. That I'm even alive in human form is like winning the lottery. I'm further reminded of this because I know several people who struggle with infertility. Conceiving a child is not as easy as it may seem. In fact, in my own family, my parents tried to get pregnant for three years before my brother came along.

I also think about how both Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain impacted people. The number of tweets, articles, and facebook comments from people mourning their deaths is staggering. No one exists in a vacuum. Everyone will be missed by someone, including a pet, when they die. That means your life, my life, it matters. It has worth and value and merit. It is not without meaning or purpose even if sometimes it feels that way. I don't know a lot of things, but I know we are all loved and we all matter.

I dream of a world where we realize how precious and rare our lives are. A world where we feel into how much we matter, how much we are loved. A world where we realize we impact people, sometimes without our knowledge. A world where we know when we die, we will be missed.

Another world is not only possible, it's probable.

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Loved and Worthy



In my post the other week about fame, I said I'll be enough when I'm worthy. I've mulled that over the past few weeks, wondering how to feel worthy, particularly when tying worth to external achievements is no longer working for me. The only thing I've come up with thus far is to hear it from my internal, loving presence. What follows is a letter from that loving source to me.

My dear, you are loved and you are worthy. My love for you is not dependent on what you achieve or what you look like. My love for you is not even dependent on how you behave. I love you already. You are worthy, you have merit, solely because you are mine.

What a sweet picture, no? Photo by Fabrizio Verrecchia on Unsplash.

When you were a child you played with dolls and you loved them dearly. They were precious not because they did anything, not because they treated you well, or won first place in a contest, but because they belonged to you. And the same is true about you. You belong to me and that makes you precious, that makes you loved, that makes you worthy.

You could spend the rest of your life sitting around the house, watching Netflix, never contributing anything ever again. You could spend the rest of your life snapping at every person you meet, thinking only of yourself and your needs. You could spend the rest of your life in obscurity. You could do all of those things and you'd still be loved and you'd still be worthy.

Your task now is to feel into that love and that worthiness. To know you are special because you are special to me. I want you to walk around confident of those two facts because they are facts. They will never change no matter what you do or how you behave. They are and will be persistent throughout your entire life. I love you.

I dream of a world where we all feel we are loved and we are worthy. A world where we give and receive that unconditional love to ourselves irrespective of what we look like, what we achieve, or how we behave. A world where we know we are precious just as we are.

Another world is not only possible, it's probable.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

All is Well


I didn't sleep well last night so I'm recycling this blogpost from March 2014. It's a message I need to hear and I'm sure others do as well. It's a letter to me from my higher power. I'm defining my higher power as an unconditionally loving entity.

I love you. All is well. Your mind is caught up in many things – this and that – a lot of dramas that make life interesting, but in the end they don’t matter. All is well. All is love. Everything is working out the way it’s supposed to. Even your difficulties will pass eventually as you are progressing through your life, learning your lessons, and come more into the fullness of your being.

What a great photo, right? Photo by Stephen Leonardi on Unsplash.

Do not worry about how things will work out; just know they will work out. Do not live in the future where nothing is certain, nothing is guaranteed, and instead enjoy this moment of your life because there will never be another one like it. The future will take care of itself if you take care of yourself. Keep your thoughts optimistic and keep focusing on Me.

There are many things to distract you from realizing your goal, but remember the point of your life is not to acquire fame and wealth. Or kids and a partner. The point of your life is move closer to Me, toward spirit, toward love, toward the universe. The point of your life is to realize yourself not as you are now, but as you are meant to be – an incarnation of a cosmic entity. You are a divine and magnificent being full of wonder and love. Do not let yourself get bogged down by the trappings of human life because they too are an expression of Me.

You are on a path of love, of light, of truth. When you recall that, everything else will slip away because all is well. All is love. I love you and I am with you, now, forever, and always.

I dream of a world where we remember all is well. A world where we keep our minds pointed toward spirit. A world where we take care of ourselves and each other. A world where we detach from the dramas of today because we remember they, too, will pass. A world where we live in the fullness of our being because we know all is well.

Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Life's Promises



For the past few weeks, maybe longer, resentment has burned in my belly as I've seethed at the circumstances of my life. Where are all the things I was promised? The riches, the partner, the good health? The refrain in my head is, “I'm 33! I'm not supposed to feel this way! I'm supposed to have more energy than this!” And then I ask myself, “Says who?”

It's a good question. Who told me life is supposed to be one way or another? Who said we're all promised wealth, health, and partnership if we desire partnership? When I think about it, I likely picked up that story from the media, which praises a life of luxury, or from someone trying to sell me something. Someone who promised me all my dreams would come true if I purchased their course or their book.

What are my life's promises? I'd like to read the contract again. Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash.

When I look at my spiritual philosophy, my teacher never said life would be easy, filled with sunshine and roses. In fact, he praised difficulties as they become the fodder for spiritual development. He said, “Human beings have been drifting along through constant clash and cohesion amidst endless waves of physical and psychic diversities.” That means at times we'll encounter strife and at others we'll encounter harmony. It's unrealistic to think life will be easy all the time, because it won't. That's the nature of being alive.

I also think about what was actually promised to me, which is that I'll move closer to the divine. That's it. My teacher said, “Knowingly or unknowingly everyone is moving around [the Supreme entity]. Everyone is bound to move ... This movement is a natural propensity born out of love for [the Cosmic Consciousness].” We keep moving closer and closer until eventually we unify with that Cosmic entity, according to my spiritual tradition. But nowhere is it written I'll be thin, rich, pretty, and happily married.

When I take that perspective, I feel more at ease. It also makes all of my positive experiences even more precious. Nothing is promised to me, which gives me reason to cherish laughing with a friend or enjoying good food. Nothing is owed to me so it's a privilege I'm able breathe freely or walk unaided. I can't even count on the earth beneath my feet remaining solid, as a 3.5-magnitude earthquake reminded me the other day. Any thing can happen at any time, both good and bad. There are no guarantees in life other than once born we will die. For the time in between I'd like to see the good things in my life as gifts, to not take them for granted because they are not foregone conclusions.

I dream of a world where we realize there is no contract that stipulates we'll all have health and wealth. A world where we realize there aren't “supposed to's” or how we “should” be as people or what we “should” experience. A world where we remember life didn't promise us anything and that means what we go through is all the more precious.

Another world is not only possible, it's probable.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

An Active Participant in My Fate


I think it's pretty clear I want to be famous. Not “get my picture taken while eating a hamburger in a car” famous, but “win awards and have people share my content” famous. I know fame doesn't make anyone happy, I know the goal of my life is not fame, I know aiming for fame goes against all of my spiritual beliefs, and yet it's still here.

I've wrestled with this aspect of myself for decades trying to reason with it, spin it, battle it, push it away. But it's still here. On Wednesday, I listened to a radio show loosely about surrender and I burst into tears because I finally accepted this part of me. To surrender means to stop fighting and I stopped fighting this aspect of myself. I also started journaling about it, asking why I care so much.

This picture is perfect. Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash.

I seek fame because I want to prove myself, I want to showcase my “enough-ness.” I spoke with a friend about this and he suggested I make a list of all the ways I'll finally be enough. I'll be enough when _____. I made my list: “I'll be enough when I'm a bestselling author. I'll be enough when I go on Oprah. I'll be enough when a celebrity retweets me.” I kept going until I reached the point when I wrote, “I'll be enough when I feel worthy.”

As if to hammer the point home, I listened to another radio show by Nancy Levin, who used to be the events coordinator at Hay House before she transitioned into writing and coaching. To paraphrase, she said nothing on the outside will make you feel worthy if you don't feel worthy on the inside. I know this. In fact, I've written this. But when I look back at my post on self-worth from nearly nine years, I hear a lot of judgment. A lot of dismissing. I didn't honor my desire then or now.

When I look at the basic philosophy of my spiritual tradition, I have more perspective. The philosophy states we take everything and channel it toward the divine. It sounds like a lovely sentiment, but what does that actually mean? I'm not sure I know, but what I'm starting to understand is I can't run from anything, including my desire for fame. I can't escape anything. Maybe to use everything as a vehicle toward my unification with a power greater than myself means first that I have to accept what is here in a loving, compassionate way.

This blogpost deals with my desire for fame, but the concept is applicable to anything. It could be the part of ourselves that's scared of others, or is greedy, or ashamed, or whatever. We can't pretend that side doesn't exist as much as we'd like that to be the case. We have to work with what's here in order to have any power over it. I've likely used this quote before, but Carl Jung said, “Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you’ll call it fate.” I'd rather be an active participant in my fate and the only way to do that it seems is to stop running from the things I don't like.

I dream of a world where we accept all parts of ourselves with compassion. A world where we realize just because we don't like something doesn't mean it goes away. A world where we embrace our inherent tendencies and still work to transform them into something else. A world where we channelize them toward something greater than ourselves.

Another world is not only possible, it's probable.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Internalized "-Isms"


This week I've contemplated the internalization of “-isms” such as racism, sexism, and classism. These are the ways that we've accepted our inferior or superior status. For me, I've realized how much the way I view writing and reading is tied to patriarchy. And maybe intellectualism. I like women's fiction, also called chick lit. Think Bridget Jones's Diary or Confessions of a Shopaholic. Those aren't my favorite books, but I mention them because Hollywood turned them into movies so they're more well-known.

I feel a sense of shame mentioning chick lit is my favorite genre because it's looked down upon. It's not serious or somehow “worthy.” In Joanna Russ' book How to Suppress Women's Writing, she mentions the various ways women are discouraged from writing. It's assumed women didn't write the things they did, or they channeled something outside of themselves, or they are judged more harshly for writing about the same things as men. In other cases, women are told they shouldn't have written the things they wrote. There's a notion certain subjects are more acceptable and worthy of acclaim than others, and wouldn't you know it, those topics are most often addressed by men.

Maybe my taste is influenced by an "ism." Photo by Rey Seven on Unsplash.

Love stories by women and for women are disparaged. I've internalized that viewpoint so much that a part of me doesn't want to tell you I'm writing a love story because it's not serious enough. It's no Moby Dick, it's not the next Great American Novel, and a part of me worries what other people will think of me. I'm not looking for reassurance here, I mention all this to demonstrate how subtle “-isms” are. Until I read Russ' book, it didn't occur to me that perhaps my perspective on women's writing, including my own, was skewed by patriarchy and sexism. I didn't question why working on my book felt a bit like a furtive teenager stealing liquor from her parents' stash.

My spiritual teacher says, “In the existential sphere there cannot be any sort of complex, and our social order should be such that there remains no room for any complex. We have to make such a social order and we have to make it immediately without any loss of time.”

By complex he means inferiority complex, superiority complex, or fear complex. To paraphrase, he says we are all divine children of God, no one lesser, and no one greater. I'm not doing myself any favors by thinking the things I'm writing about are drivel because they primarily interest women. It's more helpful for me to address not only the obvious forms of “-isms,” but also the subtler, concealed ones as well. Only then can we create a world we wish to see.

I dream of a world where we examine the ways we're contributing to “-isms” internally. A world where we question why we think certain things are true. A world where we recognize and work toward the notion no one is better or worse than any one else.

Another world is not only possible, it's probable.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Thinking of Marriage Differently

I attended a friend's wedding this weekend and so marriage is on my mind. Here is a post from nearly three years ago on the subject.



Marriage has been on my mind a lot because everyone and their mother (including mine) is trying to set me up. “He's single, you're single: It's a match!” No one has actually said that to me, but that's the impression I get based on who people are trying to set me up with. Now, I realize a single person writing about marriage is like a virgin writing about sex, but here I am anyway, fumbling about.

An aspect that I don't hear discussed often about marriage is its ability to enhance spiritual growth. Usually, marriage is couched in terms of companionship, of having someone to start a family with, and just generally a partner in life that you love. Something else that seems to creep in from my outside perspective is this idea that someone else is responsible for a person's feelings. That someone else is responsible for our happiness.

I take a different view of marriage than some I think.
I take a different view of marriage than some I think.

I have a big problem with that way of thinking, because as was so aptly pointed out in a New York Times piece called “The Wedding Toast I'll Never Give,” there will be times where a person will look at his or her spouse and feel only rage. Nobody else is responsible for my happiness and putting them in charge of it is only asking for trouble. I can speak from experience here because I used to make certain people my cocaine and that resulted in some of the most painful experiences of my life.

I often quote Marianne Williamson who says, “Romantic relationships are like getting a PhD in spirituality.” What does that mean exactly? It means other people don't exist to make me feel good; it means every person and every relationship is a teacher. All of them provide opportunities to bring me closer to the divine. Marriage then becomes about living my life in a “new way with a special type of responsibility,” as my spiritual teacher would say.

In fact, the marriage oaths of my spiritual practices are that the person takes upon themselves the responsibility for their spouse's food, clothes, education, medical care, etc. That the spouse will be vigilant to safeguard the other's mental peace and ensure their mental progress, as well safeguarding the other's spiritual progress. These oaths to me mean sincerely taking care of another person's all-around welfare and growth. That marriage is about taking into account not only another person's needs, but trying to help them along the spiritual path. The emphasis is not on the self, but on another.

Does that sound dry and kind of clinical? It's not meant to be – there's something special about romantic love, something almost magical, and mystical and that, too, is an important part of marriage. I'm not discounting pleasure or love here, I'm just saying there's more to marriage than just love, at least from a spiritual perspective.

I guess what I'm doing here is trying to assuage my single self, to provide some comfort because it's clear there's no way I could be satisfied with any single guy who walked through my door, because whoever I marry needs to be someone that encourages me to grow mentally and spiritually. That marriage for me is not about having someone warm my bed or keep me from feeling lonely on a permanent basis. Love is important, but I'm looking for love plus something else.

I dream of a world where we all take a different view of marriage. A world where we revere love, but we also add something more to the mix. A world where we think about marriage in terms of aiding another in the form of the divine.

Another world is not only possible, it's probable.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

The Consequence of Consumption



I watched a chilling Walmart commercial the other day. The premise: A child keeps spitting out a pacifier, which the family's dog then slobbers all over. The kid also drops a sippy cup in the mud. The mother decides to reorder pacifier after pacifier and cup after cup instead of sterilizing the originals. The commercial ends with the dog surrounded by pacifiers and the mom patting the dog with a “What can you do?” sort of smile on her face. In the background, singers croon, “I just can't get enough, I just can't get enough.”

The commercial, and the message behind it, horrifies me. Particularly in the light of all our environmental problems. A friend shared a post on facebook recently depicting the state of our world's beaches in Bali, the Philippines, Hawaii. Gone are pristine sandy shores. In their place we have cups and cutlery, we have bottles and bags. In the comments many people said, “Pick up after yourselves! Throw stuff away!” I agree, throw stuff away, but that doesn't address the whole problem.

It's not a beach, but it is a site in Nicaragua. Photo by Hermes Rivera on Unsplash.

According to Greenpeace, even when plastic waste is collected, it can blow away and end up in rivers or oceans. Major rivers around the world carry an estimated 1.15 million to 2.41 million tons of plastic into the sea every year – the equivalent of 100,000 garbage trucks. Not all of that comes from plastic blowing away, obviously it also comes from littering, but I'd like to point out the trash still goes somewhere. We think once the garbage truck picks it up the problem is solved, but it's not. Commercials like Walmart's divorce us from the consequences of our actions. Reordering one pacifier after another because the dog drooled all over it and throwing perfectly good pacifiers away contributes to waste. I read somewhere that the most important part of the mantra “reduce, reuse, and recycle” is “reduce,” but that doesn't contribute to economic growth so we don't focus on it as much.

In yogic philosophy there is a tenet called aparigraha. It means non-indulgence. Specifically, not indulging in the amenities and comforts of life that are superfluous for the preservation of physical existence. Usually people have a hard time with that one. “Does that mean I can't buy the latest iphone? What about a new computer? Am I supposed to live in the woods off of rainwater and tree bark?” Yes! Just kidding. We can't all live in the woods. Also, what is essential for our survival changes with time, place, and person. Perhaps 10 years ago it wasn't crucial for everyone to have internet, but these days in my community it's another utility like gas and electricity.

What I never grasped until watching the Walmart commercial is aparigraha isn't about deprivation. It's not being a martyr, living off of less so that everyone gets their fair share. Non-indulgence at least from my perspective is about Earth. It's about paying respect to Mother Nature and realizing that my actions contribute to the destruction of the environment, and destroying the environment means more pollutants and poorer health. It means wiping out certain species. It means natural disasters like the ones we're currently experiencing. If the environment we reside in becomes a toxic wasteland, where are we supposed to go?

I could end this post here and proclaim the planet is doomed and we're all screwed, but I won't. I want to again go back to one of my favorite quotes from my spiritual teacher who said, “Difficulties can never be greater than your capacity to solve them.” Did you know scientists recently created an enzyme that eats plastic? It turns plastic back into a more usable form. I'm confident more things like that will happen, but more mindfulness is required on our part. Breaking our addiction to consumerism and thoughtlessness will go a long way in creating a world in which we all want to live.

I dream of a world where we reduce our consumption. A world where we think twice before casually throwing something away. A world where we understand non-indulgence helps the environment and ultimately helps us. A world where we treat nature with the care and reverence it deserves.

Another world is not only possible, it's probable.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Sometimes Quickly, Sometimes Slowly



I am seriously sleep deprived and when that happens, my logical brain shuts off. I drop into pessimism and can't see how anything will ever be different. The post that keeps coming to mind is this one from October 2014 so I'm sharing it again.

My recovery mentor often says to me, “Change happens on higher power’s timeline, and when it happens, it happens fast, so be ready.” Today I’m marveling at how true that is, particularly because I’m in a place that has seasons. In the Bay Area, there are two seasons: the dry season and the rainy season. In Missouri, there is a proper spring, summer, fall, and winter.

Last Wednesday, I was in shorts and a t-shirt, dipping my legs in the lake. The very next day we had a thunderstorm replete with rain and lightning and then it was cold. Like, pull-out-my-fall-jacket cold. Like, turn-the-heat-on cold. It went from summer to fall in the course of a day. I realize comparing change to the seasons is not so valid anymore, considering that today the temperature is back up to the 70s, but change happens quickly in life too.

One day it's summer and the next it's fall. Photo by Lex Sirikiat on Unsplash.

I read an interview about the recently departed Joan Rivers who I’d always unfairly dismissed as a mean-spirited comedian. There was a point in her life when she was blacklisted from The Tonight Show, her husband Edgar had killed himself, and her career was floundering. She seriously contemplated suicide. She said, “What saved me was my dog jumped into my lap. I thought, ‘No one will take care of him.’… I had the gun in my lap, and the dog sat on the gun. I lecture on suicide because things turn around. I tell people this is a horrible, awful, dark moment, but it will change and you must know it’s going to change and you push forward. I look back and think, ‘Life is great, life goes on. It changes.'”

As we all know, Joan went on to have a successful career and a rich life, but there was a point when she was thinking about ending it all. I also reflect on the turn of events for friends of mine. They’re getting married this winter and they didn’t even know each other a year ago! They met in the winter of 2013, got engaged in June 2014, and now they’re getting married.

Even in my own life I’ve seen how change happens quickly. One day I was settling into my new abode and within an hour a sweet situation turned sour and I started making plans to live elsewhere.

I often think change happens painfully slowly, that it’s gradual – and that is certainly true – but sometimes it also happens quickly, and we have no idea it’s coming even 10 minutes prior. At this point in my life when things are so up in the air, when I have no idea where I’ll be next, what will happen next, what lies before me, it’s heartening to remember my life won’t always look this way. That change happens on the universe’s timeline, and when it happens it can happen fast so I need to be ready.

I dream of a world where we remember the only constant is change. A world where we realize the way things are now is not how they'll always be. A world where we understand our troubles pass sometimes quickly and sometimes slowly, and sometimes it's a matter of waiting.

Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Backward can be Forward



I'm scared of making the “wrong” choice. What's funny is when someone else says the same thing, I usually respond with, “There are no 'wrong' choices. Only choices. If you don't like the choice you made, choose something else.” I know that to be true, and yet obviously a part of me doesn't believe there are no wrong choices, otherwise the idea of choosing something wouldn't feel so threatening.

When I ask myself why, it all comes down to progress. I value forward movement, particularly the kind that leads to betterment. In other words, I want my life to improve and I worry that certain choices will lead me away from improvement and toward deterioration. I can feel my stomach tightening even as I write that. In my mind, progress is a steady line with no deviations and that means each decision I make is crucial.

Does progress always have to be a straight line? Photo by N. on Unsplash

I brought this concern into my meditation the other day and what came back is the notion that backward can be forward. That sometimes a person has to take a few steps back before they can move forward. Like living with a person's parents to pay off student loans. At first, the choice seems regressive – when a person hits a certain age they should be independent and out of the house! – but paying off student loans gives the person more freedom to be independent in the future so ultimately it's a choice that leads to a better life. I think progress is a straight line, but maybe progress is a tangled yarn ball.

What's interesting for me to consider is true progress requires obstacles. When I think about it, it makes sense. We know that in order to build muscle we must lift weights. Perhaps the same is true in other arenas? My spiritual teacher says, “It is through psychic clash that the psychic field gets properly tilled, thereby increasing its fertility.” In this instance he's referring to reading discourses and engaging in analysis, but I'd like to believe all the angst I'm going through is a kind of progress in itself. That in the mental sphere I'm expanding my capacities as I contemplate new ideas and new directions. However, I'm also clear that for me, spiritual practice is a must.

“Through physical or psychic clash absolute self expansion is not possible,” my teacher says. “Of course physical clash can take a person a certain distance, but not to the final destination …. you will have to continue your spiritual pursuit, you will have to surrender yourself to the force of attraction of the Great.”

Perhaps that seems off topic but I'm including it in this post because I'm reminded I make choices and then I surrender to something greater than myself. I take action and then let go as I keep aligning myself with my higher power. I find peace and serenity when I invite in divine guidance and that requires me to engage in spiritual practice. It also requires that I maintain perspective. Looking at the big picture means recognizing I can move left or right, backward or forward. I can stand still. I can move in circles, and with all that, still I can progress.

I dream of a world where we recognize progress doesn't always mean forward motion. A world where we know just because we can't draw a straight line from point A to point B doesn't mean we aren't progressing. A world where we remember often the big picture doesn't become clear until later. A world where we realize the best we can do is keep inviting divine guidance and putting one foot in front of the other.

Another world is not only possible, it's probable.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Liberation from Narrow Spaces



Jewish holidays affect me – my life seems to sync up with them even if I'm not paying too much attention to the calendar. Right now people are celebrating Passover as well as Easter all over the world. What does that mean for me personally, and why would anyone other than me care? Bear with me – I believe my experience is a universal one so I'm hoping others will benefit from hearing what I'm going through.

As we know, Passover celebrates the Jews' escape from Egypt. The Hebrew word for Egypt, Mitzrayim, also means narrow spaces. That means on a metaphorical level, Passover can also represent the liberation from narrow spaces. In addition to a past event, Passover can also be deeply personal and individual. For many years, that's precisely how I experienced Passover. The regular occurrence is interesting. Like clockwork, at this time of year, life feels narrow. Not only feels narrow, but is narrow. There are many things I choose not to do because the consequence of doing them is too great. There are many foods I choose not to eat because eating them causes my body to hurt. I'm not throwing myself a pity party, I'm merely stating facts.

We can escape narrow spaces. Photo by Andrew Trius on Unsplash.

Always at Passover I fall into a bit of a funk and chafe against restriction. Life is not pleasant during Passover. It's often trying and painful and dark. I'm not saying it's as bad as a refugee fleeing for her life, but everything is relative. Everything is in degrees. I experience a small taste of what my ancestors went through and what many people still go through. However, Passover is not all bad. It's not all plagues and sorrow. It's also joy. It's recognizing the deep, the dark, the painful, the narrow, and the relief that comes from no longer being in that space. It's the thrill of leaving it all behind and being able to roam free. It's not only Passover that celebrates renewal, but obviously Easter too. Christians also celebrate new life and resurrection at this time of year.

Passover and Easter are reminders of all the horrible things people have been through and their transition out of those things. Passover and Easter are holidays that celebrate hope and courage without omitting the pain. I'm not on the other side of my personal Mitzrayim yet, but I know I will reach the promised land, so to speak. I also take heart in a quote from my spiritual teacher who said, “Difficulties can never be greater than your capacity to solve them.” I truly believe that. Right now my difficulties feel insurmountable, but the holidays many of us are celebrating remind me that's not true. The holidays remind me it can take a while, a long, long while, but eventually liberation happens.

I dream of a world where we remember no matter what we're going through, eventually it will pass. A world where we remember we, too, will be liberated from our narrow spaces. A world where we take heart in stories from the past and use them as fuel for the future.

Another world is not only possible, it's probable.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Hope for the Future



It's been an exhausting week so I'm recycling this post from April 2014.

On Thursday, I walked through the intersection where I was hit by a car for the very first time since the accident. Up until Thursday I walked by the site (as in, on the other side of the street), but never through the site. As I approached the exact intersection, I felt a whisper of anxiety and that was it. No panic, no becoming paralyzed. I faced my fear head on and I walked through it. In addition to feeling proud of myself, I was reminded how the things that bugged me months ago no longer bug me. How my problems of yesterday (so to speak) are no longer problems today, and this gives me hope for the future.

So often I get stuck in “forever” thinking. As in, if things are like this now, they’ll be like this forevaaaa. Especially in the moments where I have anxiety or depression or fear, it’s a challenge to remind myself, “This too shall pass,” because to me, it seems like the situation or feeling is interminable. I’m starting to disengage from this as I remember the only truth about a thought is it’s a thought, and now I think I’m taking it a step further by having hope life will get better.

Looks like there's a pot of gold at the end of this rainbow. Photo by Patrick Fore on Unsplash. 

I am still planning for joy, and a part of that is employing some perspective because things change all the time. Problems get solved, new circumstances arise, and life goes on.

I want things to get better now, but as a friend keeps reminding me, “We look at our watches and God looks at the calendar,” as in things do change, but not necessarily on my timeline. That’s true. I’ve seen lots of changes in myself and my friends, but it has taken time. I have a friend who in her 20s barely made enough money to support herself, and now in her 30s she’s an entrepreneur and recently returned from a trip to Bali. Jeremy Renner was a makeup artist before he became a movie star.

Things change and they often change for the better. I need to keep reminding myself of that, to keep holding onto hope for the future, because otherwise I’ll dissolve into a tear-stricken, soppy mess. A friend posted a picture on facebook about a month ago (that I can no longer find) that said something like suicide may keep things from getting worse, but it also prevents them from getting better. I’m not suicidal, but I appreciated the statement because, yeah, there’s always hope things will get better and I’m seeing more and more evidence that they do.

I dream of a world where we all hold onto our hope for the future. A world where we remember the things that troubled us in the past no longer trouble us now, and it’s likely the trend will continue. A world where we look on the bright side of life.

Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

The Real Me



This time last week I sat on the cold steps of an imposing New York building, shivering in the brisk March sunshine, talking on the phone to kill time while waiting for a friend. It feels like it happened to someone else. Right now all the things I've done feel unreal, which is likely due to the fact I'm on day 13 of the flu, and last night I dreamed of disturbing things.

In my sickened state, I'm asking questions like, “How do I know I exist?” Some people would say I know I exist because my sense organs tell me so: I can hear, feel, touch, see, and taste, and thus that proves I exist. But is that really the case? What about people who are in a coma and not doing any of those things? Or aware they are doing those things? They still exist, so that to me points toward the knowledge of existence coming not from the body, but from the mind.

Who am I? Who are you? Photo by Todd Quackenbush on Unsplash.

I think it also makes sense then why I'm asking these questions right now because my mind is affected by the flu – I'm not thinking clearly and thus my grip on reality, and therefore existence, feels tenuous. I'm a balloon floating higher in the sky, untethered to the Earth. Am I even here right now? I'm not sure. One thing I do know for sure: There is an “I” here.

My spiritual teacher says, “The statement 'I know I exist' proves the existence of a knowing 'I.'” In Sanskrit, that knowing “I” is called átman or unit consciousness. I want to break that down a little more. “Unit” meaning a single thing and “consciousness,” well, that's more complicated, but let's say for simplicity's sake consciousness means awareness. In other words, átman is my personal awareness in its purest form. It's not the part of me that says, “I visited New York last week;” it's the pure, undifferentiated “I” with nothing attached. It's the me without all the trappings.

My spiritual teacher also says through introspection and concentrated thinking, one observes that átman and the mind, that is, unit consciousness and the mind, are two separate entities. That makes sense to me because when I concentrate, when I meditate deeply, I'm aware of an unaffected part of myself. An observer who sees all but remains calm regardless of circumstances. I'm aware of the observer as much as I'm aware of simultaneously feeling angry or sad or happy.

The point of my meditation practice is to continue communing with that pure “I.” The me that is beyond time and space. The point of my meditation practice is to continue to know the real me that belongs to both me and to you. Also within the spiritual philosophy of my tradition is the idea there exists not only the unit consciousness, but also a collective consciousness, called Paramátman. I am a singular entity, but I am also a plural entity. There is me, but there is also more than me.

Who am I really? I am everything and I am nothing, all at the same time. The real me is an “I” that I can't describe, only feel, and that's true for everyone.

I dream of a world where we recognize who we really are is beyond words. A world where we realize an “I” exists in a pure, unqualified form and that's true for all of us, not only some of us. A world where we remember the real us is greater than the sum of our parts.

Another world is not only possible, it's probable.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Is Your Bliss the Right One?

I'm super sick right now and overtired so I didn't record any audio this week.

The other day a friend told me he asks people, "How do you know your bliss is the right one?" in response to the slogan "follow your bliss." When he said that to me, I exhaled deeply. I've heard variations of "follow your bliss" such as "follow your bliss and the money will follow" for years and it filled me with rancor. I published a book and started a publishing company and the money did not follow. Life didn't become all sunshine and roses. In fact, the years since my book came out have been some of the hardest of my life. To recap, I moved a jillion times, my health deteriorated, my finances took a nose dive, and more. I did not receive either the internal or external promised riches.

Normally I get pissed off like a child who did exactly as she was asked and didn't receive her reward. Where is my gold star? Why don't I have what I'm "supposed" to? I also usually start to look at other people's lives and say, "They followed their bliss and got what they wanted. Why didn't it happen for me?" It's a resentment filled adventure for sure.

Mmmmm. Looks lovely. Photo by Joshua Sortino on Unsplash.

When I ponder that "my" bliss isn't the right one, I feel better. Perhaps "my" bliss is ego driven and self-centered. Perhaps the bliss I'm following will lead me to a place I ultimately don't want to go. Maybe I don't know what's best for me and maybe I don't know what "my" bliss is.

I am strong believer in a power greater than myself. I've seen over and over again that I'm guided. And if that's true, that means there's something doing the guiding, and more often than not, that "something" knows better and knows more than I do, which also relates to how I pray. My prayer is a variation of, "I don't know what's best for me universe. Only you know what's best for me. I want what you want for me. Please align my will with yours." I think bliss is like that. If I had it my way, I'd live a super cushy life without any drama, with money flowing in due to little effort on my part, seeing beautiful things every day, and eating decadent food. That sounds lovely, but it also means I wouldn't confront any of my issues; I wouldn't deal with any of my demons.

In the same conversation with my friend, I told him I can't suppress anything and because that's true, I'd rather confront my issues head on. Confronting my issues has made me a better person and a happier person. I don't feel nearly as anxious as I used to and that's a direct result of bringing my demons out of the shadows and into the light. That leads me to believe that perhaps my higher power is thinking of my long-term happiness and bliss rather than a short-term gain. Perhaps real bliss then is not mine, but what my higher power wants and I'd feel happier if I aligned my will accordingly. It's difficult for me to maintain that perspective, but it seems worth a shot. After all, I'd much rather feel happier for a longer period of time than a shorter one.

I dream of a world where we realize sometimes our bliss takes us places that don’t serve us. A world where we understand there's a difference between the bliss we aim for and the bliss our higher power wants for us. A world where we understand sometimes our bliss is not the right one.

Another world is not only possible, it's probable.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Don't Peer Too Far

Right now there's some uncertainty about certain elements of the future and all that comes to mind is this post I wrote in July 2016 so I'm sharing it again.



Do not set your eyes on things far off.” - Pythian Odes

I've had at least four people mention to me some iteration of, “What are the gifts where you are?” so it seemed like a good post to write today.

I am deeply unhappy about a few things in my life. There are a few things I want to change and they aren't changing fast enough, darnit. It's easy for me to peer ahead, to fantasize about the future, and then get frustrated when the future is not my present reality. I've had so much resentment this week about that and accordingly, people keep asking me to practice gratitude for where I am.

Don't peer too far ahead.
Don't peer too far ahead.

It didn't go well because I don't want to practice gratitude for where I am. I don't want to see the gifts from my current situation. I'd much rather live in the imagined future where my dreams have come true, thank you very much. But here's the icky thing: I'm not there. As much as I want to be, do, or have something else, that's not this present moment. And because I don't enjoy this present moment, it means my compulsions have kicked up. I keep checking facebook, email, and instagram to pull me from the here and now because I'm not enjoying the here and now.

As you can imagine, my compulsions haven't solved anything either.

I experienced a shift when I asked myself, “What if I viewed this situation as temporary? What if I knew it would end?” Somehow that made all the difference. For me, whatever I'm experiencing now, I think I'll experience forever. It's hard for me to keep in mind this too shall pass, and it's the notion there isn't an endpoint that causes me so much distress. When I know there's an endpoint though, everything becomes more bearable. And when I know there's an endpoint, I can start to see the gifts of my current situation. I view things differently and understand this is a period where I'm being given the opportunity to cultivate whatever, fill in the blank, and I get myself back to a place of gratitude.

I know this is a vague post but that's because I'm not ready to discuss the specifics in a public forum, but I think the lesson is a good one. How often do we view our present situation as interminable? How often do we think the way things are will be the way things continue? It's helpful for me not to say to myself, “This too shall pass,” because, great, glad to know maybe when I'm 95 this will pass, but instead to affirm this has an endpoint because it does. When I know there's an endpoint, I can quit asking, “When will this be over?” Staying present can be difficult sometimes, but maybe if we knew there will be an end, staying present would be easier.

I dream of a world where we're able to focus on the here and now, even if we don't like it. A world where we understand all things are temporary. A world where we do our best to stay present because we understand each experience or period has something for us to mine.

Another world is not only possible, it's probable.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Anger Also Leads to God



I am pissed at God right now. In fact, “pissed” is too moderate a word. More like livid. I am livid at God right now. If God were embodied as a single person, they would not want to meet me in a dark alley. I'm angry for a multitude of reasons that are not necessary to enumerate here because they're not so important to anyone other than me.

This is not a post about how everything works out in the end, how everything happens for a reason, etc., although on most days with most things I believe that. This is a post about how not only is anger allowed, but anger also leads to God. I'm dropping the “G” word a lot here, but that's because in my anger I'm funneling it in one direction and for better or for worse, “God” often has a connotation of personification. It's hard to feel angry at something vast and infinite. That's like feeling angry at outer space and I can't muster up the energy to feel angry at something so impersonal. But I can feel angry at something more contained, and that's what the “G” word does for me. Maybe that's not necessary to mention, but I want to explain why I'm using the word I am as opposed to others like “divinity” or “cosmic consciousness” or “Brahma.”

Anger also leads to God. Photo by Jason Briscoe on Unsplash.

How does anger lead to God and why do I care? I'll answer the second question first. We so often hear that anger isn't spiritual, that God is love and if I'm operating from a place of fear, anger, or hatred, I'm disconnecting myself from God. If that belief system works for you, go for it. For me, it doesn't work. If God is supposed to be everything and everywhere, that means fear, anger, and hatred are also God. It means my anger is allowed and acceptable. It means that anger also creates connection.

That sounds funny, doesn't it? That anger creates connection. When I think about it though, it's true. When I'm fighting with someone it may not feel like connection, but to an outside observer, we're engaging with each other, we're connecting. The same is true with the big G.

My spiritual teacher says, “Even when you think of God as an enemy, you are involved in Him. Really, our mind is more activated [to think about somebody] by anger and hatred [than by positive propensities]. When we have a quarrel with somebody, we keep on thinking that the next time we meet that person, we will say this or that. Therefore, God will be attained whether you love Him or hate Him.”

That means I don't have to worry about how I feel. That any of my feelings are “bad” or “wrong” because it's not like feeling angry at God will curse me forever. And in fact, feeling angry also leads me to where I want to go. These days I'm interested in the full expression of my emotions without judgment or shame. And that means feeling my feelings that are directed toward God as well because even anger leads me to oneness.

I dream of a world where we feel our feelings without reservation. A world where we understand even feeling angry at a power greater than ourselves is allowed. A world where we recognize anger can also lead us to God.

Another world is not only possible, it's probable.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

The Inevitability of Change



Let's talk about slavery and guns. I know! The light and easy topics! The other day, an infographic swirled around facebook showing American slavery lasted for 246 years and segregation lasted for 89. In the scheme of things, the years since the end of segregation are minuscule. It's hardly any time at all. Generation after generation after generation was born into slavery. I'm sure at the time it seemed like slavery would last forever, and for many it did. They spent their entire lives as slaves. And now for the modern-day person, we look back and shake our heads, saying, “I can't believe it took that long.” I think the same will be true with gun violence.

Christopher Reeve said, “So many of our dreams at first seem impossible, then they seem improbable, and then, when we summon the will, they soon become inevitable.” I won't say I'm confident in the inevitability of gun control, but I'd like to be. I think about the generations of slaves who thought for sure slavery would last forever and still took steps to fight against it. The tireless men and women who said, “No, we won't stand for this,” and then did something. It took a loooong time and obviously we still have problems with racism in this country, but things changed. That gives me hope.

The wheel of change keeps turning. Photo by Alex Read on Unsplash.

What also gives me hope are the teenagers from Parkland, Fla., who are saying, “We will not stand for this.” On the 17th, they held a rally in protest. Emma Gonzalez, a student from the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, the site of the most recent school shooting, gave a speech. She called for new gun restrictions, blasting President Trump, the National Rifle Association, and lawmakers for what she called their self-serving and ultimately hollow responses to the shooting. Many students held signs demanding new action on gun control. "My friend died for what?" read one sign. "Stop gun violence now," read another.

Also, the organizers behind the Women's March have called for a national school walkout next month to protest what they say is congress's tacit response to mass shootings. The walkout on March 14 is set to last 17 minutes, and will seek to pressure lawmakers "to do more than tweet thoughts and prayers in response to the gun violence plaguing our schools and neighborhoods," the group said on its website.

I don't know if these actions will accomplish anything. I don't know if congress will immediately pass stricter gun regulations, or if they'll heed the siren's song of gun lobby money. We could have another 50 years of mass shootings before us, or not. What I do know is change is inevitable. And I also know change doesn't just happen, we have to push for it.

Frederick Douglass said, “I prayed for freedom for 20 years, but received no answer until I prayed with my legs.” I'm with you Frederick. Let's pray with our legs. Eventually, inevitably, things will be different, and our descendants will look back at this time, shake their heads, and say, “I can't believe it took that long.”

I dream of a world where we remember things can change, do change, and will change. A world where we remember the veracity of Christopher Reeve's quote, that after we summon the will, certain changes are inevitable. I dream of a world where they happen sooner rather than later.

Another world is not only possible, it's probable.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Gratitude and Mourning



This Valentine's Day marks 10 years since I moved to California. I can't believe it's been that long – five years I could believe, but 10? That's almost a third of my life. I'm grateful I made the decision to move here, I'm grateful for my life here, my friends here, my community here, but also I'm sad.

I'm not sad about the decision, because like I said, I love California. California is home. I'm sad I'm not 23 anymore. I don't want to go back in time and relive 23 because I was scared, anxious, and insecure much of the time, but in other ways I miss who I was. I miss how excited I felt, how enthusiastic I was. I miss the newness of the world around me. I know I'm still young and I'll still experience new things, but now I have a point of reference. When I travel to new countries, they remind me of other countries. When I try a new restaurant, it reminds me of another restaurant. As I get older, even new things are slightly familiar.

I feel grateful and I feel sad. Photo by Sweet Ice Cream Photography on Unsplash. 

Really what's happening here is I'm grieving the old me. Celebrating my anniversary reminds me of who I used to be and who I am now. The gap is large, in a good way, but it's still a gap. Through my work in therapy, I’m learning it’s important to grieve for my old selves. To feel a sense of loss for the person I once was and can no longer be. The sadness exists and doesn’t go away through any rationalization on my part, nor any amount of looking on the bright side. Mourning the old me reminds me of a quote from my spiritual teacher.

He said, “Death is nothing but change. A 5-year-old child is transformed in due course into a 15-year-old boy. In 10 years, the child becomes the boy. Thereafter, you will never be able to find the body of the 5-year-old child. So the child’s body has certainly died.” He then goes on to mention the boy growing into a man, and then hitting middle age, then old age, until he finally dies and says, “The rest of the changes we do not call death; but in fact, all the changes qualify as death.”

That means my 23-year-old died and it’s important for me to honor and say goodbye to her, just as it’s important for me to honor and say goodbye to other people when they die. And that's what it feels like today, that I'm saying goodbye to the 23-year-old me. I'm remembering what I liked about her and what I disliked, and I feel sad. A little voice in my head is saying, “It's almost Valentine's Day! You should be writing about love and happy things! No one wants to read a depressing post!” That may be true, but also in multiple conversations with people they told me they felt like they had to be happy and upbeat in order to talk with me and I said, “No you don't. You get to be whoever you are. I don't mind if you're happy or sad. Either way is fine by me,” and I meant it. And I mean it for me, too.

As we approach Valentine's Day, I hope you will also let yourself feel sad if sadness arises. I hope that you will grieve old selves and old loves if that bubbles up. I also hope you know that doesn't diminish the good things in your life, or take away how grateful you are for changes. All changes are deaths and all deaths need mourning.

I dream of a world where we mourn our losses. A world where we let ourselves feel how we feel with love and acceptance. A world where we recognize we can feel sad about the past and grateful for the present at the same time.

Another world is not only possible, it's probable.