Sunday, July 26, 2020

My Belief in Making


I’ve been between the no and the yes
So often it has brought distress
But of a sort that brings comfort too
Praise God, The What, and The Who.

My mind has attached so much to brain
That observing often brings disdain 
Yet human animals are beings as well
From Earth, from Heaven, and from Hell.

But these realms number more than three
And it’s becoming more clear to me
The reality, created, by us all
Is not one, nor the other, nor them all.

For how we live, and think, and Be
Of Earth, of Heaven, of Hell or Thee
Only serves to further the aims we have
So make your intentions a healing salve.

It’s not vital to focus on the Now
Sometimes one does not know how
But focusing only on after-Life 
Allows unnecessary continued strife.

Strife is annoying - it bites and yells
It makes the Earth appear as Hell
So remember that Heaven can also be
Not tomorrow, not sometime, but here (Now) for Thee.

Each point of reflection that we maintain
Light beyond words, or whims of Brain
Is a realm ever-changing, unique to Be
Rooted and growing in sovereignty. 

Thursday, June 4, 2020

Reckoning


As a man identified as white, I will admit - with shame - that I have been silent. I have witnessed racism and not spoken. Whether out of discomfort or fear of confrontation, that ends now.

In order to contribute Good to our collective, shared reality, we need to implement a zero tolerance policy. This needs to be done in our schools - and it makes me sad to say that it needs to start in pre-school. This needs to be done at gatherings of family and friends, in every place of work and commerce, and it needs to be done in our every exchange.

The anger right now is a justified and needed tool offered for all of humanity.

In order to bring forth the inherent equity of every One, we must acknowledge sovereignty. We are sovereign in our nature. We are sovereign in our ability to change and effect change. We are sovereign even when we cannot express it. Even when we are suppressed and oppressed. Even when we are violated. Even when our life is ended against our will. Sovereignty does not require acknowledgment to be real. It inherently is.

Of course, when sovereignty is disregarded or disrespected or violated, it is painful. It is sad. It is unacceptable. But it is real nonetheless. The sun does not need to be respected for its light and warmth, the earth does not need to be respected (or protected) as the source of life, the moon does not need respect for overseeing our oceans’ tides, in order for it all to be true.

Certainly consequences come from the resulting pain of actions that attack or violate sovereignty, but actions and consequences are separate from sovereignty. Even when a life has been disgustingly snuffed out. I say this with certainty, because we must honor that sovereignty exists beyond anyone’s recognition of it.

And if (and unfortunately when) we witness a challenge to the natural sovereignty of any individual, we need to meet such a challenge with dismissal. It is not ok. It has never been ok. The attempted reduction of another sovereign being - be it through violence, through words, or societal programming, is barbaric and born out of evil. Humanity is not served by barbarism and we can reject it. It has gone on long enough.

I say ‘attempted reduction’ because it is just that: attempted. We can violate, we can dehumanize, we can restrict - and the impact of those sorts of actions is real and huge; but, ‘inherent’ also means just that... No one can diminish your sovereignty.

But freedom is another issue. Freedom can be controlled. Freedom can be culturally, economically, and physically taken away. We all have a responsibility to ensure it does not.

What is true within One is true within all.

So yes, the change begins within you, especially if you find yourself more of a horrified observer (or activist, or ally) than a victim, but it also requires systemic change. The adjustments needed to our socio-political-economic systems will not be made just from awakening to the collective reality. They will require overt action. And if, by chance, you feel uncertain about the next steps forward, do - please - start with yourself.

Hold your sovereignty in the dismissal of that which is evil, of that which is counterproductive to the inherent sovereignty of all...of ways of thinking and operating that are now irrelevant. Hold your sovereignty and find your strength in order to even begin to meet the strength that has been especially required any one that has systemically been forced to worry about functioning or existing in society - so that you can be a harbinger of the change that, unless it comes, will degrade us all in God’s eyes.

The above photo, by Jeff Malet, is from the dance “A Tribute to Marian Anderson”, which my husband and his amazing dance company (Dana Tai Soon Burgess Dance Company) premiered in February at The Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery.

Saturday, May 2, 2020

Tree

I think I am much better
Than how I used to be
The issue is my friends are gone
And replaced...by a tree.

The tree is very soothing
It listens and it speaks
It heals and cares and expels air
Much higher than its reach.

For its branches and its trunk
Are barely half the story
While I've felt my mind has shrunk
It enriches in full glory

The roots go so much further
Than upturned balls will tell
Heaven in its nurture
While air, sea, land scream hell

We may not yet comprehend
The damage that we cause
But revelations come regardless
Of callousness or pause

The tree is a good friend
Much smarter than myself
It holds so many things in place
Without respect or help

Speaking many languages
To many forms of life
Connected to the world wide web
All creatures and all strife

You see a tree is not just
An individual above the ground
It is the entire forest
Air, dirt, shrooms, and sounds.

Sure the tree could grow alone
And try to fill your lungs
But better with its ancient ones
Undisturbed in their functions

So I realize I may stand alone
If alone to stand I choose
But like a tree, the forest calls
To heal, to love, to soothe.

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

FOEE: Fear of Enjoyment Ending

I don’t listen well sometimes. Not to others and not to my self.

Lessons from different teachers, seekers…and YouTube videos…that I’ve been exposed to have led me to believe that there are three voices: the internal voice – the voice of Self; the external voice -  other people, the World beyond the Self; and, the voice of Now - something rather ultimate and all-pervasive. When the internal and external voices are in conflict, we are in conflict. When we listen more in balance to all three voices, we are more balanced...more in alignment. And alignment is enjoyable.

As we experience alignment, it becomes difficult to be out of alignment. As we experience enjoyment, we can notice when things are in contrast to enjoyment, and the lack of enjoyment becomes uncomfortable.

Enjoyment can be any type of happiness (perhaps the act of creating, or experiencing beauty, or exercise, or being in nature...) and despite the discomfort we experience from its lack, we often have a strange resistance to it...to allowing ourselves to think thoughts, and say words, and do things that bring enjoyment. We are resistant to enjoyment. I would suppose out of fear of its stopping. Fear of enjoyment ending, or FOEE (pronounced foo-ee).

Yet one of the only collective certainties is change. So how can one fully enjoy the experience of…experiencing…if we know that everything is temporary? How does one enjoy change?

Attachment to permanence is a major source of my resistance. I have felt it much of my life. I have been a longtime sufferer, not yet fully recovered, of FOEE.

My wanting to 'hold on' to good-feelingness - or good-feeling moments - is likely the root of my anxiety. A result of not yet having the tools to allow the enjoyment of things even with the awareness that 'this too shall pass'. I have always hated that phrase.

Is this what the Buddhists and Hindus and others mean when they say to avoid attachments?

This past Wednesday, I interviewed Diane Rehm, who I have listened to on the radio since I was a kid on NPR's The Diane Rehm Show. It was an honor. The evening was with diverse guests at the Arts Club of Washington, and centered around her newest book: When My Time Comes.

While preparing for the interview, I remembered that she had spoken at American University while I was a student there. It was the 2007 Commencement Address for the College of Arts and Sciences. I wasn’t graduating that year. But even though I did not see the speech live, I was able to look it up in the university’s online archives, and watch it. It is a beautiful speech.

One of the things Diane talks about in the speech is how she became a listener, which had to do with her upbringing as the daughter of Arab immigrant parents who did not support her receiving an education. She was told she was not supposed to ask questions. So she listened to others…teachers, friends, her husband…she learned from listening. And synchronistically she became able to ask lots questions…and allow millions of people every day to listen along with her.

We can listen too much to external voices (news, other people), to the point that it becomes our only focus, and we can forget to care about how we feel. We can forget to nourish the self, and forget the importance of enjoying, mystery and wonder.

A thought came to me this evening while lying in bed. I felt concerned about my own questioning of whether there was still magic left in the world (and whether I should change my Facebook ‘religion status’, which since 2007 has said: “I believe in magic”). I have been tired lately, but a voice that seemed different from my questioning thoughts said, "There is plenty of magic in the world. The world is magic. None if it, however, is permanent."

So my focus lately has been on enjoying things even while aware of impermanence, even while knowing there is contrast in the world. Knowing that we – and our experience of the world – are always in motion.

We affect others with how we feel, because how we feel affects how we think and what we say and do… Our reality is a result of where our attentions are focused. 

We often focus on how others make us feel. Boundaries are a consistent challenge.

But boundaries can be a tool for allowing ourselves to enjoy moments more. We need them not only to protect our physical bodies at times, but also our emotional states – to listen to our inner voice. The better we feel the better those we engage with feel. Healthy boundaries for ourselves allows for self nourishment, and for others to have their own healthy boundaries.

After a wonderful conversation last Wednesday, including with the audience, the evening needed to wrap up. I ended the program with Diane Rehm by quoting her words from the 2007 AU Commencement speech:
“I believe each one of us can achieve progress, one relationship at a time, by quieting our inner voices of disagreement, of competitiveness, and attempts at one-upsmanship. We honor then, the voice of the speaker. The act of listening itself becomes an expression of generosity and compassion, which can lead to the creation of a new and more harmonious society. True listening is a form of spiritual hospitality by which we open ourselves to the ideas of others…we invite strangers to become friends, and friends to become even better friends.”
Even if we do not listen as much, or to as many and varied others, as Diane, we can still be more aware that listening is respect.

I wish more and more often, that more and more of us, will be more and more respectful of one another; that we can receive respect, and know that our sense of sovereignty does not require us to always assert - to dominate or seek power over another. Our sovereignty is what allows us to listen to others, and to respect others.

We are allowed to experience enjoyment. (There is relief from FOEE.) And we can enjoy any and all good-feelingness without needing permanence.

Knowing that we are always creating with our thoughts and our words and our questions… Listening  creates more respect for own experiences, and for those of others.

I’ve been trying to listen better to my internal and external voices. My body seems to want a better balance of the two. Perhaps more enjoyment and less anxiety. It’s been telling me to take care of it, to rest more, observe more. Listening to my Self actually allows me to better listen to others. My mother often says “listen to your body…your body is wise, and it always wins if you ignore it”.

I have been listening to my mother more and more.

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Journal ramblings from India to California

December 19, 2018


As the new ashram is being built around me, I feel both unworthy to be here at this time and yet completely at home. The guru relocated here after some issue with the land at the former location, which I’ve come to understand was in the city and much less secluded than where we are now. I’m not entirely sure what happened. But now, amidst monkeys, birds and cows, and as we practice and pray in new holy structures made of branches and stone, I grow.

Swami Krishnananda Yogashala, near Mysore, India (Dec. 2018)

December 20, 2018
 

There’s a sense of dust-covered royalness among us that I have not experienced since childhood. Wearing garments of various colors, many draped in blankets, we stood around the guru to receive instructions on kunjal, or the practice of induced vomiting from the imbibing of excessive and quickly swallowed water – in this case saline water. It is dark outside and pre-dawn, and the stars offered themselves as shining things to focus on in the moments between retches.

Following this, we did sutra nedi - meaning 'thread through the nose' - to clean the nasal passages (in our case a rubber catheter tube…more gentle) – pushed into each nostril and pulled out the mouth. We have been doing this for a few days. I followed this with jala nedi – the water method (nedi pot) more commonly used in the West – because I could not get the catheter tube through my left nasal passage this morning and I wanted both to be clear. Today is my birthday. I am cold, dirty, and tired.


April 22, 2019

Today is Earth Day. A day that Richard Nixon used to celebrate. I went to the local landfill this morning, about 30 minutes from my father's house - or former house...always his house - near Annapolis. I vaguely remember going there with him when my brother and I were kids and he had just moved to the area from Connecticut. 

Seeing it today was like seeing it through child's eyes. The Millersville Landfill is a surreal place, and beautifully managed. Refuse embedded in earth - garbage buried and grown upon, disposed of and recycled in their various facilities. 

I loaded my father's Ford pickup with as much as had sofar been determined trash and called about the ID check, and the Anne Arundel County resident requirement for dumping. The woman with a nice voice on the phone said to bring one of my father's utility bills and show his vehicle registration and it'd be fine even I had a DC driver's license. Cool.

Once I arrived at the gates, I was directed to drive straight down a what-quickly-became-a-gravel road to the far end of the campus...the general dumping area. I pulled in, and was told to back in towards the currently in-use and growing refuse mountain, unload and leave. 

I realized the road isn't paved past a certain point because where one is told to go 'dump' their trash changes as the trash mountains are ground up by big-wheel-grinding tractor/forklift type vehicles, and then buried under dirt and planted with - I assume from looking around at the surrounding hills, some bare, some wooded - grass first and then eventually trees. I also realized how much respect our waste management organizations and the guidelines and science they operate with are deserving of.

My father loved stuff like this.


December 20, 2019

I am in San Juan, Puerto Rico with my husband. Today is my birthday. We live in a time where we are not sure that we can be made whole. But it is the acceptance and forgiveness of our brokenness that brings thorough healing, as well as the awareness that we are never - and have never been - truly broken. We always have choice.
With recognition we step out of denial. Denial undermines our freedom.
- Jack Kornfield

December 25, 2019

In the woods of Connecticut with family. The trees moan and one can hear owls. Glad to be home for Christmas. 
The whole point of Jesus's life was not that we should become exactly like him, but that we should become ourselves in the same way he became himself. Jesus was not the great exception but the great example.
- Carl Jung

January 6, 2020

Watching the sun rise in Twenty Nine Pines, California this morning, my feet bare on the cold, rocky soil, I felt awe. I like awe.

"Sky Landing", Twentynine Pines, Mojave Desert, California (Jan. 2019)

Twenty Nine Pines is in the Mojave Desert and north-bordering of Joshua Tree National Park, where we will visit this morning before heading west again to Los Angeles. My sister's birthday this coming Friday will coincide with her and I being on her favorite podcast called "The Positive Head Podcast", as well as the web series "Optimystic", both hosted by Brandon Beachum and currently broadcasting out of a house called the Mystic Manor in Venice Beach, where we will be staying the week.

Strange delays between DC and San Diego meant that I missed the Abraham Hicks workshop (it would have been my first one) that I had booked for my sister and I. But she, having arrived on time and thus a day before me, was able to attend. She shared notes, pearls of wisdom and cosmic downloads during our northwest drive into the desert yesterday.

Going to Los Angeles will complete our triangle tour of California. Our three stops are almost equidistance. This is first my time visiting California.



Traveling this year - from India to Amsterdam, Alabama to California - has enhanced my sense of a strong sense of interconnectedness with things. This is not something I have always enjoyed. It has, since childhood, had the capacity to overwhelm. But, it is more and more and more perceptible - unignorable - in my cerebral awareness, my spiritual knowing, and my physical body. And, I think, it is becoming more and more manageable. I have decided to take a hiatus from alcohol for a year. There is a lot that needs doing.

Climbing at Joshua Tree National Park (Jan. 2019)

I find myself thinking a lot about Truth. The concept of it, the pursuit of it, the relaxation into it. I feel that we can never truly lie. Even if we say false words - our voices, our bodies and countless other forces of the universe conspire to push the truth into awareness, whether immediately or finally.

The world is a mess. It's hard to filter honesty from the internet or television or people. I feel that an occasional hiatus from any of these could do humanity good.

I feel that the anger about secretive, exclusionary orders, or the outdated design and destructive nature of our collective systems, is insufficient, and so is trifling jealousy or ignorant rage directed at decision-makers. We are not disempowered unless we separate ourselves from power. And this is not necessary to do, nor is it productive.

I hope we will alchemize our anger into the forming of a new order and designing of a new collective destiny, which has been done before and will be done again, and must be done now.
The emergence and blossoming of understanding, love, and intelligence has nothing to do with any other tradition. It happens completely on its own when a human being questions, wonders, listens and looks without getting stuck in fear. When self-concern is quiet, in abeyance, heaven and earth are open.
- Toni Parker

January 7, 2020

Venice Beach, Los Angeles:

There does not need to be any agreement on experience. We are entitled to our own. There needs not be any cohesion in processing, or responding to experience, as we are entitled to our own - and only our own. You do not owe any one misery. You are entitled to your good feeling. You are entitled to feeling good. In feeling good one serves a higher purpose. Feeling good is being good.

I used to believe in - or wish for - a point, or for some profundity in suffering...past sufferings, the idea of suffering, etc. I suppose it is because I wanted to feel certainty that those experiences were 'worth it'...so that I would not feel regret.

All experiences are correct. Truth is available for us to tune into, and we can feel it with more light, more lightness...we can be lighter in the way we perceive and receive and give. We do not have to withhold ourselves to be sovereign. We can be in truth and experience it with more enjoyment and light - we can be lighter. Truth does not need to be heavy or dark...even that which lowers our energies or triggers our rage can be felt in lighter and lighter ways.