Sunday, December 18, 2016

My Shadow, Your Shadow

Humans have a responsibility to care for each other, and for every other being on Earth. I am afraid that other people don't believe that is true; I fear that they believe that there isn't enough, and will prioritize themselves and their own people at others' expense.

Fear, however, hasn't ever done anything for me. It has made me cowardly. It has kept me from fulfilling my dreams. It has haunted me, made me lose sleep, and drawn me into the darkest moments of my life. I don't want to live in fear.

People I talk to either believe that they have to hide to protect themselves, or fight to defend what they care about. Recent developments have heightened our sense that no one is looking out for us anymore, and we are reacting to the fear that engenders by preparing for violence. We don't have to look far into the past for examples of when this seemed to be the only reasonable choice. 

I make no argument against the past. I have believed in just war. In theory, I think that I would use violence to protect myself and my loved ones.

Still, I don't think this is the answer to any of our problems, now. War, oppression, racism, sexism, the collapse of the environmental status quo we have relied on for our safety and happiness, none of these will be cured with a reaction based in fear.

This is how my ego thinks I look.
Maybe, instead, we can explore how responding with love would work better. 

Here are a few ideas I'm thinking about:
  • Heal your shadow. Shadow is the manifestation of our distorted strengths. The only way to cure our global shadow is to heal our own. 
  • Be kind. When you hear the language of intolerance, respond with love. Speak the truth, but be kind. 
  • Trust the universe. Don't allow yourself to become nihilistic. 
This is how I feel when I see my shadow.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Writing for My Life

What if I am in this life to write a certain number of stories, and I won't be allowed to advance to the next level of the game until I have done it? If I die before, I just have to do it again, until I get it right? Like Groundhog Day, but with novels.

I'd like to think that my purpose in this life is to discover as much about myself as I can, through writing. I was thinking about how I never think that actors or poets or screenwriters are doing 'nothing' with their lives. Or dancers, or skateboarders. I don't deny the 'usefulness' of my favorite authors, whether they wrote 7 books or 70 (or 700). I don't give Edgar Rice Burroughs, Jane Austen, or Isaac Asimov's ghosts the side eye, as if they were a waste of oxygen.
Imperfect, Incomplete, Out of Focus

What am I saying if I think that I am only worthwhile if I am a successful author? Am I telling myself that I must make a certain amount of money, contribute to the world in a financial way, to be considered worthwhile?

If all of life is 'real' life, if dreams and journeys and conversations are just as important to the fabric as work and history and raising children, then maybe I am enough.

I am enough.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Yoga Teaches Me Something I Didn't Expect

Today, I started what I thought of as an intense yoga practice--back to class at Red Sun Yoga, instead of practicing at home with advice from Charlotte at Yoga Flavored Life.

I struggled with the decision. I feel guilty about spending money on something I can do on my own. I am afraid (terribly afraid) that I will hurt badly through every class and spend half of each one in child's pose with tears running down my face.

But I signed up yesterday, readied my mat and clothes last night, and got up early this morning to make my 8:00 class with Jenn, a substitute for the regular teacher. For calories, I drank only almond milk to keep my digestion stable and then drank a glass of water. I girded my loins on rising, on showering, on driving, and finally, on walking up the concrete steps to the studio.

I got there ten minutes before class. Jenn showed me where to put my things, and I finally put my mat down. And then picked it up to move closer, because it was just the two of us.

Jenn was a marvel. We did poses I didn't know, or didn't know had names (sleeping tiger, it band stretch, seated cow and cat). We began with the slowest and gentlest of warm ups that gave my pained hips time to get used to the idea that I wasn't going to torture them this morning.

This was a 75 minute class in which I spent a total of five minutes on my feet! And yet, it stretched and challenged my hips and shoulders and gave me time to relax completely into each pose.

Jenn and Red Sun Yoga gave me the perfect experience today and proved that a yoga class can be super gentle. I didn't even know! I thought I would get an "intense" experience, but instead, I got an intensely comforting one. I felt cared about, and I cared about myself. I didn't feel slow or incapacitated by pain.

I did almost cry once, but it was in gratitude for feeling safe.

Then I came home and read Charlotte's newsletter about being grateful for yoga, for the way it supports us, and the fact that our bodies are able in their way to practice it.

Thanks, yoga. Thanks, Body. Thank you, Jenn and Charlotte!

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

The Finger

"Do it like I tell you!"

"And another thing..."

"I told you so."

I'm trying to make sense of The Finger. This is something I have been doing since I was a kid. It's the digit equivalent of tapping the microphone, perhaps, or a way of saying, "I am explaining something you should find important, or enlightening, or entertaining, and I will brook no argument or interruption!"

There is more than one photo of me holding up my right placeholder to wag it at the photographer, telling them how to operate the camera.

It wasn't always my camera, either.

The Finger is like an independent entity. It has its own mind, and that's already made up, no doubt about it--like I'm watching Mystery Science Theater: 'Hey, down in front!'

The Finger is preachy and teachy. It never stands up to ask, "What do you believe?" or to exclaim, "You are a genius!"

My scarred, wrinkly index has become an alter ego. I'm afraid that one day, someone will tell me Mr. Fingy has committed an unspeakable crime, and I and Mr. Fingy will go to Manners Jail, where they keep such notables as Judge Judy, talk radio shock jocks, and presidential candidates.

I've been thinking about going on a silent retreat. Maybe Mr. Fingy needs to go on a retreat where he can practice the Hand Asanas and remember that he is one of five.

On their own, fingers blame, accuse, curse, preach, and count coup.

When working together, the hand creates drinking vessels, stop signs, requests for help, promises, benedictions and peace offerings.

Live long, and prosper, Mr. Fingy.

Monday, April 13, 2015

The Last Pleasure

Eating is the very first and last pleasure our animal nature experiences. Babies cry at birth and are quieted with milk. You know it's time to let go of the family dog when he no longer wants to eat.

Far from a mindless sensation of hunger, though, eating at the end of life seems to come as a celebration of physicality. It wasn't gluttony that prompted my tiny 91-year-old aunt, dying of liver cancer, to reply to an offer of food with "I could eat."

Sitting with my old cat who was dying, I was surprised every time by her enthusiasm for a bowl of food. She needed water, but she would reject that until a spoonful of canned nibbles would draw her out. Then she would eat with all the vigor of her long-ago kitten self.

One more bowlful of life for me.
What leads us to taste a final forkful even when we know it's the end? The calories we consume may not even be burned. Some would say it is our Darwinian nature driving us to live, although the end is inevitable, even welcome. This portrays dying as the winding down of a worn out mechanism, and our final days its hopeless sputter.

Our consciousness of enjoyment, and our pursuit of it even when things we need to survive hold no temptation, point to something else.

If we were attempting to survive past our sell-by date, we would long for water, yearn for adrenaline, beg for anything that would keep us alive another day.

But instead, a soul seems to say goodbye to embodiment the same way it said hello: by eating.

Dream Florida

In my dream Florida,
The waves gather,
and the porpoises play among them
in pods whose numbers are impossible to count.
In my ideal Florida,
people gather to watch from sand unsullied by tires
in front of long unbroken dunes,
and sandy shacks that blow away in the next hurricane
the only dwellings.
In my Florida,
We don't fear the
apocalypses humans have foretold for themselves.
We are safe.