compass

what we pay attention to matters.

i’ve been married to a school teacher and administrator for twenty-three years. over the years, i’ve witnessed him work wholeheartedly to create the conditions that foster healthy learning environments. honestly, it’s been brutal watching him continue to work for the impossible, even in a highly resourced school.

and now, here we are. what felt impossible before now feels like a cake walk.

our children’s educators—like other front-line workers—are working tirelessly within systems that are falling apart. all to care for and educate our children.

last night, after a very long and draining day of emails/calls/meetings full of fear/rage/grief about the ever-evolving, high-stakes plans for an uncertain present and future, he whispered to me,

“what about giving each student a compass? with the message that wherever we are, each of our compasses points north? the same north? we are connected in this way. together, we will navigate this. we can navigate anything. “

or something like that.

and just like that, this man that literally drives me crazy, reminded me that what we pay attention to matters. his paying attention to what matters helped me remember what matters.

and this is what courage looks like. this is what leadership looks like. and we need to pay attention to where we are seeing it. because it’s there–if we choose to see it.

what we pay attention to matters.

what if?

there’s a hindu legend that tells of the story that divinity was hidden deep within the center of human beings so to prevent humans from abusing it. our human behavior called for such an intervention. Brahma, the chief god, rightly believed that divinity would be safe there, hidden away deep within our being, where humans would never dare search.

what if…we dared?

what if we discovered the divine within us?

what if that divinity was so felt and evident that it radiated into our minds, our hearts, our bodies?

what if it spilled out and danced with the divine in all of life?

what if the connection with the divine was so profound that our interconnectedness was palpable?

what if this felt interconnectedness allowed me access to your suffering and joy? and you, mine?

and what if we awakened to our relationship with the land, the skies, and all the universe?

what if we could experience deep belonging, constantly and without condition?

what if the divine within me allowed me to know the divine within you and all living beings?

what if this knowing could never be unknown?

what if…

addiction

i’ve been thinking a lot about addiction. i’ve been wondering how we are doing, given the current circumstances.

addictions form as a way to numb out. to turn away from feelings that are so painful, it feels impossible to face them. they feel inescapable. we mostly think of addictions as object-identified: food, sex, alcohol, drugs, gambling, shopping. let’s think more broadly about addiction as numbing/distancing, as behaviors that shut down possibilities for change, growth, relationship.

let’s consider shame, blame, and guilt as forms of addiction.

there are roles for shame, blame, and guilt to serve us. they are signals that we are waking up and are taking notice that something is off with the stories we’ve been told, the part that we have and continue to play. we begin to sense that we are in fact interconnected, our liberation bound up with one another.

and yet…just as we touch on this tenderness (Sanskrit word “bodhichitta” meaning “noble, awakened heart”), it scares us. rather than “leaning into the sharp points” of that pain , we numb it out. we turn away. we shut it down. and with it, all possibility. shame, blame, and guilt are the addictive reactions that satisfy this impulse. it’s too much to face the reality that the self we are trying to secure and firm up and feel good about, ain’t got nothing on the history of humanity. we’re a mere speck in a massive web of life. bless our hearts, we flail. we utter again and again, “but what can i do?”

a few weeks back, i experienced outright rage as a group of white leaders kept circling the drain around shame/blame/guilt. especially guilt. the rage intrigued me. and so i knew it had something important to teach me. and you guessed it: my rage was at my own feelings of guilt that still arise in the face of reality. yep, my own guilt addiction is still alive…

and i ain’t having it. we got no time for this. these addictions are the very thing that move the engines of injustice, fueled by fear. they work to keep us in our place.

what if we began to see shame/blame/guilt as harmful, addictive reactions?

unlike most other addictions, these addictions are performed on a social stage to project positive representations of who we are. i’ll admit there have been times when i felt compelled to play the “guilt card” to illustrate how woke i wanted to be perceived, how good intentioned i was. it wasn’t that i didn’t, in fact, feel guilty about my white “privilege” (more on that “privilege” in another blog post…) but i felt a sense of duty to proclaim it loud and clear. in a way, guilt can serve as a badge of honor.

and in this way, it reifies the very system that we are advocating against: a system of us vs them.

if we began to see shame/blame/guilt as harmful addiction reactions, might we have more courage to lean into the sharp points? to see things as they are and make a different choice? a choice that invites change, growth, relationship?

“lean into the sharp points” —Chogyam Rinpoche

wtf

these days are full uncertainty. full of witnessing those who are disadvantaged being disadvantaged. full of sacrificing the many for the fewer of us. full of enjoying privilege at the cost of those marginalized. full of interconnectedness, globally.

in many ways, nothing has changed.

and so much has. we can’t reach out and touch those we love without a second-guess. we can’t participate in the daily routines that have filled our days. we can’t gather today with other humans in the ways we have. we can’t rely on the systems to serve in the ways they have (for some of us). we can’t “do right” in the same ways we have.

can we just hold a collective wtf? i want to hold this together. i want to whisper it, then scream it, then utter it over and over and over again. and then maybe again.

i want to hold the wtf and feel it deep in my bones, in my gut. i want to weep and wail and rage against it. WTF?

wtf is happening? wtf are we doing? wtf have we done to get to this point? wtf do we want to be? wtf am i? (yeah, that last one: who tf?)

there are no answers, for now. there’s no way to know where we will be “after”. there’s no way to predict or plan or prepare.

we can be present. if we choose. and “wtf” is a key into that presence.

here’s a bit of wisdom: “somehow someone needs to finally encourage us to be inquisitive about this unknown territory and about the answerable questions of what’s going to happen next…in that awkward, ambiguous moment is our own wisdom mind. Right there in the uncertainty of everyday chaos is our own wisdom mind.” (pema chodron, “when things fall apart“)

so…let’s be inquisitive and hold the answerable questions. can we hold it together?

it feels so impossible to do. to simply hold that question.

we want to turn away. solve the problems. fix the shit. it hurts too much to be with it.

wtf?

dis-ease

this pandemic is a big ole mirror, reflecting back to us the truth of who we are–the good, the bad, the ugly. one of the reflections is of our broken, inequitable systems that favor some while harming others. there is disproportionate harm being done based on these systems that we’ve created, upheld, and participated in. for some, this is nothing new–a truth lived and well known.

for others, this is a hard truth and one we want to turn away from. and in turning away, a question that is asked is, “what can i do?” this question is human. this question is valuable. especially in crisis. there are needs that must be met. now.

and this question of “what can i do?” keeps us from asking other questions. it keeps us in the same pattern of response. the kind of response that maintains status quo where there are fixers and those being fixed. and even now, under lockdown, we are reacting with doing and doing and doing…virtualizing our lives.

i’m wondering, how might we generate a different response?

how can some of us in this system hold sacred space and resources to generate a different kind of response to this crisis? one that might sow the seeds for a different future? set our course on a different path?

it will require some of us to take a good look in the mirror. to be uncomfortable. to experience dis-ease.

there is great suffering. there is great sadness. great grief. and there will be more. much more, i am afraid. and we must bear witness. and some of us will experience the suffering more than others–as is always the case. this will hurt, too, knowing that some will be sacrificed. as is always the case. and if we bear witness, perhaps it will mean something different. can we pay attention? can we stay awake? so that we can generate a different response?

and what might like this response even look like?

as our economy has been halted, there’s been opportunity to experience a different form of economy emerge–moving from market/transactional to a more relational/gift economy–where friends are creating with friends offerings to the world, where neighbors labor for neighbors. these experiences offer me inspiration as i imagine other possibilities, other responses.

as i look into this mirror myself, i see that in my commitment to generating a different response, i am still holding onto habitual responses. even as my family is quarantined at home–my three children and middle-school principal hubby–it has taken two weeks for a slow integration of all my/our “selves”. the lines between “work” and “family” and “personal” and “professional” were more solid than i realized. as these boundaries dissolve away, i’m slowing learning to weave into my mothering and family life all the pieces of myself, to stop relying on the school to teach my children, my church to spiritually form my kiddos, for the system to care for my family. as a white, privileged human, i am beginning to feel ownership and responsibility of my life in a whole different way…a different response is beginning to stir within me and manifest into the chaotic, messy days that are unfolding, in our home.

there are things that need to be done as we face this pandemic, yes.

and mama earth, spirit, has gifted many of us most privileged and resourced with the order to freakin’ stay at home, sit our asses down, and look in the mirror.

my prayer is that we can truly receive this gift.

and generate a gift, new life, in turn.

hidden wounds

inspired by reading wendell berry’s “the hidden wound”, again. this book, written by berry in 1970 is so rich and still so resonant. this weekend, in a community of practice committed to racial healing and spiritual liberation, we shared reflections on our awakenings to our collective “hidden wounds”. while we were specifically looking at the hidden wounds of white body supremacy on white bodies (both individual and corporate), these lessons are translatable to any system of domination as they are interlocking and intersecting.

“if the white man has inflicted the wound of racism upon black men, the cost has been that he would receive the mirror image of that wound into himself. as the master, or the member of the dominant race, he has felt little compulsion to acknowledge it or speak of it; the more painful it has grown, the more deeply he has hidden it within himself. but the wound is there, and it is a profound disorder, as great a damage in his mind as it is in his society.”

hurt people hurt people. this is our story. it’s the story of human civilization. and in this time of need, our own hidden wounds are getting in the way of being present, responsive, and in right relationship. and since it’s relationships that save us, we must tend to our hidden wounds.

after all, we can’t build on broken.

so, in response to our prompt with this group on saturday, “in this moment of collective healing, what are we sensing now?”, this is what arose in me:

wounds so deep that we turn away

scared, terrified

that we are not loveable

not worthy

not enough

that we are broken

and cannot be whole

all while missing the reality

that we are already

loveable, worthy, enough

our positions, our perceived power and privilege

do not determine this

our humanness does

can we let go of our power and positions and old forms that we’ve been conditioned to believe define us and hold us together…while in reality, keeping us apart? 

can we live into divine power that always already connects us, in our bounded-up, togetherness? 

let’s see.

Zion

you welcomed us home.

reminding us of who we are in this immense + brilliant universe

woven together with threads of beauty and terror

and bound by the magnitude of life

life

spilling out of the panderosa’s aging bark

kissing the flirty spangler’s wings

coarsing through the virgin river

and in the loons’ joyful jaunt downstream

captured thousands of years ago by indigenous peoples

and nourishing new life from death

finding it’s way

promising magic—always—when we awaken

and return

home

freedom

i’m reading victor frankl’s man’s search for meaning alongside howard thurman, alongside richard rohr, alongside ram dass, alongside gloría anzaldúa (cause, always). yeah, there’s quite a conversation going on inside my heart-mind! and as it always is, i’m spiraling around a question.

the relationship between freedom and form.

a while ago i wrote about a lesson from one of my teachers, jerry granelli. the teaching was “freedom is in the form”. my take away at the time was that form mattered. a lot.

the thing is, what i’m figuring out is that it’s not really about the form, per se. it’s about connecting with the sacred within us and around us so deeply that we can exist within the form–whatever that form is!–in service to the common good/life source/love/the Divine.

in my earlier post, i reflected on an exercise jerry led around a collective blues song in which the only way i knew how to be in service to our song was to close my eyes, shut it all out, and focus all my attention on the form. yeah…well. this was an important lesson for me at the time and also falls short. after all, i missed everyone’s song.

what i’m learning is that the spiritual path of liberation invites us to experience freedom within and through the forms we occupy. not in spite of them. through them.

victor frankl writes of his experience in auschwitz. the horrors he faced. the unspeakable suffering. and the profound love and sacredness that he experienced there, too. strangely, as many warriors have shared over thousands of years, it is often in times of darkness that we find light.

as i’ve continued on my spiritual path, the meaning i had once assigned to forms in my life has dulled. i’m experiencing meaning in my life differently, in different ways. i long for silence, solitude, the in-between conversations and happenings that evidence magic and mystery. the cracks in our structured days that allow a brighter light to spill out.

liberation is not determined by the form. and pulling away from one form to find liberation in another is not necessarily the answer, either. in fact, if my life experience tells me anything, it’s that i’ll replace that form with another form. and repeat.

i am learning that the deeper invitation is remembering that the source of meaning and connection and life and love resides within us, already. without condition. and to allow our attachment to the external world and all its forms and labels dissolve away.

when i put this truth in words, two pieces of resistance come up. (hello, ego! have a cup o’ tea)

first: how privileged! it’s easy to allow our attachments to the external world dissolve when we have food on the table, a roof over our heads, a sense of security/stability. yes. and the suffering that comes when these are called into question invites an inner-source of power building that gets forgotten when things are comfortable. there’s a another source of power that has nothing to do with privilege (actually, the fact that “power and privilege” has become a buzz-phrase is limiting to our understanding of power; the two do not necessarily go hand in hand).

second: to consider dissolving attachment from forms that have defined how we understand ourselves and our worlds is terrifying. on one hand, it feels like apathy, like the richness of a world that once carried so much meaning and beauty fades away. on the other hand, there is a level of dying/death that follows. who am i if i’m not (fill-in-the-blank)?

i become nobody and everybody.

and the richness unfolds in sustaining and surprising ways. the bird signaling to his friends there’s feed in the bird feeder. a friend on a job search and feeling purpose beyond it, pulling dead leaves off my fig tree, wendell. my child’s existential questioning of whether to play football (god, help me!).

i love how ram dass speaks to this! he refers to life as “somebody training” and shares his process of moving beyond “somebody”, giving up forms. AND he speaks to the importance of ALSO staying in the form. how else can we be human but to feel the pain and suffering and joy of the world?

he echoes jerry, “freedom is in the form”.

being in service to the world, we must be both in the world and not of the world.

this is what god did in taking human form in jesus. and what jerry was teaching us when he taught us the blues. bless my heart; it wasn’t about holding onto the blues’ form, as i tried so desperately to do. it was about being the blues.

practically, this meandering takes me here: how do i live a spiritually liberated life, in communion with the Divine while also an embodied white woman, mother, daughter, friend, sister, partner, justice-maker who operates in the waters of patriarchy, a never-ending pile-up of laundry, white supremacy, and a good doss of teenage attitude? how do i work for racial justice as spiritual liberation and as a white woman? how do i hold the forms that don’t mean anything and yet mean everything in shaping my humanity?

as i stumble along with these small questions, i’m grateful that ram dass also reminded me of don juan’s lesson to practice “controlled folly”, a wise guidance to do everything in the world as it is all that matters, all the while knowing it doesn’t matter at all.

yeah. i’m sittin’ with that.

because i sense that in holding both of these at once, i might taste the juiciness of liberation.

departure

departures can be sweet.

it’s too bad that departures often get a bad rap.

for sure departures signal an ending, a closing of a chapter. grief accompanies departure and fear lurks in its shadows, whispering seductions that hold us in desperately, grasping onto what was and what we are departing.

in a season of life that is offering me some big departures, i’m discovering departure as sweet, tender, loving.

liberating.

departure invites choice. and when we say yes to fear’s invitation and lean into uncertainty, we connect with our inner power. trusting ourselves births us into who we are becoming and opens up possibilities beyond our imagination.

saying yes to departure–even as we also acknowledge the grief and fear that comes with that yes–allows for a wholehearted yes to what is now and what is next.

and so i’m wondering…what if saying yes to departure is the arrival?