it’s a revolution

Sunday January 10, 2021 5:51 am

Calligraphy from Thich Nhat Hanh. Text reads: peace in oneself peace in the world
Calligraphy from Thich Nhat Hanh. Text reads: peace in oneself peace in the world

All I keep seeing and knowing again and again is to sit with it, be with the discomfort. Allow the anger and pain to arise and be with it, be in it. Care for myself enough to recognize what’s happening for me, in me, around me and bring care and compassion to myself because this is how it is now. This is what’s happening. Turn to myself with kindness, feel into my own experience and meet myself there, meet my experience with love. However it is in this moment. (A note on pronouns: “I/me” could be “you” or “they/them” could be “we/us”. Use what works.)

Check in with your self and recognize the qualities of your experience. How is it in your heart? How is it in your mind? What sensations are arising in your body? What thought forms are passing through in this moment? How is it right now? See how it is, be with how it is and generate some kindness and compassion for yourself. That’s the beginning. That’s the initiation point. Move from there. Sit in whatever is happening, allowing it, meeting it, naming it, recognizing it for what it actually is. What is true right now: not what stories you’re hearing or telling yourself. Not your ideas or beliefs. Not what you think is happening, what’s ACTUALLY HAPPENING right now in the body, at the sense gates. What sensations. Is the body hot or cold, is the heart racing or is it steady and calm, how is the breathing? What are the qualities of the breath? Is the breath cycle long and deep or short, truncated, shallow. What’s it like to take a breath? Is it easy? Is it a challenge? How is your heart, the heart beat? Is it racing, pounding, is it steady? Notice. Notice these things. Recognize what is true.

Dharma is truth.

Idgaf what you THINK or what you BELIEVE. I don’t need you to agree with me. I’m asking you what’s happening right now. Only in the body. Only at the sense gates. What do you smell, what do you see? What’s above you, behind you, below you. Look at what’s happening within, internally. Attend to experience as it is. Not your stories, not what others have convinced you to believe, not what your parents or friends say or what you saw on the internet. Your own experience. See for yourself. How is it for you right now in this moment? What are the tastes in your mouth? Does it taste like blood? Can you feel the sensation of the air on your skin? The texture of the ground or floor beneath your feet? The texture of clothing against the skin? Is it tight, restrictive, loose? Soft? Pinching somewhere? What are the sounds in your environment? Is it sirens like it is here? Is there yelling? Is there pounding at the door? Are there mobs in the streets? Are you sheltering in place, hiding under your desk like we’ve trained the children and senators to do? Maybe you can hear a gurgling stream or a peaceful fan whir, the wind in the trees nearby. Can you hear birdsong? Traffic rumble? Explosions? How is it for you right now?

Be where you are right now. Recognize what’s happening, physically. Bring this attention, this awareness to your experience. What’s happening internally in the physical body, the emotional states, what’s the quality of mind? Distracted? Concentrated? Where is your focus? Are thoughts racing? You making some plans? Fantasizing about something better, different? How is it right now? This investigation leads to a cultivation of capacity, the strength to stay with what is, whatever it is. So that you can sit still long enough to tolerate discomfort. You can tolerate uncertainty, you can tolerate hostility, fear, aggression. (Is there some reason you feel you should be immune to discomfort and uncertainty, always get your way? That could be interesting, look at that.) Build the capacity to sit with whatever arises. Joys and sorrows. Not only pain also pleasure, sublime states of joy. Anything that is possible, the whole range of experience is all right here. Can you be with it? Can you recognize it as it’s happening?

Can you allow it to unfold without trying to exert control or influence over the outcome? That’s a sticky question. Why would I want to do that gets into examining wtf you think an I is, which is a larger exploration. (Where I am, how I am, what I am, why I am, whereby I am: I am a reassuring illusion.) For now, maybe we can leave it at this idea of building tolerance, capacity. Maybe it’s possible to accept that responding from anger hurts us and hurts others. Responding from anger, responding unskillfully causes more harm than good. I’m not sure about this, just testing the idea out. Isn’t it always more skillful when responses come from a place of calm and self-care, self-compassion rather than reactivity? When we’ve allowed whatever is happening to happen, taken it all in, been able to receive it, see it, come to know it in some way before we engage with it.

Deeper investigation of the video of “Elizabeth” from “Knoxville, TN” (or is it Bowie, MD?), the one wearing a Trump flag as a cape who stormed the capitol building the other day because “it’s a revolution!” showed that she was rubbing her eyes with a sliced onion she held in that towel in her hand. Was she really maced? She gave a great performance. Lots of performances happening, lots of grifters, lots of emotion. I’m not giving my power away to any of this. I’ll choose what I get worked up about, what gets my attention and what doesn’t. I am human, so of course I have my own reactions, but I also have choices about how I respond. When we move away from pure reactivity, we have more power, more agency. We’re not as tossed about by emotional reaction or habit patterns, we can begin to decide for ourselves. Use discernment to identify an appropriate response. Sometimes the appropriate response is to do nothing.

I can’t believe I’m saying this!! I’m Mars ruled, Mercury in Aries. Believe when I tell you I can’t believe this. I like ACTION. I’m all for action: quick, direct, decisive action. Direct action gets the goods. I can’t keep my mouth shut most of the time, I truly can’t. Especially when I feel somebody’s doing wrong/being wronged. Anybody who knows me has seen. For me it’s like a volcano inside, I feel like I’m going to explode. Just saying this to say that I surprise myself hearing me preach temperance, but apparently I do now. I’m not saying do nothing. I’m not saying don’t respond. I see a lot of buddhists out here will just close their eyes, sink into a meditative state and bypass. Not about that. Fuck that. That’s not what I’m saying at all. Don’t do that, that’s bullshit. We have ethical responsibilities, moral obligations and there are karmic consequences for folks who believe in karma.

May all beings be safe and protected from harm. May all beings be happy and peaceful–free from fear, anxiety and worry. May all beings be healthy and strong. May all beings live with joy and ease. May all beings be free. I am one of all beings, may I be safe and protected from harm. May I be happy and peaceful–free from fear, anxiety and worry. May I be healthy and strong. May I live with joy and ease.

May I be able to recognize and touch the seeds of joy and happiness in myself. May I learn to identify and see the sources of anger, craving, and delusion in myself. May I know how to nourish the seeds of joy in myself every day. May I be free from attachment and aversion, but not be indifferent. May we all know peace.

(some of these metta phrases are from Thich Nhat Hanh)

MBSR winter cycle

I’ll be co-facilitating a cycle of MBSR with Jon Aaron offered online through Mindful Leader on Fridays 12-2:30 pm (EST) from February 19th through April 9th, 2021. The orientation session (required to participate in the course) will be Friday February 12th and the all-day practice session will be Sunday March 21st. Registration details available soon.

celebrate with me

Just the other day I was turned on to this Lucille Clifton poem by a colleague at work and now I’m grateful to be seeing, hearing and feeling it everywhere:

neon text reads: come celebrate with me that everyday something has tried to kill me and has failed

Inspired By “What Is Left” 2020 @brooklynhiartmachine (artists Mildred Beltre and Oasa DuVerney) in collaboration with @bricbrooklyn the installation is on view at the Prospect Park Bandshell in Brooklyn through May 2021.

won’t you celebrate with me

won’t you celebrate with me
what i have shaped into
a kind of life? i had no model.
born in babylon
both nonwhite and woman
what did i see to be except myself?
i made it up
here on this bridge between
starshine and clay,
my one hand holding tight
my other hand; come celebrate
with me that everyday
something has tried to kill me
and has failed.

Here’s a video of Ms. Clifton sharing her work:

we grieve together

Image description: abstract botanical image created from names of some of the more than 183,000 people who’ve died in the U.S. from COVID-19

Fauci debunks theories of low CDC coronavirus death toll: ‘There are 180,000-plus deaths’ in U.S.” CNBC, September 1, 2020

Covid-19 death skepticism, explained by a cognitive scientist” Vox, September 1, 2020

U.S. Coronavirus Cases Top 6 Million” New York Times, August 31, 2020

Summer offering: MBSR 7/29

Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction
Free Orientation: Wednesday July 29, 2020 | 6:30 – 9:00 pm EST
(required if you intend to register for the class)
Course Sessions: Wednesdays, August 5 – September 23, 2020 | 6:30 – 9:00 pm EST
Practice Day: Saturday, September 12, 2020 | 9:30 am – 5:00 pm EST

What is MBSR?
Originally developed for people with chronic pain, Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR)’s applications have expanded to benefit people dealing not only with serious illness but also the day to day pressures and anxieties of modern life. Research over the past 35 years indicates that a majority of people who complete the course report a greater ability to cope more effectively with short and long term stressful situations; an increased ability to relax; lasting decreases in physical and psychological pain; and, most importantly, a greater energy and enthusiasm for life.

description: Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction online with Betsy Fagin. Orientation: July 29 6:30-9 pm EST Classes: August 5-September 23 Wednesdays 6:30-9pm EST All day Practice: Saturday, September 12

What To Expect:
This course is not group therapy and it is not a healing circle. It is not offered as an alternative to traditional medical and psychological treatments, but as a complement to these approaches.

MBSR is a guided, experiential investigation into our relationships with stress and the habits of our minds. MBSR uses meditation, yoga, and inquiry to support people in relating differently to the stresses in their lives. We will practice paying attention to what arises in daily practice and together we will explore challenges and how we meet them through self-reflection and group discussion.

Participants are supported by recorded guided meditations and are expected to practice 45 minutes of formal meditation daily in addition to various informal practices. The course will be held online on the Zoom platform. To participate fully, a stable internet connection, a computer, tablet, or recent smartphone and space to participate in mindful movement exercises are required. We will be engaging in all the practices included in the in-person course.

Tuition: Sliding scale $350/$250/$150
Includes materials and practice day.
Course fees have been adjusted. Please pay at the highest level you are able to support the participation of others with greater financial need.

Free Orientation Session:
Wednesday July 29, 2020 6:30 – 9:00 pm
Zoom link will be sent upon receipt of registration.

Attendance is required at the orientation session. If this is not possible, arrange to speak with me before the first class. Register for the orientation session or the entire course below. Please feel free to reach out with any questions to double.earth.mindfulness@gmail.com.

naming the lost

Image description: burning candle flame on black background. 24 hour vigil and reading of names for those lost to COVID-19. May 20-21 2-2pm EST #NamingTheLost A 24 Hour COVID Vigil

Image description: burning candle flame on black background with white text. Text reads: 24 hour vigil and reading of names for those lost to COVID-19. May 20-21 2-2pm EST #NamingTheLost A 24 Hour COVID Vigil.

Naming The Lost / Nombrando A Los Fallecidos

For more information and to submit information about a loved one who’s died from COVID-19 visit http://namingthelost.com/

united colors

Two people walking under a billboard in an urban setting. Image on billboard is of three organs that appear to be human hearts side by side labelled "white" "black" "yellow" with the green United Colors of Benetton logo.
photo credit: Sipa Press/Rex Features

“J. Crew up in here one more time & we gon’ United Colors of Benetton all on your ass.

That’s how I dream. I understand what my mind was trying to say, lol, bad metaphor though– I never could afford one of those Benetton sweaters. That marketing though! What a beautiful vision of bright colors, diversity, access and social justice. “Benetton’s United Colors gave the brand license to embrace the full spectrum of humanity, promoting itself as diverse, fun, and playful, unlike competitors, which often appeared stark and serious.” No correlation to the products themselves, or the consumers who had the means to buy the products. Marketing is just pretend: create a vision people have feelings about and manipulate people through their feelings, driving them into the marketplace to buy more.

Instead of pretending, let’s look at what’s real, examine what’s true. Leaving behind and perhaps building upon our delightful fantasies and our faith, cultivating more rigorous inquiry into how things are. Facts not feelings. Marketing trades on people’s feelings in some of the same ways what’s happening in the U.S. politically right now does. As public health officials are being excluded from congressional hearings, we’re being asked to believe a vision created for us by people who do not have our best interests in mind.

From the Guardian, “Donald Trump is effectively abandoning a public health strategy for the coronavirus pandemic and showing a “clear willingness to trade lives for the Dow Jones”, critics say. A leaked internal White House report predicts the daily death toll from the virus could reach about 3,000 on 1 June, almost double the current tally of about 1,750, the New York Times revealed on Monday.”

It’s not cynical to think that what’s fueling the unfolding tragedy in the U.S. isn’t only a matter of lack of leadership, but an intentional focus on profit over people. (What up with Jared’s PPE stash?) Who’s benefiting from this pandemic, how specifically? Always follow the money.

I woke from the dream this morning to news that J. Crew has filed for bankruptcy. “The first national US retailer to file for bankruptcy protection.” The landscape is shifting all around us. As Jen Hofmann‘s been detailing for a long time now with the Americans of Conscience checklist, it is important to pay attention to what’s changing.

I believe in science. I want to hear facts, data, information, real questions being addressed, not emotional manipulation, fantasies, magical thinking and gaslighting. I look forward to Dr. Fauci’s testimony.

May Day

I’m having beautiful memories of May Days past. I don’t have a photo credit for this image, but remember a wonderful May Day in Union Square full of Occupy friends, the People’s Puppets, The Rude Mechanical Orchestra. This May Pole served as a reminder that all our grievances are connected, as are all of our solutions.

Fourteen years ago, I got to celebrate May Day in Padstow (Cornwall) & I have some grainy video to prove it:

Having been in isolation the last couple months, I feel a lot of longing for these crowds: the noise and laughter, feeling the drumming in the body, the singing and dancing– celebrating spring, celebrating life.

I’ve been singing these songs for decades. So grateful to the “eccentric” teacher I had in middle school who made us all sing May Day songs as we paraded over the hills, dancing and leaving flowers as gifts at the May Pole. Earth cycles are worth celebrating– we’re halfway between the spring equinox and summer solstice now. (Happy Beltane, witches!)

I found another clip from the Alan Lomax archive from 1953 with some of the lyrics of “Unite & unite.” Death, resurrection, fertility– May Day’s got it all! We all will unite in the merry morning of May. So it will be. So it is.

embodiment

I don’t often go into astrology here because it’s not everybody’s thing, but today’s Taurus new moon is joining up with Uranus as it’s squaring Saturn. That’s talking about a profoundly deep movement toward liberation & previously unimagined possibilities while confronting restriction, rules, limits, pressure, with possibly burdensome responsibility.

It’s got me thinking about embodiment, this 50th anniversary of Earth Day (lol, every day is earth day). Really being present with the transformation happening now, including the chaos, uncertainty, fear and grief that accompany it. It’s a wild ride & these bodies are our vehicles. Our physical bodies, the body of the earth. Sitting with what makes a body up.

via GIPHY

In the Satipatthana sutta, we get great instructions about how to contemplate the body internally and externally, both internally & externally at once. We attend to our breathing, the breathing body, the whole of the body being breathed. The body in different positions: sitting, walking, lying down. Attending to the ways the body inhabits and moves through space aware that our experience of moving through space is different for different bodies. There was an article in the NYTimes recently addressing this, about being a black man wearing a mask in public during this pandemic, “For Black Men, Fear That Masks Will Invite Racial Profiling.” To extend the contemplation of the body externally, contrast that to the masked and armed “protests” taking place around the country to “liberate” the states.

That’s not the kind of liberation I’m talking about when I say liberation.

How it is to be embodied in this time is unique to each individual body. We are sharing a collective experience and can talk about the collective body, but our experiences are wildly different. (There’s an insightful reflection on It’s Going Down, “All We Have Is Us: A Report From A Delivery Driver In Manhattan.”) Structural inequities are laid bare now. We’re seeing what there is to see, but how are we experiencing it in our bodies, how are we making sense of it?

The body doing activities, the body’s experience of impermanence– of arising and passing away in the body. I love the anatomical parts part of the Satipatthana myself: “in this body there are head-hairs, body-hairs, nails, teeth, skin, flesh, sinews, bones, bone-marrow, kidneys, heart, liver, diaphragm, spleen, lungs, bowels, mesentery, contents of the stomach, faeces, bile, phlegm, pus, blood, sweat, fat, tears, grease, spittle, snot, oil of the joints and urine.” (from Ven Analayo’s Satipatthana, the direct path to realization.) These detailed methods of contemplating our component parts are a highly effective way of herding our attention toward what we’re made of.

Disclosure: that’s an affiliate link. My first one ever. If anyone ever buys a book from my site, Bookshop will throw me a couple coins. Literally, it’s pennies. I want to encourage and support independent bookstores especially in these times. Bezos won’t miss your business, I promise.

These parts of ours (each part worthy of attention, worthy of love and care) are comprised of elements. “In this body there are the earth element, the water element, the fire element, the air element.” Celebrating earth day, honoring the earth, we celebrate ourselves. It’s not poetry, it’s highly practical and pragmatic. As within, so without. What are we embodying in our lives, in our bodies, in this present moment? What are we made of? What will we create with the elements we share? What’s in our hearts now? What are we capable of? How will we shape this transformation? What structures will we put in place? New moons are for planting seeds for future harvest. These are the things I’m thinking of as I do what I can to move us all closer to true freedom.

Laura from the Poetry Project asked me to share a few writing prompts from the workshop I led in the Fall, meditation in an emergency. I’m sharing them here as well, a few writing prompts to cultivate awareness of the body and practice communicating with/through embodied presence. Some ways to write when it feels like an emergency–

  • Cultivate present moment awareness– deliberate, non-judgmental, bare attention to the now. Write from that place: what you can discern through your senses right now, in this very moment? What do you see, hear, feel, taste, smell? Not thoughts or ideas, you’re the scribe of direct experience, what’s happening now? And now, and now?
  • Inhabiting that awareness, write to and from the body (personal body, body of the earth, fear body, grief body, body electric) &/or body parts.
  • Too anxious to generate new material? Write into or from (take a line, phrase, words, ideas, anything you like) this poem https://poets.org/poem/i-sing-body-electric or any other text or song that you like.
  • Anything that supports moving beyond self-focus can be a useful path through emergencies. Finding and creating flow states, for example. Flow = a state of being completely immersed in a project or learning experience that challenges us.
  • Write for 3 minutes without picking up your pen. I do mean write, not type. (I guess you could type if that’s your thing.) Try to incorporate the sensations of the writing experience into the work. (How’s your posture? How are your eyes feeling? Are you getting sweaty? Is trying to write new work stressing you out? Are you having fun yet?) Try 5 minutes.
  • Try creating: collaging, chapbook making, drawing or painting without judgement around it, simply focusing on the pleasure of the experience.
  • If none of that’s working, ask what Bernadette Mayer would do & try that: http://www.writing.upenn.edu/library/Mayer-Bernadette_Experiments.html