September

I was thrilled to see this image for September in my calendar from Nikki McClure. I love everything about it: LIBERATE, all the books… Perfectly aligned for me with the time now. September marks my official return to the library world. I’m so happy to be back in the library where I belong. Most of the work I do in the world is related to helping people find the resources they need. It’s beautiful to see it illustrated in this way, LIBERATE. Finding freedom, finding a way out of no way, finding inspiration, finding tools and information, finding what’s needed, finding resource.

September from Nikki McClure's 2021 calendar. Image description: black and white image of books stacked floor to ceiling against yellow backdrop with a person in the distant center gazing at them, standing on yellow ground.
September from Nikki McClure‘s 2021 calendar
Image description: black and white image of books stacked floor to ceiling
against yellow backdrop with a person in the distant center gazing at them, standing on yellow ground.

I was talking with friends yesterday about the differences between doing our soul work/heartwork/living our dharma: being on the path, being in alignment– it’s called many different things– and doing what we have to do to survive. The differences between what that heartwork is and what we do to survive as physical beings living within a system of Capitalism.

My life’s work, my heart’s work isn’t always what I do to help pay the bills, to put food on the table. I think for a long time I thought that it had to be. Like if I was truly living my truth, committed to my spiritual path I would only do work that matched that ideal. Like if I was doing anything other than teaching yoga and meditation and writing poems it was defeat/failure/sell out. Why did I think that? Where did that idea come from?

Meaningful work

Right livelihood doesn’t mean having to extract enough payment for my own survival from the things that I love. That takes the joy out, infects love with some desperation and anxiety for me. It seemed cool to make a living doing the things I love and value, why wouldn’t I want that? More power to folks who make enough money doing the things they love to survive and thrive. It doesn’t always happen though. I think it may actually be quite rare.

What happened for me with poetry years ago (why I never wanted to teach, why I dropped out of the scene a bit) has recently happened again with dharma and mindfulness practices. They are vital to me, essential for my own thriving and liberation AND I cannot have them coupled with my physical survival. I can’t have my ability to eat and pay bills and care for my family dependent on whether people want to read my poems, buy my books or sign up for my classes.

It’s possible that I suck at marketing or I haven’t tried hard enough– that may be true. Also, I prefer not to. I don’t want to have to hustle in the marketplace to share tools for liberation. What I am doing right now is feeling immense gratitude that another path opened up for me. I get to fall back on another of my loves: libraries. I’m grateful to have options. I know not everyone does. I appreciate how lucky I am to have many loves.

Love

Anybody who knows me knows how I love me some libraries. They have been essential to my own survival and liberation in a way that’s not so different from dharma. In fact, there’s a lot of crossover the way I see it. I was comparing insight dialogue with informational interviews and they’re not all that different: pause, relax, open, attune to emergence, listen deeply, speak the truth… Helping people identify the questions beneath the question, what they’re really asking, what the need is. (Not so different from Nonviolent Communication either, come to think of it.) The adventure of setting out on a path of discovery, of finding out for yourself what’s needed, what’s true. (Ehipassiko, see for yourself.)

Worldly concerns

It’s been ten years since I was last a librarian: librarian as role, task, job, identity. I was one of the librarians at Occupy Wall Street and it felt important and transformative. As much as I tried to stay off the radar, I did get some attention for it and just like the Buddha taught, I was tossed by the worldly winds: where some people praised me, invited me to speak at their conferences and gave me awards, others blamed me, attacked me, sent me hate mail and stalked me. While some people loved the People’s Library and were inspired by it, some took offense. Whether it was objectively true or not I felt low-key blacklisted in the library world because of my participation. I didn’t/couldn’t get another library job until just now: ten years later.

The air outside is getting a little bit cooler, it’s chilly at night. NYC public school starts tomorrow. September finds me digging out my cardigans, adjusting my glasses and totally giddy about the opportunity to be back in the library again helping people find what they need. Whether folks are looking for liberation, looking to transform oppressive systems or just looking for the bathrooms, I’m happy to help and grateful for the opportunity.

Fall MBSR offerings

Beginning next month, Fall offerings are available. I’m offering two cycles of the 8-week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) course online.

Thursday evenings: September 9th through October 28th 6-8:30 pm EST
Friday afternoons: September 10th through October 29th 12-2:30 pm EST

The practice day for both sections will be on Sunday October 17th 9am -5pm.

What is MBSR? Originally used with patients experiencing chronic pain, MBSR has been of enormous benefit to people in addressing everything from routine daily stress to stress experienced as overwhelming. The majority of people who complete the 8-week program have reported a range of positive results from increased coping ability and decreased pain levels to greater energy and more joy.

MBSR online with Betsy Fagin Sept 9- Oct 28, 2021.

Through a variety of formal and informal mindfulness practices, participants will learn to bring awareness to thoughts, feelings, and bodily sensations to cultivate the resources necessary to move through stress and reactivity with greater presence and ease. Creating opportunities for space and flexibility in order to respond to life more fully.

MBSR online with Betsy Fagin Sept 10- Oct 29, 2021.

I’ll give more detailed information about MBSR’s history and an overview of the course in the free orientation sessions. There’s also more information available here. Attendance at an orientation session for these Fall offerings is required to participate in the course. Orientations will take place Thursday September 2nd 6-8:30 pm EST and Friday September 3rd 12:2:30 pm EST.

Pricing

There are many things to consider in establishing a pricing scale. I value the course highly and have seen the benefits of the practice in my own life and in the lives of many others. For that reason, I want to make it available to as many people as possible. I also value my own time, training and have life costs that need to be met. Balancing these considerations, I’m currently offering tiered pricing for the 8-week course on par with other offerings in NYC. Fees (including materials and all-day retreat) are $600 – $500 – $400.

Paying at the supporting side of the scale subsidizes those who may not otherwise have access to the course. Please reach out if the regular pricing tiers are not accessible to you right now. I offer at least one free space per course, based on need.

To register for the course or attend the free orientation session, contact me at double.earth.mindfulness@gmail.com.

Five remembrances: “I will grow different”

Mornings start with precepts (mine are a little less traditional) and evenings end with recollections or chanting if I can stay up late enough. Naturally, not every day– I won’t front– but most of the time. Way back when I first encountered the 5 recollections (or remembrances) years ago I made a note in my phone so I could have them at hand at any time.

Upajjhatthana Sutta

Thanissaro Bhikkhu’s translation of the Upajjhatthana Sutta starts, “There are these five facts that one should reflect on often, whether one is a woman or a man, lay or ordained. Which five?” Here are the five I have in my phone, 5 Remembrances:

1: I am of the nature to grow old. There is no way to escape growing old.

2: I am of the nature to have ill-health. There is no way to escape ill-health.

3. I am of the nature to die. There is no way to escape death.

4: All that is dear to me and everyone I love are of the nature to change. There is no way to escape being separated from them.

5: My actions are my only true belongings. I cannot escape the consequences of my actions. My actions are the ground on which I stand.

IRL

During sangha last night these remembrances were brought up and they really hit me in a different way. Although I’ve been practicing with them for years, but somehow the languaging I heard last night shifted my experience of them. Noting the difference between “there is no way to escape” old age/illness/death and “I have not gone beyond” old age/illness/death. Subtle, but profound. “I have not gone beyond” really zaps exceptionalism right out of the picture. Me up here secretly thinking sickness, old age, and death just happen to other people…

#4 I used to bludgeon myself with. Truly. Like brutalizing myself with imaginings of loss and separation in an attempt to steel myself against future pain. Last night was the first time I felt into the fact that it’s not just everyone outside of me, everyone and everything I love having the nature to change, I’m included in that too. Aspects of myself that were dear to me, things I thought were essential, that I identified with have changed: beliefs, habits, attitudes. I’m not the person I was. And that’s not all loss, it could be growth or just change. Transformation to make it sound more dramatic.

Further, the sutta goes into greater depth, (‘I will grow different, separate from all that is dear and appealing to me’) exploring what it all might mean, how it shows up in life once we start reflecting on these remembrances regularly.

#5 has always been my favorite. I am the owner of my actions and the heir to my actions. “I am not the only one who is owner of my actions, heir to my actions, born of my actions, related through my actions, and have my actions as my arbitrator…whatever I do, for good or for evil, to that will I fall heir.” LOVE it.

belonging

It’s got me looking at belonging differently. Belonging’s a whole thing for me, a very hot topic that I can go off on at great length. I really like conceiving of it in this way. My actions are my only true belongings. My only companions.

Eventhough I find that I don’t experience belonging in the ways I usually hear it talked about. I don’t much belong to my identities, for instance, or any particular lineage or location because they’re always changing, always shifting. If anything I belong in motion, being motion. I belong in love, being love. Centrally, for me, mornings start with precepts and they also start with locating myself. Finding the directions, I reach out to ancestors and future generations. Locating myself in space time, in dimensional space, in history. I find center, find ground and move from there. In fact, I have to do this every day because it’s always changing. We are of the nature to change.

tl;dr

So I made some little videos for the 5 remembrances because that’s how I do. Don’t get mad. Video 1 is for recollections 1-3, video 2 is for recollections 4 and 5. (Although playback’s a little clunky on phones, it seems to flow pretty well on computers.)

1: I am of the nature to grow old. There is no way to escape growing old.

2: I am of the nature to have ill-health. There is no way to escape ill-health.

3. I am of the nature to die. There is no way to escape death.

4: All that is dear to me and everyone I love are of the nature to change. There is no way to escape being separated from them.

5: My actions are my only true belongings. I cannot escape the consequences of my actions. My actions are the ground on which I stand.

Also I always loved #5 because it reminds me of The Smiths’ “How Soon Is Now.” Judge me. Idc. I am the owner of my karma, heir to my karma, my actions are the ground on which I stand.

april was the cruellest

It was T.S. Eliot who noticed it first, that “April is the cruellest month” or at least he was the first one to bother writing it down. From “The Waste Land“:

“April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain…”

pink roses
pink roses

For the first time in years I missed a month. Usually I get at least one post up per month and I just noticed missing April. Here are some scenes from May before life rushes by and I don’t notice it happening or bother to comment on it here.

light and dark purple lilacs in glass vase
“lilacs out of the dead land”

new light

old lamps

Until recently the park was filled with these beautiful lamps. If you zoom in you can see details in the metalwork. The light cast was a sometimes flickery yellow orange. In the past few days all the lamps in the park have been replaced with LED lights that cast a dim but very uniform light through the park at night. The consistency of it, the lack of flickering and warmth feels a bit antiseptic. Lighting is important, worth putting thought into.

I’m sad to lose the detail on the lamps and the moody inconsistent lighting. I’m sure it has something to do with cost, “public safety”. Grateful to have a park, light in the park, folks out here maintaining it all.

new lamps

I haven’t read or heard anything about this, I’ve just watched them replacing all the lights from the front window. At night the difference is incredible. It’s been foggy recently making it even more eery.

It’s been more than a year in this apartment looking out the window without much contact with the world. I love my neighborhood and have enjoyed watching changes unfold as winter turns to spring–forsythia, daffodils, squirrel activity– these lights are going to take some getting used to though.

I’m really looking forward to some retreat time in April. Needing a bit more resource to meet the moment skillfully, gratefully with a (mostly) open heart. Maybe these new lights herald change, light the way.

registration open

Registration is now open for the winter cycle of MBSR I’ll be offering with Jon Aaron through Mindful Leader.

From February 19, 2021 – April 9, 2021
8 Fridays from 12:00 pm – 2:30 pm (EST)
Practice Day: Sunday, March 21, 9:00 am – 5:00 pm
Free Orientation: Friday, February 12, 12:00 pm – 2:30 pm
(required if you intend to register for the class)

Tuition: $723 – $297 includes materials and Practice Day
There are a limited number of partial scholarships

Registration is now open on the Mindful Leader website.

it’s a revolution

Sunday January 10, 2021 5:51 am You say you want a revolution? It’s a revolution alright. 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. Above all, 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.)

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

can you allow it?

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? Are there sirens like here? Is there yelling? Any 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? However it is, it’s a revolution. Revolution is turning, is change, is transformation. Impermanence makes sure that it’s a revolution in every single moment.

this very moment

Being where you are right now. Recognizing 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.

In order that you may be able to 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? Is it possible to you recognize it as it’s happening?

Perhaps you can 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. Not only because responding from anger, responding unskillfully causes more harm than good. I’m not totally sure about this, just testing the idea out. But 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. The one 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. Of course, I am human, so 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.

from reaction to response

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.

Perhaps I’m just saying this to say that I surprise myself hearing me preach temperance, but apparently I do now. (It is a revolution.) 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

Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction online with Betsy Fagin & Jon Aaron February 19 - April 9, 2021

I’ll be co-facilitating a cycle of MBSR with Jon Aaron soon. 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. The all-day practice session will be Sunday March 21st. Registration details available soon.

eclipse season

Today’s Gemini full moon/lunar eclipse launches us into eclipse season again. I’m always excited about that and even more so about the Great Conjunction next month: Saturn/Jupiter at 0º Aquarius. I don’t tend to post too much here about astrology, but December 21, 2020 is the beginning of the future. A new era. May it be so.

When I was a kid my parents had an album from The Fifth Dimension laying around & I remember loving this song before I ever learned anything about astrology. (I hope the youtube gods let me embed this video, because check out these outfits!!) Mystic crystal revelations? The mind’s true liberation? YES!! Sign me up!

Eclipse season is upon us and whether you’re into astrology or not, I’m looking forward to knowledge, ideals and communication shaping the next 200 years, releasing the emphasis on material possessions, consumerism, division, strife. May the culture of care so many of us have been working toward manifesting finally blossom, bear fruit. Our roots already run deep.

end of summer

lockdown life has me remembering fondly the time I got to run around in the woods a few weeks back. feels like ages ago. I love the picture and love remembering the time. I smiley out my companion for anonymity’s sake. 😍