what’s a blog for anyway?

It’s a quarter moon today, time to make some choices. What’s a blog even for if not for me to pour all the writing into? I’ve been woefully underutilizing this space. When I look at old posts it’s like I never wrote books or helped build a library at Occupy Wall Street or studied and practiced dharma and yoga for years. This site makes me look brand new. Maybe instead of burning journals and giving up on dusty manuscripts I should just start posting it all here. I keep seeing this quotation floating around online. It’s attributed to Philip Pullman, but I haven’t verified that myself–

"After nourishment, shelter and companionship, stories are the thing we need most in the world." Philip Pullman
Text reads, “After nourishment, shelter and companionship, stories are the thing we need most in the world.” Philip Pullman

I’ve been writing essays for at least the last six months. What’s a writer to do in pandemic quarantine but keep on writing? That’s what I did, slowly shedding poetry for whole sentences, even paragraphs. I’m no novel writer, but I’ve got a lot of opinions about a lot of things that I mostly keep my mouth shut about in a feeble attempt at right speech. Right speech certainly can’t mean staying silent all the time though, can it? That’s not right or wise for me.

I went to one of my favorite astrologers (who seems to know what a blog is for) to make sure I’m not making it up about this quarter moon tension I’m feeling and got hit directly with a patreon post. Maybe that’s the answer. Every writer must know the tenderness and vulnerability involved in exposing true inner thoughts to the world. There’s always some fear for me about judgement and rejection and imminent attack. Worldly winds will blow though, what is there to fear really? Mostly I can’t bear the pressure of having all this writing, all these poems and essays and journals just piling up. I’ve reached some kind of tipping point. Put it online or put it into the fire.

take the poll: what’s a blog for? more writing? announcements only?

If anybody out there reads this besides my mother, please chime in. She already read my journals when I was a kid. Maybe you’d like to read them also? Patreon memberships for journal entries maybe, random posts about whatever is crossing my mind on any given day: political intrigue, insights into non-monogamy/poly living, vitriol about poetry communities and dharma centers. Could be anything! Chime in here or hit me up by email. Right now I’m open to suggestions.

more writing on the blog? yeah or nah?

Last quarter Pisces moon square Gemini sun. Just sit with the questions I guess. Investigate further. Maybe I don’t need to keep it all to myself or dump it all over the internet. Could there be another way?

relative and absolute: 70s candy

Sebene posed some interesting questions about how we’re experiencing relative reality/absolute reality and I can’t articulate in words right now my experience in a way that doesn’t operate inside of a binary, sounding like an opposition. That’s not how it feels to me. All day long we can talk about both/and and paradox, but it literally is, at some point, the actual same thing in my experience. There’s this convergence. How to talk about this?

The closest I can get is two sides of the same coin where the coin isn’t an object but a portal where each bleeds into and through the other. Normally I keep these kinds of thoughts to myself, but I’ve made a commitment to showing up in a more engaged way so I’ll just put this here for now. It’s on my mind. Holler if you’ve got thoughts to share. The only other way I’ve been able to conceive of it is like candy from the 70s:

Where chocolate = relative reality and peanut butter = absolute reality. Or the other way around. Perfectly absorbed in their own experience, headphones on, oblivious to everything else around them. I guess this works for now. (lol @walking around eating a tub of peanut butter, I mean absolute – we’re all one ❤️✌🏽😂)

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)

celebrate with me

Just the other day I was turned on to this Lucille Clifton poem, “Won’t you celebrate with me” 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

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.

untethered grief

May 5, 2020 2:18 am I’ve been up half an hour at least because L was silent screaming in her sleep– fair enough response. Mourning rippling through the collective. We should all be screaming at the top of our lungs now (those of us who can). This is a nightmare we’re living in, a fucking nightmare.

I keep pondering the absolute lack of ritual. There’s zero collective mourning happening. Next to none. I see Lincoln Center with Union Theological is hosting concerts every week. I see facebook has added a couple emojis to indicate CARE. Individuals light real and virtual candles, but where are the altars, the shrines, the tributes? Where can we cry out, shake out, celebrate the lives of those who’ve passed, move grief through our bodies? Savage Remix ain’t it. It’s bothering me.

Responding to a twitter post from Kristin Rawls, the importance of collective mourning has been gnawing at me.

collective mourning

Grief– this grief– is collective. Treating it as an isolated experience, compartmentalizing it as individual suffering isn’t just wrong, it’s lies. That’s not the truth of how things are.

One of the many lessons we learn in opening our hearts is that all beings are connected not only through love and joy, but also profoundly connected through pain. Recognizing our connectedness in suffering is one of the ways we can recognize our common humanity. Fronting like we must bear the enormity of this pain alone is an offense– a moral offense and an affront to our humanity.

Reading the above twitter thread, there were many folks who wrote that they didn’t want to acknowledge all the suffering of this moment because it’s still unfolding, it’s not over yet. It reminded me of what Bhikkhu Bodhi wrote, “the Buddha says that there are few who are stirred by things that are truly stirring, compared to those people, far more numerous, who are not so stirred. The spurs to awakening press in on us from all sides, yet too often, instead of acknowledging them, we respond simply by putting on another layer of clothes to protect ourselves from their sting.” (Meeting the Divine Messengers)

Death is considered one of the four heavenly messengers in Buddhism, offering us opportunities to reflect deeply, re-evaluate our lives. Confronted with the mass death we’re surrounded with in this moment, it makes sense to me that “we must make drastic changes in our existential priorities and personal values. Instead of letting our lives be consumed by transient trivia, by things that are here today and gone tomorrow, we must give weight to “what really counts” (Meeting the Divine Messengers)

Moving forward, we need care and nurturance built into the very systems that support society. Care and connection– acknowledging our interbeing must be centered in the framework of our societal structures. They’re not now. Not here. Right now we’re still collectively operating out of this myth of the solitary hero, the lone wolf, all those pick yourself up by the bootstraps narratives– it’s all lies based on an outmoded worldview of power over, of us vs. them, of exploitation for profit, of individual vs. collective freedom.

Those times are behind us. I see building power with, all of us together, a culture of nurturance and care. Moving forward we build together, we care for each other, we mourn losses together acknowledging that all belong, all are worthy, all are loved– all beings above and below, seen and unseen, heard and unheard, living, passed and yet to be born.
All beings without exception. No one left out.

some reading:

Rebellious Mourning, Cindy Millstein ed.
“The Opposite of Rape Culture is Nurturance Culture,” Nora Samaran
We’re Still Living and Dying in the Slaveholders’ Republic,” Ibram X. Kendi

Those We’ve Lost, The New York Times
Faces of the Dead, The Washington Post
Mourning America

embodiment

I’m thinking about 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.

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.

Feliz Dia De La Tierra / Happy Earth Day

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. Our embodiment impacts our experiences. 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.

Embodiment 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?

Embodied experience

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. How does embodiment show up in our lives, in our bodies, in this present moment? What are we made of? Imagining what will we can create with the elements we share. What’s residing in our hearts now? What are we capable of? How will we shape this transformation? What structures will we put in place? How do we manifest the embodiment of our ideals, bring feeling and aspiration into form? 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.

Cultivating embodied awareness

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–

Writing prompts

  • 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