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.

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?

resistance is beautiful

Back in 2018, THERETHEN published a limited edition chapbook of mine called resistance is beautiful. Over the years, the poems have morphed and the chapbook became a full-length manuscript. (It’s sitting in a binder over there waiting for someone to decide to publish it.) Eventhough some of these poems were already old when they were published in 2018, I still love them. They mean different things in the current moment. The chapbook is online as a pdf linked here and from the poetry page.

masked folks carrying a banner that says "Resistance Is Beautiful.

Most importantly to me is that art serves collective liberation. To clarify, I’m not suggesting in any way that my poems had anything to do with any of this, but it pleases me all the same. Above is a photo of masked folks carrying a banner that says “Resistance Is Beautiful.” I think it’s from a protest in Charlotte, NC but can’t find a proper photo credit for it. I’ll credit itsgoingdown.org.

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.

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.

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.

Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR): 7/29/20

Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR)
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 been thoroughly researched and are well regarded. Benefits have been reported from 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 range of benefits including:

-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
-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 our 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.

virtual poetry reading

image description: store shelves stacked full of toilet paper
well stocked shelf of toilet paper will be my virtual background

I’m looking forward to my first virtual poetry reading. A week from Saturday it’s happening– on May 23rd at 5pm I’ll be reading with Alan Felsenthal as part of the Segue Reading Series‘ collaboration with Artists Space.

More info and link available here.

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