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 ❤️✌🏽😂)

we celebrate each other

We love each other, that’s what we’re here for. To alleviate suffering as best we can and to treat each other with respect, care, honor and dignity. I dreamed everybody in the neighborhood got together to celebrate Mary. Organization happens by word of mouth around here so I didn’t know it was happening until it happened. All the neighbors came out and formed a circle in the field just a ways from the building and J and someone else helped Mary walk out. She got dressed up for the occasion. It was a very big deal.

Of course it was a big deal. Making it to 93 years old is an incredibly big deal. That’s a lot of life lived. It makes you a treasure. An asset is what people call it, but how can we say that in a way that’s not wrapped up in financial systems? Elders can embody wisdom, strength, lessons learned, but the passing of time isn’t enough to confer the title. I remember how my father cringed on that retreat when people started calling him an elder. He said it himself: age doesn’t automatically confer wisdom.

Just because someone’s old doesn’t mean they’re wise. But everyone advanced in age has seen some suffering, lived through varieties of heartbreak, had all the ups and downs you can have in 90+ years and they are deserving of extra care and respect just for that. I don’t know why folks imagine themselves immune from aging and its challenges: mystery illnesses, breakdown of the body, loss of mobility, of cognitive functions. One breakdown or another happens to everyone who’s lucky enough to reach old age. We are of the nature to grow old, we cannot escape aging.

new ancestors

Toward the end of her life, Mary heard music no one else could hear. She was very thin and frail, not able to handle going up and down the marble stairs anymore, but loved connection and would hang out on the landing like a spider in her web, ensnaring anyone who passed by in conversation. It didn’t cost much to talk to her, though because her hearing was poor sometimes it took some extra effort to communicate. She told me a little about the music that drew her up toward the roof and I think it was maybe not dissimilar to the lights my maternal grandmother saw at the end of her life. Lights that were a friendly energy, spirit, angels maybe. Companionable lights no one else could see. There were threads of light, dancing.

Both of my grandmothers lived into their hundreds and managed to keep their wits about them, more or less lucid to the very end. In my last conversation with my grandmother she shared her outrage and sense of injustice, can you believe this shit? No grandma, I cannot. I truly cannot believe this shit and trust me, you got out when the getting was good. I’m so glad she didn’t have to live through what’s happening now. She made her exit in November 2019 at 103 years old.

My heart aches for the lack of dignity older folks experience in this country at the end of their lives. Losing agency, condescended to, ignored, hidden from sight. Part of the tragedy of covid is how many of our elders we’re losing. Numbed by the the enormity of our losses we’re even losing the capacity to mourn, to grieve together, to share ceremony honoring those who’ve passed. We need to celebrate each other.

celebrate each other

A couple years back, in our neighborhood we had a funeral for the hamster of a kid in the building next door. People from different buildings all came out, we had a moment of silence, said a few words honoring its life and its contributions and it was buried in the park, sticks for grave markers. R played Taps on his phone. The kid cried and cried and adult neighbors stood by respectfully.

Part of me thought it was too much, but another part of me was honored to participate, grateful to share in holding space for the child. He had loved. He lost a good friend. His heart was aching. We were paying respect to the life lost, to the love, to all of it. Honoring their connection to each other, the love and joy present between them, as well as our connections with each other. As we celebrate each other, we celebrate life itself

We’ll die too. All of us will die. What will happen then to the ones we love that are left behind? Ceremony is important. Me saying it doesn’t make it so, but I hope maybe people can feel it by now. We need to grieve. And not only in isolation, feeling like we bear this suffering alone. Some things are too much to bear alone. We need to feel our pain and allow it to move through us, transforming us in the process.

Grief and helplessness and rage, we’re not in charge of those feelings or how they manifest in us– when they arise and pass, but we can create space internally to allow them to be present, to be with them for as long as they need and then when ready, they will continue to flow. Uncried tears are poison. Denied anger and grief, poison. It’s essential that it be honored and respected because it is there, it’s part of this life, this being human. Allow it to clear you out, burn you to the ground if need be. Not because you like it, but just because it’s happening.

in it together

Some things are just too much to bear alone. We need each other for this. That’s what the ceremony was. The boy cried and it was ok to cry because we were there with him, holding space. Honoring and allowing and supporting him in all his expressions. That is love too. The collective mourning that’s necessary now to integrate the experience of this pandemic and all the losses it’s brought us is more than my mind can conceive of. I know we need each other to bear it. None of this is meant for anyone alone. It’s not personal.

P noted wisely that the great anthem isn’t called “I shall overcome,” it’s “We shall overcome.” And folks weren’t singing it because they felt happy or confident in victory. Rather, it’s much more likely they felt beat down and devastated by all the violence, hatred and loss on all sides. But there’s such a thing as being held by the collective (many hands make light work) and a place where faith can come in to support as well. (Don’t call it faith if that word bothers you, call it something else like determination. Maybe even just intention would do.)

dWhat kind of life do you want to live? What kind of relationships do you want to have? How do you want to be treated? What world would you like to live in? A culture of care? A place where there’s room for us to celebrate each other and all that is. Good, because that’s what we’re doing now. Welcome aboard, thanks for joining us.

“We Shall Overcome” from Pete Seeger’s 90th Birthday Concert (Clearwater Concert), Madison Square Garden, 5/3/09. Featuring: Pete Seeger, Emmylou Harris, Joan Baez, Toshi Reagon, Bernice Johnson Reagon, Tao Rodriguez-Seeger, Billy Bragg, Keller Williams, Ani DiFranco, Ruby Dee, Preservation Hall Jazz Band, New York City Labor Choir.

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.

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

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. 😍