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.

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

why do you want to apologize?

Apology Lab was deep. It was moving to be with so many folks ready & willing to explore vulnerability and undertake the process of accountability with themselves & their communities.

image of flowers. text reads: accountability is a practice, not an end

From lab notes, “Accountability is a practice not an end and it is a continuous process rather than an individual act.”

The work in the Apology Lab was based on Mia Mingus‘ framework of accountability.

She separates the accountability process into four parts: self-reflection, apologizing, repair and behavior change.

Read all about it on her blog & help build a culture of right relationship. Part one of her essay “How to give a good apology” is here and part two is here.

how to give a good apology

I’m honored to support the NYC Transformative Justice Hub by offering guided meditation and holding space at their event Saturday January 25th (noon to 5 pm) at Judson Memorial Church, Assembly Room (239 Thompson St, New York, NY 10012). Wheelchair accessible, childcare available. Although How To Give a Good Apology is currently *sold out*, if you are a BIQTPOC (Black, Indigenous, Queer, Trans Person of Color) who would like to attend this event, please email NYCTJHub at nyctjhub@gmail.com to learn more about community tickets.

How to give a good apology, description from the NYC TJHub website: “This political education workshop will consider the opportunities and challenges of offering a sincere and meaningful apology.

Drawing on decades of work done by Just Practice and the Bay Area Transformative Justice Collective, this workshop will offer tools and practices for addressing harm we’ve inflicted and cultivating space for healing by making a good apology. For those of us working towards liberation, taking responsibility for harm that we cause is an opportunity to practice accountability and community nurturance. Instead of avoiding conflict and the wounds we’ve caused within our communities and movement spaces, we can learn to sit with our own complicated emotions, discern what responsibility is ours to take, and offer an apology without any expectations of others.

Light refreshments, vibe checkers + healing justice practice guides will be available.”

More information about NYC Transformative Justice Hub is available here: https://nyctjhub.com/public_events.html

right relations

credit: Lisa Mackie

I’ve been having lots of conversations lately about what being in right relationship looks like: what accountability is and isn’t, what being in community means. I believe we all must be responsible for for our actions as well as our inactions, answering not only to ourselves, and others, but to all our relations, the earth, other living beings we share the earth with, ancestors, and future generations. One of the guidelines I use in my workshops carries over into the rest of my life: honor the intention, own the impact.

Good intentions aren’t enough. Good intentions have never been enough, not in terms of interpersonal relationships, not in terms of political action. Recognizing how those intentions translate into action and what the consequences of those actions (or inactions) are, is essential to creating relationships of balance, care and trust. It’s painful, difficult work acknowledging harm we’ve caused and ways we’ve failed, but we all have been harmed and we all cause harm, why pretend otherwise? Naming this not as an opportunity for judgement or blame, but in an effort to turn toward the difficult. Being present with the many varieties of suffering without turning away.

Acknowledging the widespread suffering in the world in this time, I endeavor to alleviate what suffering I can by cultivating my own practices of mindfulness, compassion and equanimity and living my own commitment to be of service when and where I am able. I find that action is a practical remedy for overwhelm and despair. I hope that my choices and actions are impactful in beneficial ways for all involved.

Sharing here some resources from Buddhist Action Coalition (adapted from Upaya Zen Center) that offer opportunities to demonstrate care and compassion, make efforts to restore balance, bring us back into harmony. Knowing that all of our struggles are connected, here are some things we can do right now around immigration:

1. Educate ourselves and our communities
Learn about the root causes of migration and displacement from Central America and Southern Mexico (hint: 90% crop failure in parts of Central America due to climate change, destabilized governments). Learn about the US immigration system: DHS, ICE, CBP, and how the mismanagement of these organizations is causing chaos. Here’s a great article to begin: “Just Keep Going North

2. Donate to community bail funds
Reunite detained parents with their children by helping post their bail: Fronterizx Fianza Fund and National Bail Fund Network.

3. Volunteer and support immigrant organizations and organizations advocating for and/or providing legal services to asylum seekers
New Sanctuary Coalition
New York Immigration Coalition
Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center
Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services
Immigrant Families Together
Al Otro Lado

4. Call your Congressperson!
Call your Congressperson and tell them to defund, to not vote for additional funding for DHS and ICE (or ask them to abolish DHS). This ACLU page will route you directly to your congressperson and includes a script.

5. Donate to organizations providing emergency aid (food and water!) to refugees
South Texas Human Rights Center
Team Brownsville: Humanitarian Assistance for Asylum Seekers (Texas)
Colores United-Refugee Shelter (Deming, New Mexico)
No Más Muertes (Arizona)
International Rescue Committee

6. Know your rights
Everyone in the US, regardless of immigration status, has certain rights and protections under the US Constitution. These ready-to-print cards (in different languages) help people assert their rights and defend themselves in many situations, such as when ICE agents go to a home. Please share these cards widely.

liberation not equality

It’s pride month again and with it, lots of celebration, some grieving, and corporate exploitation/rainbow capitalism – the usual. This year marks Stonewall 50 with people descending on NYC from all corners to mark the occasion of World Pride.

World Pride NYC / Stonewall 50 promises to be the city’s biggest pride yet – more cops, more barricades, more corporate sponsors! If that’s your thing, enjoy it from noon on Sunday June 30 at 26th Street & 5th Avenue in NYC.

I’ll be somewhere along the route of the alternative march. Reclaim Pride Coalition‘s put together a queer liberation march that retraces the original route from the Christopher Street Liberation Day March of 1970 from Sheridan Square up 6th Avenue with a stop in Bryant Park culminating in Central Park. Route details and information about volunteering available here.

My friend Bill Dobbs (who’s being honored by the National Lawyers Guild next week) told me about video from one of the early marches. Here’s some footage from Gay Pride 1971 in Central Park. (I like the moment – around 5:49 – when a white woman realizes she might be a little uptight. lol.)

Happy Pride. May all beings be happy, safe & free.

Here is Reclaim Pride’s Why We March:

We March in our communities’ tradition of resistance
against police, state, and societal oppression,
a tradition that is epitomized and symbolized by the 1969 Stonewall Rebellion.

We March against the exploitation of our communities for profit
and against corporate and state pinkwashing, as displayed in Pride celebrations worldwide, including the NYC Pride Parade.

We March in opposition to transphobia, homophobia, biphobia,
racism, sexism, xenophobia, bigotry based on religious affiliation, classism, ableism, audism, ageism, all other forms of oppression,
and the violence that accompanies them in the U.S. and globally.

We March for an end to individual and institutional expressions of hate and violence
as well as government policies that deny us our rights and our very lives,
from the NYPD to ICE, from the prison industrial complex to state repression worldwide.

We March to oppose efforts that deny our communities’ rights
and that brutally erase queer people worldwide.

We March against domestic and global neoliberalism and the ascendance of the far right,
against poverty and economic inequality, against U.S. military aggression,
and against the threat that is climate change.

We March to affirm that healthcare is a right,
including treatment for all people with HIV/AIDS worldwide and intensive prevention efforts,
and to demand an end to HIV stigma and criminalization.

We are trans, bisexual, lesbian, gay, queer, intersex, asexual, two-spirit,
non-binary, gender non-conforming + and allies.

We March to celebrate our communities and history,
in solidarity with other oppressed groups,
and to demand social and economic justice worldwide—we March for Liberation!