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. 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.

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

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.

lifting rocks

Is there a better advertisement for the cultivation of mindfulness practices than the latest Star Wars installment, The Last Jedi? Luke’s final showdown!!?! Brilliant.

I haven’t found a clip to share of the part where Rey articulates the truth of interconnection / interdependence and realizes that the Force is about more than just lifting rocks, but if I find it I’ll post it here. It was lovely, and true.

Here in this galaxy, if you have an interest in cultivating your own practices of meditation and mindful awareness, I’m happy to recommend The Interdependence Project’s Meditation Teacher Training program in NYC. They’re accepting applications until January 5, 2018. I’m grateful to have been part of the 2017 cohort and am happy to talk about my experiences in the program if anyone has questions.

How will we build a rebellion? We have everything we need.