eco-erotics

Today I’m celebrating our interdependence, not celebrating colonization and genocide. I was introduced to the work of Melissa K. Nelson yesterday and I haven’t been the same since. Sometimes someone puts into language an idea or a knowing that I’ve had without having access to words to adequately describe it. The term “eco-erotics” resonated immediately, is just what I didn’t know I was looking for.

Sex educator/sex worker/porn star Annie Sprinkle has been going on for years about sexecology, maybe still is (ecosex manifesto) but that just didn’t impact me in the same way at the time I encountered it. Struck me more as performance than it resonated with my own experience and understanding. The idea of eco-erotics weaves together sexuality, our relationships with nature and all beings as well as the dissolution of subject-object and the prison of binary thinking that, when dissolved, can support survival, thriving and liberation.

spring grass and cherry blossom petals
spring grass and cherry blossom petals

Getting dirty

In her essay “Getting Dirty: The Eco-Eroticism of Women in Indigenous Oral Literatures” Nelson writes, “Reclaiming our eco-erotic birthright as human beings and Indigenous citizens requires a peeling away of the colonial and religious impositions of patriarchy, heteronormativity, internalized oppression, original sin, shame, and guilt (among many other idiosyncratic layers), especially in relation to our bodies and our capacity for intimacy and pleasure. These beliefs are based on a fear of the wild and uncontrollable, both in nature and ourselves. After centuries of oppression, expressing the joy and diversity of our Native sexualities is truly an anticolonial, liberating act. Questioning the internalized authoritarianism that denies and demonizes our psychospiritual and animal closeness to “nature” is a decolonial and revolutionary act of survivance.” (Nelson)

Feels relevant to share this work today– I see lots of folks out there waving flags and feeling patriotic, pretending the nation’s founding fathers were heroes rather than enslavers. Have your point of view, I’ll have mine. For me, the 4th of July is a great time to add to the energy of all decolonizing and liberation efforts. Nelson’s essay is a great contribution I’m happy to lift up. The essay concludes recognizing our interdependence and the urgency of decolonization:

Interdependence

“’Getting dirty’ means we become fully human by remembering and embodying our trans-human animalness. This requires a decolonization process, because we must question and shed the conditioned beliefs that say we are more intelligent than, different from, or better than our animal nature and other natural beings (i.e., human exceptionalism). Our bodies are filled with intelligences that are faster than and beyond the intelligence of our cognitive brains… All life depends on other life for survival, regeneration and celebration.. Indigenous eco-erotics… remind us that humans (and all life forms) are capable of profound intimacies and transformations if we embrace rather than repress our fundamental desires and the permeability of our consciousness. Embracing our eco-erotic nature helps us recognize the generosity of creation, and our part in it, so we can truly embody an ethic of kinship.” (Nelson)

This feels very related to something from a longer piece I’m working on that explores some of the same themes of embodied ecology and relating with more than human worlds. I’ll share some of that here (written before encountering Nelson’s essay).

Stick figures with interlinking arms drawn in chalk around the trunk of an old plane tree
Stick figures with interlinking arms drawn in chalk around the trunk of an old plane tree

Intimacy with all of life

Why do you imagine I can’t have a mutually satisfying relationship with the earth? With the plants and the trees and the soil. With the water and the rock formations, with the creatures of the air and the creatures of the sea and all that walk and crawl and slither on the earth. Trees support me. I don’t mean it metaphorically. I mean they hold me up. My spine to their trunks we combine our energies and they project it up into the heavens and down through their roots into the earth. My relationships with these beings are meaningful and supportive to me.

I grew up drinking dew and rainwater and I still drink dew and rainwater. I dance in it, I bathe in it, I sing in it, I celebrate it. When I was younger, nuclear war seemed imminent. I was told and I believed that the rain would turn to acid and kill us all if the bombs didn’t wipe us out first. I didn’t expect to live past thirty.

My prayers started then. I prayed for clean air and water every chance I got. Every wish I got. Birthday wishes, eyelash wishes, dandelion wishes. Every wish that ever came my way I returned to the earth. May you be well. Be happy. May you be healthy and strong. Live with ease and joy no matter what the people do. Decades before anyone told me about metta practice it just flowed out of my heart on its own.

Future survival

I spread seeds for future forests, I celebrated the clean water that there was. My best friends were the birch tree, the rhododendron, the honeysuckle and the mulberry. (Apologies for leaving anyone out.) The morning glories, the pokeweed and the milk thistle. I’ve got a lifelong love for milk thistle. I love the plants and I’ve always loved the plants. (My plant people know what I’m talking about here, I see you making those elixirs, smokes and salves. Bless up!) Plant allies have always been important in my life. The green witches told me to get to know a plant deeply, spend time with it before moving on to another’s medicine, so I did. I spent a whole summer in a monogamous relationship with dandelion once. Eating its bitter leaves in every kind of way, every day. Raw, cooked, made into teas. That’s intimacy.

Oatstraw too, milky oats: eating it, drinking it, bathing in it. Red clover’s supported me for ages as do nettles. I can’t be without my nettles for long. Tulsi– all mints have been supportive friends. I can’t shout out all the allies I count in the plant kingdom because there are so many. (Not just plants either. I had a very passionate affair with a strong wind outside of Taos one winter, but that’s a story for another time.) I love and honor them knowing my health and happiness depends on them. That may be why I grate at these superficial relationships with nature I hear folks been pushing lately. It looks painfully shallow, coming from and processed entirely through the intellect. Walking on the earth in bare feet! Admiring “nature” from a distance or through a theoretical framework– isn’t nature nice, isn’t it nice that we’re part of nature– annoying af.

Deep relationship

I don’t need to be irritated by it though. It’s fine. It’s sweet. Everyone has to start where they are. Walk on the earth, sit with a tree. That’s beautiful and important. Also I want to see right relationship, deep relationship, true honoring. Take the earth as your lover, your mother, your partner. In a real way. In the body, in the flesh. I mean fucking in the hedgerows to help bring in the harvest. Covering the bare flesh of you with mud, sitting there until it cracks and flakes off revealing a new you inside.

Laying still on the earth when the rain begins and not moving until you’re saturated, soaked through receiving it. Soak in the hot springs until you can’t bear it anymore, repulsed at the sulphur smell, but soothed and softened by the heat. How hot can you take it? How much can you withstand? What are your limits? Where are the boundaries? I join in calling for an eco-erotics, honoring our interbeing. Where does the earth end and you begin? Where do you end and the earth begins? This is making love with the earth, being love, being a good friend, partner, relation. Celebrating each other and ourselves, human and more than human, all together.

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)

QTPOC Meditation 4/26

Awaken into spring!

On Friday April 26th from 7-9 pm at the Interdependence Project, 28 West 27th Street #704 Ashleigh Eubanks & I will be guiding a meditation and mindful movement practice for QTPOC. Join us!

This event is hosted collaboratively by NYCPOC Healing Circle and Rest for Resistance. The space is wheelchair-accessible, but the bathrooms are not.

your guides, Betsy & Ashleigh

Community Care Day 1/18/19

Audre Lorde

Join me at The Audre Lorde Project’s Community Care Day at The People’s Forum 320 W. 37th St, New York, NY 10018 this Friday January 18th from 6-9 pm.

Event info from ALP:

Community Care Day is an evening event where we are inviting folks to join us in deepening our collective community care. We will build together by sharing food, getting to know each other and sharing care and healing strategies. 

Join the 3rd Space Program! We will be offering workshops that will teach you different ways to care for yourself and others, get some healing from our body and energy work practitioners and get some grub, community, laughter and love! 

Sharing space is healing, holding space for each other and having a place to go to where you can be your full self and uplifted is what we are creating – join us at Community Care Day – resilience happens through collective action, recognition and love. Come learn and share skills and resources, eat some food, make some art, and generate joy.

This is a time to be still, be loving, be cared for and caring. Resilience requires community Come to ALP’s Community Care Day! This event is by and for Lesbian, Gay Bisexual, Two Spirit, Trans and Gender Non-Conforming folks who are Black, Indigenous and People of Color. 

The 3rd Space Program is made up of community members who identify and are invested in sustainable care for our people that is centered in a deep, loving and radical sense of community, that moves away from the isolation and disposability that medical institutions and capitalism impose on us and instead uplifts and creates the strategies within us and from our lineage that have kept us thriving and resilient as black and indigenous, people of color, queer, trans and gender non-conforming folx.

POC healing circle 9/21

Please join members of the NYC POC Healing Circle for an opportunity to share meditation, mindful movement and compassion practices in community.

Ashleigh, Maui & I will be there sharing from our practices.

Join us on Friday September 21st from 7-9 pm at Shambhala Meditation Center located at 118 W. 22nd Street, 6th Floor, New York City.

Suggested donation $5-10, no one will be turned away for lack of funds.

sit

Half-Day Meditation Retreat
with Betsy Fagin & Leslie Joren Wagner

The Interdependence Project
28 West 27th Street, Suite 704 NYC

Sunday February 4,  9:00 am – 1:00 pm

I’m super-excited to meet up with Joren today to talk about the sit this weekend. I couldn’t be more grateful & excited about helping guide this retreat together on Sunday.

Let me hype Joren here by sharing her bio:

Leslie Joren Wagner is an artist who has been practicing meditation for 28 years. She took Buddhist precepts in 2009, studying for 16 years in the Soto Zen tradition of Maezumi Roshi. Leslie Joren is also a certified Reiki Master Teacher and has acted as a representative to the Buddhist Council of NY, developing community education and outreach programs such as Meditate NYC and the Buddhist Forum. She received a BFA from Parsons School of Design, receiving a 2017 Hemera Tending Spaces Fellowship. She continues to explore the connection between Art and Dharma, and considers art-making a meditative practice. To that end, she creates workshops which encourage people to blossom and share their own unique wisdom in the world. Leslie Joren is a graduate of the IDP Meditation Teacher Training and is most grateful to all of her teachers.

I can’t wait to sit with this amazing woman! The Interdependence Project has additional details (including info on registration) at their site here. Facebook’s got event details too.