Wednesday, November 5, 2014

What I Learned

More than any captivating class or paper, course or major,
all nighter or postponed procrastination,
more than any hallowed  ground crossed by legion feet 
where pliant minds soaked in the genius of
sacred space and intellectual blossoming,
more than special dinners, flumes, turkey tetrazzini, trivia,
winter study, Bronfman movie nights, the dog house, 
Prospect late nights, Papa C's indulgences, or Mardis Gras queens,
the most enduring learning, that which altered my very marrow,
was the true meaning of friendship.
Formed in the trials of mind-bending, late night discussions,
shared vulnerabilities -- entrusted and soothed, 
and steadfast companionship unfazed by time, distance or sorrow.
These alchemized my heart
much like golden sun might project purple on a cow at sunrise and sunset
and renew wonder each day, infinite, and sustaining
thus changing forevermore how life is seen, loved, learned and lived.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Letter to a Beloved on Depression

Sweetie there is no trying. It is your IDEA that something is wrong with you or anyone else which causes the suffering. This isn't to say that it does not hurt or that it does not stink or that it is not achingly raw and excruciating, and it not to say that its in your head but that paradoxically the only balm that will "fix" us in the end is love that only we can give to ourselves. Nothing else will ever be enough because we are the ones who sacrificed that completeness, usually because it was all we could do to survive at that time. But please don’t hear those sentences and for a nanosecond go down the road of self blame. The "we" who sacrificed completeness, did so to survive at that time and it is probably less useful now though it causes much pain. The good part is that it need not be difficult to give ourselves that love. We literally just take it moment by moment. A favorite mantra of mine is "what problem do I have right now" not in five minutes, not tomorrow but literally right now. Not even one second from now but right now. Over and over again, it can bring clarity. Your brain may want to say but I feel awful or I can't pay this bill or my fiancĂ© didn't call or my best friend is too damn preachy, but look carefully. Are they truly problems right NOW. They may suck - true enough, they may really hurt, they may even be crippling but are they “problems” right now. Anyway, know that I love you and if I am being a pain just tell me. There will be no hard feelings or judgment. YOU know what is best for you.

It's not positive thinking or negative thinking that is the culprit. In a way, it is thinking at all. We believe that who we are is something we can think about but who we truly are is something that cannot be thought. Take a bowl for a moment.  We are like bowls. What is most useful is actually its space. Its functionality, its true meaning comes from a kind of absence. Our true selves are similar. Our true meaning comes from our absence. We are never what we "THINK" we are.  We project ourselves into the world , as good, bad, sick, healthy, smart, artsy, sad, goth, black, tall,depressed, lazy, struggling, dedicated, confident.  That image – that we often believe, is not who we are. Neither is the world. The world is full of more heartbreak than and joy than could ever be contained by a persons mind but again we are not our chemically balanced or imbalanced minds.

You will not think your way out of this, which is why I suspect the urge to strangle people who tell you to just think positively comes to the fore. As well meant as it might be, it demonstrates a keen lack of understanding of depression as well as insensitivity to how one feels.
By the same token I wonder if there is not some part of you that believes “you're just not trying hard enough” or that if you “just thought the right thoughts things would be ok”. They wont.  No thought will get you there. They won’t because at their heart things actually are ok. They are not ok because bad things don't happen. They do. It is not ok because the world isn't full of pain and suffering in heartbreaking magnitude. It is. It is ok because who you are IS the world and that heartbreak is yours, mine, ours everyone's to truly own and the real "space" of who we are is actually capable of holding it all - the pain the sorrow, the happy, the anger the guilt, the numbness. All of it. Who we really are can hold it all.

I am serious about this my beloved. Have you tried meditation? I am not saying this as some proselytizing zealot. You know me well enough.  I might meditate. I might not.  Like Walt Whitman Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes.
Meditation is only a tool. It’s a tool that is useful to some people at some times. It is a way of creating some space between the mind which runs our lives and who we truly are underneath. It is a way of creating a space between our emotions which are derivative of our thoughts and who we truly are underneath. That "who we are truly are underneath" is so big it is far beyond positive and negative. It is not separate from that duality though.
People who believe that positive thinking is the solution will discover eventually that it doesn't work (or maybe they won't). We all feel pain.  It is the human condition.  In the meantime, be gentle with yourself and please do not beat yourself up over your reaction when you have been hurt.  I suspect many who ascribe to the positive thinking camp fail to recall the moments in their own lives when the opposite happens - which it inevitably will or does. Every thought, positive or negative is in some way not fully true.  How could it be?  Thought parses truth. Truth does exist though. However it is not something that can be spoken. It is something to be. And the most beautiful (though often paradoxically, hard part) is that one need not DO anything to be that truth.  We are so conditioned to do, so conditioned to think that we must earn our belonging, earn our existence, earn being loved.  We do not. They are ours for the recognition, simply for being.  Life wants nothing more than to express itself through you – all of you.

Spend time watching your own mind. It is an incredibly powerful way to connect to that which you truly are. In fact, that which watches the mind is not the mind. It is something bigger and grander though again not separate).
So if your next question is how do I "be" or how do I "be truth" I have a few thoughts - what if you were unapologetically you? What would that look like? You write a lot. It is an excellent way to process but in your case I suspect that part of why you write on facebook is because you want reactions because they then give you something to react to. You write on facebook for the same reason anyone does - in our hearts we want to be seen. In what spaces are you seen? Who does see you? Do you see yourself in your entirety? What if you created a blog?  What if you wrote with yourself as your main audience and others as an afterthought? It might not change what you wrote but would it change your relationship to the writing?
A second "thought"  and it is not my own but based in a number of spiritual practices is one I have already mentioned. Ask the question:what "problem" do I have right now? (not in five minutes or in a half hour but right Now. Problems only exist in time. They exist in a future in which we are worried about controlling the outcome.  That’s hard, because we can’t.  We can plan and prepare but we cannot control the outcome and when the future comes we will handle it then with the resources we have then. There cannot be a "problem" in the now. My third thought is to watch your own mind as much as you can (essentially that is what meditation is) Become interested in the fact that its saying all these different things all the time. (In that way,  your mind is no different than any other human’s on this planet. All of our minds think crazy thoughts).  Just listen to them for a few minutes even right now.  Some people are more honest about the fact their minds say these things. Everyone one of our minds is built to strive for security by scanning the environment. It is hardwired into us. It has served us well for many centuries. It is not bad, its just it’s not the only kind of intelligence that exists.  It serves a purpose.  Again it is not "bad" or negative" its just that there is a deeper consciousness, a deeper intelligence that beats ones heart, that breathes your lungs, that even thinks your thoughts into existence that knows what it is doing even when our minds don’t. You are closer than you think. When you say you feel like there is an alien species in your human skin you are more onto something you might be consciously aware of. I do not mean green skinned and big eyed extra terrestrials from the Andromeda galaxy but the fact that your brain probably tells you all kinds of crazy stuff, and you must think how can I think this or why does everyone else seems to think differently. They might. Who cares? Just because you think it or they think it does not make it less wrong or right. In a way it doesn't matter what they think or even what you think. YOU are not your thoughts. When you touch that you will have contacted the power of your own liberation and everyone else’s too.
When I say you will have contacted everyone else's liberation. I do not mean that others are consciously liberated necessarily. What is meant is that when consciousness finds freedom through any one of us it gives freedom to the world because in the end we are not separate.

Know that you are loved – in fact more so than could ever be articulated.

Your beloved

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Where is God?

God is an equation.
waiting to be solved,
A complex algorithm of fantastic proportions and complexity.
God is a flower
bursting through the sidewalk crack, slipping to life through
the unexpected hardness.
God is the dust particles
floating in the morning sun
wafting up your nose-hairs and tickling you to sneeze- fits
before settling too regularly on the book shelves.
God is the soft footfall of shoes on dark wooden planks
as a legacy of family and friends stream in to rest a cherished life.
If a white bearded man in the sky is what you see, then so be it ,
perhaps that brings you solace.
But would it really be better as scintillating minds or brilliant logic, phenomenal artistry,
thoughtfulness, kindness, warmth, caring or generosity, even love?
All pales in the real essence,
simply words, mere concepts like this poem,
like a single sentence in an epic oeuvre larger than a galaxy.
It is all God, the phlegm hacked onto the ground,
Sewage leaking from the pipes
The nasty smoke garroting her lungs

Perhaps it is no more sexist to call out the beauty of a part to the whole
than it is for language itself to describe the divine.
You will never get more God than the rock in your shoe or the hangnail on your thumb.
All means all after all.
Here is a blasphemy: worship the tough things.  The things you want to exclude.
God, God and more God.
The stubbed toe, earwax, yes, even war.
We desperately want to pick and choose.
To say this but not that.
We desperately want it  to make sense to our mind
And there is infinite beauty in that failure.
Let your heart break again and again if you truly want to know.
You say you don’t believe in God.
I believe you.
Too often that word has been used misused in the name of power and horror
but in the end, I say, if you have participated in this world
if you believe in this computer, or the food you eat or that  your own hands exist

then you have all the concrete evidence of God there will ever be.

Inspired by ah

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Belief That its Safer To Keep a Low Profile

Deeply, I have believed for many years that it is safer to keep a low profile than it is to risk speaking up. It is something so deep that it is not something I have examined and would say I actually wholeheartedly disagreed with if actually asked. But if you examine my actions and being the world, it is clear that under the surface I have lived trying to avoid detection and scrutiny for much of my life.  I do not rock the boat,  I do not speak my mind.  The other day at a museum I tried to control someone close to me because I thought they were speaking too loudly.   On another recent occasion I cringed when I sat next to a friend who was speaking on controversial subjects in a loud voice on the train.  "What if people judged me by association? "What if they thought less of me? "My mind is constantly spinning with the possibilities and calculations for how I am being perceived.  It runs an algorithm to calculate where I stand and how safe I am in relation to others.  The equation is weighted towards the past.  It is weighted towards a model of security in absence; security in silence, security through being small and non-existent.  It is easy to see why I was drawn to an orientation to the world that speaks of selflessness and the lack of a "self".  To leave the analysis there however, is to miss the point.  Real selflessness is actually beyond narrow conceptual logic. It is the recognition of the true lion's roar and that "I" am present in that which is much larger. It is all things, not simply quiet or risk averse or conflict averse or conversely the extraordinarily brave.  It is simply true unto itself.  It is not afraid of encountering another part of itself and therefore is beyond keeping profiles at all. Real selflessness sees that you are all of it.  Sometimes "it" may move under the radar and sometimes it may move like a trumpeter. The key lies in getting out of its way.  The key lies in unpacking the belief.

So let's take a look at some of the beliefs of that seem to be operating here:

1) Why would I believe that its ok to make myself small rather than own whatever was presenting itself in this form?

2) When may I have formulated this belief?

3) What does this belief protect me from?

4) What have I gained from holding this belief?

5) What do I lose by holding this belief?

6) What does this belief keep me from facing?


1) Speaking aloud for myself  is not easy. I do not stand up for myself. Being small is easier because I think I will get hurt less if people don't know I am here.  I do not claim my presence in the world and am more comfortable being the person on the side making things happen. There are a few places of interesting exceptions, for instance I laugh loudly and can be a performer.    I have acted and I am not afraid of speaking to audiences.  In those arenas, I am not afraid to be bold, but most of the time when I am in public I act as if I prefer not to be noticed. 

1A) What is different about those situations and the others.  I am certainly confident in those situations and the confidence comes from something internal. It feels as though I have been "asked" in those situations to carry out something specific.  It is interesting to note that it does not feel like life is asking something specific in the situations in which I feel less confident, for that would be the source of the needed confidence.

2)When did you formulate this belief - I am not sure. Probably as a child.  I probably had a fair share of circumstances in which it was not safe to speak up. There are probably also accidentals of early childhood, race, disposition, geography that contribute to sense of safety.

3) What does it protect me from now? It protects me from failing.  It enables me to be loved by everyone or perhaps more accurately --  thought of fondly of by many.  I suspect it is truly -loved by few because  it diminshes the extent of real authenticity and subsequently "real" love.  It keeps me from the discomfort of "not knowing" If you don't stick your head out, its not as likely to get chopped off.   I have gained some degree of safety from this belief but traded away much.

4) What have I gained by holding this belief ?- the illusion of security. the illusion of safety.  The false belief that things are OK if others validate your existence rather than knowing from the heart that existence itself gives us intrinsic meaning that needs no validation. It has enabled me to excel at many things but prevented me from trying many others for fear of failure.

4) What do I "lose" by holding this belief: Freedom, Authenticity, Happiness.

5) What does this belief keep me from facing ? My self .  If I have a low profile then the shadowy parts don't have to get examined by me or by others. We can almost pretend they don't exist, but it also keeps me from facing my own power.  I want to be liked. Being myself might mean not always being liked.   My own power is simply authenticity.  It is not something grandiose, it is simply whatever gifts this body/mind is meant to bring to the world.  This belief keeps me from facing life in all its glory and misery.   When I relate to the smallness I feel like I will break but when I relate from the largeness of it all then all of life is a grand adventure of discovery and hide and seek.  Life seeking itself in every nook and cranny and celebrating all the while.

5A) What then is the power that is here?  What is meant to come into the world through me?  In many ways that is a question that is lived through the moment to moment life that is manifesting through me - it is not a question that is statically answered and put in the closet

5B) Who is "My Self" - Is it necessary to think in terms of boundaries - who I am is what is manifesting right now, right here in this space.

So much of my life I have spent shrinking myself, blending into the walls, quieting any aspects of myself that might be disturbing to others, but perhaps enlightenment is nothing more than full authenticity and wholeness.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

For Terry Beresford

 I don’t know whether it’s your sense of humor; feisty good-natured and smart,  or your indefatigable being which never tired in its thirst for understanding or your thoughtfulness and kindness and sense of purpose; always larger than yourself, always giving away the most valuable element any of us has, the heart of our self, our passion, that I will miss most.  You have touched the lives of so many, many people.  You have taught us so much.  I have thought lots recently about my mentor, who was mentored by you, and reflected that some rare people are truly born “ teachers”.  Here teacher is meant in its loftiest and most estimable sense.   They show. They enlighten. What is meant, is that some people are oriented to the world to bring forth knowledge and wisdom in themselves and others and their very existence coaxes that light out, nurtures it forth, wherever they are.  Like fire, ready to catch aflame logs in proximity and set ablaze each log’s own light, those people are a bonfire for many.  In a room of hundreds or one, they do it consciously, in their speech, actions, and writing but the most gifted of all do it with their very presence, carriage , manner, and attitude.  Those people are rare gifts.  I cannot help but think of the many logs who considered themselves warmed by your light and the many lives they in turn brightened because of your spark.  They are counted among my most dear.  And in some small way, even amidst this sorrow, I am able to see and hold the good alongside the grief of your passing.  Perhaps that is what I will miss the most;  how you nurtured that little light in all of us.  And how fitting it is, for light continues on far beyond where anyone can ever imagine or contemplate.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Room for Meditation

We've been sitting in this room with it's bell and darkness
Listening not to the sounds of technologies' voices nor to the sounds of rambling in our heads, droning with their incessant chatter.
The silence we follow is present in sound, present in darkness
Simply, fully present.
We've carefully carved this space out of the day's tasks that call.
Oasis amidst the jumble of distractions and noise all of which compost the silence too.
Different bodies, different minds pass through this space; tune into this silence and in doing so are reduced.
This is not the reduction of less than.
Not at all.
This is the reduction that fiercely and gracefully
robs you of everything that was never needed
And in so doing leaves more than could ever be imagined.

Friday, February 21, 2014


I have been reading and re- reading a number of interesting books lately. One theme that I would like to reflect upon, enumerated in two excellent books The Open Path  and Emptiness Dancing is the importance of sincerity. It strikes me that indeed, that is very true, yet often overlooked. Sincerity is a wonderfully nuanced and complex word.  It packs a lot.  To me it evokes a humility and curiosity as well as an authenticity and devotion.  For  me there is a deep longing and yearning in sincerity.   Dictionary online defined sincere as free from deceit, hypocrisy, falseness.  These also ring accurate. Perhaps sincerity is our greatest yearning. The beauty of sincerity is that it is a process.  It is something which must be renewed time and again.  In the same way that authenticity is a process sincerity requires continuous renewal. One is not sincere and then done.  Sincerity is a quality of openness and discovery as one part of mystery encounters another part of mystery. When put that way it strikes me that it is synonymous with life itself, for what more is life than mystery meeting up with all of it of itself. To be sincere is to live in reality, is to see clearly, is to recognize all.    It is easy to overlook the mystery though. It is easy to let our jadedness and protective shells orient us to action. We forget our divinity. But really what could we even protect?  The lure of slumber is steadfast.  We believe it is easy to dull pain.  Sleep seems to beckon us.  It seems easier to avoid what we know deep down, to pull the wool over our own eyes; to live with our own hypocrisies,  to embrace the fallacious over the truthful.  But is it?  What is the cost to our own lives?  What is the cost to life itself?  What freedom is bought with any lie?  I think sometimes when I am less than relentless and ruthlessly truthful that its ok. It's better to tell a white lie than to hurt someone’ s feelings. Why would that be true?.  I think it could be a supreme failure to recognize who the other person ultimately is and it is an equal failure to see yourself. It is also exceptionally lazy (or more likely frightened way to approach relating). 

Relentless and ruthless in this instance do not mean that one is unskillful IF one needs to tell someone else something that one thinks may be hurtful.  We still approach it with three times the amount of compassion that it took to be "ruthless" about broaching it.  This is to say that if something is difficult to say to another I cannot avoid it but I say it from a place of wholeness.  The relentlessness and ruthlessness apply because my inclination is to circumvent those topics.   I do not like conflict.  Few do.  And those that seek conflict, look for power -- over.  We need to let Truth’s unrelenting power move through us.  If it is truth we will find the “right” words, if it is anything less we will simply have to "clean up" that which missed the missed the target. 

Parents often get anxious or concerned or angry with their kids when they lie to them.  We have seen it in countless movies. We may have experienced it in our own lives. Kids sneaking in late and lying about coming in before their curfew.  Kids lying about what they have had to drink or how they have behaved. Little ones lying about something that they have done or haven't done.  It is nearly cliche.  It strikes me that perhaps the most painful part about lying is that it severs our link with reality.  We knowingly choose something not real over something real.  Usually we do this in fear and sometimes we even try to convince others of this reality. This is the height of insanity though many do it often.  When we willingly sacrifice truth to lie we bind humanity.  We make it that much harder for the next person to feel the permission that always exists to surrender into freedom.  We make it that much harder for ourselves to recognize the freedom that always exists. We trade reality for fear of a consequence that may never happen.  We play a reproachful and bitter God.  It is no wonder we do not trust ourselves.  It is no wonder we do not trust each other.  It  is no wonder we are so dis-eased.  We wrestle with ghosts -- and lose when we lie, for ultimately the lie separates us from the very things we most need. To lie is to fail to accept the moment as it is, as such, it is perhaps the antithesis of enlightenment.

 I remember when my little one told a "lie". He was too young for the children's textbooks to actually call it a lie per se since the sense of self was not developed enough for the full recognition of a something to protect or of any kind of consequence from his actions.  At that point it was more like a creative exercise and arguably perhaps a primitive and rudimentary sense of trying to protect something.  Putting aside the motivation and challenges in childrens' lying, it is interesting to examine parents behavior.  It is interesting to remember my own sense of fear.  It is interesting how out of touch I became with the times I've lied or distorted the truth in my own life.   I was not alone in my internal freak out.  I suspect at one level it is about wanting to protect the child both from the behavior itself but that it is also  about a desire for genuine communication.  Lies stymie communication.  Every parent wants to believe they are trustworthy enough for their child to come to them with their problems and challenges. Not all are and certainly not at all times. They want to believe they make it safe enough for their children to be authentic and sincere.  Sadly, there is much that works to undermine that sense of safety in the world. 

What would it be like to truly be yourself with no fear of being judged?

What would it be like to truly be authentic and not worry about how you were perceived by others?

Does this change when you think of the reflections of those close to you?

Sincerity to me feels like a powerful driving force.  It feels like a force I can align "my life" with. It feels like it can propel and direct, guide and steer "this me" where it needs go.  It is both gentle and fierce at the same time.  It is gentle in that it is an ever open invitation to be in reality.  It is fierce because it never wanes and is always there whether we choose to befriend it or not. It is precious because it is the gravity that enables my heart's desire to live truth over and over again.


Prison of A Lacking Self

How sad it is, how much time I spend feeling unworthy, feeling like my voice does not matter, my thoughts don’t matter or that my very existence is in some way a problem or troublesome.  It is heartbreaking really.  I am not speaking of depression or mood disorder.  In those states the feelings of unworthy become especially acute.  They are real but not what I am discussing here.  Nor I am  looking for pity or sympathy. What I speak about here is much more subtle and much more pervasive.  It is raw.  I am speaking of a more general orientation to the world that in many ways is falsely at the core of my being. It is a false anchor upon which I hang a self, a self that lacks.  I suspect it is the dukka about which the Buddha speaks.  It’s a quiet malaise.  It’s as if the question “what did I do wrong” lurks behind my every movement thought and action. It truly colors so much of how I have operated. Even as I am writing this now I am wondering if people will review this and think is he sane?  Is he depressed?  Still I write.  Still I question.  I know I am not alone, but rather than move towards generalizations and theory, or even quick resolution, I am going to stick with my own experience as closely and intimately as I can.  Sometimes I generalize, and philosophize to keep pain at bay.  This is also not something that anyone else can help by trying to point out the many ways that I am good.  It is a more primal feeling that only can be unraveled.

In how many of my interactions with people is there a subtle attempt to control? I ask this question because it is at the heart of  the feeling of "what did I do wrong" or "what is wrong with me".  Whether its trying to control what they think of me or trying to control the outcome of the situation? or simply trying to control what they do?  I desperately want to be liked.  There is nothing wrong with that.  Its part of my conditioning.  The obsession with being liked though is at the heart of my feeling unworthy.  Its as if I look to others to tell me that I am liked and worthy because I am not courageous enough to do it myself.  If that sounds harsh (I assure you it is not).  Grace is fierce sometimes. I need constant reaffirmation  and feeding because I have not digested its truth.  My heart will not be happy sacrificing itself for the opinion of others it needs to know from the inside out of its own unshakeable integrity. Then what others said about my goodness would not hold so much sway.  Who would I be if I were not nice?  Who would I be I were not good?   It is a paradox because it is the attachement to being  and acting good which is the root of not "knowing" the goodness that I already am.

What is it that keeps me from truly being the compassionate space that I am?  What keeps me from being the opening , listening, loving, silence that is capable of connection with all things? Its that mask that feels like it must do good to be good, which is a failure to recognize or see my own nature and everyone else's.  Somehow I must figure it out, must for once and all time get it right.  Such arrogance, that is the barrier. The hole, the abyss of that hurt of "lack" cannot be filled though everyone sang my praises because it is a hole of separation, a hole that must be filled by this mind/body.  Others can shine a light that helps me to see but ultimately I must do the work.   Ultimately wholeness cannot be given to me for I am never without it.  It is simply mine to see, to feel, to cherish.

What exactly is a self? What exactly is being selfish? What if I were selfish?  What would that mean?

What is it about selfishness that is so painful for me? Why is that that the only two options for me around selfishness are to either deny that I am being selfish, pretend that it is something else eg. justify it in some way or to shut down and go into global "I must be a horrible person" mode.  Middle ground and other options exist.  I stand so fearful of selfishness that it is like it is anathema to being loved.

I must believe that when I am selfish I cannot be loved.  I think it must run that deep. 

Is that true?  That I cannot be loved when I am selfish - not only is that not true it probably flies in the face of evidence.   I am sure that I have been loved by others even when I am being selfish (though I can't think of any examples at the moment) The rose colored glasses of memory hold those remembrances at bay.

What would I gain from such a belief? What would I gain from believing that I could not be loved if I were selfish - Well I would gain a lot of external sympathy and love and appreciation for avoiding the appearance of selfishness. At the time the belief crystallized (confirmation) I would gain a sense of belonging?

Surely though there is a role for selfishness? Right?
What role does selfishness play? Why would I be selfish,

Answer: Because I feel a need to protect my boundaries, I feel a need to assert who I am, because I want to address needs, feelings, my existence in the world.

I then have two questions.  When or what causes those boundaries to come into existence or to become rigid?  Can I notice when the boundaries come into place?  I do not have to do anything about them but can I notice when they come into existence - bragging, showing off, putting someone down, measuring people, comparing people, when I get hurt?

Question: You can't live if you cannot compare people, ideas,  right from wrong,  fact from fiction.

Answer:  Perhaps true, but the more interesting question, the more compelling exploration is not whether we can live with or without boundaries.  That is an abstraction that takes us from the truth.  The more interesting question is whether you can become aware of when those boundaries come into play and become curious about all aspects of that. 
What is it that feels the need to compare?  What does it want? What does it need? What does it want to express?It seems to me that comparison goes hand in hand with judgment and oft generates problems when value is assigned, which we often do.  We can compare red to blue and most of the time it does not engender a values hierarchy.  If I attach the word politics however, see how quickly value is assigned.  Comparison is as natural as difference and diversity. It's the unconscious assigning of value that goes along with it that gives rise to separating thoughts and behaviors.

Question: But aren't some ideas truly better than others? like its better to not kill than to kill? That is a comparison. 

It is perhaps a better way of being in the world but it is not TRUTH.  Nothing that can be stated is truth though some things can be better pointers than others.  It is more interesting if  you can become curious about where that question is coming from and what its presence in your psyche may be asking?

Why is that an important question to you?

Question: Its about control. I want to know that things will be ok.

Question:  What if they are not going to be?

Then you are not ready to surrender.

I wonder if all places where I lack intimacy stem from a fear that what is here is not enough, that what is here is not good enough, that I am not good enough. That is an incredibly painful place. It's not that I believe I do not deserve to have the joys of the world but it is to say that I am in a continuous state of proving myself.  I must be perfect because  only then might I be good enough.  But good enough for what?  Good enough for whom?  What does good even mean? That said I still, as one dear friend once said, “ apologize for my existence”  It does not matter what I do or don’t do, I am always leaning in to the "fall from grace", awaiting for people to discover the fraud that I am, anticipating when the mask will be revealed and I will be seen for the fatally flawed fiasco I am.  That is a lot of weight to live under.  That is a heavy burden to carry. To believe that one is not good enough makes authenticity impossible.  How can I be authentic with anyone when I am always measuring myself and failing. How can I honestly hear what people are saying if I am busy protecting myself by comparisons or platitudes or aggressiveness. When I believe I am not enough I move to put others down, make others wrong, bolster myself by using my relationships.  That is nothing short of a sort of violence.
Intimacy is connection.  It is exquisite.  Its what I long for most. It is the intimacy of being more connected to my partner but it is more than that. It is intimacy with ten thousand things; intimacy with all of life, from work, to friends, to hobbies, to nature, to family.  I know I am not alone.  We are a massively populated society of lonely hearts. Intimacy is what we long for most as humans and yet it is most difficult and very frightening too. We want the world to accept the parts of us that are hurt,  that are unsure, that feel unworthy.  We want to be comforted and know that all is ok.  At our deepest core often we do not believe it.  At our deepest core we do not believe/understand that all is ok.  I do not believe/understand that all is ok.  It is a knot worth unraveling

From the earliest ages I remember my parents working with me to try to get me to speak to the store clerk to ask for help.  At the time I would rather do without than put myself in such a precarious position

At work it has always undermined my ability to be candid.  I have had a hard time telling things like they are.  On the good side I have built a lifetimes worth of diplomatic skill and a keen understanding of the power of words and expression to move people.  On the other side it has compromised a certain quality of authenticity and truthfulness in my interactions and relationships.  I have spent years being afraid of rocking the boat, years afraid of making sure that I am liked, years monitoring and trying to control what people thought of me.   It has robbed me of life and essence I stand now in a middle way, learning the skill of truth-telling which is more confessional than judgmental .  I stand learning a new way of being and relating.   It has always hard for me to ask for what I need. 

It is not that I believe that I won't get what I want.  There have been plenty of things I have wanted and not gotten and many, many more that I have.  What do I think will happen if I don't get something? Does that not happen all the time?  It is more that it is easier to step over how something is making me feel than it is to contact it or the feelings surrounding it.   it is more that If I don't ask for something I don't risk being cast out of someone's heart.  Therefore I don't ask for it.  I just do it myself.  But this is the antithesis of intimacy.   It is a self induced prison of loneliness whose only key is my own courage and willingness to ask the jailer if I can be free from bondage.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Reflections on Race

I've  been thinking a lot about racism. This post has been in draft form for several months now.  My ruminations are not finished  but  as February is Black History Month I decided I would post what I had written thus far. 

Race in the United States is too often a tangle of crossed wires and missed connections when sadly it has the possibility of carrying the charge and fueling spark for great understanding and achievement.   With the gutting of the Voting Rights Act and the tragedy of the shooting of Trayvon Martin, and even the spectacle of Paula Dean, I've been thinking even more than usual about race.  What exactly is racism?  Who exactly is racist?  How would you know racism if you encountered it? 

The history of our beautiful nations is intertwined with racism.  Black slaves provided free labor that propelled the US to the apex of the world's power.  Blacks were not even  considered people and at best they were  "less than" Slaves were chattel bought and sold, whipped, beaten and treated as livestock.  There is no doubt this is racism. There is no doubt about the injustice.  Racism today though, is often more subtle. Statements that assign value based on physical characteristics of race are, well, racist.   When someone shifts their wallet from their back pocket to their front pocket as a tall black man passes by is that racism?  When time and again the seat on the train next to me goes unoccupied  or is the last to be claimed is that racism?  When it seems to take an unusually long time to get seated or the host gives you an odd but enigmatic frown is that racism? When the Supreme Court which has only two people of color upon it strikes out crucial elements of landmark voting legislation calling it as justice Scalia did a “perpetuation of racial entitlement”  or when that same Supreme Court suggests in the majority opinion that the formula is outdated for the determination of which states needed pre-clearance based on their history of racism is that racism?

Part of what makes modern racism so challenging is that its hard to pinpoint exactly.  Many causes could potentially generate similar outcomes in each of the above situations, some factors probably do contribute but on the other hand on the receiving end, one is always left wondering.  One is always left with a sickening feeling in the gut that something is hidden or masked or one doubts  herself or her sanity.  Today's racism only leaves trace elements of having been present yet is still radioactive in its toxicity. It still leaves pain and doubt in it wake.  The suffering it inflicts still needs witnesses and justice.  Sometimes it is helpful to have others to remind and reflect experience back to us. Perhaps that is one reason why people of the same race or ethnicity often hang out together.  It is perhaps why the table at lunch sometimes fills with kids of one race or any other nameable difference.  It becomes important to name your experience among others who have likely had similar experiences.

I spent all of therapy talking about the Trayvon Martin tragedy.  As a middle aged black father of a black son, this case hurt immensely.  At first  I bracketed the pain, minimized it, but soon realized that that was not possible for me. It touched too close to home and detachment (in this narrow sense) is never a long term strategy.  I realized I was angry, very angry .  I did not know exactly why but it became clear that a deep anger resided near my pain.  Anger is not something I am comfortable with.  In session we tried a few sentences like :

I hate it when. . .

It makes me really, really angry when. . .

It was fascinating to complete with emotional integrity.  At some level I knew I was angry but my mind kept trying to tell me but. . .  and it would fill in reasons for why my anger was unjustified, not peaceful, unspiritual, unwarranted.

Anger is the key to my power and freedom.  Anger is something  of which I am terrified.
Anger feels out of control. Anger feels like it must be acted upon, it is compelling; like a red hot molten ball in my stomach.  I feel like I must rid myself of its fiery presence but really its just energy.  Why is its flavor so bitter? Acknowledged anger can be a driving force.   That kind of anger both recognizes its place as powerful energy to make change while at the same time know that all is fine.  It comes from the whole so it understands the language,  it speaks.  It is anger but the quality of "righteousness" is missing.  It strikes me that righteousness is born of a very concretized me whose ideals are assaulted.  In "whole" anger the identification  with anger is less or isn't present.   The anger- energy simply exists, is expressed and leaves like every other phenomena. Selves sustain anger. They carry it through a cycle of thoughts that fuel it. 

I am revisiting racism and this blog draft several months later.  In the last week among people in my circles I've been essentially asked 'how did I get into Williams" instructed on how there are too few slots for "regular smart folk to get into top notch graduate schools these days" The number of slots for kids from other Ivies has remained the same while the number for minorities has expanded.   In the first conversation it came up as I tried to deflect my little one from being grilled about what he know in  math.  The adult who was asking the question did so from a mindset of tripping my little one up.  It was not a joyful curiosity of I am proud of you it was a "prove it to me".  To take the heat off him I joked how I knew I had had enough math when in 11th grade they let us use calculators.  The person then flat out asked - "how did you get into Williams" - and looking back I proceeded to defend by talking about being well rounded in a variety of subjects including math.   I took the bait.  Perhaps this was a simple conversation about math and aptitude?   Perhaps these are just my projections.

The second conversation, just a few days later, was part of a broader conversation about the education system and how it is failing everyone.  It struck me a little as one of those conversations that had the tone of "back in my day we used to walk to school in the snow, uphill both ways - without any shoes".  That is to say it was a romanticization of a former time.  In that conversation the individual spoke about how Ivy league graduate schools  had a certain number of slots for people from other Ivies and for all different kinds of categories including race.  His point, if I heard correctly was that it was harder and harder for "regular smart people" (insert white) to attend these institutions.   This conversation also left me with a sinking feeling. 

Each conversations has potential racial overtones.  Was the first conversation simply about not taking math in 12th grade and it putting me at disadvantage for a school like Williams or was it more subtly about race?  Similarly was the second conversation about how the education system has changed or was it about race.  Without asking more questions it is very hard to know for sure. 

The difficulty however is the enormous courage it takes to broach the subject of race.  Part of the challenge is that the hurt is so deep that it is difficult to traverse a path that is not fraught with anger,
misinterpretation.  It is difficult for others to broach for fear they may be labeled racist.  I do not pretend to have answers here.  I can say with confidence however that we need more authentic conversations.

Dialogue is needed even if often it is very difficult to have honest, candid, safe conversations. 

Take a look at this collection done by NPR of "the most ridiculous questions folks have ever been asked -- and you then answered about racism"  It is a collection questions that are frightening, heartbreaking, sincere but misguided and misinformed and everything in between.  It is a good starting point for more and continued dialogue around race in these United States.  I would love to hear your thoughts.


Friday, January 31, 2014

Sycamore on Elm Street

There is a tree under which I used to sit far away from here.
I say far because it was a long time ago.
Childhood’s ghosts and a thousand miles,
are indeed a vast distance.

I would go there, nestle between gnarled trunk and
upright, pocked telephone pole.
Sitting headbent with arms encircled around crooked knees.
Deep in an island three. Comfort was easy there.

There, my only obligation silence,  solace under the
warmth of the rising sycamore. Standing weathered and broad.
I owed no one anything, fell short of nothing, all pretense removed.
Troubles disintegrated like cracked fall leaves ground small

and fertilizing a young boy's growth.  A trees growth.
Now, in the apple of my worldliness, my ken demands a different being;
tasks to accomplish, money to make, responsibilities to oversee,
worlds to save with my pen and organization and do gooder heart.

Sometimes I wish I could go back to that tree and just
curl up snug and small.

Sometimes I do.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

A Cold Roe Morning

My heart clenched as I passed by the throng.
The bitter cold air, naming my icy mood.
In their minds no doubt, or room to be wrong
where ragged edges are once again glued.

Their world of black and white, brooks no rainbow here
just entrenched certainties, and calcified thought
barricades of judgements. Forts built in fear.
I wish they could see what these patients sought.

They pray for me, and all the women within
but feels more like control than like comfort
addled by references to mortal sin
Barren words labor, but fail to comport

I’ve witnessed first hand the healers inside,
rise each morn to minister to women.
Care for her truths and hold hands at her side
They do so over and over again.

Courageous souls whose committment to dare
With great vision they strive. Do what they do
Living a world bound simply by Care.
Their actions in tenderness so true

Here then is my prayer uttered without sound
Ushered without moving, not meant to plea.
More like a remembrance, that when it is found
Brings the heart home to love’s reality.

May each day we all hold dear, those whom we serve
Near their hearts as our own filled with this grace
Each drop the ocean, unfrozen, to swerve
Stronger Together as compassion’s face.

January 22, marks the anniversary of Roe vs Wade the landmark Supreme Court decision that gave many women in the United States the right if not the ability to bring their moral authority to bear when deciding complicated issues like abortion.