Black Lives Matter

When I heard the news that nine people had been murdered in Charleston, SC, last week, I was riding the bus home. As I sat next to strangers, I was overwhelmed with grief. At our Sunday morning service, we a spent a moment in silence after the name of each person was called and their picture shown on the wall. Taking in those beautiful faces, knowing that they are no longer here with us, I felt the loss again.

It is time for us to say “No more.” No more violence, no more fear, no more refusing to see the value and beauty in every person in this world.

What can one person do? I am surely not the only one who has asked this question. I am surely not the only one who has felt too small in the face of so much. Perhaps I cannot change the world, but I must change myself–and that is no small thing. When I skirt around the edges of despair at just how huge this problem is in our country, I keep coming back to LOVE. We have got to breathe through our fear, our despair, our anger–whatever it may be for each of us–and see with the eyes of love.

Last month, Natasha Ria El-Scari spoke at CSL about living the Science of Mind principles in the face of racism. One of the many things she shared that touched me was her story of being shoved by a white man at the gym where she was exercising. He had clearly gone out of his way to do it. She followed him and asked him why he had. At first, he denied having done anything. She held firm and calmly replied that it was clear that he had, and she asked again what had led him to behave that way. He finally apologized and she accepted it. To us Natasha said that she was aware that there are two acceptable ways for a black person to address racist acts–one is to pretend it didn’t happen and the other is to go into a rage. Neither works for her. If she remains silent, she becomes complicit with the act of racism. If she responds with rage, she is dismissed. Either way, the behavior itself remains unchallenged. Her approach, instead, is to “get all up in people’s faces with love.”

Speaking up has always been my struggle. I have not known how to address things that felt wrong to me. Stuck between two choices–fly into blaming, shaming, righteous mode; or remain silent–I have not spoken. I feel in the turmoil of my soul that my silence–our silence–makes it possible for horrendous acts of violence against black people to continue unchallenged.

Natasha offered a very clear alternate path. Love wants to speak through me. I may not feel that I have the power to change the world, but I can open my mouth. I can set my fingers to write when my throat won’t loose the words inside me. I can let Love speak through me. Doing so will change the world.

I Am Woman

During Science of Mind Principles class, Dr. Chris invited us to make enough room inside of ourselves to consider that the impossible dream just might be possible. He was talking about that dream that you can’t shake no matter how much you despair of ever realizing it.

I knew exactly what dream he was talking about. Simply put, my dream is to help heal the divisions between people that keep us separated from each other around race, religious belief, ethnicity, sexuality, gender, and gender expression. I also want to help heal the wounds we carry within that keep us isolated from others, that keep us from knowing the beautiful truth about ourselves.

So I gave it that little bit of breathing room Chris requested. I even shared it with a few of my friends. I actually opened to the possibility that it could indeed really happen–and I felt excited about it. Then I drifted back to the business of living my life, my dream still there breathing quietly, just not the center of my attention.

Our focus at CSL this year is on making change happen in “real life” through our spiritual practice. One of the women in our spiritual community was asked to give the talk at a Wednesday night Real Life service. Bruce Jenner had just done the interview on being transgendered with Diane Sawyer, and the CSL team wanted to start a conversation in our own community about what we could do to help make the world big enough to welcome people who are transgendered.

Madeline came and spoke about her journey to womanhood. The morning after she shared her story, I woke up filled with a new awareness (again) of the privilege the world affords me because I am a white woman whose body parts match up with the commonly held expectation for women. I was touched by Madeline’s story, by her openness, her deep presence, her hard-won self-acceptance. Her talk opened up a rich vein in me that I have been sifting through ever since.

One of the things that has surfaced is that I have realized that I, too, have struggled to embrace myself as a woman. I have not had to deal with having body parts that most people believe make you a man, but buried inside my struggle to accept myself as a lesbian, there has been this equal discomfort around embracing myself as a woman. I have stayed on the periphery, as if it would be presumptuous to include myself, as if being a lesbian disqualified me from participating in the larger tribe of women. When I really looked at it, I could see that I had been acting from a place of feeling that I needed to be granted permission (to whom do you even go to ask for that?) as if I were not already a woman.

And to claim my place within the circle without apology . . .?

Well, when I put it like that . . . (my whole face just smiled).

Ain’t I a woman?

Oh, yeah. Me and Madeline, too.

The Gift

You may underestimate the intensity of your longing for continual transformation, but the universe doesn’t. That’s why it provides you with the boundless entertainment of your ever-shifting story. That’s why it is always revising the challenges it sends your way, providing your curious soul with a rich variety of unpredictable teachings.
From Rob Brezsny’s May 5, 2015 Astrology Newsletter

I have been played. By the Divine Trickster no less. I can’t stop laughing to myself as I tip my head. Namaster: The Trickster in me recognizes and honors the Trickster in you.

A couple of weeks ago, this woman I met awhile back stepped out of my peripheral vision and engaged me in conversation. New life sprang up inside me just like the primal bamboo in my back yard–not slowly pushing it’s way up through the resistant soil, but bam, here I am–knee high before you can blink your eye. (Please forgive the rhyme; that was not intentional.)

I was not expecting that. I mean seriously, I’m working on three goals, and I’ve got a waiting list five deep, with love and desire right at the tail end of those. So maybe a year or two and I’m ready.

But these feelings are lovely, and now I’m shuffling the stack to make room in my world to enjoy them. Who wouldn’t?

I know that these feelings are mine, and though they have been triggered by this particular woman, it doesn’t mean that she will have any interest in me, nor does it mean that she will be someone that I will want to share them with. I finally get that, and I love that I do. But why not take a step forward and see what there is to see?

When I have been attracted to someone in the past, my mind has tended to go blank, my tongue to tie itself in knots, and my feet to head me anywhere but in her direction. Nonetheless, I determine that the next time I see this woman, I will ask her if she’d be interested in grabbing a cup of coffee sometime. (I don’t drink coffee, but I’ve got my Virgo need for detail accuracy in check, and I have rehearsed this simple line used without qualm by normal people everywhere, until I can recite it in any blanked out state my brain might throw at me.)

As the next possible opportunity to see her approaches, I’m hearing Chris Michael’s voice from prayer class in my head–“people usually turn to prayer as a last resort”–so I accept the invitation and I claim the courage to speak this one measly line, the faith to know that my life is unfolding perfectly no matter what, and, well, what the hell.

The Universe, recognizing my keen ability to talk myself out of anything at the last moment, starts strumming leftover remnants of songs in my mind to help bolster my resolve: “What would I do if I were brave.” Then a whole brand new song: “You can’t touch the sky from inside yourself. You cannot fly until you break the shell.” Then comes the challenge from Mike Irwin, CSL’s spiritual co-director: “What would you do this year if you were brave?” Whatever on this year. What about today?

So next chance I had, I asked. It wasn’t even hard. The line came out almost smoothly. She accepted–but not for a specific sometime. I didn’t get the feeling that she was particularly interested in doing so.

That’s when it hit me that God in It’s infinite wisdom was playing me just the way It needed to–getting me to open up, to release some of my old stuff and to really get clear on what I want–and that I want for that matter. And the real gift for me in this (besides these dreamy feelings) is that I get to see that I have become a woman equal to the lover, and the lover experience, that I want to have.

Prayer Control Freak

It has occurred to me over the last couple of weeks that two seemingly disparate phenomena in my life at the moment significantly inform each other.

In last week’s post, I talked about my tendency to take on the emotional care of other people–like I know what they need. So I’m working through that (once again) at the same time that I am immersed in a series of classes at CSL that have me looking at God and prayer. It strikes me that I’m just a jumbled mess around both of these things–in basically the same way.

I have participated in too many relationships as if I were God Itself–the wound savior; the source for people’s happiness. Sometimes I have taken on people’s pain because I could feel them wanting something that, quite possibly, they were not even aware of wanting, and sometimes I have taken it on because I wanted something from them. This was the only way I knew to be worthy of a connection.

So here I am grappling with all this stop-caretaking-people stuff at the same time that I am studying prayer. Damned if I haven’t fallen into the same trap with prayer. I’ve been going at it like I am responsible for making the thing that people desire to experience manifest for them, instead of just getting to the heart of it and holding my knowing on the truth that it is theirs already, just waiting for them to choose it.

I still haven’t gotten this all figured out: caretaking/loving in regards to people; knowing/willing in regards to prayer. But it occurs to me that one of the obvious lines in regards to people is listening. Just listening, no fixing. It is time to trust the people I am engaging with to find their way (or to find somebody else who is happy to oblige them by doing the caretaking they are after). Finally, there is trusting that my own value has nothing to do with how well I take care of other people’s needs, with how well I anticipate them so they don’t even have to ask. The truth is that all I could ever be is the band-aid that keeps people from really seeking out the healing that is available to them from Source.

So here’s the deal. I am going to get to the heart of both of these issues, and when I do, I am going to suck in the biggest breath of freedom you ever saw, and laugh and laugh and laugh.

Surrendering to the Pissoff Within

Don’t ask what the world needs–do what makes you come alive.
​​​​​​​​-Howard Thurman

I sometimes have to get really out of sorts before I realize I need to change something about the way I meet the world. A few weeks ago, I dropped into a pretty big funk before I realized how much I pattern my life around tending to what I perceive are the needs of others. I’ve run into this pattern repeatedly and I’ve done a lot of work to create a different one. Yet the old pattern snaps back into place like a stretched rubber band when it is let go.

Last week in our Science of Mind Principles class, I created a prayer to stop feeling responsible for other people’s emotional wounds, to stop responding to the pull I feel in my body when I sense someone wanting something of me that I don’t want to give. This is a messy process. I have to feel that people do not matter to me so that I can cut myself free from these patterns. I have to get all righteous about how I’m being invaded, how no one sees me (waa fucking waa) so that I can turn my focus to what I want. I have to get people off me psychically so I can breathe.

I pulled friends, colleagues and family into this movie even though they had no idea of the supporting roles they had been cast in. It didn’t matter if they fit their roles perfectly. It didn’t matter if they were speaking completely different lines than the ones I was feeding them. What mattered is that I surrendered to the chaos and anger swirling inside me; that I breathed through the shame, embarrassment and guilt that I felt; that I chose me; and that I made a change that needed making. For me.

Truth is I’m still walking through this, trying to sort it all out, figure out where the lines are between loving and care taking in any given situation. I’m determined to get free from this. Maybe someday I can do it more gracefully. I would love that. For now, I am grateful to my supporting actors. I hope you do not know who you are. After all, it ain’t about you.