I spent a lot of time over a few days thinking about and participating in a conversation recently, on Facebook, about abortion rights. Normally, this is a high stress, heated issue. And while it did dominate my thoughts, it was not in an angry way – because neither of us wanted to fight. We just wanted to speak, openly and honestly, about why we believe what we do. Even though we knew that we would not convince the other person to change sides. And maybe that’s the reason it worked – because we weren’t trying to convince someone else, we were simply speaking for ourselves, and witnessing our own beliefs.
Political debate will always be a part of who I am. I have strong feelings about rights and equality and freedom, and not allowing an elite small group to make decisions for those who they can’t possibly represent or understand. In a lot of ways, I do think our democracy has evolved into elected oligarchy. Politicians claim to speak for the majority, or for their constituents, but really, they are speaking for themselves and those who agree with them. Everyone is shouting into a vacuum, and no one can win, because they are spending so much time trying to convince others to follow their beliefs that they have forgotten to explain why they believe them in the first place.
So here is my challenge to you: take some time to explain, in a journal, or on Facebook, or to another person, some belief that really matters to you. Explain why it matters, how it affects your belief system, and what its roots are. Don’t worry about convincing them that you’re right, or that they should do things your way, just explain why you feel the way that you do. And see how it makes you feel. And tell me about it in the comments.
Last week I took an expressive therapies class. I am studying to be a psychotherapist, so this class was an elective that I could take, because we can cross-register in any expressive therapies course with no prerequisites. I could have taken drama therapy, music therapy, even dance therapy…things that I know…I have been with drama and music and dance for most of my life. But in this class, I had to draw.
I don’t like to draw. I have made approximately three drawings in my entire life that I have liked. One was a groundhog when I was six. One was an iris at some point in my early twenties. And I’m assuming there was a third, because there’s always that one thing you forget when you’re listing these sorts of things. But each day, at least once in the seven hours of class time, there was drawing. Most days, there were several periods of drawing.
We could use words, symbols, images. We didn’t have to be artists. But still, it was drawing. And I don’t draw. I’ve avoided other multimodal arts retreats and workshops simply because they would make me draw or paint in them. And here I was, five days in a row, colored pencils and oil pastels and markers in my hands, and blank pieces of paper staring at me, making me fill them with something, and then share it with at least one other person, and often the whole group.
And out of this…I’m writing again. I’ve had spiritual and energetic growth. I’m moving more freely. I feel healthier, happier, more rested. It was hard, and I didn’t enjoy it…but it sparked something. By doing this thing that I don’t enjoy doing, that challenges me, but that engages the creative part of my brain, I’m more awake now.
But don’t expect me to start posting sketches on here…
“When the existence and marvelous power of the deeper self is recognized, the “Know Thyself” of the Delphic Oracle acquires a new and profounder meaning. It no longer means only “analyse your thoughts and feelings and actions”; it means study your most intimate self, discover the real being hidden in the depths of your soul, learn its marvelous potency.” ~Roberto Assagioli
Assagioli goes on to say that this is not about deifying the Self, but about finding that place in the Self that is in touch with God or a Higher Power of some kind. There is something about this idea that is both eminently satisfying and eminently frustrating. If we all have within us this potent, amazing being, yet we only see it in brief, transcendent moments, it can be challenging. It seems almost painful to know that this beautiful, powerful calling is within us, yet only sometimes can we hear it.
But isn’t that what we’re here for? To listen for the calling, and follow where it leads us?
I am a Christian. But I am not a Christian. I am living in the space between. There are a lot of people who can’t understand this. There is a lot of pressure to choose one side or the other. But there’s a lot of truth in the in-between spaces.
Some of my dearest friends are Christians – the kind of Bible reading, church-going, sincerely praying people who many envision when they think of the word Christian. And I love that about them. I love that they are so committed and empowered in their faith, and that it gives them strength. But I am not that person.
Some of my dearest friends are atheists. Secular humanist, science based realists, who think that belief in God is a crutch. And I love that about them. I love that they are so secure in their humanity, so committed to living in the here and now. But I am not that person.
I have friends who are Buddhists, Jews, Catholics, seekers, spiritual-but-not-religious, and Wiccan. I have friends who believe in heaven, hell, reincarnation, karma, one life, many lives, and life ever after.
And I live in the space between. I believe in spirit, energy, connection, love and something that ties us all together in something bigger than ourselves. And sometimes I call that something God. And sometimes I call it Jesus. And sometimes I don’t. Because right now, what is true for me is the journey, and the space between faith and reason, here-and-now and everlasting.
The body says what words cannot. ~Martha Graham
It takes great courage and energy to cultivate non-doing, both in stillness and in activity. Nor is it easy to make a special time for non-doing and to keep at it in the face of everything in our lives which needs to be done. ~ Jon Kabat-Zinn
Riding the wave of powerful cleansing energy from my Reiki attunement, I thought I would just continue to feel better. After all 21 days of cleansing and balancing just happens, so why wouldn’t it be possible for me to just feel energized by that? So I continued to do too much, and stress too much, and after the first few days, I fell into bed without doing self-Reiki, and went to work in the morning without doing meditation…and you know what? I feel lousy.
In some ways, even though I do feel less drained than I did before, I feel worse, because now my body is even more aware of what I’m doing wrong. When dinner is cheese and crackers and applesauce, my body knows that something is missing. When I’m too lazy to take my vitamins before bed, the things those vitamins are supposed to be balancing act up. Now, all the messages that my body has been giving me all along are too loud to be ignored. Something has to give, and my health has been that something far too often. Even now I feel the ache in the back of my throat and the dull pain in my temple that means I’m dehydrated and overtired, and last night I was wide awake in the middle of the night with thoughts bouncing around in my head.
Self-care is not optional. I knew this when I began training to be a psychotherapist; I knew that in order to treat and care for others, I had to have a way to care for myself. And yet, as soon as I get busy, it’s the first thing I let slide. I wasn’t going to write today – caught up in the whirlwind of final papers, I thought, I should take this time to write papers, not to write something “frivolous”. But this is important. This blog post may not change anyone else’s life, but it’s a reminder that I am committing once again to changing my own. I need to write. I need to sleep, and meditate, and eat good food, and do yoga, and do self-Reiki and make myself a priority. Because when I put everyone else first, we all lose out, because I can’t give them my whole self until I make sure that I’m making myself whole.
We are not human beings having a spiritual experience; but spiritual beings having a human experience. ~Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
“I come to you with strange fire, I make an offering of love, the incense of my soil is burned by the fire in my blood. I come with a softer answer to the questions that lie in your path. I want to harbor you from the anger, find a refuge from the wrath.
This is a message of love. Love that moves from the inside out, love that never grows tired. I come to you with strange fire.” ~Indigo Girls
Easter brings out the Catholic in me – but it also brings out the pagan in me. There’s a love of ritual that is awakened with the birth of spring, and the Easter vigil.
Someone asked me to make plans for the night of the Easter vigil, and out of nowhere, my soul said no. I have to go to church. This is something that I don’t say to people very often, because, well, I don’t really go to church.
But the Easter vigil, where the greens of last year are burned and the new fire is blessed, where the paschal candle is blessed with fire and water, where we begin in the dark and welcome back the light – this is ritual at its best.
Ritual is why I loved being a Catholic for so many years. Ritual is why I am drawn to ancient rites and historical holy places and times. Ritual makes me feel whole again, cleansed, and complete and part of something much bigger than myself.
And once a year, no matter where I am, no matter what my journey has brought in the interim, I need to spend two hours immersed in this familiar and powerful ritual. I can’t wait for next Saturday.
“Self-importance is our greatest enemy. Think about it – what weakens us is feeling offended by the deeds and misdeeds of our fellowmen. Our self-importance requires that we spend most of our lives offended by someone.” ~Carlos Castaneda
I have spent a lot of my life feeling wronged. Feeling like I was being judged. I have spent so much time thinking about what other people might be judging about my words or actions, that I’ve lost sleep, I’ve lost my temper, I’ve lost precious time…and what have I gained?
When you think about it, it’s pretty vain to think that other people spend as much time thinking about what we do or say as we think they do. If anyone else spent as much time thinking about my words and actions as I spend thinking about what they think of them, I’d think they were crazy. But self-importance, self-absorption…somehow that’s come to be normal, not crazy. Somehow it’s become a way of life to think about yourself so much. But for me, at least, I’ve found that it’s incredibly unhealthy.
When I spend my time ruminating about what people think of me, I’m not spending that time reading books, meditating, enjoying my family and friends, or doing anything else that I love. I’m not building positive relationships with people, if anything I’m undermining them. And this has been a hard lesson to learn. When I’ve felt judged, I have said things I didn’t mean, or things I meant in the moment that should never have been said out loud. I’ve hurt others, and myself.
It’s an uphill battle. But I’m climbing…slowly…
“If you mean libel, I’d say so, and not talk about labels, as if Papa was a pickle bottle,” advised Jo, laughing.Posted: 9 March 2012
“The words ‘I am…’ are potent words; be careful what you hitch them to. The thing you’re claiming has a way of reaching back and claiming you.” ~A.L. Kitselman
The title quote is from Little Women, and was what I thought of as I started to ponder the power of labels. It really is a powerful thing to put a word to who you are. The words “I am…” can lock you in or set you free.
Self-identifiers are the things that tell us most and least about a person. They tell us what they want the picture of themselves to be, or what they think it is, but they over-simplify. My identifiers, like Christian, feminist, writer, they don’t really tell you who I am. They give you snippets of the picture, like that game where you can only see a small piece of a photo and have to guess which celebrity it is. But when we place those labels on others, we’re also putting them in a box that might be true, but can’t possibly be all of who they are.
What are your labels? If someone asks you to describe yourself, what do you say? And what do you leave out by doing so?
It may be that when we no longer know what to do, we have come to our real work, and when we no longer know which way to go, we have begun our real journey.
~ Wendell Berry
I’ve mentioned that I like to know the answers. And I do. I like to know where I’m going, what comes next, and what will get me an A+ on it. But there are a lot of things that I value that don’t work that way.
I am a feminist. Unapologetic, vocal, in your face, feminist. This is not a question. But I think I’m at that place where I don’t know what direction that takes me in anymore. Because being angry alongside other angry people can only go so far. And the people who don’t agree may not change their minds. But somehow, in the midst of that stalemate, change has to happen. And I don’t know what the steps are to make that change.
Today is International Women’s Day. And a lot of people who are feminists feel like a “day” is a silly way to address what needs to happen. And I don’t disagree, because I don’t think a “day” really does anything in itself. Except that it makes the struggle visible to people who might not want to look at it. And the invisibility of privilege is what makes it dangerous. So while I agree that International Women’s Day is not the answer, I don’t feel like it’s without value. Because if even one person thinks a little bit more about suffering and inequality, isn’t that a step in the right direction?
So, on this day that I wish we didn’t need, I’m thinking that for right now, I don’t know what the next step in my feminist journey is. Just like I don’t know what the next step in my spiritual journey is. But I know that if something that I say or post or advocate for today makes someone else see through the fog to the oppression underneath, that’s something. And maybe that’s all I need to know right now. Because my real journey is just getting started.