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Archive for January, 2010

Phantom Limb

I do not feel divine today. I am brittle.

Please

please

I cannot look to the moon tonight

she makes me cry.

not for I’ve offended her but rather

I know you can see her too, from wherever you are.

And is this your pain I’m feeling?

I wonder if it’s always been the same pain, whenever unexplained.

You are fading like a dream, baby

am I starting to forget

and I’m crying.

I miss feeling whole

I miss being entwined within you

your warm, slender arms.

How can it be real at all

And why couldn’t I face it.

I miss you, baby.

The bones in my chest protruding to prove it

coming

reaching forth in hopes of grazing some part that is near you

I miss the fact that you could ever exist.

Please don’t let me lose these lessons

I don’t think it’s even possible. Because you’re in me now. And my tantra beckons so

that’s you, teaser snake,

coaxing my rough intolerable parts forward

and me running to cower. from nothing but myself, in truth.

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Please read this article.

It is not complete. As in, in order to understand many of the (primarily accurate) claims it makes one needs much historical-social-political background and to be generally aware of the actions and consequences of colonialism and the global economy. But, given that it’s a short piece, this article is excellent and informative on the true nature of what’s going on today in Haiti and the greater world. Put your preconceptions aside and just be open to what Edna Bonhomme, the author, is saying.

Some excerpts:

‘As author Linda Martín-Alcoff put it, “The practice of privileged persons speaking for or on behalf of less privileged persons has actually resulted (in many cases) increasing or reinforcing the oppression of the group spoken for.”‘

‘The United States and other imperial nations have been responsible for international structural violence. In Haiti and other countries in Latin America, global forces have pushed people from the countryside to urban areas and contributed to the formation and expansion of slums. Neoliberal policy has put basic food and services for sale in developing nations, while neglecting a green revolution.’

‘Rather than uphold the economic disparity that existed beforehand, everyone in Haiti should have access to education, food, health care and housing, irrespective of ethnic origin, color or caste. A responsible international community should stop rapacious multinational corporations from profiting from people’s desperation. Instead, Haiti needs a just system that addresses deforestation, energy and labor.’

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“People think a soul mate is your perfect fit, and that’s what everyone wants. But a true soul mate is a mirror, the person who shows you everything that is holding you back, the person who brings you to your own attention so you can change your life. A true soul mate is probably the most important person you’ll ever meet, because they tear down your walls and smack you awake. A soul mates purpose is to shake you up, tear apart your ego a little bit, show you your obstacles and addictions, break your heart open so new light can get in, make you so out of control that you have to transform your life…”

— Elizabeth Gilbert

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For Joy

Mimamsa says those who remain in samsara (the cycle of suffering) do so in ignorance. But what of those who simply believe they love their suffering? And those who would rather remain in suffering than perform the work required of exiting from it. These simply forms of ignorance?

The other day, a girl said to me: “I just know that enlightenment isn’t for me in this lifetime.” Okay. What can I argue that with, when someone blatantly tells me and themselves that they’re not willing to do what it takes to embrace the joy they were created to eventually achieve? It’s the excuse about a certain position on a path. An excuse that I have used, that in ways I continue to use, and I’m unsure whether I buy it anymore.

We live in a (Western) culture of hypocrisy. That is not to say hypocrisy doesn’t exist outside this culture, just that I see now that I wade within a gaggle of people who think one way and do another.

I myself am one of these people. And I continue to be inclined in thinking that I do not know how to act in accordance with my beliefs. What does this mean, practically? How does it look from moment to moment, decision to decision? Here I am, reverting to old habits that are manifestations of my suffering. And I know now that it’s not a matter of stopping myself from engaging in these habits. Rather, it’s about changing whatever is the cause of the habits. At the root of them. And what I believe is that the cause of suffering is failing to engage with and act upon your inner truth, guiding knowledge. Essentially: ignoring God. But, I ask, how do I engage with God amidst all of these societally-imposed obligations? And is the answer to find myself within these limits or rather to eliminate the limits and thus more firmly direct myself towards the listening of the universe? Perhaps some are able to stay grounded within the obstacles and others need to escape them to find truth? Is this the difference between monastic and tantric methodology?

Does activism matter at all if your actions outside of it conflict with your beliefs? Does anything matter at all if you do not behave in line with what you feel and what you know. I feel, I do, that I cannot make real change or difference in anything without first knowing myself and never straying from that.

I long for him

like pieces missing in a rainbowed puzzle

of mine own Truth

everyone else pales

all connections seem forced and putrid

I wake up wishing I were on a floor, coldness outside and chipping paint surrounding. The most limited resources engulfing us and yet both needing nothing but the nourishment we feed one another in simple presence.

But I cannot go to him because I want to feel whole. And I cannot go to him because I want him to feel better. I can only go to him when I’ve disbanded all illusions and I sincerely want him for no other reason than because that’s what’s inside of me.

It can’t be a mind-thought. It can’t be a heart-thought. It is only a source-know that can lead me to him again. [God I hope to be led to him again]

And the why it isn’t now

is because I continue to make simple mistakes and I know they would result in abuse of what we share, like they already have. And I can’t go to him until I am secure in myself. So I can understand and look him in the eye and explain every treacherous act for what it us and be resolute in knowing that such treachery has sparked out like a gradually-weakened flame and no longer appears to waver me or shake any foundation.

I wish to be ready now

but i know if i went now he’d spy my weaknesses and they’d remain him in torment (because they keep me there, and we are One).

And I want to believe we could overcome them together, but I fear crossing that line into a path of needing him to assist me. And the last thing I want to do is come to him solely out of belief that he can help me ascend.

The only way I want to come to him is from my own intuition. Disbanding overuse of mind and overemotionality. And our stars are so aligned that surely their magic will allow happenings to unfold in a manner conducive to our workings together

as long as I am able to do my own work

and not stray from that work. Regardless.

And I am still not achieving there. But even so, hope holds out for me because I know my potential so well.

And here I go.

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Atma Vision

And the thing we have in common is awareness of the vision above, not merely as it applies to me, but as it applies to you and, too, all around us. Thank You for being receptive to the beauty within me and translating it by exercising your own.

Love

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Life is a stream. It is wind. Life is a bonfire and the slow erosion of mountains over time. Nature, and life itself, is characterized by seasons; the ever-present flow of change. I have heard a quote that states: change is the only constant in life. Thus, what seems a simple and straightforward question about personal identity is a bit more complex than one may prefer to believe for simplicity’s sake. Who am I? And just as important, how do I know that? What elements of identity are significant to me? What defines my “self”?

Five years ago I would have had no problem identifying myself to others via specific characteristics, values, and traits. I would have told them I was female, and that I lived in Mount Airy, Maryland. I attended Linganore High School as a student interested in theater arts and the French language. I would have pointed to my age as a self-descriptor and said that I had a younger brother and two heterosexual parents who remained married. I had lived in the same house all my life, a house on two acres surrounded by gardens and flanked by forest. I certainly would have referred to myself as a social butterfly. A good student in school. An organized, driven, and thoughtful person with a strong sense of individuality. I kept journals, I made art, and I had an adventurous spirit, lively humor, and a whole lot of talent. I was a successful actress, singer, dancer, leader, and I loved to be the center of attention.

As I write this, I am reminded that throughout school I have completed many different assignments that asked me questions similar to those this assignment is inquiring about. Even in elementary school, I was encouraged to know and name my favorite color, my favorite food, the type of things I liked to do. It is only recently that I have begun to question the meaning and purpose of this. I can remember sitting in a circle in kindergarten and having everyone proclaim what their favorite color was. And in doing so, both the divisive and uniting potential of such an exercise were revealed. I remember feeling sometimes a sense of apprehension before saying my favorite color. What if nobody else liked the color I liked? Some children were too shy to say anything at all. Others simply repeated the names of the color their best friend embraced. Some believed they were best friends with a person solely because they shared affection for the color pink, while others recognized that if some people enjoyed the same color that they did, they had something in common despite some other differences. And there were expectations regarding what color we chose. A kindergarten-aged boy never said ‘pink’ unless he was joking. If I had said ‘brown’ was my favorite, no one would have taken me seriously. That was a weird color to like. Why like brown when there were better colors like green and blue and purple to choose from? Proclaiming a favorite color in kindergarten was, essentially, declaring something about your identity. Talking about your own perception of who you were.

I’ve been asked this question, about my favorite color, so many times throughout my life. And sometimes my favorite color would change, along with my choice of favorite food and even the activities I most liked to do. What did this mean, if my favorite color changed? Did my identity change along with that? Did something change about who I am? No longer could I identify as someone who loved red. No, now the color I loved was a very specific and soothing lilac-like shade of purple. And that love for purple became a definitive part of my sense of identity. I remember when I was in middle school, overhearing someone say, “anyone who likes purple is a fruit. Did you know that? Purple’s a gay color.” At the time, I wondered about the truth of that. I wondered if, perhaps, I were unknowingly gay. And what did that mean about my identity, if I were indeed gay? Hearing that statement made me question the color I was using to define myself. Indeed, it went deeper than that: it made me question my very self.

Today if one is to ask me, as this assignment does, about what makes me me, I am much more careful about my answer, because ‘identity’ is so often confused with ‘self.’ I am no longer convinced that living in a certain region or town or house or apartment makes me who I am as a person. I am not convinced that my race defines who I am, nor my job, nor the type of food that I eat. Yes, I am a white female from upper-middle class semi-rural America. I often work as a waitress and perform community service. I maintain a vegetarian/vegan diet. However, these are not things that make me who I am. These things speak not to my self – they are merely experiences that inform my material life. This is an incredibly important distinction that far too often gets completely overlooked. When we get caught up in drawing from our experience to denote our identity, not only is it often socially divisive (or even falsely socially uniting), I would argue that it becomes harder to access your true self. In other words, clinging to certain aspects and characteristics we so often use to talk about who we are actually prevents us from seeing and understanding who we essentially are. Defining our identity, which describes our physical/intellectual/material self may be a threat to our true self, the force that happily wishes to guide our life according to the synergies of the universe.

I realize that this assignment is not necessarily meant to be used to delve into such discussion. But in attempting to write about my identity, I only come up with a list of events and aspects and characteristics of things that seem quite far removed from my self. How can I identify as a white girl, or a hippie, or a coffee shop haunter when all of those random attributes work to reduce the vastness of who I actually am? Perhaps I am to write that I identify as a woman, or a student, or a traveler. It is important that I am a woman, because feminine energy is surely a part of my self. And it is important that I am a student and traveler, but not a student of Warren Wilson College, and not merely a traveler between states or continents. I am rather a student and traveler of life: ever-learning, ever-growing, ever-changing with the flow of the stream, and in all good hope – ascending to higher planes of self, never to be restricted by some arbitrary traits or definitions of what that is.

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Today, the third day of orientation for my new arrival at Warren Wilson College. They split us in to groups and asked us to say one word that exemplified the “issue most important to us.”

The list went: children. education. environment. homelessness. teens. love. environment, environment, environment, environment, environment. It came to me: Oppression. Because it seems obvious to me that all of the issues listed by others were essentially the same issue. They derived from oppression. Yes, it is important to reach out to children and teens so they can be taught skills against oppression in their formative years. It is obvious that homelessness is a direct result of oppression. And the environment? Surely the environmental problems and issues we face stem from the hierarchical position humans have mistakenly placed them in above nature. Humans wishing to subdue the environment, to use it and abuse it and push it to the corner as if it were nothing of importance. Oppression. Across the board, the issue most noted in the room was environment. Perhaps because the destruction seems so imminent? As in, say, the destruction of sexual violence and inequality between human beings does not seem to pose a threat that will destroy the human race (though it is, actively, destroying us). Nature, perhaps, does not allow us to ignore the abuses we’ve partaken in, whereas humans have become all too accepting. Even resigned. [Interestingly, none of the students in my group (all white) mentioned anything about race. I find it fascinating how eager so many are to believe that racism no longer exists and how uncomfortable people get when someone attempts to address it. Pretending it’s not there, ignoring racism does nothing to solve anything or move anyone forward.]

I reflected on my time at the Cambridge Women’s Center today. Boston and Cambridge continue to feel like an unfinished phantom leg of my life. Pleasant and realistic dream.

I volunteered at the Women’s Center about 3 hours a week for one year. In that time, I had experiences and conversations that I will never forget. They influenced my immediate life and worked to change my attitudes and beliefs longterm.

The center began in 1971 when a group of pissed off feminists commandeered an abandoned Harvard building, declaring that they needed a community space of their own. Donations flowed in and the women were able to purchase a house in Cambridge. The house became a vibrant flowing space. Completely volunteer run and absolutely free, the Women’s Center was a place for women to go where they could feel safe and celebrate themselves and each other. It was a place of honesty. A place of community. Over the years, however, attendance receded. The Center slowly became more of a service center than a community space. Now rather than a space for all women, it is a space for poor, homeless, struggling, mentally ill, and women who are victims to come for shelter or use of the kitchen or computer lab. There is little interaction between women and oftentimes it is angry or resentful. There is a separation between the women who use the center and those who volunteer there –

volunteers are placed in a role of authority over the women who are using the center. And I don’t mind noting that many of the volunteers are young women attending college or coming from a place of privilege. This isn’t true across the board, but by and large the women who use the center are not from privilege and those who volunteer are. The hierarchy thus remains enforced.

Reflecting today, I realized how important it was for me to have a regular time slot at the center every week. To see the same people and hear the same voices on the phone over the span of a year.

I realized today that this is how social change is made. Getting people together to interact in some space without hierarchy or structure. Getting two people who would normally never have a reason to speak or meet one another to bond, to form a connection. To learn to appreciate each other’s gifts and to see one another for who they are, rather than their race, economic class, religion, whatever.

This is revolutionary. This is how social change is made. I want to be a part of social change as made this way.

But how do we do this? How do we go about it. How do we get a group of unlikely people in a space together and melt them down until they realize the raw truth of their humanity, their oneness? Especially because what is so important is getting people who are most aversive to this kind of thing to participate. Old people, young people, black and brown and hindu and catholic and muslim and whatever people. People from all walks or wheels. People classified as mentally ill. People who only see their money. People who only see their kids. How do we collect folks together and break them down into the understanding that they are all living together in this life and essentially, everybody wants the same thing. How do we get people to realize that their interests, their true interests (not the false consumer-fed and individualist-bred) are everybody’s interests. And that if everyone stopped participating in oppression and all of its many omnipresent tools, many of the problems this world’s people experience would take care of themselves.

I want to be a part of the transcendence that occurs when two people overcome every obstacle and see one another. I want that in love. I want that in life. If ever I were to have any sort of “career,” this is the career I might choose.

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