TGiving-2020: Gratitude, Grief, Real History

To give thanks.

A prayer. 

A practice.

A family celebration.

A bow of deep appreciation to  you,  faithful readers through the seasons.

For some, a Zoom Gathering on the 4th Thursday of 2020.

Now that we are somewhat assured that an orderly transition of political power will unfold between now and January, my personal capacity to give thanks has gotten a boost. 

It will get a bigger boost when I log in to Zoom later today to hear Monica’s Thanksgiving prayer before the meal. Monica and Beth and daughter Sari have been guests at our Passover Seder since Sari was a baby. Several years ago we began to say yes to their invitation to join their families and friends for Thanksgiving. I was ready to give up hosting our own. It was an easy transition.

Monica is a soul-ful pray-er, and invokes all manner of blessings received and blessings still needed.

She offers me the real dessert before the meal: a deeper meaning of the day. A day about which I was schooled in cringeworthy myths about Pilgrims and Indians sharing a meal.  She doesn’t pass over either the awful or the sublime. This year, instead of their post-meal ritual of sending home each guest with an individualized set of containers of left-overs, Beth and Monica and Sari made pre-Thanksgiving home deliveries on Tuesday and Wednesday. 

Still, I grieve the loss of the “traditional” way we have come together, the breaking of bread together, the assembling of a meal that many hands and kitchens contributed to.

One more loss, one more season now belonging to the Before Times. And for me, one grief seems to tap into another, as if they all feed into one underground stream. 

Grief, love for what I have valued, loved, lost…they are a matched set, grief and love. 

I am not a gratitude practice person – if you are fortunate to find that your natural go-to, wonderful. I envy you! For me, letting in grief allows me to  find  my way to gratitude. It can take a while.

Who lives, who dies, who tells the story?

And this year I also feel a self-conscious pull to enlarge my personal sphere and include a deeper grief historically linked to this holiday. Thanksgiving, 2020 marks a National Day of Mourning, now in its 51st year. This event honors the death of Native Americans at the hands of early settlers and colonists, and shines a light on contemporary issues facing Native Americans. In October, the CDC reported that American Indian and Alaska Native people are 5.3 times more likely than white people to be hospitalized due to COVID-19, the largest disparity for any racial or ethnic group.

The dynamic of celebration by one tribe signifying a day of disaster for another is not unfamiliar to me as a Jew. Israel’s Independence Day is celebrated on May 15: celebrating a safe home for Jews following the Holocaust. Naqba, literally meaning “catastrophe,” is observed to commemorate hundreds of thousands of Arab Palestinians who fled or were displaced from their homes. I am not making a political statement here or declaring any sense that I understand the historical complexities and realities. I simply wish to acknowledge that there are two sets of lived experiences here, along with some truths and some mythologies, leaving a trail of  unresolved, blood-stained conflict.

The land my house is built on, and where we have lived for 36 years, was home to the Piscataway-Conoy as far back as 800 BCE.

I do not know much of their history or way of life – when I do, I may be ready to write my own “land acknowledgement” – a statement crafted differently by Native Peoples and White people to recognize the original stewards of the lands on which we now live. Naming what is true is the first step in healing. 

I am finding it more and more common on Zoom meetings among activists and seekers to invite participants to introduce themselves not only with their names and preferred pronouns, but also with a land acknowledgement of the place they are calling in from. It feels awkward and somewhat empty, a label on an empty box. But empty because I myself am empty of truthful historical information, lived historical human experiences, and an embodied appreciation to tribal knowledge and governance.

An invitation … to remember the land we live on is in our care, that we may rent or have a deed of ownership, but we are merely the current caretaker: you can enter your zip code at this website to learn the names of the tribal land on which you live.

Then see what you can find about their history – their way of life and governance.

A first small step towards yet one more conciliation that the waning months of 2020 summon us to make.

May our gratitudes help us rise to the occasion.

May we respect one another and do what we can
to keep one another safe, well, and nourished.

Happy Thanksgiving.

THE TIME IS NOW

Engage, recommit, repair, or take your first tentative steps to re-imagine and shape a world where equity is valued and embodied: Radical Inclusion Practice

Post-Election: Carry On. Love the World.

When I woke up on Post-Election Day, November 4, 2020, I knew I needed to carry on. But how?

I REACHED FOR WISDOM. WHAT COULD I PULL UP FROM WITHIN MYSELF?

I’ve learned that I need to practice before my feet hit the floor in the morning or my mind and mood seize control of my day. I sit for anywhere from five to twenty minutes just noticing what’s going on in my body, my mind, the condition of my heart. Abdominal gurgles took me by surprise today, as they are a prime indicator of a physiology in relax-and-rest mode. I was expecting to wake up on this of all mornings, in more typical fight or flight state.

After I checked the morning headlines on my phone, I reached for wisdom again, looking for outside help this time.

After a few false starts, I decided to crowd-source my wisdom on Facebook. I count myself lucky the odds are I will find an abundance of uplift on my feed rather than urgency, smack-downs, or un-funny memes. (Depending on your feed, you might not want to try this at home.)

There were these words from a Mary Oliver poem from writer Juliet Bruce: “My work is loving the world.”

Then I found, one after another, a string of declarations from colleagues and friends of how each does their work of loving the world. Here are a few.

From shaman Lora Jansson: “I cling to kindness, compassion and love.”

From death doula Beth Almerini: “working on my new hobby of transformation – creating paper from my old journals and plants from my garden, proving to myself that something beautiful can be created from just about anything.”

My big shout-out is to herbalist extraordinaire Sevensong, who taught me field botany some fourteen years ago. His post began with this statement: “Here is what happens for me no matter who wins.” He went on to share a list of what he will continue to do/be, ending with “I will carry on.”

He inspired me to take on this no-matter-what exercise for myself, and I invite you to do the same.

HERE’S MY VERSION:

Here is what happens for me no matter who wins:

I will continue to be in conscious practice as an imperfect human being.

I will continue to show up and hold space for people to be themselves.

I will continue to revel in learning with and from my students as I teach.

I will continue to investigate and harness my unconscious biases as I guide others through  the inner work of race and gender.

I will continue to nourish and refine my moral compass.

I will continue to cultivate my urban lot as a home for medicinal plants, and share the bounty with pollinators, squirrels, birds, rabbits, foxes, domestic kitties, and keepers of the land.

I will continue to cultivate friendships both likely and unlikely.

I will continue to participate in communities of practice, of worship, and of action.

I will continue to wonder at the ways the universe is described and explained variously by the Hebrew letters, molecules, neuroscience, and group and institutional dynamics.

I will carry on.

These are some of the ways I “love the world” through my work. What are yours?

ARE YOU AN ACTIVIST IN POST-ELECTION EXHAUSTION, DISTRESS, OR TRAUMA? CONTACT ME FOR A FREE 30 MINUTE CONSULT, AND A SPECIAL RATE, 3 SESSIONS FOR $297, (REGULAR FEE $390) 

Re Voting Plans, Tilt-a-Whirls, and Trust

I have voted in every election since 1962.

“VOTING PLAN”   The words fell oddly on my ears when I first heard them sometime in late summer. By September I took them seriously, and based on what I knew believed understood mis-understood at the time, I ordered an online ballot, which would require me to hand-deliver my completed, printed-out version to election headquarters. A uniquely-coded electronic ballot arrived with unexpected efficiency, along with a lengthy set of instructions for accessing it.

Several weeks later, the Sunday Post reported that each such ballot in Maryland would burden the vote count by adding five minutes to the processing time: before being counted, that ballot would have to be hand-glued to card stock in order to be fed into a vote-reading machine. Few pieces of news have thrown me into such emotional turmoil, a toxic mix of disbelief, rage, and helplessness.

Fortunately, I was able to change my plan: I ordered a mail-in ballot.

The ballot arrived in timely fashion, with a set of instructions that seriously challenged my reading and comprehension level. And a whole separate page for a local charter issue correcting errors in language on the printed ballot. I searched a few drawers before finding a pen with black ink that would render my ballot countable, as long as it didn’t stray outside the lines of the small oval. The ovals definitely looked smaller than I recall them on standardized tests. But, as I said, I’ve been voting since 1962, so: aging eyes?

My online record with the State Board of Elections does not yet register that they have received it.

If I live long enough to read a trustworthy history of this election, I hope it will shed light on the facts, fictions, and deceptions around the capacity of the U.S. Post Office to handle mail-in ballots.

Election jitters with a dash of pandemic entering its third season

The sensation is familiar. Taut. Stretched to the limit. Vibrating in response to atmospheric influences. Braced against too-muchness. This is election season 2020 overlaid on the fall seasonal changes of shortening daylight hours, overlaid on a seventh month of pandemic upheaval. The sensations of moving through a tilted landscape remain strange. I reach for words to describe how gravity and levity have both morphed. Some mornings I wake mildly nauseous, as if I have been riding for hours the Tilt-A-Whirl, my favorite amusement park ride when I was a kid.

These body sensations make even more sense as I read the manufacturer’s description of the ride as “a large segmented undulating spinning platform with 7 vehicles spread over the surface. Each vehicle spins on its own axis and depending on the weight location of each guest every thrilling ride is unique” which“can be themed…can even have custom themed characters for the vehicles.”

How much rooting, in what soil? How much dancing?

There are times when chaos sets my feet itching, rootlets emerging from my soles to burrow down into even the rockiest soil. Acorn aspiring to oak. And there are times, like now, when I am sustained by the mysterious movements of some internal gyroscope that helps me to keep righting myself as the earth heaves repeatedly and irregularly. Ever a dancer. 

What catches you when you fall?

What do you reach for when chaos turns your world-view, or your material circumstances inside out?

What do you know?

When you fall, have you practiced free fall? calling for help? getting up and moving on, scraped knees and all?

I grew up with a full-bodied conviction that whatever came across my path was mine to do, solely mine to do, and that was okay since I knew believed understood mis-understood at the time, that I could do it better than fill-in-the-blank. I might have been small, but my powers were Mighty.

Once again I have to effort to put my misunderstanding aside, and trust.

Trust that the emerging flood of shadow humanity – collective and personal – that inundates our world, is an invitation to heal. That the pervasive disruption and collapse of social institutions, structures, and norms – culturally and in the human personality – open possibilities for a new operating system. One that is rooted like an oak tree and resourced like a dancer, the natural and inevitable child of that Ongoing, Unbroken Continuity – the God that I cry out to in desperation and in thanks, or the Unshakeable call and response of cause and effect, or the Life-giving River of Compassion that flows through the human heart.

We may indeed appear to be a gathering of themed vehicles spread over the surface of creation, each undulating and spinning on our own axis.

Nevertheless this week, we can each:

Be kind.

Vote.

Act and replenish and veg out as needed.

Vote.

Call and respond.

Vote.

Listen for who your own deepest wisdom is instructing you to be, with all your warts. 

And did I say, Vote?


 

The patience to be who I am

PATIENCE is not among my weekly calendar notations:

The 26-hour Yom Kippur fast is over.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg has been buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

The opening Presidential Debate of the season is history.

Colleagues and students entered and left my Zoom rooms this week softened and strengthened by practice and by sharing struggles and wisdom.

A passion-project that has been on hold for some weeks moved a little.

Tomatoes that have been hanging green on the vine have suddenly reddened in the cooling, shortening daylight hours.

This list almost but not quite attains what my teacher Jason Shulman calls “the pure subjective,” a quality of is-ness that such statements display when they are just themselves. As you read through that list, you can pick up whiffs of preference and comparison and judgment that leave them short of “is-ness.”

I consider again the card I pulled for my High Holy Day focus this year: “patience.”

I am born an Aries, “the head” sign: I am a great sprinter. Marathons, not so much.

Can you tell from this post that this is a night when I am down to fumes?

Patience right now feels very close to: I am out of gas.

The Hebrew word for patience is transliterated as “savlanut.” It comes from a three-letter root  meaning burden, load, suffering, pain: the same root of the words used to describe the hard labor of the enslaved Israelites making bricks from straw for Pharoah. Its linguistic cousins include: porter, stevedore, passivity, endurance, tolerance. You can see how these belong to the same word-family.

I’ve devoted myself more to cultivating resilience – the capacity to recover – than I have to bearing burdens. Maybe, I wonder to myself, if I practiced bearing burdens with more patience and tolerance and less suffering, I wouldn’t have to tend so much to recovering?

Meanwhile needs Urgent and Real compete for my attention and energies to:

– stay safe, keep others safe during the Pandemic, with my home serving as  my workplace, since am both privileged and non-essential, a useful contemplation in itself when I have more brain cells to rub together.

– do/be/ join forces for equity: safety and protection under the law and access and well-being for people who have black and brown and olive skins

– figure out how to vote and maximize the chances that my vote will be counted. I already know my vote counts. This year I also have to do what I can to make sure it is counted. This is a new experience for me as a White person.

– plant seeds for collective civic grieving, repair of wrongs, and reconciliation. To lift my spirits, I’m putting a pin in this topic  for a future post.

What you have just read is a narration of my practice of letting myself be the size I am. Which is what I counsel you to do .....during these times and ever after:

Do what you can from where you are, with what you have to work with.

If you’re tired, rest.

If you’re hungry, eat.

If you feel defeated, do a small kindness for someone.

If you’re full of pep, or you have “discretionary” dollars,  choose who and what gets the benefit.

And this, from the Talmud, immediately and perpetually useful:

It is not incumbent upon you to complete the work,

neither are you free to desist from it.

___________________________________________________________________

Constitution Day: The Syntax of Whiteness

Today is Constitution Day, and a good day to consider the Syntax of our Whiteness as a nation

I learned to speak my native English “correctly” as a toddler, and was fluid in its syntax – its rules for sentence structure, long before I diagrammed a sentence or answered an essay question on an exam. 

It was decades later that I encountered a deeper meaning in Carlos Castaneda’s poem, where he described the syntax of our “mother tongue” –
“a syntax which demands beginnings, like birth,
and developments, like maturation,
and ends, like death, as statements of facts.”

From “The Active Side of Infinity” Copyright 1998 by Laugan Productions

I am only now beginning to see how fundamental this linear, developmental, progress-oriented, fact-pinning, individualistic syntax is to the Whiteness that makes life in America so dangerous for Black people, and so Unquestionably Normal for White people.

 I learned to answer to Miss ____ or Mrs____ , and to call Black people by their first names.

 I learned that White people lived in Good Neighborhoods, or sometimes Working Class Neighborhoods. And that Good Neighborhoods had the Best Schools.

I learned it was impolite to ask why Black people lived in shambled neighborhoods that I saw as the Rapid Transit passed out of the suburbs and closer to the smoky industrial heart of Cleveland.

I learned that teachers were white, rabbis and priests and nuns were White, ballet dancers were white, and janitors and jazz musicians and basketball players and baby nurses and maids were Black.

I learned there were not-nice English words and Yiddish words used  for Black people, and Good White Adults used them. 

We White people are fish in water.

Just as the syntax of a language disappears into a flow of words that follows the rules of that language, so do the Rules of Whiteness disappear – for White people, into the Normal Flow of Daily Life.

We White people are fish in water: ask us to describe what we swim in, and we are mute. Sometimes we are mute with lack of understanding. Sometimes  with guilt and shame.

Meanwhile, Black people – in order to survive and – even against great odds, thrive – have long been keen observers, cataloguers, scholars and accomplished actors in White Syntax. 

I call this condition that we all live in being racialized.

It is a syntax that teaches all of us that the grammar of being human in the United states is based on skin color. 

This syntax has assigned to the White-skinned the power to own Black bodies, and at various times in our history to control their bodies – their freedom of movement, living space, family integrity, sexual autonomy, and livelihood by means of the lash, the noose, a knee on the neck, sundown laws, poll taxes, voter literacy tests, penal codes, and redlining, among others.

We may be woke, we may be deeply asleep

We may be kind, we may be mean.

We may be committed activists or mystified by what all the fuss is about..

We may have material wealth and possessions or little, or be thoroughly dispossessed of home and livelihood.

We may have colonial or immigrant or mixed-raced ancestors who came here earlier or later, owned slaves or didn’t, profited from slavery or didn’t, redlined or didn’t, white-flighted to the suburbs or didn’t.

We may live in misery or contentment.

We are all racialized.

We may be male or female-identified, non-binary, lesbian, bisexual, gay, transgender or queer. 

We are all gendered.

We are all racialized.

The coarse and urgent tone of public discourse, the blogosphere, the social media memes may knock us awake, knock  us into reactivity,   knock us about, and use us up in fruitless and unpleasant arguments.

But they enlist the coarser parts of us and and keep us cut off from our full humanity – and therein lies the heart of the problem.

To cut off a Black person’s humanity by controlling their movement, their habitation, and their livelihood is to cut off our own. 

To cut off a Black person’s humanity by seeing them only as Black and not as  the unique, precious human individual they are, is to cut off our own claim to our individuality and to take on a Faceless and cruel Whiteness.

To restore full humanity to Black people is to restore our own.

We are urgently tasked to come clean, get real about our history, reckon with our moral failings, and the psychological trauma and material consequences of twenty generations of this American life governed by White Syntax.

If you are committed to racial and gender equity, and wondering how you can come out of the trance of your unconscious biases, and discern the course of action that is yours to take, get in touch for a free 30-minute Radical Inclusion consult.

Uncover & harness your unconscious biases

Are you committed to racial justice?

Do you wrestle with being part of the problem that you want to solve?

Are you ready to look within and work with your own stories and lived experiences?

JOIN ME FOR THIS 4-WEEK RADICAL INCLUSION IMMERSION
BEGINNING TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 15

BEGIN to perceive and unlearn the stories that you were taught as a child.

MAP the rules, values, and roles of appearance and behavior embedded in those stories, and consider their effects on yourself and on others.

LEARN to enlist your own discomfort and fear around race as guides and allies.

TRUST yourself to figure out what is the next unique, right-sized, and right action  for you to take, aligned with your deeply held values.

FREE YOURSELF to serve in ways you cannot now envision.

MEET WEEKLY ON ZOOM, 6:30-8:30 PM ET

SEPT. 15, 22, 29, OCT. 6

CLASS SIZE LIMITED TO 8 SUPPORTS TRANSFORMATIONAL LEARNING WITH OTHERS COMMITTED TO PRACTICE WITH HONESTY AND KINDNESS

COMMITMENTS IN THIS BETA COURSE:

ATTEND AND PARTICIPATE  in class.

SHARE AND SUPPORT your class-mates at least 2x/week in a private Facebook group.

PRACTICE meditation taught in class at least two times a week in between classes.

OFFER FEEDBACK  to Sara via email at any time during the course to support improving the learning experience for yourself and classmates

BENEFIT from  a one-on-one with Sara after the 4th class for personal integration support and to offer detailed feedback

COURSE FEE $197

Full money-back guarantee if you are unsatisfied after you have met all the commitments above.

Contact me to reserve your place by Sept. 8

Sara Eisenberg is a healer, herbalist, activist and elder. A life-long learner, Sara has developed Radical Inclusion Practice through her own 5-year personal wrestle with racism and patriarchy. She is indebted to the many participants in her FREE on-line practice spaces – BEND THE ARC,  for 18 months following the 2016 election, and COME AS YOU ARE, which has met every Wednesday during the Pandemic and current racial reckoning. Sara is the founder of alifeofpractice.com, her online home where she integrates her work in Nondual Kabbalistic Healing, Herbal Medicine and Radical Inclusion Practice.

SOME COMMENTS FROM PARTICIPANTS IN SUMMER WORKSHOPS ON RADICAL INCLUSION

“This is the work we need to do and what will shift things if we can do it.”

“This practice activates my heart.”

“Found the given exercises very useful and practical.”

“I came aware with clarity around where I am… and a plan for moving forward.”

“This program has opened the door to the possibility of healing my inner divisions, judgement, and shame.”

“Sara quickly created and held a sacred space for us that allowed me to get to the heart of the matter.”

“…a container for deep, nuanced work.”

READ MORE…from A Life of Practice:

Racism: changing this river’s course

White? Get acquainted with visceral awareness

How de we repurpose the artful for a pandemic world?

’trōv n [alter. of trove (discovery, find)] (2010): a collection of artful objects discovered or found

One more Covid-19-driven closure pulled me up short, and sad: Trohv, on the Avenue in Hampden. This closure has sent me down a rabbit-hole of reflection on Stuff. How I’ll miss browsing and selecting just-the-right-gift for any occasion. Gifted Stuff, Treasured Stuff, Accumulated Stuff. And my own life as a consumer Supporting the Economy, which the US Government  promoted as a civic responsibility to pull us out of the Great Recession of 2008 and since then to  keep the American economic engine humming.

It’s not the first time I have thought about a re-purposed economy

What might come after a consumer economy? In the past I have often, if vaguely, daydreamed about how we could change society for the better. By designing Stuff to last. By liberating our energies from dreaming up and producing and buying Stuff, spawning acres of self-storage units and endless Sundays of garage sales.  

By instead becoming skilled at taking care of one another, in sickness and in health, from birth to death. By valuing labor.  By building human-scale environments designed with green spaces. By educating skilled artisans, gardeners, tenders of all kinds. By elevating community-building to the art and science it can be. By shifting our national measure of success from GDP to measures like social support, healthy life expectancy, freedom to make life choices, generosity, and perceptions of corruption, and GDP – as set forth in an annual report on happiness issued by the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network. 

But in August of 2020, in the 24th week of the pandemic by my personal calendar, this is no longer simply a speculative exercise. And it is quite personal.

It got me thinking about re-purposing my life

As I wander around my house, I can see that as far as Stuff goes, it is pieces of furniture, baskets and bowls that are the repurposed items: containers of all sorts. I have moved stuff around for years from one container to another. Books, family heirlooms, bottles of herbs, craft supplies, research papers-forever-waiting-to-be-read.

My life is a container that has been filled with Sara content of one sort or another, a collection of artful objects discovered and found.

Am I ready to be re-purposed for an unknown world?

The world is different. I will be continuing to investigate for some time the ways that is true, and what that asks of me.

This in-between time can be anxiety-provoking, and vision and imagination-provoking.

Unquestionably honesty and kindness-provoking.

My time? My energies? My financial resources? My mind? My feelings?

What am I doing with what I have at my disposal to shift things in my corner of the world?

The creativity and humor and artful eye and attention to artisan cultivation and customer care that went into creating the Trohv experience…that creativity will take some other life-supporting form. 

I have to trust that the same is true for me. And for you.

I just wanna pull the covers over my head

“I just wanna pull the covers over my head and go back to sleep.” For years I have used this as a throw-away line.

Last Friday I actually tried it for the first time. Ever.

At 11:00 in the morning.

Care to lay odds on the outcome?

I had tried to get on with the day and overcome a funk of over-wroughtness.

I had read the Wash Post headlines, which featured the Occupant’s lead balloon of a proposal that the presidential election should be postponed; a large graphic of the tanked economy; and Presidents Obama, Bush, and Clinton speaking at the funeral service of John Lewis. The text of this last article noted that Obama spoke from the pulpit where Martin Luther King had preached.

I had wrestled with with what was going on with me in my current writing project: the more I tried to be clear and specific, the less I felt I was writing in my own voice. After an hour of practice, all I knew was that I was on to a subtle and troublesome knot.

A light drizzle that had ended a record-breaking 25-day heatwave brought no relief to the thick air.

So my body and my brain were both way overheated.

I headed for the bedroom, the one room in the house that was cool.

As I pulled the covers up over my head, a window AC unit whirred along

But every time I drifted off, I found myself in another anxiety dream.

At one o’clock I threw the covers off and wandered back into the livingroom.

I picked up my phone and began to scroll through emails, felt queasy and put it down.

It was another hour before I had anything to eat.

Rescued by getting ready for Shabbos

Finally at 4:00 I turned to another strategy: cleaning. Because I like to go into Shabbos with a clean and orderly house. An hour of being able to exert control over my immediate environment calmed me a bit. The aerobic side energized me a bit.

But the funk still had hold of me.

How had it gotten to be Friday again already?

Six days of the week have become interchangeable and increasingly indeterminate.

But what really turned me around was overhearing my next-door neighbor’s afternoon outing with his dog.

Dan had brought Tawney outside for a late-afternoon poop.

Tawney is a beautiful Giant Boxer, maybe 7 years old. 

He has Parkinson’s and has been progressively losing function in his back legs since last September. He has not lost his delightful disposition, his playfulness, or the strength of his “upper body.” Twice a day, Dan helps Tawney down the front steps and around to the back yard, using a long sturdy sling to support his hind quarters. And Dan talks to him, encourages him along. Dan does this with every step Tawney takes. Every day. Twice a day.

At that hour, I took Dan’s encouragement to Tawney as my own. With gratitude, restored to sanity,
and a bit more in touch with my own stamina.

Freedom is an act: John Lewis

It is nine months since we lost Elijah Cummings, and now John Lewis.
I have a fantasy that these gentle yet fierce lions of the Civil Rights Movement are having a fine re-union, and, putting aside their well-earned rest, they are together doing what they are able to do now to help us bend the arc towards justice from where they are.

Continue reading

An invitation to listen, and to hear

Feel free to read this on the fly: then set time to spend with yourself

So the invitation this week is to listen, and to hear. At this point in civic life, the level of static is profoundly distracting, exhausting and dissonant. At the same time some voices are newly heard, and deserve our thoughtful attention, engaged response, and discerning amplification. 

 

We all have times when we are both interested and able to be attentive, and times when we tune out – out of habit, out of actual self-protection or out of defensiveness. Some of us listen to ourselves as we write/so we can write. Some of us are professional listeners, whether paid or volunteer: we listen to clients, patients, colleagues. In Zoom meeting after Zoom meeting taking notes is my way of listening and not spacing out.

 

A listening practice: DO try this at home, not while driving

In the same way that we can practice softening our gaze as we move from one Zoom room to another, I invite you to soften your listening. 

Shift your listening to your immediate environment.

Listen as if you have peripheral hearing (you do!) 

Stay here and rest for a bit. 

 

Now shift your listening within.

Sense your own system.

Attend to the sensations in your body.

Notice the area of your body where your attention is drawn first.

Let the sensations register in your consciousness.

Let them be vivid.

You may find you are able to stay with these sensations. Or you may find you quickly begin to follow associations or attribute meaning.

See if you can stay with the sensations…

Consider whether the area of your body your attention first went to is a source of immediate information that you rely on to make your way through the world.

Listen with ears and heart. 

Listen to yourself in the world as One Thing.

In Hebrew we would call this Shma-ing, it comes from a prayer that is recited daily during prayer services, the last words before sleep, the last words before death:

listen, you who struggle with Reality/ Reality is One thing.

Now try a few variations: it’s a bit like turning a faceted jewel that catches the light in new and surprising ways with each bit of movement.

Rabbi David Wolfe-Blank, of Blessed Memory, taught there are many meanings to the word Shma found in the Talmud:

Play with substituting any of the following for the word Listen in the practice offered above, and see what you notice.

Hear                Infer                      Give evidence

Obey               Prove                    Be still

Gather            Assemble            Sing 

Minister           To Invite              Attend

Surrender        Teach                  Make music

Understand     Proclaim            Show yourself willing

Become an attendant of

Now, Hear the Great Listening that holds us all

Know also that you are listened to in the very design of things – whatever that is like with your partner or your boss or your kid, who ever the ones are in your life who don’t listen to you…

We are always surrounded by a Speaking Silence that takes in all the ways we speak – in our minds, with our hearts, with our actions. In Hebrew, the word is Chashmal…this is a Constant Presence that is always listening. This is a silence that is, as Toni Morrison notes, is little appreciated and yet “as close to music as you can get.”

Listen to birdsong if you are able. 

Listen for the vibration of thousands of feet hitting the pavement, dancing along protest routes all over the world. 

Listen for the resonances with your own life.

Let this listening be a remedy for your urgency to act, 

so you are freer to choose well. 

Let this listening be a refuge, a nourishment, a give and take.


 

Are you longing for your presence, your words, to be deeply heard, attended to, gathered? A healing and awakening relationship whose only goal is for you to become more and more yourself, as you unwind expectations – your own and others of who you are? Let’s talk.