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 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?
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“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 knewbelievedunderstoodmis-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 knewbelievedunderstoodmis-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:
Act and replenish and veg out as needed.
Call and respond.
Listen for who your own deepest wisdom is instructing you to be, with all your warts.
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 rootmeaning 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 asmy workplace, since am both privileged and non-essential, a useful contemplationin 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. Ialready know my vote counts. This year I also have to do what I can to make sureit 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,
“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.
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.
Interesting, if true: three useful words when facing uncertainty, sorting truth from fiction
Among the most useful 3 words I have practiced over the years I learned from my healing teacher, Jason Shulman who reports having learned them from his high school science teacher: “interesting, if true.”
These days I find myself forgetting to apply this in two key sets of circumstances.
On the one hand,I find myself unquestioningly dis-believing and dismissing most of what I hear or read in the news. Too often I forget to remember: “interesting, if true.”
On the other hand, I find myself unquestioningly believing most of my own thoughts, which this week have tended to the dark, personal, and prosecutorial. This “dilemma” I am up against, (usually in the form of an actual human being), will never change: “it” is, “in fact” unsolvable. This is an old, well-worn` pattern, familiar when I am aware, debilitating when I am not. Too often I forget to remember: “interesting, if true.”
These are two sides of the same problem
In each set of circumstances some part of me – who is both limited and unacknowledged – masquerades as the whole of me. I have also handed her the keys to the bus and invited her to take the wheel: she steers me this way and that, sides-swiping bystanders along the way.
I have split myself by relegating uncertainty to the outside world, and by embracing the certainty of my own stories.
I am used to thinking of myself as a nuanced and dimensional human being, so this binary thinking is in itself a distressing phenomenon. I have cast myself in a play with many enemies and no friends or allies.
There are more resourceful options when up against uncertainty
The one who is willing to learn: to seek out trustworthy enough information, while realizing that in a few days I might as well be prepared to go through that process all over again. Because whether it comes to understanding how the novel Coronavirus spreads and does its damage, how public behaviors are trending, or how the economy is faring – the data is in continuous update mode.
The one who is willing to persist like sunrise and sunset with some mix of bargaining prayers, grief, courage, urgency, helplessness, trust, terror. Who is willing to mobilize inner resources and outer supports. Who discerns, perhaps after having wept, howled, or broken plates.
And the one who is willing to put down all her tools for taming the Uncertain: what is left then is to simply rest my head up against the unknown.Actually rest. Allow myself to be comforted. To relax, physically. Nothing to figure out. No need to listen in the way I’ve thought of listening. No need to open my heart or even be concerned about whether it is open or closed. Neither pattern nor meaning to seek out. An open mouth. No words. Neither are words precluded nor actions hindered. Just my head resting up against the unknown, on a soft, rock-solid shoulder.
A cautionary reminder to myself - and all of us
There is no single way or “right” way to respond to the uncertain and the unknown, there is just our effort to be in relationship to it, and kindness when we are not able to carry that off.
This stand, I am willing to say, is both interesting AND true.
My week started with a twist, when I picked up this voicemail:
“Hi, hon. Just calling to check in on you. I know you have a lot on your plate. Just wanted you to know I’m thinking about you. Talk to you later.”
The voice was sweet, concerned, and unfamiliar. It was clear the caller thought she had left the message on her daughter’s voicemail. So I hit the unknown number to return the call, and the same sweet voice answered.
I told her I had just received a message, clearly intended for someone else, and what a beautiful lift it had given me – I wanted her to know that. I also wanted her to know so she could place the call and deliver that message to the person she intended it for. She in turn was touched. We wished one another well, and without exchanging names, hung up.
I call this an “Are you there, Sara? It’s me, God” moment, a play on one my daughters’ favorite Judy Blume books, Are you there, God? It’s me, Margaret.
Here’s the moral I wish I could share from God catching my attention in this way: I let it set the tone for my week. Ok if not my week, then my day?
Here’s how it actually worked: the call became a moment in a day, a week filled with other moments.
Moments when I showed up unmoored and uncertain. When I showed up with presence. When I found myself undone by the smallest kindness. When I was lost in fear of the unknown. When I felt held by reality. When I didn’t trusting the universe has my back.
The story in which I will eventually locate myself and the moments of this week and the weeks to come is an unprecedented one for humanity.
Sacred texts of many traditions have long instructed humans on our connectedness. Scientists and philosophers have described it their own language, from the Harmony of the Spheres to quantum reality. Each has had their regional and cultural followers and disbelievers, sometimes linked to nation-state or tribal boundaries. The reality of our human civilizations, the beautiful blue sphere that we are as seen from deep space is real to us in a whole different way.
Now we humans across the globe share the language of epidemiologists to describe our connections, the connections of direct touch, of shared surfaces like doorknobs and counters, the connections that take place through the air we breathe. And those of us who are able rely increasingly on the interconnectivity of technology to check in with loved ones, meet with colleagues, organize our communities to help one another, have a cup of tea, celebrate, pray, and even mourn together.
The imperatives of social distancing invite us to create sacred and nourishing online refuges.
COME AS YOU ARE
….determined, anxious, spinning, grounded
Wednesday, April 1, 12-1 EDT – Join me on Zoom
FOR AN HOUR OF GUIDED NONDUAL PRACTICE, REFLECTION, AND SHARING
As I wash my hands, I sing “Happy Birthday” to myself twice through – twenty to thirty seconds depending on the tempo. I take this common-sense and now widely-publicized step many times a day since the outbreak of Coronavirus. I do this to protect my personal health and the health of the countless others with whom I may share respiratory space and door knobs over the course of a day.
I notice an unexpected side-effect. When I actually listen as I sing, and take in the words of this common ritual song, I connect to a deep well of teaching from the Jewish tradition: God continually renews the work of Creation. That is, the Creation story as told in the Book of Genesis was not a one-time event, but is sustained by an ongoing Act of Goodness. This is a Goodness that encompasses all the wisdom and the limitations of life as it is, including illness, suffering, and death itself.
As I place “my” birth-day in this Meta-Story, I place myself in a timeless stream of life. Which proves to be an excellent remedy for the contagion of anxiety-triggering urgency. Urgency fed by news clips, shared posts, selectively-emptied store shelves, and a growing list of cancelled events. And by the genuine uncertainties, unpredictabilities, and unknowns of this biological threat.
It is under such a perfect storm of conditions that we find our resilience tested.
We each have our particular set of challenges to resilience. A baseline of health, perhaps a mix of managed and unmanaged chronic conditions. A mix different sets of responsibilities for and to others in our families, workplaces, and communities. Different stress loads and capacities to manage ourselves. Different contexts of meaning. Different conscious practices. Different unconscious practices, aka habits. Different access to material, physical supports.
Family headlines are especially potent…a grandson’s sore throat and fever diagnosed as strep…an aging family member hospitalized overnight with stomach pain and sent home the next day with Tylenol…a daughter who works as a mental health clinician on a college campus that has closed down for the rest of the semester, which goes on into May. They wash through me, waves of disruption.
Yet, as I sing throughout the day, my triggered anxieties are periodically swept up and carried along harmlessly in that same unending stream. I am left relieved and grateful. And so it goes with the hand-washing.
…OTHER CONTAGIONS WE LIVE WITH
I am also left to reflect on how other contagions, barely recognized as such, have faded further into the background.
I seriously doubt that the disappearance of news stories on harm to women, to trans people, and to people of color reflects an actual drop in incidents. And I see how challenged I am to stay actively and effectively engaged with the race and gender work of my heart.
I took this challenge to stay focused as a call to poke around in my origin stories of contagion. How was I schooled to see the danger of catching something bad through unwelcome contact?
“Eeeww, cooties!” Playground words that claimed separate space by taunting. In my kindergarten days that was one arena where gender equality held sway. Girls and boys each adopted the words freely to convey we considered one another dangerous, a source of something mysterious, bad – and contagious. All you had to do was stay with your group and you could avoid “catching” the condition, being cast out and becoming isolated and mocked.
On the playground, those words were an early exercise in solidarity, belonging, safety, superiority, and domination in one sphere or another. The stakes then might have meant hanging onto a patch of blacktop or possession of the monkey bars for the twenty-minute recess.
If you had asked me what was wrong with boys, I can only imagine myself inarticulately wrinkling my nose as if at something dirty and smelly.
That same vague “dirty and smelly” linked poverty and racism in my early childhood
I grew up in a Cleveland suburb, one convenient block from the Lynnfield Rapid Transit stop. A black and white police cruiser regularly sat for hours just past our driveway, ready to spring right or left onto the nearby boulevard in chase of – something. It was the 1950s, suburbia: segregated from despair, poverty, and color.
Loudly enough to be shushed, I used to ask my mother about the poor people as the Rapid took us through trash-strewn gullies and neighborhoods of shabby, grey, tilted homes. I hit a rust spot in my imagination when I try to recall, or construct, her answer.
“Dirty and smelly” also defined the questionable wholesomeness of my female body.
By the time I was an early teen, watching the bodies of some friends developing faster than mine, I was caught between the brief, sterile explanations of female bodies and reproduction and the living realities of dealing with sanitary napkins and tampons. Especially on gym days. My sister called it “the curse,” (which Google informs me is still in common use.) By the time I was pregnant, at age 23, birthing had long been medicalized Nursing was clearly considered less convenient, less taxing, and outdated when compared to bottle-feeding.
The messages about my own body, about the male gender, about poverty and about dark skin: most forms of contact were dangerous. Observing the norms I was taught about who it was safe to get close would surely protect me from catching…Something Bad.
It has taken a lot of focus and attention to bring these and other biases into my foreground and begin to unlearn them. Thankfully, several generations of scholars have revisited the stories of plain people and activists of the past, writing versions of history that are more complete and truthful than the “Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock” version I was taught.
Last night we had dinner out in our favorite Szechuan restaurant. It was unusually empty for a week-night at seven. Chinese restaurants are among the businesses most frequently cited as suffering from loss of business since the Coronavirus first appeared to jump species in China.
I can start to place my learned history of race and gender in this context: contagion, “harmful or undesirable contact or influence.” And to continue to discern as best I can what is required for my actual safety, and what is required for an imagined safety.
I take to heart the timely fortune that I received at the end of our meal – whatever the contagion – viral or bias-related: face the facts with dignity.
Who lives, who dies, who tells your story? Thank you, Lin-Manuel Miranda, for this potent lyric.
We live in a story deeply tied to our sense of self, our identity
Most of us alive in America today have grown up with a single story about race and gender. A single story that features certain people and events and renders others invisible. A single story that seamlessly includes and excludes. A single story deeply tied to our identity and sense of self.
One of the consequences of this is that our stories divide us from ourselves even before they divide us from one another.
Yet there are few avenues where we can explore, or even name the the wisdom and the limitations, the innumerable gifts and wounds of the social and cultural groups to which we belong. That go to the heart of who we believe ourselves to be.
At the heart of the work of Radical Inclusion are fundamental practices for awakening to the fragments of our racial and gender identities that tend to be fixed, and highly resistant to even being seen. These aspects of our identity are often linked to our earliest life attempts to be safe and whole. They maintain stability, consistency, and continuity. They are hidden, and well-protected, out of conscious awareness. Mixed up with our beliefs of what is “good” and “bad.” Guardians of tribal outlook, appearance, and behavior. And these fragments cut us off from the whole, continuously-changing and vibrant fabric of life, from the tender intelligence of the heart, from trustworthy discernment of right action, from freedom, from our full humanity.
I remain committed to my personal work as an ongoing and holy project to which I see no end. And now I look forward to sharing this work of Radical Inclusion with you, one to one and through a two-hour introductory workshop. In the works are two four-session courses which offer a practical and nourishing immersion with the support of a practice-based community.
Here’s the good and discomforting 21st century news: our single stories are disrupted every day by the telling of versions that are new to many of us and old to many others.
How we play out these differences will ripple through our family, neighborhood, workplace and civic lives for years to come.
National Museum of African American History and Culture, October 2016
Radical Inclusion brings the power of consciousness skills to these potent flash-points of controversy, confusion, and contentiousness.
Helping professionals can waken to and make a place for self-judgement and shame about our prejudices and implicit biases, our anxieties about offending or re-wounding, our fears of appearing awkward, thoughtless or insensitive. These shifts free the people we work with to more fully presence their own shadowed, gaslighted, injured parts – cultural as well as familial. And those of us who work in institutional settings are better prepared to observe and address language, policies, norms and structures that perpetuate racial and gender harm on our clients, patients and co-workers.
Activists find in RI practical, honest, kind supports to be the change we want to see in the world. RI builds resilience in the face of the frustration, rage, guilt, shame, and self-judgment that can shadow us and hollow us out. Whether fired up and standing strong or worn out with effort, we need nourishment for the stamina needed to keep showing up.
Spiritual seekers wrestle and relax into the Radical Oneness named by many spiritual traditions, poets and scientists, which is the root of RI. The embodied listening aspect of practice plants and nurtures seeds of humility around the racial and gender identities our stories illuminate, so that our words and actions contribute to healing ourselves and the world.
Questioners learn to deeply engage our integrity, power, discomfort with honesty and kindness as we notice the Otherness within, the parts of ourselves we have orphaned, exiled, or reviled and the parts of ourselves who are steeped in preconceived notions of race, gender, and human identity. Our very presence in the world begins to grow and mature into a healing remedy for the differences in gender and race that divide us from one another.
Radical inclusion is designed for these explorations – to help us awaken and heal.
To learn and share a community of practice that goes to the very root of what ails us, divisiveness in ourselves first of all, and in our culture, our communities, our public and private dialogues .
And this is where the exploration starts: we look within ourselves, we look at ourselves, we look at how we move through the world, we come into a friendlier relationship with our own wisdom and limitations.
Freed to offer our own story with awakening consciousness and to receive others’ stories.
Freed to meet the full imperfect humanity of others with our own.
Does this invitation to look through a different lens as you wrestle with race and gender resonate with you? Are you a member of a group that would welcome a new approach to their struggles? Schedule a 30-minute free consult. Let’s talk.
As a kid, on Valentine’s Day I declare that I belong
My elementary school classmates and I were raised to include one another on Valentine’s Day. Without exception. Any other day there were “popular” kids, “dumb” kids, and kids nobody wanted to be seen with on the playground. But on Valentine’s Day we shared a ritual. Each of us brought a shoe-box, decorated for the occasion, and clearly identified by name. The shoebox had a slit in the front or the top. And we each brought a Valentine addressed to every other classmate. Of course distinctions, meanings, and inferences were made. But the popular-dumb-kids-nobody-wants-to-be-seen-with dramas were muted.
There is one shoebox I remember vividly: I had covered it in a shiny gold wrapping paper and decorated it with red lacy paper hearts further adorned with cut-outs, perhaps from the Best and Company Catalogue or Good Housekeeping Magazine. I don’t remember what grade I was in or what I did or did not receive by the end of the school day.
When I unravel the significance of the memory, I can only say that somehow it stands for my 2nd or 3rd or 4th-grade declaration:
I belong. And so do you, and you, and you….
Back then, Belonging was a holiday event. There were 364 other days of the year when it cost me to belong. Belonging meant Being Good, Being Quiet, Being Studious, avoiding my Mother’s Look. 364 other days full of exceptions of who was to be included and under what circumstances.
As an alleged grown-up, I want to foster belonging
For family members, friends, strangers, colleagues, clients, teachers, students: I want to be a giverof Valentines every day, to slip something beautiful or appreciated or supportive into the shoebox of each life. To choose the right words or choose silence, at the right time. To act or to sit or to move this way or that way at the right moment.
From family members, friends, strangers, colleagues, clients, teachers, students: I want to be a receiverof Valentines every day, to perceive the beauty, appreciation, or support thatis there. To see through “interruptions” and “delays” and “obstacles” and “the opportunities to do things over again.” To hear truthful words I’d rather not hear and hear through them back to belonging.
Belonging is a healing Valentine for the 21st century epidemic of shattering events.
Awakening or asleep, it is into one another’s hearts that we slip messages daily.
We belong to one another.
Different and the same, particular and human, we belong to one another.
Including everyone. Everybody. Every body. Even as one binary after another softens and shows its glorious nuances, leaving us bereft of our fixed categories and stumbling over new words.
Belonging is the why and how we are here, in the world.
Belonging is the way we dignify one another’s human existence, and the Mother Earth beneath our feet.
You, and you, and you…and me.
We belong to one another and to the Big Wide World.
Is there a situation you are struggling to include in your life? a difficult person? Are you that difficult person, wrestling with yourself ? Does responding to the world feel like a duty or an intrusion? Nondual healing can bring you to a new level of wholeness and freedom in your life, as you practice including more and more of who you are. Schedule a 30-minute free consult. Let’s talk.