Chat as Map of Monkey Mind

Since the pandemic started so many meetings, services, etc. are being shown or held on Facebook, YouTube, Zoom, etc. I totally appreciate the opportunity to participate safely in gatherings I love. “Chat” columns are often open to the side or just below these videos and I began to notice they offer an interesting visual of monkey mind.

Monkey mind, aka wild mind, refers to the way our thoughts tend to run wild, to chatter like monkeys. All day. Every day, masses of thoughts jumbling through our minds. I first noticed the chat phenomenon during an Ahava Center for Spiritual Living service. We had a special guest speaker, Reverend Sunshine Daye and her talk was SO good. A talk to fall into, to exercise every power of right listening on, to drink in every word. And through the whole thing, out of the corner of my eye, I could see chat messages flying by.

Once I’d noticed it there, I began seeing it all the time. During any Ahava service. During Deva Premal’s and Miten’s weekly Gayatri meditations. While Jack Kornfield gives a talk, etc. My guess would be that at in person services at any given moment many people’s minds would be composing grocery lists, choosing paint colors, remembering childhood ills, fretting over an unhappy conversation, etc. While everyone might be sitting quietly through the event, monkey mind would be busily in action around the room. But we manage to seem present because no one can see the thoughts chasing around in everyone’s minds.

With chat visually present on the screen, we can see how busily people’s minds are racing the whole time they’re supposedly chanting or participating in a meditation or listening to a deep spiritual talk. Granted, in these situations the “chatter” is generally more on topic, love emojis, repetitions of lines of the chant, comments on specifics of a talk, etc. But it still involves not really sitting with an empty mind and meditating or chanting or listening, etc.

No judgement, we all struggle to control those inner chattering monkeys, but really fascinating to watch it in action while attending church or meditation, etc. Has anyone else been noticing?

The Perils of Quiet Living

Over the many months of coping with the pandemic, I’ve been watching the enormous discomfort so many people feel about living a quiet life at home, with little social interaction. And the degree to which scary numbers are willing to risk their lives and/or the lives of others by going to parties, restaurants, bars, etc. in order to alleviate that discomfort. As one who already lived a fairly quiet and solitary life, I haven’t felt the impact from the isolation too much. But I used to be one of the ones who had to be out doing stuff all the time, keeping every moment busy. So I think I have some insight into the discomfort.

We in this country (possibly others, but I won’t speak for them), most people have trouble being alone and or living a quiet, contemplative life. The myths of the “pursuit of happiness” lead far too many of us to feel our lives must constantly reflect “happiness” and to seek “highs” and excitement that at least looks happy. Sitting still often means having time to reflect, time when buried issues arise, when thoughts about less happy aspects of life show up. Quiet invites inward exploration and grappling with issues.

As a young adult I unconsciously carried a vast array of buried issues. I had to be working, studying, talking on the phone with someone or going out to restaurants, parties, clubs, etc. all the time. I had no idea why I felt this desperate need to never stop, I just ran and ran and ran.

Health issues wound up slowing me down. Fortunately I’d landed on a spiritual path, so the path of healing became one of also contemplating and exploring: what about my inner world was creating this outer world? How did this set of symptoms/problems flow from my beliefs and emotional underpinnings? Once I moved far enough along the path I realized I’d been running from these questions and explorations all along. Also could see that being finally knocked so flat I couldn’t help but sit and be quiet was the outcome of shoving down all those emotions and thoughts.

It’s taken me years to reach the place where I not only sit with ease in quiet and silence but to welcome those uncomfortable feelings as they arise. It’s the opportunity to acknowledge them, explore them and let them go. And with the letting go comes freedom and more ease.

As I watch people rebelling against lockdowns, staying home, being quiet, I feel I understand that impulse to run around instead. But I see the pandemic as an opportunity to look inward, to heal old wounds, to become more free from within instead of looking for freedom to arrive from without.

Seven Days of Gayatri with Deva Premal

For the first seven days of January, Deva Premal and Miten offered seven days of doing the 108 round version of Gayatri. They’ve had a weekly Gayatri on FB and later via a paid app since last spring — reaching out in Covid lockdown — and I’d loved those so much I jumped at the chance.

When I did a regular chanting practice a shorter version of the Gayatri was one of the three I chanted daily but I’d not done the 108 round version more than sporadically and it’s just been occasional on their weekly practice. I always found it powerful but the energy of doing it every day was quite amazing. There are usually 2-2.5 thousand people participating and I’ve been amazed at how well I can tap into the larger energy of the group. Powerful.

Besides loving the chant for myself, I love the association with heart and peace. They were doing the 7 days as an uplift to energy as the year began and that felt incredibly important to me, especially with all that’s been going on both in the world and in the U.S. As I’ve teetered between rage and holding a calm space, I’ve kept feeling a need to lift my energy, try to hold a higher space, etc.

It was quite amazing to sing the chant daily. Especially for the first few days I could really feel the build of energy in me. Didn’t stop me from the moments of rage, but left me feeling generally more energized and uplifted, easier to tap back into the heart space. Also feeling like my nadis were not just all being energized but as if they were being rearranged or reconfigured as well.* By the final few days I think I’d adjusted a little bit more to that huge influx of energy.

The worldwide sangha they’re forming is lovely and I highly recommend participation. I’m about to sign on with the app so I can participate in the larger array of activities they’re hosting, including daily meditations, access to a library of mantras, participation in sangha, Q&A with Deva and Miten, etc. They still offer the Gayatri free via Facebook and YouTube once a month. Click through on picture above to page where events are noted.

We so need to lift the world’s vibration now. As I’ve mentioned many times, the higher vibration of few can raise the vibrations for many more and we need to lift the multitudes who are caught at the anger level on up to the next level, where self examination and greater openness begins. If Gayatri is not for you, please find the meditation or practice that suits you and commit to it and/or if you can find a practice group or sangha with which to join energies on line, please practice with such a group.

* When chanting is 108 rounds, it’s one for each of the 108 nadis, or energy channels, which aligns you with the universe or creation.

The Pesky Pandemic

Dad

This post is for Linda’s Litebeing Chronicles Change Challenge on the litebeing chronicles blog: How have you changed internally? Can you share some new thoughts, ideas, projects, attitudes that have sprung up as a result of your evolution? This challenge is about describing how you have integrated the lessons from this “unprecedented time” and how you have seen your unique transformation unfold.

This is kind of an odd challenge for me to participate in because for me the pandemic has mostly been like a pesky fly in the background, buzzing around and annoying, but not actually impacting my life all that much. Some external habits have changed but otherwise my life has been so much more impacted by personal events that Covid just doesn’t seem like a big factor. Any inner realizations have arisen more because of the earth-shaking issues among loved ones than anything to do with the pandemic.

In January my then-94-year-old mother fell and broke her hip. The ensuing couple of months were an exhausting round of visits to hospital, skilled nursing home, then hospital again, and back to snh while trying to keep the house up and having to re-organize several rooms in order to create pathways for a walker to get through. Sitting in a poorly designed chair at one of the hospitals threw a pattern already in my hip out massively which left me doing all this in agonizing pain.

Toward the end of her skilled nursing stay news of Covid began to break. I was so busy getting the house ready I barely paid attention. About a week after she came home we were in lockdown. The next several months involved a massive learning curve about grocery shopping when supplies were low, how to stock a pantry for a couple months’ worth of food, and making easier meals than my normal complicated menus. That was a change but I can’t say I feel it transformed me internally.

For many people staying home and being isolated has been a huge change. As a somewhat introverted only child, my life has always involved a certain amount of isolation and being self-sufficient with alone time. But I’ve been coping with fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue for 30 years and that added a whole new layer of staying home and leading a very solitary life. So for me Covid didn’t change a lot on that score — in fact the rise of meetings and activities via Zoom Skype etc. has allowed me to participate more than I have in years.

I miss eating in restaurants, but my mother has long been my main restaurant companion and she still isn’t really in shape to make an outing like that, so I’d be doing carry out anyway; for me the pandemic doesn’t loom as a reason I can’t do it.

During the spring I realized my Dad, who turned 95 in May and lived almost 900 miles away, was not in good shape and started trying to figure out how I could get my mother taken care of and pay for that plus a plane ticket. Before I could work it out, I received a call that Dad had fallen and been taken to the hospital. He wasn’t hurt in the fall, but it turned out he was in such bad shape he couldn’t walk any more, then they found cancer. In three days he was moved to hospice care and five days later he died.

Covid impacted all this in that even if I’d been able to arrange for Mom’s care and get down there fast enough (which it turned out wouldn’t have been possible), neither the hospital nor the nursing home would let me in to see him. So we had phone calls every day and a couple of Zoom contacts, then I talked to him and sang via phone after he could no longer speak…. But my Dad died alone.

Had to have a Zoom service and the Marines wound up doing the flag presentation portion in my front yard with masks on. The format was born of Covid, but the service was lovely and a bunch of family and friends who live in other states and would not have been able to get here under any circumstances were able to “attend”.

Since I first left for college my Dad called me every week and for many years it has been every Saturday at 2 p.m I’m still struggling some Saturdays to keep myself from grabbing the phone a little before 2 and getting ready to hear from him. In recent years I called him other times to check up but the only sacrosanct time was Saturday and it’s going to be a while before I get used to the silence at 2.

Many things about the pandemic have slowed down and interfered with the process of settling my Dad’s estate but really the biggest hurdle has been the high level of incompetence of so many people I’ve had to deal with. For instance, the VA misfiled the paperwork on his life insurance not once but twice, causing a month delay and another insurance company wrote the address down wrong and sent forms to the wrong address, causing a month lost on that one too. Multiply that by pretty much every bank (why transfer some money on the first call when you could make 12 before someone does it??), insurance company or service provider and you have an idea of how long and slow every process has been.

In the fall my dear friend, Pat, who beat stage 4 throat cancer a year or so ago, started having health issues and found she needed to have a clip put on a valve in her heart. The procedure went okay and when I spoke to her after she was upbeat and looking forward to getting back to her healing work. Then she started falling and feeling badly and was taken to the hospital where it turned out the clip they put on her heart had sepsis on it and she’d had sepsis for weeks. She died the day after Thanksgiving. My Mom loved her too and pretty much every day one of us says, “I can’t believe Pat’s gone…”

So my life has been so hard hit by dramas and traumas related to people near and dear to me, the pandemic is just a pesky problem in the background. Yes, I get tired of the hassle grocery shopping has become. Yes, I spend small amounts of time considering where I will go and when in order to avoid being in crowds. Other than a few carefully chosen groceries at certain times, I just don’t go out. I started curbside grocery pickups long before Covid hit — other than doing it more, it isn’t a change. Yes, occasionally I miss my rare coffee or lunch meetings with friends but they didn’t happen often enough before Covid for it to make a big hole in my present. And frankly, handling all the Mom care, plus the extra time it takes to grocery shop, and the endless paperwork to do with Dad’s estate have kept me so busy I don’t have the energy to wish for more activities.

The main internal noticing for me involves deepening insights I’ve already had. Formerly neurotic and overdramatic, I’ve stopped here and there to note with surprise how calmly I’ve handled this year. Having started meditating in 1984 and practicing yoga in 1986, followed by many years of metaphysical/spiritual workshops, doing all sorts of inner/shadow work, etc. I’ve been much more calm for a long time. But I don’t think any year since I started has challenged my equanimity as much as this year, so I’m pleased to see how well all the years of practice serve even in traumatic times.

Through all the ups and downs I’ve managed to keep yoga practice regular. Meditation has been a little more hit or miss but I manage pretty often and I’m in love with Steve Nobel’s meditations on YouTube, so I’m drawn to do one pretty often. I also manage to slip a yoga nidra in here and there. And thanks to Covid, Deva Premal and Miten for quite a while had a free Gayatri meditation every Saturday on FB which became an oasis of big, loving energy. Practice always helps maintain the calm.

Through years and years of transformative work I constantly had my finger on the pulse of inner change and change happened all the time. But in this big year of political and medical upheaval in the wide world and personal upheaval in mine, I can’t say I see a big inner shift. I see the benefits of all the shifting that came before and I am so grateful for all the years of inner work and all the hours of practice.

Covid Gratitude 5: Masking your breath

I’m in Florida working on getting summary probate going on my Dad’s estate and doing some clearing in his condo. Sticking pretty closely to the condo as much as I can since Covid is bad here.

The only places I’ve been with other people have had strict policies about wearing a mask, which works for me as I would anyway. Today as I drove to the bank to take care of safe deposit box I realized how sinusy I am here, which always leads to worrying about my breath when I have to meet with others.

And then I started laughing because I realized I’d have my mask on when I got near anybody. Which led to realizing how great it is that wearing a mask means you never need to worry about bad breath when you’re out and about.

Some combo of growing up brainwashed by ads about the probability of having it plus actually smelling a lot of bad breath on people in my life left this as an occasional nagging worry. Now, is the ease of that worry enough to want to wear a mask forever??? Hmm…

Covid Gratitude 4: Zoom, Skype and all

While I’ve used Zoom and Skype prior to Covid, the pandemic has opened up new horizons wherein I’m employing them much more than before.

Previously I mostly only set up Skype with friends if they wanted me to show them a yoga or triggers of release move.  Since the lockdowns, I’ve been regularly getting on Skype or Zoom with several friends whom I formerly just spoke with on the phone once a month or e-mailed and it’s been such a nice intimacy to see each other.

Most precious to me at this time: when my Dad fell and went to hospital in FL, I couldn’t go see him — not only fears about travel during pandemic but wouldn’t be allowed in the hospital. He quickly deteriorated and moved to hospice and again, wouldn’t be allowed to see him for 2 weeks had I flown down. So the last two days he was conscious they were able to set up Zoom for us on an IPad they’d just gotten and it was so great to be able to see and talk with him. Hard to say how huge my gratitude is for that.

As more and more places figure out how to do classes, meetings, etc. on line, I’m signing up for things and getting more involved than I’ve been in a while. I’m still a bit up and down with unwinding, lack of sleep, etc. and in the past that’s meant I either didn’t sign up for classes or often backed out of events I’d agreed to do. With the ability to hang out in my grubbies, showerless, at home, no driving, no parking, etc. I can get involved. And so many new opportunities are there with these technologies.

Every Saturday I’m joining Deva Primal and Miten’s weekly Gayatri/Meditation practice live on FB. Generally there are 2,000+ of us watching and I can really feel the huge energy we connect into. I’ve also gotten to hear some new Jai Uttal music and listen to a talk by Jack Kornfield.

I signed up to take a “Me and White Supremacy” class in which we’re going through all the exercises in the book.  It’s being offered for free through the Holmes Institute. People from all over the country are taking it. On my own I’ve been reading Rhonda Magee’s Inner Work of Racial Justice and frankly I prefer it and wish the class was going through it instead, but the chance to hear viewpoints from all over and to join a different breakout group every week to talk is SO valuable and amazing.

I’ve also been able to join the Poor People’s Campaign. I’ve been following them for 4 years now and each time some participating friends have given me info on a meeting I’ve realized I would have to drive after dark in one or both directions and I can no longer drive at night, so I’d never been able to participate.  Now I’ve participated in two virtual call-in/e-mail campaigns against McConnell on FB and joined a Zoom meeting with the KY chapter and am now on a committee on which I can do things to help from home.

The women’s group for 60+ I joined at the Spiritual Center I’ve been attending sporadically is meeting now on Zoom every month and it’s so great to be able to see everybody. The center has had streaming services all along, but it has been especially nice to tune in during this time of no in person services. I’m a night owl and not at all a morning person so I have to say it’s pretty great to be able to sit in my sweats sipping coffee every Sunday while enjoying the service.

I’m signed up for a one evening course on Krishnamurti and David Bohm…

You get the picture. Lots going on.  As a continuation on the progress I’ve been making the last couple of years on moving out into the world again after such a long time of cocooning and working on health, this is pretty spectacular. What a gift!!!

 

Protests: Public, Private and Non-Violence

Note: readers here who are also on FB with me know my father is in hospice. It definitely deserves a post or two but I’m not ready to do it yet…

wave3.com

Here in Kentucky a big, debated news story in recent weeks has been the tale of two protests with wildly different results. In one case, white supremacists armed with assault rifles spent two hours around the Governor’s mansion yelling, banging on windows and threatening with their guns. Not one arrest was made.

In the other, peaceful  Black Lives Matter/Breonna Taylor protesters sat quietly, arm in arm on the KY Attorney General’s lawn. All 87 were arrested and charged with felonies (charges later dropped). Much outrage has ensued over the disparity of treatment.

After the incident at the govenor’s mansion, Governor Beshear gave an emotional speech in which he talked about how one of the rooms where they were banging on windows is the room where his children play and it was only happenchance that they were not there. I’ve been edgy for quite a while about protests at people’s houses — as well as politicians being assaulted in restaurants (and yes, verbally attacking someone in a threatening way is assault), etc.  And listening to the governor has put me solidly in the position of feeling adamantly that both sides should cease and desist on this bit of going to people’s houses to protest.

My main reaction comes from a spiritual belief in non violence; as “Governor Andy” spoke it hit me forcefully that to anyone at home, be it a cleaner, children, grandparents, wife, etc., a huge crowd of people showing up on the lawn is violence.

But also from a legal place about where our laws and Constitution say freedom of speech is operable and where it is restricted. In this case I think the obvious disparity between a peaceful situation and a situation that threatened incredible violence — which is against the law and should have led to arrests and prosecutions — makes the concluson of racism in operation inevitable but it ignores a couple of things about protesting that I believe should guide protestors of any persuasion.

Private vs. Public Property

In this particular case, besides the general attitude of giving white people a pass, I think the differrence in place also had something to do with the different responses. It is legal to protest on public property. Protesting on private property is NOT protected by the First Amendment and has been held illegal both via Supreme Court opinions and laws.

Again, there are other laws unrelated to free speech that, in my opinion, were violated. I haven’t dug through KY statutes, but generally it’s illegal to threaten violence or assassination of an elected official and I’d say waving guns around on the govenror’s front porch (or in a state legislature, etc.) constitutes a threat sufficient to file charges.  So I don’t disagree that a very different standard was in play for the thugs at the Governor’s Mansion.

A better comparison here would be the hypothetical case where the 87 protestors decided to show up outside the Attorney General’s office. In this case they’d be on public property and within their rights to protest and as long as they were peaceful, I doubt any arrests would have been made. It’s protected.

To me, given how well known it is that free speech doesn’t allow people to protest on private property it seems ill-conceived to even consider protesting on someone’s lawn. There are a lot of legal advisors around for such groups/protests whom I think should be telling people to stick to public property.

Non-Violence

I generally find when most Americans speak of non-violence they fail to understand the full meaning of it as it is practiced in the traditions from which the idea came (and which MLK studied to create his non-violent stance). Americans often think it refers only to whether you do something physical, whether it’s hitting someone, breaking a window, throwing a rock, etc.

In Hindu and Buddhist non-violent traditions, far more is contemplated. Being non-violent means not using words to attack. It means being compasssionate in your thoughts. It means taking no action that would lead someone else to feel threatened.

When I look at the pictures of the 87 protestors sitting quietly on the lawn and imagine what it would be like to be 10 years old and looking out the window of my house to see 87 strangers sitting on my lawn because they were mad at my dad, I don’t think they’d feel non-violent to me. If I were a wife, home alone, and glanced out to see a crowd of strangers on my lawn, I don’t think they’d have to throw a brick for me to feel afraid.

Taking actions that lead other people to feel afraid is violent.  Protestors who want to follow a non-violent path should stay away from private homes. And if they don’t they should realize they don’t really believe in non-violence.

Final Thoughts

This is a really tough one. I totally see the view that circumstances are so dire that some radical action is required.  At the same time, I feel there are plenty of ways to make a point with a protest without frightening someone’s family members.  And to do it in an arena wherein free speech is protected.

 

Growing with Our Founding Documents

So much controversy lately has me thinking deeply about the U.S. Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.  Many are dismissing both as products of slaveowners; because the writers were flawed, the documents are no longer valued goes the thinking.  With a lifelong tendency to see both sides — a product of constantly being in the middle wihtin my family’s arguments — I see a path down the middle.

I’m a person of words, so for me, even over the years since I realized our Founders were far more seriously flawed than our history books led us to believe, the brilliance of the words they crafted still shine.  Largely helped by my long-ago Constitutional Law class in law school, I see a Constitution that has been able to grow and evolve over time.

When you read through the landmark cases of generations you see how the carefully honed document left room to interpret broader truths and equities than the men who wrote it lived within.  They were bright enough and good enough at writing, I don’t think it was an accident that, even though they created restrictions about gender and color, many of the actual words of both the Declaration and the Constitution leave room to dream of literal equality for all, though they may not have foreseen where it led.

The stepping stones from one SCOTUS decision to another also reflect both how we have grown as people in our understanding of what “equality” really means and how the interpretation of the Constitution has grown too.  In those broad words about equality Blacks have found the inspiration to press for them to be true for everyone and that history is one every child should be learning in school.

As I reflect on Independence Day, I see room to reject the flaws of the Founders and still celebrate the brilliance of what they created and how they left a foundation with room to evolve.  At this moment we are in a new stage of evolution in making the notions of justice and equality for all, without exception, true.  Sometimes evolution in law drags us forward, sometimes thinkers who are ahead of the time push the law to change. Together we grow.  

Covid Gratitude 3

Garbanzos over sweet potato

Cooking Easy

 

My cooking habit has long been time-consuming complicated recipes, especially favoring French and Italian cooking and their many layers of flavors. For years I’ve been saying I wanted to learn how to cook some faster, easier things. But, other than a foray 15 or more years ago into Rachael Ray’s 30 Minute Meals, I’ve never developed a repertoire.

As I’ve figured out stocking the kitchen and thinking through what that means in terms of meals, I’ve been studying and trying quicker, easier meals to fix, especially since I”m now providing many more meals for my mother than I used to.  I’m grateful not only for a slowly building repertoire of easy, but I actually love some of the things I’ve found.

Baking and freezing potatoes, both Russet and sweet, has already become a standby. Two of my faves:

(1) Mash a sweet potato or two with a couple of dates, 1-2 T of maple syrup and a sprinkle of cinnamon. For breakfast, heat 1 to 1-1/2 cups in a bowl, add a spoonful of almond butter and a handful of homemade granola and stir up.

(2) make a batch of spiced garbanzo beans with spinach or kale, stir up a sauce of greek yogurt, fresh squeezed lemon juice and a T or 2 of honey or maple syrup, defrost a sweet potato, heat with a helping of the beans and then drizzle with sauce.

Yum to both. (and both recipes will be going up on the Scribblings blog).

Rachael Ray taught me on my long ago journey that chicken tenders are a great friend for easy cooking. I’ve been making a quicky and easy pesto chicken recipe using skinless tenders for a few years and now I’ve added a baked lemon chicken with asparagus thrown into the pan halfway through.

Still looking at recipes and making plans for expanding the list of easy go-tos — especially looking for toppings to pair with either kind of baked potato.  My stores include gluten free pasta as well as jarred sauces and frozen vegetables–which I never used to keep. I’ve learned it’s easy to make a batch of meatballs to store in freezer and then just cook up some pasta with veggies steaming in basket above, thaw and heat some meatballs and tada. So looking at more pasta sauce possibilities.

It feels a bit like a burden lifted as I’ve felt I “should” cook more but have not had energy to do the former norm of elaborate meals.  This new path of cooking easy and fast recipes means I’m cooking much more often than I’ve done in years and I’m really loving having more control over ingredients, choices, etc.

Another way in which the odd circumstances into which Covid has thrust us has paid off in a positive way for me.

 

Covid Gratitude 2

 

Full Pantry

I was never a cook who kept a pantry stocked for possible long term cooking.  Had an assortment of staples I’d keep on hand, usually enough to make one recipe of each.  And I’ve always tended to cook kind of elaborate dishes in big quantities. So I’d make a list of what I needed for that particular meal and get exactly what I needed.

In recent years, shopping, like most things, has been pretty hit or miss as my energy goes up and down. So when the pandemic hit and advice began circulating about stocking up for a couple of months worth, I quickly realized we were way behind the curve.

It became an interesting challenge, given all the panic buying, to get well stocked. I’ve been keeping lists going on three different grocery sites, checking in often to see who has what and which place on a given day seems likely to provide a fair portion of the list. But slowly built a store.

But, not having thought in terms of being that well stocked, I kept realizing more things that should have been on my list. And then that I didn’t really get enough of others. Slogging through order after order in which a number of things didn’t show up, I finally got us to a place of well-enough stocked to feel comfortable.  Not hoarding piles, just enough.

Quite a learning curve. While I can’t say I appreciated every moment of it, I am grateful for attaining a better sense of how to keep a well stocked pantry. That includes gratitude for a series of really good articles by various chefs in WaPo with their suggestions of items for a well-stocked pantry (some of which admittedly left me blinking and going, “Geez, wtf would I do with that stuff??? 🙂 ). Especially grateful for discerning what allows me to make which selection of things.

I’m so much more tuned in to shopping not just for the meal I plan to make tomorrow but for being prepared to cook from on-hand supplies.  Feeling glad to have acquired this skill. And I have to say, probably wouldn’t have happened without Covid-19.

Dear young progressives

Twitter is the main place where I get all political (though I do share some things on FB when I know the specific topics are of interest to friends) and I’m following quite a few young progressives. I love that we finally have a whole new crop of excited advocates for change. Seems like us old hippies have been waiting forever for another generation to take up the banner.

But I’m also seeing a lot of the strain of “if I don’t like everything about candidate, I won’t vote”. that has been the bane of Democrats for years. I’m not unsympathetic as I’ve felt like I was holding my nose and voting many times over the years.  I’m just practical and I knew the corporate hold was too strong. And maybe at another time I would say, sure, go ahead and hold out for your ideals.

But now is not the moment. I think many of you are so young you don’t know about how third parties, not voting and (in Reagan’s case) Democrats defecting to Republican brought us Ronald Reagan and the Bushes, all of whom contributed all they could to bringing us to where we are now.  Were their democratic opponents progressive or offering any real change? Nope. But would they have been better and managed to do more to stem this right wing conservative tide Reagan started than the Republicans? Yes they would have. Know how much we all love JImmy Carter now? That’s the guy Dems wouldn’t vote for in 1980.

But this time is worse. This time there is a right wing wave of Republicans who wish to take down democracy. They want an authoritarian dictatorship. And they’re already lining up tools. No one seems to be taking the antifa as terrorists declaration seriously because there is no such group. But that’s the worst part. Having made the declaration, because there is no actual group, they can call any Democrat, liberal, progressive, etc. an antifa — therefore a terrorist — and start rounding us up into camps.

I doubt they’ll be so bold before the election, but trust me, if you let Trump be elected again, you can kiss any chance at any kind of progressive agenda good bye.  Probably for decades. Until there is a revolution to overthrow the dictator. In the meantime, millions will have been thrown in camps or murdered, the Constitution and the U.S. as we know it will be over.

You won’t just not have a progressive president, you’ll watch every progressive in Congress being executed or jailed, every liberal judge , executed or jailed. every leader of a liberal group, executed or jailed. This is no time for playing around with the snowflake bit of refusing to vote or voting for a no-chance-to-win third party. If you want the possiblity of moving to a truly progressive agenda in 2024–or being able to vote at all, you need to just Vote Blue.   And yes, I know, the whole idea stinks. Save us from DJT. Do it anyway.

I love your enthusiasm and that you have seen beyond what most leftists of my era couldn’t see — the power of global corporations and their hold on politics.  I was into studying the Power Elite, so I kind of got it back then but couldn’t get people to listen.  You get it. Hold on to what you know. Plan for 2024 after we get the right wing out of their positions of power. But this time, vote to get them out before it’s too late.

And, as I’ve noted in my People Power posts, you also need to expand your thinking beyond government. The only way to break global corporate power is to destroy their profits. And we do that with how we spend. It means we need more local banks, health centers, manufacturing operations, food markets, etc. to provide the alternatives to Amazon and Walmart and Bank of America, etc. This is possibly more important than getting rid of corporate Democrats.

So I’d suggest, hold your nose, vote for Biden and then every down ballot progressive you can and put your enthusiasm into starting local co-ops and moving consumers to boycott global corporations. Been reading and thinking about this stuff for 50 years. So maybe I”m just over the hill.  Or maybe I know a bit…

Covid Gratitude 1

Gratitude

An interesting phenomenon has been occurring for me throughout the Covid-19 crisis — as the pandemic causes me to try different things, change old habits, rethink things, etc. I’m finding many reasons for gratitude. Haven’t decided if this will be weekly or randomly, but have decided to launch a Covid Gratitude series.

Immune Boosting

This one actually started before we knew there was a crisis, when my mother fell and broke her hip.  Because I knew hospitals are a breeding ground for viruses and bacteria, I took her a bottle of Aireborne chewables to take one daily and I started drinking daily (and then eventually every other day) glasses of the fizzy version.

We’d been bucking up for two months by the time the warnings started coming, just about the time she was coming home from skilled nursing.

I’ve used the Chinese anti-viral herbal formula, Ganmaoling, for years (close to 30!) to ward off colds and flus.  Long ago they used to put a preventive dose prescription in the instructions, 3 tablets, 3x/day for 3 days.  So as soon as she came home I put us through the preventive regimen.

Through the advice of some friends I also started us on elderberry gummies, taken every other day.  And I already have been drinking turmeric ginger tea every day for some years (and since Mom doesn’t like the tea, I make her a tincture she takes every day) — some studies have found it more effective than flu shots because of its immune boosting qualities.

So we have felt decently prepared for this crisis. The one time she had an in person doctor’s appointment after this started, we were stuck in the waiting room being sneezed and coughed on by a family of four who all had something. And amazingly neither of us came down with anything, which I attribute in part to our boosted immunity.

Feeling very grateful that not-such-happy circumstances led to us working on immunity before we knew there would be an emergency need for it!  And grateful that I know a bunch of alternative health/remedy stuff to assist. I’m not saying I think this makes us totally immune, just that I feel like we’re safer than we might have been and that gives me peace of mind.

Delving into anger

Angry, Frustrated Woman

Screaming it out

In my recent post I mentioned feeling angry and doing some exploring. The process of looking within has revealed some new pockets of anger and also circled me back to an old one, with new tendrils to explore.

I’ve been using the Steve Nobel meditation on transforming anger one or twice a week. Must admit I’ve been so tired I’ve fallen asleep during it more often than I’ve consciously made it through.  But it has been having an impact. Most of the time while doing it I haven’t been aware of specific issues, just a feeling of energy having shifted/moved when I’m through.

Part of the meditation involves looking for anger in your body. During one of my earlier sessions, I quickly focused on my left hip/pelvis area, where I’ve been experiencing a lot of pain.  And noted one of the central areas in the tight pattern revisited an old pattern body work had seemingly cleared.

When I was 9 or 10 and taking riding lessons, we went out in the countryside by the stables one hot August day. Hadn’t rained in ages and the ground was cement hard. We came to a place in the trail with a very short jump/fence across. I rode a gentle horse I loved, who usually needed encouragement to even move fast. We hadn’t gotten to jumping yet but the jump was so low the instructor said we should have no trouble as the horses could pretty much step over it.

My horse took a look at the jump and decided we were show jumping over a 5 foot obstacle. Broke into a gallop shortly before the jump and flew into the air, then galloped a few steps and came to an abrupt stop. I flew over her head and landed on my low back and hips.  The pain was horrible and I wasn’t even sure I could get up.

The riding master unsympathetically informed me crying and help were not allowed, I had to get back on that horse and keep riding. And that I wasn’t really hurt. Years later as I struggled with muscle issues throughout my body that accident turned out to have created a pattern that plagued me for years.

Remembering the story, I realized how much suppressed fury I held, not only for that incident but for a general attitude in my childhood of stoicism and sucking it up no matter how much it hurt.  And more recent fury as I’ve realized how thoroughly western medicine dismisses muscles as a potential source of trouble when there’s been an accident.  So many of my muscles problems started with accidents after which no one offered treatment of any sort for muscle trauma. [pretty much any accident to your body sets up the probability of muscles tightening around pain and if no one does anything, it will generally settle into a pattern that then becomes worse and also impacts other muscles over time]

Getting in touch with this pocket of anger seems to have helped relieve the issues in my hip — not gone, but well on the mend.

Looking directly at my anger over the lies so many Americans are believing with no willingness to look at contrary evidence, I began to note another childhood issue.  In my house there was often a presumption of wrongness. That I was doing something wrong, that if I weren’t martial-ed and monitored, I probably wouldn’t do well.  I’d hit other issues in that general bailiwick but not specifically this one. I could see that part of my anger has been having folks “from the other side” question my careful research and insistence on dealing in facts.

All that questioning of my abilities in childhood has left me always feeling I have to prove myself, have to work harder, and still will likely not succeed.  I’ve worked a good bit on anger over some of that, but seem to still have more. And a side issue of anger at being questioned in arenas where I have worked hard to know my stuff, to feel I’m “good” at something.

Still exploring at this point.  Since hip is doing much better and holding I’m hopeful I’ve cleared the anger in there.  Feeling there’s still some more anger to unearth, just don’t attach it so far to an area of my body.

Two of the best pieces of advice I’ve had on this path were (1) from the transpersonal therapist who set me on this path: it all operates in an upward spiral. You keep spiraling back to the same issues but each time you’ve moved up a level, its hold is less and it’s easier to release; and (2) from the facilitator of my Fischer Hoffman group: every issue is like a daisy chain with many other issues connected, some of which also connect to one another.  Unearthing one doesn’t mean you’re done, you’ve just started moving along the chain.

I think of those teachings often as I work my way through deep issues.  I’ve also been hearing we’re in a time when final aspects of old issues are rising up to be released.  The  back issue related to riding accident definitely feels like something old came roaring back for a final realization. The other feels like some combo of the spiral upward to see the same issue again and also seeing another tendril stretching out on the daisy chain.

For the first 8-10 years after doing the Fischer Hoffman process work, I regularly mined for issues and worked through the process to release them. Then a bunch of deep body work started opening issues from the muscles and I did less delving as memories and associated issues floated up as muscles opened. For a while now I don’t wind up running into issues as often, but I’m aware this is the work of a lifetime.  Always another level on the spiral, frequently another tendril on the chain.

Teetering: “Righteous Anger” and Compassion

As mentioned off and on for a while, I’m struggling with anger over so man things that are going on. Periodically I realize I’m back screaming at certain “leaders” every time their faces appear, grinding my teeth as I scan social media and follow links to read more, and, a couple of weeks ago when a station I was watching moved from old shows to airing some kind of evangelical church service, I found myself angrily making up words to the hymn they started with and singing: “My Jesus hates you, and we kill, kill, kill…”

Being self-aware enough to see this is DEFINITELY in conflict with my beliefs about holding a space of love, peace and compassion, I keep circling back to questioning the source of the anger and how to shift it. And one puzzle I constantly come back to, is how to be “righteously” angry and yet hold that space.

Many spiritual leaders and writers feel there is such a thing as righteous anger and that, when great wrongs are being committed, we must all feel that anger and do something toward righting the wrong. None seem to address how such anger impacts the energy of the web nor do they seem to offer much advice about how to feel that angry and still find the love and compassion with which to “do something” but do it with nonviolence.

I have long been unconvinced that “righteous” anger is any different, energetically speaking, than any other. It worries me when I react with anger because I can feel how it takes hold and shoves the loving, peaceful aspect of me out of function. And since I believe the energy space each of us holds adds up to the totality of energy that is All That Is, every time one of us is angry instead of loving, our energetic contribution to the web is the energy of anger.

Most of the spiritual leaders who say it’s fine to be outraged over injustice, etc. but to be nonviolent in what you do about it, seem remarkably silent on the question of how to move from the angry place of the one to the compassionate place of the other. I’d guess the majority of people aren’t well equipped to transition on a dime from place to the other.

I see 3 main arenas we as individuals can work on to help us in recognizing the wrongs that need to be righted but stay compassionate and develop non violent solutions:

  1. Ferreting out repressed anger (or other deeply held negative emotions). I’ve noted the above video before and I really like how deeply it works on transforming anger but there are many other methods, including “process” work like Fischer-Hoffman, the Diamond Heart approach, transpersonal psychology, etc. Just find the mode that works for you.
  2. Being able to stay present in the moment is really important. If you can’t even stay conscious enough to realize anger has grabbed you and it’s time to shift away, how you can move into non violent responses? I include more than just sitting vipassana; chanting (sung or spoken), movement practices like yoga or qi gong, and some guided meditations like yoga nidra are all ways that people of different temperaments can tune into the present.
  3. Long ago I read some spiritual leader saying the key to coping with emotions and events coming at you is to allow them to pass through you without affecting.  One of many teachings that’s easier said than done. I think it takes a lot of practice and dedication to reach a place where you don’t even have to think about staying in the space of lovingkindness and compassion and calm.

There are many ways to work on holding that space.  One factor is how you “feed” yourself in your life.  Are you doing practices like metta or singing chats or meditating (whatever form) regularly? Are you reading books like Tara Brach’s 

Ripples from John Prine

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Upon hearing news of John Prine on a respirator with Covid-19, I was surprised at how much it affected me. I don’t think I ever saw him play and I never owned one of his records. As the days went by and I read comments from people I know who knew him and read accounts of his life, heard clips of songs I could surprisingly sing along with, I realized his early days in the Chicago music scene touched a lot of places around me.

The more I looked around, the more I became immersed in memories of the fabulous music scene in Chicago at the time I attended Northwestern University, Amazingrace Coffeehouse, friends who were involved at Amazingrace, musicians with whom I became acquainted just by going so often to hear them play…  And even though I didn’t cross paths with him, there he was in lots of places. Partial list of concerts at Grace over the years: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/u/0/d/1jdo4ecZXxPpf3JSIGaBdwVudT_UtMUFnpxIS-zeJHOw/pub?output=html

It turns out he was considered part of a “big three” in the folk scene emanating from the Old Town School of Folk Music.  The other two were Steve Goodman and Bonnie Koloc and I saw both of them dozens of times, both at Amazingrace and various other clubs around Chicago. Prine played Grace often enough I gather they were all friends with him. I saw enough people there only once that it’s possible I saw him and just don’t remember as I know there are quite a few of those — at this stage with few exceptions I mainly remember the ones I went back to see many times.

The group that founded Amazingrace came together at NU the year before I arrived, part of anti-war/Kent State protests. The year I hit campus, the group got permission to use an area of the (then) student union, Scott Hall, to bring in music acts and serve food. I think that was where I first saw Steve Goodman and fell in love with his music. [Great piece in Rolling Stone last summer on Goodman: https://www.rollingstone.com/music/music-album-reviews/looking-back-on-john-prine-buddy-steve-goodman-860284/ ]

Before long the venue moved to a quanset hut on campus.  The “Gracers” as we called them, were familiar to many of us on campus, both as activist leaders and front of house figures at the coffee house.  In those days, self-effacing, shy, and utterly lacking in self-confidence/worth, etc. I watched from afar but it never occurred to me I could be part of their –to me–lofty group.

However I wound up being friends with several people who were involved though not part of the central group. Out of those friendships I met some of the other Gracers, dated Steve Goodman’s road manager briefly, met John Burns (that’s him riding around with Prine in top video and playing some of the best guitar you’ll ever hear), who for some years played in Prine’s band… Amongst all those were enough Prine connections that I heard his music often (hence the familiarity with his songs), some stories on occasion, and now, in the midst of his illness and death, I saw lots of pained posts/commentary from people who knew and loved him who are devastated by the loss.

I never stopped listening to Koloc and Goodman, but something about this odyssey through so many faces from those days sent me journeying through those times.  I found Koloc playing with Steve Eisen (sax) and Howard Levy (harmonica) in the band (two more Chicago musicians I’d seen so many times with many bands) Jethro Burns (John’s father) playing with Goodman. (below Burns and Goodman performing one of my faves):

The music scene is so entwined with my NU memories… My time at NU always felt golden and for years nothing else measured up.  Then I realized the comparisons must stop and as I forged ahead on my spiritual journey I let go while still holding a sacred space in my heart for the friends, political awakening, musical journeys, etc.

In hindsight I can see how much more I could have done and been had I been as calm, outgoing, and confident then as I am now.  I don’t care much for regret, but if there’s anything that grabs me now and then, it’s sadness that my own inhibitions meant much more standing on the sidelines than I’d have liked.

Amazingrace has a FB page and as I read the many posts from those “on a pedestal” folks, I’m sorry I didn’t get to know them.  As I read every article my bereft friends posted about Prine, he seemed like an amazing guy and I’d have enjoyed being in the circle who knew him. 

The clubs and the musicians and the joy in the clubs, talking to band members, etc. circles around my love of music, which, at the time, had been a lifelong ambition.  Watching the ones whose music touched my soul, I kept trying to see what in them let them get up there and put out music from the depths.  Wondering what in me couldn’t quite do it.

[Koloc with Steve Eisen and Howard Levy in the band]:

The music dreams died when my one later band attempt went sideways and I found peace with just being a fan who sings in the shower. I’m grateful for the changes I can see, the many ways in which I’m more content, more happy with who I am than in those days.  But boy those were some magic times.  I’m sorry it was John Prine’s death that sparked this wander down memory lane, but there were a lot of lovely stops. Thanks JP! RIP