WordPress Shenanigans? — This, That, and The Other

Many of us have a sense of loyalty and devotion to WordPress. I’ve had several WordPress blogs since migrating from TypePad in 2013. But something may be afoot that will put our loyalty to the test. I don’t know if there is a conspiracy theory going around or if it’s a bad April Fool’s Day […]

WordPress Shenanigans? — This, That, and The Other

Savitri and Me

In the mid-nineties I took a lengthy class with a Sufi master that included some private counseling sessions. During one of those he stopped midstream, staring over my shoulder, and mentioned that he always saw the Goddess Savitri standing over my shoulder and wanted to know if I could feel her.

Well, no, not only had I never heard of Savitri, but I’d definitely never noticed an entity standing at my shoulder. He felt strongly that I should work on sensing into her and learn about who she was. Over the next several years I periodically ran internet searches on Savitri and also tried to find a small statue of her. I don’t know how many of you remember how incredibly primitive internet searches were in those days, but suffice it to say I could find very little.

Savitri is a Hindu goddess who is an aspect of Saraswati. She’s considered an inspirer of speech and word; since I’ve always been a writer and have a long-standing interest in questions of communication as well, it seemed fitting. But I couldn’t find much more. There’s also a mythic Hindu story of a Savitri who I gather was human and I just found the two different tales confusing. Any hunt for a statue of Savitri seemed to lead only to various statues of Saraswati.

I pretty much gave up on the pursuit of knowledge about her or a picture or statue and concentrated on feeling the link. Eventually I felt I had made a connection and have tuned in periodically to commune with her ever since.

Fast forward to recent years, when I’ve moved increasingly into chanting. Six or seven years ago I started a regular chanting practice in which I first spoke the lovingkindness chant and then sang the Gayatri, to which I felt very drawn. Then in 2020, early in the pandemic, Deva Premal and her husband Miten began doing online Gayatri sessions which morphed into a Global Gayatri Sangha with membership and an app and weekly Gayatri. I’ve been participating from fairly near the beginning and feeling ever more connected to the world of singing chants.

Imagine my surprise and delight a couple of weeks ago when Deva introduced a chant to Saraswati and it sparked me to look up Savitri for the first time in years, which led to discovering Savitri is also “Gayatri” and the chant we sing is considered to be Savitri’s. It felt like such a completion of a circle.

I also discovered it’s much easier to find information about her now and to obtain a statue if I decide I still want one. I still find a lot of the commentary confusing and different writers handle all the stuff about “aspects” of goddesses, etc. differently. Some writers consider the Savitri in a story in which she’s married to someone else and seems to be human as the same Savitri who’s a goddess and married to Brahma. Some don’t mention the second story. And the discourse on Savitri vs Saraswati and “aspects” is widely varied. So the connection to Saraswati remains hazy to me; some sources speak of them as if it’s the same being and some discuss the “aspect” thing. But the story of her becoming one with Gayatri and the chant being hers was clear.

I love how the Universe guides us along these paths and brings things together whether we “know” what’s going on or understand all the connections or not.

Some Savitri links:

Straddling the science line

The enormous divide over science wrought by the advent of Covid has left me in an interesting spot. I’ve not seen an allopathic medical doctor in 30+ years and I totally credit an alternative health path with slowly but surely healing ailments that, when I began, Western medicine insisted did not exist.

However, I always felt that allopathic medicine knew what it was doing on certain things. I used to joke that if I’d been in an accident and clearly needed a cast and some stitches, I wouldn’t tell the ambulance to take me to my acupuncturist. And I also think Western medicine has been pretty good at figuring out vaccines, so I had no problem about getting a Covid vaccine as soon as I could and I jumped on the opportunity for a booster.

But the arguments have led to a lot of ugly remarks about alternative medicine and I’m really disturbed by the ignorance with which so many assume “science” has everything right and that if big studies haven’t proven something it means it’s wrong. Acupuncture and many herbal traditions, for example, have thousands of years of history and, as both have been increasingly studied both are being shown to be effective. Yet even such studies have made very small inroads into the arrogance of allopathic medicine practitioners about the superiority of what they do.

Early in the 20th century, the U.S. had a fairly large array of homeopathic, osteopathic, herbal, etc. schools and a lot of people went to such practitioners for health care rather than medical doctors. A seminal paper by Abraham Flexner (who’d been a teacher, not a doctor) in 1910 promoted biomedicine and wound up having such an influence that biomedicine dominated and the thriving alternatives withered away. The Flexner Report of 1910 and Its Impact on Complementary and Alternative Medicine and Psychiatry in North America in the 20th Century

Perhaps my biggest issue with biomedicine is the lack of interest in actually curing people. The orientation is to finding drugs that will mask symptoms and without regard to possibly causing other ailments because of something in the drug. It ties people often to a lifetime of taking a drug– which means continually having to consult with the doctor to get renewals — and then having to take another drug to deal with the symptoms caused by the first drug, also endless because it masks instead of curing.

I will not be at all surprised if, somewhere down the road, an exposé shows collusion between the AMA and big Pharma on keeping patients tied to a lifetime of dependence on their “treatments” and continually adding on more problems created by side effects and drug interactions.

The approach of most alternative medicine modalities is to try to find the source of the problem and discover what combination of herbs, diet changes, exercise, etc. will get to the source and cure the problem. The process sometimes takes time — in my case, years — but leads to restoring optimum health. Suppression of Symptoms is Not a Cure of the Disease

I consider myself fortunate to have landed on the alternative path and I have allopathic medicine to thank for sending there. When I first started suffering extreme fatigue and pain in my muscles, the biomedicine community was quite sure that neither existed and told me to see a shrink. I knew something was wrong and had friends who were seeing acupuncturists, chiropractors, etc. so I got recommendations and set off down the path.

For me the whole story wound up being complicated by the eventual realization that all my muscles, including even the connective ones, were tightly wound around all my organs and glands. Initially none of the practitioners could see that, but their tests showed weaknesses in all the organs and glands and thus kept treating me on a rotating basis for those. Since they were, in fact, weak, all the herbs, needles, etc. gave me boosts that helped me move along but not the type of progress anyone thought I’d make. Once I focused on the muscles and getting the complicated patterns released, everything started improving.

I’ve spent years seeing brilliant practitioners of many alternative modalities and all have contributed progress to the long, slow process of restoring my health from being so exhausted I slept 16 hours a day and then was so weak I couldn’t stand up through a whole shower. Also moved from having every single muscle from head to toe wound up like a steel rod, intertwined with other muscles, muscle groups glued together, etc. to a life in which most of my muscles have been restored to normal and my energy is much greater. Because of this restoration of REAL health, I have enormous respect for alternative medicine.

On the other hand, I can point directly to failures of western medicine to SO many of the muscle issues that resulted from either having injuries to muscles or ligaments that weren’t even diagnosed to injuries for which they felt no need to do anything. I have enormous contempt for their lack of knowledge of musculature. and how much it impacts health. When biomedicine finally decided fibromyalgia existed they came up with a treatment that, as usual, masks symptoms without doing anything to cure. Had I been stuck in that model I would still be taking meds for pain while every muscle remained twisted instead of enjoying more flexibility and healthy movement that ever before.

Ever since I ran into the great divide provided by Dr. Flexner, I have wished we could find a way to return to the broader array of healing choices that used to be the norm. In the meantime I straddle the line, willing to have a vaccine or be treated for trauma by western medicine and looking to alternative medicine for actually being healthy.

Kate Raworth again

I’ve posted this video before. Am posting again in part because it is so important re: shaking up thinking about “economy” but also because I’m taking it off “pinned tweet” status on Twitter and want to park the link for it in a spot where I can access it easily to pin again later 🙂

When we talk about raising wages then say prices have to go up we are ignoring the elephant. The assumption everything re: economy has to grow & grow. Not the only way to do it. Time to cut corporate power & stop assuming profits have to go up & up. (1) https://t.co/jzz4kOBR0s— LeighG (@spiritULeigh) August 3, 2021

A Week of Chanting

The first week of January turned into a week of chanting and chanting for me, not entirely by design, but a delightful accumulation of events. I signed up for “Ecstatic Chant” a six-day workshop featuring Deva Premal & Miten, Jai Uttal and Krishna Das, not having noted that Deva and Miten were also doing the second annual New Year’s week daily 108 round Gayatri and not assuming Krishna Das would also do his regular Thursday satsang. But all were happening and I really worked at keeping up.

Managed to do every day of the 108 round Gayatri, which I find incredibly powerful. This time it also became more of an exercise in mindfulness than usual, which I’ll discuss more below. Also got to tune in for the satsang. The workshop I fit in around the other things (plus, you know, I have a life) as best I could — still have some to watch so very grateful they’re giving us a month to see the videos.

I’m not sure I have adequate words to describe how it felt by the end of the week to spend that many hours a day chanting and/or listening to chant. Extraordinary. Uplifting. Pulsating. All are true and yet don’t quite say how amazing it was. Really loved it!

The first day of the Gayatri there were either transmission problems or my YouTube was acting up — they often have trouble with signals in Costa Rica and YouTube has been screwing up for me a LOT — but the Gayatri was stopping and starting, stopping and starting. I was using my mala beads but I kept singing on into dead spaces and then picking up again with them when the stream re-started. Soon I was struggling to decide where I was on the beads and realizing the struggle was moving me out of connection with the mantra.

Thus the chant became a challenge for staying mindful. Only at the end did I laugh as I realized I could have just put the beads down… Meanwhile I considered the challenge well met when I wound up in the right place with the beads while keeping attention on the mantra. Afterwards I realized the starting and stopping and beads distraction had kept me from feeling thrown by the super fast guitar playing that goes on in sections of the 108 round version.

The next day the transmission was fine and when the –to-me– frantic guitar playing started my heart started pounding and my stomach tightened up as usual. Then I remember how the distractions the day before had kept me from reacting and concentrated on the lyrics to move me into the chant and out of noticing. Good reminder that I can mindfully make choices about how to react and what to notice, etc.

I thoroughly enjoyed the workshop sessions viewed so far and Krishna Das’ Thursday evening satsangs are always good. I will say as far as the workshop, not much was done kirtan style and many chants were new to me so while I loved every minute, listening was not as spiritually expansive for me as it is to chant the Gayatri with the Global Gayatri Sangha — often thousands of us at a time from around the world.

The overall experience of spending hours and hours in one week chanting was divine. In a future post I’ll talk about how my slow, tentative launch onto a path of chanting is contributing to the “sparkles” I discussed in the last post.

All the Sparkle

Increasingly over the last couple of years I’ve noticed the world looking more sparkly. Literally looking around and seeing things shining, sparkling everywhere.

It started from the very practical purchase of a new dishwasher. a couple of years ago. It took some months but eventually it managed to clear off all the collected lime on glasses and silverware and I started noticing how shiny they looked. But it’s kept going from there.

The last couple of years have seen a lot of movement for me on emotional and health issues, including some big shifts in outlook. A really psychic friend of mine commented recently when I talked about all that’s been opening up in the muscles in my face and how it has been changing my world that she pictured me literally getting rid of anchors all around me that had been holding me stuck in place for years. Perfect fit for how it’s been feeling and my long-time sense the tight muscles have been instrumental in “stuckness”.

This sense of being more free on many levels and finally moving forward is so powerful. And I feel like a good deal of the sparkle I see around flows from that.

A huge amount of the tightness in my facial muscles has been centered around keeping my optic nerve squeezed tight, which causes near-sightedness according to my late, amazing vision therapist, Dr. Sirota. As the muscles finally loosen, I periodically notice increments of seeing more clearly; the clear field moving outward an inch or two at a time. The opening lately leaves me feeling that the changing vision also contributes to seeing all those sparkles.

Wherever it comes from, I must say, I LOVE looking around the world and seeing sparkles!!!

Towel Day

Wow the last two years have impacted blogging for me; not planned just some combo of Covid , caring for my Mom since she broke her hip and coping with my dad’s estate have added so much to my schedule I’ve not managed to reorganize. At the same time, I’ve continued a process I began a while before Covid hit of trying to get back to keeping more of life on a schedule. Coping with health issues for years pretty much threw schedules and normalcy out the window; even things like cleaning and laundry were hit or miss for years.

A couple of years ago I splurged and purchased new towels to replace the old sorry ones I’d had for years. At the same time I decided I wanted to have a schedule for changing out dirty for clean. So Saturday became “towel day”. Every Saturday, fresh towels. It’s also sort of laundry day though laundry often happens more on whatever day a load is “enough”; the change is all of it gets done in the course of a week. So Saturdays, clean towels and some sort of clean laundry.

Towel day has been happening for a couple of years now and today as I shifted out last week’s for the clean ones, I realized how hugely satisfying it is to have a schedule.

Over the same couple of years, some house cleaning projects, dish washing and dishwasher schedule have also been moving into new patterns of regularity. and I’ve been happy to feel those happening too.

It’s funny for me because in many ways I’ve always been a person who fights schedules and rigid lists of what needs to happen when. But after years of chronic fatigue and muscle issues throwing life into chaos where everything became hit or miss, it’s SUCH a comfort to restore some order. I also love that the fact that I can is a reflection of how much better I’m doing.

I also love that my consciousness of gratitude leaves me feeling so happy about nice, still fluffy new-ish towels, always clean and knowing when I last put clean ones out. Small things that mean so much.

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.