Over too soon

I’ve so enjoyed this more relaxed version of national blogging month, I’m sorry it’s over.

As much as we reduced the requirements, I still didn’t manage to meet them.  I think with this one I’m two short on posts.  I did read blogs almost every day but commenting was sporadic and, since I’m only on FB and Twitter and fairly carefully curate what I put on each, the share on social media requirement was unlikely to be met from the get go.

But the last couple of weeks have been a rough go on the face unwinding/then not sleeping issue so I’m fairly pleased I managed to be in it at all.  Though I’m also sorry I didn’t hit the requirements, the pleased part mostly wins.  For a lot of the miserable years this has been going on, I’d have just disappeared from the challenge.

It’s been a treat re-connecting with a few folks from the past, finding some new people to follow, reading new and different things, etc.  I’m wishing we did this more often.  Not too often 🙂 … but more

Just fillin’

As we get closer to the holiday, I’m spending more and more time on groceries and early prep (since i have trouble standing for long periods, I’ve worked out a plan for fixing things that can be frozen ahead, etc. so the dinner comes together in increments) and finding myself so tired I can’t think well enough to write.

I ran back into this video from the Voices of Service audition for the last round of America’s Got Talent.  I so LOVE their rendition of Katy Perry’s Rise — I’m only sorry that the time limits for the audition meant we don’t get to hear them sing the whole song!  Have fun:

Falling behind

Even with our reduced/easier schedule for NaBloPoMo this year I’m struggling.

Deepak Chopra chose this month to start one of his 21 day meditation events and I signed up. I’m only a day behind at this point, which is highly unusual for me.

Then a friend recommended a free on line video course called Time of the Sixth Sun.  The videos are around an hour and-a-half each and stay up for only 24 hours, so it’s been a bit of a dash to keep up.  Watched the final one today then found out they’re going to make them available again this weekend and, as I found out too late to see the first two, I now have more to watch.

Another friend passed along yet another free online video course exploring Eastern medicine and cancer.  It started while the “Sixth Sun” was still going so for a couple of days I juggled watching two long videos and doing the meditation while also, you know, having a life. And I’m about to juggle both a couple more days.

An abundance of good stuff, but sorry, it has sidetracked my attention from blogging challenges.

The Ah in God

Contemplating the divisiveness these days on many issues, especially religious, I’ve been thinking a lot about some teachings I received long ago.  Late 80’s into mid-90’s I had several different teachers who talked about vowel sounds in ancient times and how they relate to chakras, meanings and to modern language.  There was a gem about the sound and meaning of “ah” that has always stuck with me.

The two teachers I can recall most specifically are David Patten, who is a Druid descendant and teaches about ancient Celtic practices at Nine Gates, including the alphabet– the “oghams”– and Paul Ray, who taught Sufi at Nine Gates (long ago, when I went through…).  I lived in an apartment connected to the home of my friend Gay and David, so I also got to hear about oghams at the dinner table while he worked on a book.  This many years later I don’t remember which other teachers and much of what I learned is a bit of a jumble.

For all these years, though, a teaching on “ah” as the sound of God has always stuck.  Many of these ancient concepts provided layers of meaning to each letter — things like, a type of tree, a mineral, a bird, a divination interpretation, etc. — and those ideas were often incorporated in later alphabets and languages though the underlying layers are no longer known in general.*  So it turns out that the “ah” sound, if you look carefully, is in every name for God.  Krishna.  Allah.  Yeshua (Jesus). etc.  And of course the way we pronounce “God” there’s an ah in it…

As I studied with teachers from different traditions and increasingly realized every major religion has the same principles at the core, I would come back to the sound of “ah” and realize the name is not only there in each place, but the sound that conveys all those principles and shows up in each one is a unifying piece.

The name may look different in each language, but the spirit of love in the “ah” is always present.  The same principles of the Eightfold Path — right understanding, right thought, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration — are within all of them, they just use different words to express them.

So I look at all the division and discord about this religion versus that or this denomination versus another and I wish everyone could take a breath and feel the “ah”.  For many, if the words are different for some reason they can’t see the heart is the same.  I just feel the love at the core and keep wishing we could all find our way back to the heart and the love and compassion.

This is my first post for this year’s Nano Poblano — a version of National Blog Post Writing Month.  The group decided to change it up, so this year participants are committing to 30 days of blog activities–  10 days of posts, 10 days of reading/commenting, and 10 days of sharing posts through any other platform. You can see posts for the event here.

*David has been able to translate some obscure modern languages without having ever studied or spoken them just by applying his knowledge of the meaning of letters.

Seeing the other view

English: Anti-apartheid protest in London, UK,...

English: Anti-apartheid protest in London (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In all the finger pointing and rancor going on post-election, I keep remembering two big lessons about world views I got years ago.  I think they keep coming up for me because I see some assumptions being made in the jibes about those who voted for Trump and my lessons told me those assumptions are probably wrong.  In times like these it’s so important to be able to step back and at least try to understand another world view.

The first lesson occurred when I was a sociology graduate student, working on a big study for Northwestern’s Center for Urban Affairs.  I’d been assigned a couple of neighborhoods to interview as many people as I could.  One of the areas was a working class neighborhoodk with some big open housing issues going on.

Having done some networking, I went down one day and interviewed a group gathered in someone’s home.  Afterward, a few of the people took me aside and told me quite nicely that if I wanted people there to feel comfortable talking to me I needed to quit talking so “high brow”.

It came as a shock because I’d been very careful not to go into “PhD speak”, which I’ve always despised.  Eventually I realized that even though I grew up in a blue collar area, my family is loaded with college-educated people and all my friends growing up were the children of educated people — if not formally educated, the kind of people who read a lot and are always learning (often better than school, I’ve noted).  In many ways we don’t speak the same language as people who aren’t readers and learners.  The people I was interviewing were put off by my style of speaking and I could see I didn’t have a clue how to change my language to what they needed.  We literally talked past one another.

The second lesson came as a fairly new lawyer, back in the late eighties, when I joined a pro bono legal team who were defending a group of protesters arrested at the South African Consulate.  Our case intended to set precedent (and did) for using the necessity defense, in this instance arguing that the conditions under apartheid in South Africa were so atrocious it was necessary to violate the law by protesting (kind of a simplified explanation).  A lot of our case involved testimony from people who’d either been there or had some expertise about conditions under apartheid.

During the voir dire (choosing the jury panel) it was very important to both sides to know how much awareness the potential jurors had of the situation in South Africa and whether they already had opinions about it.  We questioned something like 60 potential jurors of many ages, races, jobs, etc, asking every one whether they regularly read the newspaper or watched the news and what they knew about South Africa and apartheid.

With two exceptions,  the startling answer was no.  No one read the newspaper.  No one watched the news.  They barely knew where South Africa was and they knew nothing about the apartheid situation or the call for an embargo, nothing about Nelson Mandela (he was still in prison and far less famous outside the circles who were informed about the situation).  Since my entire family and all the people I knew had newspaper subscriptions and watched the news, listened to NPR and stayed informed, this came as a great shock to me.

But it also stuck with me that I need to always remember the world view my circle shares, which assumes you need to stay informed by paying attention to the news, is not the only world view (and not one I share any more).  I keep seeing people accusing those who voted for Trump of being bigots, misogynists, etc. (and I did it in a post too) based on an assumption they heard and saw all the things he said.

While I am sure there were plenty who did know these things and voted for him anyway, the probability is that a significant percentage of those who voted for him do not read newspapers or watch the news and didn’t know most of the outrageous things he’d been saying.

The sweet spot for me at the end of the trial story:  when I went to the picket line at the Consulate after the trial was over, several members of the jury were there marching. As soon as they knew and understood what was happening they felt they had to take part in the fight to end apartheid.  The fact they’d previously chosen not to stay informed didn’t mean they were stupid or unfeeling, it meant they lived a different lifestyle than mine.  And when they knew they showed up to help.

We’re all divine sparks of All That Is.  Sometimes you have to be open to seeing that spark and trying to understand a different way of thinking.

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Thankful… Thanksgiving…

fresh cranberry compote from another year

fresh cranberry compote

Here in the U.S., Thanksgiving just started.  Since I made things ahead and bought most of the side dishes, a lovely dinner will be had and I can have a pretty leisurely day leading up to it.  (you can see my main recipe over on the other blog, here)

I’m so grateful to be able to buy the food for such a meal, to have the wherewithal to make such a meal and for having a nice home in which to eat it.

Although I’m glad NaBloPoMo is almost over, I’ve also enjoyed it and am so thankful for the news friends I’ve made.  And even more thankful for the blogging friendships here that now stretch years.  Love you all!

And I ask for prayers for the protesters at Standing Rock.  Some of my local friends are about to head off to join them, so if you can add thoughts for a safe journey for them as well, I’d so appreciate it.

Whether you’re having a holiday today or it’s just an ordinary day, I wish you peace, happiness and love.

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What lies beneath?

3x-great-grandfather-gallaher

Whenever I find myself being deeply emotionally affected by some external circumstance like the election, I know the situation has to be touching on something in me.  Along with chanting for peace and lovingkindness I’ve been watching the ebb and flow of emotions while chanting and also observing the impact of the spewing going on on FB, wondering what my reactions are telling me.

Starting before the election, another major phase of unwinding in my face has been going on.  [The glued-together stuff at the root is finally separating enough I can pick out some specific muscles!]  Whenever muscles are opening there’s a fair chance some old issue, whether personal or ancestral or past life (or all of the above), is going to be released.

The way the Universe operates, I figure there’s a pretty good chance the issues from the election and whatever I’m moving through in the healing process are related.  As I’ve contemplated I’ve looked at a few things and come up with one surprise issue I’ll be exploring.

Several times the Gayatri Mantra has produced a big emotional reaction so I looked up a translation.  I know it’s used often for peace and that it opens the heart, but the specific meaning of the words doesn’t seem to stick with me.  I found a lovely translation and discussion on this site:

OM BUHR, BHUVA, SWAHA
OM TAT SAVITUR VARENYAM
BHARGO DEVASYA DHEEMAHI
DHIYO YONAHA PRACHODAYAT”

We meditate on the glory of the Creator;
Who has created the Universe;
Who is worthy of Worship;
Who is the embodiment of Knowledge and Light;
Who is the remover of Sin and Ignorance;
May He open our hearts and enlighten our Intellect

While I don’t find anything there that raises a specific personal issue, I can see that the tone and purpose of the chant is a big contradiction to what’s going on in the U.S. right now.  I figure it’s hitting right in the place where fear is pulling me away from an open heart…

The big place where I’ve been very emotional involves the horrible things Trump has said about people of other races and religions, especially his commentary on Blacks.  Ridiculing the Black Lives Matter movement and talking about “go back to Africa” hurts my heart.  One evening as I explored inward about what might be evoking such a strong response, I suddenly saw my family tree in my mind’s eye.

You see my 3X great grandfather and his son, my 2X great grandfather (plus his many siblings) owned slaves.  When I first encountered a copy of a will from 1837 in my grandfather’s effects, I was so young I really didn’t know what the bequests that seemed to hand off people meant.  Nor did any of us know what relation the testator had to us.

As an adult I recalled seeing the will and realized somebody in my family had been a slaveholder.  I’ve grappled with guilt over it off and on ever since but ultimately I’ve had to realize I wasn’t there, I didn’t convince anyone to do it and I’m not responsible for what they did.  I’ve always aimed to treat every human I encounter with dignity regardless of race, creed or religion and I don’t quite know what to do about what my ancestors did 170-200+ years ago,

Eventually I did enough research to know the maker of the will was my 3X great grandfather.  I’ve stood on the property he owned in Tennessee and I’ve seen the graves of both him and his son.  What mixed feelings I have about them.

It was moving to see the piece of land my 3X great grandfather purchased around 1800.  It’s hard to describe how it felt to stand not only at his grave but also my 3X great grandmother and another set of 3X great grandparents whose daughter, my 2X great grandmother, married my 2X great grandfather.

They’re my family.  They moved from Scotland to Ireland when England offered property and then a few generations later my 4X great grandfather moved to Pennsylvania.  Eastern Tennessee came next, then a little west to Knoxville.  Eventually branches of this family were involved in every major surge to the west in American history.  Part of me is proud that these poor farmers had the courage to keep picking up and moving forward to seek a better life.

Part of me wants to travel back in time so I can hop up and down in fury and demand what on earth they were thinking???  How could they be so cruel?  I wind up in this ambivalent space between loving them because they’re my family (and much of the courage and conviction I carry I know I owe to them) and despising them because they lacked humanity.

A piece, then, involves my ambivalence.  But I also have a deep sense I’m feeling something that has to do with those ancestors and how they felt or now feel about slavery and their part in it.  I’ll be doing some exploring in meditation and ceremony about the ancestral piece and possibly it’s time for a check-in with Hanna for some of her excellent healing.

How about you — if you’re feeling strong emotions around the election of Trump, have you found any of those feelings arise from personal issues? Are you aware of the source of these deep reactions to xenophobia, bigotry, discrimination, misogyny, etc.?

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The Great Divide Part 2: Economy

English: Workers inside the South Brisbane But...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Yesterday I ruminated about the impact of education on the big division in this country.  The other arena in which I’m pondering options for narrowing the gap is economic.  A huge portion of those who supported Trump are people who’ve been left behind by the job market.

They often seem to blame immigrants and/or Americans of a different color than theirs for taking their jobs.  I, on the other hand, see three main causes: (1) automation replacing jobs; (2) companies seeking lower employee payrolls moving operations to other countries and (3) the tsunami of technology and its shift of jobs into arenas requiring skills most laid-off workers don’t possess.

We don’t have to agree on the cause to agree it’s scary and horrible to lose your job and to have nothing on the horizon to replace it.  Democrats have talked about doing something but haven’t produced.  Republicans don’t even talk about programs to help (anyone ever?).  Deporting a bunch of immigrants isn’t going to change the economic realities.

Companies who are saving money with automation aren’t going to bring back a work force.  Nor are the ones who’ve moved factories to places with cheap labor forces going to come back to pay the high wages required here.  And nothing is going to stop technology’s relentless growth and change and the degree to which it has become the heart of the marketplace.  [Changing the entrenched corporate greed, a topic for another day…  or possibly after a revolution???]

So it seems to me it’s time to figure something out for the workers who have been left behind.  I’ve seen the opinion we can help their children (presumably by training for tech jobs) but there’s nothing to do for the 40-60 year-olds who have neither jobs nor the skills to move to the technology sector.  Surely in a nation as great as this we can do better than that.

It’s not my area of expertise, so I’m not sure what could happen, but surely there are people with ideas who could devise plans, projects, programs, possibilities???  How can we reach out?  Bridge this gap?

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The great divide Part 1: Education

Children in a kindergarten classroom in France

Children in a kindergarten classroom (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As I’ve been thinking over the current situation a couple of things have been jumping out for me about the great divide in this country. The first is about education and all the voting demographics I’ve seen that put the majority of college educated people in one camp and the majority of those with high school level or less in the other.

Which has me pondering education in general, here and in the world.  Ruminating about the “educate women” movement which has been building force for some years now.  It’s aimed at countries where lots of people — particularly women — don’t have access to any education, so the situation is a little different.

But the studies supporting the “educate women” idea show that when women are educated in a society, the tendency to extremist views that exclude portions of the population, give rise to xenophobia or lead to militancy and/or genocide, …, etc. is reduced.

Now most people in this country have access to some amount of education, but we’ve been sliding downward in the world and the schools in poorer areas are generally underfunded and competing even less well.  And it seems different levels of education are producing a big gap in views of inclusiveness versus exclusiveness, etc.  Some of the same kinds of issues being addressed by the programs for educating women elsewhere seem to exist here too.

So the thing that’s been spinning around in my head is:  why are we willing to donate millions of dollars for charitable programs to educate women in other countries, but in this country instead of helping everyone achieve a better education, I just see people calling the under-educated “stupid” and dismissing them???

No wonder so many people feel disenfranchised.  With a lower level of education and a dissimilar cultural experience, they understand the world in different ways and are written off for it.  I don’t really see anyone on the political horizon who’s interested in working on education as a means of bridging the divide.

Maybe it’s a place for new ideas.  Thinking outside the box.  Since the new administration is planning on cutting funds for education, the answer needs to come from outside the government as the public school system will probably get worse.  Anybody have some great proposals to equalize the education playing field?  An educate-the-girls foundation to launch?  A partnership to propose to the Gates Foundation?

Any ideas about healing the great divide instead of widening the gap?  Instead of getting mad how about getting to work on some new plans?