Creating bridges with dialogue

Part of one of this week’s assignments in the Harmony and Co-Humanity class I’m taking was to watch this video.  Meghan grew up in a right wing church that basically operated as a hate group, and did a complete 180 turn.

Her story is moving and her advice on bridging divides with considered dialogue are worth watching.  Only 15 minutes:

Walking a different drummer/spiritual path in a secular world

A little over a week ago I started participating in an on line class called “Co-Human Harmony“.  The idea is to work on understanding and tools to help create bridges in a divisive society or situation.  I signed up because I think it’s so important right now and because I realize I even have a problem quite often about joining groups who are working for peace or justice (i.e. theoretically same view as mine) because I frame these issues so differently.

I’m loving the class but also struggling for the same reasons.  The quite valid point of the class is to learn tools for bridging divides where people are, which is generally not in a place of understanding or accepting non-duality.  And I’m realizing I’ve moved so far along the path of looking at everything from a spiritual/metaphysical viewpoint, I’m having trouble answering some of the course questions within a more “practical” framework.

I believe so thoroughly we’re all divine beings who are made of energy which is part of one unified field.  And I am so used to using tools like (1) moving into heart energy and shifting a room with it or (2) chanting lovingkindness for someone with whom I’m at odds or (3) doing a meditation that balances energy between me and another person before we actually interact, that I think in those terms for bridges and healing rifts.

The teacher has pointed out it’s fine to think in those terms (and has encouraged me to continue) but for these situations we’re addressing how to be in a room with, say, a Neo-Nazi, and find a way to connect as humans so we can talk.  And I’m guessing as we move from studying the theoretical framework to more practical applications it may become easier to just use and apply new concepts.  But right now I’m floundering in attempts to talk about my understanding of various passages, videos, etc. on which we’re asked to comment without talking about energy and chakras and stuff.

I’m really seeing how far down this spiritual path I’ve gotten.  I know, I know, seems goofy after this many years for this to be a new thought.  But I’ve wound up mostly hanging around with other spiritual seekers who’ve been at it for years and though I know intellectually that most people don’t think this way, I’m rarely confronted in person with how totally different the drumbeat to which I march really is.

Since most of the folks who regularly read and participate here lead deeply spiritual lives I’m very interested and curious to hear your thoughts and stories about participating as a spiritually-enmeshed person in secular affairs.  Comments are welcome but I’d be even more excited to see some of you write posts about living spiritually in a secular world.

BTW, I’ll still be continuing the People Power series but as I work through this class I’ll likely switch back and forth in topics.

People Power: Government, the Environment and Us

For some years I’ve been increasingly fascinated by the degree to which Americans want government to do everything for them yet don’t want to pay taxes for it and simultaneously dislike “big government”.

Lately I’ve been finding it especially ironic that many are reviving the old “red scare” which completely misunderstands socialism (and conflates it with Soviet Communism) while also wanting government to take care of everything from roads to health care to the environment to jobs, etc.  Which is kind of socialist…

Liberals have always been more complacent about government but in some ways the widespread assumption that government intervention is the most important source of help for multiple problems is misguided in my opinion.

For instance, the liberal/left keeps jumping up and down about climate change and making the federal government’s role in it central and crucial to any success.  In the meantime, though, if you look around at what’s happening around the world, the greatest and most vibrant projects with potential for saving the earth arose from individuals, non-profits and local governments taking initiative to work on new and creative ideas.

Project Drawdown is an extremely heartening book detailing innovations already under way with potential to turn around climate change if they continue and expand. Multitudes of projects are already happening and almost none of them were implemented by national governments. See also Yes Magazine, Planet tab, and note this article in particular: How to Not Be Completely Depressed About Climate Change.

I’m not saying that government can’t play an important role or that it isn’t a huge help if national governments get on board.  But the reality is most federal governments are so ruled by corporate interests and so deeply corrupted by those ties that to me it isn’t realistic to assume even the “right” elected representatives can create changes of the magnitude we need.

The one heartening piece I’ve seen lately was the number of newly elected representatives to the U.S. House who raised money only through individuals, not through corporate PACs.  If we could accomplish a turnover in which the majority of those elected are doing it without corporate money, we might start shifting the corruption because they might be less subject to influence.  I also think that might take too long.

Too me the great hope for the world is in having more of us participating, from trying out the kinds of innovations others have already launched, to financially supporting non-profits with viable programs to creating your own climate saving project.  From projects you can do in your own yard to ideas for solar buildings and/or neighborhoods, etc. there are multitudes of ways people power can expand and create ever greater impacts.

Throughout this series I’ll be calling for local action and for more conscious meshing of ideas, groups, volunteering etc. within communities in order to separate ourselves on many levels from the greed of the 2% and corporate power.

A topic for another day is using people power to break corporate power and thus the global corporate tendency to destroy the environment.  In the meantime, yes, work to elect “green” candidates and push for helpful legislation, but even more important look at your local landscape and see what YOU can do.  What’s happening that you could participate in with friends?  What organizations are doing great things that could use volunteers or more funds?

And for the spiritually-minded, who believe in the power of prayer, visualization and energy:  holding a vision of a healthy world, raising your own vibration to help raise the world’s vibration, sending healing energy to Earth and affirming the positive innovations by bringing attention to them are all ways to contribute.

The People Power series so far:

People Power: The Rambling Intro :-)

I’ve been pretty excited lately about some epiphanies I’ve been having about the world and where we can choose to head, with ideas on many levels and many fronts/aspects of life on earth.  As has increasingly been happening in recent years, the aha arrived from some other dimension and without words.

An influx of images and feelings that translate only partially into words and thoughts, which leaves me both excited and frustrated as I try to figure out how to explain it.  It’s clear that multiple posts will be required.

We, the 98%, Have the Power

The entire things boils down most simply to that thought but there’s so much more.  It’s an evolution of a thought I’ve played with for years, that we vote at least as much — probably more — with our dollars as with our trips to the voting booth.  And that there’s power in how we choose to spend.

I’ve been tossing thoughts off on other social media for a bit now about how puzzling it is that the 2% seem to have a delusion that the well-being or lack thereof of the 98% doesn’t affect them.  Simultaneously my long-time thoughts about power elites and their control of the military industrial complex have landed on really comprehending how we’ve let global corporations take control of the world and its governments.

But their wealth and prosperity are entirely dependent on us, the 98%, buying their goods and services.  If we withdrew our monetary support of their enterprises and instead created local trade, manufacturing, service and community efforts to provide goods and services while electing more reps into government who have been backed only by “people funding”, their power would collapse.  And yes, we have to face possible disruption and reprisals could go along with that.

My concerted effort at finding positive news has also shown me the widespread expansion of an idea I noted 25+ years ago via ads in places like Yoga Journal and New Age magazine.  At that time I could see a small and growing alternative economy thriving along side the normal corporate robber baron economy.  And now I see small personal and local efforts around the world taking charge of creating change without government or with only local government impetus.  Key to where I see us moving.

I see this possibility operating in so many ways, the series of posts will more specifically explore individual aspects.

It’s All Been Leading Here

The personal thread in these insights that excites me is I can now see the long eclectic journey from studying political and economic systems in college through multiple studies and jobs to the more recent spiritual journey and its insights, everything has added up to this.

I hope you’ll bear with me as, for me, I feel a need to write out as much of the eclectic path as I can recall:

  1. Attending college at the height of the anti-Viet Nam protests got me interested in “the power elite” and that, combined with calls for revolution in the air, led me to put together my own “major” outside my declared one.  I studied political philosophy and science, the history of power, comparative economic and political systems obsessively.
  2. In graduate school I intended to hone in my power elite study, but funding wound up sidetracking me into a big study called “Reaction to Crime” and my journey through a huge literature survey on crime statistics led to many insights and realizations that continue to unfold.  Bottom line:  probability of being a victim of most crimes has not changed in at least 100 years but manipulation of how it’s reported and how the statistics are presented has created a FALSE perception that crime is getting worse and it’s now deep in the consciousness of our culture.  Not the only arena in which we have a shared view that’s been manipulated into being.
  3. Law School.  None fun (as a cousin used to say in childhood), but provided so many tools for understanding and insight, not the least of which was an incredibly demanding Constitutional Law professor.
  4. Becoming a lawyer on nuclear power plant cases helped me to understand many ins and outs of how regulated systems work as well as nuances about the many problems of nuclear power.
  5. Doing that lawyering for a government agency in Illinois I came to understand a lot about how power in government operates behind the scenes.
  6. My foray into the world of meditation, yoga and metaphysics while still practicing law led to a complete turnaround for me, including seeing how harmful law practice was for my well-being.
  7. Shortly after leaving the law I went through Nine Gates Mystery School in 1990.  A life-changing experience, it led me to embrace my spiritual journey much more deeply.  I also wound up studying with several of the teachers from the school, one of whom in particular led me deep within my psyche and helped me let go of SO many old beliefs.
  8. A part-time gig doing some editing and proofreading for a little (and crooked as it turned out) publishing company landed a right wing Christian book in my pile that was eye opening as to the level of lying and making things up ingrained in that thinking.  Yup way before The Rump evangelical preachers were already training their flocks to buy any crap they made up.
  9. Another part time gig at Institute of Noetic Sciences brought so many resources into my life and introduced me to a number of teachers whose work continues to influence me.  I also learned what it’s like to work for a place that genuinely likes and appreciates its employees.
  10. After moving to KY I wound up in a part time job for the local Unity church. It was supposed to be a little clerical gig after the church lost its ministers to lack of funding.  As the only person around, I wound up doing bits of everything from filling in for the pianist to playing a leadership role I would never have conceived of myself doing.  I was surprised to watch myself step up to a visible role with a fair amount of ease after a lifetime of trying to be invisible.  A great affirmation of how much change I’d accomplished and a huge shift in self-conception without which I doubt I’d have the hubris to be writing this..
  11. I wound up creating a new exercise program to help with my muscle issues and, in trying to share it with others, discovered many people don’t want to do their own self care.
  12. As I worked on creating a more positive outlook I began looking for positive news, a venture that accelerated exponentially after the 2016 election.  It has wound up helping me to see the whole world differently.  People everywhere are stepping up and changing things for the better and there’s a reason the mainstream press doesn’t highlight these stories.
  13. I’ve been able to use all my background in historical, political and sociological studies as well as my law degree and experience in working for government to read along in current events much more closely than I’d done in years.  All helps to read between the lines and see a lot about what’s going on, including many issues and beliefs buried so deep in our culture that even many highly aware people don’t seem to see how they’re locked into it.
  14. The long spiritual journey and lots of release and letting go practices are helping me immensely to stand back and evaluate issues from a different perspective.  Meditation and mindfulness, etc. also help me to see how much change we really need and to contemplate the potential upheaval with calm.  And I see a major spiritual component in both what is happening now and in creating change.

I’m not claiming to have some high level of expertise as I’m clearly more of a dabbler.  But I have a mind that both finds the heart of the matter readily and synthesizes information from multiple sources with ease and those often combine to help me see answers no one else is seeing.

I don’t have all the answers for how we get to where I see us going but I have a sense of the basics we need to address if we truly want to change the world.

I like my aging face

For some months now I’ve felt like I’ve been in some sort of hibernation/incubation mix, drawn to studying up on a bunch of current events issues and unsure what’s next.  Finally in the last couple of weeks a couple of epiphanies have arrived.  The first will take several posts so I’m writing up the second one to open.

Lately a number of articles and insights about aging have cropped up, during a spell when I’ve often enjoyed my graying hair in the mirror as well as appreciating my aging face.  They’ve had me contemplating myself as an aging woman.

Time Stopped

Aging has been an odd process for me.  Like many with a long-term ailment like chronic fatigue and/or fibromyalgia, in many ways my life froze at the point in my mid-thirties when normal life stopped.  For many years I had trouble conceiving of myself as having moved anywhere past that age.

At the same time, the process of moving toward wellness included lots and lots of bodywork and a faithful yoga practice combined with some other movement practices.  Once the process of aging caught up with me enough that I could no longer hold an illusion of being 34 🙂 I had transformed my body from stiff and pained and barely mobile to strong and lithe and flexible.

So I find myself at 66 with a body that feels younger than it did in my thirties and a face that clearly says “66” in a life that felt like a couple of decades went missing.

“Not Fair”

Clearly somewhere along the way I drifted from feeling 34 to seeing the aging reality in the mirror.  Having, in most conventional senses, lost 25 or so years, my initial reaction was, “Not fair!”

Alternating amongst angry and mournful and denying, I grappled with “losing” most of the middle of life and finding myself old and still struggling to get past all the health and emotional issues   Not fair!

Again, because my body was coming back to life and my muscles were serving me better than ever, denial became an easy refuge.  As long as I didn’t look in the mirror, I felt so much better it was hard to reconcile the “old” thing with the state of my physical being.

I never landed on anger or grief or denial for long and through it all I could manage to look at what I accomplished during those years and have a little re-think.

I Earned This Face

I can’t remember how many years ago I quit dying my hair (I’d gone prematurely white around my face in my early 30’s and, like so many, once I started, I kept going too long), but an appreciation of the gray look has been growing ever since.

Lately, as mentioned, I’ve been seeing a lot of photos and posts about amazing “older” women.  Soaking in the tub one recent day and pondering some of these “signs” I flashed to the image of my long graying hair when it’s down and my face with its wrinkles and the deep circles under my eyes that tell me my kidneys are still being squeezed by muscles and I’m not getting enough sleep.

Suddenly I felt love.  I earned this face.  When I look at the photos above I see a progression that may not be as visible to those who haven’t lived it, but to me is clear.

The toddler me is still open and bright; it’s a photo taken before I shut down.

By the time of the graduation photo taken at 17, my face is frozen and the muscle issues have already pulled my eyes back farther into my head than they should be.

The next photo, at 45-ish, was taken after I’d been doing spiritual work for 10 or so years, after going through the Fisher-Hoffman process work and I can see a little more openness, but, not having started work on the facial muscles, my eyes have pulled even farther back.

In the final photo — from last week — I see a face much more open.  My eyes have moved farther forward.  Not all the way yet, as final recalcitrant core muscles continue to work out of the web behind my eyes, but they’ve moved and appear more open again. Still in progress, but a visible confirmation of accomplishment.

I worked hard to move from the girl with the frozen face to the aging woman with masks removed and brighter eyes  I’ve faced into dark depths and wandered down entangled pathways from which I could not see a way forward.

To the outer world my life moved nowhere except from one U.S. state to another to another, but in my essence, at the core of my being, I have traversed a thousand miles of wilderness, facing down the lions and tigers and bears.

At 66 I stand on the brink of being the healthiest I have perhaps ever been.  I’ve jettisoned neuroses and useless beliefs and large pieces of what I thought was my personality.  I’m still not positive where the next phase will find me but I know I’m finally going to be living life as me and on my terms.

I earned this face.

Sage advice: muscles

My knowledge of muscles is taken from many places.  From a section on anatomy and muscles in my yoga teacher training, to info on muscles liberally dispensed by yoga teachers and multiple body work therapists to reading on my own, I’ve been learning about muscles for 30+ years.

The key factor I would emphasize is that most of us are woefully ignorant about our muscles and the central role they play in our health, well-being and ability to get around.  Western medicine largely ignores muscles, so many problems go undetected because they don’t even look for damage when you’ve fallen or been in an accident.

It’s worth learning about your muscles and seeking assistance outside of allopathic medicine in order to maintain muscle health and to restore it to balance after injury.

Emotions and muscles

Since this is everyone’s least favorite aspect, let’s get it out of the way 🙂  At times of trauma and/or drama we tighten our muscles and often the emotions evoked by these events wind up locked in knots in the muscle.

When you start opening the muscles, whether through practicing yoga, getting body work or treatments like acupuncture, those emotions and the memories associated with them are going to surface.

I think it’s one of the biggest reasons body work may plateau; resistance to remembering and/or releasing leads the person unconsciously to tighten.  In yoga people prevent these openings by getting out of a pose as soon as the muscle starts to relax enough to let those memories and feelings rise up.

Getting clear of old issues almost always needs to include some work on muscles in order to open the flow and restore essence.

Strength and Flexibility

America has somehow come to the conclusion that healthy muscles need only to be strong.  It’s a persistent misconception even though multitudes of people who work only on strength have wound up suffering pain from the impact of having muscles that are rigid but incapable of flexing.

Natural movement through the world requires muscles to have both the strength to make certain movements and hold certain parts of the body upright and the flexibility to allow you to balance, and to adjust to the motions life throws at you and, even more important, to allow vital force energy to flow throughout your body.

The nadis, or energy channels, through which prana (chi, qi, vital energy…) moves go through the muscles.  Rigid muscles restrict that flow.  Western thinking and medicine understands very little about energy, but energy and its ability to circulate is crucial mentally, physically and spiritually to good health.

After 32 years of yoga I’m prejudiced, of course, but I think it’s one of the best ways to get your muscles into the perfect balance of strength and flexibility.  A good yoga practice works on balance on many levels and one of the important features of a good practice is performing poses for both strength and stretch.

The Pain Place and the Source of Pain May Not Be the Same

The first serious massage therapist for me used a combo of sports medicine and the trigger point therapy theories of Dr. Janet Travell, particularly as shaped by Bonnie Prudden in Myotherapy.  Because muscles are interconnected, a holding pattern in one area will spread –given enough time, tightness can spread throughout your body — and may create a tight spot that hurts somewhere else.

If you work only where the pain is, you will not get rid of the problem.  Practitioners who know how to follow patterns* can figure out where the source of the problem really is.  When that piece releases, others will be easy to open.

Margaret, that first practitioner, often worked on my neck, couldn’t get anything to budge, moved down to a giant ball of knotted muscles at the top of my achilles tendon, worked there and then went back to my neck, where the muscles would now respond.

In Body Patterning, practitioners learn to see patterns in muscles and will often release several other areas before working on the place where you’ve indicated pain.  They’re releasing pieces that are holding that one and the spot you may think is central will not let go while the other patterns hold.

Another aspect of this is that your brain will numb out much of the pain if you have tight, sore muscles all over (or in many places).  Then it will zero in on one or two specific parts where you will experience the pain.  They’re not necessarily the places of origin for your problem.  Sometimes the pain is just referring from the pattern that’s the real issue.

Find a good practitioner –making sure you check on the training and experience — and trust him or her to work wherever you most need it regardless of whether that turns out to be the place where you feel pain.

When I do Flowing Body work on myself or with students, I generally do triggers of release for at least three areas and work with consciousness not only of before and after, but what has been affected by what.  For instance, during a recent knee problem, I did the triggers for ankles, knees and hips and noticed the ankle release did the most for the sore knee and the hip release was also more effective than the knee releases.

Another I’ve noted frequently, as have many students, is that releasing the ankles will often release something in the neck and/or jaw.  Almost every release will cause people to lower their shoulders even if no work has been done on shoulders.  Pay attention as you practice yoga or other exercises as to which movements bring relief where.

Muscles and Bones

Many muscles are connected to bones which means muscles pulled out of alignment can pull bones out of alignment too.  In the early years of trying to work my way out of fibromyalgia –harking back to Margaret again — the massage therapist prescribed chiropractic appointments to help.

Once the muscles have pulled bones out of whack, it often takes work on the bones as well to get the muscles to release.  If you’re not keen on the invasiveness of traditional chiropractic work, try Network Chiropractic. which doesn’t use the bone crunching technique and instead is gentle touch.

Therapy and Self Care

Over time I learned that body workers can help a lot but if I don’t do anything to help in between appointments, progress is exceedingly slow.  There are a variety of things you can do to help

I’d already been doing yoga when I began getting massages, etc. so that has always been a natural piece for me.  But it was when I lived in the San Francisco Bay area that I became conscious of helping along more.

I’d moved out to Marin but still wanted to go to the same massage therapist and also liked going to Kabuki Hot Springs, a Japanese bath place with wonderful sauna, hot tub, steam, etc.  To save trips over the bridge I started booking the massages on one of the ladies’ days at Kabuki and going in to soak, sauna, etc. first.  The therapist quickly noted my muscles were much easier to work on from the deep heat work right before the appointment.

Then, years later when I started doing a trade for Body Patterning, I only had an appointment every other week and I knew I needed to do something to maintain from one visit to the next.  Yoga had always helped but not enough.  And the commute to Kabuki Hot Springs had become a couple thousand miles 🙂

I’d done Robert Masters’ Psycho-physical Method to tapes for years but found it unwieldy for regular practice.  I began doing some of this work in between appointments and gradually re-worked it into sets of my own which dropped some pieces and joined various disparate parts in his classes into sets that worked well together and then combined it with yoga

Practice in between helped and I began a practice of doing 30-60 minutes of this work shortly before massage appointments, with a long soak in a hot bath right before leaving.  Suddenly I was being told that I had released more since the last appointment.

Normally practitioners get a number of things to open and then a combination of repetitive motions performed in life and the pulling force of patterns still holding in your body take the progress backwards a few steps (say 4 steps forward, 2-3 steps back).  Then at the next appointment the practitioner spends 15-30 of the first minutes of your appointment getting you back to where you were at the end of the last appointment.

So doing your part through practices that maintain progress and making sure you’ve done all you could before an appointment, you can move much faster through the body work to healthy muscles.  Very little time needs to be spent on getting you back to where you were and most of the appointment is about progressing further.

Problems Arise Slowly

It’s amazing how little it can take to start a problem with muscles and then it may take years before you feel the pain.  Yup.  Years.

I know I try the patience of some of my students with my emphasis on form in doing yoga and they don’t really believe me when I tell them doing it wrong can cause injuries.  If they’re not being wheeled out on a gurney at the end of class, to them there was no injury.

But do a pose wrong — or watch TV daily with your head turned or tilted or sit with your hips uneven, etc. — and keep doing it wrong and one or more muscles can be pulled a little out of place and/or strained enough to create a small knot.

At the time and perhaps for some time to come you probably won’t feel any pain at all.  But you’ve started a pattern. And if it goes untreated, the muscle will lock into the slightly-off-position and the first couple of knots will pull more of the muscle into knots.  Once that muscle is far enough out of whack it will start pulling all the muscles around it and causing them to tighten.

You might have started off pulling a muscle in your right hip out of place and a few years later it’s expanded until you’re having pain in your left shoulder and since you haven’t even done yoga for two years, you have no idea that doing it wrong started your problem.

The same is also true of having an injury and failing to get help.  You may stay off an ankle for a few days or go on bed rest for a spell and feel okay enough when you move again. But there’s a very good chance the trauma and the automatic tightening of muscles around it has set a little pattern.  Left untreated the pattern will remain and keep reaching out to affect more muscles.

The best way to protect your muscles from injury is to stay aware in the now.  Learn to do any exercise properly — and if your teacher can’t carefully explain the details of how to do something correctly, FIND A DIFFERENT TEACHER!!!  Also take care about positions you engage in routinely — how you sit, how you hold your head.

If you do an assessment and realize you’ve been twisting your neck when you sleep or sitting with one hip higher than the other, etc., seek help on identifying any patterns that have arisen and releasing them before they’ve turned into 20 patterns.

Bottom line, your muscles are important and you are the best steward in maintaining health.  Do what you can to keep them healthy and any time you have an accident or injury or feel a strain from repetitive motion seek help from alternative practitioners who actually understand muscles.


*i.e. cranio-sacral or body patterning

Sideways into New Year

Close to home

I’ve never really understood the to-do about the New Year nor what it has to do with getting drunk the night before….  But I usually try to have a special snack of some sort on hand and do a year-end tarot reading or something.

This year, however, I came down with the flu over the weekend and wound up spending New Year’s Eve in three layers of clothes plus a hat, under two blankets with a hot water bottle AND a heating pad.  Mom gave up at 10 p.m. and I didn’t have much interest in any of the countdowns — too much noise, too much being introduced to rock/pop/hip-hop performers I’m sorry I ever heard…

So I put on a recording of the Great Performances celebration of Leonard Bernstein’s 100th birthday and dozed to strains of Tchaikovsky and West Side Story.  Opened my eyes and realized midnight had passed without even a notice.

I always feel like my birthday is more of an occasion on which to note what has just passed and contemplate what comes next.  As I’ve slowly recuperated and moved on into the first days of 2019, I haven’t felt much need for reflection, other than to think about the week and realize it was an odd way to start another year.

Thank goodness for the Chinese herbal ganmaoling.  I took it faithfully and the worst lasted only 1-1;2 days instead of the week others have been suffering.  And I’d add some kudos to the extra Aireborne I took and drinking my daily cups of turmeric-ginger tea.

The picture up top reflects one of my biggest desires for the coming year:  to manage a visit to my beloved former home in Marin County, CA.  Need to pull together funds to see my father too, in Florida.  Otherwise I’m content to let the year unfold without the need to impose intentions and goals on the flow.

Stumbling sideways into the new??  🙂  Or flowing peacefully??