Getting Bigger

Many years back my insightful acupuncturist, Raymond Himmel (still practicing in Mill Valley, CA for anyone near enough) commented, “You know it’s okay for you to be big,” as he popped another needle in.  Me holding back my bigness in one way or another has come up often over many years on this journey and among my various spiritual teachers and alternative health practitioners, he was not alone in perceiving and pointing out that issue.

Over the years I’ve done lots of work around the ideas of making myself small and fear of being big, from digging around in the issue to release work to efforts at changing my negative thought patterns, particularly those I see as keeping me small.  For me it’s one of those major, pervasive issues with tendrils, and I imagine I will be circling back to it for the rest of at least this lifetime.

Years ago I understood the tight muscles all over my body created a defensive system almost like having body armor under the skin.  More recently, as the final throes of unwinding in my face move through, I’ve been also understanding the same tightness as part of being small.

In my early yoga training, my teacher talked to us quite a bit about how we can see many things about our personalities and our ways of being in how we feel about postures, and in our relationship with the difficulty or easiness of various postures.  I, for instance, did forward bend stretches with ease from the beginning.  An indicator of introversion or inwardness.

Back bends, on the other hand, were a strain.  Initially I could barely lift an inch off the floor into a cobra pose  An indicator of being afraid to be open and exposed in the world.  I didn’t exactly mind doing them but they were hard for me.  Since I knew being more open in the world was an issue, I concertedly kept working at back bends.

My ability to move farther into postures like cobra improved in a complementary fashion with my becoming more outward in the world.  Those are just a couple of examples, but it’s a lesson I’ve always carried and reflected upon periodically.  So as my head has finally opened up significantly the import of the squeezed up muscles became a subject of contemplation.

Increasingly I’ve understood that the super tight squeezing in all the muscles in my head and face (I’ve described it as feeling like a vice grip that could squeeze to the max from every direction) served to keep me small.  And as the muscles have opened up– and opened more of my body as the patterns in my head connected into and held up patterns all the way down — the feeling of being bigger has grown.

A few weeks ago while following along to one of Steve Nobel’s great meditations I suddenly opened into a sense of a big space in me while receiving a message that it’s time to be big, to let myself be all I came here to be.  For most of this journey I’ve  had visions occasionally of me in a much bigger, more out there life and, while excited, my main reaction has always been that it’s too grandiose, too much for “little ol’ me” to imagine I could be and do all that.  Without the opening in my muscles, I don’t think I could feel the bigness as I now do.

For the first time I felt this really big, impactful life truly is the one I came here to live.  I’ve been naming some well known teachers and saying I feel like I belong on the same stages they’re on.  This isn’t a sudden complete transformation.  Any given day (or even time of day) you could find me feeling anxious about stepping out like that or tearing up because it seems like too much.

But the rest of the time I’m mulling it and taking it in and telling myself, as Raymond so long ago told me, “It’s okay to be big.”

Life and a meditation

I have posts buzzing around in my head, from my spiritual journey lately to more People Power to mulling over Mueller, but life has been getting in the way.  My 93-year-old mother relies on me to get to all appointments and to do all shopping and she’s been having lots of appointments.  Between busy-ness and periodic sleep deprivation I’m winding up writing in my head but getting nothing down.

In the meantime, I continue to periodically explore Steve Nobel’s expansive offerings and I’ve found his meditation, “Releasing Anxiety/Fear” to be powerful:

Clearing and building energy

I tried out this Steve Nobel meditation a few weeks ago and then did it again and have been so impacted by it I’m planning to do it at least a couple of times a week.

The first part does a LOT of clearing old energy from every level of your being and then you build a pillar of light which is both super high energy and creates a barrier that keeps lower level energies from entering.

In these times when I feel it is SO important to be clearing as much lower level energy as possible and also lifting the vibration of the Web of All Life higher, this meditation seems like the perfect path.

I’ll be back to this in an upcoming People Power post, but wanted to share it now so those who want to can start working with it.

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: Truth, Lies, Myths, Manipulation

For part 2 in my People Power series a lot of focus right now on truth telling and “fake” news, which is discussed as if it’s a phenomenon that started with the current U.S. administration.  The truth and what we believe and why we believe it are crucial at this point but it’s a slippery slope.

The media and people in power have been hoodwinking us for years (maybe always?) and we all now hold a lot of beliefs that are based on falsehoods and/or manipulations.  In the wake of the 2016 election I’ve read a lot of studies about belief and how hard it is to change one or more.  Bottom line is beliefs are very hard to change in all people.  Once a belief has been accepted, most all of us will ignore evidence that tells us a different truth.

By and large these studies aimed at the right wing folks who elected the not-really-a-president, but what I’m seeing is that both sides are subject to the same “set in stone” thinking.  And the liberal/left often seems so smug about knowing what’s true and what’s not that they are blind to the ways in which they have been duped and are just as gullible to believing what’s been fed.

My first three examples of ways the media shifts perception all come from events of which I was aware or in which I participated in the 1980’s:

1 Nicaragua

  In the 80’s there was a huge civil war in Nicaragua in which the socialist Sandinistas were fighting the party of the late right-wing despotic dictator Somoza.  The Somozan guerillas called themselves Contras and had death squads torturing and killing people.

Reagan supported the right wing and the giant propaganda effort he waged on their behalf led to the Iran-Contra affair.  One small but key move he made to shift perception was to start calling the Contras “Freedom Fighters” in order to portray them as the good guys.

After a while I noticed that NYT articles about the situation were using his propaganda phrasing, calling the Contras “Freedom Fighters”.  It’s a subtle but effective way of re-shaping perception by a small change of phrase.  The anti-abortion movement pulled off a similar shift by changing their movement to “Pro Life”.

[At a guess, it was not the reporters on those articles who used the phrase, but probably an editorial change commanded by somewhere up the chain]

2 Nuclear Power Cases

Nuclear Power Plant cases are giant sprawling things, with thousands of pages of complex expert testimony, briefs that are usually 100 or more pages each and opinions that are just as long.  They’re complicated and cover tough-to-grasp topics like nuclear power plant engineering and econometric forecasting.

I worked on those cases and I barely grasped the minutiae even after several years, relying on the greater expertise of older attorneys who’d been at it so long they knew every nuance.  So I can imagine how tough it must be for a reporter covering the outcome of such a case –presumably among other assignments on other topics — to comprehend the material.

Pretty much every time one of our cases came down, I’d read the newspaper report on the opinion/outcome and scratch my head, wondering if the decision on some other nuclear plant case somewhere else had come out that day and the reporter confused the opinions.  Really.  I’d read the opinion and then the news and fail to see how one led to the other.

I don’t think anybody manipulated on purpose in those cases, but in complex technical matters it’s too much for a mainstream media reporter to be able to get it all and write a concise, understandable article that accurately reflects the material.  I’ve talked to other people in other complex arenas who’ve said the same thing.  Media coverage often doesn’t reflect the kind of understanding that people within the “biz” have.  On complex topics, if you really want to know, you probably need to look at trade-specific journals or major studies.

But the news articles are often the only info the public ever sees, so any mistakes in the coverage wind up being part of the belief system.  One example in nuclear stuff I see all the time is the assumption that nuclear is the cheapest form of power.

Putting aside the incalculable issue of how much the environmental devastation will cost down the road, (1) the cost overruns of building them have been astronomical; and (2) the ONLY reason they ever seemed relatively cheap in the U.S. was the gigantic federal underwriting they received.  If you add the grants into the overall cost they’re very expensive.

But because the powers that be who favor nuclear have always referred to it as the cheapest form and the federal money supporting them is never mentioned there’s a general belief that nuclear power is cheap.  In this case the public is misled by a combo of misinformation and omission.

3 Perception of Crime

Yup, I’m back to this one again.  And before you roll your eyes and think I need to stop with this one, I really want you to take this in and understand how manipulation changed perception and what that means for us.

As a sociology grad student in the late 70’s I landed on a huge research project called “Reaction to Crime”.  The premise was that the perception of rising crime threats arose from some changes in reporting and the idea was to figure out how to assuage those fears.  Part of the project was a gigantic “crime statistics survey” in which a small group of us poured through decades of studies and articles on crime stats.

In a nutshell, what we found was that the chance of being the victim of a crime, from robbery, burglary, assault, battery, kidnapping, etc. to murder HAD NOT CHANGED IN DECADES.  Two major changes fueled the change in perception:  (1) crime used to be reported differently and not in gross numbers as it has been for some decades now and (2) the rise of television meant that many crimes that once would have been reported only locally became national news.

The change in reporting from noting probability to just counting the total number of crimes and sounding the alarm that it kept going up suits law enforcement and politicians very well because it helps them convince the public they need big budgets and fuels election campaigns.

The thing is, the population keeps growing, so the totals will always grow. The only relevant info in terms of being afraid of crime is the probability.  Has not changed significantly over all for more than 100 years.  And I keep checking in on the studies and reports as they update and it’s always the same.  Unless you’re a Hispanic or Black male between 15 and 25, the chances of being a crime victim have gone down by and large since Colonial times. (And I’ve not looked into it but I suspect some crimes related to opioid sales and distribution have gone up in recent years.  And hate crimes only have relatively recent stats as they were not considered separately).

But every time I talk to people about this I see them politely nod and then observe them a day or two later discussing the terrible crime problem.  So this is the piece I want you (and I use “you” very generally here, hoping I might reach a wider than usual audience) to really get.

I am telling you the factual evidence compiled by decades of experts in this field shows  a perception of crime as rampant and getting worse that IS NOT TRUE.  And most of you have bought so deeply into the manipulation that you do not really believe me when I tell you this.

How does this make you different from climate deniers?  Or flat earth believers?  Somebody presented those folks with an alternate view of truth and they’ve bought it so thoroughly you can’t persuade them it’s actually false.

This is how manipulation works.  It presents you with a version of events or a way of phrasing or skewed “statistics” that suits people in power and gets you to believe what they want you to.  And then you can’t be dissuaded.

In the 1940’s, when people left everything unlocked and wandered around feeling safe, the only difference in likelihood of being a victim was perception.  Not the numbers.  Perception.  So when you worry about crime and contemplate security systems, etc. remember nothing has changed since the days of unlocked doors except your perception.

A few articles:

In a broader sense, this all goes to a point I’ve been making for a while about the price of lapping up negative news and largely ignoring (instead of demanding!) positive news.  The corporate elite–who quietly (and I’d argue without a conspiracy but acting out of self interest) hold the strings of power and use them to manipulate–put a lot of effort into keeping the populace afraid and pointing fingers at one another and at “circumstances” like rising crime.

Lately I’ve been noticing in my digital Washington Post subscription, although they continue to dislike the President while also celebrating him daily via multiple posts, they’ve been tearing down the Democratic candidates and Democrats in general on a daily basis lately.  At first I was surprised but then recalled I’ve read several times that the big mainstream media folks have recouped their financial standing by covering this administration incessantly.  Which will presumably change if he isn’t elected in 2020.  Bear this mind.

The point of creating fear is to keep us from noticing (1) together we actually have the power since the 2% need us to buy their crap and (2) they’re really the ones raping, pillaging, plundering, and destroying the earth and its people.  But if we’re all hopping around about crime and racism and immigrants and refugees and dividing into camps pointing fingers at one another they just get to keep taking more power and leaving us with less of everything.

Which brings me to another item I keep coming back to, this lovely 10 minute Ted Talk by Julia Bacha on the importance of being aware of the positive and the price of focusing on the negative.

It’s time for us to wake up and look at the world with new eyes.  To step back from the “truth” as we keep perceiving it through the lens of mainstream media.  It’s time to seek and celebrate the multitudes of positive things in the world.  And by noticing and celebrating we bring attention.  Since energy flows where attention goes, that means energy moves to the good stuff.  That’s how we start moving the power.  Change the flow.

For those of us in this blogging crowd who have come to know each other here, we have been in the forefront of those who are digging deep into our own psyches and releasing the old false beliefs and delusions in our personal lives.  Now it’s time for us to dig into the false beliefs and delusions of our society and world and step back to hold a deeper truth.  I don’t usually ask this, but please forward this through social media for me.  We need to get this out there.

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.

Compassion for the Unlikeable

In my last post I explored the puzzling contradictions of the right wing evangelical movement.  It’s easy for liberals and leftists and spiritual types who pursue love and peace to shake their fists in fury and despise the hatefulness and hypocrisy rampant in the white nationalist propensities of so many folks who call themselves Christians.

Except fist shaking and fury are, you know, hateful too.  I’m guilty of it and up to a point I see it as a good thing to initially feel angry when people lack humanity and are prepared to sacrifice the lives of every group they don’t like.

But at some point it seems to me true compassion requires a step back and the application of humanitarian instincts even to those who seem to have no compassion of their own.  Brotherly love isn’t just for those with whom it’s easy to empathize.  At its heart it requires the ability to dig deep and find love for everyone, even when it’s hard.  Especially when it’s hard.

I see the hatefulness of the right wing as arising from huge fear.  It would be tempting to offer my theories as to why they’re so afraid (and trust me, I have some), but I also feel like Right Listening requires us to engage in a conversation with them that helps them to dig deep and offer their own truth about fear or to tell us it’s something else.

And then to ask them what would help to assuage the fear. Discuss programs and possibilities and really hear their input instead of the usual pattern of designing a program from outside and imposing it on people without finding out what they want.

At this point, like many I know, I’d pretty much vote for anybody not the guy we’ve got now, but I wish we’d see some of the liberals putting some attention on healing our great divide by turning some compassion toward the “other side”.