The Real World

 

Is as subjective as you can imagine.

American physicist Richard Feynman (1918 – 1988) commented on the puzzles and paradoxes of quantum mechanics, “ I cannot define the problem, therefore I suspect there’s no real problem, but I’m not sure there’s no problem.”

The subject of consciousness is all around us, and it reminds me of when I was growing in the mid-west in the Eisenhower years. Joe McCarthy was on his hunt for communists, questioning everyone’s loyalty to this country. His henchman and chief explainer was Roy Cohn, soon to be mentor of the young DJT.

McCarthy addressed the Senate making a list of outright lying claims and alternative facts which – after much tortuous equivocating, which cost lives, reputations, and livelihoods – were rejected by most and clung to by one Richard Nixon – among others – who saw opportunity in the making.

What consciousness is is not only not clear, it has forced many an illusion and conclusion. How, after all, can what we cannot define be defined. Prizes and papers are won and written for the palpable. Feynman was one of the few who dared – in his time – to express the inexpressible.

In his experiments with paths of quantum particles and their relationship with choice – to be a wave or a particle, for one example – the Hungarian physicist Eugene Wigner wrote: “It follows that the quantum description of objects is influenced by impressions entering my consciousness. Solipsism may be logically consistent with present quantum mechanics.”

You can see where I’m going with this. I have to think this time we are in has been our collective creation. Much as a cancer can take decades to show its invasion, “here we are,” always has a massive and complex history. Whoever you are, wherever you are, whatever you are doing or thinking is of tantamout importance. You are a vital piece of the puzzle we call the world or the universe and of consciousness itself.

What you are doing makes a difference. What you are feeling makes a difference. Your intention, your focus is titanic to your health and the health of all of us.

“As above, so below,” ancient wisdom/truth, tells me I am influenced by the quantum field as well. We all receive thoughts in the form of ideas, philosophies, needs – all expression – and we all influence.
So let’s step into this wholeheartedly. Let’s get to know our force. Who we are. What we think – when no one’s looking. Let’s go where we will go – for we will go somewhere, make it real.

If we are solipsism itself, let us be really good at who we are. If the world is bouncing off each one of us, let’s be the self we are. Step into you, I’ll step into me. And here’s the article from the BBC that started this riff!

Why Hillary Lost   part 2

At the Womens March this January, the word intersectional

was widely visible.

Google gave me this: “Intersectionality (or intersectional theory) is a term first coined in 1989 by American civil rights advocate and leading scholar of critical race theory, Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw. It is the study of overlapping or intersecting social identities and related systems of oppression, domination, or discrimination.”

I believe this focus allowed men, women, children, dogs (I saw no cats) of all ages and sizes, economic interests and everyone who wanted to be represented there to be there. It was the most harmonious experience I have ever known; there truly was room for us all.
This mood/feeling was not active during the election. I saw in the young man’s rejection of Hillary (I mentioned yesterday) the cry for separation. Devotion to separation, to the isolation of our own type or group identity was the Cri De Coeur during the interminable period leading up to the vote last year. By the time we voted, we were ready to kill one another.

Last year wasn’t so much about age as attitude. The delicious taste of freedom to hate, to blame, to say things that hadn’t been said “for eight years.” To take ourselves to such an extreme focus as not to see anything else.

We must seek a better outcome. To be here in this human body, on this earth plane is to seek wholeness and the more we include, the better off we are. We depend on the tree, the bee, the lion and all who show up here. There is nothing among us expendable or valueless. Please join me in listening to the originator of this most useful word. Let Kimberle Williams Crenshaw speak from her Ted Talk to all our hearts.

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In my small bucolic New England town sitting at the foot of rounded tree-filled mounds of earth we call mountains, I am nestled in the valley of the Housatonic with my fellows. Humans are not necessarily the majority of inhabitants here, although they claim to be in charge.
Some of us have been here a long time and some of us have been here longer. Personally I don’t think it makes a lot of difference. My own history in this place where I live now is very brief – I just moved in a year ago. Before that I was somewhere else I hadn’t lived long in and before that the same. I have always been welcomed as a native although that is hardly the case. Before my ancestors came here, they were some place else. Who can say otherwise?
It happens that here, where I live now, there are many we call Hispanic, they have been here far longer than I. They might have moved here, as I did, recently or years ago but they are only called Hispanic because the country I call mine invaded their country and won.
For some reason, perhaps because of the might of Teddy Rooseveldt and others, I do not call myself English-German-Dutch-French-Irish American, nor do I have to fill out forms or be counted as anything much. Demographics in this country have largely confined themselves to my gender and my politics, neither of which I have to explore to any degree.
I once did live in a place – Concord, MA, with three small, quiet rivers surrounding and running through my environs. It was only when they flooded and I had to drive thirty or forty minutes to get to a destination five minutes away that I noticed their existence. Time is relative until it isn’t and now the people I work with who far outdate my contribution to this area are being threatened. If not they themselves, their relatives, friends – you know what I mean.
Living here has become very stressful, we are being raided and rounded up. I used to ask my mother, “What did you think when you heard about the pogroms? About the raids? About the trains? What did you do? How did you act? What did it feel like?”
Her reply, like many of her answers to other questions, was more than disappointing. She didn’t know – about anything. She didn’t know what to do and she didn’t ask. In fact in her life she didn’t feel safe emotionally, I know that colored her heart. And she felt she had made her mark, made her life, even though she felt vulnerable in it as a woman. In truth if she had set herself free with her opinions and desires, she would have been shunned, pushed aside. She was pushed aside anyway and she didn’t invite more. It also wasn’t happening “here.”
Now it is. When Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) is pushed out of a meeting of his peers in the House of Representatives, we are in trouble. When my friends are rounded up all over the country –including the ones I know along this corridor between CT and NY – I am afraid.
Now is the time. This is on us.
People talk of Hitler and his ilk. They only mean they ones we know – Papa Doc, Idi Amin, Pol Pot – to touch the surface. But these days, this month, has caused me to think there are many Hitlers. We are surrounded. I asked a friend who lives in VT and has gone to Canada for decades – weekends visiting friends. She says that after this election when she comes back, they hassel her, take her phone, keep her and her husband pulled over. I asked after the tone of her interaction, what was on the minds of these agents who had been quiescent for decades. How could one person’s voice give them this power, this drive? Did she think they had been waiting for the chance? She thought it was that they could. Now, it was supported, they could be kings, they had a mission. That simple.
In such a simple world, I find simplicity too.
RESIST

This Day Is Every Day

This is the day the electors meet – in their separate states. I confess I didn’t know much about them until recently. I’m not sure what the larger reason there is to be an elector, what role they play in their respective parties, how they are chosen. I never studied it but the news I am surprised to find is that the electors take the heart of the election in their hands far more than I do when I vote. It is clear how much districting counts and how much Democrats lost in the last shuffle – I wasn’t awake – guess I had company.

And they have far more power than they use – or perhaps care to use. They must get something else with the role – I have not been able yet to ascertain what that might be.

This is the day they will send their posts to Washington. By horse or train, coach or truck, perchance to fly: the packages arrive in Washington, in the District of Columbia – another civics lesson unclear, to be opened on January 6th. – is this date the house and senate meet on due to travel time, Three Kings Day? Ponies from the states to D.C. marching with their orders?

Governance is not clear; neither is it necessarily sane or supported by reason. I found this out during my own parenting – and that of my parents’. Quite often thoughts seem to come from above us, or from our wisest place (wherever that is) but knowing anything for sure is a smokescreen as thick as anything growing over the densest of manufacturing cities. With great faith we kneel to a higher being forgetting that the thoughts that we will turn to action are ours and their seeming justice is but a thin slivered veneer of our own upbringing.

There is no person-made system to fix every system every time, forever. Much as we might try to insure stability through rules and habits, things change and we change, not always in sync with our times. Change comes when it comes, ask the glacier and the sun.

There is a saying about the tough getting going as the going gets tough. I would like to posit that the tough who resist change – in this case the browning of the world and the rise of differing states of being, are deepening their foxhole while the floodwaters rise.

There is no substitute for adaptation to what is. Our lives are directed by our thoughts and when wishful thinking is not recognized for what it is, suffering follows. My liberal heart knows this well, and in the suffering of my moment, in the pulse of my ideals there is a thread, a path to higher ideals and intentions that I will do my best to voice and walk.

Whoever you are, wherever you go, I will turn to look for you, no matter what. And in my mind and heart – my human, flawed, beautiful and political heart – I will remember the trend of this country’s young voters; pale blue, it was sparsely, selectively progressive and a beautiful shade of Robin’s egg blue.

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The Mine Field

So much news – fake and true – is swirling about. So much to respond to, react, beware, act on. So many petitions to sign, money sought and I want to give. I want to give my heart and mind to the mysteries of this immediate life. I don’t know what will happen next. Some, more prescient than I, have noted the coming of these times and predicted them. I didn’t notice. Where was I? I was basking in my liberal world, so many gains I thought unassailable. I didn’t see it coming. My eyes were filled with tears of joy for me, for my “other identified” friends and loved ones. Where was I? I was in Washington D.C. which finally felt safe. I was in the corners of this Rebublic where I finally felt safe.

Will I be able to sift through all this information? Will I be able to know what is true from what isn’t?

Luckily for me I subscribe to a Buddhist newsletter – unluckily for me, even after way over three decades of adherence to this philosophy, I find it nearly impossible to implement – easily.

OK, so nothing’s easy. I get that. I really get that now! Here, for instance, is advice under the heading, “There Is No Blame.”

OK, right there I’m behind, not up to speed on this one. All I’ve been looking for is who and what to blame! “There are no human enemies,” says Sylvia Boorstein, “only confused people needing help.”

I couldn’t agree more – about the needing help bit. And the confused, ignorant people. Exactly how I see it, yes.

I listened to Van Jones express his fear of the people who voted for the president-elect. He said he was afraid of his supporters, not those who voted for him – he might agree with me that they are the confused needing help. No, he said, it is the people who support him in his daily tweets/life, the ones who give him policy ideas and recommendations for cabinet members.

It’s hard to think about the powerful having more power and easy for me to fall into the well of complicity in thinking I have no power to help the earth hold us all better. I have as much power as I ever did, it is there for me to take when I get through my distractions.

Blame, anger and despair are my chief distractions now and I look at them as resistance to action, excuses, if you will. The seduction of finding and assigning fault feeds the Ouroboros of my anger. Taking Sylvia’s lead – reading her article to the end – I leave you with a quote.

—“the familiar image of an infant left in a basket on a doorstep with a note pinned to its blanket: “Please take care of me.” The natural impulse, for all of us, would be to pick the baby up, to care for it. I try to think about the world as an abandoned baby, left in dire straits by parents who could not care for it well. Could we be the benevolent agents who pick it up and, without blaming, take care of it?”

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A Word From My Teacher

As I sit in the midst of boxes for moving (not too far – 20 minutes south, to Kent) I receive a newsletter from my teacher Narayan with whom I have sat many a retreat.
She is somewhat younger but when I first met her fresh, always robed in white, aspect I realized she is peer to all. She spoke of staring at a candle in her bedroom when she was twelve – driving her parents mad. She spoke of what she saw in the world and what seemed, from my point of view, she knew without experience. Some are like that and the rest of us, more like me, paddle the streams of experience – whitewater rapids to backwater sloughs – with and without grace, but paddle firmly in hand.
I share this with you now and in my practice (life – whatever you call it – the living of life) there is a deepening, a tangy spritzy pungent scent to the life I’m living. I feel older and more permeable, more focused, enjoying the ride.

Here’s Narayan:
Practice Over Time

by Guiding Teacher Narayan Liebenson

The forms of practice sometimes need to shift over a lifetime, but the essence of practice can burn even brighter as we come fact to face with the fathomless treasures of old age, sickness, and impending death. These are the most human of experiences. As you lose everything without choosing to, and accept the natural limitations of this body-mind experience, it becomes ever more possible to live with greater love and wonder and with less clinging and attachment. This is the sign of a true contemplative, not just a person who can sit endlessly on a cushion.

It is easy to get lost in concepts of time and age, believing in conventional messages that encourage a reverence for youth and a fear of death. However, older people with a lifelong practice are the lights of a sangha. Some older yogis have been practicing for decades, giving them the chance to meet physical and mental limitations from a completely different perspective than the ordinary one.

A rich arena of investigation is to ask whether one’s practice has to weaken with age. In times of change, there is often a sense of loss as well. In opening and allowing the grief that accompanies loss, a deeper dignity can emerge. What are our ideas and concepts about what practice is and what it means? Is practice something separate from the rest of our lives? Is it possible to open our hearts to things as they are, whatever way they are?

There is experience, and there is, as well, one’s relationship to experience. The awareness of this relationship is what makes all the difference in the world. With an orientation of openness and acceptance, we are alive to life itself and come to see that it was never ours to control. In this way, we deepen our understanding of patience, surrender, and grace.

Older yogis with a lifelong practice have a wisdom that is hard won. They are the visible signs of the humanness of life as well as the possibility of transcendence. We practice for others as well as ourselves; older practitioners need more commitment and diligence than ever before as they age.

Whatever posture you now need to support your practice is the best posture. This is the time to adjust your practice in a way that works for you. I encourage you to practice with an open mind, free from expectations, and to embrace without compromise the aspiration to awaken.

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The What About Love

Lately I’ve been going through boxes. It seems strange to me that in many places I’ve lived, those before me have left mementos. Sometimes special rocks, flowerpots, and more than once, a box of letters. One woman even had me photograph her entire family album and then never wanted it back. Go figure.
This time a letter from a concerned aunt or friend, I don’t think the writer is the parent. Why do I think that? Because the tone is restrained and equanimity is attempted – but then generations past have had more reserve than ours.
It starts, “My Dear One,” and tells current events, the weather, how the river flows as it passes the house and the state (not good) of a tree they must both have loved. Words of love and caring, times shared, but you can tell they are in the past. The writer is not giving her full feelings.
“I know this day marks the anniversary of your marriage. Even as you may experience joy, I feel restraint and I want courage to take the lead from sentiment and self-pity. Even so, the timing and manner of your leave-taking leaves an unbridgeable chasm in my heart. While sorry not to have enjoyed your company these last two years, I wish I thought we could be honest with each other. I question what we had. What I thought, who I thought I knew.”
There is a paragraph about how her choices have affected all family and friends, teachers and ministers and all those whose trust in themselves was shaken by her actions.

Letters are carriers of affect that those around the author do not guess. In a letter I found that my father wrote – and why it was on his desk I do not know, perhaps it was a draft or he never sent it, I will not know. He writes to a friend I never heard of how grateful he was for the presence of my mother. Something he never showed when I was around. He was very dependent on her in his blindness and not all that kind.

Funny what we put out. What we choose to say. What we choose to leave unsaid. What we choose to leave behind and the crap shoot of who will find it. It’s what I love about life – what do you love? What frustrates? What do you want? Do you ask for it? Did you? Did you?
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What We Do When

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I found a short poem by Raymond Carver who is always good to read if you’re feeling a little down and don’t mind staying that way. I love him and read most of what he wrote while he was alive – he died young in 1988 while I was trying to be a writer and looking for reasons to let it go.

I did let it go then, I just couldn’t be where he was, he was so there. When he died a note to himself was found in his shirt pocket – I paraphrase what it said, “just one more day, give me another poem to write.”

It may have been an old note, he may have written that poem, but I know he wanted more, nothing so simple as one more anything would have been enough.
Here’s the poem I found:

I find myself, at last, in perfect silence.
Knowing the little there is left.
Knowing I have to love it.
Wanting to love it. For both our sake.

I looked for something from Carver because I knew I would find a reflection to mirror the particular loss I feel at finding a note my daughter wrote to herself before she left. It expressed hope for love and success and happiness. It was totally the girl I knew. She happens to be the only person who’s loved listening to hits from the fifties with me. A dog or an occasional cat has – but no human in my midst. I say this because while we were listening to those songs, it was enough.

Not having her in my midst goes way beyond the songs, but it isn’t beyond Carver. Whether loss in love, death or trust, he has the phrases and stories that express even beyond my experience of grief. Writing can express a strength that’s there or inchoate, it can be a harbinger or a swamp. I practice writing a lot and I encourage my clients to do the same. Sometimes we don’t know until we’ve written or said something out loud. Joan Didion was known to say she never understands how she feels about something until she’s written about it.

That is quite dramatic. Writers do that for us and to the extent that we feel moved, we can join in.

 

 

 

Where I’m going with this

This is an expansion of my last post, The Long View. When I first wrote it I realized I had more to say but I wasn’t sure what. I found more today – tell me if it expands the ideas for you – or what? Thank you.

The Long View

When I was growing up everyone around me gave me suggestions for “what to do when…” I grew up. My friends and I wrote on our notebooks and in our journals what we wanted, to do, to be, to have and to hold. We girls tried different names on with our “first” names, we got “married,” wore “big” clothes, generally did everything we could to avoid being who we were; little girls growing up.

It wasn’t different for the boys, just different jobs, no name change and different responsibilities. We all had help from those around us. Teachers, parents, aunts, uncles, headmasters, principals, ministers of all kinds and creeds told us pretty much the same things: Do your best by following the designs laid down by our forebears. Take the next step, don’t be a surprise. No one wants a surprise.

When I was ten my mother’s cousins sat around me – I remember a close circle, but that was more how I felt than how they were arranged I suspect – and, talking over my head, decided where I would go to college, what I would do for how long before I married into their version of a suitable match.

I took notes. I listened (it made no sense), smelled their breath, their perfume, their shoes, and, in the invisible notepad in my heart vowed to do nothing they said. Nothing.

What a great set up that was for a willful rebel, for a kid whose mission was to fly under the radar. All of which I did (flew under) and none of which supported me anymore than following their objectives could have.

Now in the age of Facebook I see everyone married to everyone else – transcending age and gender – all goals and paths, up and down laid out in not very elegant prose. (If my mother’s cousins were anything, they were elegant.)

It feels so much like freedom I could almost be fooled into thinking there is less planning today and more “happy being me.” Instead I think not so much in terms of “more” and “less” but in the same. For instance, a few weeks ago I spoke with a young man of 25 who (I think) was trying to impress me with his plans. He said he had just landed a job with a well-known company in the tech field, he was being paid to be trained (and very proud of that) and he claimed to be willing to work for that company for 35 years. He had the list of his steps up the ladder: one year entry level, three years field work, and ending somehow in management after 35 years.

I have to admit my head swam and I might not have gotten all his details correctly. Why would anyone put himself on such a journey. I didn’t hear about discovery, I didn’t hear about enjoyment. I heard entrainment, a version of responsibility. I was at a loss – for words, among other things.

After spending much of the summer researching trauma and loss, fear, recovery and memory – and why would anyone study that unless they felt they would grow in the understanding of those close around them (that would be me!) – I did recognize that I was listening to fear. I was hearing about unacknowledged choices, unrecognized chances and a life lived within the barest of minimum tracks.

Of course I see myself in him. The fear of failure, the holding tight to what is known. We can all relate to some degree to the young who are starting out with what we call “chances of a lifetime,” while we know something about lifetimes and the longevity of denial. Denial has its own life. It can go on and on. It can hide in the smallest cracks, the most reasonable choices, the most sensible moments.

Who among us does not have a story about a dream unfilled, a lover denied. Not all of mine were chances lost, most were gains – but what about the mini-moments of denial, the tiny efforts let go, the chances I thought I couldn’t handle because I wasn’t good enough or didn’t deserve. There are those moments that come to each of us every day. How do we meet and greet them. What plans do we make to avoid them, what skills do we fall back on to justify choices? How do we treat our moment of green thrust? Do we make room?

Being here, where I am now, having parried with choices, with denial, with feeling good and bad about myself, I can see the well- lived, the half-lived, under and over the bar, within or without the spectrum, the degree to which I have been me, myself. It has become easy to see when I stray, when I strain. It was not so easy then. I thought strain was part of it. Part of the path – strain to be on it, strain to be off it. I was often filled with self-conscious confidence, judgement of where I was, where they were. Lots of judgement, like a chocolate sundae, so good at the first bite, a bit sickening at the last.

I don’t have the story that Mark Twain told of being amazed how much his father had learned in such a short time – when he got older and saw the wisdom of his father. I don’t feel anyone is right or wrong. I think there are a lot of confusing choices. There always have been and there always will be. That’s why we are here. Not to have an easy life but to bump up against ourselves, to make our marks like wrinkles as well as those of us who get to be known for something. To keep on going is enough. Putting one foot in front of the other, keeping our eyes and our hearts open, the wind in our face. As James Taylor wrote, “It’s enough to be on your way, enough just to cover ground, it’s enough to be moving on.” But for a life “well lived,” we are tasked to mindfulness, to feelings. (not emotions – that’s another article) We want the best for ourselves and in order to get that, we have to give ourselves the best – and accept it.

 

 

The Long View

A few weeks ago I spoke with a young man of 25 who (I think) was trying to impress me with his plans. He said he had just landed a job with a well-known company in the tech field, He was being paid to be trained and he claimed to be willing to work for that company for 35 years, he had the list of his steps up the ladder: one year entry level, three years field work, and ending somehow in management after 35 years.

I have to admit my head swam and I might not have gotten all his details correctly. Why would anyone put themselves on such a journey. I didn’t hear about discovery, I didn’t hear about enjoyment. I heard entrainment, a version of responsibility. I was at a loss – for words, among other things.

After spending much of the summer researching trauma and loss, fear, recovery and memory – and why would anyone study that unless they felt they would grow in the understanding of those close around them (that would be me!) – I did recognize that I was listening to fear. I was hearing about unacknowledged choices, unrecognized chances and a life lived within the barest of minimum tracks.

Of course I see myself in him. The fear of failure, the holding tight to what is known. We can all relate to some degree to the young who are starting out with what we call “chances of a lifetime,” while we know something about lifetimes and the longevity of denial. Denial had its own life. It can go on and on. It can hide in the smallest cracks, the most reasonable choices, the most sensible moments.

Who among us does not have a story about a dream unfilled, a lover denied. Not all of mine were chances lost, most were gains – but what about the mini-moments of denial, the tiny efforts let go, the chances I thought I couldn’t handle because I wasn’t good enough or didn’t deserve. There are those moments that come to each of us every day. How do we meet and greet them. What plans do we make to avoid them, what skills do we fall back on to justify choices? How do we treat our moment of green thrust? Do we make room?IMG_7843