Pink meditation

pink meditation

Made 2/2/17   In response to the difficult feelings in the country and the world about the current President.  It is hard to believe what a circus it is.  Meditating on peace, and on what good that comes from brokenness.  It is a time of great change.  Rumi says that you can’t make bread without grinding up grain.  You can’t grow a crop without breaking up the soil first.  It feels that all the ugliness that has simmered underneath has finally risen to the top.  I feel that I’ve come to trust this upheaval as a sign that things are moving.  The stagnation is over – people are waking up.

I wrote the journaling in fluorescent pens so that I can read them, but they are not easily visible here.  Sometimes journaling is private, but the art is meaningful.  I’m trying to figure out how to share and yet be private at the same time.  Some people use hard-to -read lettering – but then I won’t be able to read it myself later.  Or do I need to read it again? Perhaps the art of writing it in the first place is enough.

Gesso, acrylic paint, magazine clippings, aluminum candy wrapper – showing the value in recycling and re-visioning.  Tim Holtz words. Gel pens. Glue stick.

 

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Stomach distress?

I’m noticing that many people right now are experiencing stomach distress.  They believe they have the flu or some virus.  I believe that their distress is unprocessed emotions related to the current political climate in the United States, which isn’t very “united” right now.

Many people were very surprised by the results of the election, and held out hopes that something unusual would happen to change it.  They waited until after the Electoral College voted to admit that their fears had been realized.  Now they are protesting everything that they are learning about.  People who were politically inactive before are now glued to whatever news they can get.

What you focus on expands.  What you think about, you are. If all you focus on is bad, that is all you will see.  Anger and fear leads to more of the same.

Life is all about choice.  You have a choice as to what you read or do or think, but first you must become aware.  You must become mindful of what is going on at the deepest level.

The stomach processes some of our most basic emotions – fear, anger, grief.  We feel things “at a gut level”.  We are “gutted” when something terrible happens.  Our stomach not just processes food, but feelings.  Our entire body is a sensory organ, and each unique organ receives and processes external stimuli in unique ways.  We accept that we see with our eyes and hear with our ears, but few people are yet able to understand that we have many other senses that are registered throughout the amazing gift of our corporeal forms.

When we are unable or unwilling to accept the reality of the messages that our bodies are sending us, we start to think that the messages ARE us.  We are able to understand that what we see through our eyes is simply a vision.  It is an observed phenomenon.  If we see a bird in flight, it does not mean that we are a bird.  Likewise, it is important to separate the sensations we experience through our other body parts from our selves, our being.  We do not have to be angry when we feel anger.  It is just a feeling, a sensation.

The purpose of being awakened isn’t to feel joyful all the time.  The purpose is to feel – everything – in a mindful and detached way.  You are not the feeling – you are feeling the feeling, just like you are seeing the birds fly above you.

It helps to be rooted in a faith that there is a guiding force that is over all things.  Having faith that the political leaders are not the true leaders is healthy and healing.

You must take care of your body in order to take care of your spirit.  There is nothing new here – diet and exercise count now more than ever.  Make healthy food choices.  Stress eating, eating “comfort food”, will bring your body and spirit down. Get regular exercise.  Just going for a short walk every day is excellent.  More is better.  Don’t overdo it, though, because that becomes a distraction.  It is important to be present.

Learn to be OK with sitting still in silence.  The need to constantly be busy is an addictive behavior the same as smoking cigarettes or drinking. Substance abuse isn’t just about drugs, but anything and everything. Doing anything mindlessly can be harmful to your body and spirit.

Having to check social media, read a book, or do chores can all be distractions.  Balance is what is necessary here. It is good to read a book – but if you feel anxiety if you are without one, then it is time to sit with that feeling and listen to it.  It is a sign that you feel a need to escape.  Use your feelings, regardless of what they are, to learn.  Do not run from “bad” feelings – they are trying to teach you that something is out of balance in your life.

Instead of protesting – of saying what you are against, spend your energy on building up.  What are you for?  What will bring healing to your community?  Who is hurting? Who is marginalized?  Go help them.  Go be a force for good.  Do what you can with what you have.  Your little efforts count.  Join with others to do more.  Don’t wait for the government to help – those times are over.  Be the change you wish to see.  Teach an immigrant child how to read and write.  Learn a foreign language.  Build a home for a homeless person. Teach a class on money management. Learn nonviolent conflict resolution.

Focus on what you can do, instead of what you can’t.  Spend more time on figuring out how you can do something instead of coming up with excuses for why you can’t.  Don’t blame others for your own choices.

Some good things from the current US situation.

A friend posted about how the current President gets so upset about what he thinks of as “fake” news.”  I think it is important to state that I didn’t vote for him or Clinton – I voted a different party. That is the change we really need – to get past this divisive mentality embodied in the two-party system.  It sets up a no-win situation, where there is always a “loser”.  But I’m starting to see some good out of what has happened because people are starting to wake up and realize that the government cannot take care of them.  People are taking matters into their own hands in a healthy and healing way.

Here was my response to him –

“It all seems fake to him because he’s being fed lies by his cronies.   There is evidence that he not only does not, but cannot read.  This means he is incapable of getting first-hand information.  It is all pre-digested for him.   I no longer think of him as evil.  Just very sad and mislead.   Pray for him.”

One of his friends (unknown to me) was freaked out that I suggested we pray for him, saying that we all needed to be prayed for instead.  I replied that Jesus tells us to pray for our enemies.

While meditating on this, I read the Catholic readings for the day, and all three that were for the afternoon spoke to this.

Leviticus 19:17-18

17 “You must not harbor hatred against your brother. Rebuke your neighbor directly, and you will not incur guilt because of him. 18 Do not take revenge or bear a grudge against members of your community, but love your neighbor as yourself; I am Yahweh.

1 Corinthians 3:16-17

16 Don’t you yourselves know that you are God’s sanctuary and that the Spirit of God lives in you? 17 If anyone destroys God’s sanctuary, God will destroy him; for God’s sanctuary is holy, and that is what you are.

Matthew 5:38-48

38 “You have heard that it was said, An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. 39 But I tell you, don’t resist an evildoer. On the contrary, if anyone slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. 40 As for the one who wants to sue you and take away your shirt, let him have your coat as well. 41 And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two. 42 Give to the one who asks you, and don’t turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you. 43 “You have heard that it was said, Love your neighbor and hate your enemy. 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. For He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward will you have? Don’t even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing out of the ordinary? Don’t even the Gentiles do the same? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

 

Another friend shared this, and there is a lot of truth to it. This is copied from a writer named Susan Keller. I have edited out the snarky bits.  What is left shows how much people are waking up.

“I can’t believe I’m saying this, but it looks like Trump is actually making America great again. Just look at the progress made since the election:

– Unprecedented levels of ongoing civic engagement.
– Millions of Americans now know who their state and federal representatives are without having to Google.
– Millions of Americans are exercising more. They’re holding signs and marching every week.
– The Postal Service is enjoying the influx cash due to stamps purchased by millions of people for letter and postcard campaigns.
– Millions of Americans now know how to call their elected officials and know exactly what to say to be effective.
– Everyone knows more about the rise of Hitler than they did last year.
– Everyone knows more about legislation, branches of power and how checks and balances work.                                                                                                                                                                     – Marginalized groups are experiencing a surge in white allies.

– White people in record numbers have just learned that racism is not dead.
– “Mike Pence” has donated millions of dollars to Planned Parenthood since Nov. 9th.
– Travel ban protesters put $24 million into ACLU coffers in just 48 hours, enabling them to hire 200 more attorneys. Lawyers are now heroes.
– As people seek veracity in their news sources, respected news outlets are happily reporting a substantial increase in subscriptions, a boon to a struggling industry vital to our democracy.

– Live streaming court cases and congressional sessions are now popular.

– Massive cleanup of Facebook friend lists.

– People are reading classic literature again. Sales of George Orwell’s “1984” increased by 10,000% after the inauguration.

– More than ever before, Americans are aware that education is important.”

 

My take is that the best thing we can do is to pay attention to what is going on and be active. Not reactive – because to react is to let “them” set the pace.  Don’t let them rule the dance.  Look for what is broken, who is hurting.  Go help them.  We’ve long said that the government is too involved in our lives.  This is a great opportunity to take control back.  Instead of the government taking care of the sick, elderly, poor, homeless – we need to do this, through churches and other civic organizations.  Don’t worry about government funding for Planned Parenthood – make it private.  Then there will no longer be a debate from some that their money is going to something they don’t agree with. We need to decentralize everything.

Perhaps the nomination to be the Secretary of Education of a person who has nothing to do with public education is a good thing.  We have a broken system, with children who are not able to get a job or even think on their own.  Currently, children learn to read well enough to memorize test answers.  This leaves them unprepared for adult life. Parents who can afford to send their children to private schools because they are seen as better.  So why not take the template of the private schools and put it on the public one?  Now – and this is critical – it must not be religious-based (unless it covers all faiths).

Better than that – let’s start reading again.  I don’t mean current fiction.  I mean non-fiction, things that make us think.  We’ve spent too long escaping life and not facing it.  We’ve spent too long asleep.  Go to your local library and support it.  Get together with people and discuss what you are learning.

Worried about your health-care?  Go for a walk or to the gym.  Eat the healthiest food you can.  Learn to cook.

This entire debacle has caused us to stop thinking of the government as our savior.  This is a good thing.

——————–

 

(All Bible verses are HCSB)

What can you do?

“My fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” – John F. Kennedy

Once the marches are over – the real work begins. Volunteer. Serve. Help. Find something you feel is important that is threatened and work for it. It is time to stop expecting the government (or anyone else) to help. It is our time to act with love, with unity, and with focus on making our neighborhoods, our country, and our world a safe, loving and healthy place for everyone. This happens only with love – not with protesting the bad but by working for the good. It is not a time of numbness or fear, but of building, and rebuilding.

Jesus says to love our enemies. Love. Not protest.

Marching in protest doesn’t build. It says what you are against, but not what you are for. If all you do is focus on the negative, then that is the only thing you are giving your energy to. Life is too short to be angry all the time. Do something positive.

Teach a child from another country how to read and write in English. Learn Arabic or Spanish so that you can welcome the stranger. Donate your time to a women’s shelter.

Buy land and keep the trees on it so it is a haven for wildlife, and produces air for people to breathe.  Or donate to the Nature Conservancy to do the same thing.

Worried about the Department of Education?  Go to the library.  Read non-fiction.  Learn as much as you can.  Encourage others to do the same by teaching a class on what you learned.  Start a group (sometimes known as a salon) where you all share your knowledge.

Worried about the National Endowment for the Arts? Start your own creative co-op.  Paint.  Draw.  Have a play.  Recite poetry.  Have a concert.

You don’t need a special place for these experiences – you can rotate using member’s homes.  You don’t need a permit.

The biggest thing is to focus on what you can do.  Not on expecting anyone else to help or support, or protect.  The props are gone, or are going.  We don’t need them anymore. We can walk on our own.  We are stronger than we know.

Build bridges, not walls.  You.  Yourself.  Don’t worry about the government. You can’t control them.  Focus on yourself – what you can do.  It is time to stop being passive about your life. It is time to stop being co-dependent.

Worried about access to birth control?  Research natural rhythm methods.  Practice abstinence or non-penetrative sex until you are ready (mentally, emotionally, financially) to have a child.  Learn different ways to be intimate with your partner other than having sex.

The real problem with Trump

I rarely discuss politics, but this topic has reached a head and it is time to say something.

Trump is not saying anything new. But by his position of authority he is validating it.

He is saying that it is OK, and even praiseworthy, to be violent against women and others. He pretends that it is seen as manly. That is the problem.

He and his followers represent the very worst of our society. They are people who put down women, the handicapped, immigrants, veterans with PTSD – in short, anyone that they see as weaker than themselves. This is bully mentality.

I had hoped that by 2016 we would be past this kind of thinking, but it turns out that the mean people just went quiet for a while – just long enough for their champion to crawl out from the woodwork.

All the rights of the disenfranchised are at risk if he wins.  All the civil rights progress that has been made in the past century are on the table.  Marriage for all – questionable. The Americans with Disabilities Act – questionable. Do we really need to go backwards in being kind and accommodating and inclusive?

He even talks about taking away the right of women to vote.  People say he’s joking – surely he can’t be serious. But I’m sure they said that in Iran before the government changed ideologies.  Women used to be able to dress however they wanted.  They could be doctors, teachers, lawyers.   Now, they are almost invisible.  It can happen here too.

I wonder what fear motivates Trump and his followers?  Are they afraid that by including more people at the table, there won’t be enough for them?  Are they afraid that granting rights to more people will take away their own rights?

Inclusion doesn’t work like that.  When we grant civil rights to people, we open up more opportunity, rather than take away.  Allowing gay people to marry doesn’t threaten the rights of straight people to marry.  This isn’t a game of musical chairs.  We can all win.  There isn’t a limited amount of freedom available.  Nothing is getting taken away.

But perhaps that is their fear, because make no doubt about it – fear is the motivator here.  They’ve been in power for so long, they are afraid that they will lose it by granting freedom to others.

Think of it this way – Buddha once said “Thousands of candles can be lit from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared.” Civil rights are the same.  Granting civil rights to others doesn’t take away from anyone.  It expands, not contracts.  Nobody is losing anything.

 

Perhaps the poet Edwin Markham has the answer –

He drew a circle that shut me out –

Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout.

But love and I had the wit to win:

We drew a circle and took him In!”

 

Rabid (what really scares me about Trump)

Trump doesn’t frighten me. His followers do. He is only one person. There are many thousands of them. The fact that he is popular means that they agree with his message.

Remove him from the election and these people will still feel what they feel.

They will still be afraid of anyone who isn’t them, and they all appear to be straight, white, and Christian.

Somehow they feel that the civil rights advances of others are threatening to them. For some reason they feel that allowing other people to live their lives differently means that their own choices are under attack.

They don’t get that allowing gay people to get married does not mean that straight people have to become homosexual. It does not take away straight people’s rights.

They don’t get that allowing people of other faith traditions to practice their religion does not mean that Christians cannot practice their own. It is important to remember that Jesus never said to attack another person’s way of life – in fact, he said the opposite. Judging other people (and making laws against them or discrimination against them is not what Jesus would do)

They don’t get that allowing immigrants into America does not mean that those who are here will lose their jobs or homes. And, lest we forget American history, the vast majority of Americans are immigrants or descended from them. Trump’s own father was an immigrant from Germany.

Trump frightens me because he is a center point to the rage and frustration that so many of them are feeling.

Saddam Hussein didn’t kill anyone. He just talked, and his followers did the deeds.

Hitler didn’t kill anyone. His followers did.

The leaders in the Rwandan genocide didn’t kill anyone. Their followers did.

Nobody has been killed by the people who follow Trump. Not yet. They’ve rioted. They’ve assaulted. It is a start.

I’m surprised that his hate speech hasn’t been called out for what it is. Is it because he is a presidential candidate that he is allowed to incite violence against people? Other citizens are called out for that. There are watchdog agencies that check for such activity. Why aren’t they speaking up? Or are they stunned into silence by his pomposity?

I’m concerned that all of the advances that have been made in the effort of unity and inclusion will be swept away in a tidal wave of fear and ignorance.

The leaders of hate are simply the voice to long unspoken feelings that have been bottled up, suppressed, whispered. The leaders of hate don’t do anything to get their hands dirty. Their followers are the ones who do the evil.

Is this what we want America to become? A nation where it isn’t safe to be gay, or black or an immigrant? Where it isn’t safe to challenge the status quo? Where it isn’t safe to be an intellectual? Where it isn’t safe, period?

Trump is a figurehead to a slow boiling pot filled with people who feel threatened. In making room for people who are “other” they feel pushed out, excluded, ignored. In a way, I understand this. America is a land where it is considered laudable to have gay pride, black pride, Latino pride. But “white pride”? It is seen as racist. They have been told that they cannot be proud of their roots.

You can’t fix discrimination by discriminating. This is true for everyone.

A conversation at the YMCA

I was in the changing room at the Y when I heard the most amazing thing. This lady who I’ve known for a few years through my water aerobics class asked me what I thought about “The Trump thing”. She actually didn’t even give me time to give an answer. She started saying that “He has a point, that all the terrorist attacks were being done by Muslims and so it was a good idea to keep them out of this country.” She even said that she had some Muslim friends but she still thought that it was a good idea.

I paused and looked at her and shook my head a little. I said “I can’t believe that you’re actually saying this. I can’t agree with you at all.”

She said “What? All the terrorist acts have been done by Muslims.”

I said
“What about Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris, the Columbine murderers?
What about Timothy McVeigh, who blew up the Murrah federal building?
What about James Holmes, the Aurora theater shooter?
What about Sandy Hook massacre, by Adam Lanza?

These are all acts of terrorism
that have been perpetrated
by young white males.
They weren’t Muslim.”

Sadly, the list is much longer than these that I could recall off the top of my head, with all of them committed by young, white, males.

I then quoted this famous speech from Martin Niemöller, speaking about how the German people didn’t stand up against the Nazis during World War 2.

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

I said “I can’t stand behind this entire idea of keeping people out based on their ethnicity. That’s racist.”

I repeated the word “racist” several times through the last part of my discussion. I wanted her to hear it for what it is. I wanted her to think about her support of something that is as dangerous, as un-Christian, as inhuman as racism. I’m sure she didn’t even think of herself as being racist.

At the same time I was thinking of the Rwandan genocide, where nearly a million people were slaughtered by their own countrymen over three months, simply because they were seen as “other”, as “lesser”. They were called “cockroaches” by the leaders, who encouraged average citizens to take up machetes and kill their own neighbors. I’m sure they didn’t think they were doing anything wrong either.

When we marginalize a group, when we group them together and say that the actions of a few represent the whole and propose eliminating the entire group, then that has moved from racism into genocide. We have to stop this entire way of thinking before it is allowed to get to this point. These are like weeds that will take over the garden, choking out all beauty in the world.

At the end of my speech, she said she didn’t know all of that. She recognized the names but hadn’t put it together. She hadn’t realized that in America, more acts of terror have been committed by non-Muslims than Muslims.

I’m grateful for all the classes that I’ve taken that allowed me to maintain my cool and answer her in a calm way to educate her. Years ago I would have thought she was wrong, but not been able to speak up. Now, I was able to not only take a stand against a racist but also to educate her.

We must all be lights in this world. We must all combat racism and ignorance no matter where it erupts.