Archive | November, 2016

Forged. Punk. Sexy.

I: Forged.

The other day on Facebook, I wrote to someone that I was becoming more ‘militant.’
And I didn’t like that. At all.

Militant. The technical definition is ‘combative or aggressive in support of a political or social cause.’ The synonyms are ‘zealot,’ ‘extremist,’ and ‘radical.’

These aren’t necessarily words I associate with myself. And I didn’t really want to associate myself with them. They felt too pushy, aggressive (obvs), and hard. The word militant made me feel like I was suddenly wearing armor.

And even though I am fighting, I did not want to feel that I was hardened.
Strong? Yes.
Hardened? No.

There is something about being armored or hardened that allows the feminine to shrink. The flowing, receptive, love- and creativity-centered feminine must be protected. And it is strong all on its own- the feminine does fight, and fiercely. But when ‘militant’ and ‘armored’ become my mask, the feminine within me recedes; I am fighting from a place that is not my true identity, which is the feminine.

As I began to play with the images and words associated with ‘militant’ I began to think of strength and power and how we grow those qualities within ourselves. And I began to think of swords being forged in the fire.

Sword makers put the original metal (which will be a blade) in the fire to warm it and make it maleable. Then they pull it from the fire to shape it and harden it. And they return it to the fire, repeating this process until the blade is finished.

The process of heating the metal, over and over, does something special to it: it hardens the ‘lattice’ of the metal and reduces any imperfections in the chemical structure. And as the shape and the edge and the clarity of the sword are forged, so is its strength and density.

It’s funny- when I was doing the work of letting go of the man I connected with during my Sex Surge, I forged myself each day. Stepping forward into my self, into self-love, and into what my soul knew was right every day. I failed sometimes, of course, but I always went back to that work- getting in the fire of my feelings, being shaped by what my soul knew was true, and pulling myself towards disconnection. I did not know how valuable that forging process would be to me now.

In my political work last week, I forged myself again. I knew, over and over, what I was fighting for. What I would work + plan + call + email + love + shout + pay + pray + live for. And each time I read something awful or read something positive or cried or got impatient, I knew I was in the fire- becoming stronger and clearer and ready to fight in my own way.

What is it that I fight for? The same old things: love, health, truth.
But now, with more strength and clarity than I have ever had before.

I am not militant out of hatred or fear, I am forged from returning, over and over again, to what I love most. Forged to fight.

 

forged-for-love-meriwether

II: Punk.

One of the other words that came to mind as I mulled about ‘militant’ was ‘punk.’ Those wonderful singers and artists (and a lot of pissed off teenagers) from the 1970s who turned words + pictures + fashion + music on their very heads. They blew the doors off traditional culture by saying, “FUCK YOU” to everything ‘normal.’

Yeah, I’m down with that.

There are a lot of men from my generation who wish they were punks. Many of them were inspired by the movie, Fight Club.  I read the book (because that’s what nerds do, even sexy ones). It is a Buddhist treatise on men who had inadequate or unavailable fathers and their inherent anger about a lack of role models and masculine support. In the book, the main character splits his personality to be one person at his day job and another at Fight Club. At Fight Club, our character feels real and masculine and adequate- something he doesn’t feel in his ‘normal’ life. In the end of the book, the main character ends up in a mental hospital – unsure of who he really is anymore.

One of the things the main character laments is a lack of meaning in life:

…I see squandering. God damn it, an entire generation pumping gas, waiting tables, slaves with white collars, advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don’t need. We’re the middle children of the history man, no purpose or place, we have no Great war, no Great depression, our great war is a spiritual war, our great depression is our lives…     |Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk|

 

What they want, instead of their modern apartment full of IKEA furniture and their Audi, is a life of meaning. A life that fights the dominant system and standards and turns those men into feeling humans. They want to be punk.

What’s interesting now is that the men who identified with this book and movie are enjoying the fruits of the labors Palahniuk bemoans here. They like their power and money and position. Would they really give it up to be punk?

The Gen X guys (and gals) who identify with this novel and its characters are failing to notice two things:

 

ONE: It is the least punk thing in the world to wait for the fight to come to you.

You don’t need a Great War or Great Depression or anything to be given to you so you can have meaning and learn to fight. To wait for the economic or political (or whatever) forces to hand you a problem so big your entire generation has to fix it is to miss the point. Being punk means making a new system and bringing the fight to them.

Being punk, being in a fight to feel alive- you can do this with anything that undermines the dominant paradigm. You can be a punk on any subject that has an underdog. Racial justice. Economic justice. Reproductive rights for women. Hell, plain old rights for women (wouldn’t it be awesome if the women you knew never had to carry car keys in their fist at night, ever again? Fight for that). Gun safety. Healthcare for all. Political comradery (and some goddamn term limits- that’ll fuck the dominant paradigm quite well).

It doesn’t matter what you choose. As long as you choose and fight.

Billy Joe Armstrong, lead singer of punk band Green Day, said of their ballad, “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)” that it was the most punk thing they could do. They were ridiculed in punk music circles for singing a soft, thoughtful love song- they undermined the dominant paradigm of punk by recording that song.

Punk and fight are something you choose- whether life hands you the option or not.

 

TWO: The fight is here, now. 

The U.S. election and political landscape have handed you exactly what you wanted: a problem it will take an entire generation to fight and fix. The selfish boy-king that was elected is not here to undermine the dominant paradigm and create something different. He is simply here to exploit the dominant paradigm to his own advantage. Exploitation is not punk; it is greed. Exploitation uses the current system to gain power; punk gives the down-trodden and overlooked power in a new system.

You want to fight for Something Important in your generation?
Do it now.
Because the fight is already here.
And I know where I stand.

I am a punk for love + truth + health.
Where do you stand?

 

punk-graffiti

III: Sexy.

This blog is about rebellion and honesty and eroticism. I’ve covered honesty and rebellion; where does eroticism join in? (It’s like a political threesome. And I dig that.)

The erotic is that which ignites our lust and draws us towards our pleasure. The erotic is what keeps us hungry and alive. And that is what is sexy about political action – the forging of our strength and the action we take as punks is fucking hot, if you’re paying attention. Because political action is what brings us alive. It is proof that we are human and connected and compassionate. And that shit is some head-spinning foreplay for those of us who believe life is about those very things.

In answer to what is sexy about all this, I leave you the words of Layla Martin, one of my favorite dakinis:

1. HELL YES to celebrating, respecting and empowering women and their bodies.

Yes to a thriving sexuality. Yes to women creating future on their own terms. Yes to ditching old-school shaming of women’s bodies and fear around their sexual power. Yes to laws that support a woman’s right to choose what happens in her own body. Yes to a woman having legal protection against sexual assault and rape. Yes to overthrowing the lasting effects of misogyny and female disempowerment and creating a truly pro-female world.

2. HELL YES to men.

Yes to men standing in their power and using their voices to create a just and equal society. Yes to us all rising together. Yes to men who are true leaders of integrity. Yes to men who are choosing love over fear. Yes to men who earn their privilege based on their talents, their hearts and their work – not through entitlement alone. Yes to men who are creating a future through their visionary wisdom.

3. HELL YES to diversity.

Yes to people of all colors. Yes to equality. Yes to acknowledging the lasting scars of racism and working to counteract that legally and socially. Yes to everyone having a fair shot at success in life. EVERYONE. Yes to a vibrant world of multiculturalism and real justice.

4. HELL YES to sexuality in all it’s beautiful and vibrant diversity

Yes to being gay. Yes to being queer. Yes to being transgender. Yes to being heterosexual. Yes to being bisexual. Yes to your big, beautiful sexuality and whatever you feel like expressing with another consensual adult.

5. HELL YES to truth.

Yes to being in integrity. Yes to leadership that is honest. Yes to science and facts. Yes to making conscious choices.

6. HELL YES to the environment.

Yes to stopping climate change. Yes to f**king nature. Yes to health and balance so we can relate and get sexy in the best possible ways.

7. HELL YES to love.

Yes to love in action. Yes to the kind of love that makes us not just kind and decent people – but also fierce and powerful in service of the things that matter.

8. HELL YES to sexuality.

Yes to our bodies. Yes to sex being gorgeous and artistic and free. Yes to LOVE motherf***kers!! YOU HEARD ME!!!

9. HELL YES to embracing our shadows.

Yes to embracing the nasty thoughts. The hidden thoughts. The shame and the guilt…and YES to having clear spaces and community to work through those parts of being human so our actions can reflect love and not fear more often than not.

10. HELL YES to freedom.

Yes to dancing in the streets. Yes to being playful for the fun of it. Yes to being joyful because too much seriousness is a f**king disease.

11. HELL YES to community.

Yes to embracing truth and freedom no matter what a government tells you is right or wrong. Yes to building loving connections that last. Yes to choosing based on your own inner wisdom. Yes to unleashing ecstasy and our wild souls on this world.

And finally…

12. HELL YES to relationships.

Getting through this week from hell showed me so much about partnership and the power of love.

As state after state was turning red and I knew the inevitable with all the sinking feeling of dread and terror in my body on election night, I went into shock. And in that shock and pain, Andrew and I held one another into the night.

And the shine in our eyes…the magic of our love…I thought, the whole world could crumble and still…this…this…

So let’s be that for each other.

The warm hug.

The loving eyes.

The strength when it all feels really hard.

I’ll be there for you and you can be there for me.

And create that for yourself all around you…you deserve it.

I’m a big YES to taking action.

::: ::: ::: :::

In the end, what’s all this about? It’s about me, becoming a new person. Someone stronger and clearer and more ready to fight for what is right than ever before.

It’s also about you and what you’re becoming. What are you becoming?

Action and in-action create outcomes. Not making a decision is making a decision. And we are responsible for the outcomes of our choices as much as we are responsible for the outcomes of our not choosing.

I would rather have the strength and the courage to act on what I know and want for this world, than stand by, sheltered in cowardice. I will step forward in love – in what I value the most – and take action. To forge myself, over and over again, and become strong. To stand against the system and make space for love of every shape and size.

“The helping professions have traditionally concerned themselves with wellness, health, and wellbeing. Wellness cannot stand on its own. Unless wellness is supported by justice, fairness,and equality, it is bound to fail. Poverty, marginalization, exclusion, and injustice are just as deleterious to the body as they are to the soul. To heal the soul, we need to heal the community. To heal the community, we need to change it.”

Prilleltensky, Prilleltensky, & Voorhees in Liberatory Psychiatry

 

 

1

Love. In. Action.

There is a meme that goes around on Pinterest regularly that says, “I never lose. Either I win or I learn.”

I totally live by that idea.
And, oh, friends. Did I learn this last week.

So, yeah, the candidate I voted for in the U.S. election did not win. Lots of you are going to smile at that-  I know. My own family members snicker at me and think I (and my progressive friends) lost. Which, in a way, is true. But, I’ll tell you what- I and many, many people learned a lot this week and what we learned is so valuable, so valuable to soul and body- I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

::: ::: ::: :::

I woke up Wednesday morning last week like a lot of people: a mixture of disbelief, anger, fear, sadness, and confusion. In fact, I was devastated. My chest crumpled. My heart went into a cave. I felt depressed and and numb. Very numb. I could not believe Donald Trump had been elected president. What the hell happened?

I don’t think I’m conveying the level of sadness I felt (and still feel, a bit) about this. It was truly awful. I have never felt so disappointed- in a lot of things, including myself. I just could not make sense of the world. How could this many people want him- that bigot, racist, woman-abusing, liar- to lead them?

And then….and then…this:

marco-rogers-awake

 

This pierced me.

A friend on Facebook posted it, and I clicked because of the quality of person that she is. And I read it, and I felt my chest get shot through with a hot arrow of truth. And I chose to stop for a moment and listen to that feeling.

He was talking about me.

I made a nice little bubble for myself about what this country is really like, really about. I was complacent. I thought I was empathetic, but I was only sympathetic.

I understand and deplore racism from a lot of different perspectives.

As a woman, I am oppressed by patriarchy- the same patriarchy that oppresses just about everyone else- so I thought I got how racism effects people of color, too (sympathetic, obviously).

I grew up in a very diverse neighborhood in a very diverse city. I valued diversity, and I experienced how racism is wrong.

I have an historian for a husband, and you can clearly see the effects of oppression through time: the oppressed always rise and fight- as they should. Racism (any oppression) doesn’t work.

My grandfather, son of a German immigrant, used to get crap for his parents speaking German, and when he tanned in the summer he looked Hispanic and was called a variety of racist things. He didn’t like it (but it gave him compassion). I thought I understood the pain because I was related to it.

And I sure as shit thought I understood it from a social justice perspective. I spent two years in grad school learning (among other things) about the damaging effects of racism (and all the other ‘isms’) on people and communities. It hurts, it’s unhealthy, it results in a lot of loss.

But I didn’t get what it was like to feel utterly lost + let down + unsafe, as a group, until Wednesday morning.

I was blind to a certain level of my own racism and classism, folks.
Little pieces left inside me, way at the back.

::: ::: ::: :::

And so I walked around numb for three days.

I stood at Target, the bastion of suburban, white, solidarity and wondered, “If something happened to me in here, who would help? If a black woman walked in and needed help, who would do it?” Three-quarters of the white men, and half the white women won’t help. Who was safe to ask for aid and support?”

And I finally fucking got what it feels like to be a person of color, LGBTQ, Muslim, Spanish-speaking, and any other group maligned by Trump. There isn’t really safety. You have to watch people and see what they do. Even then, you have to approach cautiously.

Now I understand, with my body and spirit, what this is like.

And I can never forget it.
And I can never go back.
And that is the best fucking gift I ever got.

::: ::: ::: :::

I don’t want to congratulate myself for finally waking up and understanding. That’s not what this post is about. This post is a peak inside the head of someone who is waking up to a new reality. (If you’re lucky in life, it will happen several times over.)

Until this point in my life, I had only awakened in some physical and spiritual areas. Now I am awake to a new social and community reality. Now I don’t just have intellectual understanding or sympathy for people of color/Muslims/Spanish speakers/disabled/etc. I have true empathy. And I am really grateful.

Sometimes having your world shattered is the best thing that can happen.

 

muscle-fist-jpg

[ this patch can be found by visiting the Etsy shop phoenixcompost. ]

::: ::: ::: :::

Where from here?

Lots of feeling. I’ve spent lots of time feeling all the things I spoke of earlier, but also shame for my willful ignorance and guilt for thinking the system might, maybe, possibly could be changed without hurting anyone or breaking anything.

I’ve gotten involved. Out of my suburban bubble. Out of my white safety. I’m attending rallies and giving money and talking to people of all kinds. I’m figuring out my priorities and getting a bit militant. And I’m talking with my kids about values and taking risks (mom might go to jail for civil disobedience at some point, kiddos). Because I’m going to put my money where my mouth is and not be a coward. If they come for my neighbors, I’m not going to stand there, afraid. And we are all neighbors now.

The spiritual understanding of unity is sinking into my bones. What they do to my fellow human, what they say about his skin or her religion or that body or their ability they say about me. And I won’t tolerate anything less than acceptance and safety for everyone. Humans might be animals, but we have the intellectual + emotional + spiritual capacity to rise above that. And we should expect ourselves to do so.

So, now- love becomes action.

Notes from the field, beloved friends. Keep up the fight.
Big love in this strange world,
Joanna :: xoxo

 

 

 

 

 

0

Making the Spirit Corporeal

corporeal :||: of or relating to a persons body; having a body; real, mortal, physical.

[This is the one where we talk about politics.]

I’ve been kinda pissed at some of my spiritual compatriots lately. Wonderful, smart, creative women who know they are helping other women become more free, more self-aware, and stronger. They are leading women to greater wholeness and healing- bringing forth their spirit with wonderful teachings and tools. Of course, I am down with that.  Oh, yes.

What I am not down with is the fact that some empowering spiritual leaders haven’t come out to talk about politics or their ideas and opinions of the American election landscape. I can respect a teacher who says, “I don’t want to talk about it,” even though I think that’s taking the easy, marketing-palatable, won’t-lose-readers, way out.  I am deeply frustrated, however, with spiritual leaders who say ‘talking about politics isn’t spiritual’ or who just don’t say anything at all, as if politics aren’t happening in their world.

Just like everything else, perhaps more so because of what is at stake, politics is radically spiritual.

::: ::: ::: :::

We like to think that ‘spirituality’ – of whatever flavor, religious or otherwise – is something in the head or heart or spirit only. It is internal and personal, certainly, but the living of spiritual and personal values is done in the body, and in the world.

To say or suggest that politics and the body are not spiritual is to miss the entire point of spiritual work and the religious teachings of any given faith. We are here to make those virtues and values come alive. The outcome of spiritual work and healing is to hurt less people less often, to love, to unify. If we don’t enact those things in the world, our spiritual ‘development’ is not integrated. [To say nothing about politics as a spiritual teacher or leader is a sin of commission that perpetuates the status quo which they claim to be helping women break free of. You cannot have it both ways- helping them break free and simultaneously accepting the status quo.]

Spiritual living is about making spiritual values real and tangible in the flawed, beautiful human world. And we do that by living them, by choosing spiritual action, by choosing healing. In our bodies, in our homes, in our cities, states, and nations. Politics matters to the spiritual world.

::: ::: ::: :::

Nearly every man who is named as a religion founder – Jesus, Muhammed, Siddartha Gautama, Lao Tzu – spent time away from society, learning, praying, listening to their soul, overcoming internal ‘demons,’ and receiving guidance from The Something. When they returned to social living, each shared teachings about how humans should live with one another so as to create more love and less strife. (Not one of them returned with messages of how to fuck each other up and create more trauma and harm, I will remind you.)

My favorite story is of Siddhartha- who would become Gautama Buddha- and how he left his palace one day and discovered the Four Sights (that suffering is a part of human life, but can also be overcome). He learned and practiced how humans can live with less suffering and then shared his teachings which became various branches of Buddhism (and some lines of yoga).

Jesus came as a messenger of love and acceptance- even if you’re into old school theology, you can’t miss his actions. He accepted a prostitute, told people to stop judging her. He overturned the tables of the money changers because he felt they were thieves, stealing from the church and the poor.  He healed the sick. Of topics beyond heaven and prayer, love and compassion were two qualities he spoke of the most.

The Jewish faith brought us the Ten Commandments- which are very clear directions on how spirit should be made corporeal (I prefer updated versions, such as The Ten Challenges). Ten lessons on what to build and what to let go so we live well with each other.

The Tao te Ching is a book of verses about how humans can co-exist peacefully with themselves and the Earth.

The yamas and niyamas of yogic philosophy are also guidelines on what to build within ourselves, and what to let go of, in order to create more peace within ourselves and within our relationships.

The great spiritual leaders gave us directions on how to be good humans, access more love, and live well with each other. They understood that whatever the spirit may be, it is lived in bodies, and in connection. And because our spirits live in these finite bodies, we are given the responsibility to choose how spiritual values are woven into the human world.

::: ::: ::: :::

One thing that nearly all religious traditions hold as their highest value is love and treating others as we wish to be treated. That should be a clue to the rest of us humans as to what is actually important in life. If love and The Golden Rule are that important, if they are proclaimed as such by many religions, they probably ought to be two of the values we care about weaving into the world the most.

This is where this post gets personal for me. I was brought up in a variety of Protestant (the non-Catholic branch of Christianity) paths. I was taught by my parents and church members that God loved us all. “Red and yellow, black and white,” we sang- we were all precious in His sight.

My parents and church family showed me this was true. We cared for the poor in our church, we cared for those who had troubles (addiction, mostly), we accepted the homeless, the single moms with multiple mouths to feed. Everyone pitched in to love and to help. My parents also taught me to respect people with all different abilities (admittedly, we did call them ‘disabled’ in my childhood) and the elderly. They showed me, with their words and their actions, that all people deserved respect and basic human love and care.

I took their words to heart.

I grew up and still loved all the people God made. The gay people. The very old and incapacitated. The ones with deep problems. Children who had no parents and were deeply broken. People of color who I went to school with, loved, and respected. The world was bigger than my church, or my Bible, suddenly- and my heart had to grow to accommodate the truth of my belief.

My beliefs grew, as well. If God wishes for us to love everyone, what does that mean? I decided to believe it meant God was in everyone (and, not a few preachers directly stated this). And then, I decided to believe that God was in everything. That all of creation was Divine. The Earth, the universe, the stars, and the world around us. And that we should love that, too, because it was God.

What do we do for those we love?
What do you do for those you love?
How do we care for them?
What do we make or share or give those we love?

If I think about my own family- I give them all the basics from Maslow’s Hierarchy to start with. Food, shelter, clothing. I give them the second tier of safety and the third tier of love and belonging. We work on esteem and actualization, too, because my love demands it. But I, like anyone, would die to give my family their basic needs.

And because God asks us to love everyone, I believe we should be giving to everyone what we give to those we love.

Yes, that much. The food, the shelter, the clothes, the safety. Each of God’s divine children deserve that much. Every religion, at its core, asks us to love like this. So, if you are ‘spiritual’ and you’re not loving and bringing the actions of love to this world, your path is bullshit. Because real spirituality is love. in. action.

::: ::: ::: :::

But, maybe love isn’t your thing.

Maybe you feel more closely aligned to other ‘fruits of the spirit.’
Peace.
Joy.
Patience.
Goodness.
Faithfulness.
Gentleness.
Self-control.
Kindness.

Kindness is probably one of my favorites because, as the Dalai Lama so famously says, it can be a ‘religion’ of its own. Again, however, all of these ‘fruits’ are mentioned as valuable in most religions.

Even if you’re not religious or spiritual, there are other values you can express as a part of making your life meaningful.

Authenticity.
Freedom.
Beauty.
Community.
Growth.
Fun.
Creativity.
Learning.
Pleasure.
Security.
Responsibility.

Maybe you’re just into some kind of pseudo-rasta, ‘one love’ thing. Which is fine, just be sure your beliefs show up in real life: who and what you give to and buy, policies that uphold the ideal. If you believe we are ‘one love’ – act like it, even when you vote.

If any of these are meaningful to us, I believe it means we are called to take action on them in our daily lives, especially if you call yourself ‘spiritual.’ (In the reverse, if you want to see what you truly value, check your daily life- what’s it filled with? Those are your values, in living color.)

::: ::: ::: :::

And so, it comes to this. If you are spiritual or religious, if you claim ‘religious values,’ then it is your responsibility to bring those values to this world with your choices. And your choices include who you vote for.

If you care about love- who is most loving? Who offers the greatest opportunity to bring love to all people? what policies and laws bring more love to this world? or support the love that already exists?

If you care about kindness- who is the most kind? Who has policies that bring kindness to the most people? Who has a service record of kindness?

If you care about joy or patience or self-control or community support or safety or shelter or health or responsibility or authenticity or freedom or faithfulness- who is doing those things? Which candidates are helping to bring those qualities into real life?

Vote for those people. Voting is one of the ways we work for these values to be alive in our world.

(On the flip side, please don’t be a  ‘one issue’ voter (even if that issue is ‘love’)- that is the worst form of intellectual laziness.)

::: ::: ::: :::

There is a fuck tonne more I could say. I want to talk about the enemies of our spirit that live within our individual and collective psyche. The internalized oppression that causes internalized racism or internalized sexism. And how difficult it is to confront those parts of ourselves and dig them out.

Internalized oppression are the ways in which we keep ourselves, others, and those who are like us oppressed. It is the opposite of freedom, love, strength, and spirituality.

Or the modern denial mechanism called cognitive dissonance– where we would rather keep our internal sense of ourselves intact than accept facts disproving our theories. (It’s painful to give up cherished ideas and stories.)

Many of us live inside of these emotional and intellectual mistakes, because examining our own internal hatred is a task few undertake.

But it is also the work our soul asks of us. To find the darkness, accept it, heal it, love it. So that we can, in our healed spirit and psyche, love others and bring the values of the spirit into the world.

::: ::: ::: :::

Agree with me or not. But as a spiritual person and a guide for my clients, it is my duty to see that spiritual values are brought into the world, not left out of it. Spiritual values are no ‘higher’ than human ones- they are the same.

I realize now, of course, that I should have written this months ago. That it should have been delivered in three posts. That I should have railed on it more- especially because of the election. And that for some of you, I am a spiritual leader, and I need to have to my shit together if I’m going to pass judgement.

In the end, this is about who we are voting for in the American election. I will be voting for someone who has the greatest chance of upholding my highest values: truth, love, and health. And, no matter the outcome, I will work to see the fulfillment of these things in my body, family, neighborhood, city, and planet.

 

 

1