Archive | December, 2017

all behavior is communication

I’m writing this post partially so I can refer back to it for future writings. Because I know I’ll need it. In any case, here we go…

Whenever I think about people and how to work with them, or how to give context to politics or headlines, or how to make a decision about how to deal with someone or something, I refer to what I know about how people work, psychologically. And one thing I deeply believe is that all behavior is communication– our actions are the outcome of our psychology and emotion. It’s possible to have many feelings and thoughts about a thing, even intentions, but what it comes down to is how we act on those things. Behavior is pretty damn indicative of what we’re really about.

I tend to fall in love with behaviors. Because behavior is the truth. We only use our bodies – our behavior and actions – to do what we most want to, what we most care about, or most believe we are capable of. So, behavior indicates so much more than words.

If we back up, though, here are things I take into consideration when I look at behavior. Because behavior comes from many places, and we need to consider those things if we want to know what is being communicated, what behavior means.

 

Gender

We know that male and female brains have some differences. They may not be as disparate as we have been lead to believe, but as someone who had a more testosterone-based brain for five years, there is a difference in brain chemistry based on sex hormones and this difference definitely influences behavior. When I was juiced on testosterone I had more focus, ambition, sexual thoughts, and lowered inhibitions than ever in my life. Hormone-based brain function is not an excuse for shitty behaviors, we are all capable of every human emotion and choice, but it can be explanatory and help us find meaning in behavior.

 

Age

Brains mature at different ages. Males tend to mature later than females, and so I take that into consideration when I look at behavior. Did a bunch of 18 year-old guys do something stupid? Their brains may not have been mature enough to make a better decision. Again, this doesn’t excuse poor behavior, but it can explain choices and help us to develop education and tools to avoid poor behavior in the future.

Also, after the age of 18, unless you have organic brain disorders, I believe you are responsible for every choice you make and the ensuing outcomes. You’re big enough to drive a car and vote, you’re big enough to be responsible for your shit. Even if you’ve had difficulties, you have the choice to get help and tackle the effect of those difficulties in your life (for instance, co-dependency, trauma, or abuse).

 

Upbringing

The ages 0-5 are the years in which ‘normal’ is set for the psyche. This means that what happens during those years is what will feel ‘normal’ or ‘right’ for us for a long time, perhaps our whole life. And if something difficult or horrible happens during these years, that can also feel ‘normal’ – and be problematic. For people who spent ages 0-5 with arguing parents or in abusive homes (or any other awful thing) this feels ‘normal’ to them, and they may seek to perpetuate it in adulthood, even if they know it’s not healthy, good, or right for them.

The impact of images and feelings upon the psyche is especially important in these years because they are the only internal guidance we have- words are almost non-existent for the first 2 years of life, even though we are having significant development experiences. I have watched friends and acquaintances work through abandonment issues, which occurred when they were 8 months old. Traumatic events in the early years have deep, lasting impact, and they have to be accounted for when we look at people’s behavior and what that behavior means.

 

Trauma

Trauma is when an experience is so emotionally overwhelming that we shut off. The emotional point at which trauma occurs is different for each person. For some, a car accident may be unpleasant, but it can be overcome relatively easily. For others, a car accident may mean lasting physical or psychological pain- which may take years to heal.

Trauma informs behavior in so many ways I can’t possibly mention them all here. But what trauma mostly does is make people feel confused, frustrated, and doubt themselves (often because they know they want to do something, but can’t seem to do it). Of course, trauma can also lead to stress and anxiety and unhealthy coping behaviors. Traumatic behaviors can also feel like sub-conscious behaviors, a la “I don’t know why I do that, I just do.”

 

Highly Sensitive People

Perhaps due to trauma, but also sometimes just to physiologic factors, some people are more highly sensitive than others. Their physiologic and sensual systems get overwhelmed with small amounts of data. They can be highly attuned to the energy of places and people, and many HSPs notice lots of details as their system tries to process the environment and make sense of it. This can influence their behavior to turn inwards, ‘hate people,’ or feel anxious (and behave accordingly).

 

Personality

I do believe that humans have stages of development, growth hurdles they must overcome in order to be fully developed (and often, these tasks aren’t fun and produce complicated, difficult feelings). I’m not sure that Erikson has the whole picture, because every human is unique, but his theory is a good place to start.

Knowing that people may be dealing with a particular stage of growth can tell us something about their choices and ensuing behaviors. If someone is trying to know who they are as an adult, we can gain some insight into their behaviors (i.e. hanging out with different groups, trying on different clothing styles, etc). As well, if people skip a particular growth hurdle, they may need to go back and finish it, which can result in behaviors that look immature for a particular age.

I also believe there is something to the idea of personality typing such as Myers-Briggs or even astrological symbols. Maybe we shouldn’t take these too seriously, but I think they are good templates from which to learn about people and be able to make some foundational assessments as to whether we can connect or not.

 

Mental Health Issues

Of course any mental health issue is going to influence behavior. Whether we are talking about depression or schizophrenia, how our brain works is probably the most important factor in our behavior. And if our brain isn’t working along the continuum of ‘normal’ (which is also highly questionable label), behavior may range from confusing to outside the shared reality we currently inhabit. (Which is to say: I’m not entirely sure that people with schizophrenia aren’t just inhabiting a reality the rest of us can’t see, but a reality that also remains completely valid.) It’s always good to know if someone has a mental health issue they are dealing with when we try to figure out what their behavior is trying to communicate.

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

Behavior falls into two categories, generally. Conscious and sub-conscious behavior. Conscious behavior is the things we do and know we are doing them, the actions we take on purpose. Sub-conscious behavior is the things we don’t notice we’re doing or the things we do ‘just because’ or ‘I don’t know why.’ Sometimes we don’t want to acknowledge our conscious behaviors (‘no, I didn’t do that’) because it goes against our sense of ourselves or our greater motives or we suspect we’ll be punished for our choice. Sometimes we’re just straight up lying about what our behavior means, to ourselves and others. But, of course, that is just another form of communication through behavior, isn’t it?

All of this is to say that these are the things I am wondering about when I look at people’s behavior. But, more importantly, I am also looking at behavior as communication of many of these factors- the communication goes both ways. Behavior is also as an indicator of what you really are, what you truly believe in, and what you most want. Everything you are doing, everything I am doing, is an attempt to communicate something, even if we don’t know what we’re doing, even if we don’t know that we’re doing it. The trick in this life is know as much as we can about ourselves, heal ourselves, and be as conscious as we can – in both our words and our actions.

 

 

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How does a sensualist celebrate Christmas?

She doesn’t! She celebrates Solstice. And we start the day with candlelight.

 

 

At our house we do a big celebration for Solstice because we’re not Christians. Taoist-Buddhist-Pagan eclectic mix is what we do here (although, I’ve been thinking about that, too- and probably need to reconsider what right I have to those traditions. But not today…)

One of the reasons we celebrate Solstice (both of them, and the Equinoxes) is our dedication to science, but also because they are the celebrations that our closest to the body. Before central heating, our bodies knew what season it was because of the changes in the light and the changes in temperature each season. Even now, I need more thyroid medication during the winter because my body is registering that it’s time to slow down, experience less light, and my metabolism responds accordingly. We’ve lost some of that physical connection with the seasons (okay, but we did gain Netflix, so it’s not all bad) but we can reconnect with it easily enough by connecting with the solstices and equinoxes. So, here we are.

Around here we relax during the day, letting the darkest day sink into our bones- because there is a natural desire to slow down during this time of year. We eat a candle-lit dinner to acknowledge and enjoy the dark. At dinner we will eat foods that remind us of the sun- sweet potatoes, orange cheese, oranges, fizzy drinks (I have no idea why that reminds me of the sun, just go with me on this), we make a ‘sunshine’ cake, and other items that make us feel happy amongst the dark.

We perform the ritual of letting dark things go. The winter Solstice is the time to let go of what no longer serves us- to unwind, untie, unlearn, and release that which is no longer needed. We write things on paper and burn them in a clay pot- and use the ashes to feed a new plant that we will love into the new year and into Spring.

It is also a time to honor the dark- because darkness is part of human nature, too. And without our fear, anger, frustration, sadness, and grief we are incomplete (what would we be if we were happy all the time?). So we also bless the darkness for holding balance in our lives.

I spend time with all the holiday things that bring me sensual pleasure.

Sarah McLachlan’s Wintersong album – truly full of adult holiday feelings

Harry Connick Jr.’s  Songs I Heard – not Christmas-based but reworking childhood favorites

The Muppets singing “Little Saint Nick” – because you need Animal grinding it out, okay?

“Stop the Cavalry” by The Cory Band – which is a weird but enjoyable anti-war/nuke protest song. But it sounds like Christmas.

And my ‘put it on repeat’ favorite: “Christmas Wrapping” by the Waitresses.

[I will tell you, I got super sick of Christmas music the other day and had to put on some Van Halen, Rush, and Aerosmith. So, raise your glass for sensuality and 80s rock this Solstice.]

 

I will drink my favorite tea. (Once you have British tea, you can never go back. Buy it here.)  Lots of sugar, lots of cream.

 

 

I’ll read favorite books.

Sections from David Copperfield. Because in AP English (waytoomanyyearsago) we read it in December and I can never go without it now.

A children’s book my grandmother gave me when I was diagnosed with diabetes (36 years ago!) called “Joel Schick’s Christmas Present” which is a re-telling of the 12 Days of Christmas, except with strange creatures. Creatures that eat the decorations. And once you sing it in your head with the new words, you will have trouble remembering the old ones.

 

 

Something from Toot & Puddle, a quieting favorite when my kids were small.

 

 

I will put my children to bed, snuggling with my daughter as the twinkly lights hang quietly in her room. My son simply wants hugs these days. I will feel my body against their’s, remembering when they were small enough to fit into my arms.

 

I’ll curl up in my favorite sweater and jeans and watch Emmett Otter’s Jugband Christmas (which no one but me loves) and The Family Stone, with a bowl of popcorn. [Except I lied. Tonight is the opening of Season 4 of Peaky Blinders on Netflix. And I am going to watch and fall in love with Tommy Shelby and his intelligent, graceful violence once again. He is so fucking delicious.]

 

I feed myself what I most need on this day, with a special awareness of the dark, of its gifts, and of the promise of coming light. And Solstice will be the calmest day of my year.

 

 

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Burning It Down

It’s time for another political post, my friends.

Yes, we do that here because the sensual body is a part of the body politic. And so many beautiful people are fighting for the right to call their body, their life, their love- their own. (You can find previous political posts here: Making the Spirit Corporeal, Forged. Punk. Sexy., Love In Action. )

And today we are going to talk about Systems theory.

Systems theory is the idea that everything is a system- each thing within itself and also as it relates to other systems. As an example, a tree is a system unto itself- roots, branches, bark, leaves. It also contains other systems inside itself such as delivery systems for food and sap. And, the tree is part of the environmental system in which it lives, which also includes the systems for Earth, Air, and Weather.

Humans are no different. We operate in many systems, not the least of which is our own body. The cardiovascular system, the respiratory system, the endocrine system. These systems work on their own but also touch other systems. One of the reasons I work in a holistic way is because the human emotional system has a huge impact on the human physiological system. And so does the spiritual system. They are each unique systems, but they also interact with many other systems inside the body. (I also use several different physiologic systems including Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayurveda. In contrast to Western systems, these have been around for 2,000+ years, so I think they are valid ways of viewing the human bio-psychological system.)

And then we have the systems in which humans interact. Currently, the political system has got me amped up because the new tax code aims to erode and destroy the things I most care about: love, health, and truth.

The systems involved in current Western society, especially American society, don’t help a lot of people. The current systems keep women, people of color, LGBTQQ folks, low-SES people, and a whole lot of others without resources, support, acceptance, or validation. That’s not healthy, loving, or accepting of the truth.

The systems involved in current Western society make men feel like they have to ‘be strong’ (or whatever) and leave them without ways to adequately emotionally express themselves or bond emotionally with other men. The systems draws a sharp, clear line between ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ and asks that we only rarely cross that line, which is not how human hearts, brains, or bodies work. I will say that this system is slowly changing for the better, as I know many men fully capable of healthy emotional expression and maturity, but there are miles to go still in changing this system to one of full acceptance of the human emotional spectrum for all humans (whether that is masculine, feminine, or any other expression).

The systems involved in current Western society encourage addiction of all forms, although most especially addiction to work. And individualism to the point of depression. And destruction of the environment (only today I noticed that the starlings, which usually leave in October, were still here, gathering on the wires to practice their flight plans; they are two months late in leaving). And destruction of the spirit.

The systems involved in current Western society are fucked.

 

Photo by Christopher Burns on Unsplash

 

The systems involved in current Western society help only very few to achieve their potential.

The systems involved in current Western society help only very few to have adequate resources.

The systems involved in current Western society destroy more than they create.

And this is why we talk about burning it down.

The systems that are in place serve the best interest of almost no one. What are the best interests of people? I boil it down to this: safety, health, and prosperity. Everyone deserves these things. Everyone. Without question.

We deserve to feel safe in our bodies, our love, our homes, our cities. All of us.

We deserve to have health and feel healthy in our bodies, our love, our homes, our cities. All of us.

We deserve to have prosperity in our bodies, our love, our homes, our cities. All of us.
[Prosperity may include riches, but it never includes greed. There is no reason anyone needs $mil in a society that provides for safety, health, and prosperity. Make all you want, but care for your fellow man.]

I recognize that if we burn these systems, if we tear them down, it will mean less of many things for myself and my family. And I am so fiiiiiine with this. I am not sure that others in my race and social strata are, even as they want to desperately change the system. But I know it’s worth the sacrifice, because the current systems serve the good of no one.

What new systems shall we build? you might ask. I do not know, exactly. I have no concrete vision that I can show you, that the world will look like x, y, or z. For almost a year now that has been a great struggle for me- I wanted to know exactly what we were building. But it is less difficult now- because I simply want systems that create safety, health, and prosperity for everyone.  And so I choose those as much as I possibly can. (Some thoughts in this article about moving beyond capitalism.)

Systems are not fixed. Not the tree. Not the Earth. Not the body. Not politics. Not money. Not taxes. Some systems can be changed with time. But some systems also need to be destroyed.

In many ways, I am very glad and proud to be alive now. To be the age I am so that I can apply pressure, resources, and my privilege to changing these systems, to destroying some, and to building up what I most hope for. It is a time of great creativity on a lot of fronts (thank god for artists and musicians and all other truth tellers). But it may also be time to burn things that are too old to change and turn the ashes under and not even begin again, but build somewhere else instead. 

I leave you with the words of Jacob Marley, on this, the 174th anniversary of the publishing of the first installation of A Christmas Carol:

“Business! Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, were all my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!”

[Which is to say: the new tax code, if passed, can go fuck itself.]

 

 

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New Moon in Sagittarius

Good evening, fellow travelers. Tonight we find ourselves with the new moon, dark moon, in Sagittarius. The new moon is my favorite, generally. I often feel calm, open, aware, and grounded. But the last two weeks- perhaps because it’s Mercury in Retrograde? – have been quite the roller coaster ride.

I was watching Love, Actually today (I know it’s sexist and awful, but it’s still a holiday fave at my house) and it is the perfect parallel for my life these past few weeks- hope, elation, joy, fear, disappointment, confusion. Up, down; up, down. The storyline also reminded me that there are lots of Joanna’s (in the film there are two: one who dies and one who is loved by a central character) and that as long as I’m taking action, with my best intentions, using the tools I have available, something useful will come of this phase. [I hope.]

The new moon signals the end of the last moon cycle, but also the beginning of the next one. This is the time to plant our dreams and hopes in the dark of the new moon, and take action to nurture that to the next full moon. I know that the only thing I can plant tonight is the thing I always pray for: the highest good for everyone.

Here’s what’s on the menu for the new moon in Sagittarius:

From The Sky Priestess:

Remember that in this time powerful seeds are being set. And they´re not about today, tomorrow, or even a few years from now. We´re talking about decades.

That might feel intimidating, but it does not have to be.
If you don´t know where you´re meant to be headed, make no decision except that you choose to be aligned to the path of your greatest evolutionary potential, grace, joy and blessings – for yourself and all others…

…There is no magic spell or healing modality that will do that for you at this time. Only your conscious will and intent. As we are entering a time in which (eventually) no intermediaries will be required in accessing the frequency of Divine energy.

We will have to re-think, re-learn and develop entirely new languages of what ´healing´ looks like. An extraordinary threshold exists between what aligns with the old Piscean paradigm, and that which we are all aligning towards creating.

Reclaim your identity as a Sovereign Being, a Co-Creator alongside or within Divine Consciousness.

 

From Chani Nicholas:

In Sagittarius, Saturn has demanded that we understand the limits of our beliefs. Where they are faulty. What about them needs to be developed. Which of them are too ill-constructed to be of service to our truth. Unstable theories needed to be put out to pasture. Philosophies that proved themselves unworthy of our dedication needed to be done away with. Only beliefs that can withstand the austere glare of Saturn should be taken into 2018.

The rest should be left in the past.

The new moon also trines Uranus. The deity of innovation, breakthroughs and boundless insights blesses this new moon with its gifts. Since Saturn and Uranus have been in an ongoing trine with one another this past year, the theme this new moon picks up on is not new, but timeless in its wisdom.

The right commitments will set you free.

Being bound to our becoming requires ceaseless work but offers us unending freedom. Without discipline, consciousness escapes us. It takes rigorous effort to look at ourselves. To witness where we shrink away from accountability. To spot the times we slip out of our integrity. To notice when we have chosen an easier route around the truth. To love ourselves enough to forgive ourselves and do the hard work of healing.

Honesty opens up every possibility for evolution. Without it we are just roaming around the same issues thinking we have gotten some place new. This new moon asks us to embrace the strides we have taken to push past the barriers of self doubt and to embrace the effort it takes to truly mature. Efforts that will, in the end, bring gifts so abundant we wonder why anyone would pass up such a sacred task.    

 

If you just want some personal guidance, I always love Rob Brezsny’s Freewill Astrology. His perspective is a little different, and I dig that.

And this is from Mystic Mama:

There are 5 planets in Sagittarius at this New Moon, so the cosmos wants us to pay attention.

“Sagittarius is the sign honoring truth, vision, belief and optimism that can light a fire within each of us.

“Occurring during the darkest time of year in the northern hemisphere brings the image of Light into clear focus.

“In the dark, we seek the light.

“Our purpose (Sun), our emotional body (Moon), our mind (MercuryRx), our body’s wisdom (Venus), and our authority (Saturn) want to be clothed in that light…

“This New Moon is seeded in the Galactic Center, so let the eternal truths of the cosmos take root in your hearts so they blossom in these next, oh so important years for humanity.

“Let go of old perceptions and open to extraordinary possibilities that might whisper in your hearts during meditations and journeys.

“Trust that the Universe knows what It’s doing when it chooses YOU to channel its creativity and vision.

“Mercury is retrograding back over the Galactic Center degree, so it will go over this degree three times – and you know that the Goddess always works in 3s.

“So just let the information come in – you won’t know it all until after the New Year.

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

It appears to be a time of decision-making and action, but only after we’ve examined our deepest hearts and listened to whatever guidance The Something offers us. If you need me, I’ll be meditating for my own heart and guidance. Come sit with me.

Big love, fellow travelers,
Joanna :: xoxo

 

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Intuition :: Practical Resistance :: The Last Jedi

I know that I will have more to say in the coming days, but I just got back from seeing The Last Jedi and it was fantastic. So much to explore and while it fulfilled the plot points of old myths, it also opened some new ones. I thought there was nothing new under the sun, and yet- there is.

I will leave you with these two points for now:

From a friend on Facebook:

“Here is some of the beauty of star wars:
1. the rebellion is lead by women over 50;
2. those women had fabulous fashion and sensible shoes;
3. all women had sensible shoes for their work;
4. representation matters.”

And the second is that how Rey describes The Force, and how Luke speaks of ‘sending your feelings out’ is exactly
exactly
e-x-e-c-a-c-t-l-y

what my intuition feels like.

It was kind of amazing to have it described so well.

 

More soon, fellow travelers. And get yourself out to see this film- it’s wonderful.
Big love,
Joanna :: xoxo

 

 

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