Monthly Archive for August, 2012

persistence

to paraphrase yet another thing that octavia butler said, in one of my favorite essays of hers: ‘talent is not enough, you must have persistence.’

i feel like i am learning the same thing about love.

love is not enough, loving someone and being loved is not enough. i have to have persistence. i have to practice. i have to be determined to look past what comes easily, and lean into the edges where i feel the wholeness of love, the vulnerable intimate hard truths on which love sheds light.

this past weekend i facilitated the detroit future youth transition gathering, and we asked everyone to name the superpower they were committing to this budding network. an amazing number of the youth said their superpower was dedication, will, hard work. they understand, at 13 and 17 and 21, that it is their force of will, their continuing to show up, that is their real power.

this illuminated to me the work i am also doing.

these days I think my superpower is feeling my feelings.

loving myself is hard work, it takes practice, it takes persistence. i have to set out, with determination, to look at the places of myself that hurt, that harbor fear and anger and anguish and self doubt. and i have to not run from or ignore those places, or blame anyone else for them. i have to love myself enough to look, to reach in and examine the pain until i reach the root of it.

and like toxic soil, i can’t just cement over it or dig it out, not if i ever want it to yield sustenance. i have to actually plant something new, something that has the power to detoxify, the emotional equivalent of sunflowers and mushrooms. and then i have to water that good strong creative force and be patient while it slowly slowly yields miracles and futures out of that deeply socialized scarred soil.

when i am spent and hungry and hopeless, seeing nothing green, i have to remember that nature is designed towards abundance. everything in this world, even the things which seem poisonous and annoying and fatal, can be sustenance. toxins and mosquitos are sustenance. so are the parts of me which ache and mourn and doubt. from those parts i am growing my wholeness, my deeper capacity for seeing the world as it is, for finding peace with it, for cultivating compassion for myself, for practicing love with more and more of my tiny precious life.

the darkness is fertile, sunlight is brave enough, wise enough to go into the places where it can be processed into life. i have to remember that while i’m reaching for the light.

practice, practice, practice – that is what makes the raw material magnificent.

persistence.

whole up

just finished day 5 of a 7-day retreat focused on wholeness – whole people and whole communities. my mind is flowing like this:

I believe in the transformative and healing power of even one taste of being seen as a whole person.

I believe we complete each other.

I believe learning to listen is the clearest path towards love – listening to myself, to earth, to the silence, to each person I meet, to what I don’t want to hear, to that which is hard to share, to what is emerging, to the many-truths we call history.

I believe in crying. I mean, I believe in weeping with my whole body.

I believe that community is always the answer.

I believe in the humility of smaller and smaller scale, deeper and deeper changes – inch wide, mile deep.

from the mountaintop everything was grand, far away, beyond my lifetime, and small.

I have been down into the valleys and the gutters, the lightless ocean, even to the arteries, all the time listening as a form of prayer. the closer I got, I noticed heartbeats are a thunder.

i saw that life is a miracle because of what happens in the smallest darkest instances. one cell splits to carry the load of life, one breath, one awakening.

I know nearly nothing, except let go, surrender, see what is, lean in, be direct, be honest, and love, starting within.

see the little flame of life, and grow it with your deepest breath.

Octavia said, in Earthseed, she said: ‘pray working’. I can’t shake this feeling these days, that it’s all holy.

gifting my attention

‘what we give our attention to grows’ *

for a few years now I have had a practice of not seeking out the news, gossip or negativity. I see what comes through social media, read or watch pieces if someone sends me something relevant…I know what is happening in the world.

if the news that comes is tragic, I light a candle and/or stop what I am doing to send my loving attention to the people and planet hurt by it. then I return to the business of my life, generating capacity and solutions in communities I can touch and smell and see, who are also surviving tragedies daily.

if it is thrilling or awesome, I revel in it, and if possible I share it. then, again, get back to work. octavia butler has a quote from her earthseed verses (in the parable of the sower) that says ‘pray working’. that resonates deeply with me, letting my life be my response to the world, my prayer for better. I have just extended this to include my attention, that I gift my attention to those things I want to see grow in the world – resilience, brilliance, community, love.

i started this practice of not seeking out the news with the theory that it was cyclical, negative and manipulative, 1984 brainwashing, and that i wanted to have choice over what i gave my attention to, manifesting power within myself, within the communities to which i belong.

I have learned from this practice, and I want to share because it’s opened up a massive space for shift in my life in terms of much more actual measurable time, a healthier more grounded state of being, as well as more purposeful energy in my work and a higher degree of quality in my offerings.

not perfection, but spaciousness, abundance.

first, i learned some humility. addiction to news cycles had confused my system into believing that I personally needed to act on everything I heard – particularly that I needed to intervene in other people’s lives, to save them.

second, I learned that interpersonal gossip is the forerunner of negative media – sharing the business of others with negative intention, coming up with unsought advice and opinions, becoming experts on what others need to change – all of this takes attention away from the thing we can actually take responsibility for and change: ourselves.

this was the biggest lesson: when i wasn’t so focused on the latest random news of others, i was left with myself, and focusing inward has helped me to see what an empty cup I was continually trying to offer every thirsty person I met. if I work without spiritual, emotional, physical and mental health and balance, I cannot create health and balance anywhere outside myself. I was very busy and effective at not creating lasting change. i could have done that my whole life and received accolades for it, people do…but feeding my ego won’t feed my people.

i also learned that charity doesn’t yield survival. and most of the time, if we are asked to respond to a tragedy on the news, it is to engage in charity of some sort – give money, demand money, etc. having stepped my attention back to a more local level (local to people with whom I have some relationship), I see that in the same way my communities do not benefit from saviors or charity, nor does anyone else’s.

even if it seems beneficial in the short term, the act of saving people breeds dependence and deepens inequalities. survival is something that can only be learned experientially at the societal level. it takes longer than charity, but the resilience of overcoming hardship and generating life with others is that crucial beautiful resource we humans most need to cultivate.

there is other content that is really crucial for me to consume. I am re-reading butler’s parables of the sower and talents. her analysis of the intersectional fuckery humans have created is so on point – there is nothing happening today that she didn’t foresee and warn us about. her ways of telling the story of this present we are in and the most likely future are heartbreaking – her solutions are visionary and practical and possible.

I want part of my legacy to be generating live solution experiments, rooted in ideas from Butler’s work, among others. if we all spent half the time we currently spend becoming-instant-experts-on-news-cycle-items-that-last-less-than-48-hours instead practicing solution experiments in our own lives, I think we would tilt the scales towards justice, sustainability and love in olympic gold time.

experiments look like growing our own food in the context of post-capitalism, growing our own internet in the context of political media corruption, being impeccable loving healing elements in our families, mediating and resolving interpersonal conflict in our lives in the context of evolving beyond international war and conflict, intentional decision making and vision embodiment in our social justice organizations in the context of practicing a new society rather than just continuously observing and deepening our critiques of each other.

seek that which feels real, tangible, visceral, and positively motivating. our time is this miraculous limitation, and perhaps the only real limitation we face. each day in these bodies can be purposeful, or can be wasted.

in my life, liberating myself from media and most gossip has given me more time to do the things i often wished I could do – give love and attention to those who need and request it, meditate, eat healthy, yoga, compost, be present in my relationships, be a better daughter sister friend lover auntie, facilitate for low cost or free, write, create, doula, cook…be myself.

now I notice when I coach or work with people who experience scarcity around time, they almost always spend a lot of time tracking, processing and proliferating news cycles on which they personally have negligible impact. I always want to ask what they are gifting their time to…do they realize how precious their attention really is?

do you?

my rule of thumb (which is still emerging because I generally hate and break rules, even as my virgo self yearns for and creates them) is to give attention to what I love, so that what I love can grow. not to gossip, either at the interpersonal or international news level, not to hateration in the form of endless critiques or negative analysis, and not to anything which bores me.

it comforts me to know that in a world where so much is horrific, and so much is out of my control, that I can be intentional about my love and my attention. I give my brilliance and my miraculous time to growing health and love and wonder.

and to just testify, i see the changes happening in my lifetime, within my reach, and they are magnificent.

* (heard this a long time ago and can’t find a source, but I believe it, hence going in on it here :-)… if you know the source, hit me with it!)