Monthly Archive for September, 2012

34nomenal

‘I can’t wait to be 34. that’s the sexiest year!’

i just had dinner with my brilliant friend dani mcclain. when she first said that to me, we were over a decade from being 34, it was over a third of our lives away. we were young radical smart women of color in new york, still landing in our styles, elegances, glamorousness. 34 was far enough ahead that we couldn’t imagine not having figured it all out to be completely and utterly with it by the time we got there.

and now there is here.

and dani is one of a handful of people in the world who knew me when, and even before, i was 24, outside of blood family.

and with this handful of brilliant women who are in or within a stone’s throw of 34, we are learning to fully occupy here.

of course we don’t have it all figured out, except for some of the most important things, which we are pretty sure about, like:

hold onto those friends who will see you whole, no matter how many miles are between you.

don’t shy away from saying the things your beloveds need to hear, with all your kindness.

celebrate every single little step away from settling for not enough, every step towards the possibility of greatness, no matter how small.

affirm life, even when it looks like weeping, shame, heartbreak, hot messes. if ‘grief is gratitude’ for the blessing of being alive, the glorious mistakes and exquisite failures are how we learn to live, how we fight for ourselves to have extraordinary lives.

you don’t need to say I told you so, not ever. cultivate a particular smile or shoulder shrug that says, ‘we knew that, right?’ and then stand for each other’s dignity.

get better with age – wiser, more stylish, more complex, more open, more loving, braver, more interesting, and more self-aware.

don’t get too old to learn – curiosity is the fountain of youth.

and when you reach a threshold that you called into being, like 34 being the sexiest age, embody it. my 24 or 14 year old selves wouldn’t have believed how fine and fly and loving of myself and on my healing path I am today.

and it isn’t just the year, it’s this phase in our lives of self-realization, forgiveness, surrender, heat and uncompromising love.

and not one day of it was promised, and who knows what will happen, but I want us to be the hottest 50 year olds anyone’s ever seen.

axe.

how we liberate ourselves

just had a conversation that was an exploration of how we liberate ourselves to pursue the work we are really meant to do.

and when i use liberation here, i mean this at the scale of utter societal and economic transformation, liberation from internal and intersocietal and interspecies oppression, but happening in the realm of the intimate and personal.

i was reminded in this conversation of a time when i was younger, and would hang out in various apartments, basements and clubs in ny making art and music and developing philosophy with other free folk, or folks straining towards personal and political freedom, not caring what anyone thought as long as we felt brilliant, talking ourselves into that blazing passion that is larger than our individualism.

and i was reminded of one of the things i noticed during my sabbatical: if my passionate self, physically, is repressed, unsatisfied, or only responding erotically to mainstream sexual images (skinny, white, hetero-normative sexual images), then my creativity is similarly limited.

when my passionate self experiences abundance, freedom, and self-love (not only loving myself, but starting to attune my brain and body to the sensual power and beauty of all thick, brown, queer and/or pansexual images and people) i notice that my creativity similarly explodes.

i don’t think i’m alone – mainstreaming our erotic lives for the sake of power or convenience is one of those final frontiers we are standing on the edge of: do you actually determine what is desirable in your own life – in any arena?

particularly in movement spaces, where desire is an unexplored territory we often only discuss in the context of crisis, scandal or dysfunction.

just as we are given a limited range of what is normal to desire physically through porn and film and magazines, we are given a limited range of what we can desire in our lives in terms of happiness, satisfaction, abundance, calm, power.

we are socialized to pursue a paycheck, stability, to settle in to place and become consumers. we internalize this, how to be normal, how to not upset the process, to the point that we believe even our critiques should fall along a certain line of desire.

it is ok to desire justice from the oppressive unfair capitalist system, but a little gauche to desire a new system founded in justice that we each have to personally practice in every interaction? because we are not supposed to desire the impossible, and a truly just human existence is impossible – it would require the emotional equivalent of a second opposable thumb or second brain that grew out of our hearts.

at least somehow we tell ourselves that – that this is the best we can do. settle for holding some balance in an eternal tug-of-war between good and evil. we repress that liberated concept of actual lived internalized justice.

this makes me think, what are all the ways in which we repress and contain ourselves, program ourselves to attune with the desired world of white straight capitalist culture?

i see fashion as one of those spaces – dressing in ways that are easily branded, mass-produce-able, versus dressing in ways that dance with existence, beauty, shape and color, completely unique to each person. micha cardenas is whispering into the world a vision of clothing that connects us to each other and keeps us in the safety of community while looking fly. trudy miller creates zero waste fashion items designed to make all body types feel beautiful. this is liberating fashion.

the way we actually create is another space of repression. i sing. i write songs and poems, every day i write like this, and every day, all the time i sing. singing gives me joy and helps me process my life. sometimes i am able to sing around others, able to feel the moment within me and sing it. sometimes i am able to blog my writing. throughout my life i have wrestled with the pressure to turn my singing and writing into a career, into cds and books and recordings and performance.

but from a place of liberation, for myself, i think i may never release music or writing in the ways that others often pressure me to. the joy of singing for me is in the every day, in my life. when i get asked to perform, to record, my ego enters into it, what other people think enters into it, what i think of as the capitalism, the “me me me”.

i have started to come out as a non-performer, and it has felt liberating. i still sing, but on the terms of my joy and comfort, when it serves the moment or a twinge in my heart. and maybe I will write a book, but not because it will make me a writer.

these days even becoming enlightened, wise, mindful, gets shaped by capitalism – becoming another space to compete for supremacy, for clients, for credit.

how do we carve out the space to continuously be learning and creating? to be part of a body of people learning together how to be humans? how do we open up enough room to not know – to really have no idea – and start from there, leaning into what is most beautiful and most true, leaning into all the changing conditions and articulating the moments and the time we are in?

because the conditions change, and the truth changes and WE must change. we must continue to develop new desires, a deeper capacity to see what is, as opposed to what is for sale. everything we have been taught that is designed to keep us participating in our own oppression, our societal mind prisons, our safe victimhoods, our 99/47% niche wherein we can safely rebel as a group without actually transforming ourselves – all of this has to be shaken off so we can be part of the evolutionary thrust that vibrates within us.

i don’t think this shaking off the polite and violent armor of capitalist non-creativity generally happens in the court of public opinion – in my life it has happened in basements, over dinners, in breathless phone calls, in bed, in remote mountain yurts. moments where we lean into each other and say, “you know what I mean?”

that greater greater self is in there waiting – in each of us. and as we release ourselves to be ourselves, that greater greater society and economy and existence become possible.

i heard that joaquin phoenix has credited his critically acclaimed performance in the upcoming movie ‘the master’ to the growth that came from his deeply out there project ‘i’m still here’ where he and casey affleck made a documentary about phoenix quitting acting and becoming jp, a rapper. in the process of making ‘i’m still here’, phoenix released himself from his beauty, his public persona, his relationships.

what is that greater work within you, where does humanity need you to be more humble and free and creative? what are you willing to shift in your own desires, self-image, self-love and world in order to liberate that greater work?

riffing in this conversation reminded me of a few segments of waking life, one of my favorite films of all time because it’s basically an animated journey through philosophy, and i’m basically an animated journeying philosopher.

enjoy, and keep liberating yourself.

segment 1:

I don’t know about you, but I’m concerned with what’s happening in this world.
I’m concerned with the structure.
I’m concerned with the systems of control, those that control my life and those that seek to control it even more!
I want freedom! That’s what I want!
And that’s what you should want!
It’s up to each and every one of us to turn loose and just shovel the greed, the hatred, the envy and, yes, the insecurities…because that is the central mode of control– make us feel pathetic, small…so we’ll willingly give up our sovereignty, our liberty, our destiny.
We have got to realize that we’re being conditioned on a mass scale.

(and)
Resistance is not futile. We’re gonna win this thing. Humankind is too good! We’re not a bunch of underachievers!
We’re gonna stand up and we’re gonna be human beings!
We’re gonna get fired up about the real things, the things that matter: creativity and the dynamic human spirit that refuses to submit!

and

Segment 2:
The quest is to be liberated from the negative, which is really our own will to nothingness. And once having said yes to the instant, the affirmation is contagious.
It bursts into a chain of affirmations that knows no limit.
To say yes to one instant…is to say yes to all of existence.

The main character is what you might call “the mind.” It’s mastery, it’s capacity to represent. Throughout history, attempts have been made…to contain those experiences which happen at the edge of the limit…where the mind is vulnerable.

But I think we are in a very significant moment in history.
Those moments, those what you might call liminal, Limit, frontier, edge zone experiences…are actually now becoming the norm.

These multiplicities and distinctions and differences…that have given great difficulty to the old mind…are actually through entering into their very essence, tasting and feeling their uniqueness.

One might make a breakthrough to that common something…
that holds them together. And so the main character is, to this new mind, greater, greater mind. A mind that yet is to be.

Segment 3:
The old evolution is cold. It’s sterile. It’s efficient, okay? And its manifestations are those social adaptations. You’re talking about parasitism, dominance, morality, okay? Uh, war, predation, these would be subject to de-emphasis. These would be subject to de-evolution.

The new evolutionary paradigm will give us the human traits of truth, of loyalty, of justice, of freedom. These will be the manifestations of the new evolution. That is what we would hope to see from this. That would be nice.

I am the practice ground

i’ve been accumulating practices – actions I do intentionally, to increase my mindfulness. I recently learned that the Arabic word for human has the same root as ‘to forget’, so the word translates to ‘one who forgets’. And that in the language of most Buddhist texts, the root word of mindfulness is the same as ‘to remember’. my practices have felt like this, remembering what I have forgotten about how to be, and how magnificent existence is.

at the amazing center for whole communities next generation training I just got the honor of cofacilitating, we offered seven practices, such as silence, creativity, hospitality.

in my allied media community, we have a set of core practices which grew out of shared principles, including listening. for my somatics and trauma work there are three practices I’ve been engaged in – sitting meditation, yoga and jo kata.

it’s getting me into a perspective where more and more of my life becomes an opportunity to be practicing – awareness, abundance, love, being myself, being honest, listening.

I recently said to someone, ‘I am the practice ground to show that all humans have the capacity for abundance’, and I caught myself saying it, you know sometimes when you say something and it rings true in a way that seems larger than yourself or your experience? that seems like a piece of the universal…stuff we are supposed to be figuring out? it felt, and feels, like a truth larger than my little life.

we are none of us perfect, or consistent, or finished. i love the idea that we are each practice ground, and have some degree of control over what is practiced on and in our lives, bodies, hearts.

accounting for trauma, and oppression, and for all of those things which come to us without bidding, simply because of where and when we were born, which i cannot comprehend reason for, or ever attempt to rationalize…there is still a space where we can gain awareness of ourselves as a distinct point of miraculous existence, and bring purpose to our little tiny insignificant but potentially massive impactful and transformational lives.

so what is the purpose of our lives? what do we want practiced in the space of our waking lives, our dreams and nightmares, our sentience?

right now I’m crushed out on abundance. I can see that a root of my life’s work is scarcity, a constant scarcity of time, money, love, sex, people, challenge, excitement, etc – both for myself and the communities I was born into, or have chosen to love. I have a sense that if more people could experience that in every aspect of their lives they had ‘overflowing fullness’, there would emerge a culture of generosity, kindness, patience, curiosity, balance, and the deeper presence that comes when we are not worried about the next scarcity.

and since i am a believer in that grace lee boggs quote I reference all the time, ‘transform yourself to transform the world’, of course I’m in here trying to manifest abundance in my own life.

and i daresay it’s going splendidly, without any risk of perfection.

after approaching abundance from many different angles, I have found that time is the foundation of my experience of scarcity and abundance: how much time I have to do what I want, how much time I have for love and friendship, how much time I have for health, for family, and how much time I feel I am operating out of obligation, or out of control.

the abundance of time I had during my sabbatical at first felt too brief, then like it would never end, and then suddenly just marvelous. maintaining that abundance post-sabbatical has been daunting and worthwhile work, understanding and prioritizing and protecting my time so that I can taste abundance.

i feel utterly beginner, but some days, more and more days, I am able to give myself enough time to do the things I want and need to do for my own health and balance, so that most of my time spent with or for others comes from my fullness, from an authentic desire to give, rather than a sense of obligation.

the little surprise in all of this is that how I spend my time hasn’t changed too significantly. how i approach my time, that’s been the key. i still shower, but i shower in a practice of gratitude for water, honoring and conserving the resource, keeping the shower clean, etc.

approaching more of my time as practice time, practicing abundance and awareness, has made my life feel plentiful and useful.

I thought I would share here some of the daily-ish practices, which started one at a time, and which i only commit to as long as they serve me.

my practices right now:
1. yoga.
2. Jo kata.
3. meditation.
4. keeping phone and computer devices out of my bedroom when I sleep.
5. showers, sometimes candlelit, where I really focus on my gratitude for the water and use only what I need.
6. cooking foods, preferably locally sourced food that I know will nourish my body – and taking a moment for gratitude before consuming food.
7. happy style. literally dressing towards joy as often as possible.
8. reducing my belongings regularly, and reveling in the less and less things I need – and then keeping what I do have in clean clear order. the visual of simplicity elicits simple energy in my life.
9. drinking tons of water, really being of water.
10. becoming a better listener, particularly in my family.
11. taking responsibility for my feelings and actions, particularly when I feel or do something that makes me feel embarrassed or ashamed – exploring what’s there, what work I need to do.
12. carving spoons and other wooden creations.

there are more, of course. in some ways almost everything is becoming practice – looking at clouds when I am lifted into the sky in an act of science-magic called human flight, generating forgiveness, love and compassion for those who hurt me, recycling and composting instead of creating waste…but those 12 seem like the most prevalent ones now…and 12 is a pleasant number.

the emphasis on practicing is important too, as opposed to trying. I have found that when I was trying to meditate, or trying to be a good sister, I was often failing. ‘i’ll try’ was a way of saying what I felt I ought to do, and maybe intended to do, but didn’t believe I could actually do, or didn’t want to do.

when I am practicing, I feel like yoda is on my shoulder saying ‘do or do not, there is no try.’ and I become starkly aware of how often trying is a way for me to Not Do without taking responsibility for choosing to not do. or, if I drop a task, or hurt someone, and say I wasn’t trying to, it’s a way to again not take responsibility for what was done.

and in that realm of responsibility, I am tasting this other thing, a liberation from the lifelong burden of victim hood.

and it seems that even with the life I was given, the scarcities and struggles and identities and griefs, that I am capable of abundance, that I am creating it, co-creating it with others who are also practicing in their own ways. my life ceases to be the dynamic monologue of my ego, my soul ceases to be the prisoner of my worry.

the main thing I want to ask other people these days is – ‘what are you practicing?’ and from that, ‘what are you learning?’

you and i shape our purpose from what we believe, the shared dream, this world we all create and uphold every day. and some of us want a different world. and our every action is either a practice of the world as it is now – full of scarcity, struggle and suffering – or of a world we are creating as we dream it, say it and sing it to each other.

this week i also learned the term for a concept I’ve been in love with for years: imaginal cells. these are the cells in the cocoon that emerge, utterly new, cells that never existed in the caterpillar that spun the cocoon around itself, cells that are attacked by the decaying caterpillar cells until the spontaneously emerge in such large numbers, and cluster with each other, and when the clusters exist in large enough numbers to stop fighting for existence and begin to do their purpose (be wing cells, eye cells, etc) – then a butterfly is born.

i am pretty sure we are imaginal cells. at least, we could be.

we are definitely the practice ground for the world we are creating.

so – what are you practicing?

33 selections from my jesus year (my birthday zine!)

i was taught at a young age to go in on birthdays.

my parents created our own little birthday rituals which were all about anticipation and thoughtfulness and getting to feel the impact of people loving you. my army dad was often in the field during my birthday, and we would celebrate when he came back, so i came to expect multiple birthdays each year and i have not given that up.

yesterday i baked the pink cake with chocolate frosting from a box that i have had every birthday as long as i can remember, and have since been eating birthday cake with a steady stream of loved ones here in detroit. i love the love notes, cards, text messages, ims – i even love that i get to exist during the age of facebook-ified birthdays. this year i’m celebrating for about a month, in-person in 4-5 cities, with lots of one-on-one reflections and conversations.

whereas last year all i longed for was solitude, this year what i hunger for is more quality time with all the people i love.

and i am aware that i just finished a monumental year where i was gifted a community supported sabbatical, traveled around the world, transitioned my relationship and reclaimed my love of my self and my body. i wrote a lot this year, and so as a birthday present to myself, and a love/gratitude offering to everyone who supported me throughout the year, i spent the last night of 33 and first few hours of 34 creating a birthday zine.

it includes blog entries, notes written throughout the year, poems, and some pictures.

LOVE!

–> 33 selections from my jesus year <–

in the big vast ocean/where the miracles begin

when in doubt, scrub the mildew from the shower wall, separate everything you own and rearrange it, open and close your fists, stare at the ceiling fan, sweep again – the dust is always creeping.

negotiate with the spiders on home space, write a secret song or private poem, go back and read about all those previous heartbreaks, and see how brave you have been, how far off and unfrightening they are now that you are now.

make a list of your brilliant ideas.
revel in all this doing.

then, when in doubt, manifest a celebration.

let clay dry all over your face, put jasmine and roses in your hair, make a feast for seven days, press coconut oil into your legs, stare at the ceiling fan, hear the crickets and the buses, and eventually the neighbor’s rooster waking up the chicory and concrete corners – you need this human silence.

then, when in doubt, find the mirror and see the way you are becoming.

marvel that there is so much you do not know, will not know as flesh. laugh at your own tender patterns, such a complex path and yet, still, just one path. and in spite of the uncertainty, you keep moving into your life…at times in that sun drenched ballroom hustle, at times in this sloppy and weeping crawl.

and then, when you find yourself in that big vast ocean, no shore in sight, no sun or star, your own salt on your lips and your tongue, your own clean dark house so utterly far behind you, and when you start to wonder again why why why again…

remember it is abundance you are feeling.

an abundant love you are grieving, an abundant space to create and create, an abundance of moments which require all of you, which you earned by opening, an abundance of futures as yet uncompromised.

then, if you can bear it, turn over on your back girl, and float, and be held. feel the comforting swell of all you do not control or comprehend. let yourself be salt water blood and skin, you are the settling mud, the water, and the dust where miracles begin.

happy style

for some time now i have been building up my fashion way. i’ve named it happy style because it makes me happy, and it makes children happy, and often makes other adults happy too. i thought i would share here: some of my general guidelines on how to do happy style.

1. cleanse! remove from your closet and your existence any items of clothing, jewelry, shoe wear, nail polish, glasses, hats and make up that do not make you feel happy, comfortable, fabulous and hot. this extends to hairstyles and body art.

2. acquire from love! have a general rule for the acquiring of new goods: that you LOVE it and it is essential to representing you at your highest exclamation of self. not based on fashion trends, but based on your self. for me, that includes used clothing, zero waste clothing, clothing and accessories that support local business – justice fashion items.

particularly focus on those aspects which are most constant – for me that meant the glasses, the jewelry I never remove, my tattoos, and hair. then shoes of course :-)

3. feel yourself! when you go to get dressed, start by focusing in on what kind of feeling you want to express for the day. is it a productive day? a revolutionary day? a sexy day? playful? bossy? dirty? a combination?

part of your happiness will come from having the appropriate outfit for the day. you don’t have to meet other people’s expectations on what these expressions look like, as long as you are meeting your own.

4. get centered! what is the centerpiece of your outfit for this particular miraculous day? someone’s grandmother used to say have on nice panties in case it’s your last day. i echo that but for the whole outfit – if this was your last chance to express the wonder that is your unique magnificence, where would you start?

build an outfit around whatever you are most excited to wear in the context of forever, whether it’s a belt, the shoes, an earring, whatever. let the outfit emerge from that first piece. many of my best outfits have emerged from a fabulous belt.

5. emerge and expand! consider what would add life, flavor, explosion and heat to the outfit? adapt and adjust accordingly. you can heal and inspire with this get-up, transform days and spirits.

one rule of thumb I use is – do i have on things that babies will be drawn to? they are very close to the universe and super nova mysteries, and thus excellent judges of happy style.

6. embody! to finish, walk around and make sure you feel deeply comfortable, that nothing will need constant attention and adjusting. you just want to feel fabulous.

now not only should you look delicious, but you should feel like your whole self.

happy style!