maybe happiness?

being happy takes a lot of work for someone like me.

suffering makes sense to me, the world is hard and unfair and oppressive and dangerous. finding the narrative of despair is our focus as a species, hence what we call news (terror, shame, controversy, immaturity), what we slow down to ogle at in traffic (hint: not the flowers). we make each other miserable, unnecessarily. many people, including me, can make meaning of our lives by how much we suffer, how extensive and heavy the baggage is that we bring forward.

also, i am a virgo. scorpio moon. i pay attention, i look for the inconsistencies, i can see the worst case scenarios fanned out before me, a million lonely paths. since i was young, i have been drawn to what i thought of as “real life”, the hard stuff; the addictions, heartbreaks, and the places where humans were failing at perfection.

i have had to learn to cultivate joy, to generate and extend trust, to be still, to focus my attention on what brings me ease, to give myself permission to experience beauty and love. that shouldn’t be past tense, as it’s all daily practice. i am learning. i am learning that being happy is, at least initially, not about external circumstances, but about internal perspective and attention liberation.

two years ago i wrote: when i feel hopeless, it usually means my attention is on things I can’t touch. when I bring my attention to the people and places I can touch, can shape and be shaped by, my life fills with meaning, connection, joy and transformation. #attentionliberation #attentionreparations #emergentstrategy #interdependence.

i have been practicing. here are some further aspects of bringing our attention to, and experiencing, happiness.

acknowledge suffering
if you deny that suffering is real, is happening, is part of human life, then you cut off a massive part of your awareness. you move out of balance with reality. happiness lives in the connections between us, the tether that joins us to the living world.

we have to acknowledge grief, longing, anxiety, oppression, depression, despair, loneliness. khalil gibran taught us that our sorrow carves out the space for our joy, and vice versa. they are inextricably linked – to deny suffering, especially the suffering of others, is to stay in false joy, joy that takes but does not give.

acknowledge suffering.

acknowledge doubt
doubt is a sign that you are paying attention.

there is a random wild energy moving through the universe, that is what makes it interesting, what brings us the unexpected. life has patterns, but is still not predictable.

doubt is that proof of chaos that distorts the blank surface of perfection. doubt is that small cut at the foundation of a lie, which eventually fells it. doubt keeps us from staying in stupid systems forever, from believing misguided leaders when they tell stories about god, power and change. doubt helps us escape false paradigms in which joy in the present moment is impossible.

acknowledge doubt.

be smaller
start small. be small.

i am happiest when i let my life be contained within my body, listening to my needs, and letting myself follow the impulses of care and connection.

current life requires such projection, such a massive scale of oversharing and trying to change strangers through the internet and attend to massive crises. we can live our whole lives as minds, worried, thinking, untethered.

large scale sometimes still happens when you’re being small, but it’s more deeply sourced, and doesn’t create the same level of attachment. when you’re small, your discernment is about the authenticity of the care, the real person you can be and feel in each connection.

be smaller.

let it go
my papa used to say this all the time. when someone was complaining, building a case for their misery, building a case against a loved one, he’d say ‘let it go.’ he gave it to god.

i didn’t understand it then as the profound key to happiness that i now find it to be, the ability to let go of things. when i can’t change something, when it isn’t working, when we don’t know how to apologize, when they didn’t mean to hurt me, i let it go. i give it to earth – that which is larger than myself.

i also think of this as clearing the channel. one of the first ways i understood healing was that i could feel the open channel of connection between myself and others, and/or sense blockages there. i would focus on clearing the channel so that my love, care, tenderness, forgiveness or other kinds of nourishing attention could reach them. i now use this technology to let things go, to keep myself from holding grudges, becoming a sad barnacle on a wreckage of my life. i don’t stagnate in any narrative that denies my power. i let it go, i stay in sacred motion.

as often as possible, if it doesn’t serve the miracle of life, let it go.

revel in the present
the present is so precious. sometimes when i drop out of the grip of memory, when i pull myself back from forecasting into the unknown, i find myself shocked at how incredible the present is.

in the present is where love makes its offer. i look back at how often i have missed love because i had my attention elsewhere while it was happening. i have a visceral memory of the first time i felt present-time love, holding another’s hand and walking across a field, needing nothing. it was so mundane, but every blade of grass caught the light, and still does.

when i am present, i relax, bringing my attention to the gift of the moment. i am feeling. i can choose connection, or solitude (connection with others or self). i can move or be still. i can intentionally focus on what brings me awe, even while getting a flu shot or blood drawn or a speculum inserted. when the present is grief, i can remember it is gratitude, i can bring love into me.

when i am present, i understand that time is not linear, but fully available to me. in my healing work, i can relegate the past to the past, notice my own survival. i can humble myself to the futures, and listen for which ones want to use my sacred life, partner with my heartbeat to shift the potential. i can release my need to know that which i cannot know. in the present, everything is possible, except the clearly impossible. that clarity, that light on everything inside me, is a sign of right direction.

revel in the present.

when i do these things, acknowledge suffering and doubt – past present and future; when i get small, and let go of what isn’t connection, i find that the only thing left is to revel in the present. a brief car ride becomes a celebration. love becomes an option that doesn’t require contortion or obsession, just honesty. a truth spoken becomes a liberation. our species is not failing, but learning.

and i can have a moment of happiness.

that’s what all this brightness is, pouring out of me as i do my life’s work, heading towards rest, connected deeply and honestly to those who see me whole and still choose me, letting praise and critique simply be signs that others exist and feel. when i am present, i am doing my best without effort, relaxing into what is, right now.

and because it’s taken so much work, i want to claim it, here in my exhausted and overextended life, even though i need the sabbatical coming and more quiet and more vegetables…i am also full of this chaotic, tender, real time brightness. in this moment, awake again before dawn to listen to now, i feel so much life flowing through me.

i feel satisfaction.

and maybe, maybe, happiness.

attention liberation: a commitment, a year of practice

what we give attention to grows. what we pay attention to grows.

i am a commitment to attention liberation and reparations.

i am a commitment to being/shining sunlight on everything i want to see grow.

i am a commitment to divesting from anything that isn’t rooted in love.

*

today i am entering a year-long commitment of putting my attention on what i love and want to grow.

i have been heading this way, but still giving too much of my attention to that which i cannot shape, that which i cannot reach. i want to hold my attention as precious sunlight that i bestow on every practice or person or concept that advances the way i believe things should be. i want to affirm that which is done well, and/or is done bravely.

to have enough attention for this focus, i am intentionally removing my attention from those who hurt humanity or the planet, or hurt movements learning and working to protect either of these.

i will practice:

1. meditation.

each day i will practice focusing my attention on my breath through silent meditation and black feminist chanting.

“i am who i am doing what i came to do.”
“the world needs to hear her voice.”
“my people are free.”
“god is change.”

2. centering daily in the commitment of attention liberation. i am a commitment to being/shining sunlight on what i want to grow.

3. redirecting what isn’t mine. i will direct people to a resource page (link coming soon) for folks learning things that are no longer the best focus for my attention.

i will also disengage from gossip at the interpersonal or ‘media’ level. “Be the boss of your business or be bossed by those that can’t mind their own.” – Chani Nicholas

4. find the people already working on the solution.

Wherever there is a problem, there are already people acting on the problem in some fashion. Understanding those actions is the starting point for developing effective strategies to resolve the problem, so we focus on the solutions, not the problems.allied media network principles

i don’t read the news simply to be appalled and then rant about how appalled i am. i stay informed about the world with my attention on (and material support flowing towards) movements and people i believe in. we are the solution.

5. put my attention on growing transformative justice in conflict and grievance. this one is big. and this level of work doesn’t happen on social media.

while purely punitive measures can feel briefly sayisfying, i know they do not work outside of a transformative justice process, at worst recreating/proliferating harm, shame, repression, and isolation; at best making people act right without healing whatever is broken at the root.

once light is shed on a harm, i will participate in tj processes where appropriate, or support by mediating or connecting those involved to someone who can help get them to and through a process of resolution.

if that isn’t possible (for instance, if both/all parties are not willing to participate in a process in good faith) i will hold and support strong boundaries, wish all parties the sacred work of transformation, and keep it moving.

i will not give attention to continuous case building against people or institutions where i do not see a commitment to resolution and transformation.

6. i will report back on new year’s eve of 2018, on what i learned through this practice.

wish me luck, and/or join me.

bonus: emergent strategy mantras

i am no victim of life; i shape change.
we are not victims of circumstance; we shape change.

i practice what i want to become.
we practice what we want to create.

i am a microcosm of all the possible justice, liberation, pleasure and honesty in the universe, and i act accordingly.

i remember that i exist only in relationship to other people and systems.

i accept that i cannot change others, but i can hold standards for my own life.

i willingly engage in and support transformative justice processes for accountability and getting in right relationship.

i create more possibilities in the face of scarcity thinking.

i act from and towards love.

attention liberation, attention reparations

attention is one of our most valuable resources.

in your own life, attention is what determines the quality of your lived experience. if your attention stays on what’s wrong, on your powerlessness and pain, you can become identified with a victimized, power under narrative, and that will grow.

if your attention is instead on gratitude, collective power, experimentation, curiosity and celebration, these things will grow in your life. brené brown and oprah and ava and all the manifestors know this.

to be able to pick your attention up from the main stream of crisis and commercials (and other competitions for your money), and to put your attention where you want and need it, is something i’m starting to think of as attention liberation.

with this administration it’s clearer than ever that there are many forces who benefit from keeping our attention on a reactive string, puppeting us through fairly predictable responses that usually don’t change underlying conditions or power dynamics. we listen to stories that leave us feeling furious and helpless, and we get engaged in our prescribed response (lately it’s usually a hashtagged post about how messed up the story is from every possible angle) – until the next time our attention is directed, to the next scandal or controversy.

but we can train our attention, train ourselves to pick our attention up and place it where we want it, where we need it to be. i do this with meditation, learned from various teachers and through generative somatics.

i meditate by focusing on my breath for 10-30 minutes daily. when i forget to practice, i quickly become reactive. i start to scroll the news obsessively, feeling my powerlessness and hypocrisy more than anything else.

when i meditate daily, when i intentionally liberate my attention, i find i have enough focus to make healthier life choices, feel my agency, and to do work that has a longer, deeper arc of transformation.

it’s not that i ignore the news. i dose myself with current events in the news cycle – i’m still learning to balance and measure how much is useful and when it becomes a distraction or a trap. i accept mainstream news as fairly cyclical, generally overwhelming…and as another way that money moves. there’s a ton of waste information, useless filler. the things we should know about are declawed, pitched for greatest affect, or told to us in a way that makes us scared, vulnerable to the suggestions and sales of others.

and there’s a compulsive and hyperbolic liar in the highest office of this land.

so i scan for what i believe and what i can impact. i take the impactful action as soon as i can – make the donation, spread the word, sign the petition, etc. if there’s not more i can do, i get back to my work, work i deeply believe is my calling.

i don’t want to spend my life reacting to other people’s cycles, their mistakes, lies, or ignorant projections, or the domination cycles of those who measure their humanity in false supremacy. those things will continue. but what we pay attention to grows. so i pay attention to the places we as a species are learning, changing, getting free, experiencing pleasure and joy.

my life feels so different when i liberate my attention that it almost feels like the universe is gifting me attention reparations. instead of being frozen by hopelessness and fear for my species, which is often my reaction to the news, i experience a lot of days where i’m full of awe, laughter, work that induces pride, noticing the small and massive miracles that are part of each day.

it’s taken a long time to train my attention even a bit, and i’m still super beginner level with it. but the results in my daily life are already so powerful. i feel somewhere between productive and prolific on the days i wake up and set my mind on freedom.

i want to see people with a transformational world view be as productive and prolific as possible. it’s a ways off yet, but i imagine it all the time, that we burst the shell of the old world with our vibrant, biodiverse, generative resistance in the form of willful, manifested ideological evolutions.

let us put our attention on a revolution for our species, and grow it until we earn the miracle.