Tag Archive for 'practice'

90 days

jasmine abdullah richards was sentenced today to 90 days in jail.

for lynching.

she is the first black person ever convicted of felony lynching. it is an outrageous charge. i keep seeking other words for this convergence of feelings, but only outrage comes close to accuracy.

this is a moment every black person, particularly those participating in visionary organizing and protest to assert that our lives matter, need to internalize. this is our 90 days.

it is more than an individual punishment, it is a test of our interconnectedness, our alertness, our attention.

we must practice sustaining this story and our connection to jasmine beyond the life span of a meme or trend.

tonight i rocked the babies to sleep and somewhere in there i too drifted – it was a long day and i was not really awake or asleep, suspended between tired and responsible, listening and dreaming.

it is so much we are expected to hold, it is easy to drift away from what we most care about, most long for.

today there was an unaccountable young rapist in my face, electoral extremes as part of my social media feed celebrated a woman presidential nominee and part complained of shady election mishaps. i wore purple all day for Prince’s first birthday as an ancestor. there’s so much all at once. so we drift.

but jasmine is one of our freedom fighters. her captivity is tied to our liberation.

when the news came this afternoon i felt relief that it wasn’t four years, and anger that it was even one day.

the nibblings, who were my reaponsibility today, noticed my emotions and asked me what i could do. and i thought about it.

of course continue my work, we always continue to fight our local-global fight in so many ways. but i kept coming back to the words jasmine shouted in the courtroom, echoing assata across time: it is also our work now to “love each other and protect each other”. what can i do to love and protect jasmine?

i mapped out 90 days on the calendar. it ends on my birthday in september. it’s three months. this amount of time has already flown by twice this year. for jasmine’s sake I hope it flies by now.

what leapt to mind was a spiritual commitment to keep my attention on her every day until she is free. to not let her fall away from my heart as the changes keep coming. to think of her, to feel these 90 days with her.

so i reached out to some friends – i have been in a practice of shifting my relationship to sugar with a group of other social justice beloveds. five of us (so far) have committed to being in collective practice over the next 90 days, in jasmine’s name. we will practice with our bodies (mostly abstaining from added sugars, one person is cutting out caffeine, one is also doing a 12 sun salutation yoga practice, another is doing a practice of free dance) to stay mindful of jasmine’s revolutionary work during this time, and to ensure that we feel these next 90 days.

i am sharing this here as an invitation. how will you #standwithjasmine?

update:

– lena gardner offered the tag #solidaritywithjasmine

– we’re up to 91 people now!

– Black Lives of Unitarian Universalism joined!

– Malcolm X Grassroots Movement joined!

– there’s a facebook group for those who want to join, just let me know if you want the invite! <3

rain soaked notes

I’ve been looking for a name for what I am doing in Mexico this time. Practice Intensive feels most accurate. Creation Retreat?

In 2012 I took a six month sabbatical, two weeks of which I spent in Mexico. It was the fourth stop on the journey, but that was the two weeks where I actually slowed down, disconnected with the external world and began reconnecting with myself. I made a commitment to build some time into each year for…that. This.

It’s not a sabbatical in the way the first trip was, not even a mini version of that. I needed to Do Nothing for a while back then, and I felt burnt out and lost. I needed massive transformation.

These trips, these days, I’ve needed rest, but I’m also on my path and that feeling is it’s own source of center and sustenance.

And I still need to recalibrate how I’m spending my time every so often. What happens here is that I set my patterns and intentions for the year. Whatever comes, here’s how I want to be.

It’s a vacation destination, but doesn’t feel like a vacation, because there’s a lot I’m doing. This time, my goal was to finish a first draft of a book on emergent strategy, which I did last Friday. Which feels like…

!
!!
!!!

And so on.

And now I’m going through the rampant self-doubt work related to putting something you love with your whole being into a tangible form. Just more awareness work. And notes for the next draft.

But in addition to the writing, which has included the book and a bunch of short stories, I’ve been doing a lot of other practices. Practices I need in my daily life, which can slip away in the chaos of even the good times, much less the grieving times.

My practices here have included guided and silent meditation, yoga, Spanish lessons, daily tarot reading, journaling, creating art, reducing social media viewing, reflecting on the year I just lived and the year that’s coming, rituals, reading physical books, and a 300-word daily speculative fiction writing challenge with my Clarion woes.

It’s also included preparing for a year of no added sugars, which will begin when I return to the US in a few days.

That prep has taken a lot of forms – logistical and ritual, yes, but mostly emotional. I’ve been moving in this direction for a while, with community and family. It’s so clear to me that my sugar addiction is the next frontier, the next set of gates (yes, I’m referencing The NeverEnding Story, because that’s how I feel going through changes). I’m mostly really excited – I know it feels better. I know I can do it. I know my body wants it.

I’ve been setting up plans and support structures for handling big emotions, which are, no surprise, the consistent trigger for sugar binging. I’ve also been ritually having sweet things I won’t have for a long time, with gratitude – the fun part of the prep.

The other practices – mindfulness, quiet, returning to my body and to the present moment – all support and connect to the shift in my sugar life. And vice versa – knowing that the fuel in my body isn’t there to hook me in, but rather to nourish me, from the earth…that lines up with the kind of presence and gratitude and balance I want throughout my life.

Being public about the sugar journey is itself a practice. Like most addictions, it thrives on silence, ignorance, deception and omission.

This trip, I have noticed how the connected world is encroaching everywhere on the world of quiet, meditation, escape. This year the WiFi is stronger, more of the neighbors have televisions, news and crisis pops up daily – perhaps this is no longer far enough away.

Or perhaps this is advanced practice, like daily life. Where is my choice in all of this, how do I continue to train my attention?

I have wrestled with boundaries, feeling frustrated that people keep asking me for work things while I am on break. And yet I know it’s no one’s else’s fault. If I let myself be too accessible, I don’t get the time I know I need. Reading Carlos Castaneda is helping with this.

And turning off WiFi.

I will add that since I completed the book draft, it has been cloudy and raining. Not light drizzles either, torrential downpours that flood the neighborhood. Instead of the beach time and swimming and scuba diving that I expected to do to celebrate in this post-book week, I have done other things – reading, listening to music, all of my practices.

I realized that I can get a Mayan massage and limpias for $25, so I’m redistributing my defunct scuba budget to get rubbed on lots and lots.

I’ve had more time for deep listening, for observation.

I noticed that Bruce Springsteen is always singing to someone he calls ‘little girl’. That David Bowie does sound like an alien to me, in the best way. That when I want the music closest to my heart, I always turn back to Ella, Billie, Etta, Dorothy, Dinah, Sarah – the classic black female vocalists of the jazz era.

I’ve noticed that I can let things pass without needing to engage or correct. For example, a bunch of white people with dreadlocks were in the town and all looked at me with a lot of…hmm what was that look? Longing? Invitation? I biked away. Then the other day I sat down for a nice restaurant dinner and after about two minutes a very belligerent drunken couple sat down at the next table with a little boombox playing something that sounded like country metal. I considered my options, decided to put on my headphones and drown them out with the ethereal sounds of Gallant. I have my own work to do.

I watched a community of ants move a piece of prosciutto, and felt really blown away by how they did it. I am barely resisting the urge to intentionally leave them food just to watch them manage it all.

I have grieved for all the people who have passed while I was away, especially sweet and brilliant Bowie, who has been a beacon on my weird futurist fluid fashionista path. Even how he passed, creating a releasing incredible music til the end. Yes.

I downloaded Labyrinth the other night, having forgotten how scary it actually is. It’s scary.

I considered writing a comparative piece about Bowie’s Lazarus and Drake’s Legend. We’ll see.

I’m having my most successful experience with learning a language other than English (every other experience has ended in official failure), which is exciting. The difference between my Duolingo competence and real life conversation is hilarious though. Real life is so much faster.

I have a few more days of this intensive period, and then another big year takes off. Last year was so complex, it took a lot to survive and navigate it. Here I am, stronger, clearer. And I feel excited. And I feel ready. And I know that comes with practice.

notes from BALLE talk

i spoke today at the annual gathering of the business alliance for local living economies.

the theme for this session was changing the story. fran korten facilitated, with gar alperovitz, d’artagnan scorza and myself as panelists.

i was selected as a BALLE fellow last fall, and am super excited about their work, although i ended up stepping back from the fellowship because it wasn’t lining up with where my life is going (babies, writing sci-fi, etc) and i wanted the resource to go to someone in detroit who loves entrepreneurship and could really bring the skills home (enter the remarkable jess daniels). they were deeply understanding about it and invited me to still come through to the conference.

i spoke after gar, whose brilliant book i have been reading (and I had prepared some questions for him but he had to dip early), and d’artagnan, who is a serious mlk meets will allen meets berry gordy type brother from l.a. who i have come to deeply respect since connecting in the fellowship.

though my formal work (facilitation, curriculum development) with the detroit food justice task force is done, i still wanted to share a little about what i learned there and what changing the story looks like in my beloved detroit. these are the notes i prepped for the talk, which came out a bit differently, but you’ll get the gist here:

detroit is the ultimate city of changing the story – narrative is the key to our future.

detroit is dying? ‘we see opportunity in crisis’, ‘detroit is what the country has to look forward to.’

time to right size the city? ‘we aren’t leaving the land we have tilled’, ‘now is the time to grow our souls.’ [grace lee boggs]

detroit’s a blank canvas? detroit is a city full of survival stories and brilliance.

noticing stories? we notice stories, we create stories.

my friend mia herndon often says, capitalism is not failing, it is working for the elite. beautifully. but in detroit, lots of people are beginning to practice alternatives, even if we don’t yet have language for it.

the businesses and organizations that we support are ones that honor the survivors, the resilience, not saying they are filling empty space or saving poor detroiters. detroit doesn’t need saving, we need folks to recognize the creative and brilliant ways detroit is still here.

even just what you see – you might see abandoned lots – we see fertile ground. we are detoxifying years of abandonment, corruption, and being forgotten, composting the —- people have spoken about/dropped on the city.

literally and figuratively. we have the fastest growing and largest urban agricultural movement in the country! land mass to compare to l.a. but just over 700k living there. do you understand that scale of potential food growth? but it hasn’t necessarily created sustainable business models – because the majority of the 713k people left in the D don’t want to eat it, or can’t get to it, or can’t afford it.

so the food justice task force charged itself with connecting the abundant food potential to the hungry people of the city – that’s why the twitter handle is @justfeeddetroit – looking at all possible options to feed detroit.

first, wow, it’s overwhelming how many challenges there are, how many systems need to shift. it’s a long arc, a long piece of work. but one of the things we realized was that we needed to change the story at the neighborhood level.

so cook eat talk was a series of events we created where instead of asking people what was wrong with their community, or training them on the crisis, we asked what works? what is your favorite food? who are your food heroes? who is feeding the neighborhood now? where are the gardens? how are your cornerstores and liquor stores, where you get groceries?

and then we could ask, what do you need, what do you long for, what is the new story of the neighborhood?

we heard about grandmothers cooking for the neighborhood, folks gardening found plots. to be real, a narrative and land battle is afoot in detroit, between those who claimed the land when no one else wanted it, and those who just realized it is the most fertile gorgeous place…

we also heard about chili cheese fries. how delicious they are, and the real question from a young person of ‘could they be nutritious’? (audience members told me to try parsnips and string beans btw)

the real question emerged: how do we create a desire for the healthiest food possible, the healthiest life possible?

it’s possible to get it, it’s possible to get the rights to grow it, we have a food policy, we have restaurants and farmer’s markets and grocers and cooks and pantries and foodlab and all the potential for a justice based food system. we must tune into and keep growing that longing, consistently.

the cook eat talk model worked for folks, and people have run with it, even using cook eat talk to have other community conversations. the task force is finalizing a food justice curriculum to use for the next round of programming.

i want to throw in that my other work is in science and speculative fiction, growing our capacity to imagine, practicing the right and responsibility of writing ourselves into the future. which to me falls in line here with moving past idealism and into new practices.

competition is not going to be eradicated with pointing fingers. we must ‘be the change’, we must ‘transform ourselves to transform the world’ – the older i get the more i understand we can’t change others. we can inspire though, we can show that something is possible. we have to do inner work, generate new imaginings, to heal the trauma and change the patterns within ourselves.

we have to practice. understand that every single thing we are doing is a practice. are we practicing old? new? very old? intention, with?

envision the new story, practice it into existence.

after this fran asked everyone to reflect on the story they are trying to change, and we created a map of the stories we are changing from (profit is our purpose, any job is a good job, american dream, change is impossible, dystopia), and the story we are changing to (we have many purposes and that biodiversity is good for life, abundance is the default state of earth, meaningful work, dreams for all, change is inevitable, utopia). we talked about how we make that change – naming the vision, practicing, creating art and culture, redefining wellness, practicing, practicing, practicing.

it was inspiring to hear how much this room full of small local business owners grasp these radical love-based thoughts. the great turning feels active.

way of the healthy nomad

i mean nomad here in the sense of one who travels for food, or to make a living, and one who is home in the journey. i am noticing the things which help me stay healthy and grounded while spending the majority of my life traveling.

leave no trace behind – beyond joy.

…unless i find a place i want to return to. mark it with a pair of sweatpants or a beloved book.

then, let go of attachment to materials and plans. i am this journey.

remember the sacred space is inside – it is my body, and it is worn on my face.

that said, a little bag of items that feel grounding can’t hurt. currently mine holds a bunch of gifts including a tiny ganesha statue for removing obstacles, zen tarot cards, a stick of palo santo to clear bad energy when i am in a new space, and a print up of my favorite sutra, which i am making into a song to remember. i add my mala when they come off my wrists each night, like they are getting recharged.

the most important resource i carry is water. keep water carrier full and flowing. immerse myself in water wherever i find it, remember its all of one place, one system.

pack based on weather, such that i can layer up and down and still look fly. know exactly where along the journey i will clean my clothing. fabulous minimalism = happy style. very few people look cute with too much baggage.

the right piece of cloth can be blanket, scarf, coat, hair wrap, baby carrier and decoration. it should be beautiful.

learn practices to center and strengthen myself. practices to do anytime, anywhere. meditation, prayer, yoga, aikido, etc have all persisted for a reason.

gather up instances of kindness, always notice when a human is being with me.

cultivate compassion, there are so many mysteries.

eat what i am given enthusiastically, with gratitude. carry fruit to avoid desperation.

articulate what i need shamelessly, with self-love.

a walk tunes me into the pace of the place where i have landed.

delays are opportunities to create and reflect. or write. or meditate. or discover new music. or catch up with my loves angelina and beyonce. or chat with my many collaborators in the life. or call my mama.

and if in all of this i feel homesick, if i feel lost, if i am exhausted, ear plugs and a good book can still transport me wherever and whenever i need to go.

—-

p.s. my homey leah wrote a piece on travel tips for folks who are chronically ill – check it here!

2012, and scene.

2012 has been such a full and blazing year.

this year i grabbed my life up, got fierce about what my every day looks like. there have been years of great advances in my life, and great setbacks – and most of those have been in pursuit of righteous and grandiose dreams for what i am meant to do in the world.

this year, in many ways, it felt like i woke up.
or began to.

the year had two parts.

the first part, traveling the world on sabbatical, was all about getting quiet enough to have some agency. the further i get away from that international journey, the more clearly i see what i brought home beyond the gorgeous tan – this capacity to take a step back into myself without disconnecting, to find the quiet room of my own reckoning, and determine right action. the quiet room is massive and constant.

i believe myself, which is a relatively new experience. i believe what i feel, and am less inclined to creative beautiful fictions to counter those feelings if they require difficult action. it is hard to be a writer and also live an authentic life, but i am getting there.

the second part of the year was a long series of opportunities for application of this practice of getting quiet within, and taking right action.

i have had so many distinct opportunities to step further and further into living my truth, holding every day of my life, every moment, as the practice ground for being the abundance i have longed for for so long.

i have learned some things about abundance.

it is self-perpetuating. each moment in which i have claimed abundance has simply increased my comfort with claiming abundance, and has made scarcity then more unbearable, as a personal mindset or a worldview.

it is a natural state. there is a period in each of our lives before we start participating in the routines of shared time (school, work, etc) where we are just present. how long we get to be in that place depends on a number of factors, but it is worth protecting. for a long time i couldn’t figure out just why i adored children so much, but it is this capacity to be present that is so delicious. and in that present state, to be able to easily say what is interesting and focus on that, that is a skill worth reclaiming as adults. so much scarcity comes from wasting time on things that neither interest nor excite us at the foundational level.

and abundance is immediate. its not something you have to plant and wait for spring. that too of course, it grows now and in all your potential futures. but if you truly call it in, you must be ready for it, because it shows up right away, and you will want to have room for it.

i love what i have learned so far. i am grateful for all of my teachers. for next year, i have no new resolutions, i just want to deepen my practice of abundance, which deepens my incredible life.

blowing you kisses!

it’s a daily choice

there has been so much growth, life, death, loss, excitement, change, and work in my life lately. at the same time i have been working to establish a practice, or set of daily practices, to ground and center me, focus me on my best offerings to the world, let me clear and clarify. i have wrestled with practice, as i have wrestled with all disciplines in my life. give me space, creation space, rules to break, lines to cross, newness and naughtiness and truth – i’m yours. but practice? something every day? the same thing every day? yawn…life is long!

and yet…when i practice the difference is palpable. on a day where i meditate, do 10 reps of jo kata, center myself, think about what i love and want to manifest: MY LIFE IS AMAZING. literally i eat well, cook skillfully, listen deeply, am full of action and accomplishment, am humble and loved and open.

and on days where i don’t have time – don’t make/take time – for myself? i trip, i stumble, i fall, i eat fast foods, i sneak bad things like ice cream and cigarettes, the pool is suddenly closed, i get tickets from the city of oakland, i become a vexed person, cynical, venting, a hater…i forget important things, my to-do list seems unbearable, other people are mean and potentially in a conspiracy of stupid behavior designed to stump my instincts for good…swirling down a drain of ick.

what i am realizing is that it is not WHAT i practice, but THAT i practice. it’s the daily choice…actually millions of small daily choices, that make the life i want to lead. even if i consider practicing, and choose not to, aware of the implications – it is better than making no choice, being asleep in boredom or misery.

and when i make a good choice – to make space for the stillness, to move towards my intentions, to center myself all the way down to the earth before responding to anything – it’s power. i have nothing but love and redemption in me, i’m human in the most miraculous way.

it’s transformational.

deep change

i’m sitting in the wonderful asheville airport after a weekend with other people who, like myself, are interested in transformational personal and political work. we were all brought together by rockwood, stone circles, movement strategy center and the seasons fund for a conference called Deep Change.

i was very very excited for ruckus to be invited, because i have been with ruckus through a lot of changes, and on a fundamental level i believe direct action is a spiritual and potentially transformational act. i also believe that right now there is a need to transform the justifiable anger that many communities we work with are feeling into visionary pro-Action.

i learned so much – it feels like it was much longer than three days of time. i took a lot of notes in the process, and feel like the best way to share some of the experience is to share the questions, words i heard and moments of clarity that occurred to me throughout (in no particular order, in quotes, and with no names unless i reference some larger ongoing work that folks are doing):

– for a caterpillar to become a butterfly, it has to go into a cocoon (or pupa, or chrysalis) and become complete “goop”. the caterpillar is compelled to create and go into the cocoon, but the resulting butterfly shares no DNA with the caterpillar it once was. that is transformation.
– what is a collective metaphor equivalent to the path of the butterfly, as that is such an individual journey? (i heard something about monarch butterflies the last day that might address this – i will research this and keep y’all informed)
– what we long for is embedded in our genetic and/or ancestral memories; i remember flight and long for it. i remember wholeness, and long for it.
– “i carry everything that happened to my ancestors in my blood.”
– “i come from a circular belief system.”
– i have to heal my relationship to the south; that is where my family is from, and where my extended family is now. i thought love kept me away from the south – the interracial love that led to my birth, the woman i love now. but it is racism and homophobia that keep me from the south, and love that will bring me home.
– i am the living embodiment of love that overcomes seemingly impossible odds. that is my legacy.
– gender is not a determinant in how i experience love or attraction.
– my capacity to love is limitless.
– how do we hold the limitless dimension in our clearly limited body?
– when i sit directly across from someone who knows how to open themselves, it is possible to create a shared energy field in which words are unnecessary.
– “our efforts should not be to do no harm, it should be to do love”
– i am an earth sign, i need water all around me, over me and through me, every day.
– each human being is mostly water. “The human body is more than 60 percent water. Blood is 92 percent water, the brain and muscles are 75 percent water, and bones are about 22 percent water.” when we are in the water, and drinking water, it is home, sustenance, part of us. bless and honor water before you drink it, or while in the shower, know the water you are from and go often to the water near you. (a lot of this thinking is from Kathy Sanchez and the work of the Tewa Women’s Collective, also Masaru Emoto’s Hidden Messages in Water)
– our potential for truly DEEP practice and change is limited by two external factors that we have internalized. first, “colonization has moved us away from our ancestral practices,” and second, “capitalism has commodified the places and practices that lead us to depth.” we are displaced, and as soon as we discover something we try to mass produce it, instead of letting it root deeply.
– we have ego invested in our current form. when most of us speak of change, we mean improving or reforming our current form. most of us are not ready to truly surrender to complete transformation – practice creates the space to releasing ego and surrendering to that greater yearning.
– being in community is a practice. actually living and being accountable to other people is a key piece of knowing yourself and offering your gifts. also mentioned were prayer, meditation, song, ceremony, dance, deep listening, martial arts (folks were learning aikido principles, doing tai chi and jo kata throughout our time together). swimming has been a deep practice of mine recently.
– truth and reconciliation is a necessary part of a functional community.
– practice allows us to birth new worlds.
– “we don’t have the depth of political analysis and of personal practice we need”
– rather than continuously attempting to tell others what they lack and convince them of the need for transformational work, we must embody depth. if enough of us are willing to engage in deep practice in our political and personal journeys, and we embody the vision, the centered-ness, and the depth, then it’s possible we can create a tipping point in the culture.
– we must engage in this embodiment at the individual level, and bring it into our work so that our groups and/or organizations reflect deep and grounded visionary work. our networks, coalitions and alliances must also reflect this. the structures in which we do our work – currently 501c3s for many of us – must evolve to reflect transformational intention.
– at this moment, we must accumulate mass by growing depth in community, while staying connected to those beyond our immediate community and sharing our learnings. the other option is watering down the depth in order to make it easier to consume for the masses, engaging in the practices of our opposition, rather than the practices of our own liberation. we have to make our own communities long for their deepest, truest, free-est selves.
– “identity politics (especially as expressed by labels and self-stereotyping) is a phase”; knowing and sharing our full and complex selves, our lineages, and our life experiences is part of our path towards healing.
– nonviolent direct action has been and should be a deeply transformational and spiritual practice
– we are warriors in each nonviolent direct action we do – our action is us extending ourselves towards our visions.
– shared and emergent leadership is possible in spaces where we trust each other to stay in community
– we must bring practice – meditation, physical practices, prayer, ceremony, song – into all that we do. we might not call it “practice”, just say let’s breathe together, lets sit in silence for a few moments, let’s get grounded. but we must seek to be our most balanced selves, oriented towards our longing, in every space we share together.

whew. writing up this list rejuvenates me, and i hope it makes sense to you, dear readers.

other things that happened included getting very lost on a muddy pitch-black path in the forest, trying to get to a fire circle. there was a dog, there was the rumor of bear, there were men thrashing out ahead through the bushes, there was a woman who told me to breathe deeply and see it as an adventure, there was my fear and complaints and desire to turn back, my urbanity welling up inside me. but we made it. i learned maps can have a lot of information, but still not get you there. i learned that i can go into the darkness as long as i am with others, and particularly if i can hold another person and feel their breathing.

so – let’s go deep together. let’s practice. let’s go into the dark together, holding each other tight. as angel kyodo williams says, “this is our time.”