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.

earth do what you will/forgive us

prayer/submission/spell

earth do what you will
mother father creator home
full of wrath, molten, tremoring
you show us how to live and to hurt you
all our life, we spiral out from your body
stardust and sea, anemone and feather
flesh and flower, metal and bone

earth forgive us
all children are greedy
we all demand love beyond what we can give
we all expect your miraculous patience
we are nonsensical, ungrateful
we take your hours, wooden toys, all the sweet
the attention, life force, and all your peace

earth do what you will
how long have we terrorized you
we violate your soft/sacred-ness, deny
that you are changed and changing, that your heart is broken, spirit struggling for respite
venom spilling from the wounds, swelling the surface, catastrophic chasm opening within

but earth please forgive us
for we are split as a species
let us who see you and love you
let us join you, we can tell you where the hurt begins, we can tell you where it ends
let us stay and whisper love songs to you in the turning of the cosmos. let us stay.

earth do what you will
cast us into the endless sky
make us brief

earth forgive us
before we learn to apologize
see us whole

earth do what you will
say finally, enough
take back each perfect gift

earth – forgive us
for we think we are walking
when you carry us

earth do what you will
we thought we could live without you
we have been wrong every day

earth forgive us
every step away from you is an error
even now, we love you

a prayer for aleppo

praying fails some nights

the current day eviscerates
the horizon
the future ends for
people who we can see
and we can feel
but will never know
will never touch

to live is to witness
to witness is to suffer
to live is to suffer
we witness you suffer

but
prayer is our revolution

believing from memory
we offer you,
folded up, from palm to palm
this miracle:

may you see tomorrow
may you feel love
may you know justice
may you taste freedom

michael brown’s homegoing

i have been watching ferguson and feeling many many things. how unique this moment is, and how familiar. how exciting the responses have been, and how exhausted i am by the need to respond. most of all, how to manage all of these front lines, all these black bodies swinging, all this brutality to brown skin.

where i sit in detroit, it is a beautiful, soft, cricket-full summer. and there are masses with no water. the u.n. said it isn’t right, like they said gaza isn’t right. so. there isn’t much relief in the moral high ground.

tonight it is the virgo new moon, and it is a night for prayer, ritual, magic and saying what it is we want. i want the kind of safety that comes when no one is afraid of you, when you are loved unconditionally, when you can make mistakes and live to learn the lessons, when you can rest assured that you will only die of natural causes, when you have every opportunity to live a beautiful and impactful life, when you can be bold and young and vivacious and sassy and creative and brave and tender and old and full of tears, pleasure, laughter, wisdom, new life. and black. i want, i invoke, the safety for black and brown people, for all people, that will come with the healing of the species from the mental illness of racial supremacy/inferiority.

i thought the moon should know.

they called him michael
and he was her only blameless child
and you would have loved him
but he died so quickly,
like a nameless child
(chorus of a song i wrote in high school, for another brown boy who never made it home)

lay him in the dirt
lift him high, raging angels
let him make it home
(for black august on the day of michael brown’s funeral)