how about a beginning of self-determined care?

my friend b loewe wrote this blog an end to self-care, and i was moved to respond.

hi lovely b 🙂

thank you so much for putting this out there, i feel the energy of it. and as a community-supported self-care queen on day 8 of a juice cleanse, i have to engage.

my negative feelings on self-care kept me in a state of not caring for myself for years, delaying me in getting what i needed, keeping me in unhealthy movement spaces, feeling powerless and tired.

my community had to intervene. they generated the resources to send me off to take care of myself. if they hadn’t done that, i don’t know if i would be here at all.

once they had intervened, i still had to go through an internal process to get to a place where i determined that i needed this healing, that i wanted to be able to give to movement from a healthier place.

so…i love the idea of community care…but what is that, if not community supporting each other in our self-determined efforts to care for ourselves and our families?

there’s that relationship wisdom, “you can’t change someone else.” i feel that – i know it’s true for me, when people try to change me i root my feet down into the soil of what is.

grace boggs speaks it into movement, echoing gandhi, “we must transform ourselves to transform the world.”

for me this includes self-care. or perhaps more precisely, self-determined care. because the messages we receive are that our lives don’t matter, that we don’t deserve love, or even to exist. to choose instead to value ourselves, our health, and the health of our communities – all as one, not at odds with each other, is radical, it’s self-determination.

and i love the idea you put out that “movement work is healing work” – it absolutely should be, and sometimes it is. and when it is, it’s amazing.

but so much of the movement work we do these days is not structured in ways that promote sleep, much less healing. there are some beautiful flows of intense work, but more often than not, in my work as a facilitator, organizational development lover and coach, what i see over and over again are isolated, exhausted and overworking organizers in endless loops of tasks, conflicts and fundraising. i observe work done in a state of urgency that often leads us to not have time to cook for each other, care for each others’ kids, or even to pursue that “political clarity” which maria speaks of.

when movement is full of individuals with scarce energy and health, that scarcity flows in every direction – it leads to us competing with each other for resources. that’s what this capitalist system wants us to do, compete with each other for what we are told is enough. the shift towards grassroots fundraising is a beautiful response to this – that we generate abundance within ourselves, so our movement work can be self-determined.

that is the same thing we need to seek as individuals – abundance that allows our lives and work to be self-determined, community-determined.

i think that burn-out happens when life is not lived with intention. when we are mindful and intentional, we can begin to experience abundance, not in the material sense, but from the joy of living our lives on purpose.

its a privilege for us to even have this conversation, i recognize that. but there are some people, people with less time and resources than either of us have, who are just beginning to get a tiny little bit of encouragement to take care of themselves, and i would hate to see your words take away from that, or make people feel guilty for that.

i think it matters that we value and love ourselves and each other. and to me, that looks like affirming the radical act of love however it comes, without judgment, whether it’s through a movement retreat, or a yoga class, or knitting, or a protest, or a garden.

so yes, let’s get specific about community care – how does it look to do this so that people are able to do for themselves what they need? some people thrive working long hours with very little alone time…others thrive with two hours of meditation every day, or physical activity.

how do we create communities where everyone can self-determine and ask for what they need, offer what they have to give, where the result is abundance?

long blog short, i don’t think this is either/or. i think this is yes: more health, more care, everywhere. getting more people in more communities talking about what a healthy caring life looks like, how they are already living and caring for themselves and each other, and how we all support each other. and not just how generations from now people might live a healthy live, but how we are and can be practicing health, well-being, joy and justice in the here and now.

because from experience, the healthier i am, the more authentic love and contribution i am able to give to movement, to the next generation in my life. the more i prioritize caring for myself, caring for my community and accepting care from my community, the better and brighter spark in the movement flame i can be.

egypt, love and liberation

my heart is bursting from my chest today, tears on my cheeks, my skin covered in waves and waves of goosebumps as my body integrates the beautiful revolution in egypt.

i am watching al jazeera, reading the voices of egyptians on twitter, watching and listening as the egyptian protestors dance and sing and scream and celebrate the success of their revolutionary effort.

in case you don’t know yet – hosni mubarak, after 30 years of holding the presidency in egypt, has been forced out of power by the egyptian people after 18 days of revolution. and it’s not just him, it’s his entire regime. and it’s not just egypt, it’s tunisia, it’s the entire region! and instead of handing power over to the unacceptable vice president he appointed 14 days ago, mubarak conceded power to the army, who have unequivocally stated that they will stand with the people and the democratic process in this effort.

there is so much work to come as the people continue to learn how to hold power together. there is so much grief to process for the lives lost in this struggle, the martyrs who sacrificed themselves for something they knew was greater – justice.

and right now, there is this moment of feeling absolutely alive, feeling the absolute best potential of humanity when it rises up against corruption, against oppression, against violence.

if i could do backflips, or be a firework, or transport myself to tahrir square – i would.

all i can think is – how beautiful is it when people love themselves so much that they cannot continue being compromised, when they must stand up for justice?

it is so beautiful – i can’t take my eyes off of it.

“i feel so proud to be egyptian”, “i love my people” – this is love, that inner transformation which allows you to be brave and persistent and nonviolent and put others before yourself. this is love, happening at a quantum scale.

and i feel so humbled. i live in the united states, where i constantly hear organizers talking about strategy, how can “we beat them?”…and i have felt, deeply, that it isn’t about the enemy, it’s about what is within you. are you willing to step up, to put your voice and body behind your beliefs, to live in a new way? are you willing to be fearless? are you willing to see everyone as a potential ally in the larger mission for justice?

but i haven’t had enough modern models of love and inner transformation creating tangible large-scale change to draw on. now, egypt has given us this gorgeous model. nonviolent, personal, loving, healing, taking care of each other and their country, and not giving up – cleaning the streets, inviting the army to stand with the people, setting up their recycling centers and medical stations and childcare and creating the society they longed for – that is what revolution can look like.

and it is so important to me that this model of love and nonviolence comes to us all from the arab world, from the very people who have been SO internationally maligned and targeted, by my country and others, as “dangerous”, “terrorists”. it is important for us all to grasp that in fact, egyptians, arabs, are the current face of people’s power, of a new democracy, of a love-based transformational movement.

i am in, i am celebrating, i am crying and laughing and overjoyed. i am so grateful.

thank you egypt. thank you so, so much.

your love has changed the world.

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.

consider it…

consider for a moment that you are not destined for something great – not in the way that we have imagined greatness. your name will not be remembered. no quotes, no recordings, no transcripts, no iconic images, no published journals.

consider that instead of a life legacy of fame, celebrity and followers, your entire purpose is to be part of something greater than any individual. that you are a temporary conduit of the miraculous mysterious unfolding of the entire universe.

would you be a cog in a wheel? a hater? would you commute? gossip? chatter? do things you don’t love? suffer?

visual: a bubble is simply space, air caught, floating through air, space in space. it is beautiful, awesome. it holds within it the same complex miraculous air that is all around it. and then it pops. it lands against some hard surface. it ceases to exist. but the space within it doesn’t cease, it just becomes part of the greater space, pushed by a fan to cool someone’s face, breathed into damaged lungs, transforming, transforming, but always there.

consider: we are like that. fragile and complex and temporary. made of the same stuff as planets, as soil, as oceans. we are heat, like suns, stars, fire. everything that exists, caught in the shell of us, and then the shell is gone, our singularity, our temporary container: poof.

bubbles don’t reason, surely they don’t come into existence and then fling themselves against the world in ways that can only end them…but we do. we reason, and with all of our capacity for dreaming and thinking and wondering and learning, we fling ourselves against each other and the world in ways that weaken our fragile containers.

the little stuff in me that feels familiar is like – pure mediation. there is something within me that feels like the air and space and stuff of mediation. not famous mediation, or celebrity mediation, or even highly paid mediation.

i have been thinking lately of why i don’t have more hustle. i get told often about things i could do to raise my profile, get more people to hear me and follow me. and i consistently have so little interest in that. the ideas that interest me most are not mine, they are collections and collisions of other people’s ideas and observations. i hold the ideas for a while, but the brain with which i process these ideas is far more temporary than the ideas themselves – they existed before me, they will exist and grow after my body and brain are gone.

consider: the world is full of information and experiences, truth and reflections. i see the species coming up with all kinds of ways to process that information – categorize it, label it, own it, store it, share it, be horrified by it, use it to shock and awe, ultimately forget it (how do you interact with…data?).

i can see the temptation of all of that – to feel like it is important to just process all the information coming at us. but sometimes i see that all the information creates patterns and pathways, a way forward, a fusion. sometimes i can see that middle ground of existence, or of organizing methodology, or of humanity, or of life – like a bright purple shell in clear water, or a point in space that is actually a dark hole of transformation. it’s not the opposition, or resistance, or liberalism, or progressive thought, or conservatism, the anarchy, the marches, the elections, the spirit of entrepreneurs, the globalization of every little thing…it’s nothing obedient or reactive at all. it’s where all of those things break out of our definition of them and merge, history happens when all of those forces merge, and it is the fusion that advances through time.

this isn’t to say i am anti-extreme, sometimes all of the energy of the world is tilted towards an extreme and the learnings from our pursuit and survival of that extreme become part of our collective knowledge and values. extremes are more important than mainstreams, because extremes are often compelled into action.

we haven’t yet figured out the way to act/live our values, collectively. we know, for instance, that it is right to at least speak of civil rights, equality, things like that. in practice, this is a generation of inhumane behavior and great inequality. we might as well name prisons after martin luther king, jr considering where black men reside these days. king’s name, his image, his words – they are applied to all sorts of things that have nothing to do with deep and pure nonviolence, with beloved communities, with his life’s work. the ideas he espoused are now carried by his name, not by a deep transformations in the way we are with each other as a mass level. his is one of the many names that we know now, and consider important, people who were only advancing a moment. their truth may or may not hold.

how can we use our reason to learn and live our values? stop floating, and start advancing our existence? if we were really listening, containing the truth of our ancestors and elders, and evolving…consider: what would you do?

how would you interact with your family?
who would you forgive?
who would you love?
what behaviors would you give up?
what practices would you begin?
who would you be?
what would you give?
how would you live?

i know i have considered these questions…
i would practice dependence and independence with my family.
i would compost, recycle, use less water, eat more greens and localize my diet. i would forgive myself for neglecting my body for so long.
i would give up reaction and practice being present.
i would choose love and do love.
i would be physical every day, i would give my time and my ability to mediate.

there is nothing stopping me…i am not angry anymore. i am giving up the hustle and getting into the flow.

consider – what are you being called to? why aren’t you listening?

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.”