Day Seven of Forty

So, for 40 days and 40 nights—one or the other—I intend to post here in word counts in increments or multiples of 40, so from 40 words to 1,600, but probably somewhere in between most days. My intention is to “write through the Divide”—we all know…the one that we Americans apparently are split between. But I call bull on that, because we are not so divided as we think we are. I’ll keep this paragraph of my intro for each post, so if you’re seeing this for what feels like the bazillionth time, sorry, but someone else may be seeing it for the first time.

Stepping off the Triangle

When I last wrote about the drama triangle here, I speculated that an herb like agrimony might help people physically—and psychologically—to get some distance on the persecutor-victim-rescuer drama in their lives. I still wonder that, but there are no large-scale, randomized-controlled, double-blind studies to “prove” the efficacy of agrimony for this particular use.

Still, in the years since and through self-exploration, I think “Green Beings”, whether plants or trees, can help us gain perspective, if we are willing to visit with them and consider how they live.

But the first step is always awareness and I suspect many people are not aware of their roles in enacting dramas in their lives. I like the mantra: Neither a persecutor, nor a victim, nor a rescuer be. If it sounds made-up, it is—it’s one of my mantras and I wish more people would steal it.

No position on the triangle feels good, so why do we persist in playing?

goldenrodandgrasshopperbyleighglenn2016

Exploring nature can swing us into parasympathetic-dominant mode and allow us to self-reflect and get off the drama triangle.

As crazy as it sounds, it’s because what doesn’t involve drama is something we’ve got to accustom ourselves to. Living without drama may be a natural state for humans—love is also a natural state for us—but “natural” doesn’t mean we’re inclined toward it. Drama and its effects orient our brain a certain way and the desire for lack of drama—a low-key existence—requires us to shift it away from that orientation and that’s not easy. By low-key, I do not mean less exciting, just exciting in more joyful ways.

What makes the drama triangle such an icky place to hang out is because its presence in our lives indicates a lack of acceptance and execution of one’s full power (either us or the other person we’re “playing” with on the triangle). That cannot ever feel really good, even if in a kind of temporary way it makes us feel something: Persecutor: “I’m better than you.” Victim: “I’m not lovable—that’s why they’re being so mean to me.” Rescuer: “I need to step in and help this person, because it’s obvious s/he can’t do it for themselves.”

These three have one thing in common: ego.

I treat ego like this: I need to be aware that I have one. I still think from time to time I need its “oomph” when I come up short asserting myself. Yet, even there, I have found that simply by not generating thoughts that touch into “persecutor”, “victim” or “rescuer,” it’s easier to assert my true self. The second I think something like, “It’s hard to get their attention. Why are they not paying attention to me?” is the second I step on the triangle and then it’s akin to digging in and the people whose attention I’m trying to get are giving me exactly what I want.

I am working toward an emotional worldview that looks at and senses each person standing in her or his power, no matter who the person is. This is especially challenging in our present, divisive atmosphere, because it often feels like many, though not all, people are set in their ways, however those ways align with the larger groups with which they identify. It would be helpful for all of us to ditch media for some self-reflection. We might find ourselves happier for doing so. But I cannot deny that self-reflection and self-work are easily achieved. I’ve been working on me for years and expect I will for years to come. And that’s okay. I have all the time in the universe.

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Election 2016 Reflects Our Fear/Love Divide

Everyone today has some kind of stance on our upcoming presidential election—whether they’re Canadian or Russian or whether they are Americans who dislike all the candidates.

I too have a stance, though perhaps it’s somewhat different than those of others: I am curious to know how, depending on who is elected, our personal and collective spiritual growth will be affected.

Neither of the two frontrunners has a clear vision of what they’d like the country to look like, although the Republican candidate’s vision certainly feels more tangible as it plays into the fears of many people who believe they have been let down by dysfunctional governance—or lack of governance—and by a system that has eroded traditional livelihoods.

The other candidate feels as if she’s a kind of placeholder, a double or an understudy in a national drama and we’re just waiting for the lead actor to show up and take her place.

The Walking Wounds

But who wrote this script?

We did.

We’ve based it mostly on our reactions to what we hear, through various media and media personnel, who have their own interests, as well as on our utter lack of collective vision.

When I say collective vision, I mean an overarching idea of who we’d like to be and where that being might carry our doing.

I also empathize with our country: We are still so young and it can hard, while growing up, to see with crystal clarity what is needed, not only at the present, but into the future. We have lots of wounds—those we ourselves inflict, but also those of others who came before and which we re-enact.

Feelin’ Stuck-Stuck-Stuck

If I look carefully at the frontrunners, I see in them a similar sense of stuckness that I used to feel. I see it because it’s been part of my chosen modus operandi. They are stuck in different ways, but both are stuck. One repeatedly offers the same set of moves that play to fears; the other feels stuck in time—a space where women had to adopt, as much as possible, a male mindset and behave like men in order to get anywhere. (I distinguish between male and masculine. Each of us has masculine and feminine aspects whereas male/female are the outward appearance and expression of our gender.)

Some weeks ago, I was really upset with her on that count. Why can’t she take care of herself? I wondered. Why does she work herself into ill health? Why can’t she be a model for others? Then I realized that that behavior was helpful for her generation’s women. And I realized, too, that I have acted the same way far too often, feeling as if I had no choice but “do what you gotta do.” The recognition of my own choosing the same kinds of behavior as she does gave me greater compassion.

Likewise, I wonder how it is the other candidate has lived an apparent lifetime of wounding—wearing his wounds for all to see, acting on them, reacting to them, recreating them—and I’d like to take the running-scared parts of him and envelop those parts in my arms and say softly, You’re safe. You are safe.

That our people are so divided now feels symptomatic of many things: our own personal fragmentation as well as a distractedness for which many blame the media, thereby locating outside themselves the source of their pain, which is, in part, division from Self. At the root of all of it is fear, an abiding fear that stifles vision, that purports to keep us safe while reinforcing itself and allowing to “come true” all that is feared.

I can empathize with the doomsayers on both sides of the frontrunner divide. Some are taking up arms against possible unrest. But taking up arms is an action undertaken in fear. This period is a crescendo—and likely not the last to come—of the choices we’ve set in motion, the ones we are making now, and the ones we’ll make in the days, months and years ahead. We always have choice because we have free will: In every moment, we can choose fear or we can choose love. But the choice is ours.

Election as Inflection

This is election as inflection. Who we choose will symbolize where we stand with respect to our personal and collective evolution. One or the other leading candidates, depending on where we are on our growth curve, may offer a speedier path.

In some ways, we need more speed right now. In other ways, we don’t. If we are caught up in speed because we feel we’re in a race against everyone else to reach some given point—what point?—faster than others, lest there not be enough for us, then that is fear at work. If we are eager to grow spiritually, then perhaps we can use the speediness of the times we are living in to choose instead a measured pace as a way of life, one in which we take time daily to give thanks for all that is, including all we are—for being alive at this time, in this gorgeous Earth and to be able to do the real work, which is mending the separations and divisions that we feel.

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Aspy Bay sunrise, Neil’s Harbour, Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, Canada, September 2016

 

 

I’ve wanted many times in my life to hit a pause button on our national tick-tock, and get everyone listening and then, once they’ve mastered that skill, talking. First, it would be critical to lead people in meditation, so they can hear with great clarity the small, yet ever-present, voice inside, the one that sees them as a being through which something larger, something generous, kind, and loving seeks to emerge. Their true Self, in other words, the unconflicted them who knows it is love and acts only in love.

It does matter who we choose on November 8. But it is just as important to begin to understand that whoever we choose will not solve our issues. It is impossible for any president to solve issues. At best, perhaps he or she can help create the environment where issues can be resolved.

When it comes down to it, it is up to us: elites all, by virtue of the fact that we’ve chosen to be here, in this marvelous place at this time, that we can choose to benefit the growth of our Spirit, that we can choose to let go of the past and previous, outmoded patterns that don’t serve us and allow ourselves to expand into uncharted territory and to go there in love.

Happy Transitions Year!

In Chinese medicine, every being goes through cycles of yin and yang, one mode arising as the other fades, always a little yang in the yin, a little yin in the yang. A being cannot be all one or other. YinYangAnd yet, for me, 2014 was a “yin” year, full of a delicious, nourishing inwardness, a pause that, with every passing month, became more pregnant with possibilities—an endarkened ripening, maybe like what a crystal feels as it grows within the Earth.

The year was marked by a lot of work done with a coach, especially around migraines and perceptions I’ve held—perceptions long ossified—since childhood; contact with archangels, thanks to this coach; the loss of some part-time work; the creation of possibilities for work on my own terms; and, most recently, the rather sudden death of my oldest sister, Teresa.

If I were in any frame of heart other than gratitude, I’d say that 2014 basically stunk, as far as years go. But that feels off to me. Because I’ve also grown closer to myself/my Self in this period, and I cannot think of anything more important, not just for me, but for anyone.

One of the biggest markers of change is the deeply felt, experiential knowledge that there are beings here to help us and we need not hesitate to ask. Like many people, I’ve always wanted to do everything on my own. If I couldn’t do something on my own, then there was something amiss with me. This thinking neglects certain realities, of course, namely that Renaissance-Womandom is a mighty hard, if not impossible, state to attain (at least in one lifetime), and the work involved exhausts resources that are probably better utilized in other ways. So, I’ve started to ask for help whenever I need it, whether it’s a particular physical ache or the onset of a state of mind or an encounter with activities or energies that don’t serve me or anyone else.

Something liberating there is in the asking—a reminder that I am not alone, that it is okay not to have to feel I have to know everything, be everything, do everything.

This year has also brought about greater awareness around priorities—what are mine?

I have found myself at mid-life homing in on some things I’ve always wanted to do, such as rug-hooking, but even moreso around ways I’ve wanted to exist: to embody such unconditional love that anyone around me feels safe enough just to be themselves.WoolenLeafinProcess

It is especially this feeling of unconditional love and the safety it engenders that has ticked up quite a bit in the last month, around the death of my sister, whose illness came as a shock to all her family and friends. She was an anchor for all of us, but it turns out, she was also a canary of sorts in our particular coal mine. Her death puts me on high alert: Can we create enough spaciousness within ourselves to let go of our judgments, our attachments to outcomes, so that no one ever feels paralyzed by the perception of constant scrutiny?

In that vein—and with this gift that my sister could give me maybe only with her death—I end this yin year with more questions than answers and the hope that the courses of action I take in 2015 will begin to light the path toward answers—ones that satisfy not only me, but many others as well.

How can we transmute what feels icky into love?

How can we best find peace at any time?

How can we create loving relations with all our relations—not only other humans, but also everything in, on, and around Earth itself?

How can we become adept at nonviolent communication?

How can we best practice nonviolence?

How can we set and lovingly maintain good boundaries?

How can we best tend the gardens of our thoughts and intentions?

How can we create vibrant, resilient communities?

How can we change our conception of time?

How can we best learn how to breathe in sync with Earth and with one another?

And, how can we heal the illusion we labor under that we are each and every one separate beings?

A Beautiful Death

It is a near-perfect autumn morning. The mild air offers a hybrid of drizzle and very light fog. Elder and sumac berries, ginger, cinnamon and a single clove bud simmer on the stove. Despite the despair that comes and goes in me, I feel at peace, growing calmer in the knowledge that there are few consistent processes in this life, that everything changes, maybe especially the things we think—and hope—won’t change.

Some of our neighborhood trees have already lost all their leaves, including the maples, which are duller this year than last. The ginkgoes, which tend to drop their leaves in one fell swoop, are Meyer-lemon yellow. And the beeches are cloaked in orange.

Pokeberry, Phytolacca americana, takes on colors only nature can do this time of year.

Pokeberry, Phytolacca americana, takes on colors only nature can do this time of year.

In our own yard, the hazelnut leaves are the first to drop and this seems a consistent pattern. The leaves of the pokeberry I refuse to dig out are more wondrously colored than anything Pantone might conceive. They range from mild yellows to bright, from deep magenta to blast-me fuscia along with a wide spectrum of greens. Speaking of greens, the chickweed is pure green, ready to pick to add to salads. Its die-back will come in late spring when the heat starts to take hold. The sweet gum that shelters the few “permaculture zone 5” woodland medicinals I planted five years ago never fails to delight this time of year. Its five-point starry leaves convert into a finery I am not able to replicate in a hooked rug I’ve been working on.

The visible parts of these plants are dying back, sending their energy underground for the next several months. And yet, at this time, they are among the most beautiful beings that capture my attention.

Chickweed, Stellaria media, doesn't comes on in the cooler temps of autumn.

Chickweed, Stellaria media, benefits from the cooler temps of autumn.

This time of year is often a time of grief for humans. We have much to mourn, not just in our personal lives, for who among us doesn’t know someone who’s died this year—many tragically too soon, though who are we to judge the timing? But the multiple stresses we feel seem to be reflected in the world “out there”—and probably will continue to be, so long as we maintain the illusion of separation between “in here” and “out there.”

Even as I have grown weary of the apparent lack of kindness that humans visit upon one another and the planet, I see, I take part in, and I hear about all sorts of gestures of kindness. But most of these are invisible, except to the beings involved. Yet, it is just these small acts that remake the world, that heal the pieces that we split off from ourselves because, for whatever reason, we are ashamed of them or we believe they do not fit or do not serve.

What are we meant to serve, anyway? What ideals? Will we let fear rule more and more of life or will we choose to help expand the consciousness of love?

As I grow more conscious of these choices, I feel I’d much rather serve the ends of love than of fear. For love says, “This way lies sanity.” And anyone who steps up for love expands others’ ability also to step up.

From deep reds to chartreuse, sweet gums (Liquidambar styraciflua) have an autumn pallete all their own..

From deep reds to chartreuse, sweet gums (Liquidambar styraciflua) have an autumn pallete all their own.

What does this love entail?

I may be overthinking this, but basically, it means embodying certain ideals in our actions—the ideals of attention, gratitude and compassion, as psychologist Timothy Miller puts forth in his book, How to Want What You Have.

Attention means noticing—noticing a sunrise or a sunset, noticing someone’s smile or frown, noticing the beauty all around us and not running away when what we feel is unpleasant—whether sadness or anger or depression. Gratitude can encompass just feeling grateful to be alive and ties into attention, in that, the more you notice and the more you allow yourself just to feel—without judging what you feel—the more grateful you feel to be alive. And compassion means practicing first compassion for ourselves: We are human, we are imperfect, so why turn up the volume on the voices that criticize? Why refit those voices, which maybe initially in our early life belonged to someone else, to make them wholly our own? Rather, it is better to acknowledge these voices—maybe they helped keep us safe at some point, but for us individually and collectively, they have become maladaptive; they no longer serve.

Once we begin to feel compassion for ourselves, that feeling ripples out to myriad others, not just humans, but the whole of the world.

In my own family, we have a consistent thread: It’s called “not good enough.”

How do our judgments, which often carry the energy of disdain, affect others?

How do our judgments, which often carry the energy of disdain, affect others?

Many other families share this same thread and maybe all of humanity does. It is why when poets and writers like William Stafford describe their families and their upbringing, I am blown away. My impression of his childhood is one where the parents behaved with deep magnanimity and this led Stafford, in my interpretation, to become the person he became—where being fully human was more important than any accolades his writing or teaching may ever have garnered. His poems reflect his sense of just being.

What has broken this “not good enough” thread for me is the realization that, as in permaculture, the solution lies in the problem. And what problem is not an artifact of the illusion of separation?

It has taken me many years, but today I feel grateful for the influence of my parents, my mother for her overall generosity, my father for planting the seed of the ideal that everything and everyone has intrinsic value—whether a rock, a dog, or a human. Neither always behaved with generosity or acted in accord with the knowledge of the intrinsic value of all things, but then again, they are human and humans are inconsistent—at least in this phase of our evolution.

The pain caused by the “not good enough” can, if we accept it and allow it, shift us into a different, more whole/holy way of being.

Our value is not based upon how productive we are, how well we might satisfy someone else’s needs. People, plants, other animals, viruses and bacteria—they all have value just because.

Witch hazels (Hamamelis virginiana) flower about this time of year.

Witch hazels (Hamamelis virginiana) flower about this time of year.

I know this runs counter to what is presented “out there” among various media, in workplaces, in organizations, in government. The glorious sweet gum outside exists in part just because and in part, perhaps, because a seed chose to go along with a squirrel—nature’s forester—and be planted, chose to start growing and transformed itself into a tree, along with the help of others, seen and unseen. And this tree—Liquidambar styraciflua—was preceded by 20 others in the same genus, 20 others than are physically extinct, but metaphorically live on in this genus and species.

This particular sweet gum appears to be dying, however slowly. Two-leggeds don’t much care for the pointy fruits, especially if they have lawns and the fruits fall into their yards. Maybe people’s inability to see themselves in that pointy, annoying fruit influences the tree’s ability to survive. Maybe. I know scientists would probably disregard that notion as naïve or wishful, but science, like religion, operates from a particular set of frames—an often narrow set that accounts only for what can be seen and measured. Feelings can only be felt, and I will go with my feelings—not emotions, which are different from feelings—any day.

And I feel this tree continues to choose to be generous in the way it grows, with an increase in lower-down branches that, in the last few years, have come to provide additional shade for those woodland medicinals I planted, because ideally, they would have more shade. And who can say, but this act of generosity spurs more of the same among those woodland plants, such that they are helping that sweet gum to live longer.

Recent lower-branch growth of the sweet gum gives more shade to woodland medicinals like black cohosh (Actaea racemosa).

Recent lower-branch growth of the sweet gum gives more shade to woodland medicinals like black cohosh (Actaea racemosa).

One thing I know for sure and that is that nature—our inner and outer ecologies—are ever entwined, and we can look to nature for so many life lessons, so many metaphors upon which to check ourselves. After all, we are nature and nature is us, and it is when we believe and then behave otherwise, that we court difficulties. When we aim to grow at all costs, when we desire more, more, more, we can look at nature’s tapestry and see that every year, she takes a break here and there for some months. What would our lives be like if we did so, too? Would we give death to that which no longer serves us? What would create more time for the kind of work that really matters, for the sort of care-giving that our world needs at this time?

 

 

Reflections on Robin Williams

I grew up on Robin Williams. From Mork and Mindy to August Rush, from Garp to Mrs. Doubtfire.

When I’d heard of his death, I was, at first, shocked, and then it began to sink in and become not-so-shocking that such a man might have grown weary of trying to live, not only with his own demons, but certain demons peculiar to most of U.S. society—the ones that take themselves way too seriously, the ones that forever are falling into the trap of comparison thinking, whether they compare someone with a different someone, or someone with a previous version of him- or herself.

What made Williams remarkable, at least to me, was his ability to see the anima/animus—the world soul—in everything. And he didn’t have to force it the way you might if you are “consciously breathing.” In this way, he seemed to have seen/felt all the connections between everything, nonlocality, physicists might call it. Only if you can grant Donald Trump’s hair an aliveness all its own can you begin to poke fun at it. The same with things like alimony (“all the money”) or various forms of heart valves—porcine, bovine, etc.

Dead Poets Society fell on the fertile ground of my life at the time. Who was I going to be? And what? What sort of person?DeadPoetsSoc

I’d had parts of “John Keating” in my own scholastic life, but seeing those parts—and those teachers who were to come, in various guises, not necessarily at the head of a classroom—blended together in the character Williams played made me want to stretch ever deeper.

I can’t but wonder at the sad irony of this—that such a human could make many of his fellow humans stretch through his portrayal of Keating, but that he maybe could not do it for himself. Then again, I’m not sure any of us can—do it for ourselves, despite all the self-help books, all the motivational programs, all the classes. We may need a teacher, and when we are ready, perhaps the teacher appears.

At some point, if we are to evolve individually first, then collectively as a result of each person’s depth work, we need to step outside of the often self-imposed busy stream and take time for ourselves, just to be with ourselves and to explore that vast inner terrain. It can be more terrifying than any horror show, to feel out those places. To go back to earlier traumas and give love to the earlier selves, the selves we deny or refuse to look at, at the expense of our personal and collective well being.

An Eastern Boxwood turtle I named Now. Perhaps Turtle is a good model from nature about the pace we need to adopt.

An Eastern Boxwood turtle I named Now. Perhaps Turtle is a good model from nature about the pace and attitude toward life we need to adopt.

I can fathom the depth of pain that Robin Williams was in. I think anyone can who’s ever thought of ending his or her own life. All the shrinks will say that’s abnormal—to want to die—but I disagree. Until a person really can look herself in the mirror, gaze into her eyes, and with all sincerity and honesty say, “I love you,” then any of life’s buffeting winds, and mostly the stories we create about those winds, will have the ability to pull us under.

If you really love something, you want to do all you can to support it. Not imbue it with “You’re a worthless piece of shit,” or “You’re not enough—and you never will be.” You take care of what you love. You connect with it on a daily, even second-by-second, basis. You gaze upon it as you would a child, for, as one of my teachers says, “What is there not to love about a child?”

And when you hear those voices that point to some seeming lack, you ask yourself, “Is that really true?” You develop the habit of questioning those voices and then adopt the habit of saying, Thank you, I’m fine. You can go now. You don’t doubt for a minute your perception of such voices, but you do, as Stephen Harrod Buhner suggests, question your interpretation of them.

I hope Robin Williams finds the peace he was seeking. I hope he knows what a treasure he was. I am only sorry that he could not treasure himself.