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It’s probably not even possible to pinpoint a single moment in time for which this story began.  I’ll start with:  Over a month ago, I had a conversation with a mentor who suggested I ask the universe to remove from me my grandiosity (thinking I can control or fix another person), and replace it with knowing I can rely on my higher power/the universe.  When she said that, I was taken back: rely on something outside of me?  Not sure I can do that…even though I have purportedly been doing this for over 30 years.  hmmm.  This was definitely a wake-up call.

Then a few weeks later, while looking for children’s books in Spanish to help me learn this language, after purchasing said books, and walking out the door, to the porch and sidewalk filled with books, as was the tiny house, filled everywhere you looked, from ceiling to floor with more and more books — Wallace Books in Sellwood – I spied a $1 book on the porch:  Everyday Grace by Marianne Williamson.  I’d never heard of this book, but I’ve read some of her books in the past, and always found them helpful, so back inside I went to purchase this gem.

And gem it is – there’s a whole chapter on Sacred Silence – including a hypothetical:  if the entire world could sit in sacred silence for 24 hours, we’d have the psychic collective shift we so desperately need.  OK, I thought.  I’ll start sitting with these new instructions in mind:  kindness to myself and everyone else – asking for divine guidance to get me through my day, etc, etc.

She writes like this is a piece of cake.  No piece of cake for me.  I have done this two mornings, sitting longer than I ever thought possible, but not without thoughts, and not without my share of tears.  How can I trust anything or anyone?  Given my history, it’s rational to have these thoughts — however, I don’t live with drama or trauma any longer, so I’d really like to outgrow this mistrust of the universe.  On an intellectual level, I know it’s always had my back, even if I was so turned around I couldn’t see that.

I’ll continue to try to sit and move beyond my fears — asking for my fears to be released, and replaced with compassion for self and others.  Same with my judgments:  please replace them with compassion.  Judgments block the sunlight of the spirit pretty darn quick.

Can I do this without my motivation being that I need to save the whole world?  Can I focus on just saving me for now?  I’ll ask the universe for some help, and try to sit in sacred silence so I can hear some answers.

Susan selfie

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Two main points in this blog:  First, I believe the most important job of your life is to learn how to love yourself unconditionally.  Adoringly.  Patiently. Kindly.

Second,  you will think differently about the word ‘heart’ when you’ve finished reading this blog.

This part of my story began in 1988 at a relationship workshop.  I remember exactly where I was sitting when the speaker said “When the lower heart is abused, the upper heart shuts down.”  It was an enlightening moment for me.  I’d never heard anyone call my vulva a heart or lower heart – yet I knew it was true. It also made sense that my upper heart would be affected by what happened to my lower heart.

As a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, I’d done all kinds of therapy to heal from what had happened to me. I’ve been a ceramic artist most of my life, and I knew as soon as I heard that quote that I would use clay as yet another way to heal: I would sculpt labia in clay.

It was an empowering and, yes, a healing process, resulting in my feeling more connected with my body, and more positive and loving toward my vulva.

I’ve never stopped. Sculpting labias in clay continues to be a joyful experience.  I lovingly sculpt each piece.  In creating these sculptures,  I realized that the True Origin of the Valentine is a woman’s lower heart. Our upper heart is shaped like a fist. While no two labia are alike, and all are sacred and divine, many have a “heart” shape.

Over 40 years ago I helped found a rape crisis center and learned and taught self-defense classes. With attention and services finally addressing sexual violence, we thought the incidence of rape, domestic violence and incest would fade away. They haven’t! (It would take another blog to discuss the intense backlash against feminism.)
This got me to wondering what if people did not need to fear rape, abuse and violence – We’d have so much more energy to dismantle patriarchal systems of domination. From this chain of thought I coined the phrase “Happy Labias = World Peace.” It’s clearer to me now than it was 40 years ago that boys are sexually abused at high percentages, and that trans people and people with disabilities are abused, violated, and assaulted (as well as murdered) at much higher percentages than cis females…violence affects us all.
“Happy Labias = World Peace”:  self-confident, self-loving, setting-boundaries, passionate people, everyone, everywhere, are needed to keep the planet from imploding. Our most urgent life task is to love ourselves so deeply that we can love the whole world, and put that love into action. Love is a verb.
As Audre Lorde wrote years ago:  self-care and self-love are revolutionary acts in themselves. I encourage your own self-loving revolt.

(For more Audre Lorde quotes: http://www.azquotes.com/author/9041-Audre_Lorde)

Have you heard the song “What the world needs now”?  Andra Day does a great rendition:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yNQ3vgKNO1g

 

 

A “friend” on Facebook yesterday posed a question about white privilege.  While attempting to meditate this morning, I kept thinking of replies, which were way too long for Facebook, so here I am on my mostly-abandoned blog.  My first awareness of my white privilege came in 2004 (at the age of 50!) after reading Peggy McIntosh’s article “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Backpack” (quite easy to find online).  I began to recognize how white faces are everywhere, that I am represented everywhere, and people of color are not: that I can drive my car without being pulled over and shot.

This past summer, when I was late for a picnic I was organizing for work, I stopped by Safeway to pick up a forgotten item.  I ran into the store, and passed a young black teen.  That’s when it hit me on a more visceral level:  I can run into a store, run through the store, go to the checkout and then run out of the store without being stopped and searched.  He could not.  I can shop anywhere without being watched and harassed.  Even before I had a name for white privilege, I have been aware for years that I am sometimes able to cajole a shop keeper to let me use their bathroom when it’s not open to the public, but others cannot.

Like many white people, I thought I was OK because I was not overtly racist – I recognize every human being is valuable and worthwhile.  I’ve come to believe that ain’t enough in our racist society which was literally built on the backs of enslaved Black people.  Just a few minutes ago I saw the trailer to a new movie “I Am Not Your Negro” written by James Baldin, and narrated by Samuel Jackson (due out Feb. 3rd).  One thing I try to remember is that as a white person I can forget about race – it’s not in my face everyday like it is for people of color.  Every day!  So I’ve begun educating myself so I don’t forget.  Here are 3 books I recommend:

“Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?” by Beverly Daniel Tatum, Ph.D.   She is a psychologist who explains how we create a racial identity.  She states “…the role of the ally is not to help victims of racism, but to speak up against systems of oppression and to challenge other whites to do the same.”

I think “The New Jim Crow – Mass Incareration in the Age of Colorblindness” should be mandatory reading for every white person in America.  Michelle Alexander is the writer.  She places attention on the very real ways that our criminal “justice” system is seriously broken.  There are more black men in prison today than were slaves before the Civil War!  It’s a new kind of war, a new kind of slavery that I believe most white people are completely unaware of.

The latest book I found is Phoebe Robinson’s “You Can’t Touch My Hair – and other things I still have to explain.”  (I learned about her when I finally read an issue of B*TCH magazine – awesome!)  Phoebe is insightful AND hilarious.  I don’t want to take myself too seriously – I realize I know only a little – and it’s fun to be able to laugh as I read her book.

When I wonder what can I do about racism, I take heart in what Beverly Daniel Tatum wrote:  that my job is to speak up against systems of oppression, and to talk about white privilege.  I have a lot to learn, and I hope others will share their insights with me as well.

Jimi Hendrix said that “when the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will know peace.” He didn’t say “if”!

There was a time the world lived without war. There was a time the world lived in relative peace. For proof, I offer you “The Chalice and Blade” by Riane Eisler, one of the most important books of this past century. I mention this because sometimes people today have a hard time believing we can move away from violence and fear, and into love, cooperation, empathy, and service to each other.

This presidential election has been a wake-up call for many of us, including me. The forces of fear and hatred have been given license to act out. Meanwhile, I’m hoping the people who believe in peace, love, and mutual respect will also be given a license to act out: to find whatever they’re called to do in service to others.

Those of us who have enough, I believe, have an even greater duty to share with those who do not have enough. It has only been since the 1960’s that poor people have been blamed for being poor, which is one more strategy the rich uses to separate us from each other, and skirt the blame which rests on their shoulders and their hearts. The Dalai Lama wrote this piece that was published in the New York Times on Nov. 4th: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/04/opinion/dalai-lama-behind-our-anxiety-the-fear-of-being-unneeded.html?smid=fb-share&_r=0 – We were born to serve!

In this patriarchal dominator society in which we all live, there are stratas of money, of power, of position. The rich keep getting richer, and the poor lose more every day. Those of us in between have the opportunity to share: our time, our energy, our resources, our money. As Mother Teresa once said, if you can’t feed a hundred people, feed one person.

I have been reading YES! Magazine almost since its inception 20 years ago – because I love learning what you all are doing in service to each other and the planet. We need each other’s ideas and encouragement. You can sign up for their free e-newsletter at http://www.yesmagazine.org.

I leave you with a most important message from the International Council of Indigenous Grandmothers, a group of 13 grandmothers from around the world. They wrote this 3 days after the presidential election, and I find these words comforting and inspiring (I can’t find it online, so here it is in its entirety):
“Let us explain some things. You have elected, not a man, but a “moy” to lead you. He is a boy in an old man’s body. Moys are a combination of man and boy, but mostly boy. They are large and have loud voices so people mistake them for men, but they are not men. A man thinks of the common good while a moy has not learned to think of anyone but himself. He has not fully developed and is still a child.
“The time you are living in is called the age of destruction,” they said, “the Kali Yuga. It is the lowest point. At this time evil comes to the surface to be destroyed. This dark-age takes place just before the arrival of the in-coming Golden Age, so today you are watching out-of-balance Yang energy creating destruction all over your planet. This IS the Kali Yuga. You have heard and read about it and now it comes.
“Your country has just elected a moy to be its next president. Russia as well as Syria are already run by moys, while Africa is overrun by them, each moy creating havoc in his area of that continent. The Philippines is run by a moy and so are several other countries. Is it any wonder that the world is lurching from crisis to crisis?
“This is what is happening on earth now and because it is, you must learn to cope with this energy. You cannot reason with it because it is entirely destructive. Instead you must hold steady within yourself and observe its wild behavior from a position of power. If you do this, it will not be able to feed on you. Your steadiness will help contain its rapacious energy and it will not be able to do as much damage as it would otherwise.
Call on us, call on the Net of Light and hold Sacred Space. Be mindful of who you are! You are a great being, here on earth to occupy a steady helping hand to the helpless. Within yourself you carry the great holding power of Yin. Call on it now. Live with it. Be as you were born to be.
“We ask one more thing of you. At this time reach out to one another in service. Many are suffering now. Feed the hungry, visit people in hospitals and prisons, provide shoes to those who need them, help the animals. If each of you plunge into one activity of service, together you will do great good, turning many hearts to light. Find a service project for yourself. We ask this of you because we know who you are. You are our hands and hearts on earth. You are greatness itself.”

Here is the Grandmothers’ website: http://www.grandmotherscouncil.org/

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In 1975 I was making $2/hr.  A minimum wage job in the 1970’s paid enough to live on.  I didn’t have money for out of town vacations, but I could go to the movies and eat fast food when I wanted.  I had a friend going through a difficult time financially.  I never knew that at the time – I just know that when I showed up at her apartment to visit, all her things were gone.  She had found a house in the woods to house-sit because she could no longer afford rent.  Even if I had known she was having trouble, I’m not sure it would have occurred to me to share my money with her, to help her out.  Money was a private affair, or so I’d been taught.

Ten years later, I became friends with a woman who told me that every time she received any money, she gave some away. Sometimes she gave to charitable organizations and sometimes to people who she felt supported by.  Though I’d heard of tithing to a church, this idea of giving away some of my income every month was a new idea for me.

Plus, on a selfish level, I’d read that when you give, the universe will give back to you tenfold.  Thus began my habit of giving — which I’ve recently begun to call Sharing.  The more I hear about disparate income, and the rich getting richer, and the poor getting poorer, and knowing the government isn’t going to fix this growing problem, it’s up to us, the people, to share what we have with each other.  To make reparations.  If I have enough, and I’ve always had enough, then I feel a duty, a responsibility to share.  Mother Teresa said “If you can’t feed a hundred people, feed one person.”

“To those who are given much, much is expected.”  I don’t remember who said that, I’ve heard it in movies too, and I’ve come to believe this, as my life philosophy.

This summer I imagined the following as I read about ISIL selling the girls they kidnapped:  advertising a 12 year old virgin for $12,000:  What if Warren Buffett (or some other billionaire) decided to buy all the girls that ISIL has on the market?  What if he bought them all, freed them, and provided them with the resources they needed to have a life of enough?  An education, a home, back with their families?  Safe and secure.

I began to pray for the hearts of the men in ISIL to unlock, to open, to feel – so that perhaps they wouldn’t be able to continue their atrocities.  What if a legion of people around the world prayed for this?

As I thought more about sharing,  and praying for all the hard-hearted people of the world, I thought about the imperative of JOY.  If peace begins within, which I know to be true, and that I have to love myself in order to love others — it follows that my staying in my JOY helps contribute to peace on the planet as well.  The world needs passionate, joyful people sharing their gifts with each other.  We all need each other’s gifts. I hope you will share your gifts, and your resources.  Together we can.

grace

 

Over the past year, and a bit longer, I was involved in the production of a play entitled “Fierce Love.”  It started with 6 moms of children with cerebral palsy (me included) participating in a 10 week writing workshop that culminated in our stories being turned into theater.  We were involved in every aspect:  we helped audition the actors, were at every rehearsal (constantly writing and rewriting), and baring our souls for all the world to see.

As the mother of a 23 year old daughter with CP, I have worn many hats since she was first diagnosed at four months of age:  physical therapist, occupational therapist, speech therapist, advocate, lawyer, augmentative communication specialist, and educator….My greatest desire has been to educate the world about disability.  I didn’t even know what cerebral palsy was when my daughter was born.  I know how easy it is to be ignorant about disability.

Even the term is different to me today – everything about my life is different from parenting my daughter with the kind of love “not for the faint of heart.”  Repeatedly, people would say to me “I could never do what you’re doing.”  !  Really?  So if your child was born with CP, you’d just walk away?  No, of course not.  Were their comments meant to make me feel “special”?  Forgive me, I digress.  Easy to do on this subject.

What I started to say is:  there are just so many differences people are born with.  I long for the day we can do away with the word “dis-ability”.  My friend Patty, another mom on this path, told me years ago that when we lived in caves, every person who was “different” was a potential threat.  If they weren’t from our tribe, they may want to kill us.  We carry this in our lizard brain, or so it seems.  Wouldn’t it be great if we didn’t fear differences, at all?   I long for a world where every body is valued, everyone is treasured, everyone is safe and has enough.

And now I come back to Fierce Love:  this play was the most powerful teaching tool I’ve encountered since my daughter was diagnosed.  The power of story telling is not new.  Stories bring us together.  Stories move us beyond our differences.  Stories go straight to the heart.  Fierce Love was one more gift my daughter has brought into my life.  Sometimes it still feels like too much, and my fear of her future may never be abated — but the gifts outweigh the difficulties.

I’ve learned that there are great gifts that come wrapped up as tragedies.

Us moms wrote and wrote:  first about the hard-hitting diagnoses; the about the encounters with strangers in stores who ask what’s wrong with our child; and about the absolute acceptance we gathered about our children, exactly as they are.  We had great directors who helped us use a lot of humor amidst the sadness — the joy and triumphs.

I was “the producer” of the play in many ways:  raising production funds, finding the mom writers, and hiring a videographer to film the live performance so that we could have it memorialized.  Now I’m in the process of having the script published.  The complete 2 hour performance is on DVD and is available for only $10 from this website: http://www.acommunityforeveryone/news (you have to scroll down to find it, but it’s there).

 

When I woke up on Tues, Dec. 16th it was to the news of over 100 children and 46 adults gunned down by the Taliban. Later at work someone told me about ISIL and what they do to young girls (I won’t repeat what I heard because it’s too horrific. I don’t want anyone else to carry that, though I’m sure some of you know. I’m sorry.)

On that Tuesday, my response was to to pray for everyone, throughout the day: for the grief-stricken families, the injured, the community, and I also included the Taliban. If their hearts are so shut down that they could murder children, they need prayers too.

I had just the day before been reading about Tonglen: breathing in grief, breathing out peace. I’d heard of Tonglen before, but I hadn’t practiced it in a very long time. All day I breathed in grief and fear, and breathed out peace and love.

Why pray for bullies? Years ago I read about a study in Japan that showed molecular changes in water when people prayed over it. Since humans are over 70% water, doesn’t it make sense that prayers help? I remember seeing pictures of both positive and negative prayer over water — seen microscopic pictures of the water’s structure. The positive is sparkly, snowflake-like, starry pictures, whereas the negative is cloudy and out of balance. (Dr. Masaru Emoto, 1999 “Messages from Water”)

Isn’t that what evil is: life out of balance? Evil is Live spelled backwards, a life upside down. Don’t the men of the Taliban and ISIL feel they’re holy men? To me they look like bullies and thugs. What if we all prayed for them? Could we melt their frozen hearts? (I hear a song).

Killing them is just the same energy they exude. Love is the only answer, the only way out of this madness we find ourselves in. Whether you believe in God or Buddha, or your dog or cat, we can all send love to the thugs. Love the thugs.

My resolution for 2015 is to seek joy — to stay in joy as much as possible. I believe joy is our birthright, and that being in joy contributes to love and peace on the planet. Certainly this doesn’t mean I don’t get angry or impatient, or sad or frustrated. Seeking joy means I return to joy whenever I’m able. When I’m present for my life, and I see a tree seemingly for the first time, on a road I’ve traversed hundreds of times, I know joy. I feel joy, and am so grateful for the bare branches that let me see the tree’s grace.

Pray for the thugs. Pray for the hurt, the hungry, and the lonely. Pray for yourself. It’s a wild and wonderful life, and I wish us all joy on our journey. Safety and enough for everyone.DSC_1349