Marches ~ Maya ~ Mycelia

Still I Rise
by Maya Angelou

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.
Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
’Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.
Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.
Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops,
Weakened by my soulful cries?
Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
’Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own backyard.
You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.
Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?
Out of the huts of history’s shame
I rise
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I rise
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.

 

 

Care about the Climate Crisis?#BlackLivesMatter is tied up with your cause, too

On my mind these days:

Intersectionality. Privilege. Divisive binary thinking. What each of us can control and what we can’t.

Emotional labor… which is what it takes for people of color to educate others about the sources of racism, tools for anti-racism, and how to be a good ally (spoiler: there are many ways!).

That often-invisible spectrum that ranges from being comfortable to feeling uncomfortable to being unsafe to being physically harmed to being killed.

How I can effectively support people in making connections between the things they care about and the things they don’t usually choose to look at, especially when there is agency involved… without becoming jaded, judgmental, or unsafe myself.

 

 

Compassion for all beings is compassion in action: Viveka on The Buddha as Social Revolutionary

Lately I’ve been wondering if my belief that I’m acting on behalf of other beings is actually a form of delusional spiritual bypassing.

How can we balance the energy needed to do our own work to address our own delusions, and the energy and work to support the liberation of all beings?

I posed the question above to Viveka during a talk she gave on The Buddha as Social Revolutionary; a month later, I feel even more strongly that we Buddhists could muster a bit more socially-engaged energy while we also use the tools for our own comfort and self care.

Check out her fantastic answer at 45:25 (thank you Viveka ❤ ) or for even more inspiration, watch the entire talk! It starts at 10:07 in this recording and continues for an hour:

Talking about race

Screen Shot 2020-06-04 at 12.57.09 PM
Screenshot of the new online Talking About Race resource (edit mine)

There’s a lot to say right now about race.

People who are not white — myself included — don’t always want to be the ones explaining certain racial concepts or experiences to people privileged enough to never really have to think about race. At the same time, many of us do still want to be part of helping all people understand the wide-reaching impact of this odd construct.

It’s complicated.

Fortunately for all of us, the National Museum of African American History & Culture has just published an excellent online resource: Talking About Race. This website splits up its various resources by topic for different audiences, and I’m a huge fan!

Screen Shot 2020-06-04 at 1.08.48 PM
Example of a message on the landing page for Parents. There’s also a section for Educators and another for People Committed to Equity.

Now I have a place to direct people when I’m not feeling up for the conversation myself. Maybe Talking About Race will help you, too, whether you’re looking to educate yourself, or looking for a place to send well-meaning people who want to talk to you about race when you’re in a place of prioritising self-care. May we all be free from suffering, and the causes of suffering.

David Whyte and Jane Hirshfield on the window of waking

For years I’d been intermittently trying to find a very specific David Whyte poem. The detail I was sure I remembered after a morning yoga teacher read it aloud was a window: a window to something bigger that only exists at the moment we move from sleeping to waking, a window that closes in the morning the minute we start making plans.

Turns out there is no window — at least, no literal one — in the poem at all, so my many attempts to sift through the internet’s tons of gravel and sand for a David Whyte poem that necessarily contained the words “window” and “morning” and “plans” came up empty.

I can’t remember what new, less restrictive search I tried this last time, but Google finally yielded two gold nuggets: the poem I had incorrectly remembered, “What to remember on waking,” and a recent video of the poet himself introducing and then reading it, in his own inimitable fashion.

Below I have included the video, the text of his introduction, and the original poem.

First, however, I also wanted to share another recently-discovered bit of gold from Jane Hirshfield. She so perfectly and so differently illustrates what we can only see through the window of morning, the gold we can only discover while still wading in that different stream of consciousness:

Language wakes up in the morning. It has not yet washed its face, brushed its teeth, combed its hair. It does not remember whether or not, in the night, any dreams came. The light is the plain light of day, indirect — the window faces north — but strong enough to see by nonetheless.

Language goes to the tall mirror that hangs on one wall and stands before it, wearing no makeup, no slippers, no robe. In the same circumstances, we might see first our two eyes, looking back at their own inquiring. We might glance down to the two legs on which vision stands. What language sees in the mirror is also twofold — the two foundation powers of image and statement. The first foundation, image, holds the primary, wordless world of the actual, its heaped assemblage of quartzite, feathers, steel trusses, re-seamed baseballs, distant airplanes, and a few loudly complaining cows, traveling from every direction into the self’s interior awareness. The second foundation, statement, is our human answer, traveling outward back into the world– our stories, our theories, our judgments, our epics and lyrics and work songs, birth notices and epitaphs, newspaper articles and wedding invitations, the infinite coherence-makings of form. All that is sayable begins with these two modes of attention and their prolific offspring. Begins, that is, with the givens of experienced, embodied existence and the responses we offer the world in return.

Let us return to the morning bedroom, to the moment when language awakens to rise, looks outward, looks inward, asks its one question: “What might I say?” What does it mean when the answer arrives through the gaze of a Muse, that is, in the form we think of as art?

10windows

Excerpts from “Language Wakes Up in the Morning: On Poetry’s Speaking,” a chapter in Jane Hirshfield’s book Ten Windows: How Great Poems Change the World (Penguin Random House 2017).

***

In these days of the virus, when many of us are confined to our homes and confined to a different more inbound horizon, a different way of inhabiting the 24 hours, it’s interesting to think of the ancient disciplines and micro-disciplines around inhabiting the day and the night hours. One of the micro-disciplines that’s always been very, very important has been the act of waking into the world. Prayers for waking, a meditation at dawn, yoga for dawn, just standing up, taking a deep breath and greeting the horizon.

This is a piece I wrote called, “What to Remember When Waking,” that looks, independent of any religious inheritance, around the phenomenology of waking, of carrying this revelation from the reimagination that has occurred in your body, and the resetting of your physiology. And I’ve always felt that that moment of waking is an incredible opportunity and it’s quite a tragedy if you go straight to your to-do list. The tragedy of the to-do list is that it was put together with the priorities of the person you were yesterday. So the ability to wake in the world and see it anew…

What to remember when waking
a poem by David Whyte

In that first
hardly noticed
moment
in which you wake,
coming back
to this life
from the other
more secret,
moveable
and frighteningly
honest
world
where everything
began,
there is a small
opening
into the day
which closes
the moment
you begin
your plans.

What you can plan
is too small
for you to live.

What you can live
wholeheartedly
will make plans
enough
for the vitality
hidden in your sleep.

To be human
is to become visible,
while carrying
what is hidden
as a gift to others.

To remember
the other world
in this world
is to live in your
true inheritance…

Excerpt from ‘What to Remember When Waking’
From RIVER FLOW: New and Selected Poems
Many Rivers Press. ©David Whyte Source

No Surprises: a Regina Spektor Radiohead cover that’s perfect for these times

A couple weeks ago Triple J’s Like a Version re-released this 10-year old performance of Regina Spektor’s rendition of Radiohead’s No Surprises, with much better video quality this time around. It’s definitely near the top of my list of favorite covers, and it’s so perfect for these times.

If I were savvier with audio editing I’d release a version without the criminal audio stings at the beginning and end, alas! Here’s a link that starts after the initial sting, or click play below; either way, be ready with the volume control so you’re ready to bring it up after the initial sting and down again before the VERY mood-killing sting at the very end of the song:

If you liked that, there’s also an alternate audio version of the cover, also recorded back in 2010 as part of a fundraiser for post-earthquake Haiti and Chile and (via?) Doctors Without Borders. May we all find ways to be generous in troubled times, no matter what we have to contribute!

And of course, the original:

…plus the lyrics (source):

No Surprises
by Radiohead

A heart that’s full up like a landfill
A job that slowly kills you
Bruises that won’t heal

You look so tired, unhappy
Bring down the government
They don’t, they don’t speak for us
I’ll take a quiet life
A handshake of carbon monoxide

No alarms and no surprises
No alarms and no surprises
No alarms and no surprises
Silent, silent

This is my final fit, my final bellyache with

No alarms and no surprises
No alarms and no surprises
No alarms and no surprises please

Such a pretty house, and such a pretty garden

No alarms and no surprises (let me out of here)
No alarms and no surprises (let me out of here)
No alarms and no surprises please (let me out of here)

If— by Rudyard Kipling: a poem for when people are behaving badly

Over a decade ago, in a moment when I knew I needed that kind of support, I booked myself into Sonoma Ashram for a few days. One afternoon I met with Babaji, the Ashram’s founder and resident monk. Weeping, I described the pain of being misunderstood, and worse, my anguish at being misrepresented to others.

“If someone is saying things about you that aren’t true,” he suggested, “swish cold water around in your mouth for a few seconds and then spit it out.”

He also recommended I try washing my feet in cold water.

Whenever I remember to do these things, I remember how powerful it can be to bring my attention to a part of my physical body, rather than let the unhelpful thought pattern continue to go ’round and ’round and ’round in my head. The shock of cold water often helps me see things from a different perspective, and sometimes that’s all it takes to break free from a mental whirlpool.

***

And just as often, words written by wiser souls are the balm.

Apart from the fact that “being a man” has never been a motivating factor for me, this poem is really helping this morning.

May I meet bad behavior in others without resorting to it myself!

If—
by Rudyard Kipling

If you can keep your head when all about you
    Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
    But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
    Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
    And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:
If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
    If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
    And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
    Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
    And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
    And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
    And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
    To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
    Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
    Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
    If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
    With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
    And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!

Reflections on Death and Impermanence: a talk for the Four Reminders series

Last Monday for the Auckland Buddhist Centre’s online Dharma Night I gave this talk, Reflecting on death and impermanence, as part of our series on the Four Reminders.

Here’s the official description from the Auckland Buddhist Centre’s website (with thanks Mary Anna for writing these up):

At this time we are facing dramatic and unexpected loss: loss of certainty, loss of income, even loss of life, maybe even our own. All of this creates huge anxiety in the face of overwhelming change and uncertainty.

It is at this time that our spiritual practice will enable us to ride the waves of change and find peace despite our circumstances, if we are prepared to apply ourselves diligently to the task.

The purpose of the ‘Four Reminders’ is to help establish the kind of psychological climate in which we will be motivated to enter a path of spiritual practice.

The subjects of the four reflections which we will be exploring over the course of these talks are:

the precious opportunity offered by human life;
death and impermanence;
karma, or the fact that actions have consequences;
and the reality of suffering.

These might be called ‘the facts of life’ in the Buddhist perspective. They are wake-up calls, jolts to our complacency, articulations of the troubling voice of reality as it speaks through our immediate experience. As we go through them, we are saying to ourselves, ‘Remember, reflect, wake up to the truth.’

11 May
Death and impermanence with Elizabeth U
‘Ready or not, one day I shall die’, so go the words of the morning puja. It’s a thing we all know intellectually, but how does knowing it emotionally change how we live the life we have now?

Scott’s Bill Withers remix

He finally released this into the wild! This song has been ready to go for weeks and it’s SO GOOD; stoked to be able to share it outside our Lockdown Bubble.

I’m in the middle of a particularly challenging work situation and this section of the song is really speaking to me right now, alas:

You’re talking right to me
But you really ain’t saying a thang
You’re pouring muddy water on me
Trying to convince me it’s rain
You’re talking to me crazy
But you’re trying to make me feel insane

Why it’s so important to support each other through hard times (if we’re in a position to do so)

During a video call with my family earlier today, I learned that my parents had just received delivery of 10 pounds of duck. Turns out that after reading an article explaining that small farms and food processors are suffering because they’ve lost the bulk of their restaurant business thanks to the coronavirus situation, my dad immediately called his favorite duck purveyor and placed an order. For… an awful lot of duck for just him and Mom! I’m sad I’m too far away to help them eat the massive batch of Chinese marinade duck wings that will soon be bubbling on the stove 😦

My parents are also donating generously to a fund that’s providing support to their musician friends whose gigs and concerts — their livelihoods! — have been cancelled.

These are both excellent illustrations of interdependence, and how those of us who still have income and/or assets right now can pitch in to support those less fortunate.

***

Here’s a great video from Hadassah Damien, the “punk big sister of financial real talk,” waxing poetic on the limitations of the belief that we can ever be truly financially independent, with some great suggestions for what we can do to acknowledge our interdependence, particularly when it comes to supporting small businesses and fellow humans during times of crisis:

Independence and freedom only matter if I have people to be independent with and be around and get weird and smart and BE with.

I’m fully with Hadassah that the FIRE movement often takes on a very self-centered flavor. It’s a fascinating dynamic to observe, and I’ll confess it takes a lot of work for me to remember to be generous — because I can be! — when the fight-or-flight system gets triggered.

I also believe that this more selfish, believe-in-the-myth-of-independence view is more a function of the way many people currently practice FIRE, rather than what the founders of the movement intended, or practice(d) it themselves.

As an example of what I’m talking about, the latest blog post from Vicki Robin (who wrote Your Money Or Your Life — the book that sparked the FIRE movement – along with the late Joe Dominguez) asks some very juicy questions, acknowledges the dark side of FIRE, and reveals her own values, which in my view are very much aligned with Hadassah’s.

Here’s hoping that more and more people can get onboard with the benefits of financial INTERDEPENDENCE, and thanks to Vicki and Hadassah for all you do to steward this important shift! ❤