Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Echo


Thoughts of him are hardly present anymore in my waking life, but last night he crept into my dream life again after awhile away. I awoke thinking about the way we allocate our attention. In yoga, we say that energy flows where attention goes, but what happens when that energy arrives where it's going? How is it received?

For years I payed an enormous amount of attention to him and he had very little to offer in return. He didn't see my attention as a gift, or an invitation to deeper intimacy. Or perhaps he did. I don't really know. In any case, however he perceived what I offered, what was returned didn't match. I wanted to pour an ocean of love into him and he didn't want to get his hair wet. I battled him at this impasse, playing out an old story that if I just said the right thing and was very good, that I would finally be paid the sort of attention for which I longed.

It didn't work.

He became increasingly uncomfortable. I felt wrecked every time he refused me. It was a nightmare of my own making, born of my stubborn desire to get what I needed in an unskillful fashion. It's never wrong to have a need, but how we go about trying to get that need met matters. Some people are not the right people to ask. They already know that they can't help you. and will show you this if you're willing to see. Be willing. Believe them the first time.

Three things happened in my decision to move to New York:

First, I dreamt that I received an address in the Upper West Side and was told that's where I belonged.

Second, I visited for the millionth time and for the first time ever felt that this is a place I need to be.

Third, the small bit of attention I paid to making life happen here was paid back quickly and generously. New York answered my call with a resounding Yes. It wanted me and even if I wasn't totally sure that I wanted it, I bought a one way ticket and went all in.

When I think about what I could've accomplished with all the unreciprocated energy I sent him, I feel a profound sense of loss. I can never get that time back. However, from here on out, I can become very sensitive to the way my energy is received and adjust my behavior accordingly.

If you call out and nothing echoes back, stop calling. The currency of your attention is valuable. Only pay it to those who see this, and who are willing and able to offer just as much. Pour your ocean of love into an open container, and be prepared to receive. You are worthy of having others invest their time, attention and love in you. Anyone worth investing in will respond to your payment with just as much generosity. Never accept less.

What are you investing in?

Wisely choose how you spend the valuable currency of your attention.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Leviticus Also Prohibits Bacon, Sooo...

In honor of today's SCOTUS decision and to satisfy my own curiosity, I spent my evening doing a thorough reading of Leviticus, a very small section of which is oft quoted in relation to the status of the souls of gay people. I have much to say on this, but these are my initial thoughts:

-In Leviticus 18:22, God does indeed decree "Do not have sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman." In Leviticus, God also decrees many other things...

- The first 10 chapters are dedicated almost exclusively to how one properly goes about being pardoned of sins, which involves the sacrifice of various types of animals, their blood being sprinkled in various places, and their organs/fat being burned on the altar. Definitely not a practice in the modern church.

-You're also not supposed to eat pig, or anything from the sea/streams that doesn't have fins and scales (so no shrimp, prawns, shellfish). Definitely not a practice in many modern churches.

-In chapter 13, God decrees that if you have a rash or lesions, that you have to go to the priest and he'll decide if it is a "defiling skin disease" and whether or not you're clean or unclean. Definitely not a practice in the modern church. But the priest's duties don't stop there!

- Later in chapter 13, the priest is also tasked with evaluating the cleanliness or uncleanliness of any fabric that may be moldy. And in chapter 14, you're asked to call the priest in if you happen to find mold in your home. Definitely not a practice in the modern church.

-My personal favorite, though, is the assertion in chapter 15 that a woman is unclean during her monthly period, so much so that anything she touches, or anything that touches her becomes unclean as well. To atone for this, us ladies are called to sacrifice two doves or two young pigeons as sin and burnt offerings. Definitely not a practice in the modern church.

-Chapter 18 asks us not to wear clothing woven of two different types of material, eat any meat with the blood still in it, get tattoos, pervert justice, spread slander, do anything that would endanger your neighbor's life, steal, seek revenge or hold a grudge.

-Chapter 18 DOES ask us not to mistreat foreigners, but to treat them as native-born people and to love them as ourselves, something so many so called "Christians" have trouble wrapping their minds around when speaking about immigration.

-But then chapter 25 gives the go ahead to buy slaves so long as they're from neighboring nations, "or temporary residents living among you and members of their clan born in your country, and they will become your property. You can bequeath them to your children as inherited property and can make them slaves for life." So that's weird.

While the Bible does have a few, possibly contextually misleading assertions that homosexual *sex* is wrong, what it never condemns is BEING gay, and it certainly never supports shaming or otherwise harming someone because of their sexuality. Leviticus is an absolutely bizarre list of rules, many of which read like the public health code of a people who had no understanding of science and medicine. Using this text to justify violence or discrimination against gay people is ignorant as hell, and is the real sin.

You know what Jesus never mentioned? Anything about homosexuality. In all His teachings it never came up. Not once. What He did command is that we LOVE our God with all our hearts and LOVE our neighbor as ourselves. He said that there is no commandment greater than these.

LOVE.
We're called to LOVE.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Madonna / Whore

Part of what appeals to me so much about making TV is the opportunity to embody different people in vastly different scenarios from each other and from that which I live in the everyday. One week I'm corseted and covered jawline to toes in a 1900s era period piece. The next week I'm in a sequined bikini pole dancing in a strip club full of dude extras and crew members pretending not to be having the best day at work ever. It's all there within me: the prim and proper upper middle class lady and the badass, sexy stripper. They exist alongside each other without the slightest hint of tension. They are not a contradiction. They are both real and honest, and desirous of expression.

The tendency to create duality in places where it doesn't necessarily naturally exist seems to be an integral part of the human experience. We make war over the width of noses, condemn others for who they love, and kill in the name of our God who is the one and only true god, all the while honing in on one aspect of who people are and defining their human value on that single characteristic. We make hollow, single dimensioned beings out of one another, when we know ourselves to be more than that. It must have something to do with our primal impulse to immediately categorize what we encounter: is this safe, or is it unsafe?

It used to be very straightforward. When the earth appeared wilder than it is today, the wild, predatory animals would hurt you...all of them, with no distinction. It wasn't like some tigers were chill vegetarians. All the tigers would make a snack out of you. But humans are so much more complicated! Because some humans might make a snack out of you. Most middle aged white men with facial hair are perfectly lovely people, but others have human remains decomposing beneath their basement floorboards. It's so hard to tell who is a serial killer these days.

In order to protect ourselves, we create wide sweeping generalizations about groups of people. All these people are this way and that makes them safe/unsafe for me. We see this happen with race, religion, sexual orientation, and even gender. If a person has a string of traumatic or difficult experiences with members of a certain gender, one might be inclined to say something like, "Men/Women are assholes/crazy bitches! I'm never dating again!" #foreversingle

What of trust, though? What of the suspension of disbelief? What of knowing anything to be possible? What of remaining mentally flexible enough to allow everyone to play every part of themselves, even the parts your lizard brain finds to be incongruent with the stereotype you bought in to? Do you like the idea of being type cast because of one portion of your being? Wouldn't you like to be seen for the whole of who you are?

Of course you would! Even if you find parts of yourself to be "dark, harsh, shameful, maimed, ugly, irreparably damaged," those are the parts which ache the most to be brought to light and healed. The urge to connect is an entirely natural, totally vital human necessity. We can't get along without being in community, and not with just anyone, but with those who will love our whole selves without condition.

This kind of love, the only kind that is worth having, is a two way street, my friends. In order to be seen as the richly diverse, multidimensional creature that you are, you have to be willing to open your mind to the dynamism of others. No one thing defines our whole being- not who someone loves, not the color of their skin, nor what sort of god they worship.

Our insides are capable of a spaciousness that can contain what may appear to be stark duality. Expand. Get comfortable holding this. You are not locked into the roles others have cast you in, or even the roles you've chosen for yourself. We are free to play every part of who we are, responding authentically and intelligently to the moment at hand. Some days you're a virtuous lady and some days youze a ho. Other days you're both. All at once. You are large. You contain multitudes.

You decide what part to play.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

When You're Feeling Weird and Sad and Fucked Up and Kind of Evil.

Think about the time you got too drunk at an open bar on Sunday Funday, threw up in the kitchen garbage can of that Mediterranean restaurant off Castro, and ended up crying on the train platform, being prayed over by a homeless woman because she was so worried about you. Think about how far you've come, and how much more you love yourself now.

Think about that moment when you were 16 and your mama told you she had cancer and the world stopped. Think about how, 15 years later, she's still here.

Think about how you know the difference between "your" and "you're" and "there," "their," and "they're."

Think about how when you were being grown in your mama's belly, all the cells formed at the right pace and went to the right places and  you came out in good shape. Think about how your mama's appendix exploded while you were growing in there and an angel saved you both. Think about how young and scared your mama was, but that she CHOSE you. Think about her incredible courage and sacrifice and be humbled.

Think about your ride-or-dies and how fiercely they love you.

Think about all the good you've done for others as a friend, confidant, teacher in many capacities, home mover, healer, listener, sister, daughter...You have purpose here. You matter.

Think about all the cool shit you've had the fortune to be able to do, learn and experience. Think about the privilege you were born with arriving in the time, place and body that you did.

Think about how they say you're not really a New Yorker until you've cried on the subway, and therefore how much of a New Yorker that makes you.

Think about how you're only getting better, brighter, smarter and more lovely with age. Appreciate this moment and joyfully anticipate further greatness.

Think about how precious and sacred and kind the word "no" can be.

Think about how no plan you've ever made is as good as how things eventually turn out, even if it takes awhile. Let things develop. You have no idea what they mean yet.

Think about how nothing has ever broken you, and this won't, either.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Friends & Lovers

A few years ago, I took a friend as a lover. He wasn't a close friend, really more of an acquaintance, but the nature of our relationship certainly did shift. Sometimes there was far less clothing involved in our relating than before, and sometimes we did nauseatingly adorable things like sunny Sunday brunch followed by lazy neighborhood stroll hand holding and farmer's market perusing. In essence, though, we were still friends. I despise the term "friends with benefits" because it implies that being my friend is not already a benefit. Bitch, please! Do you have any idea how strong my friendship game is? Consider yourself massively blessed if I choose to bring you into the fold of my friend cult. Even if we go years without talking, I'll still be your ride-or-die hommie for life unless you do something really crazy. But I digress...

My friend and I were friends but we were also lovers, and that worked well for us. He's a wonderful human being but I knew he wasn't my ride-or-die romance hommie. From the start I intuited separate paths for us. We enjoyed a sweet season together which faded out naturally, and I'll always think of him fondly. This was my first foray into this sort of relationship dynamic and it was an enlightening examination of my own expectations about romantic relating.

Have you ever noticed how awful people can be to their partners? Some people are awful to everyone, but for the most part friends and family will be quick to call you out when you're out of line. They're good at keeping us on our better behavior. Something different happens when you start having sexy love feelings for someone, though. There's this raw vulnerability which surfaces, exposing and triggering unresolved emotional trauma and baggage. Yogi Bhajan called marriage the highest form of yoga because yoga shows you to yourself and so does your spouse. They act as a mirror, clearly revealing every part of you, even when you're made ugly by your own pettiness, anger, fear or greed. Vulnerability can be thrilling (that magical head rush of "falling in love") but it can also be terrifying (the special horror of someone else seeing the parts of yourself of which you are ashamed). And in our terror of being laid bare before this other person, sometimes we behave very unskillfully.


This whole scenario is different when you take a lover friend, though. You can still treat them
horrendously, but unlike the person you married or share a lease/cat/cactus garden with, the only thing binding them to you is a shared appreciation of spending time together. The natural boundaries and respect of a friendship are still in place. There is no "future building," no weighty expectations or obligations. You are together because you want to be in the moment. There is something so fresh and present about this, it puts me at ease to think about.

Of course, you can't build a life with someone this way. Or can you?

What if we could approach all our romantic relating with the same sort of warm appreciation, gentleness and ease that we do our friendships? What if the line wasn't so distinct, the expectations less demanding? You can make a lifetime commitment to someone that you take one day at a time, waking every morning and choosing to love that person again that day. Isn't that what we subconsciously do with our friends? I never think about friendships lasting a lifetime, but there are many incredible humans in my life whom I hope to have the privilege of growing old with. It is a different dynamic with a lover, but should we really treat these people so differently? When we are so vulnerable in the intimacy that we share, should we treat our lovers like anything but treasured friends?

Despite the lack of formal commitment, lover friends still have some obligations to one another, based out of the respect and admiration that they hold for each other. They have to communicate their needs, boundaries and desires. They have to be aware that the choices they make with their bodies could affect the other. They have to know themselves, and take ownership over their own feelings and behaviors. There is no room for bad communication, recklessness or projection among lover friends...not if you want to remain friends after you are no longer lovers.

This begs the question: Is there room in any sort of relationship for bad communication, recklessness or projection? No, there's really not. Not among lover friends, regular friends, coworkers, spouses, family members or subway patrons. Everyone has bad days, and we possess the grace to unsee them and love each other anyway. How many bad days are too many? What can we unsee and what is intolerable? That's for you to decide.

The only commitment we can realistically make is to show up to the present moment with our hearts in our ((trembling)) hands, offering each other our best, brightest love. We can choose to encourage rather than criticize when we falter. We can make choices which respect ourselves and those with whom we share care. We can boldly know and own every part of ourselves, and let ourselves be seen clearly and healed in this intimacy. We can get what we desire by asking for it. We can strive to be really excellent to one another in all our relating, and be grateful for each other's grace when we're not.

The appearance of sex in your relationship is no time to toughen.
Kindness is always the answer.
Let your love lead the way.


Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Denial and Permission.

Four Lents ago, fours-years-ago Kirsten wrote a blog about using Lent as a time to do something to thoughtfully and significantly impact your health and well being. As we enter Lent this year, the 40* days leading up to Easter, I am echoing that call, with some new suggestions. First, let's talk about self-denial...

Catholics, the Lent proponents who governed my spiritual childhood, love the word "no." They love to deny themselves pleasure of all kinds, so the default Lenten sacrifice tends to be giving up something you like for the season. This can be a very good thing, but only if the thing you're giving up is a real sacrifice for you, and giving it up will challenge you to grow and improve your quality of life. Here are some examples:

-Say you spend a large portion of your income on alcohol. Not only are you drinking a lot, but you're also funneling your money away from things like fun vacations and healthy groceries. A worthwhile Lenten sacrifice would be to stop drinking for the season, contributing to the health of both your body and your finances. You could take the money you would've spent on alcohol and donate it to a cause that moves you, or put it in savings for something fun. This same example could cover any addictive substance, whether it's illicit or prescription drugs, or food drugs like processed sugar and caffeine. Exploring our relationship to the things that alter our brain chemistry is a powerful practice that can help us get to the root of addiction and be that much more free. Speaking of which...

-Emotional Fasting FROM: Do you ever feel like a slave to an emotion? Bound by fear or anxiety? Blinded by anger? Soured by disgust? Crippled by sadness? All feelings are valid, but if we experience too much of one, we lose emotional balance. This is where Rasa Sadhana comes in, a Tantric-based practice in choosing not to get involved with the Rasas (emotions) of Fear, Anger, Disgust or Sadness. If you find that you're experiencing too much of one emotion and it's affecting the quality of your life, you may choose to use this time to fast from that feeling. This is not accomplished by suppressing it- that never works. Whatever we resist, persists. Instead, you would undertake a practice in mindfulness; take a deep breath, note when the feeling surfaces, what triggered it and how it feels in your body. It's pure observation and zero judgement. This exercise helps you to become the master of your mind and emotions, giving you a moment of pause to choose what comes next. Will I give in to this emotion, allowing it to take me over? Or, will I greet it warmly, learn why it's there and let it pass through? Will you stew in it or will you let it flow?

Since I'm a big proponent of pleasure and the cultivation of good, I like to take the Lenten season to commit to a daily habit that will change my life for the better. Denial can grow you, but so can permission and devoting care to yourself and your elevation. Here are some examples:

- Emotional Fasting ON: The other side of the Rasa Sadhana coin encourages us to experience more of the Rasas of Love, Joy, Wonder, Peace and Courage, particularly if we feel deficient in any of these areas. Emotional fasting FROM and ON can easily go hand in hand. Personally, there are times I find myself overcome by fear that limits my life in important ways. I'm committing this Lent to gently confronting my fears by feeling them but going ahead and doing it anyway, thereby activating my courage, and experiencing the joy of accomplishment and the peace of having one less fear. If you've been feeling beleaguered lately, like everything is hard and nothing is working, try taking this time to bring more joy into your life. Ask yourself what would give you pleasure and do it. If you are having a hard time feeling love for someone (especially if it's yourself!), you could undertake a practice of loving kindness meditation. If you're feeling particularly jaded, take some time to slow down and experience the wonder of life from a child-like perspective. There are lots of options, lots of things to try on and refresh your outlook.

-Health! Do you never eat vegetables? Maybe you use this time to figure out how to get them into your daily life AND enjoy them! Do you never workout? Maybe you use this time to get a gym membership (and use it...) or start some other kind of exercise routine. Are you a Type A stress case with an ulcer? Maybe you use this time to begin a practice in meditation and yoga. Do you stay up way too late writing all the time? Maybe you use this time to put yourself to bed at a reasonable hour every night like an adult (ahem). There are things you can give up that greatly increase your health, but it's not enough. This must be partnered with gifts you give yourself to take the space of what's been given up. Junk food is replaced by clean food. Excessive TV is replaced by reading a good book. Getting wasted to numb difficult feelings is replaced by going to professional therapy. Give yourself MORE, not less!

-Attitude of Gratitude: This is sort of an emotional fasting on, but I think it's worthwhile to single out because of its potency. I don't know about you, but daily recognition of all the ways that I'm blessed fills me with such a deep feeling of happiness and contentment. If you feel your life is lacking, perhaps your Lenten devotion could be to record at least three things a day for which you are grateful. Write them down for later review! Nothing helps me feel full more than clearly seeing how much is already there. If you're able to read this, I guarantee you have a lot for which to be grateful...education, sight, electricity, a smartphone or computer, an internet connection, a bit of leisure time, etc etc etc.

-Devotion of Time, Talent and Treasure: Perhaps what you give up can be for the benefit of another. Maybe you give up time to volunteer with a non-profit whose work speaks to your heart. If you don't have time, but have excess money, maybe you donate to that non-profit which you'd like to support.

-The Creation of Beautiful Things: Do you have a neglected passion? Do you love to make music or paint or sew? Write or quilt or woodwork? Maybe you can spend the Lenten season rededicating yourself to your creative life and putting more beauty into the world. You can also tie this in to volunteerism by giving your time to teach your talent to someone else, or donating the proceeds from the sale of what you make.

Of course, I ain't yo mama, and you can do or not do whatever you want. I understand that the somberness of Lent is meant to honor Jesus' suffering and sacrifice on the cross. However, if we're getting Biblical, Galatians teaches us that it was for freedom that Christ set us free...not for self-denial, UNLESS it serves to grant us more freedom and well being. The ever loving spiritual teacher that I believe in would be honored to have this time dedicated to our upliftment and that of others. Let's make the sacrifices of Lent weighty, giving them the power to truly transform. Or not!

What comes next is up to you.

*during Lent, Sundays don't count, so technically it's 46 days. Sunday is a spiritual cheat day. Jesus coined the term "Sunday Funday." Get hammered and eat all the doughnuts you want, you heathens.

"He gave the cup to his disciples and said, 'Take this, all of you, and play beer pong with it. It's Sunday Funday. Let's get weird. Do this in memory of me.'"



Monday, February 9, 2015

Oh, No! Absolutely not...or, Radical Consent.

This guy tried to take my pants off tonight....repeatedly.

Everything was fine and consensual until he yanked at the waistband of my "everything must be soft because I'm in my 30s" stretchy pants and I yanked back up, and he yanked again and I had to say, "Hey, I need to slow it down." This was respected for awhile until it wasn't and I found myself repeating the request from before which he didn't believe or hear correctly because it happened a third time and then I left. But! Not before explaining that although I do like him, I am serious when I say I need to move slowly. I am not DTF, so knock it the fuck off.

The thing was, before he got pushy there was a point where I did waffle a bit. I went into the evening with no intention of sleeping with him, but he's cute and smart and smells good, and has a firm, present quality of touch that left me feeling safe and cherished while we cuddled and watched "Exit Through the Gift Shop." I was turned on and feeling it, reaching a point where I was grateful I'd bothered to shave my legs recently. I began to desire a more intimate exchange but I've become a bit skittish about intimacy and knew I needed to wade in thoughtfully...and fully clothed. Then my feelings changed in response to his shift in behavior.

Desire is a living, breathing creature constantly evolving to meet the changing needs of the individual. What I desire now is not what I desired even six months ago. What I desire can change instantly. I went to the taqueria for tacos the other night after thinking about them for days, and I ended up with nachos. They were delicious and satisfying and I regret nothing. If it were my job to satisfy my date's desires, I would've let him remove my many winter layers, but as it were, my only job is to satisfy myself.

Living a life of service is a beautiful thing. However, many years as a professional caretaker has taught me that if self-care is not a priority, if you do not put yourself first enough of the time, you cannot be effective. You will burn out and begin to resent those you care for (I used to get so mad at my clients when I was delivering particularly good massages). If you allow your desires to guide you from moment to moment, you will live in a continuous state of self-respect. We are taught, particularly as women, that desire is wrong and leads to our ruination, but it is when we don't allow our desires to lead the way that we get lost. We honor ourselves and keep ourselves safe by paying attention to what feels good...or not. We should absolutely never do anything that we don't truly want to do.

A few years ago I was sexually assaulted because I suppressed the expression of my desires. I didn't listen when she told me not to go out that night. I didn't listen when I decided that what mattered was appealing to some idiot guy. I didn't listen when she told me all she wanted to do was cuddle and kiss. HE didn't listen when I quietly, passively refused him. That is HIS fault. However, had I listened to my desires from the start, I never would've ended up there in the first place. Had the fulfillment of my desires been my priority, I would have honored what she asked for and let her keep me from terrible compromise. That is a end result of suppressing your desires: compromise that may be too expensive to afford.

In order to ensure that everyone is within the realm of what they desire, we have to be able to first identify what our desires are, and then be able to communicate them. There is an essential necessity, as well, to understand that desires change, sometimes rapidly. It doesn't mean that you check in with your friends or lovers every minute to make sure they're still into playing bocce ball or being slapped, but you have to be open to sudden course corrections. If your lover clearly tells you to slow things down, you better stop trying to literally get into their pants...or they'll leave and go home to write about you on the internet.

Slow down means slow down. No means no. When your desire involves another person and you are refused, you cannot continue pursuit. Stop immediately and check in. It may be fine to carry on if you respectfully receive your lover's current desire and modify your behavior accordingly. But you MUST COMMUNICATE. Asking permission puts us in a vulnerable place. Rejection almost always feels awful. However, that whole "It's easier to ask for forgiveness than for permission" thing doesn't apply within the context of human intimacy. If your marriage isn't open and you sleep with someone who's not your spouse, it's not cool. If you really want to try anal, but feel embarrassed about asking, you better NOT slip it in "accidentally." SO FUCKING NOT COOL, BRO.

This is why it's so essential to decriminalize desire. If it is okay to ask, then people will be more inclined to ask. This would be helped by learning to hear desires without feeling the pressure to go against our own by agreeing to something that we don't really want. We must stand for ourselves and respect the truth of our hearts, balancing this with the ability to hear another's truth. We can hear and not agree. We can speak our truth and be refused. This may sting but we will not die. We're just gaining practice asking for what matters most to us, and this is a good and right thing. It only makes us better communicators and helps us remember that no one is obligated to serve up our desires on a silver platter.

There is no entitlement. There are no obligations.

The only things worth having are those that are offered freely and joyfully, from a place of authentic desire.

Know and respect your desires, and those of others...and don't you ever do anything that you don't really want to do.

Life's too short for such expensive compromises. You're worthy of far more than that.