Ahimsa & My Ego

Heart ablaze again, guide me. You I consult in times of humility. You I live by, you my internal North Star. The Jesus before and after they spoke to me of him. You, preservation of my relationships, hope of my days. 

This week I said the most powerful and dreaded word in the English language. Never expected that from myself, consciously or by accident. As a believer (believer in Spirit, that is, the world inside our world, always conspiring to make itself known to the physical beings), a mistake of this kind leads to deep introspection. In fact, since getting suspended from my job, I have passed days almost entirely alone and in deep reflection. How did I get so out of touch with my heart that a word contrary to who I have worked to become, slipped, like any other word, across my lips? That is Spirit. That is Spirit asking for attention. True sign of my need to pay attention. To get woke anew already.

You see, waking up to the pain of those around us isn’t a one time thing. It is an evolutionary (gradual; see Everything is Spiritual for a deeper explanation of this idea) process. I cannot one day decide that I will abide by the revolutionary ideals of Jesus and stand against the system of domination and expect myself to….abide there from that day forward. That is uncomfortable territory. That is asking the ego to bow. That is tough shit.

Violence happens to humans everyday in the form of unkind or careless words and actions: all the grub and grime of a groaning and restless world. Our fears are the first application process, so to speak, through which that daily violent input must pass. Fear we encounter on the daily  is a disruption which can become either ego fodder or transformation fuel. Author Deborah Adele says that there are two kinds of fear: instinctual fear, for the sake of survival, and fear of the unfamiliar (The Yamas and Niyamas, 2009). Those of us who exist on the more posh side of life (a place to live, some food to eat, very few–if any–daily threats to security, health, and freedom) are prone to over-entertainment of the second kind of fear. (It goes all the way back to the Old Testament IMO, when they scaped those poor goats all the way to the wilderness with everybody’s adultery and disrespect and masturbation tied on its’ back; A live metaphor for the weight of human sin.) When humans have time and/or security, they seem to begin to react to fears (real or unreal, rational or irrational–ego food all the same), and inevitably accumulate guilt. Well….who is around to interrupt this fear and guilt cycle? Who trips us up when we walk in the pride caused by this treacherous consumption of fear? Them. People (especially those at or near the top of the food chain) like to pin guilt on them. The ones without fear. The ones who face fear number one and still have the nerve to stand on street corners asking for money. The ones who do the-thing-I-never-would and dare to continue living instead of melting into the dehumanizing guilt-puddle we expect. It’s yuck, but it’s human. Or, tragically, entire people groups scapegoat other entire people groups because of the truth they tell about history (see: Black Experience in America). Humans do this, and then the ego, if unaddressed by empathy (or equal parts suffering), laps that stuff up like a thirsty puppy, and, like a puppy, it grows. Then, perhaps, it bites.

The same day I am dismissed from work, I reach up to grab a book or two off the Black History Month shelf at Terry library, and for the first time, insecurity chases my hand back into my pocket. Racist, I hear the voice of accusation inside my head. What are you trying to cover up? 

The ego growls and I snarl to myself: the injustice of it! That my innocent action should be inhibited by a single misunderstanding. One accusation.

One accusation, not even voiced outright had me suspended in inaction and egoism.

Violence to fear. Violence reaps fear. If I refuse to scapegoat this insecurity grounded in fear, where does it go?

Transformation fuel. To quote Gary Zukav (The Seat of the Soul.), “…we are held responsible for our every action, thought and feeling, which is to say, for our every intention.” Pay by what you outsource to others, or pay by running your own transformation race. The choice is always ours.

I have found that my ego’s kryptonite is understanding. When I take the time to understand, I overcome violence in myself, and in my interactions with others by the power of peace and by lofty aspirations of Love. Understanding often leads me to tears; this time I can’t help reflect on how hurtful this me-centered attitude must have been over the course of these callous months, culminating in my utterance of that unfit word, to my minority friends, or friends living on the corner of gender and racial discrimination* in this often hateful society. I acted contrary to the magnificent Eastern value of Ahimsa; nonviolence, and thus, contrary to my deepest self. I can do better. We can do better.

One accusation, result of my mistake, shaved ounces off my ego. No wonder the African American community has offered the world countless humble artists, truth-tellers, and thundering prophets. How many accusations do they hear in a day, my brothers and sisters next door, yet so far away from me? Drunk. Lazy. Racist. Dumb. Inadequate. Inferior. The list goes on, for them and for our Native American kindred. May my white ego stop short, as those of my friends are forced to every time they leave their homes.

So much to learn, so much loving left to do.

Gratitude & Hope for Ahimsa,

Lydia Nomad

 

*For more on this idea of Intersectionality visit The Liturgists

 

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I Can Laugh Again

There is a moment of my life that I will never stop writing about.

It is you, Jamal. You fiery young one, left alone in so many ways.

I find myself burning with the desire to write about those moments which cannot be written or comprehended: they cannot be anything more than marveled at, danced with.

Yet here I am, writing just like people write about one another, about pets and history and anatomy. We do not know. We are alive. We explore, either because we want to know, or because we are alive, or both. Only the people know why.

There is me, there was me, there was that moment. Then there is the power that moment has to touch today–two years later–and to shape the moments I have survived between those two: today, that day.

It was Love, that moment. I thought I knew something of God (or gods) then; now I know I do not. I attributed it to God then, that love, but today I know less of that day than I did then though I have gained much from it.

When I saw the vein in his neck protruding and his head hung and his arms slung around like he was trying to convince us to be against him though, really, he was begging someone to be for him when he could not be for himself.

As something or someone in me rose up to be that one, graciously, unconditionally, for him in a crowd of embarrassed scoffers, I experienced the inexplicable Love. I pushed in as he pushed against himself because I know what it is to be trapped and alone and have no idea which way would be a better way because this is all I know.

That love changed everything because I felt such a wave of grace, such bizarre empowerment, that from then on (skipping like a school girl with a jump rope from that day to this day to all the rest of my days) I knew that if Love is true you will not need it anymore when it goes.

True Love gives you something so that when it leaves, you will not ultimately doubt its goodness but will trust its infilling power and know that when it is just you with yourself again, you will have a bit more of you to face you with.

There will be moments that skip across your life like smooth stones on a river, they will touch you, change you, and you will find yourself in that unpredictable phenomenon.

Someone or something will move toward you and you will move toward someone else. That is called dancing, and it is born from and carried out by Love.

You are loved

and

you will come to Love you.

The Cry of the (White) Kids

Yesterday there was a 4th of July party at my parents house. I walked in the door, hugged my mom, and willingly exiled myself to the kids room. The kids table, outside with the kids after dinner, the whole deal.

I am 23 and I have been working with kids for 7 years.

When I was in Chile, who did I miss? Right: kids.

I do not have my own kids and I do not want my own kids.

However, it is clear that I like kids. I want to be around them. I do not like them because they are small and say random things and I can boss them around and sound smart while telling them historic or scientific facts that everyone who has any sort of middle school education knows. No, actually, I like them because I respect them. I feel that by being the only ones here brave enough to be vulnerable and ignorant and small, they earn my respect. When I am in a room with adults my interior screams: WHY DONT WE ALL STOP FAKING IT. When I am with kids, well, it gets quieter.

The most shocking cultural behavior that has impacted me this year during my re-entry has undeniably been the way people in the U.S.A. treat their children. White kids, in particular, get my attention because I have only ever been one, and I know exactly how it feels to be a sensitive creature at the other end of that repremand, that painted smile, that flippant laugh.

Interactions in restaurants, at the gym, in the neighborhood–anywhere!–have exposed me anew to the egoistical disrespect with which children are treated. We have got to stop! If we do not acknowledge our children as humans, and being a human as intrinsically good, how will we love this world back to life?

The lie of badness is daily hammered into children, in all spheres of our culture. Home. School. Play. Good Lord, no wonder we are killing each other! I almost do not blame us. Except for all of the goodness I have seen, and have learned to see. There is so much goodness & we are truly all intrinsically good, accepted, loved, and valued. This darkness cannot last long. Our souls were made to be free, if not as children, then as adults.

I wrote the following piece after witnessing a particularly harrowing parenting episode in a restaurant. Parenting truly must be difficult, but I know it is not impossible to hear the cry of our children. I know it is possible for each adult in the U.S.A. to welcome their the truth of their goodness home into their deepest selves that they may pass it on. That the cry for love may be heard, and may heal the generations to come.

The Cry of the White Kid is a cry for respect & love. May we, as adults, receive the love and respect that is freely poured out on us from the Divine, and may our children absorb it and thrive.

The Cry of the White Kid

Mom, Dad,

Please dont look me in the face and tell me that I am bad.

Please dont teach me to see the patterns of my shadows–I need you to teach me to see the light that will lead me into and through that darkness.

Please dont smile at your friends and tell them how bad I am while I have tears streaming down my face.

Please dont laugh at the way I swim or only point out my weaknesses.

Please assume that I am right where I should be, instead of stressing constantly that I am behind the others.

Please dont use me to puff up your ego or make your decisions or shield you from your emotions.

Please dont always point out my imperfections–I already see them in full color. I need you to show me my perfection. No one else ever will.

Love unconditionally and with all my respect,

Future You in the World

 

Amen,

Lydia Nomad, a white kid 🙂

 

P.S. Here is a Great Parenting Blog Post.

 

Tend-and-befriender

It is odd to tell a story as if it was a thing that happened and it has an end and tra la la. This story is a chapter, it is a leaf only recently flipped over, and I am not sure which parts of its’ green vines to write, and which to leave for later.

Yet today, here, now, all I have is cute little me and my inhospitable life story and path. Here, friends, is a part.

August 2015 I am in a restaurant in Birmingham, Alabama with my best friend Emily. She is chewing red and yellow tortilla chips in the magical way only she can, and I gaze at the shiny bottles of alcohol propped on and around the bar caddy-corner to us.

“I’m just afraid that I will marry him and go to be with him and then hate it and not want to be there,” I say. Emily and I do not talk about everything but we talk about most things and all the deep things, yet somehow there is a unique heaviness to the fear I share in this moment. Emily nods like the sane, level-headed being she is, and validates my concern with restraint.

Sadly, utter heaviness was no stranger to my experience of life then, and still maintains a fairly reliable presence (always forward, always healing, always hopeful). At that point I was back from an emotionally stressful overseas trip, and had returned with a new tend-and-befriender. What is that, you ask? Using language from Teresa B. Pasquale’s book Sacred Wounds, tend-and-befriend is a defense mechanism used by someone in survival mode or trauma response. It is associated with the bonding hormone, oxytocin, that serves humans by helping us feel connected to others. It becomes nefarious, however, when a person is stuck in a trauma response and feels dependent emotionally on (often potentially hurtful) people or communities.

At the age of 21, I had spent the majority of my life (read: every second) moving from a stress response. The emotional and religious trauma of my developmental years left me stuck in frozen distress (things can get reeeeeally hairy there is distress-arctica, let me tell ya), and there I was, about two months after the difficult trip, feeling a deep obligation to return to be with someone in a foreign country who had helped me through a VERY rough 13 days. I felt that I owed him something, and that to return and live the life I assumed he wanted from or with me was the undeniable right thing to do.

I felt it not on a spiritual level, nor on a level of dutifulness, nor on an intellectual level. It was deeper than those parts of me, and now I know that when I feel that deep, guttural obligation it is coming from my very evolution. Those stress responses are a part of me because I am a part of an evolving body of humanity; sounds beautiful, sure, but in that moment, I was very stuck. Living in this kind of stress response is like trying to breath with air that is only 0.09% oxygen. It is having your insides in the fetal position when you need them to open and flourish and say things and be responsive to people. It is a jack-hammer in your mind that leaves you vulnerable to re-experiencing the abuse combined with a sense of badness that stings and prods like horse flies on the beach. It is no sleep and avoidance of every love-light ray that comes near your personal darkness.

The religious trauma compounded with this process has continually led me to my knees, trying to bargain with push-and-pull gods off in the cosmos who made me, so must want me, but also must not want me since here I am in this turmoil again.

Thankfully, the kind man who helped me when I was overseas, lived, yes, overseas. After 5+ months in contact with him, I suddenly cut all conversation–text, calls, video. He offered advice and was kind and looking back I think he must have sensed the turmoil I was in though he did not understand it either, and I said goodbye.

January 2016 I am at my part-time cleaning job the day after cutting off the relationship and the air is back to 20% oxygen. Sweet, sweet clear oxygen filling my shriveled lungs. I lift my Pledge-covered rag over my head and dance; I feel elated, happy, for the first time in months. I am happy because I see that I am mine. As the jack-hammer lifts off my mind, I am thinking over and over: this is my life. I clean this house. This is my heart. I feel these things. The fetus my insides had become is suddenly a seed of new life, rather than a posture of protection. I am mine again, independent, and my muchness is slipping back into the ghost of myself that has been living misguided and drained for the past months.

I still wonder if people without an over-active stress response system feel that elated all the time. I wonder how many times I will have to survive a response like that again until my Holy Trinity (body, mind, soul) can look a stressful situation in the face and know that I am enough, and that it is going to be okay and I am going to make it regardless of what goes down.

I never should have accessed this place of stress and trauma. I certainly never should have gotten stuck in it for so long. But this is my life. MY super unique and immense life, people. I am grateful that I get to live it, know it, figure it out. This life is path and path is where my insides and outsides come together and I experience joy and love and laughter. Here, on path, I take the hands of my loved-ones with my own, even when I feel that my hands are not worthy to be inside of someone else’s.

Last week someone I love very much was angry and I could see the anger that she was trying to protect me from as I stroked her black hair.

I could see. I have lived. It has hurt. I can see.

Live free, live inside of the Big Love.

Namaste, nomads.

 

LN

 

 

 

 

Ode To My People

Ode To My People

 

Rationality is me seeing what I see

and not saying otherwise.

To say is to be brave;

for to say is to admit that you are not happy

in a system where the meter of your happiness provides true indication of belovedness.

 

This is the system of my heritage and it demands Truth or belovedness, but finds their coexistence to be

a confounding impossiblity.

 

If this system is true

then I am unloved and unhappy,

(though I often feel both loved and happy)

because this is what I see and must speak:

 

Dehumanizing declarations made at Thanksgiving and families move yet further away from unity

Original land owners herded like cattle and eighteen year olds commit suicide on the eve of high school graduation

Women with ebony eyes disappear along with elephants and no one says if either one is important

New neighbors forced into corners of lives spent with hands red and bruised from tearing frozen

chicken breasts

 

Little feet and necks swell with flesh and with every click Coca-Cola makes millions

Men have bad dreams of the children they killed beneath a red flag

Ebenezer Scrooge lives in privileged pockets, sewn with the blood of Taiwanese factory workers,

just $7.99 at Old Navy

The final chapter of the Biology textbook goes untaught and lives of girls without options

grind to a halt

Twelve year olds are hustled across state borders like sacks of cocaine

Girls are touched in taxis and under tablecloths

Boys get shot in the street

 

Candy wrappers fly out of open windows and choke sea turtles

Concrete eats the grass

Earth´s belly heats up and casts religious people out of their homelands

Ice melts and Santa Claus will show up soon; a wintery work shop disrobed by our insistence on a 66 degree house year around

Regions suitable for cultivating vineyards move from North to South and still the planet is unchanging;

She is wrong about her own health

 

Irrationality is expecting the blind to see

the way I see.

 

Sight is a gift:

a gift that weighs on souls,

shaking the burden too long left on the shoulders of the beloved Underdog:

firstborn of the Christ.

 

This is the system of my heritage and it demands Truth or belovedness; but I dance

in their coexistence.

Truth is, I find myself beloved.

 

Woe to you!….For you load people with burdens hard to bear, and you yourselves do not touch the burdens with one of your fingers. (Luke 11:46)

Woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation. Woe to you who are full now, for you shall be hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep. Woe to you, when all people speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the prophets. (Luke 6:24-26)

Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall become straight, and the rough places shall become level ways. (Luke 3:5)