Monthly Archives: April 2015

Relationship is Fundamental

Armenian Genocide Vigil

Armenian Genocide Vigil, Trinity Church, Boston, April 23 2015
Photo Credit: Tricia Harvey

We’re commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide.  African refugees are drowning by the hundreds in the Mediterranean. Closer to home, Nancy, a much-beloved member of our church and dear friend to many, is actively dying. Her family and friends are at her bedside, feeling her light and witnessing its waning. Jerry’s cancer has metastasized to his bones and he has just weeks to live. Bill is in his last days and he’s terrified. Even beloved cats are dying. I sometimes feel like I’m immersed in suffering and death.

I wonder: What’s one White middle-aged Oregonian gonna do about all of this? What’s my job here?

 

No man is an island entire of itself; every man

is a piece of the continent, a part of the main;

if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe

is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as

well as any manner of thy friends or of thine

own were; any man’s death diminishes me,

because I am involved in mankind.

And therefore never send to know for whom

the bell tolls; it tolls for thee. – John Donne

 

 

Modern cosmology is proving the truth of Donne’s poetic statement. As Judy Cannato puts it in Radical Amazement, “All creation has come about through a single cosmic event, often called the Big Bang. Creation is not a static fixed event, but a cosmogenesis, an ongoing act of creation and creativity. Because all life is part of this single cosmic event, all life is connected at its most basic level.

 

“The theory of holons suggests that everything is a whole/part, that nothing is separate and distinct. Life consists of nested holons of increasing complexity. Relationship is fundamental.

 

A friend posted the photo of the Armenian Genocide memorial service in Boston last night. This is what we can do for them: light candles and remember them. Remember that this thing happened, and that things like it continue to happen. Know that as this thing happened to them, because we are all connected, it has happened, is happening, to us.

There’s where I find hope in our connection. I don’t know how to help African refugees except to make peace where I am, to live as peacefully and compassionately as I know how, which includes giving to organizations with boots on the ground. What I can do for the dying is be present with them and with those who mourn, with my whole witnessing heart. And because we are all connected, as I live intentionally, knowing that how I live makes a difference, the world will change. Thanks be to  God.

My Mind is a Lying SOB

Whychus Creek

Whychus Creek

Oregon is cougar country.

Oregon is also black bear country.

Neither cougars nor black bears typically attack people. Nevertheless, hikers in Oregon are wise to know what to do if they come face-to-face with a cougar or a bear.

Yesterday I was hiking with a church group – sixteen people, mostly in their 60s and 70s – along Whychus Creek, just south of Sisters. Whychus Creek is a peaceful, beautiful place. Clear, cold aquamarine water runs at the bottom of a canyon over water-sculpted volcanic basalt. The trail winds next to the creek, through ponderosa pines and Douglas firs. Occasionally one of our local Cascades volcanoes peeks through the canopy. Turkey Vultures soar high above and forest birds sing.

Whychus Creek is perfect cougar habitat.

There I was, ambling peacefully along, listening to the water and the birds and the wind in the pines, when I heard it.

Crunch, snap, grrrrrrr.

I froze, gasped, and turned up slope toward the source of the noise.

There he was.

A 76-year-old Episcopalian named Dick, who had stepped off the trail to use the facili-trees and decided to scare the crap out of me.

After he was done apologizing and I was recovered, I noticed how different real fear is from the fake fear that results when our minds spin stories.

Almost all the fear we feel is a lie. Unless we’re in the presence of a bear or a cougar, we’re almost certainly victims of our mind’s bullshit. It’s good to be reminded of that – to be reminded of what real fear feels like.

Real fear is short-lived and intense. Fake fear lingers. We feel it as low-grade anxiety, tension, constant vigilance. Fake fear keeps us stuck, not safe. Fake fear causes all sorts of harm to our bodies.

So if you’re feeling fear and you’re not being stalked by a cougar, look inside your mind, under the hood, and identify what you’re thinking that’s causing you to feel afraid (aka “bullshit”). That thought is a lie. It’s not true. Use Byron Katie’s four questions on it, and feel your freedom expand.

I’m Leaving the Cult of Perfection

I took a walk alongwabi sabi Buddha the Deschutes River early this morning and thought about perfection. I evidently have a belief that if I’m not perfect something bad will happen. I won’t be loved, or someone will hurt me, or I’ll be laughed at. I know I’m not alone in this belief. Many of us are card-carrying members of the cult of perfection.

I’ve also been thinking a lot about stability as I develop a coaching program for women who are navigating change. Especially for those of us in midlife, the changes we’re experiencing tend to be associated with losses. We yearn for stability and comfort, and feel flawed because they’re elusive.

The cults of perfection and stability are intimately linked. They’re also profoundly misogynistic, rooted in a patriarchal, mechanistic, linear belief system that denigrates women’s bodies and the cyclical nature of life on earth. When we believe that our job as humans is to figure out how to get life right, and then spend all our energy keeping what we’ve built from changing and falling apart, we’re worshiping at the altars of stability and perfection.

While I was walking, I did The Work on this thought. (See Byron Katie’s website for a refresher on the four questions and turnarounds.)

I know that I think this thought is true. I know how much this thought keeps me playing safe and on alert, constantly scoping for what’s wrong. It keeps me small and judgmental of myself and others. Believing that I have to be perfect causes me stress that I feel in my body as anxiety and tension. This thought hurts.

When I drop the belief that I have to be perfect, I feel free and light. I’m generous with my work and my ideas and my creativity. I’m open about how I feel and what I think. I’m generous with other people and accept them as they are. Living is fun.

The obvious turnaround for “I have to be perfect” is “I have to be imperfect.” But “imperfect” is not a loving, positive word. Its English synonyms, according to Roget’s Thesaurus, are “deficient, defective, faulty, unsound, cracked, warped, frail, gimcrack, tottering, decrepit, rickety, battered, worn out, threadbare, seedy, worm-eaten, used up, decayed, mutilated.” See what I mean about the cult of perfection?? There is no English word that expresses “imperfection” positively.

So I looked beyond English to the Japanese, who thankfully do have such a word: “wabi-sabi.” Wabi-sabi is the Japanese conception of beauty as “imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete.” A rickety tea house, a roughly-glazed vase, a gnarly tree in the garden – all wabi-sabi and all beautiful because they are flawed, transient, and unfinished.

“I have to be wabi-sabi.” Yes. That’s most decidedly true. I have to be wabi-sabi because I am flawed, transient, and unfinished. What choice do I have but to be wabi-sabi?  Sure, I could keep trying to be perfect, but I’d rather be a card-carrying member of the wabi-sabi cult. Here’s to us, people of wabi-sabi!

I’m looking for women to test-drive my new program focused on change and loss. If you’re interested, please contact me.

as always, I offer free hour-long conversations to help you achieve peace and clarity, whatever’s going on. Contact me using the form below.