May, 2014

the (sacred) art of breaking yourself open

“Sometimes it takes darkness and the sweet
confinement of your aloneness
to learn

anything or anyone
that does not bring you alive

is too small for you.”

— David Whyte

At one point last fall, someone I loved was in emotional crisis. I drove to see him, both hands gripping the wheel, the freeway unfurling in front of me. It was as if the excess stuff in my life burned off layer by layer, leaving nothing but crystalline core: the sense of what truly mattered.

In that moment I knew who I was, I knew my purpose. That drive jolted me into being. I was focused and present. I was alive.

The crisis passed.

Things gradually became okay again.

I haven’t had that experience of diamond-edged clarity since, but it left a taste and texture in my brain. Life holds every one of us to a final accounting, and when that moment comes I will know if I lived fully and well: if I loved, if I contributed, if I was wise and savvy enough to recognize the beauty of the moment, and then to let it go; if I handled pain with dignity and transformed my wounds to light.

I can only imagine – except I don’t want to imagine – Elliot Rodger’s final thoughts, the life he was forced to account for just before he ended it. click here

May 29, 2014 · 10 Comments / ADD YOURS

how not to care so much what other people think

I think confidence is the way we meet our circumstances, whether they are wondrous and wonderful or really hard and difficult…It’s almost like a wholeheartedness, where we’re not holding back. We’re not fragmented. We’re not divided. We’re just going towards what’s happening. There’s an energy to it. I think that’s confidence. And it’s absolutely part of human fulfillment.” — Sharon Salzberg

Last night a close girlfriend and I went out to a little gallery on Melrose that was holding a fundraiser for Sandra Fluke in her run for state Senate.

Two young women – one of them Thora Birch of AMERICAN BEAUTY fame – gave speeches, intelligent, impassioned, thoughtful, informed speeches, and I thought again of this hunger that is out there for female role models who are not celebrated first and foremost for their hotness (or criticized for a supposed lack of).

The same friend and I had gone to hear Sandra speak at another event about a year ago. During the q + a someone asked how she felt about the vicious verbal attacks Rush Limbaugh and his ilk aimed at her when she spoke to the need for insurance companies to cover birth control.

Sandra expressed her relief that this particular spotlight had fallen on someone like her — with such a straight-arrow past that she literally had nothing to hide from the private investigators the Republicans hired to shame and discredit her — instead of someone who could truly get damaged. (“You,” one investigator told her, or something to this effect, “are one of the most boring people on the planet.” He meant it as a good thing.)

I liked this answer because it showed how Sandra recognized the impersonal nature of these very personal attacks. They weren’t going after her so much as what she stood for: the idea, or set of ideas, that she embodies.

She knows that those ideas are worth championing.

She is hooked into something bigger than herself.

I thought of Sandra when I went to hear Hillary Clinton speak at UCLA a few months ago. When her interviewer asked what Hillary’s advice would be to all the young people in the audience who want to change the world, Hillary spoke of the need for young women in particular to grow a very thick skin. When you try to change the status quo, she said, you will get criticized, sometimes even verbally attacked, by people whose primary goal is to make you sit down and shut up. (For women, these attacks still tend to circle in on appearance and sexuality.)

Male or female, though – unless we’re narcissistic or sociopathic – we generally want people to think well of us. It’s easy to say you shouldn’t care what they think, but it’s harder to actually do that when the part of the brain that registers a social slight is the same part that registers a physical blow. We are social animals, and once upon a time isolation from the herd meant probable death. To lose approval in the eyes of others can be, to our ancient brain, as much of a survival threat as something crouching in the bushes to eat us. click here

May 4, 2014 · 15 Comments / ADD YOURS
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