Marching to Souza

I always come back to the same mental problem: What am I missing? What do I need to change? What could be better?

I remember reading a quote in middle school saying that only a fool never changes his mind. I liked this. I grew up arguing with my younger sister on a daily basis, and in these arguments there were no rules. Something you said yesterday could certainly be held against you years later, even if your mind had been legitimately changed. I liked the idea of a freedom to pursue the truth, regardless of what I once thought. And rightly so! As a child, I was told that yoga was a cult religion, that a tall glass of milk a day was good for you, and that an overweight man would break in on the celebration of Christ’s birth and eat our food. We have to evolve if we want to understand real truth. But something occurred in my child mind that day that would shape my adult personality. At any point, I should be seeking to change myself, to modify my truth, to get it as close to The Truth as possible. It has been an exhausting ride, my friends.

So many of us take the complicated route to Truth. My husband Robert and I have had our share of filling the “God-Shaped Hole” with food and clothes. As we try to escape this existence, we justify smaller acts – “it’s not so bad if we use a Groupon!” “It’s the thrift store, I can buy whatever I want! Whee!” but none of these things delivered Truth.

Last night I was showing Robert and our dog Logan my progress in playing Moonlight Sonata, and we discussed the timing of certain parts. We searched the internet for various versions, and compared. This depressing song made us so happy as we focused only on it, like a meditation. Logan drowsed in and out of sleep, clearly a fan of the Classics. Then Robert asked, “what next?” – “Lacrimosa!” I yelled.

“Now what?” I asked, after that.

“Souza!” he yelled, jokingly. But it struck a chord. I was transported to my six-year-old existence, marching in the living room to an old record of Souza marches. “YES!”

And so we marched, and kicked, and jumped, like it was the Fourth of July. I channeled my child self last night – I was transported.

Truth is not out there. It is not found in the world. It isn’t even in family. It is within ourselves. Without the capacity to appreciate that family, that tree, that music, it is but clutter in our muddled minds. Let your Truth shine.

Forgiveness

“And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.” Mk 11:25

“And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Mt 6:12

These statements are so, so simple to say, and easy enough to practice until we are faced with a true transgression, a friend or family member who has wronged us in a way we cannot even wrap our brains around. Sometimes it may have been intentional. Others, it may have been done mindlessly. This person, though they may not have meant to harm you, may still feel they have done no wrong, or feel unable to apologize out of pride. In these instances, forgiveness is not merely a momentary action but can become a long-term struggle, taking every ounce of your strength to muster it.

In these cases, there are four things that will help you to forgive.

  1. “Let he who is without sin throw the first stone.” – This usually stops me dead in my tracks. My anger loses momentum when I think of all the friends I have wronged in large and small ways, whether in action or in a simple look of disgust.
  2. Walk a mile in their shoes. – Even if you know they are wrong, you can reconcile at least with the fact that they are enduring some kind of internal struggle, where they actually believe they are right, or are having difficulty admitting it. This is a legitimate and common human struggle, of which we are all guilty to some degree.
  3. “I forgive you for God.” – You do not forgive because your transgressor “earned” it. You must forgive because you are kind, and because you yourself have been subject to forgiveness you did not earn.
  4. “I forgive you for me.” – Spare yourself the heartache. The day you get over this is the day you can move on with your life.

There, now doesn’t that feel better? Once you’ve truly forgiven, it becomes easier to do it again. Letting things roll off your shoulders, though to some considered passive, is the true nature of God, and the message Jesus left behind.

Collective Consciousness – Emerson

The old fable covers a doctrine ever new and sublime; that there is One Man,–present to all particular men only partially, or through one faculty; and that you must take the whole society to find the whole man. Man is not a farmer, or a professor, or an engineer, but he is all. Man is priest, and scholar, and statesman, and producer, and soldier. In the divided or social state, these functions are parceled out to individuals, each of whom aims to do his stint of the joint work, whilst each other performs his. The fable implies, that the individual, to possess himself, must sometimes return from his own labor to embrace all the other laborers. But unfortunately, this original unit, this fountain of power, has been so distributed to multitudes, has been so minutely subdivided and peddled out, that it is spilled into drops, and cannot be gathered. The state of society is one in which the members have suffered amputation from the trunk, and strut about so many walking monsters,–a good finger, a neck, a stomach, an elbow, but never a man.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, in The American Scholar

How can man be satisfied with his day’s work when he cannot complete even one whole part to a working puzzle? The over-efficiency that plagues our world right now deprives man of the ability to connect to the finished product, to the consumer using the product, to his audience, to the reader. To those who feel they are made for something more, that there must be more to life than this work, they are right.

I was recently talking to a man who grew up in West Virginia, in the mountains. In the evenings, his neighbors would get together with their various instruments, voices, dancing shoes, and together would have a nightly convening of their talents. They would work together to make beautiful music, but also a community with a sense of wholeness, a rich environment for children, a sense of continuity for the elderly, and a place all could call home. I asked whether he joins in these festivities when he visits home. He told me that since the popularization of air conditioning and the internet, these get-togethers no longer take place. At all. What a heart-wrenching tale of the breakup of a community, a separation of a whole into individual parts, unable to sense the collective heartbeat any longer.

Good news – we’re humans. We need this connection. Sooner or later, we will tire of this trend toward isolation. Personally I’m rooting for a breakdown of all technology  that leads us back to an barter-based agricultural economy. But that’s the lazy way. The right way requires hard work, advocacy, and good parenting at the community level. I’ll work on mine, you work on yours.🙂

A New Chapter

I am now licensed to practice therapeutic massage in Ohio. I have turned down three jobs in two weeks, and I have two interviews this week. I could never have foreseen such a complete overhaul in my life. The progression of events has solidified my faith in God and the idea that nothing will fall into place until it’s the right time. Thanks to my previous employer, I’ve had a month and a half of paid time to look for new jobs in a completely different industry. After four long years, God handed this one to me on a platter.

Corporate America beat me down. Though I have the appropriate degree and management experience, I had been pegged at a certain level, with a certain monetary limit to what I was worth, and it wasn’t generous. I applied for jobs for years. Nothing. I tried playing the game. Nothing I mean what does a resume really say about a person? It certainly doesn’t convey innovation, intuition, loyalty in the truest sense, or other such intangible qualities. And it is these qualities I possess in abundant amounts. So screw THEM. A month and a half into my unemployment, my confidence has soared. At 18, the world was at my fingertips. At 22, I felt I had the skills to take on the business world. At 24 I felt I had nothing to offer, and at 26 I realize I have everything, but rarely will others appreciate my finer qualities. I am naturally a confident person, but I also internalize my surroundings. I understand why it is so important to surround yourself with supportive people. Working on MY goals with MY time has allowed me to reach a new state of mind. And the other day, I went to the thrift store and bought new pants… in my size. No more fitting into a job that is too small for me. I’m wearing big girl pants.

So many of us do a so-so job for so-so pay to afford a so-so life. But I’m so-so done with the so-called American Dream with the house and the constant state of one-upsmanship and resentment of others’ good fortune. At this stage in my life, Beatles songs seem to be seeping into my daily positive self-talk: “all you need is love.” “Just let it be, sis.” “All the lonely people, where do they all come from?” The last one usually pops up at the grocery store, but that’s another story.

My husband and I have been happier in the past month, with half our pay and no benefits, than we ever were in a manufactured stable “successful” life.

Naomi Wolf- Dangerous Writing

Author Naomi Wolf gave a keynote address at Columbus State Community College today as part of an ongoing seminar. Though not currently a student, writer, or seminar-goer, I felt drawn to it after reading a brief bio of this bright and inspiring author.

The address was given as part of a writing conference, but it was largely focused on advocacy. From mild surprise at hearing the C-word to a notebook full of excellent tips, it was engaging and well worth my time.

The most interesting point was the need to find your voice before you can become a writer who will affect any kind of change, and the fact that it will not be easy; in fact, it may be risky or even dangerous. From blogging all the way back to editing my high school yearbook, I’ve always thought of writing as a way to please, inspire and entertain. I’ve always considered what family would think about my writing, how it fits into my perceived sense of self, etc. Imagine… me, rocking the boat!

So. The things I care about: the earth, health, nonviolence and civil disobedience only when necessary, kindness, equality, ending hunger, anti-corporation in favor of a village life dynamic, mindfulness of how we affect others, rejecting society’s proposed categories and requirements for different types of people, reconnecting members of society to one another, limiting or eliminating technology, rejecting society’s views altogether in favor of positive social change, leading those who would seek to enact social change so they do not act on anger, damage their causes, or alienate others (Jesus, Gandhi, Dr. King). Now you have that to look forward to.

What A Gift…

“The ways by which you may get money almost without exception lead downward. To have done anything by which you earned money merely is to have been truly idle or worse. If the laborer gets no more than the wages which his employer pays him, he is cheated, he cheats himself.” – Henry David Thoreau

The more I think about it, the more I realize how beautiful this gift of sudden unemployment is. In some way, I have been hoping for this for years. But for it to have come earlier would not have been ideal. The reason it is so wonderful is the timing. I needed this precisely at this time. It is this kind of realization that makes me feel that God truly is, quietly, subtly, in my corner.

In about a month, I will have my license to practice massage therapy in Ohio. Watch out world! But what is amazing is the perfect two months preceding that time, during which I can attend to the printing of business cards, or the scoping of the job scene, and truly taking the time to understand where I want to go with this, what is right for me. To do this while fully employed would have been impossible. My schedule is wide open for interviews and applying. And this time at home has given me the ability to really think about what it means to go to work each day. I must be able to make others happy and be treated with dignity; modern practices of clocking in and out, logging my every move, and being under constant supervision are behind me now. I refuse to accept such circumstances in my future. Perhaps those from another generation or way of life would say I am being picky, prideful, or unwise in limiting my prospects so. But I say I am a beautiful creation of God, perfectly imperfect, not here to be watched and subjected to the will of others if I desire not to be. Perhaps it is in the spirit of May Day, yesterday, that I feel this revelation in a different kind of workers’ rights, a more subtle and profound kind. Who knows, maybe I’ll set up shop for myself! I’ve got the time…

Perspective, Balance, Meditation

Seven years ago, my husband was stationed in Hawaii. He was in the military though he wouldn’t hurt a fly, and I was fighting against my pacifist background to tolerate military life. As newlyweds, we enjoyed the freedom we had to make a new life for ourselves, to have our weekends free, to be far away from social pressures we experienced at home. Two years in, he was done with the military and we were shipped back home to Ohio. Jobless, homeless, living with a family member temporarily, I felt rootless, like a maple tree helicopter twirling and twirling down toward the earth, prey to the slightest breeze. Up until that time, I had never experienced a financial crisis, and the sensation took me completely by storm. While Robert felt now was the time for a little relaxation before we started “real life” again, I fretted over being uninsured, having to depend upon another for shelter, and the perceived shame of having failed at life. During this time, I had to take meds just to be in control of my anxiety. I found a job and was able to get off the meds quickly.

Years later, because of said job, I was back on them along with a sleep aid. While I didn’t have adverse reactions to either, I felt a certain shame at not being able to handle life’s troubles. I wanted to move on, but I didn’t feel I had the skills to handle my stresses alone. As I waned myself off of these meds, I found replacements for each. Melatonin for sleep, St. John’s Wort for a reassuring feeling. These gave me the feeling of outside support, and probably acted as placebos more than anything else.

Off meds and in control, I knew I needed to tackle the root of the problem: caring too much about what others think, and worrying too much about life’s what-ifs. I began to read self-help books and found almost every one I read extremely helpful. I think the most important element to my success what that I was open to improvement, I felt desperate for guidance and therefore did not judge or doubt the advice I received. Through this, I discovered meditation.

Most people I know who don’t already meditate tend to shut down when I mention the word. Surprisingly, it is occasionally still thought of as hocus pocus, pagan practice, the work of the devil. These people must picture me contorted and speaking in a strange language, practicing evil magic.

I’ve also noticed that it is best mentioned when someone is actually coming to you for advice; unwanted advice is rarely put into use.

But meditation is simply the intention to focus your attention, quieting the mind. From observing your breath to chanting “ohm,” there are good reasons and good benefits to each type of meditation. It has helped me tremendously. In some way, guided meditation is comforting to me just because I am able to listen to a calming voice, and I put some amount of trust in that voice.

The other day, a friend was struggling with a romantic relationship, wondering how best to handle her situation. An hour later, she was ruminating over the same several factors that we had discussed. Her mind could not break free from this cyclical thinking, and she would likely be up all night in the same manner. I suggested she Google guided meditation and make an effort to get some perspective on her situation. After all, she has a choice over how her life will progress, she is not being persecuted or abused, and her basic needs are being met.

Surprisingly, she was open to the idea. To me, this is how God sometimes affects positive change in our lives. A conflict is brought about which forces us to assess ourselves and seek outside help or make a concerted effort to improve. Whenever I have trouble sleeping, I step away from the situation and ask, what is out of balance? A day or two later, I discover something was out of balance – whether I was not being mindful enough of the blessings in my life, or wasn’t allowing enough time for decompression at the end of the day, I needed to make a change to find my inner quiet again.

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