Pointing to the Moon: Look Beyond Candidates’ Words

lunaditoThere’s one thing nearly every person is aware of at this very moment: the world is shifting and changing, faster and greater than ever before. As people and as humanity we are in the process of accelerated evolution, which is a fancy way of saying we’re all on a freight train speeding over a hill and where the track goes beyond that is as yet unknown. In the US, our current contest for who can convince enough people to vote for them is the most poignant proof of the conflict that typically comes with change. It is shining an unflattering spotlight on our foibles and flaws as a country and society—most obviously the often alarming push-pull between our desire to connect and our fear of getting too close to people different from ourselves.

As I watch our political season play out in all its splendor, an image keeps popping into my head. The candidates are lined up on a stage, all standing behind a podium, their mouths open but no words are being spoken. I know it’s difficult to believe, but they’re actually silent for a minute; just go with it. Each person’s arm is raised towards the darkened sky and pointing to their own individual moon. It took me a minute to figure out why this image meant something, but I remembered something I learned about an ancient teacher, originally in the appendices of the beautiful novel A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki. (Find out more about her and her writing here.) I’ll explain.

Is the truth in the words?

Political candidates are constantly talking. Then people talk and write about what they say. Then they say some more and the cycle endures. With each discussion, the original meaning and energy of those words are distorted a bit more, often to support the viewpoint of whomever is now speaking. A twisted messaging telephone game.

Words are powerful, particularly in politics. A few well-timed and expertly delivered speeches can win a black man with a Muslim middle name the presidency. Twice. (The best example can be found here.) As a writer, I am hyper-aware of their usefulness and magic. Words can inspire and motivate. They can broaden perspectives and open people to new ideas. They can create change.

But they also can manipulate. They can validate fear. They can light a fire beneath underlying resentment. Words can transform a crowd wishing to connect with people who share some of their beliefs and hope for the future into a mob incited to reject and eject, literally and sometimes forcefully, those they feel threaten these beliefs. (Watch one example here.)

They are powerful, but they aren’t everything.

Over the years, the details of politics have become less and less interesting to me. I have very smart, knowledgeable, passionate friends and family who believe that politics is won and lost in the minutiae. What does the letter of the law actually mean? What can we actually put on the ground as a result? That used to light my fire. Let’s break it down into bits and determine how we can actually create change using well-crafted policies, government funding and human-generated power, and how I can get my hands in there.

As I get older, politics has become more of a personal philosophical pursuit. The actual acting on my beliefs is still important. I just don’t want to spend hours debating them, dwelling on the words and defending their meaning, and I’m not sure effective solutions are found within government and political discourse as much as I used to.

Still, as much as I’d like politics to be something separate from my time here on Earth, it isn’t. Nothing is, really. How and whether I vote, what I say about it, what I believe about certain candidates, what I believe the role of society should be in supporting those in need or those with diminished rights, how I treat my fellow human beings as a result of my beliefs, how I believe our laws should or shouldn’t support that, how I believe equality and justice should play out. It’s all tied to who I am as a person. And I am, as we all are, a person who lives, writes, thinks, believes and behaves in the world based on where I am in my own personal evolution.

Political candidates are no different from all of us in this respect. Knowing, as best we can, what their true intentions are is more important to me than what they say they will do. Many of my friends and family might call me naïve, and some of them have. Nevertheless, unlike some popular candidates (see story, including video, here), I believe that if the convictions don’t shift, if the pre-programmed mindsets don’t alter, neither will the system. Hands follow the heart. That’s how true change occurs.

If a candidate’s heart is genuine and ego reasonably managed (as much as a politician’s can be), the “doing” will come from the right motivation. They will play the long game and things that can truly and positively impact our society will materialize from the resulting policies—perhaps not immediately, but inevitably.

Herein lies the rub… Before anything can happen, we have to talk about it.

The Sixth Patriarch of Zen (Read more about him here.), who was illiterate, said looking for truth in books (e.g., words) was like seeking truth in the finger pointing to the moon. The moon is the truth, and words can only point the way. Writing is a beautiful and powerful art, but it’s a terrible way to communicate if you’re trying to do so indisputably. Speaking charismatically is a wonderful skill, but the words you choose are only a sliver of the truth. And for some, it’s only a version of someone else’s truth they wish you to believe is theirs.

As much as I love language, it is inherently flawed. Shared stories and ideas are limited, a reflection of one person’s perspective. They will be received the same way, through a filter of the other person’s experiences, memories and beliefs.

Words lined up into powerful messaging statements or in the most pleasingly logical order so our brain can comprehend them only wrap us in a comforting blanket of reality that doesn’t exist. They make solid something that is of the air. Truth is just floating out there, waiting for us to see it. Words manifesting as phrases, anecdotes, doctrines, plans, policies, speeches, books and all the rest of what we believe we need to understand things, just get in the way of us seeing and knowing it.

So, we need to look beyond the words.

Here’s what the image reminded me to consider… The intention and energy behind what someone says and writes is more important than the language. And what you see reflected back to you is just as critical. We need to look closely at both, with clear eyes.

It is crucial to know if a candidate is speaking frankly because they don’t want to waste time getting to the core truth of the matter or pretending to speak frankly to build credibility with a crowd disillusioned after decades of political doublespeak.

It makes a difference whether this straightforward rhetoric contains substance, ideas, thoughtfulness and empathy, or simply uses words they know we will identify with—probably via focus groups, political operatives and crafty polling.

It is vital that there be something other than verbiage to support these ideas, such as past or present behavior, established or appropriately rejected relationships, a sense of the person behind the image (for the many of you who trust your intuition on such things).

It is paramount that the intentions behind the words and the actions to follow be positive and not only motivated by ego, fear or desire for power.

With every speech, debate, rally, interview and opinion piece, we need to understand that a candidate’s words are pointing to something, but the finger is only a finger. The moon is what we should be looking at, and which one we choose is up to us.

It is a reflection of us.

Who you trust and how you vote is up to you.

It is a reflection of you.

Make sure you aren’t following the finger that simply sounds the most familiar or rousing.

And make sure you can live with the person standing beneath it.

om

Happy Holidays: A Ho Ho Ho Meditation

hooooooThe hustle and bustle leave my mind and body as I sink into this chair, reserved for this time and this way. My heart opens. It knows what it needs to do.

I take in a deep breath of pine, cinnamon and family. I breathe out obligations, worry and shipping charges. I close my eyes and let the energy run.

Today I welcome abundant Santa, warm menorah candles and the unconditional love of a boy born in a manger. I choose the sparkly silver that fills the car as my son and I sing about cows and sleigh rides on the drive to school. I free the jaggedy chartreuse of world events and bizarre violence becoming too frequent to be shocking.

Seeing where it came from is worthy. Playing a role in where we’re headed is imperative. But right now is nothing more than space. And the space I occupy is loosely wrapped in tinsel.

Today my heart is bright red and green and tinged with laughter. My holiday table is overflowing with love and abundance. There is plenty to share. It flows out peacefully, covering the earth. It soaks through the dense cities and rolling countrysides, through fault lines and tree lines, all the way to the fire in the belly. It rises up and out in a jubilant rush that fills every molecule, every dark place, every light place and all the spaces in between, and it doesn’t stop until it gently touches the edges of the universe.

One last deep breath. Eyes open. A long, slow stretch. A smile. A soft jingle of a bell.

Happy holidays, world.

om

A Meditation for Peace

worldI can feel it already. That familiar spot in that quiet place. Peace is less normal in our world these days, but this time, this space, this chair doesn’t know that. My weight drops into it. Blessed relief.

Take in a deep breath of silence. No news, no chatter, no pictures that aren’t of my own making. Only truth. Breathe out whatever else there is. Close my eyes and let the energy run.

Today, welcome the perfection of the present moment, the confidence of your knowingness, the pure intention of your nature, the wisdom of your soul. Cry for humanity’s hubris and foibles, and celebrate its terrible beauty.

My heart is filled with love and a desire to ease suffering. It is overflowing. There is plenty to share. It flows out, covering the earth, sating the hearts of all those in pain. It soaks through the dense cities and rolling countrysides, through fault lines and tree lines, all the way to the fire in the belly. It rises up and out in a jubilant rush that fills every molecule, every dark place, every light place and all the places in between, and it doesn’t stop until it gently touches the edges of the universe.

Love is a tether to the limitless. It is the limitless. In truth, it is all there is. Just keep saying it, I hear. Live it. Be it. It will, eventually, become humanity’s truth.

One last deep breath. Eyes open. A long, slow stretch.

Much love to you all.

om

Call for comments: Are we too reliant on technology?

cellphonesIt’s in vogue these days to be critical of most people’s frequent use of and strong reliance on smart phones. Even in the broadest sense, it’s a hot topic. The careful balance of power between modern technology/science, human interaction and intention, and traditional (even ancient) beliefs in our modern society comes up more and more frequently in the media and among those in my circle.

The Huffington Post recently published a column by Hector L. Carral that went viral, called Stop Saying Technology Is Causing Social Isolation. I posted it on Facebook along with my story below and asked for comments. As expected, people had things to say. So, I’m posting the link to the article here, and after that you can read my little personal story below if you like. Please feel free to comment or send me your thoughts. Happy typing!

A few years ago, after just moving to Seattle, I took my then-two-year-old son to the beach for some fresh air and a break from the temporary housing. While there, I received an important and potentially volatile email from a client requiring an immediate response. I sat in the sand, typing on my device periodically while also responding to my son when he needed me, as I crafted my reply.

A fellow toddler, his mother and his grandmother wandered over and started playing with Henry. I politely said hello and returned to my task. They played with him for a while and I took little breaks to interact a bit and make sure my son was okay. But really I just wanted a minute to finish my email so I could focus on him. They stayed for a little, completely distracted by the fact that I was typing away, then walked away in a huff, judging me in full voice for finding “texting with my friends more important than playing with my son” and other ways my rudeness illustrated the technology-driven downfall of humanity. Once they left I was able to finish the email quickly and then focus entirely on H for another hour or two of peaceful midday beach play time.

Modern technology offered me the opportunity to diffuse a touchy professional situation (immediately) for a few minutes while sitting in the sand with my son on a lovely day. Once done, I was free to fully engage for as long as I wanted and needed to. It helped both my son and me have a more pleasant day and I accomplished two critical things at the same time. Without knowing the full context of what was going on (since I didn’t want to take the time to divulge it to strangers) the people around me assumed I was being a selfish slave to my phone.

It’s all about perspective and intention. We use the tools and technology we have to accomplish what is important to us–now much more quickly and conveniently than we used to. It’s up to us to decide what we do with that power.

Thoughts? And before you come to my defense saying these people were just judgmental thingamobobs, etc., know they are not alone in their attitude. Society is already judging me, you or anyone they deem too attached to their technology. It’s not about my little story. My son and I are fine. It’s about the larger themes it illustrates. Thanks for reading!

om

Using technology to connect to ourselves

Laptop on stumpTechnology is not the devil. There, I said it. Whew.

What a relief to admit that I don’t believe that email, the Internet, smart phones, Bluetooths, social media, YouTube, online news, television, radio, podcasts, blogs and vlogs portend the end of civilization. That they are so interwoven into our daily lives does reveal that civilization is changing extremely and quickly. So, perhaps it reveals the end of civilization as we know it and that we are smack in the middle of a massive paradigm shift most of us feel in our very cells…but not the demise of all.

Perhaps what makes us feel sometimes like the end of the world is nigh is that we are still struggling with the balance between embracing the new—innovations that help us connect, evolve and expand—and continuing to use and learn from the old—indigenous cultures, nature’s wisdom, naturopathic medicine, long form storytelling, human contact, the art of conversation and, most importantly, the spiritual connection and self-awareness that brings profound healing.

I believe it’s possible, and vital, to embrace both. (And, between you and me, this is the major theme of a novel currently in the works.) So, nothing thrills me more than when I discover a “new” use of technology that serves as a bridge to one of the less concrete qualities of the “old.”

I believe that’s its truest and highest purpose.

Reply All is a podcast about the Internet produced by Gimlet and hosted by PJ Vogt and Alex Goldman. It tells poignant, weird and funny stories about how people use and react to the Internet. It produced its eighth episode in January, but as I’ve just discovered these 15- to 25-minute audio nuggets I just listened to this one about Paul Ford. He is a writer and programmer who creates Web sites to address most of his life issues, including a site to remind him of things decades away and a weight loss site only he and his therapist have access to where he records his daily calorie counts.

Healing through technology innovation, and a little humor

Paul also struggles with paralyzing anxiety. As he describes on the podcast, he constantly hears that niggling, negative voice in his head telling him he’s weird and bad and in danger, no matter what is really going on. His reaction, create anxietybox.com.

Here’s how it works. The site—or, more accurately, the bot inside the site—essentially outsources his anxiety’s voice. He can add as many anxieties as he likes and his email address, and the site sends him messages from his anxieties.

The horrible, negative things he used to hear in his head—e.g., “History will forget you because history forgets people who are unable to finish anything.” Or, my favorite, “People on Facebook look at your picture and think ‘in possession of a weird nose.’”—are sent to him throughout the day. They’re funny, but ruthless.

As I listened to the examples Paul read, I cringed. The host was similarly skeptical. Why would anyone subject themselves to these negative reinforcements? How could that possibly help? He was losing me fast.

But then Paul described his reaction, and I changed my mind completely.

Because he externalized his anxiety’s voice, he was able to look at it. Laugh at it. Even reply. He could see it for exactly what it was: his mind and ego, trapped in a cycle of anxiety and self doubt, intelligently crafting ways to make his true self feel badly.

Once he saw it, everything shifted. He understood the pattern of suffering and its source, and he was able to put it all into a broader perspective that helped him minimize its effect.

In Paul’s words: “It’s so ridiculous to scream at yourself all day long… Seeing it actually externalized as 20 messages in a Gmail inbox, it was so much like what my brain was producing. It was like, oh my god, I’ve been wasting so much time with this son of a bitch.”

Because of this simple technology, created by him, he was able to see the anxiety as something separate from his true self, soften it and eventually stop having anxiety attacks altogether.

He reminded me of a critical but tough lesson: awareness brings healing, and eventually peace. Once we are willing to acknowledge and truly see something or someone for what it is or who they are, their power over us diminishes. In the light of our gaze, it can only be exactly what it is. With the clarity of truth, we see ourselves for the perfectly flawed and mighty beings we are.

Truly looking at the things or people in our lives that we have created unhealthy patterns around is difficult. But once the truth has been seen, it can’t be unseen.

Anxietybox.com. Genius. Counterintuitive at first glance. But truly moving in its simplicity. Paul intuitively used what he knew—technology—to build a bridge to what he needed. This time it connected it to himself.

It doesn’t get more old school than that.

om

To find out more about Reply All, go here. To find out more about anxietybox.com, go here. To subscribe to updates on Rebecca’s upcoming memoir, Laugh at the Sky, Kid, go here. To find out more about her writing and coaching services, go here.

A Meditation for Dealing with the Crazy

swirlImages and thoughts surround me, circling around and within. But I can feel it already. That familiar spot in that quiet space. They all slow down, waiting to see if I will set them free.

My heart opens. I see the world and so many of its inhabitants continuing to spin, too fast to be able to see anything but a blur. We are distracted by comb-overs, county clerks, rivers of refugees and hashtag movements. We are overcome by life. But our hearts know it is only a dream. My mind tries to recreate memories, pictures and lingering pain—my own and others’—but I remember: my center is always calm, always open, always connected, always available.

I take in a deep breath of joy. For being alive in this tumultuous, confounding time. For knowing my place in the shift. I breathe out confusion, fear and the judgment that can only come from feeling separate. I close my eyes and let the energy run.

Today I welcome the silliness of a playground, the warmth of a bowl of homemade food, the laughter that comes when someone truly sees you and still wants to be with you. I welcome the ability to watch closely, speak carefully and create change without revisiting the anger.

Simplicity is healing. This moment is all there is. Connection is real. Love is the truth.

Today my heart is filled with a desire to help and heal, to slow the merry-go-round long enough for everyone to just be. It is overflowing. There is plenty to share. It pours out resolutely, covering the earth. It soaks through the dense cities and rolling countrysides, through fault lines and tree lines, all the way to the fire in the belly. It rises up and out in a jubilant rush that fills every molecule, every dark place, every light place and all the places in between, and it doesn’t stop until it gently touches the edges of the universe.

My mind opens, and all that churns within is released. It rises to the sun, explodes in fireworks of transformation and rains pure gold upon us all.

One last deep breath. Eyes open. A long, slow stretch. A smile of relief.

I wish you peace, world.

om

To find out more about Rebecca’s writing and services, visit laughattheskykid.com and rebeccagifford.com.

5 Ways to Avoid Being Misled, Deceived or Otherwise Hoodwinked

overprotected2We’ve all been there. You discover a secret, a deception, a falsification of fact or identity. It could be relatively innocent, perhaps finding out a friend lied about being busy to avoid a social occasion and didn’t want to hurt your feelings or your bachelor neighbor fibs about being divorced.

But sometimes it’s a whopper—a web of lies carefully spun and expertly crafted over the years with a deft hand, using the unique combination of words she knew you wouldn’t be able to doubt.

Once the truth is out, you and your ego feel hurt, angry, naïve, vulnerable, and—even though my son would call me out for saying this forbidden word—stupid. You begin to wonder if “they” make seeing eye dogs when your third eye is on the fritz. Are there spirit guides who hover next to your head and tug on your left earlobe when someone isn’t truthful? Two tugs when it’s a big one worth challenging.

I suppose you can get one if you like. I heard they might be available for a limited time on the astral plane, or craigslist. But, if you follow the below airtight tips, you won’t need one. There are things you can do that are (nearly) guaranteed to help you avoid the catastrophe and interminable burn of human betrayal.

Protect yourself. Build those firewalls carefully, people. Make them strong using concrete, cynicism, mistrust and doubts about the human spirit. Without impenetrable barriers, defensive weaponry and other forms of protection, who knows what kind of lies or energy or magic can creep into your space and taint everything, maim your dog and ruin Christmas. If you can’t fire at will upon what may or may not be out there with your worst interests at heart, what is the use of trying at all? And keep all your passwords in a safe place.

Keep quiet. Never share your thoughts, your truth or your real feelings. Openness only reveals you to be weak and vulnerable to attack. When asked nosy questions like “What would you like?” or “How are you?” change the subject, accidentally topple the interrogator’s drink or, better yet, distract them by pointing out a squirrel on a tree and run away. Best to evade any attempted intimacy or follow-up questions.

Avoid human interaction, relationships and all forms of social media. Repeat after me: Connection is bad. Knowledge is worse. We were meant to be distant. Communication should be difficult and slow. Relationships are supposed to be hard. These days we’re all way too close to each other. All this interconnectedness just gets us in trouble, and frequency of interaction—in-person, soul to soul or digital—only gives everyone more opportunity to share stories and spread falsehoods.

Don’t try to understand. It only opens the door to empathy. And empathy, my friend, is not your friend. Questions only lead to more information and more connection, both of which I’ve already explained are an enemy of any committed Deception Dodger. If you look for the pain, doubt or isolation that led to the lies, what’s to keep you from feeling these yourself? What’s to keep you from becoming a liar? You’ve never lied before, and you’ve surely never felt any pain that would induce you to mislead. So why start now? Best to allow them to wallow in their guilt and what surely is an uncomplicated existence focusing on only two things: a) deceiving you and 2) hurting you. Just leave them to it.

Never, ever love. Even if you don’t take any of these other tips to heart, please heed this one. To be a true friend, partner or family member—to truly love—is the most vulnerable and hopeful thing you can do. So, of course, it’s absolutely forbidden if you want to avoid being betrayed by your fellow human beings. And with our inherently flawed nature, how could any of us deserve it? It wouldn’t make any difference if we chose to offer love to someone who feels like they must lie to survive, or questions themselves so much they’re not sure what truth is anymore, or is caught in a cycle of addiction, programming, disease or imbalance that makes reality unbearable. To do that would validate them, acknowledge what they’ve done and why, or perhaps even help them. Worst-case scenario: you might forgive them.

And finally… We live in a universe where we have free will but our shared consciousness, our collective journey as both humans and souls, our beautifully complicated web of lives and identities, means we are all in this together. When one tether of the web shakes or falters, we all do. Some of us are closer to the shaky ones than others and more profoundly feel their imbalance, often manifested as deception inadvertently directed at us.

There are lots of ways to handle it once it happens. Or you could simply follow the easy steps I’ve outlined above. Your choice.

om

To find out more about Rebecca’s writing and coaching services, visit rebeccagifford.com. To get updates on the publication of her memoir, visit laughattheskykid.com. Thanks for reading!

Patience

handsMy radio spoke to me the other day. Actually, it was Alicia Garza, co-founder of #BlackLivesMatter, making a speech to a theatre full of people at the University of Southern Maine being broadcast on my local NPR station at Noon on a Monday. But it was like she was speaking to me and all who are experiencing, participating in, supporting, encouraging, watching, feeling, talking about and not talking about the many shifts occurring in our country—around race and so many things.

Normally, when there is an issue I believe is critical for society to see and act upon, where awareness and conversation can help, I am compelled to speak. Honesty, positively intentioned debate, listening, awareness, meditation, prayer, passion and community all lead to greater consciousness and ultimately positive change.

However, as I explained in my last blog, my own voice on the challenges the black community is experiencing, especially those illustrated so clearly within our system of law and order in recent years, has been hesitant and very quietly filled with a mixture of outrage, sadness and compassion for all who have felt the claw of injustice in both its raw and subtle forms. As a white person, for a long time I didn’t have certainty about what I can say that is helpful in the immediate situation or, more importantly, doesn’t cause unproductive conflict.

I told myself that I should only speak about the issues “other communities” are experiencing when I was ready to express myself in the clearest and most thoughtful ways, when it can have the greatest impact. It is my responsibility as a writer and as a human, I said. Fear of saying it “wrong” or saying too much or just not being able to make anyone listen no matter what I said kept me from saying or writing anything. So, I let other voices speak. And I continued to draw attention to some of them, especially when their messages shone so brightly they lit a new path in the darkness.

In her speech, Ms. Garza told the story of how #BlackLivesMatter came to be in 2012, born from a love letter she wrote to the black community as the Trayvon Martin story unfolded. I hung on her every truthful, connected, peaceful word. She told us how her deep love for her community, exactly as it is, drives her passion. About how activists and organizers outside the largely heterosexual black male establishment—desperately needed feminine voices among the many masculine ones—struggle to be heard even within their own community. About how this movement isn’t about anger, but about love and justice.

A link to the 30-minute broadcast is {here}, and everyone who’s made it this far into the blog, no matter your race or opinion on such things, should listen to the entire recording. But at 23:45 she speaks another universal truth I found particularly comforting and inspiring, a reminder that shifted my views on everything I’ve said so far. A student asks her how she can better convince her friends to care about the need for change. I waited to hear the response I expected about organizing more effectively or working smarter not harder or never letting up. Ms. Garza’s response:

Be patient…

…Consciousness raising and growth require a huge internal shift, a death of the old and willingness to move forward into an unknown filled with risk and change. It requires being able to look beyond your own survival—a difficult thing for those struggling daily to survive and thrive, for some in a society that behaves like it doesn’t want them to. The human reaction is fear that reveals itself as resistance or, more commonly, apathy. This can be infuriating for those who understand that the slower these individual evolutions happen the longer the societal evolution takes.

But Ms. Garza said that instead of responding with impatience, anger or more forceful strategies to make change happen faster, this student should respond with patience, love for her fellow human beings and understanding. She urged her to continue to speak up, to be persistent and passionate, but with acceptance that she won’t reach everyone and that those she does reach will change in their own time and in their own way. Always respond with love, she was essentially saying, because they are human, you are human and our collective ability to thrive is at stake.

A right and responsibility to speak out

In a few simple words, as an answer to one woman’s heartfelt question, Ms. Garza soothed and washed away any discomfort I still had about speaking my truth or writing about the controversial issues of the day. It doesn’t matter that I’m not black and don’t want to annoy my black friends or offend the many wonderful police officers I know. It doesn’t matter that I’m not gay and I want to share my support for same-sex marriage even when in potentially resistant company. No matter how it is received in the moment, the change will continue. The message expressed with love for all of humanity will be heard by whoever is ready. The growth and shift will continue within myself and others on a similar path, and over time everything around us will shift, too.

Most importantly, we have a right and responsibility to speak for those being oppressed because we are speaking about our fellow humans. We should support our black sisters and brothers publicly and vehemently because our souls, and therefore our liberty, are connected.

When we speak harsh but loving truths about freedom and justice and give everyone room to accept it in their own time and in their own way, the effect is bigger and wider than just you. It reaches all the way to those who need it most.

om

 

To find out more about #BlackLivesMatter, please go to blacklivesmatter.com. To watch videos of Alicia Garza’s talk at USM, click here and here.

Holiday Meditation

Meditating Santa from tonykuhn.com
Meditating Santa from tonykuhn.com

The hustle and bustle leave my mind and body as I sink into this chair, reserved for this time and this way. My heart opens. It knows what it needs to do.

I take in a deep breath of pine, cinnamon and family. I breathe out obligations, worry and shipping charges. I close my eyes and let the energy run.

Today I welcome abundant Santa, warm menorah candles and the unconditional love of a boy born in a manger. I choose the sparkly silver that fills the car as my son and I sing about cows and sleigh rides on the drive to school. I clean off the jaggedy chartreuse of world events and bizarre violence becoming too frequent to be shocking.

Seeing where it came from is worthy. Playing a role in where we’re headed is imperative. But right now is nothing more than space. And the space I occupy is loosely wrapped in tinsel.

Today my heart is bright red and green and tinged with laughter. My holiday table is overflowing with love and abundance. There is plenty to share. It flows out peacefully, covering the earth. It soaks through the dense cities and rolling countrysides, through fault lines and tree lines, all the way to the fire in the belly. It rises up and out in a jubilant rush that fills every molecule, every dark place, every light place and all the spaces in between, and it doesn’t stop until it gently touches the edges of the universe.

One last deep breath. Eyes open. A long, slow stretch. A smile. A soft jingle of a bell.

Happy holidays, world.

More Water on the Fire

Photo by Aquariann.com Raphell Fountain Sculpture at Brookgreen Gardens
Photo by Aquariann.com
Raphell Fountain Sculpture at Brookgreen Gardens, Myrtle Beach, SC

The below blog originally was posted in February 2013, partially as a reaction to a hot topic of conversation at the time — a song Seth MacFarlane sang while hosting the Oscars that year. In recent days, another controversial story is again on many lips. Ray Rice, the NFL and Janay Rice all have reminded us of the continuing resistance to the feminine and the resulting oppression of women on an individual and institutional level. So did the recent reports of sexist remarks made toward congresswomen and female congressional staffers. 

On some level, it warms my heart to see all the indignation and anger from women and men alike as these stories continue to unfold and these behaviors and ingrained beliefs are revealed even more fully. Last night I watched Jon Stewart and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand talk on The Daily Show with such passion about the NFL scandal, the struggle many women still experience in the workplace, rape culture, and the antiquated attitudes still demonstrated by some in Congress and the military. I empathized with their anger and their desire to do something to “fix it.” But anger isn’t how it gets done. The answer isn’t in any new policies or organizations created from their desire for justice and a forced attitude shift. It’s not in viewing women as victims or in feeling like one yourself.

The answer is in embracing and embodying the feminine energy our society needs so desperately to balance the playing field. That can’t be forced or even compelled; that’s the masculine way of doing it. It needs to be demonstrated, lived and loved. That is where strength can be found. Show folks how to be comfortably feminine and supportive of feminine energy in their daily life. Talk with everyone about it, even those who can’t see it yet, with compassion. Embrace your own open, vulnerable heart and don’t be afraid to bare it for your own good or for the greater good. Love freely. Listen without judgment or a desire to fix things. It will continue to catch on, and the changes we’ll see for the better will come from a true embracing of women and shift toward feminine energy.

In the meantime, enjoy the below…

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From Laugh at the Sky, Kid in February 2013:

It’s taken me most of my life to understand. I’m a woman. That’s a remarkable, beautiful thing. My femininity and the strong and divine life force that comes from embracing it are important and inescapable parts of me.

We could get into why it took me until recently to appreciate this, but that would require “a very special” series of blogs and a trip to the store for tissues and it isn’t really important to what I have to say. What’s more noteworthy today is that my struggle to embrace both my feminine and masculine sides, a struggle that may sound familiar to you, is merely a microcosm of what’s going on in the world.

Our collective feminine energy – receptive, open, creative, supportive, unconditionally loving – has been challenged for millennia. You can track patriarchal domination, and consequential oppression of women, from as far back as 4,000 BC all the way up to Seth MacFarlane’s boob song at this year’s Oscars. Don’t get me wrong, I have enjoyed Mr. MacFarlane’s edgy humor many times over the years, as I did that night. When I tune into Family Guy I expect misogynistic jokes — often ripe with satire and provocative social commentary — just as I expected to see them on Sunday. That’s what the Academy bought, right? But I couldn’t deny my disappointment as it illustrated yet again our world’s decidedly masculine bent.

As many writers and historians and ordinary folks like you and me have observed: Look where this has gotten us. As liberal as most first-world cultures are compared to many places in the world, we are still a society more interested in power and ego than the greater good. In economic strength more than feeding the hungry or caring for the planet. In controlling more than teaching and supporting. In doing-doing-doing more than just being and receiving what’s already there. In getting an easy laugh at a bright, talented woman’s expense simply because she has breasts and was brave enough to reveal them to tell an important story…more than saying something funny that also tickles the brains of that 40 million-person audience.

As wise teachers and indigenous cultures have told us for as long as we’ve been able to hear them, we need something different. We need a world filled with people who see creative, nurturing energy as strength. Individually and collectively, we need to offer support and love to everyone in pain, especially ourselves, so we can heal, find our purpose and contribute. We need to love the dark and the light, the yin and the yang, knowing they are both sacred and necessary to creation. We need to celebrate everyone just as they are. We need to embrace our feminine energy.

This is the new paradigm and that scares the bejeesus out of a lot of men and women alike. Hence the continuous attempts to repress it occurring every day in every corner of our world – and these are only the stories being told.

This is not new or news to most of us and many are very, very angry. You can read about it all day long online or in a stack full of books. You likely can feel it in many of the women – and men – in and out of your life. The anger is justified.

Confession: I am no longer angry…well, mostly. As I fully embrace my feminine energy, it dissipates. I can see what’s going on. It disappoints me. I am moved to speak out and shift my own energy in an effort to help. But over time it makes me less and less angry.

That’s the nature, the immense strength, of the feminine. It allows. It embraces. It supports. It holds the energy we all need to grow and thrive. It loves. It doesn’t know anger or resistance.

It’s a masculine society that taught us that anger is a fabulous motivator. That fiery rage moves us to impose change by doing something. Feminine energy offers water to the fire and welcomes the peace and change that comes from simply being different.

Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee, Sufi teacher and author of The Return of the Feminine and the World Soul wrote:

If women can come to know the sacred dimension of their own and the earth’s suffering, if they can see that it is part of the mysterious destiny of the soul of our world, if they can look beyond their own personal pain and anger to accept their larger destiny, then the forces of life can flow in a new way. The imprint of the divine face can become visible in this world and the glory of oneness be known, and once again life can become sacred.

While I’ve made some grand declarations above, I’m the first to admit I don’t know exactly what that looks like in our daily lives here on Mother Earth, and I’m certain it is easier said than done. What I do know is there are countless wise souls I can turn to for example, guidance and perspective. Some are magnificent women with boundless love in their hearts and laughter in their bones, many of whom already have guided me through hard lessons and shown me how to be both feminine and strong. Some are beautiful, strong men – two of whom I share my home with – who embrace their own feminine energy and know their unconditional support is just as valuable as their ability to do amazing things. Some are teachers like Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee with the guidance of goddesses in their hearts and on their tongues.

Because of them, I have hope, and perhaps I do know what it looks like. It’s already here. It just needs a little loving care.

Days of resting eights

turn_it_on_its_sideMy son has a book called Infinity and Me (by Kate Hosford). In the story, eight-year-old Uma seeks the meaning of things as she looks at the stars and feels small and cold within the vastness of the universe. She knows “infinity” has something to do with it, but she doesn’t quite get it so she goes on a quest. She asks her friends, her teachers and the school cook. They all offer fascinating takes on the concept. It isn’t until Uma recognizes the boundless love she has for her grandmother that she finds her own way of experiencing infinity and the universe.

The most charmingly human part of the story is Uma’s struggle with uncertainty. She doesn’t grasp what infinity is, but she wants to. She feels insignificant until she can. Her head hurts with all the questions and thoughts she’s having as she works so hard to understand and find meaning. It isn’t until she opens her heart and feels her grandmother’s unconditional love, and realizes she feels the same, that the endless stars in the sky begin to feel warm with effortless wonder.

Like Uma, I find myself looking at the universe differently day to day. Some days the stars are shrouded in suspicion and the lonely oxygen-less air of outer space. These are the days where the uncertainty of life and humankind become manifest in the questionable future of projects, unreturned emails, frustrations about not knowing whether my son will be in the morning or afternoon kindergarten class until three days before he starts, not to mention general bewilderment about world events.

Thank ever-loving goodness there are the other kind of days too—when infinity becomes the peaceful “resting eight,” perfect for ice skating and endless bike rides. On those days I see the stars in the heavens are filled with mystery and discovery, and the demands of the mind become the curiosity of the heart. On those days, projects with uncertain futures become new tree-lined paths to wander down and societal frustration becomes an opportunity to offer compassion. The love my son and I share becomes more important than whether he’ll be in the kindergarten class that best complements my schedule, and that fills me with infinite warmth.

In this eight month, I wish you many days of resting eights, when you know the path of the universe will come back around to meet you where you are and show you where you can go. May the infinite possibilities fill you with joy and gratitude. May the vastness of the stars always cover you in a blanket of love and effortless wonder.

Robin Williams: the ripples will go on

Robin Williams in What Dreams May ComeLike so many around the world, I was saddened by the sudden loss of Robin Williams yesterday. His presence in my life as an entertainer, magnetic personality and model of creative openness—albeit from an admirer’s distance—is undeniable. His characters and films that were most formative for me were his dramatic roles: The World According to Garp, What Dreams May Come, Being HumanGood Morning Vietnam, Dead Poets Society, Patch Adams, Good Will Hunting and even The Birdcage.

I always felt what he offered us onlookers transcended the bounds of “actor and comedian,” and the enormous reaction to his death confirms it wasn’t just me. He was a compassionate, connected, supremely human being whose desire to bring joy and comfort hid to many his own sadness. His influence as an artist, but also as a loving soul, will continue to ripple for a long time, both on this earth and beyond.

Many are wondering how someone who could bring both peels of uncontrollable laughter and tears of genuine compassion to multiple generations could feel so alone in this world. None of us can understand anyone else’s journey. We can empathize, love and appreciate him. We can be grateful for what he offered during his precious 63 years. But we can’t know the unique and long journey that brought him to the moment where he decided releasing himself from the anguish of his mind and his body was his best option. But I’m glad that as a society we’re starting to ask the questions.

With all the dear souls like Robin suffering and leaving this earth right now—and there are many—I have to believe that through their pain and sacrifice they are contributing to a larger healing and evolution. He was a great spirit dealing with a human condition that is both astonishingly prevalent and astonishingly misunderstood. The shock of his death by the means it occurred will bring our awareness to those suffering within and without our own spheres—an understanding perhaps unattainable by other means.

The ripples don’t stop there. The soul we knew as Robin Williams is only just starting. He had no idea the positive effect he had on the world while he was here, but he does now and he’s having a fantastic time. Look at all he can do from where he is? Quantum joy. Astral silliness. Compassionate hilarity. We need cosmic comics right now more than ever. We need help maintaining perspective and lightness. As a species, we so desperately need to be reminded our lives are, above all, an opportunity to play and learn and give of ourselves fully. And who better to offer a celestial master class in that?

Thank you, Robin, for all you so generously gave us while you were here. I wish you were able to stay a bit longer, but I look forward to what you’re going to offer next.

Unsafe choices

LeapOfFaithMy son lives in a world that wants to make all his choices for him. Others want to tell him how often to brush his teeth, when to cross the street, whether to wash his hands after he goes potty, when to start kindergarten, whether to wear a jacket, how long to play at the playground. As most young children testing their boundaries and figuring out how they fit in the world, he resists this, but that doesn’t stop the adults around him from trying to protect him.

When he’s climbing on a precarious chair or I see the mischievous twinkle in his eye as he considers darting into a crowd, I often say, “That’s not a safe choice.” This awareness may or may not deter him from the activity, but most of the time it does.

As we get older, that external voice moves inside our own heads and egos. Is this smart? Are you prepared? Is this really a safe choice for you right now? For years I let that voice deter me from countless experiences and opportunities. I still do too often.

My family and I recently made what some would consider a string of not-so-safe choices. In fact, my friend Beattie might say we’re on a “risk bender.” A year ago my husband quit his well-paid, stable job to start his own business. We then went on a month-long road trip in a rented RV down and back up the West Coast. Then a month ago we moved from Seattle to Central Coast California without salaried jobs or any other external catalyst to propel us there (except the 30-day notice from our landlord telling us they want to move back in to their home; thank you for the kick in the pants, universe). We simply wanted to live somewhere else, somewhere we loved, and since both my husband and I work out of home offices we had no reason not to go. Others might disagree with this assessment, and have, but most are too busy admiring the relative size of our balls to voice it. I get where their trepidations came from. With few major employers in the area, we were finally and fully committing to our freelance lifestyle and entrepreneurial spirit, all in a down economy. We locked into place our dependence on our talents, business sense and good intentions to earn enough to keep a roof over our heads.

To top it all off, I recently completed and soon will publish a memoir, titled Laugh at the Sky, Kid like this blog (more on that soon), that basically outs me as a practicing clairvoyant and energy healer. This is something I’ve never before written or talked about publicly for fear of the inevitable skepticism and criticism from those who only know me outside of that world.

I’m done making only safe choices. Safe doesn’t bring about change or growth. Safe words don’t reach or move people. Safe actions rarely affect anything below the surface. The old ways, the safe or “proven” ways, don’t move things forward. Inside a cocoon of security, it’s rare to find true happiness or your true purpose. Nothing shifts and there is no reason to search for or even be interested in anything beyond the end of your nose. That is no longer acceptable to me and to so many of you. Thank ever-loving-goodness for that.

As a society we are quickly learning that within the presence of infinite possibilities we all enjoy, there are no wrong choices. There are only ones we are comfortable with in this moment and those we are not.

When the inevitable fear arises as I start down a riskier path, I let this truth wash over me like healing waters. And when I can turn off the narrator in my mind asking me to consider whether this new path is safe or not, I find freedom. I find a place where I can fully be.

Figuring out authority

A beautiful blue and green Seattle day requires a long trip to the park. With a four-year-old, that translates into some time at the playground, and with Henry that means somewhere with a sidewalk suitable for speedy and spirited tricycle laps. There are always lessons to be learned at the playground. Not long ago, a big one — green, with hypocritical eyes — looked me square in the face. Here’s how I got there.

During a recent visit, my husband Larry and I were enjoying the sun on a bench and getting dizzy watching our son go round and round when we realized a meeting was starting on the grass behind us. We turned around and about eight little girls and their camera-toting mothers sat in a circle. It was the kind of meeting where you wear vests with badges. Ooh, entertainment, we thought as we adjusted our heads to the best eavesdropping angle.

Question AuthorityThe troop leader welcomed everyone to their final meeting and started discussing that meeting’s topic and an opportunity to earn their final badge. What are we earning our badges in today? asked the troop leader. Respect authority, they all said. The kind troop leader reviewed what they discussed the previous meeting, the authority figures in our lives who we should respect – parents, police officers, teachers, troop leaders, coaches, etc. Red flags began to go up in my head, but nothing was really that bad yet. I kept listening.

Why should we respect them? she asked the troop of girls who appeared to be about six years old. With the mothers hovering and the troop leader waiting, the girls began responding as they’d been taught the week before:

Because they protect us.

They take care of us.

Because they know best.

Because they make the rules.

It’s what we’re supposed to do.

The kind troop leader’s response: That’s great, ladies.

I hoped no one in their little blanket circle could see the goose bumps on my arms.

We continued to listen as the girls one by one presented the pictures they’d drawn of an authority figure in their life. Most of them were pretty typical: Mom, Dad, school principal. When talking about their parents, “love” was mentioned a lot, but there was just as much talk about making and following rules. One little girl quietly explained that she’d drawn a picture of President Obama because “he knows what’s best for us and has a lot of power.”

Yes, I know they do amazing things too.

I never participated in any troop-like activities when I was a girl, but I have a generally positive impression of any organization that empowers young women and men. For the girls, a couple of Google searches showed me all the great lessons and badges in addition to “respect authority” – all about community, compassion, self respect, honesty, individual responsibility, supporting other girls, doing good in the world and more. I don’t mean to diminish their work nor the positive influence they have had over countless girls and women.

Shouldn’t ignore the boys either. Despite their homosexuality-challenged policies and other issues, they continue to offer positive opportunities and adventures to those seeking this kind of guidance. (However, they have a similar law about “obedience” and even the right way to go about changing rules…as long as you never disobey them.)

With all of my genuine “they do a lot of great things” disclaimers said, this meeting had the misfortune that day to represent the perfect example of exactly the kind of authority programming we shouldn’t be teaching our children. In fact, we should be teaching them the opposite.

They’re powerful and they know it.

Corporations, governments, politicians, large religious organizations, educational systems, healthcare providers, banks and more. They market their own special brand of authority and quid pro quo. Most of them have a lot of power, and most of them aren’t afraid to use it to get what they need to thrive – your compliance.

If you adhere to my laws, I will protect you and your family.

If you buy my goods and services and don’t question how we do business too much, I will make your life more comfortable and improve the economy.

If you do what I say and take your medicine, I can make you feel better.

If you sit quietly and work hard, you will be successful.

If you pray the right way or believe what I believe, you will go to heaven. Or, better yet, you won’t burn in hell.

This is the messaging we allow to manipulate us, consciously or not. We have become accustomed to giving up a measure of (sometimes imperceptible) control to someone or an institution in exchange for whatever we believe they offer us or, in many cases, out of fear of what will happen if we don’t.

In our current world, questioning authority is critical.

Throughout history, questioning authority has always been necessary for any kind of meaningful change. America was founded on a group of citizens questioning those in power, after all. Our time is no different.

Currently Edward Snowden is somewhere running from the U.S. government after revealing that its anti-terror electronic surveillance techniques are much broader than any ordinary citizens previously knew. Whether you believe he’s a hero or a traitor or something in between, Snowden questioned his authority figures, breaking the rules of his government and his contractor employer, to reveal what he believes to be an unjust overreach. Without Mr. Snowden, would we have ever had anything other than lots of conspiracy theories and Person of Interest to provoke an exploration into this issue?

More importantly, when we don’t question it, there are consequences: Dependence. Willful ignorance. A resistance to change. A willingness to conform or even deny our own beliefs out of apathy or fear. An agreement – spoken or unspoken – to give up our own power to those who would have us believe they are our authorities because that’s what we’re expected to do.

And this belief and resulting behavior is what we often unconsciously, and usually motivated by great love, pass along to our children.

The mirror doesn’t lie.

As I listened to the troop leader, I ran through all my long-held beliefs and societal frustrations detailed above and began writing this blog in my head and heart. I wanted to be sure to make note of the organizational line she was leading from and all the ways it is different from my own intentions etc. etc. etc.

If I’m to look at the whole truth, I also have to point my eye squarely back on myself. It didn’t take long to spot a programmer no farther away than my own nose.

At four years old, Henry is all about his independence. Often it manifests as saying a strong ‘no’ just so he’s refusing to do what I want or at least refusing to do it my way or on my timeline. I’ve built up a strong tolerance for this, and often quietly cheer him on out of respect. I was similarly strong-willed as a young person, much to my parents’ dismay.

Reminder to self: Our son isn’t a horse that needs to be broken.

As a family we’ve developed strategies to give Henry back some choice or control in any given situation. Or at minimum an explanation he can understand as to why we’re asking him to flush the toilet. Our intention is to support his independent spirit and nurture a belief in his own power. That’s our intention.

But some days, I just need him to put his ever-loving shoes on so we can get to preschool or give up the bag of cookies he found in the back of the cupboard and now has a vice grip on or stop chucking rocks at the kitchen window or for god’s sake for the last time hold my hand while crossing the street.

In these situations, more often than I’m comfortable with I’ve offered some version of this response to my child when he questioned me as his authority figure:

Why do I have to listen to you?
Because I’m your mother.

Why should I comply with that rule?
Because I love you and I’m protecting you from danger.

Why shouldn’t I throw rocks at the window?
Because that’s the rule.

Why do I have to go to school today?
Because it’s what’s best for you.

That’s how it starts, right? Follow me because I have power over you. Why, Mommy? Because it’s easier for both of us, but really only for me.

Authority is given and can be taken away.

I want my child to believe that authority is earned through trust and given only by choice. That it should always be questioned. That authority can be taken away when it is abused or even if he decides he doesn’t want or need that authority figure any more. There’s always a careful balance to strike, but I want him to be empowered and strong in his convictions, enough so that he doesn’t hesitate to follow his own heart even when it doesn’t comply with anyone else’s rules.

I want Henry to respect me because I am true to myself and my beliefs and because I likewise offer him the respect he deserves, not because I have any measure of power over him. But first I have to admit that though I so easily talk about these convictions I don’t always walk them. I’m grateful to the group of sweet little girls, their loving mothers and their well-intentioned troop leader for reminding me so pointedly how important this lesson is, and that I’m still learning it.

It’s okay to forget.

present signpostIt’s September 11, 2013. For a few minutes this morning, I forgot. It was lovely.

As I woke to some unexpected quiet minutes to myself, I took a few to say hello to the world – first smiling quietly to myself. The cool sheets and soft mattress my body hadn’t yet unfolded from, the sunshine creeping through the blinds, the warmth of my son sleeping beside me, the squeaks and bangs of the morning shunting in the train yards those of us who live near Seattle’s Interbay know so well. My first formed thought: Today I will see my husband who has been in London for several days. I miss him and love him so very much. This will be a good day.

Taking the joy of my morning with me, I decided to say hello to the world on a larger scale and picked up my devices.

Bam.

Oh, yes. I’d forgotten. It’s September 11. Email, Facebook, Twitter, radio, TV. Within the first half hour images of the Twin Towers and the beautiful memorial in lights that now stands in their place and, of course, the words “Never forget” and “We remember” followed me everywhere.

In our world where every story that wants to be told has a place, today’s posts and messages recount endless memories of that day. Amongst my friends and virtual connections I have several New Yorkers, journalists, police officers, Red Cross workers, and a few flight attendants. But even amongst the folks like me who weren’t more directly involved or intimately connected to the events of 9/11, the memories are vivid and the emotions still present for so many. Everyone knows exactly where they were and exactly how they felt. And many feel they should never, ever forget.

Maybe it’s time we forgot a bit.

It’s undeniable that the country – the world – shifted in a profound way that day. Our sense of security, stability and priorities were challenged and changed in ways that we may never completely understand. Many lost their lives or loved ones, both on that day and in the violence and wars that continue 12 years later.

The sacrifices and loss are seen. They are appreciated and honored. They are remembered.

But I have to wonder what good comes from remembering, even reliving, the fear and sadness of that day. Why do we as a country feel it is helpful to hang on to our individual and collective experiences, as if it would be disrespectful not to? As if we need to vividly remember everything that happened and everything we felt in order to ensure it never happens again.

Only when we are able to move beyond the pain of the past are we able to truly heal.

The shift happened. The lessons are still being learned. The effects are still being felt. But the vivid memories do not serve us anymore, and it’s time to move on.

We honor the sacrifices of the firefighters, the police officers, the airline staffs, the soldiers and the innocents more by allowing ourselves to find peace and move forward toward an abundant future unencumbered by our memories and all that we attach to them. By living fully in the present day, with hope for generations of peace, with love for all of our fellow human beings. By not continuing to turn our lingering anger and fear about the potential for another such attack into endless military actions that serve only to continue the worldwide cycle of anger and fear. By taking what we learned on that day and all the days since and using them to better the future and live with purpose and joy.

We don’t need to remember everything to do this.

Just imagine. Next year you could wake up and feel only the smile of a quiet morning and the anticipation of a good day. You check your devices and see the same messages of hope and laughter you see every day. You look at the calendar and remember the loving sacrifice of so many 13 years ago and smile or send up a prayer in gratitude for the strength and beauty of humanity to overcome adversity and selflessly help others. Then you go about your day. And it’s a good day.

Wouldn’t that be lovely?

Water on the fire

Fire HeartIt’s taken me most of my life to understand. I’m a woman. That’s a remarkable, beautiful thing. My femininity and the strong and divine life force that comes from embracing it are important and inescapable parts of me.

We could get into why it took me until recently to appreciate this, but that would require “a very special” series of blogs and a trip to the store for tissues and it isn’t really important to what I have to say. What’s more noteworthy today is that my struggle to embrace both my feminine and masculine sides, a struggle that may sound familiar to you, is merely a microcosm of what’s going on in the world.

Our collective feminine energy – receptive, open, creative, supportive, unconditionally loving – has been challenged for millennia. You can track patriarchal domination, and consequential oppression of women, from as far back as 4,000 BC all the way up to Seth MacFarlane’s boob song at this year’s Oscars. Don’t get me wrong, I have enjoyed Mr. MacFarlane’s edgy humor many times over the years, as I did that night. When I tune into Family Guy I expect misogynistic jokes — often ripe with satire and provocative social commentary — just as I expected to see them on Sunday. That’s what the Academy bought, right? But I couldn’t deny my disappointment as it illustrated yet again our world’s decidedly masculine bent.

As many writers and historians and ordinary folks like you and me have observed: Look where this has gotten us. As liberal as most first-world cultures are compared to many places in the world, we are still a society more interested in power and ego than the greater good. In economic strength more than feeding the hungry or caring for the planet. In controlling more than teaching and supporting. In doing-doing-doing more than just being and receiving what’s already there. In getting an easy laugh at a bright, talented woman’s expense simply because she has breasts and was brave enough to reveal them to tell an important story…more than saying something funny that also tickles the brains of that 40 million-person audience.

As wise teachers and indigenous cultures have told us for as long as we’ve been able to hear them, we need something different. We need a world filled with people who see creative, nurturing energy as strength. Individually and collectively, we need to offer support and love to everyone in pain, especially ourselves, so we can heal, find our purpose and contribute. We need to love the dark and the light, the yin and the yang, knowing they are both sacred and necessary to creation. We need to celebrate everyone just as they are. We need to embrace our feminine energy.

This is the new paradigm and that scares the bejeesus out of a lot of men and women alike. Hence the continuous attempts to repress it occurring every day in every corner of our world – and these are only the stories being told.

This is not new or news to most of us and many are very, very angry. You can read about it all day long online or in a stack full of books. You likely can feel it in many of the women – and men – in and out of your life. The anger is justified.

Confession: I am no longer angry…well, mostly. As I fully embrace my feminine energy, it dissipates. I can see what’s going on. It disappoints me. I am moved to speak out and shift my own energy in an effort to help. But over time it makes me less and less angry.

That’s the nature, the immense strength, of the feminine. It allows. It embraces. It supports. It holds the energy we all need to grow and thrive. It loves. It doesn’t know anger or resistance.

It’s a masculine society that taught us that anger is a fabulous motivator. That fiery rage moves us to impose change by doing something. Feminine energy offers water to the fire and welcomes the peace and change that comes from simply being different.

Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee, Sufi teacher and author of The Return of the Feminine and the World Soul wrote:

Lady TreeIf women can come to know the sacred dimension of their own and the earth’s suffering, if they can see that it is part of the mysterious destiny of the soul of our world, if they can look beyond their own personal pain and anger to accept their larger destiny, then the forces of life can flow in a new way. The imprint of the divine face can become visible in this world and the glory of oneness be known, and once again life can become sacred.

While I’ve made some grand declarations above, I’m the first to admit I don’t know exactly what that looks like in our daily lives here on Mother Earth, and I’m certain it is easier said than done. What I do know is there are countless wise souls I can turn to for example, guidance and perspective. Some are magnificent women with boundless love in their hearts and laughter in their bones, many of whom already have guided me through hard lessons and shown me how to be both feminine and strong. Some are beautiful, strong men – two of whom I share my home with – who embrace their own feminine energy and know their unconditional support is just as valuable as their ability to do amazing things. Some are teachers like Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee with the guidance of goddesses in their hearts and on their tongues.

Because of them, I have hope, and perhaps I do know what it looks like. It’s already here. It just needs a little loving care.

It’s okay. Just scream.

My son Henry has started screaming. Sometimes at the dog. Sometimes at me or my husband. Sometimes at no one. Often for no obvious reason at all. But almost always with a hint of a smile.

Of course at times he’s frustrated. Toddlers are, after all, easily aggravated, since they firmly believe the world is theirs and when anyone gets in the way of what’s theirs they must be punished. But mostly he seems to take great joy in it. As if he’s finally found his unique voice, a way to express exactly what he needs to, and right now it needs to be very, very loud.

It makes sense, actually. He’s part of this world, this humanity in the process of breaking open, breaking apart, releasing the pressure that’s been building for millennia. The entire planet is filled with souls quickly building to, in the process of, or in desperate need of a magnificent release. The earth itself is enjoying a much-needed good scream via extreme weather, earthquakes, natural disasters and massive change. Henry’s just following its lead.

If you ask me, and apparently Henry, we’re all not screaming enough.

This past election season is a perfect example. Many of us, including me, experienced much of the “rhetoric” of the day via social interaction and social media. Except, like me, most of the concerned citizens, political junkies and reasoned voters I know were conspicuously quiet. When we discussed such things, often instead of discussing the issues at hand, we all instead agreed that expressing even balanced political opinions or relatively benign jokes caused enough conflict with our vocal friends on the other side of the aisle or issue that it just wasn’t worth the hassle and frustration.

“No one’s mind has ever been changed by a Facebook post,” I heard more than once as I nodded in agreement. “It’s not worth creating conflict and contributing to the noise. I don’t need to be reminded that half the country thinks I’m an idiot.”

So, political opinions were left mostly to talking heads on the cable news channels and those on either end of the political spectrum who were just angry enough, and often more than judgmental enough, to continuously express their rage against those who dared to disagree with their beliefs to some degree and the organizations connected to such issues. The extremes, the angriest and most self-righteous of us all, were being heard loud and clear.

Meanwhile, most of the rest of us sat quietly in our ideas and explorations, safe in the knowledge that at least we weren’t contributing to the divisive language of the day, hoping against hope that once the election was over the screaming would soften to a simmering roar and we’d all accept and contribute to the tasks at hand – that we’d put down our pitchforks and work together toward the greater good.

Naïve? Perhaps. It’s wouldn’t be the first time someone’s optimism has been labeled as such. Naïve or not, so far this is not what has happened and if we stay on our current path, it doesn’t look good.

The angry are angrier. The self-righteous are even moreso. Everyone knows they are right and few with a loud enough voice want to compromise for the sake of progress.

Okay, universe, I hear you. Lesson learned…again.

When we don’t allow the release, the healing light can’t get in.

When we don’t allow some space for everyone to scream when they need to scream, then we all suffer.

My son gets it. He screams when he needs to. He lets it go. He laughs and plays and eats with joy the rest of the time, and he sleeps like a baby.

Here’s a radical idea: Let’s all speak our truth.

Be “brutally” honest. Say what you feel, even when it’s not politically correct. Express that emotion that’s been building in your throat for weeks. Stop apologizing for having unconventional ideas. Tell someone about them. Stop feeling ashamed for buying in to stereotypes or hanging on to old programmed beliefs. Instead, release them. Post that provocative political meme if it’s truly what you want to say. Be yourself, even if that self is exceedingly angry or sad or frightened or confused. Let everything just be what it is. Express it. Release it. Scream. Let it go.

In exchange, we agree to allow everyone else to do the same. We will support everyone’s vulnerability and release equally. We will allow everyone a voice, even those we desperately disagree with. We will openly accept and cheer on everyone who says anything that self-censorship previously kept them from expressing. We will hear everything they have to say. We will welcome disagreement, even angry (but not violent) disagreement, with love and enthusiasm. When people or organizations use negativity or power with the intention of quashing an honest opinion or manipulating a heartfelt belief, we will defend ourselves and others by laughing and enjoying that they are releasing that fear and anger – that soon it won’t be there at all. We will understand that even when you feel it’s being directed at you, it’s not about you at all. It’s personal only to those expressing it.

We’ll all let it flow out as long as it needs to. We’ll all keep screaming and cracking open and listening and cheering until enough of it has vaporized into light and love. We will wait. We’re all in this together – the country, the world, the universe. We’re not going anywhere. It’s okay. Just scream.

Then, when we’re ready, when enough has released and the cracks are big enough for the light to get in…

That’s when the healing will begin.

Are you in?