Here, There and Everywhere

Posts tagged ‘emotion’

One of the Best

51yHPujzv6LVersions of the Self by Christy Birmingham
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans

I’ve been very lucky to have come across a number of poetry collections lately that are very good, and this is one of the best. Versions of the Self wonderfully combines emotion, and self-awareness, with actions, objects, and the environment. It is an inner journey revealed externally, with strong ties between both.

The Serenade

I arose from within the crisp blue sheets and
I realized –
This is but one moment, in one day, in the
Midst of a path called alive.
I chose to serenade myself in a
Dance that swung me to center state, and
I shivered with fear as much as with
Contemplation, as thoughts gathered in a
Semi-circle to discuss the way my toes would
Look as I neared the end of the field.
I realized –
This is a chosen moment and that
The grass could be watered, and
I took one step, couled with one breath, in
The midst of a life I began to call my own.

The words move with perfectly weighted verbs, adjectives, and metaphors. Reading these poems feels like dancing, and exploring life and space, toe to toe with their creator. Here is another of Ms. Birmingham’s brilliant creations.

Gliding under Water

I am diving into the calm waters after the
Hurricane of your arms pulling at my feet,
And my toes are happy to move on their own now.

I am gliding under the waters, and my vision is
Remarkably clear, while my body washes with
Liquids that contain no mixture of you.

I am touching the pool’s bottom with my hand,
Happy for the cold feel of the cement,
Reassured by its stability and the lack of critical words.

I am lacking for nothing, I am drenched with relief,
I am swimming to the surface, and
Today is a celebration of freedom for my limbs.

The verses in Versions of the Self  are perfectly separated into different areas, such as, “The Self: I”, “Take Me There”, and “Other Self Loves”. Each section holds its own, and every poem in this collection is worthy of the space within which they have their being, and before the eyes of those of us privileged to read them.

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Anger Off the Leash

How to be pissed off. Excerpt from Zen Master Tova Tarantino Toshiba: The Illustrious and Delusional Abbess of Satire.

images

Anger can be our friend. Keep it close at hand and, when needed, let it off its leash.

The energy of anger can be used to wake us up, change our emotion or move us from grief and helplessness to action and reaction.

All too often, anger’s been given a bad rap. In and of itself, it is simply an accumulation of energy. It is how we use it that makes the difference.

If you are unaware of feeling angry than it can catch you off guard and harm yourself and others, but when we use the power it possesses to snap out of a bad situation or right a wrong, it is thus used wisely and for the benefit of all.

Don’t “be” angry, use what is called anger and use it well. If you are not being mindful and at ease with the force of your fury and rage, then remain silent and go to a safe place to let yourself explode.

As you know, I used to have quite a temper, but I’ve learned how to judge and blame others instead and realized that it was most likely someone else’s words or actions that triggered my angry response. It does no good to point this out, as they tend to be blind to their ignorance and they just get angry.

Drifting Clouds by Master Tarantino. Page 5-6

More topsy turvy wisdom at: Zen Master Tova Tarantino Toshiba: The Illustrious and Delusional Abbess of Satire.

Slap the Abbott

A stinging story from Zen Master Tova Tarantino Toshiba: The Illustrious and Delusional Abbess of Satire.

images-1A woman who had her crops and family washed away in a flood (which had been caused from a break in the levee, which the government had previously said could withstand any amount of rainfall) came to Abbott Tova for comfort and advice.

“I’ve lost everything,” the woman wept. “I have nothing left.” The Abbott remained silent. “There is no where to go and no one left to comfort me.” The woman continued to cry. The Abbott did not reply. “What am I to do?” After sobbing for another ten minutes, the woman looked pleadingly at the Abbott. “Why did this happen? Why did it happen to me?” Abbott Tova closed her eyes for a few moments, opened them again, and smiled, but did not utter a sound. “Why won’t you say anything? Please give me some words of wisdom, some advice, some hope.”

“I do not have what you seek,” the Abbott finally said. “I cannot dish out false hope or advice and we have no means of helping you. The fact is that we all lose everything sooner or later. In this instance, you have lost the people and things most important to you, sooner rather than later.”

“Yes. Yes,” the woman replied. “I’ve heard The Buddha’s teachings about impermanence and change, but have you no compassion or care? I feel lost and hopeless.”

“Listen to what you are saying. You ‘feel’ lost and hopeless and are ‘labeling’ your experience as suffering and grief. Who you are, who we all are, is but a compilation of elements in temporary co‑operation, with whom we identify as our self, as our ego, our me.”

The woman shook her head in disbelief.

“Okay. Okay,” the Abbott said. “Come here.” She opened her arms and nodded for the lady to come forward. She hesitated. “Come.” The woman arose and fell into the Abbott’s arms, who encircled her with her robe. The woman began sobbing once again. “Now. Now,” the Abbott soothed. “Everything will be alright.”

As Abbott Tova held the woman she spoke to the other sisters in the hall. “This shows how easy it is to get attached to people, personalities, situations, events, and things. I’ve done so myself, many times. If you are mindful however and pay close attention to what arises and passes away, you will see that it is all an illusion, a temporary state that comes and goes. It’s all a dream, make-believe.”

The woman who had lost everything and was being held, had had enough. She slapped the Abbott. Some nuns started to run forward, but the Abbott held up her hand for them to stay put.

“Was that an illusion!” the woman yelled. The Abbott smiled. “Does it sting?” The Abbott’s check had turned red. “If life is a dream and nothing matters than what are we here for?”

The Abbott smiled with a jester’s grin. “Thank you,” the Abbott said. “I was wondering how much longer I’d have to keep mouthing that nonsense before you’d snap out of it.”

The woman suddenly realized that she wasn’t crying any longer, nor feeling sad. Her emotion had turned to that of anger and rage. She backed away from Abbott Tova, bowed deeply, and returned to her flooded land to start her new temporary and illusionary life once again.

More unbearable words of insight: Zen Master Tova Tarantino Toshiba: The Illustrious and Delusional Abbess of Satire.

James in the Final Four

Well, it’s official. James Durbin (Santa Cruz, CA) is now in the final four and we’re not talking about college basketball. When you think of how many people these folks auditioned with across the country to be standing with the last four American Idol contestants (120,000), it is a remarkable feat.

James wasn’t at his best Wednesday, but still made it through. He was a little off key here and there and didn’t seem as focused as usual, but his emotion and intent came through strong and clear. It was probably his sincere expression of his feelings that helped him make it to the final four.

There’s something about James that just seems downright genuine. If he’s acting or putting on a show for the cameras, it’s hard to tell. It seems like whatever raw experience he’s going through is what you see, regardless of whether it is joy, sadness or exuberant exhortations. Combine that quality, with his usually spot on vocals and presentation and it’s easy to see why he’s where he’s at and why a large portion of the more than 60,000,000 votes that were cast were for James.

A Gradual Awakening

Excerpt from A Gradual Awakening by Stephen Levine. Over the last 3 decades, I have returned to this book many times for insight, reminders and support.

Awareness

Meditation is awareness. The motivation for meditating is often quite different for each person. Many people come to meditation because of their love for the qualities of some teacher or their desire to know God. Others because of a desire to understand mind. Some begin not even knowing what meditation is, but with a great longing to be free from some sadness, some pain, some incompleteness in their lives.

Here is offered a simple Buddhist mindfulness practice to come to wholeness, to our natural completeness. The basis of the practice is to directly participate in each moment as it occurs with as much awareness and understanding as possible.

We’ve all developed some degree of concentration and awareness. Just to be able to rad a book, to live our complicated lives, takes awareness and concentration. They’re qualities of mind present in everyone.

Meditation intensifies those qualities through systematic, gentle, persevering techniques. To develop concentration, we choose a single object of awareness, the primary object, that the attention is “re-minded” to return to and encouraged to stay with. We choose a primary object and work with it; whether it is something we generate in the conceptual realm, like a verbal repetition or the idea of loving-kindness, or something that is always present, like the sensations in the body.

Mindfulness of breathing is a powerful means of developing concentration. The breath is a superb object because it’s constantly a part of our experience. Also, because our breathing changes, the awareness must become very subtle to accommodate itself to it. Awareness watches the sensations that occur with the natural coming and going of the breath. Awareness penetrates the subtle sensations that accompany each breath. When we bring attention to the level of sensation, we are not so entangled in the verbal level where all the voices of thought hold sway, usually lost in the “internal dialogue.”

The internal dialogue is always commenting and judging and planning. It contains a lot of thoughts of self, a lot of self-consciousness. It blocks the light of our natural wisdom; it limits our seeing who we are; it makes a lot of noise and attracts our attention to a fraction of the reality in which we exist. But when the awareness is one-pointedly focused on the coming and going of the breath, all the other aspects of the mind/body process come automatically, clearly into focus as they arise. Meditation puts us into direct contact – which means direct experience – with more of who we are.

For instance, if we watch the mind as though it were a film project on a screen, as concentration deepens, it may go into a kind of slow motion and allow us to see more of what is happening. This then deepens our awareness and further allows us to observe the film almost frame by frame, to discover how one thought leads imperceptibly to the next. We see how thoughts we took to be “me” or “mine” are just an ongoing process. This perspective helps break our deep identification with the seeming solid reality of the movie of the mind. As we become less engrossed in the melodrama, we see it’s just flow, and can watch it all as it passes. We are not even drawn into the action by the passing of a judgmental comment or an agitated moment of impatience.

When we simply see – moment to moment – what’s occurring, observing without judgment or preference, we don’t get lost thinking, “I prefer this moment to that moment, I prefer this pleasant thought to that pain in my knee.” As we begin developing this choiceless awareness, what starts coming within the field of awareness is quite remarkable: we start seeing the root from which thought arises. We see intention, out of which action comes. We observe the natural process of mind and discover how much of what we so treasured to be ourselves is essentially impersonal phenomena passing by.

We discover we don’t really need to ask anyone any questions, we needn’t look outside ourselves for the answer. As we penetrate the flow, the flow is the answer. The asking of the question is itself the answer. When we ask, “Who am I?” who we are is the processes asking the question.

Permission Granted: A Woman’s Loss

“Emotional, tearful, talkative, weak, dependent, scattered, illogical, over-reacting, out of control and hysterical.” These are some of the judgments and labels that women are painted with when they react to the loss of a loved one.

Some times women (and men) do react to a sudden or expected death with a great deal of emotion and cry, talk, scream, wail and/or moan. Thank God that they do, for by doing so they are teachers for both sexes of how to honor and acknowledge a natural, human response to loss. If people are not allowed to “let go”, “collapse” or “lose it” after the death of a loved one, when on earth can they? When is there ever a better time to release the anguish and pain of having someone or a number of people ripped out of your life?

There is nothing inherently “weak” in allowing the true depths of our suffering to surface. It takes a lot of strength to allow oneself to be so vulnerable and honest. It takes incredible energy, support and awareness to do something that most Americans have pathologized, minimized or tried at all costs to “get over”. Yet, more often than not, women are the pioneers in taking this journey of mourning, of walking through the valley, stepping on the sharp rocks and finding their way back to life; often with a new found respect and appreciation for the preciousness of life.

In some cultures, both here and abroad, there are women who are the “designated mourners” at funerals and are the ones that show up at families’ homes when there has been a death. They hold a place of honor in their communities, because of their ability to connect with, hold and release the individual and the communal pain of loss and separation that has occurred. Like midwives at births, these women are held in high esteem, as strong, aware healers who have their feet planted solidly on the earth, while their hearts compassionately open to both the suffering and the pain.

We, as a society, have slowly begun to recognize the power of grief and mourning and are starting to realize that such reactions are normal, for both women and men and that to not have such outward or visible reactions to loss is also an acceptable way to mourn.

Because of past conditioning by families, institutions and media, women have often bought into the stereotypes of how they should or shouldn’t grieve and mourn. If they aren’t crying, sad, depressed or screaming after the death of a loved one, they often think something is wrong, that they’re “weird” or “abnormal”.

Just as there is wide variance in men, with regards to how we react, process and think about loss, so to for women. There are no universal women or universal men with exact, programmed responses to life and death. There are countless ways in which we mourn. How we react to loss is the outcome of hundreds of factors, including, but not limited to, our relationship with the deceased; how long we’ve known them; how we have dealt with past crisis; how old we are; how they died; whether we were with them or not at the time of death; how we were told of their death; what kind of support system we have or don’t have; other responsibilities; financial or health concerns; what our belief systems are; and the messages we have received from others on what is or is not acceptable.

I have met women who were in great turmoil because they were not proceeding as “planned” by their and/or others’ expectations of when, how and where they should be at a given time, in regards to their grieving or reactions to the loss of a loved one.

One woman had not cried since the death of her father six months previous. She thought something was “wrong” with her. Yet, after describing everything she had had to do in the last six months and the kind of relationship she had with her father, she realized that she had been doing just what she needed to do in order to survive and function. Once she was acknowledged and validated for doing what she needed to do, in the way she needed to do it, she was then able to acknowledge and express her conflicted emotions without fear of judgment or “being crazy”.

Another women said she never mourned or cried for her sister, whom she had loved dearly. Upon further reflection she realized that she thought about her sister every day when she jogged and was inspired by her sister’s life to continue teaching and helping others learn.

And some women (and men) tend to avoid their grief and pain by avoiding such emotions as much as possible. They stay busy, work twelve-hour days, drink excessively and/or use drugs. They jump from one relationship into another and/or become so focused on a particular goal or activity that they are, for a time, able to compartmentalize, push aside, numb out or ignore the feelings, thoughts and impacts of having someone die.

These are all natural reactions to pain, to not wanting to hurt. Usually, however, such reactions end up causing more complications and don’t take away or change the pain of loss that remains.

I would ask that you take a moment to think about the women in your life. Think about their personalities, differences, relationships and families; how they interact with others; how they mourn and see themselves. Ask them which roles, lifestyles and behaviors they feel have been imposed or expected of them and which ones they have chosen or made their own. They may be emotional, stoic, afraid, silent, loud, tearful, strong, confused, clueless, aware, insightful, isolated or social. They may be your partner, your sister, your mother, your grandchild, grandmother, aunt, colleague or friend. I invite you to see and treat each of them as unique, creative human beings, who have the right, the power and the prerogative to deal with and react to life and death on their own terms.

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