Essay

If Ever There Was a Time…

…when violence might be justified, this time might just qualify.

Stark, real, heavy are those words, and to hear them oozing from me like puss from an infected wound is disgusting!  But honesty compels me to face them, acknowledge and respect them, for they have a place in my vocabulary, and today they seem fitting.  But let’s be clear here…

I do not endorse violence, ever, in any circumstance; I am merely addressing the shadow that rises within in response to such acts of violence in the world outside.  I cannot condone what has happened in Charlottesville and around the world; I cannot remain silent, when such silence equates with complicity.  But it physically hurts to say such words aloud – there may be times when violence is the only reasonable response to violence.

A friend reminded me of that today, asking me how I might “reasonably” react to violence directed my way.  What if someone broke into your room intent on harming you; would you defend yourself?  What if someone kidnapped your grandchild, intending to perpetrate some heinous crime; would violence then be appropriate?  What if people sought to terrorize others or destroy life in the name of money, power, religion, politics, or socio-pathological disturbance?  Would any of these acts warrant a violent response?

Yes, of course, but…

No.  No “buts.”  Own it, Lisa, for violence exists within you, as well as all those you wish to “stand against.”  Perhaps there are times when violence seems justified, and if there are, then now may be that time.  For though I do not currently face those personal attacks, the others are all too real.  Something must be done to stop such acts!  Something must be said to condemn such acts!  Something must… change!

And yet I resist…  Why?

Because the language we are using today, to make a point and take a stand, is as divisive as the rhetoric that spawns these acts of violence in the first place.  Because the words we are using do not heal, but only further and deepen the heartache that separates us.  Because love cannot win in an environment where the only response to hate is vitriol, violence, condemnation, segregation and rage…

We can no longer deny what is happening around us.  We can no longer depend upon privilege to protect us.  We must not rely upon silence to insulate us.  And yet, we should not add fuel to the fires that consume us…  Or should we?

I understand the impulse to violently recoil from any association with such vile examples of inhumanity as expressed by white nationalists, the KKK, the power brokers and politicians and preachers who have made hate and violence a viable path.  I grasp the need to express my natural antipathy towards such philosophies and acts.  But I find myself stepping back, hesitating, when those I wish to stand beside start speaking of “excising malignancies,” “denouncing,” “condemning,” “choosing sides,” etc, for these are not words of healing at all.

So, how do we condemn without judgment?  How do we stop these people without oppressing our “enemies”?  How do we respond definitively, purposefully, constructively, without imposing our will on others?  How do we “punish” these criminals without behaving criminally ourselves?!  Is it even possible?

History is written by the winners, they say, whomever they are.  But “winning” doesn’t make us “right”.  Or “good”.  It only makes us victorious.  And while we might claim the end justifies the means, I can’t find comfort in that, as such “holier than thou” rhetoric has always justified atrocities.  Someone always loses when lines are drawn, and crossed, and people are forced to “take sides.”

“They’re just words, Lisa, and now is no time for semantics!,” I hear myself say.  But I disagree, vehemently, with such a thought.  Because words have power when expressed; this I know, I believe!  Words guide and inform our reasoning, lead and justify our actions.  They empower our analogies which lead us to our conclusions.  They color our metaphors, which frame our realities, making our environments reflect back to us exactly what we expect to see.  So if I speak of “taking a stand against” something, I naturally divide the playing field.  If I think of “opposing” another, I naturally create an enemy.  And if I create an enemy, I justify the ensuing war.  Violence begets violence, ad infinitum…

I find myself contemplating the Yin/Yang symbol – a potent reminder that within the darkness, a seed of light may still exist, while within the light, darkness also thrives.  It leads me to consider that there may yet remain a spark of humanity within those who march and protest with violence; that our natural state, as humans, is not to hate, but to love.  Hate is learned behavior, as any young child can amply demonstrate.  If I focus on the darkness these haters express, rather than that potential glimmer of conscience that may yet remain, then I participate in fueling and reinforcing such hate.  I choose not to do that today, while simultaneously acknowledging that they are free to choose complete darkness, if that is the path that compels them…

But within the light, darkness also exists.  If I accept such words of violence from those I usually agree with, then I become complicit in feeding and fueling that darkness within them.  Continuing along such a path, in the name of “good intentions,” will not erase the damage done when such resistance becomes active violence.  And so the darkness overwhelms the light, as we become active mirrors of, and for, our “enemies”…  I choose not to do that today, while simultaneously accepting that all must act according to their own conscience…

So…  what do I choose to do today to face the rage, the violence, the hate?

First I accept and forgive myself for wanting to react.  I own that seed of darkness within me, and watch it carefully, so that it does not spread like cancer throughout my being…

Second, I reach out to those in need, without first asking (or attempting to divine) which side they represent.  I offer comfort, peace, acceptance, and the right to disagree.  I nurture their humanity…

Third, I embrace the innocent, the maligned, whichever side they’re on.  Only by truly embracing can I hope to minimize our divide…

Fourth, I stand my ground.  I do not stand with you or against you, but I stand fully in my truth.  If you wish to move me, you may try, but I know who and what I am about, and I will not be swayed by words of hate wherever they come from.  I do not wish to martyr myself, but I will not play this game of words and intents; words of battle are bathed in the blood of guilt and innocence, and so I shall not utter them, regardless of the consequence.

This is my response to this time of rampant violence…

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Poetry, Reflections

“Discombobulated…”

And confused…

Out of sync… or even time?

Some moments passing before I can grasp them,

while others simply refuse to move!

Spiritual whiplash… my body aches.

Caused by this stop and go act?

This heavy push forward, pulsing,

while something else holds me back?

I “fail” at everything normal I try,

but “feel” success haunting my steps.

I feel reluctance, resistance…

while the voices are all screaming, “YES!!”…

Frustration boils up, disturbing my peace,

while that deeply calm center still anchors me…

‘Tis no wonder I feel unbalanced these days…

uncertain, bemused and unsure.

Nothing makes sense in a world gone mad…

So I grasp for the truth in a Word:

“Dis-com-bob-u-lat-ed”…

Made up, created, to capture a moment,

comfort found in humor and sound…

 

 

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Essay, Reflections

A Question of Competence… or is it Commitment?

I notice these days that there are a lot of people out there “selling” belief.  I get inundated every day with emails and ads, suggestions for how to improve every aspect of my life through holistic healing, energy work, prayer, divination, spirit guidance, contemplation practices and fitness regimes.  Everyone has an angle that they guarantee will work for me.

But I’m not sure I agree…  Why?

Why can’t I embrace any of these techniques?  Why can’t I even bring myself to try them out?  Clearly my life needs healing in so many ways, and I’ve always been open to both mainstream and alternative means.  Non-judgmental.  Yep, that’s me…

Or is it?  Because I find myself discounting these believers and teachers without even attempting to test their theories.  I find myself hitting “delete” without even listening to their spiel.  Is it just a question of competency?

To be sure, times have definitely changed.  I remember, not so long ago, when “experts” in any field were judged by the length of time they had invested in an area of study, as well as by the efficacy of their results.  Anyone new to a particular field had to “earn” their stripes, so to speak.

But in this digital era of instant gratification, and You Tube, everyone becomes an “expert” by saying they are, and by earning a “following.”  An interested party does an internet search on their topic, then chooses what site(s) to visit, or what videos to watch, not so much by researching qualifications, but by the number of “hits” or “followers” that “teacher” has.  “Mob rules” defined and practiced…

But I’ve never really been a follower type, preferring to take someone’s idea or theory and research it on my own.  Always looking for flaws in reasoning or data, critical in my assessments, judging what part(s) appear to work, or not, for me.  Self-defined reality…

And I can’t honestly state which path is “better” or makes more sense in the end, because both ways have their pros and cons.  Self-definition provides flexibility and adaptability to any path or belief system, but it also prevents any commitment or benefits of dedicated practice; you basically believe or do what you want, while discarding the rest, and that rarely leads to deep knowledge or wisdom.  But mob rule, while clearly directing your practice and belief, without requiring deep contemplation, also requires you to accept a whole lot of stuff you might not normally agree with; much harm has been perpetrated by those following a path too strictly, without regard for how it may affect the lives of others…

Hmm…

I know that in these tumultuous times people are desperate for something hopeful to believe in.  I know everyone wants to feel empowered, capable and competent.  We no longer believe in the “system” to provide for our needs consistently and competently, and we are correct in questioning it; the society we knew and trusted is collapsing around us.  So spirituality has become big business, and gurus are hawking every corner.  And many are providing (and feeling) some relief.  That’s good, right?

Too bad it doesn’t feel that way.  At least to me…

I have been asked twice in the last week or so, to offer my advice/guidance in a public setting; to “teach” on topics I used to be well versed in and confident to teach.  I have refused both opportunities, claiming “incompetence” as my excuse.  I no longer feel “qualified” to offer advice, even on those topics in which I was formerly an “expert,” recognized by both “time in” and “results of.”  And I find the whole situation rather amusing; but then, I’ve always had a twisted perception of reality, and a great appreciation for irony.

The bottom line for me today is that I no longer know what is “real” or not, or what is worthy of believing anymore.  My daily life is so overrun with time inconsistencies, and “bleed-through” from other realities, that I feel like it’s one continuous, unsubstantial, channel surfing adventure.  It’s like being on one of those rides at Disney World, where you sit in a little car that takes you through different scenes, changing rapidly, each trying to capture your imagination and “feel” real, while a part of you remains focused on the hard plastic seat you’re sitting on, and the wealth of darkness framing every scene.  You want to throw yourself into it, to wholly embrace the vision before you, but that seat is so uncomfortable, and the people behind you won’t stop talking, and your stomach is growling (oh, did I forget to eat again today?), and…  well, you get the drift.

I had a dream recently…

In the dream I was one of a half dozen people or so invited to attend a special retreat.  At that retreat we were to be trained on how to “pray” for others, and to teach them how to pray for themselves.  In this case, though, “prayer” referred to the actual practice of miracles; in other words, we would be taught how to manifest real change in the world, and how to pass that skill to others.

At first, I was excited, but then the doubt set in.  I knew that these prayers (this technique) came from a tradition I was familiar with, but not a follower of.  I began questioning whether I had a “right” to attend, coming as I was from curiosity rather than belief.  I found myself speaking about my concerns to a friend I know in real life.  We do not “believe” the same, but we share a mutual respect for each other that often allows us to discuss ethical or moral concerns, and actually learn from each others’ perspective.  When I finished explaining the situation to him (in the dream), he grew very stern, pointed his finger at me accusingly, and said, quite seriously, “you better make damn sure you can commit to this, Lisa, before you go; otherwise, don’t go!”  His whole demeanor spoke of dire warning, as though this were not some trifling matter, which is very unlike him in real life.  I woke, telling myself I’d better test my commitment to this path before attending the retreat…

When I shared this dream with him in real life, he pointed out my use of present tense in the waking world (as in “I’d better be sure before attending…”).  I started to say that it was just a grammar/language error, then stopped myself.  He laughed, quick to catch that, as we both know how careful I am with words in the real world.  I believe our language affects our reality, so I am meticulous about saying what I mean, and meaning what I say.  So there is no room for such a “slip of the tongue” in my world, especially when speaking to him; he will call me on any bullshit he hears…

So…

It’s not really a question of competency plaguing me, I think, but one of commitment.  I know I could learn these “techniques,” whatever they are; I’m basically intelligent, well studied, and own a long tradition of learning and practicing competently.  I am a born teacher.  But I am hesitating, even knowing that such “techniques” may bring actual relief…  Why?

Because I am reluctant to commit to any particular path these days.  I am thoroughly enjoying the free flowing nature of my reality these days.  Because I do not want to be restricted by rules or expectations if something new and more appealing reveals itself to me.  Because I do not want to accept responsibility…

Ahh…  That’s it, then, isn’t it?

Commitment comes with responsibility, and I do not want that in my life.  I do not want to be responsible for others, to be held accountable for what they do with any knowledge (complete or not) they may gain from our interaction.  And that’s what’s missing in the wealth of big business based spirituality, too.  No one wants to be responsible.  No one wants to be held accountable for the “wrongs” committed by their beliefs and believers.  And while I have always believed that people should be held accountable for their own actions, rather than blaming their past or their preacher/teacher, I recognize that there is a line marking where such independence becomes hypocrisy. Because some people truly do influence others who want to be influenced, and we do become at least partially responsible for anything they do “in our name”…

Could I actually learn to change the world?  Could I make it a better place? Could I then competently teach others to do the same?

Can I wholeheartedly commit to finding out?

That is the question, isn’t it?

 

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Reflections, Visions

Detachment…?

The clock on the wall keeps ticking, but the hands no longer move…

Because Time no longer motivates me.

Voices argue down the street, louder and louder, but the words no longer mean…

Because language never truly captured or communicated what was real.

Sadness, sorrow, grief wash over me, but tears no longer fall…

Because acceptance of what is, is, and my heart does not resist.

Peace wraps itself around me, as my eyes begin to lose their focus…

Because clarity comes to the Observer, relieved of earthly pleasures.

And I see…

That I am not alone, nor disconnected here from Others; rather we are joined in spirit, thought, and understanding.  Holding “hands” as all we’ve known drops out beneath us.  Free floating in a place without gravity to hold us, without severity to sink us.  Gently holding on to what is real for each of us… in a space with no time, no boundaries, no real limitations.  Just us.  And what each has chosen to live with…

I will not judge you on your choices, for I have made my own.  And each will be responsible for whatever seeds we’ve sown.  There is no “right” or “wrong” here, and “fairness” does not exist.  A redefinition is occurring of what we once called Justice.

The truth, as I see it (little “t” intended), is that choices surround us All. Depending on your perspective, belief and expectation, you alone can choose what path calls loudest to you…

Some may face a fork ahead, choosing left or right; envisioning a world where all is black or white…

Some may face a crossroads, where many paths may merge; joining forces, they move on to where their spirits urge…

Some may find themselves at the center of a wheel; all paths entering, even circling, but never truly leaving…

Whatever path awaits you, friends, I trust you will choose well.  At least you will decide your fate, as only you can for yourself.  And if you feel helpless, drowning in the chaos, chained to time and space…?  Try letting go completely, before it drags you down…

Detachment…?  Or apathy?

Surrender…? Or acceptance?

Cowardice…?  Or conscience?

The choice is always yours…

 

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Dreams, Reflections, Visions

“If you want to lead…”

Interesting dreams and experiences this week, summed up by my dreams last night.  I don’t remember details so much, but the message was clear…

“If you want to lead… lead.

If you want to teach… teach.

If you want to heal… heal.

If you want to speak… speak.”

***

For months now, the messages I’ve gotten have been consistently about stepping back and allowing Others the space they need to decide their own course of development.  I’ve actually become quite proficient at minding my own business.  Not perfect, by any means, as there are always times and situations that create a compelling urge to react, but much better than I previously did.

And now that energy has shifted.  Now, I’m told, we may begin act-ing again, though perhaps not in the traditional sense.  For example, if we envisioned our selves as leaders in this “new” world we wish to co-create, we will not achieve that end by handing down orders or controlling others, as leaders did in the old world; rather, we shall lead by example only.  Get your hands dirty, or get out of the garden!

Likewise, if we fancied our selves as teachers, then we must live our truths rather than preach them.  Words mean nothing today without action.

If we imagined our selves as healers, then the work must begin within.  It is not enough to use words like “should” and “ought to” to describe the path to wholeness.  We must become whole ourselves, and guide others by those actions…

And if we have something to say, we must take responsibility for both the words and the tone of our messages.  Communication is a two-way street, and while we cannot take responsibility for how another interprets our words, we must endeavor at all times to say what we mean, and mean what we say.  Freedom of speech is not a free-for-all arena anymore, by which anyone can justify and legitimize whatever stray thoughts may leak out; consequences will occur…

That being said, I feel lighter and more energized than I have in months.  Obviously, these have always been goals, but now they are imperatives.  And with that comfort of certainty, that awareness that rightful action can once again lead to just outcomes, I feel relief as well as a tightening of the reins of self-discipline.

We are, as always, who we choose to be, and we are free now to reclaim the power of becoming who we’ve always wanted to be.  Be brave.  Be wise.  Be responsible, my friends.  And be free!

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Reflections

The Room… Revisited

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Someone recently told me, “you’re not really schizophrenic, Lisa.  You know that.  Right?”

Yeah, I know that.  Or I did, anyway.  At some time.  Before…

She added, “those voices you hear, those experiences you have… they’re real.  They’re actually happening.  To you… around you… you know that, right…?”

Yeah… right.  And those cigarettes really are on the table, after all…

Allow me to explain…

Back in the early 90’s, in one of my unpublished books, there were a series of chapters collectively referred to as “Voices from the Edge…”  They were my first attempt to capture, in process, the experiences I actually had.  To explain them to a non-existent readership what it felt like to be me.  They were based upon the premise that anyone could learn to be crazy like me, if they so chose, by following a few simple steps down some twisted thought roads, to a place where reality was entirely voluntary, self-created and self-owned.  And this journey began in a room…

It was a large room, large enough to contain the many Others I would encounter in my life, and its primary feature was a large table, dead center, with many objects on it.  That room was a metaphor for the Universe I inhabit, the table represented “reality” with its many observable facets (things)…

The room itself was divided into a light half and a dark half, with the line running right through the center of the table.  The light side was densely populated, noisy, with its most prominent feature being a large sofa flanking the table we called reality.  I postulated that the light side of the room represented the “sane” of society, interacting with each other, sitting on the couch to discuss the nature, laws and experiences to be learned from the table and its objects…

The shadowed half of the room was more sparsely populated, with ill-defined forms (defined by “ill-ness,” perhaps?), keeping away from both the light and the table it illuminated.  These were the lost souls, and lost causes, hiding in the refuge of their own minds, choosing not to interact at all with the “norms” of society.  Occasionally one might wander up to glance at the table, muttering something unintelligible, but they would quickly retreat to the comforting shadows…

My chair sat right on the line between light and dark, facing the table.  The light side, with its many people lay to my left; the shadows reached for me from the right.  I chose to acknowledge the table before me, and all the objects upon it, including a picture frame that faced the couch.  Which meant that I could easily discuss that reality with those on the couch, agreeing almost completely with what they saw and experienced…

But suppose that from my perspective, I could see that there was a pack of cigarettes hidden behind that picture frame on the table.  Those on the couch honestly could not see it, being obscured as it was by the picture in front of it, but I clearly could.  I insisted it was there, and so our views of “reality” now conflicted.  But there were many on the couch, and I was only one…

If I went to sit on the couch, as I was strongly “encouraged” to do, I would no longer see those cigarettes on the table, though perhaps I might then be able to see what picture the frame contained; my angle overlooking the table would have prevented me from seeing it before.  But had the couch-sitters told me about the picture I would not have likely argued with them about its contents, since I could clearly see the frame, and had no reason to assume they would lie to me about it.  Ultimately, it was all about perspective, or so I believed.  The couch-sitters I encountered, though, preferred to call it truth.  And so we disagreed…

Was I now to assume, given my change in perspective, that the cigarettes no longer existed?  Or, even more disturbing to my “fragile” psyche, that they never existed at all?

When I returned to my chair, I noticed immediately that the cigarettes remained, exactly as they had been before…

What this analogy taught me, at the time, was that I could not fully embrace a consensus-based reality.  I was too aware of my skewed perspective on reality, and in order to honor my self, I must also honor my own experiences, real or not, true or false.  Judgment was not required, but acceptance was!  I was way too uncomfortable sitting on that couch, trying to deny what I had already seen.  Had I never seen behind the picture frame, I would never have had the conflict; but I had seen behind it, and I would not deny it…

So I learned…  I learned to focus my interaction with others on the objects we could both see.  And I only mentioned the cigarettes when speaking to someone I believed was open-minded enough to consider their existence a possibility.  For the most part, it worked for me, allowing me to “fit in” quite comfortably with the couch-sitters, albeit with the title of “eccentric.”  I could live with that, even revel in that, retaining my unique perspective while still engaging society as a whole and individually…

The only real problems I had came down to that picture frame, when couch-sitters insisted that the picture within it was Truth absolute, with no room for perspective.  Having seen the frame, I knew it was a very thin barrier indeed between those certainties and the shadows they covered up.  So, for me anyway, absolutes of any kind were to be avoided; religion, politics, academic proofs, etc., were but a thin veneer covering a much bigger background picture, and I refused to accept them as Truth…

These days it seems like the shadows are beginning to creep across the room, stealing into the corners and high places first, while threatening the light-needers’ very foundations.  One by one, the electric lights are dimming or blowing out, forcing the couch-sitters to cram together a little tighter, just to remain safely illuminated.  But such close quarters breed conflict, and fear drives them to act out, pushing and shoving, and forcefully evicting some from the perceived safety of the couch and its certainties.

Those evicted tend to close their eyes quickly against whatever their new perspective on the table reveals, but perhaps not quickly enough to avoid seeing things differently, however briefly.  I understand that particular internal battle, as you actively try to deny what you’ve seen, only to have the image return again and again, unbidden, to haunt you both in waking states and dreams.  Things truly are not what they seemed, and those certainties that brought such comfort before have become mere curtains, blowing in a breeze, threatening to open up and expose what lies behind them…

Soon the shadows may rule the room, the darkness may become complete.  And all those objects on the table will cease having any meaning or value at all.  And you who revel in the light today may be forced to acknowledge your shadow as well…

I choose not to fear that day, if only because I know exactly where those cigarettes lie on the table before me.  So many years I’ve focused on them, that I could find them in my sleep.  And I know, being a smoker myself, that no serious smoker keeps cigarettes without a lighter nearby.

Hmm…

Kinda gives a whole new perspective on the old adage, “where there’s smoke, there’s fire.”

The darkness need not be complete, after all…

 

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