Tuesday, May 23, 2017

life lately


is tender and handmade, fur and poetry, sunshine and tears, tarot and flowers.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

sunday grace: the grace of losing my religion (part one)

spanish head composition by george condo, 1988.  
(captured by me at moma, 2013)

it is not easy when i call out, talk about, and resist the epidemic of toxic christianity.  i was raised a christian in a small baptist church in a conservative town in california.  i have felt the deep love of jesus, the sense of belonging that comes with being one of a 'flock', the accomplishment of learning and knowing the bible (ahem, junior bible verse champion over here!), the joy of singing peace like a river with twenty friends around a campfire at hume lake.

so many people i know and love are true christians. christianity is part of who i am, even if i no longer identify with the religion.

the thing that pushed me away from christianty was not the thing we were all warned about by our christian parents. it was christians who pushed me away.

it was the christians who told me to stop thinking.  to stop dancing.  to stop asking.  to stop being angry (or insert any other human feeling).  to stop loving people (especially those who were different).

it was the christians who chose to pretend the child sexual abuser in our midst could not possibly have done what the children said, because he was such a good christian.

it was the christians who preached kindness, but were the cruelest people i've ever met.

who preached forgiveness, but held massive grudges.

who preached mercy, but were steadfastly merciless.

who preached courage, but were astonishingly afraid of life.

who preached grace, but were devoid of it.

it was those who silenced me when i tried to talk about how being christian meant living the values of jesus.  as humans. on this planet. with others who may be living a different set of values.

it was those who implicitly and explicitly ordered a girl who was organically interested in those who were different, to stop doing that.

but more than all that, it was the christians who saw all of this, who may not have done these things themselves, but chose to ignore it, who pushed me away.  it was those who, for whatever reasons (fear, denial, etc.), were silently complicit in the oppression that scared me the most.

as a girl growing up in the baptist church, my sense of self was dismissed, my empathy mocked, my intuition called 'dangerous'.  very early on, i associated my very strong empathy and intuition to the voice of the holy spirit herself; to be told that was wrong was crushing and confusing and rendered me lost.

i was told that safety is achieved through restriction and control, rather than thinking, exploring, reflecting, regrouping, practicing, learning to set healthy boundaries.  the message was loud and clear:  you need not develop personal power and agency, safety is your reward for adhering to these rules.

later in life, as a social worker (and a woman who continued to think and explore despite the embedded fear of hellfire), i learned that these are the characteristics that describe toxic people.  these are the people we should be avoiding in life in order to be safe humans.  these are the people who hurt others, who seek control through manipulation, who wield fear and power and duplicity with a smile.

all of this is to establish the foundation for my deep concern about direction of the evangelical movement in the christian church. i want you to know that my protest of toxic christianity comes from a place of knowing and experiencing, not just reacting.  i want you to know that they are dangerous, on an individual level and now, to the freedom and peace of our nation.

i believe that the most powerful way to stop them is for true christians to speak up.  to stop ignoring. to stop silencing.  to stop accepting the hatred and control as an extreme interpretation of the bible.

seriously, what would jesus do?  let's do that.

_____

in part two, i write about what it's like for me to live in lynchburg, virginia, home to jerry falwell's liberty university and its associated mega-church (so, say you were a toxic christian...this would be your mecca).


Sunday, May 7, 2017

resiliency toolkit: grace is tiny


those moments and gestures of grace that save us, they are typically not grand.  they are often so small that we might not even feel them if we are not present and paying attention.  this particular week they looked and sounded like this:

  • an accidental yoga sequence that is rocking my world
  • jasmine, sprouting up and blooming in unintended places, scenting me home to california
  • "being a flawed ally is really the only way to be a true ally, i appreciate your humility."
  • facebook is not really functioning well, so i am there less and allowing myself to be organically weaned from the fucking nonsense while maintaining the meaningful connections
and on the regular:
  • that first cup of coffee
  • falling asleep to a story read aloud
  • the steady loyalty of my dog luca
  • slow living: leaving behind busyness and multitasking and overscheduling and any remaining needs to be seen and approved of
  • when the smoke from incense or burning sage fills the room and the sun beams upon its swirling magic

(tiny ganesha was captured at the sublime bedford yoga studio)



Monday, April 10, 2017

resiliency toolkit: create something

some things i'm currently making:  a painting, an outdoor oasis, a mala, a mural

building resiliency and regulation in our everyday lives is an essential life skill.  there are many exercises and brain games we can learn to self-regulate after stress or trauma that are taught in specialized courses (and they are amazing).

often the most effective methods of regulation are built into our everyday lives.  you are likely already doing them. being more intentional about naming them self-care and doing them on the regular (like every day) will go a long way to serve your body and soul and smooth out that hilly ride between sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems.

you've seen the "how to take care of yourself lists", right?  these activities are great, but sometimes they don't appeal to certain personalities or lifestyles.  i like to think of resiliency-building occurring within four broad domains: creativity, reflection, movement, and connection.  simply define how you care for yourself on the regular within these four domains and then mindfully do them.

let's start with creativity.

i am an artist, so making art is a huge part of this domain for me.  but let me make this perfectly clear:  you do not have to be an artist or do art to be creative.  think of creativity as building or growing something positive, whether it's dinner, a poem, a garden, a song, a child, a home, a machine (you get the picture).

creating something employs the opposite energy of destruction.  so much of our stress and trauma are about things being destroyed, whether it's a carefully scheduled day or the planet.  use your creative energy to balance that. practicing creativity on a daily basis builds an inner reservoir of this energy for when destruction makes its expected visit.

using your hands, voice, and body to make and fix is also an effective way to discharge the energy of trauma.  our bodies naturally want to build and repair and help.  go with this instinct.  put your hands to use.

so...how do you get creative?

take care loves.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

sunday grace: the garden and preparing for glory


yesterday was the first perfect day of spring in virginia:  sunny, clear, clean (lots of rain earlier in the week), and a beautiful seventy degrees.  we spent the day preparing the front and back yards at gypsy hill so that they can achieve their maximum glory in the months ahead.  the work was quite unglamorous in the sense that it involved more shovels and fertilizer and wheel barrels and trash bins than flowers and lemonade.

i couldn't help but think about the work as a metaphor for life, soul, and embodiment right now:

  • where are the spots that require more digging?
  • how is the ground?  is it packed and settled so tight that it supports, but is bereft of nutrition and aeration?
  • what areas need extra nourishment?  which balance of nutritional components is optimal for current conditions?
  • what are components that may require thinning, pruning, transplanting?  how will they thrive under different circumstances?  more light needed here?  more shade and shelter for this?
  • what needs to be respectfully moved to the compost bin?  how did it once add to the beauty and meaning here?
  • who are the people who show up to do the hard, down and dirty work with you?

i'm reminded of a poem i first read in my adolescence.  it's totally corny but i still love it so much. upon reading these words at age eleven or twelve, i began to discover my first real sense of personal power and agency in the world.  

comes the dawn

after a while you learn the subtle difference
between holding a hand and chaining a soul.
and you learn that love doesn't mean leaning
and company doesn't mean security.
and you begin to learn that kisses aren't contracts
and presents aren't promises.
and you begin to accept your defeats
with your head up and your eyes open
with the grace of a woman, not the grief of a child.
and you learn to build all your roads on today
because tomorrow's ground is too uncertain for plans.
and futures have a way of falling down in mid-flight.
after a while you learn
that even sunshine burns if you get too much.
so you plant your own garden and decorate your own soul
instead of waiting for someone to bring you flowers.
and you learn that you really can endure,
that you really are strong
and you really do have worth.
and you learn and learn,
with every goodbye you learn.

-veronica shoffstall

plant your own garden, actual and metaphorical.
happy sunday junebugs.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

sunday (equinox) grace: how to spring detox

how to detox•mixed media on wood•lisa parks

i'm already seeing them:  the inevitable reminders that now is the time to detox our bodies with three-day juice fasts and foregoing coffee (um, no way).  i understand there are good intentions here and that some humans may benefit from these measures, but when i am inundated with these reminders, i often start to buy into the myth that there is something very dirty about me.

i'm wondering if you are like me and get really excited about the idea of a clean slate.  you may also be like me and get very motivated on "official start days" like january first, any given monday, or the first day of the season (tomorrow is a double:  a monday and the beginning of spring!).  you may also be like me and notice a rapid decline in said motivation about four days in...

i have to figure out ways to stay present with my "improvement projects".  i prefer to greet the change of seasons with a transitional approach, rather than the burn-it-all-down-and-start-anew tactic.  (plus, for many people, radical nutritional plans and even mainstream juice fasts are not designed for or are healthy for their particular body.)

for me, this softer transitional approach is needed.  here are some possibilities:
  • the most critical poison to eliminate from your body, heart, spirit, mind, and life is the toxic human. you likely know who they are, but sometimes it's hard to tell.  pay attention to that inner whisper of "that feels weird"/"hmm, they said that, but did this..."/"well, now i just need to take a big ol' nap and never talk to another person ever again"/"maybe it's me....."   there is no better time than now to set the boundaries.
  • write a farewell haiku to winter.  or write a story about something beautiful that happened this winter.
  • unhibernate.  unfurl limbs.  move the body.  scrub the skin.  breathe the air.  see the light.  dip your toes in a running stream of melting snow.  find the blossoms.

  • turn hope into action:  plant wildflower seeds, collect or purchase books for a children's club in an underserved neighborhood (here are some great recommendations), donate useful and beautiful things to your local domestic violence shelter.
  • ask yourself, how can i be more awake?  the spring equinox heralds physical awakenings, but what about the awakening of the mind and spirit?   explore limiting beliefs.  conduct a values inventory (if that sounds weird to you, hit me up in person, facebook, etc. and i'll share a simple way to clarify personal values that i teach in workshops).  are there areas of knowledge and discernment that could use fine-tuning?  how do you value and respect and love and express in this sea of humanity?
  • consume the foods of spring that celebrate where you live.  if you live in an area without a year-round farmers market, attend opening day.  i'm inspired to make a grilled flatbread pizza topped with arugula and kale pesto, appalachian cheese, garlic scapes and morels.  or maybe roasted radishes.


  • ponder the ways you can bring more lightness to your life.  that may mean switching out flannel sheets for cotton.  that may mean giving all the windows in the house a good cleaning. that may mean wearing clothing that is lighter in both texture and color.  that may mean transforming that mass of heavy long hair into a pixie cut or coloring your hair robin's egg blue. that may mean losing five pounds.  that may mean beginning a process of releasing a pattern of thought or being that keeps you heavy and dark.
  • make space.  this could done be in your physical environments such as your home or yard or office by editing out stuff and curating a more open space. or it could mean opening up your body; you might have the tendency to curl in and hug tight during colder weather so your body wants to expand.  warm up your body and try some yoga postures: pigeon to open the hips, ardha chandrasana to give your body that amazing wide open feeling, supported supta baddha konasana to open the heart and the hips.  

have a magical spring moonbeams.