Sunday, December 17, 2017

sunday grace: solstice

december morning sun in the kitchen on gypsy hill

the winter solstice arrives this week on december 21st (for those of us in the northern hemisphere).  it is one of my favorite times of year, this point in time when we teeter on the edge of darkness and light.  from the latin sol (sun) and sistere (to stand still), solstice is a moment to become still and reflect on the past, release that which no longer serves, and prepare for what is to come.  we see and hear the wisdom of nature:  darkness relieves us of our capacity for busyness, animals rest, snowfall brings its exquisite hush.

there are so many ways to recognize this tender transition.  here are a few of my favorites:

  • create a tiny solstice altar with candles (symbolizing light), photos of ancestors (symbolizing the past), and bits of spruce, pine, or juniper (evergreens symbolize life during winter).
  • reflect in your journal:  what were your accomplishments, lessons, and losses during the past year?  what are your best hopes for the year to come?
  • burn a solstice fire.  on a piece of paper, write down something you would like to let go.  put it in the fire and see it dissolve in spark and smoke.
  • join a community celebration.  we will be gathering with our local waldorf cooperative at a community potluck, solstice spiral, and bonfire where the children will be reading their poetry.
  • no matter the weather, place your bare feet on the ground outside at night.  simultaneously sense the solid support of the earth and vast unseen possibility of the dark sky.

happy solstice friends.  i wish you just enough darkness to see the stars and perfect light to illuminate your beautiful life.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

six senses saturday

welcome to christmas at gypsy hill

  • lady bird
  • a lifetime of christmases as i open each box of the vintage ornaments.
  • swooshing through piles of raked leaves.
  • the tiny bells on the handmade wreath when the front door opens.
  • thank you, turkey, for thanksgiving dinner, leftovers for days, and four quarts of medicinal bone broth.
  • i ate a mashed potato sandwich on friday (leftover potatoes on a squishy roll).  and it was amazing.
  • putting things away.
  • giving things away.
  • throwing things away.
  • december on my skin, as the boughs of pine and spruce and juniper are cut and tied together.
  • gratitude runs deeper than a list when you value the dark, the light, the mistakes, the triumphs, the loss, and the love.
  • translating the qualities of presence for an upcoming class i'm teaching, noticing the nuances of what it means to be attuned to now.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

six senses saturday

  • this amazing green velvet.  we recovered the mid-century dining room chairs.
  • i turned down a public event with ken this weekend, saying, "i'm kind of done with people."  he laughed and said that sounded like the antidote to "up with people".  since then we've been rewriting with "up with people" songs with a soft, cozy, quiet, introvert's perspective. 
  • i realize that i need to taste something new and amazing each week if i'm going to be keeping up with this series.  honestly, there is nothing more sad than a week with no memorable tastes.
  • burning leaves.
  • peeled grapefruit.
  • my old dog luca is stuck to me like glue lately.  he always wants to be touching me.  i don't want to think about what this means, but i'm happy to place my hand on his curly mess of dog body any old time.
  • this morning's new moon in scorpio has me all kinds of mystic.  i can't help but see synchronicity and connection in the tiniest of things.
  • i had an epic dream earlier this week that was poetic and scary and beautiful and wonky and telling.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

six senses saturday


  • a wee brown bat has roosted in the tiny space between the storm glass and the screen of our bedroom window.  
  • on my friday morning commute a giant amber moon set in the direction of my destination while a fluorescent pink sun rose over my home behind me.
  • autumn leaves.  evidence that this earth, this life, always offers exquisite respites from suffering.
  • having a cars moment, candy-o on repeat over here.
  • roasted brussels spouts
  • honeycrisp apples
  • whisky
  • backyard fire
  • smoke of just-extinguished candles
  • that heater-just-came-on-for-the-first-time smell
  • cushy new sweater
  • the prick of the needles during topiary shaping
  • the bat is a visitor (not sure who)
  • deep sense of settling down, time to rest, inward-bound

six senses saturday is a revival of five senses friday, a regular way to note how my senses were delighted and challenged during the week with the addition of intuition.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

sunday grace: a blessing for the feast of st. therese of lisieux

blessed be the wildflowers who stand magnificent but unnoticed in a world of glittered supermarket chrysanthemums.
blessed be the sensitive souls, the tender hearts, the triggered.
blessed be the empaths, the listeners, the reciters of plath and cobain.
blessed be the little girls who bring home strays and hide them away in the garage, sneaking them scraps of dinner and carefully making a nest of old beach towels on the concrete floor.
blessed be the boys of poetry and music and dance and kindness.  (good god, protect them in this place of narrowly and brutally defined "man".)
blessed be the ones who choose depth over breadth.
blessed be the loners, the hopeful, those who see beyond this moment, this day, this world.
blessed be the truth-tellers, the secret-keepers.
blessed be the those whose skin registers the subtle sea change of a room when sadness enters.
blessed be the misfits.
blessed be the solitary tidepool explorers, foreign film seers, 2 a.m. taco truck diners.
blessed be the forgivers.
blessed be those whose hearts break open at the suffering of others.
blessed be those whose second language is sky, or preschooler, or unspoken emotion.
blessed be the unloved, the forgotten.
blessed be the childless who mother and father beasts and ideas and gardens and communities instead.
blessed be the true.
blessed be the wildflowers.

· · · · ·

the feast of st. therese of lisieux (the little flower) is october 2.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

tiny ghost stories

over here i am deep in the stories of my ancestors.

this personal history work feels urgent right now, so i am meeting that urgency and exploring my lineage.

i had no idea how a sense of curiosity, good research skills, a subscription to an online geneology service, and a dna test would bring together these pieces of me.  i've been consumed with uncovering the lives of those who came before me.  each new find opens a new (old) chapter and another piece that feels familiar and known and lived is clicked into place.

there are mysteries to be sure, and stories yet to unearth, but these are undeniably my people.  they are scots and quakers and apaches; immigrants and pioneers and mothers. they are warriors and english ladies, farmers and teachers; seekers of gold, seekers of survival.  there is love and adventure and murder and mad life skills. their trauma and their resilience live in my dna. i was shaped by each of them, biologically and spiritually.
i hope my life honors theirs.

here are a few tiny stories, in no particular order:

elizabeth, b.1731:  not to be out-badassed by her little brother (wilderness hero daniel boone) elizabeth was a courageous human in her own right.  her family lived within a fort deep in indian territory. they learned of an impending raid and wanted to give the natives the impression that they were unsuspecting, so daily fort life had to appear normal.  protected only by her wits and nerves of steel, elizabeth led a small group of brave girls from the safety of the fort to fetch water at a distant river, like they did every single day, with the knowledge that the indians were lying in wait, watching them.  this show of faux obliviousness boosted the confidence of the marauders and they attacked that night, and were met with a well-prepared and ultimately successful defense.

william, b.1725:  raised in the scottish highlands, william was a jacobite rebel, fought in and survived the battle of culloden.  he came to north america shortly after.

alzira, b.1830:  graced with dark exotic beauty and a foreign name, alzira made the covered wagon journey to san francisco during the gold rush with a months-old infant.  failing to strike gold, her young family settled on one thousand acres in sonoma county to work the golden land instead.  her husband died in california and she returned east to be with her family.  she had four husbands in her lifetime.

uncle cy, b.1903:  the "turkey king of oklahoma".  enough said.

wyatt, b.1856:  wyatt was a cattle rancher in indian territory.  he was killed in a saloon shootout and his case was the first murder trial held in indian territory.

mollie, b.1860:  mollie was accidentally shot by wyatt and carried a bullet in her shoulder the rest of her long life.

john, b.1578:  schooled at oxford and cambridge, john had a "reputation for learning" and spent some time in "the clink" in london for pesky "independent thought".  he migrated to north america in 1634 aboard the griffin, his only recorded luggage:  "his books".

sarah, b.1646:  lived to age eighty, which was an accomplishment in the 18th century, and was noted in historical publications as "never had an aching bone or decayed tooth."

sea deliverance, b.1744:  she only lived one year, but pretty much has the best name ever.


also:  where i'm from

Sunday, June 18, 2017

sunday grace: the grace of beginning again

in this moment, irregardless of the chaos or confusion or exhaustion or despair, the option to begin again is available to us.  even if it's the fourth beginning today.  this option comes with each breath until the moment our breathing ceases.  the breath is our regular reminder to clear the table of the debris of failure (actual or perceived), stupid words, careless deeds, worn out ideas of who we are. the breath is our regular reminder to see with new eyes, love with an open heart, and take a first step into our ordinary brilliance.

"a friend.  is someone who supports your breath."  -nayyirah waheed

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

dear baby girls

mia and me, u.c.l.a. medical center neonatal intensive care unit, summer 1985

thank you for being my greatest teachers.

thank you for your continued love, despite the way i fumbled through this work of being a mom with equal measure of good intentions and immature nonchalance.

thank you for knowing in your souls what was not yet known to me on a physical level, those things i did not know how to produce via acts or words.  (in other words, thank you for still loving me when i had no fucking idea what to do or how to do it.)

thank you for showing me how to be vulnerable and courageous at the same time.

thank you for helping me learn that love is not a grand emotion, but the act of being present, whether broken or whole, in the most infinitesimal and inconvenient moments.

thank you for teaching me about trauma and trusting me with your own.

thank you for your graciousness when we cobbled together meals from a $1 package of tortillas, government cheese, zucchini and tomatoes gifted from candy's garden next door; when entertainment was day-upon-day of nature walks and sidewalk scavenger hunts and reading aloud from the stack of overdue library books as the evening sun streamed through the kitchen window at the little yellow house on kenny street.

thank you for huddling up close in bed on those nights the police helicopter lingered a bit too long over our block, the whack-whack-whack of the blades chopping through earned moments of peace, the searchlights over-illuminating the danger in our lives.  i had to practice bravery on those nights; the animal warmth of your body, the rhythm of your heart next to my skin, the awkward child length of your limbs simultaneously reaching for and pushing away my own gave me the impetus.

thank you for your patience and for letting me grow up with you.

thank you for the belief you hold in your heart that those who face and endure more challenges than the average bear arrive on the other side with a greater depth and capacity for joy, empathy, connection.

thank you for your forgiveness when i didn't always make the best decisions.

thank you for being exactly who you were at the time, who you are today.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

sunday grace: how to be remembered

friends, why did it take me so long to get my hands on our world, by mary oliver?  in its pages the poet remembers and honors her beloved.  something real and raw resonated here, in the words she uses to describe her love.  talk about #lifegoals.  i will have considered my earth mission complete if one were to think of me like this:

she "had will and wit and probably too much empathy for others; she was quick in speech and she did not suffer fools. when you knew her she was unconditionally kind. but had to be brave to get to know her.  
she was style, and she was an old loneliness that nothing could quite wipe away; she was vastly knowledgeable about people, about books, about the mind’s emotions and the heart’s. she lived sometimes in a black box of memories and unanswerable questions, and then would come out and frolic — be feisty, and bold."

it really got me thinking about how else i would want to be remembered (and honestly, there wasn't much to add). thinking about this was a fantastic exercise in life clarification:

  • she would walk into the mess with you in a heartbeat
  • her home reflected the world she wished to live in:  colorful, quirky, diverse, full of life and the endless possibility of transformation, safe and peaceful, even if a bit disordered on occasion.
  • she stood with children and the vulnerable.
  • she stood against those who harmed others, who treated others unjustly, who used others for their own advancement.
  • she did not tolerate narcissists, large-scale or small, nor those who willfully looked away from examining the complexities of life.
  • she cherished true belonging while maintaining comfort in the roles of lonermisfit, outsider, rebel.
  • she celebrated and attended to the details, both beautiful and mundane, while never losing sight of the big picture.
  • she loved art and dogs and sunsets and mountains, california wildflowers and the bracing cold fury of the pacific ocean.
  • she never outgrew being read to.


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. 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.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

the art of self-care

i learned the hard way to make self-care a non-negotiable in my life.

now, more than ever, we must take the time and make the effort to cultivate a sense of release, rest, and restoration. we must become practitioners of stepping out momentarily in order to step back in with authentic presence.

i encourage you to make a list of ten activities that are easy and accessible for you to do on a daily basis.

here are my go-to saving graces:

  1. sit down on the ground.  breathe.
  2. do a little (or a lot of) yoga.
  3. go outside, whether it is to touch bare feet to grass or gaze at the stars.
  4. pet my dogs.
  5. make something nourishing and beautiful.
  6. smush some paint around.
  7. silence.
  8. take a bath.
  9. write or read something.
  10. get good sleep.

what are yours?

Monday, February 27, 2017

some things i'm learning

"i'd rather learn from one bird how to sing 
than teach ten thousand stars how not to dance."
-e.e. cummings

i'm a lifelong learner.  how about you?

i'm currently learning:

  • how to be a yoga teacher (currently working on my 500-hr teaching certification and it's gloriously intense)
  • how to hold space and build resilience for humans affected by trauma (by this time next week, i'll be fully certified to teach trauma-informed yoga)
  • how to house-train our newest canine love, kiki, with extra patience and love.  we adopted her and she has an unknown history, but we are suspecting some abuse or neglect history as she is super smart but is inexplicably resistant to peeing outside and chews power cords and she startles, cowers and hides when we try to address it.  
  • how to navigate the differences between co-creation, collaboration and competition in my community, while maintaining authentic connection.  
  • how to build a geo-dome.
  • how to refinish wood floors.
  • how to read tarot cards (i've been intuitively reading them for years, but now i'm getting some official training).
  • how to build resilience in communities within a context of collaboration rather than using and/or falling into the trap of the savior/hero model.
  • how to keep bees.
  • how to let go and move on with grace and good will.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

the winter of slow liberation

buried, 36"x36", mixed media on wood, by lisa parks

i started this post with the intention to check in.  because this entire winter has felt a lot like checking out.

i'm still working on my 500-hr yoga teacher training, still working on soul studio curriculum, still painting, still puttering around my house, creating and dismantling tiny altars here and there.  tiny altars for rest, for protection, for healing, for the right words, for courage, for liberation.  still sitting before those tiny altars, face dimly lit by the little flames, staring at the gathered goddesses and creatures, willing x-ray vision to animate their myths so that they inform my own story or so i can recognize my human self in them, heart slowly blooming with insight and inspiration and ideas.

still softening and opening to what my role is in this brand new world.  liberating all the seeds that were buried.

.  .  .  .  .

in other news, artist liz kalloch's tools and talismans series is featured in issue no.4 of amy butler's blossom magazine.  the entire issue is stunning.  my own tools and talismans, beautifully rendered by liz, are shown on pages 150-151.  see the entire issue here.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

a thousand different ways

i'm fond of saying, "there are a thousand different ways to raise a healthy, safe child" in the child protection classes i teach. (we have this discussion in the context of balancing legal and governmental intervention with the cultural values, personal rights, temperament and level of capacity of the parents we serve.)

in the past few months, i find myself muttering a different version to myself as i scroll through my social media: "there are a thousand different ways to be a social justice activist."

there are members of the human race for whom social justice activism is not a choice. it is required for their survival, to save the lives of their children. for the rest of us, who are at any level of awakening that is short of forced awakening due to discrimination and fear of death, we must remember that our activism is the privilege of our lifetimes. (i saw a perfect protest poster that read, 'if you have been scared since 2016, that is a privilege'.)

and we show up to activism differently.

i worry when i see posts either explicitly preaching to or softly shaming others for the type and level of engagement they can do. or for taking a break from the action, to soak up some lightness for a moment. i worry when activism carries a hint of trendiness. stating opinions is encouraged, but silencing those who are feeling their way through this newness is not okay. i worry that i have unintentionally done these things myself. these things threaten the sustainability of the movement.

so many of us are learning to use voice and power, even if we have had the privilege of it our entire lives.

we are learning to move from the outdated and harmful notions of charity and the savior/hero complex.

we are learning to listen to voices different from our own. really listen. with mouths shut and hearts open, in a state of full-on humility.

this is the process of consciousness raising, a recognized stage of activism.

we need to listen for and guard against divisiveness in the cause; divisiveness can halt the process of consciousness raising.

today, some are stunned into silence. we must remember that this may be due to a trauma being triggered. shame and judgement merely entrench the trauma.

other voices have hints of paranoia and/or feel really angry. this may also be trauma triggered.

some are naturally quiet and lend support to those who aren't.

some move fast and hit hard, their words carry immediate power and cut through the fog of overwhelm.

some have the ability to engage in calm, intelligent conversation with the opposition.

some have to cull their facebook friends (and maybe even their real-life friends) to feel safe and able to focus on the work ahead.

some feel overwhelmed by the abundance of BIG THINGS TO DO, so instead they collect needed items for homeless folks in their neighborhood.

some curate and screen credible news and literature to share with the rest of us.

some people are idea people. others are action people.

some teach fifth graders tolerance and mindfulness, ways to self-regulate all the hard emotions.

some make art and write poetry to raise the consciousness of others.

some wear a safety pin because they want to let others know they will not harm them.

some quietly take care of those returning from the front lines of action.

some have day-upon-day when every waking hour is consumed with working two jobs or tending to sexual assault victims, child abuse victims, an immigrant family, or the wounds in their own homes, their own marriages, their own children.

there are a thousand different ways.

all of these things are needed, necessary. thank you for showing up.

some people experience some or all of these things within their own lives, depending on the day. i get this. some days i have superhuman energy and motivation to fix this shit. some days i am overwhelmed by the hatred and lack of thinking and i want to do yoga and eat soup and maybe read a little. some days my words are smart and quick and powerful, flaming arrows landing in just the right spots to burn through hatred or ignite change. some days i am afraid to say anything, to push post or publish, not because of the opposition, but because i worry i will be publicly mocked by the white mean girls at the popular activism table in the high school cafeteria for not wearing the right jeans. some days they silence me. other days they make me want to scream, "you are not the fucking queen of activism."

some days i have to sit with my feelings of anger, and it is really uncomfortable.

some days i have to sit with my feelings of vulnerability and fear, and it is really uncomfortable.

some days i worry i offended someone i did not intend to offend, and it is really uncomfortable.

wherever we are on the spectrum of activism, we can ask ourselves each day:

was my contribution genuine and effective?

did i check in with my privilege, my voice, the words i am using?

how can i leverage my privilege for the cause?

am i ready to take the next step into more/different action?

how can i cultivate more courage to openly listen/speak up/walk out?

what are some other strategies i can learn about and try?

how can i do better tomorrow?

this shit is messy. we keep moving boldly/quietly/softly forward.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

sunday grace: this border is not hospitable to hatred

souvenir shop, nyc, c.2013

yesterday was a dark day (in a months-long parade of dark days) in my country.  that man, person, whatever he is who occupies the white house signed an order effectively starting a border ban based on race, ethnicity and religion.

yesterday i initiated my own border ban.  unlike his, my decision was thoughtful and purposeful and specific, intended to nurture values, rather than destroy them, while maintaining a commitment to the greater good. it was a personal boundary to keep out the hatred in certain circumstances. for months i have felt a strong desire to protect my personal spaces from the vile racism and hatred spewing forth from those who support the direction our country is heading.  my home is already a sanctuary, an environment of serenity, empathy, joy, learning, intelligent discourse and compassionate (sometimes uncomfortable) debate.  yesterday i felt a strong need to extend the border of protection to my social media space.

being inclusive and navigating diversity of thought are values i hold dear, so decisions to establish boundaries need to be based in (real, lived, truth-based) evidence and purpose, not just feeling.  i did a good deal of soul-searching and values clarification before i landed on a decision to secure my border.  i admit that i am struggling with some "all _____ are _____"  beliefs that got our nation here in the first place.  unlike others, i recognize that in myself and it disturbs me.  in order to change and prevent these biases from going further, i must set some boundaries.
  • my facebook, twitter, instagram are not my citizenship or my work, they are personal spaces.  
  • the energy it takes to internally manage others' entrenched beliefs and hatred distracts me from the work necessary to fix this shit, to stand with others for social justice and stand against racism, bigotry, human rights violations and so many other areas of hatred that are commonplace right now. 
  • i do not believe that peace, love, understanding, and prayer will solve these problems.  they have important places for many of us, but this is a fight against violence.  violence doesn't give a flying fuck about those things.
  • i do not hold the delusion that the example of my life or some kind of magical words will shift another's heart or worldview if they haven't already, especially if others are firmly grounded in fear and hatred.  
  • personal boundaries are required in life.  sometimes they hurt people's feelings.  they absolutely hurt people's feelings when they are loosely and arbitrarily established on the down-low, when one is afraid to state a boundary clearly and unequivocally.  
  • i fully understand that this level of boundary-setting, this seeking balance between the work and the rest, this component of self-care is a privilege.  and i will leverage that privilege in order to focus on getting the work done in my public spaces.
i will continue to engage in meaningful discourse with others who hold views different from my own in those face-to-face spaces where we can see each other and can begin to explore our vast and varied views on what it means to have a human heart.  this engagement is necessary for good citizenship.

and mostly, i continue my work helping others gain access to safe quiet spaces where they can rest their minds and souls from the work of being human in this world.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

sunday grace: the beauty and mess of the process

process, by lisa parks

i met a young woman this week who was strong and vibrant and creative.  she told me, "i like to do art, but i'm not very good at it."  after spending some time with her and observing the vast imaginative way she walked through her world, i told her i thought she was quite amazing at art. together we unpacked how the world judges us by our product over our process.  while she may not yet be producing (what the world defines as) art (paintings, music, literature, etc.), her life and relationships and work and the way she is in the world are absolutely art.

i once again recognized my glaring love for process over product; how i appreciate the time and effort of the planning and development and evolution, rather than the end result.

take art, for instance.  if i was attached to the product, i would have given up years ago.  because so much of what i've artistically produced can be objectively judged as crap.  but my love of fingers in paint, the scratch of the pencil on paper, and expression of layered emotion on the canvas bring me back over and over and over again.  staying present for and trusting the hard parts of art, the learning, the risk, the starting over, these are the ways we become art.  the life and love of the final product is always in the process.

and yoga?  the popular western culture of yoga is almost entirely about the product, the perfected pose.  we completely miss the purpose of yoga when we struggle and contort to nail the instagrammable crow.  we bypass the beauty and the pain of the measured process of yoga, we miss that yoga teaches us how to be in the world, how to fly and how to fall.

and this morning, i'm mostly thinking about social justice activism.  yesterday our world lit up with millions of humans marching in or in solidarity with the women's march on washington.  it was an absolutely magnificent product to witness.  but the richness, the messiness, the excruciatingly slow process of true social justice is a long game.  how can we sustain this commitment over time?  how do we keep people interested when "being a part of history" is more about dealing with our own bias and privilege (uncomfortable), calling out injustice publicly (risky), and showing up as allies when the revolution isn't being televised?

Sunday, January 8, 2017

sunday grace: the grace of the gita

yesterday i filmed a three minute dharma talk on the overall message of the bhagavad gita for a yoga teacher training assignment.  while that might sound like a moderately remarkable achievement which could take your average bear a few days to do, for me, it was a months-long challenge.

you see, once i cracked open and delved into the gita and began soaking in its history. metaphor, and meaning, i found it nearly impossible to distill its centuries-old vastness into one-hundred-eighty seconds.   so i continued to study.  i read and listened and read more.  i noticed moments in my real life when the lessons were applicable.   i wrote notes here and there, key words i wanted to communicate through the lens of the gita:  awareness, curiosity, service, presence, authenticity, integration.  i tried to choose just one as a focus in order to pare down the talk but discovered that the unpacking of one depended on all the others to stand along side it. one by itself felt incomplete and hollow.

weeks went by and still i could not imagine how i was going to deliver the assignment in a meaningful way.  and then yesterday, i tired of the struggle.  i tired of my insistence on being the slow and steady tortoise, of trusting she would always be more valuable than the race-to-finish-first hare. i tired of my need to avoid half-assness, or the ghastly fake-it-til-you-make-it mentality.

and i sat down and i did it.

and it wasn't half-ass.  or fake.  or choppy or incomplete.  it was pretty good.

it was as if krishna himself whispered to my inner arjuna, "both parts are necessary, the knowing and the doing.  and because you know, because you didn't skimp on learning or attempt to hotwire expertise, because the knowing was lived and is part of you, the doing flowed from your heart with ease.  you only had to decide to do it and sit your ass in the chair."