Equality Not Uniformity

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Today is Blog Action Day. This is the day when all of us blog writers attack a single subject from the various perspectives of our blog themes. This year, the topic is inequality. Generally, we equate inequality with injustice, lack of fairness, and discrimination. I would like to step back for a moment and see if I can come at this sidewise.

I was deeply impacted as a teenager by a short story that Kurt Vonnegut wrote, entitled Harrison Bergeron. To this day, I think of this story whenever I contemplate what makes us equal – or not. Let me share the opening paragraph to give you an idea:

The year was 2081, and everybody was finally equal. They weren’t only equal before God and the law. They were equal every which way. Nobody was smarter than anybody else. Nobody was better looking than anybody else. Nobody was stronger or quicker than anybody else. All this equality was due to the 211th, 212th, and 213th Amendments to the Constitution, and to the unceasing vigilance of agents of the United States Handicapper General.

The plot revolves around two dancers who are forced to dance with weights attached to their bodies, so that they will not over-excel at their craft and, in so doing, they remain equal to others who do not have their gift. Their story is a powerful metaphor for any system where we blindly insist that equality requires uniformity. The story always serves to remind me that – before we talk about being equal – we need a context.

As someone prone to social activism, I recognize that what I want in my life is very different from the scenario detailed in this story. I actually love that we are all so different. I can not imagine that I would ever want to raise myself up by pulling someone else down. I know people who do seek this kind of equality. They are of the “if I can’t have it, you shouldn’t be able to have it either” variety. These people are in a constant competition, imagining that every benefit earned by one person should also be gifted to them. This is the “equality” that Kurt Vonnegut derided so successfully in his story.

However, there is another approach to equality. For example, I expect my unique set of skills to be appreciated and respected by those who share my life. I actively seek equality of opportunity, whether it be in education, job opportunity, access to healthcare, or even the opportunity to provide my family with healthy and safe food. I seek equality of pay, and equality of unbiased assessment in my work. I do believe that equal opportunity requires us to have a baseline safety net for all our citizens. Note that I do not believe that our current monetary system is one where work of equal value is ascribed equal income …. Another area where we need work.

The justice I seek is one of equality of consideration before courts of law. My concept of fairness means that my differences are valued, not condemned. Like the phrase usually attributed to Albert Einstein, “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”

These kinds of equality are worth working towards. It is not about the things I can’t do that you can. It is about the appreciation and respect I get for simply being myself. It is “Namaste.” The piece of the Divine that resides in me recognizes and acknowledges the piece of the Divine that resides in you. If we could live that one word, the kind of inequality I fight against would no longer exist.

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My Braided Life

Triquetra

In this past year, I have been graced with a lot of insight into how my life works and how I can live a happier existence with a feeling of wholeness and joy surrounding my days. I have been so introverted during this process that I lost all desire to write anywhere but my journal and on a project I felt called to explore. A friend gently suggested that I put out here some of the insights I have gained … that they might be of interest to someone else and that she, for one, would like to read them.

So, here is my first exploration in this direction:

Rituals are like a checklist, ensuring all of me is being nourished.

I wake up in the morning at about 5 AM. I roll out of bed and find my way to my meditation space. 25 minutes later, I feel more awake, centered, and ready to journal for a quick 5 – 10 minutes. The dog and I then scoot out the door for a walk around the block where I make a point of connecting to my favorite trees in the neighborhood, often with me placing my hands on their bark and listening. As we make our rounds, I practice being aware of the energy grounding me to the earth and remaining mindful of each step as I walk it. I try to pay attention to where my awareness resides in my body, and I make sure to spend some time with my awareness settled in my nurturing 2d chakra space.

These morning rituals embody my perception of the three major strands within the braid of my life. In every life, the braid is present. One strand is the physical me, another is the mental me, and a third the spiritual me. One of the things I have learned over the course of this past year is that it is vitally important to “feed” each strand of the braid so that none is starved or engorged. If we want the braid of our life to be healthy, each strand has to receive our attention on a regular basis.

For myself, I appreciate the physical strand by getting outside and walking each day. I try to eat healthy foods and to be mindful as I eat. My spiritual strand is fed by my meditation practice and by my mindfulness exercises, as well as my tree connections. My mental self benefits from the journaling, the discipline that I impose on myself, and the work I do each day. Note that in each case, there are things I take in (such as food) and things I give or expend (such as exercise). I have come to understand that this give and take is very important. It is like breathing in and out, giving and taking, each with its own cycle. If you take in, you must find a way to release. Balance requires it.

There is more, of course. I try to include creative activities. I try to read each day, even if it is just for a few minutes. I am using an app on my phone to teach myself German. Everything we do embodies at least one strand of this braid. The key is to be aware of which pieces of ourselves we are exercising when we participate in a given activity. If we only do the intellectual, we are  feeding it to the detriment of our physical and spiritual selves, and we will eventually pay a price for that neglect. The same holds true if we feed the spiritual, but do not exercise or eat well … or if we take care of our bodies, but never exercise our minds or make time to listen for the voice of the Divine.

Sometimes, I envision more strands. Most of the time, it is just the three. It is the Celtic triquetra – the three-sided knot – that symbolizes so many trinities in our lives. I use it to remind me of the balance of mind-body-spirit.

Letting Go

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Not being catholic, I have somewhat of an outsider’s view of the Lenten season. Mind you, Catholics aren’t the only ones who celebrate Lent, but they are certainly the most visible – especially on the first day of Lent, Ash Wednesday.

From my experience, Lent is usually honored by giving up something that you enjoy. The thought has been explained to me as as a sacrifice to echo the sacrifice of Christ, though I have recently read of other interpretations. The idea is to recognize how challenging it is to give up that one small thing (even if it is usually to our own benefit in some way), and to therefore appreciate how great a sacrifice was done on our behalf.

I was thinking about this idea of sacrifice over the last few days, since I often choose Lent as the perfect time to give up something. After all, there is a lot of support out there for letting go at this one time of the year. Take advantage of the communal energy! When I participate in this process, I like to look at it as giving up something so I can see what kind of hold that thing has over my life and evaluate whether I am willing for that hold to continue.

Frankly, my concept of Lent has changed over time. It used to be more in alignment with sacrifice, but this year, I am seeing things a bit differently. I realize that the sentiment behind “sacrifice” is that it should be something you enjoy or want to continue doing, so that giving it up is in some way unpleasant. What I am realizing is that giving things up doesn’t have to be unpleasant to be beneficial. My spiritual life and my physical life can both see benefits if I do this right.

I recently read some comments from a Buddhist monk who explained that monks were only allowed to own 8 things, and those 8 things were actually predefined. This idea coinciding with the timing of Lent made me think of the possibility of giving up ownership, or at least reducing my ownership footprint. I read a new slogan somewhere on the web: “Don’t declutter. De-own.” Sounds scary … and that means it is powerful.

I certainly own a lot more than 8 things. Honestly, I own a lot more than the 100 Things that another blogger suggested. I grew up in a poor household and it was made very clear to me at a very young age that how much stuff a person owned was a measure to compare oneself against. Many family members were hoarders, though I doubt very much that any of them would admit it. When I moved in with my current partner, I think I was well on my way to becoming a hoarder, myself. She, however, is not a hoarder. In some parts of her life, she is downright minimalist. Needless to say, my collection of stuff drove her nuts!

We broke up for a while due, in part, to this very issue. During that time, I came to realize that I really identified with my stuff. When she didn’t want things out where it was visible to guests, I felt like she didn’t want me to be visible. When she would gently suggest downsizing some of my collection, I felt she was wanting to downsize or diminish me! It sounds crazy, I know. From what I can tell though, this is very much how hoarders feel. I now call this syndrome being “stuff sick.” The love I felt for her forced me to face this about myself, and I truly believe she pulled me back from the brink of becoming a hoarder.

Over the years, I have learned to let go, to hold on less and less. She taught me that memories and emotions might be triggered by seeing certain things, but that doesn’t mean we have to keep them. If the object serves no practical purpose, we can take a picture of the thing and let the actual object go. It is a process and I am still not as good at it as she is, but I keep improving.

Which brings me to the idea of Lent 2013.

My idea for this year goes beyond sacrifice into the value of reviewing what defines me. I am not willing to be defined by these things I enjoy. I can give them up and still be me. So, I have decided to give up ownership of one thing each day. At the end of the month, these things will go to Goodwill / Savers. Instead of giving up chocolate or sweets or some other decadence I enjoy, I am going to commit to releasing one item for each of the 40 days. My rules to myself are that I can’t just give up a pair of shoes and count it for 2 days, nor would a box of office supplies count for any more than a single day’s gifting. It can’t be something I simply don’t care about either. To be a valid sign of my healthier attitude toward the things in my possession, I am committing to giving away things I am holding onto “just in case.” If you know anyone with hoarder instincts, this is tough! 20 years in the computer industry simply reinforced that tendency in me, so I am sure this will be a challenge.

Day 1 is going to be a handful of books that I always meant to read, but haven’t. These particular books have been in my “to-read” pile for more than 3 years. I love books and letting them go is never easy for me. Sigh. Time to let them go.

Whew! One day down!

Are you taking advantage of this letting go energy? What has Spirit prompted you to let go of?

April Foolishness

Yesterday was April Fool’s Day. Most people I know use it as an excuse to pull jokes on the unsuspecting, taking advantage of someone’s trust or naivete. It is rare that a “victim” is truly foolish, but that idea is what sent me thinking …
As someone who has often gained insight from contemplating the tarot, April 1st naturally brings to mind the idea of The Fool. The Fool is often misjudged by the world at large, because s/he has an innate trust that defies the logic of this world. Walking off a cliff in the Rider-Waite deck, I am reminded also of a rune that I pulled for my meditation focus this month: Dagaz. Dagaz is about breakthroughs and transformations, but it is also about radical trust and leaping empty-handed into the void.

Dagaz and The Fool appear to be ideal centers of focus for me right now, as it looks like my life is about to change. At the very least it is going to be a moderately big change, and it could indeed be transformative. I am in a position where I need to change jobs, and I don’t know what I should do next. I am tempted to stay with what I know, with what I have done for 20 years, but I wonder if I am limiting myself by thinking that way. A boss I had many years ago once gave me some words of wisdom that have had a huge influence on me. He said that I needed to remember that there are times when you can’t reach new shores unless you are willing to lose sight of the old one. This time of transition is an amazing opportunity for me to reinvent myself, if I only have the courage to walk that path, and step away from what I know.

Everything is in flux, and I am reminded by The Fool and Dagaz to engage in radical trust. The time is ripe. So, I have to wonder how I make that happen? I know it involves trying to listen to the still, small voice within … as constantly as possible. The New Testament tells us to pray constantly (1 Thessalonians 5:17), and I truly believe that this is what it is talking about: Listening without cease for the nudges from that place inside where Spirit resides. I know that most people think of prayer as talking TO the Divine, but I have found that listening is frequently more vital than talking. If I take that as step one, then I have to wonder if there is anything else I can do?

As a member of our western culture, it is challenging for me to wait and listen without doing. I am always wanting something to do, and it feels very uncomfortable to not be involved in some type of action, especially when a goal, no matter how nebulous, is in mind. I have found that Spirit often accommodates me with “busy work.” I think it means something productive, until the light goes on. Then I realize I was just given something to occupy my need for action until the real action comes along. The risk, of course, is that I might miss an opportunity for right action if I focus too much on the busy work. So, I have to be careful to be an attentive listener.

George Sand once wrote (in Mauprat) that, “No change, even from bad to good, can be accomplished without pain.” Change is uncomfortable as habits are modified and expectations have to be revisited. Even when I want the end result, it is a process to create new habits to support that outcome. When I am not sure what the end result will look like, it is even more challenging!

All of this is swirling in my mind on a pretty constant basis right now. I meditate and count it a victory if I can get even just a few minutes per day of no-mind peace and silence. I try to let it all go, but I am not beating myself up when I can’t. I recognize that I am not a Buddha, a Jesus or some other spiritual master. I am where I am on my path and that is ok. I just keep trying to relax into my truest self, and trust that I will get better at this as I go along.

From The Gospel of Thomas:
Verse 70: Jesus said, “If you bring forth what is within you, what you have will save you. If you do not have that within you, what you do not have within you [will] kill you.”

From The Psalms:
51:6 – Surely you desire truth in the inner parts; you teach me wisdom in the inmost place.

Imbolc – Brighid’s Day

Imbolc – Brighid’s Day

I love the energy of Brighid’s Day.
The balance between past and future,
That holy place that requires nothing-
But takes from the past what it needs
To form the future it wills into being.

I think how my own past
Shapes my present and lays ground for my future;
I step onto Sacred Ground at Imbolc,
As I release my vision of shores grown familiar
And sail toward a future I can’t yet see …

Balance. Compassion. Creativity.
Integrity. Faith. Manifestation.
I honor the energy of Brighid today
And giving, I feel blessed by her smile.

Solstice

The winter solstice will take place tomorrow morning at 5:30 AM UTC, and the sun will start its slow journey back to prominence in our days. I find this longest night of the year to be a great time for introspection and I enjoy just being in the dark, and thinking. It is a time of balance, a time for letting go and looking forward. With that in mind, I have been researching possibilities for creating a solstice ritual to symbolize the release of the past, and my openness to the gifts that I hope 2012 will bring. It seems that there are tons of suggestions out there. Maybe it is because I recently wrote the post on Learning Styles, but it seems that many of the suggestions I am finding could be organized along similar categories.

The ones that resonate most with me tend to have a visual foundation, and that makes sense to me. I don’t know if any study has ever been done, but I would think that the channel most successfully associated with manifestation would be the one that connects to spirit and our deepest self … so our deepest channel. When I look at all the wonderful suggestions on the web, ranging from a collage to a music playlist to planting a seed symbolic of what you wish to manifest, I see V-A-K, visual – auditory – kinesthetic.

If you know your learning pattern, it would make this a bit easier. The best way to tell is to observe yourself and your tendencies, but you can talk it out with a friend, get hints from a book on the subject (such as those by Dawna Markova), and if all else fails, there are quizzes out on the web. I have no idea how accurate they are, but here is one to try at EasyChangeWorks. Once you know your pattern, you have a clue on what would likely work best for you.

For manifesting, we want something we will see / hear / do repeatedly, to bring our focus back to the connection we are establishing, pulling potential into our present. A collage, or storyboard, works for visual people because it is something we can look at often. A musical playlist can go with us wherever we go, and a seedling needs to be tended, watered, fertilized, etc. As you put together what you want to manifest, remember that clarity and detail count. Something I learned from Shakti Gawain is that you should always include “This or something better now manifests for me.” Sometimes what we think we want isn’t the best, and at other times, the ‘something better’ could be pretty awesome!

Whenever we participate in rituals related to the focus of our manifestation, it is important to allow our emotions to rise to the surface. Feel how you believe it will be when it is all there for you. The channel helps with focus, but it is emotion that gives power to the request you are sending the Universe. So, let it fill you!

If you need some tips on manifesting, there are many books out there, including some that are quite popular, such as The Secret (Rhonda Byrne), and The Law of Attraction (Esther and Jerry Hicks). I’ve not read either of these, but I know many who have and who have found them to be practical approaches to the concept. Personally, I would recommend Shakti Gawain’s, Creative Visualization or, for a more scientific approach, try The God Formula by Jeffery A Martin.

Whatever you decide to do, Happy Solstice !