Shaming, Women, and Internalized Violence

Years ago, I stood on the corner, waiting for my friend. I was early, and I wanted to people watch. As I stood there, an obviously homeless man walked up to me. “Can I ask you a question?”, he said. I prepared to be asked for money. I nodded.

“Why is it ok to be ugly, but it’s not ok to talk about how ugly someone is?”, he queried. In a stunned voice I answered that I had no idea and moved away from him.

Immediately, I internalized the interaction as body shaming. Did he mean that I was ugly? Why did he target me to ask? Did he mean ugly, or did he mean fat? Was my skin ok or had I broken out? What was wrong with me that he honed in on? And really, all these questions were:

How could I protect myself so it never happened again?

It’s a form of violence. It is not ok. And that’s the answer to this gentlemen.

When we judge or shame ourselves or others, it is a form of violence.

So, now my job as a parent is to help my daughter understand that society will attempt to control us by building ways to shame us, make us feel not good enough and unlovable. We have talked about how puberty has made her feel vulnerable in her body. I have told her she needs to know her value and that it is completely apart from anyone or anything outside of herself.

Violence from external sources is unpredictable. Violence within yourself is within your control. You are a perfect manifestation of the Divine.


All Paths Lead to the Mountain Top

A few weeks ago I sat with Nissim Amon, who is one of 40 Zen Masters in the world today. There were many moments of opening at the event. For me, my mind needs to relax to allow me to trust and surrender. The master did that by telling us about “the paths to the top of the mountain”.

In his studies of world spiritual paths, he believes there are six categogries of paths. These are not religions or practices, but characteristics of what is encountered on the paths.

1. The path of the Fakir

A fakir renounces all worldly things and forms of comfort. The purpose is to come to a place of acceptance of what is. It is easy to accept pleasure so learning acceptance through deprivation is a fast track. This was originally the path of the Buddha but did not satisfy him and he gave it up after 5 or 6 years.

2. The path of Bhakti

Bhakti is the path of love, devotion, faith and worship. In the past, this was often the love of the guru. The guru would teach and be your object of love. It teaches you to open your heart.

3. The path of Knowledge

This path is characterized by pursuing deeply hidden esoteric knowledge. It may look like the hidden meaning of numbers, working with chakras, and other hidden knowledge. Often this path has a hierarchy and initiations. There can be a commitment to be a secret keeper.

4. The path of Danger

This path is characterized by practices through which you sacrifice or risk everything. Examples can be hallucinogens, practices that challenge taboos (e.g. sex, death, total ego annihilation) and shamanic drugs. It is often the shortest path but needs a guide. Practitioners without a guide lose what they gain or don’t have a way to integrate it without strong guides.

5. The path of the Zen koan

Koans are questions or anecdotes offered to the student to demonstrate the inadequacy of logical reasoning and to provoke enlightenment. One learns that the answers are within us. The practitioner values the experience of the truth within the question not the explanation.

6. The way of the Tao

The tao focuses on the absolute principle underlying the universe, combining within itself the principles of yin and yang and signifying the way that is in harmony with the natural order. One sees how nature is a flow and reflects acceptance, even of death.

There is something to be learned from all the paths. It is not necessary to pursue all the paths.

What is so helpful to me is that I have been on a few paths, and rejected them after a time. In that rejection , I have deemed the path as lacking. In Tantra, we take about letting go of a lesson or a path once it has lost its rasa or juiciness. It isn’t bad – it’s just over.

It realized that while I accept other cultures and religions, I have a type of judgement for people on paths I have moved away from or rejected. Seeing these paths in this way helped me to release that.

They Grow Up So Fast: Our First False Belief About Age

When I was a new parent, I heard over and over “Enjoy every minute – they grow up so fast!” At first, I bought into it. I recall looking through my child’s pictures on her first birthday and feeling panic over how much she had changed.

But then, I noticed her eyes in every picture. That soul, the essence I felt while carrying her and the essence I fell in love with the first time I looked in her eyes, was the same. It is eternal.

We change through out our lives. It is inevitable. That is what life is. But how do we relate to that change?

When people say “they grow up so fast”, what belief is operating? Here are some possibilities:

1. They grow up and I am not ready.

2. They grow up and I was too busy with other things.

3. They grow up and I must constantly adapt to how they change – and I don’t want to.

4. They grow up and I experience loss as they do.

In all cases, the painful belief is with the parent. Most children can’t wait to grow up. Certainly a child may be exposed to too much responsibility or pressure that results in lost innocence but that is not about age. Life begins to provide the circumstances essential for our growth immediately.

So how does that phrase impact how we view aging? I believe our attempts as a society to prioritize youth is our fear of dying. “Buddhism teaches that we should not shrink from the fact of death but squarely confront it. Our contemporary culture has been described as one that seeks to avoid and deny the fundamental question of our mortality.”- SGI

The wonderful thing about gaining years is it becomes harder to sustain identification with an egoic self. You will experience career change, physical change, intellectual change and emotional change your entire life. If your goal is to live forever, these changes will be viewed as loss.

There is a Buddhist tenet that life is about readiness for death. “From the Buddhist perspective, life and death are two phases of a continuum. Life does not begin at birth nor end at death. Everything in the universe—from invisible microbes in the air we breathe to great swirling galaxies—passes through these phases. Our individual lives are part of this great cosmic rhythm.”- SGI

Every change in life exist as part of a larger flow. Nature is living and dying in every moment. You can never walk the same street twice as the trees, the grass, the flowers all change every moment. Leaves bud and die. Grass browns. Flowers bloom and seed and die. We accept this even if we are not conscious of it.

Even music dies. The silence between notes is the end of one sound and readiness for a new one. In essence, it is all energy flow.

When we are in flow, we don’t resist what is. Children don’t grow up too fast. Lives are not about aging. There is gratitude for every moment.

Signifying Nothing

I am grateful when friends tell me their stories. As I listen, I notice two things: a feeling of compassion for the person as they work out their relationship to the story, and an awareness that it is all story, signifying nothing. This is true of my own stories. And I am so grateful for that.

“When you read a novel, and you read about various characters, you may like some and not like others. Or when you watch a movie, think about your relationship with the characters. You might like them; you might not like them—but you’re not finding your sense of self in them. You’re not referencing your self-worth by the characters in a novel or when you turn on the TV. You just have your thoughts about them.

But imagine if you turned on your TV or you read a novel and you actually completely derived your sense of being and your sense of self from one of the characters. Immediately your perspective is very different, isn’t it? Now your perspective has gone from something that’s very vast to something that’s very limited, seen only through the eyes of the character. Sadly, that’s how most human beings spend their lives. They have this little character in their mind called “me,” and they’re actually viewing that “me” as personal when it’s not.”-Adyashanti

One realization that has been significant for me is that nothing is personal. It all just is. The sunny day is not personal. The drive to work is not personal. My job is not personal. The bills aren’t personal.

Where I still struggle is in how I relate to people and those I have deeper relationship with like my daughter. My love for her seems very personal. Yet I understand in some way that I am experiencing a state of love in relation to her. Or drop the pronouns: there is just love.

Or, how do I relate to people when it is very personal for them? Their broken heart, their work, their stress and anxiety? So far, all I have is compassion. I get irritated sometimes, either because I wish more peace for them, or because they are speaking to a place that still upsets me too. It’s hard to remember sometimes that the story signifies nothing.

To some, the phrase “signifies nothing” is depressing. It might bear the bleakness of the full Shakespearean quotation. For me, when things are not personal, when we don’t project meaning over them, the whole world changes.

“You don’t lose the character; you just gain the whole novel of life. It’s not like you lose anything. You just gain the whole book. You gain the whole universe.”- Adyashanti

Pushing the Reset Button: Lunar and Solar Eclipse

The last three days have been unsettled for me. I don’t feel at home in my home. I am exploring significant career changes. Everything feels connected and disconnected at the same time.

Not surprisingly, this is part of preparing for some large astrological events. This month has both a lunar August 7) and solar eclipse (August 21). It’s a pretty big month for energy work.

“Think of it as a reset button on your life and give yourself grace and ease if feelings of dissolution or confusion set in. You may be experiencing a complete dissolution of everything you know yourself to be, or may be embodying a new archetype of personality with your family and friends that you have never been associated with before. This is a time for reevaluation and soul karmic clearing. This is the universe’s way of having you redefine the way you see yourself and interact with the world around you, as you.”-Collective Evolution

I am preparing two rituals. For August 7, I will be working on a reflection of how I am serving the bigger picture. I will be exploring how I align with my deeper values in service to higher conscuousness.

For August 21, I will be focused on the self as an empty vessel, a blank page. I will be offering myself to serve in the highest and best way to benefit all.

Neither of these are new exercises but syncing up with greater energy brings more fireworks to it. I will be asking for a visual symbol to help me carry this month’s work forward.

My Sister Pleiades

My spiritual partner has a powerful way of connecting with me when I am in my process of awakening. After listening intently, with her whole being, she says, “I see you.”

When I was in counseling, I found words to describe my childhood. It was a childhood cut short by assuming the adult and parental role at 13. I was responsible for the care of 4 people while holding some twisted privilege for this. It was a cycle of codependency I replicated in my significant romantic relationships. So for most of my life, I felt invisible.

I was drawn to men who were equally invisible, who needed me in some way. Generally, I saw and supported who they could be and they showed me gratitude. I confused this for love and connection.

The end of those relationships marks the most significant turning point in my path of consciousness. With fierce Grace, I embarked on deep retreat and committed to my path of awakening. Everything in my life dissolved and then realigned behind this intention.

Before that, a desperate part of myself once said I would stand before My Then Love once I was fully healed and ask him to see me, to love me. What I didn’t know is that as I deepened in healing and awakening, I would not want to stand in front of him or ask anything of him.

So why is it so powerful when my spiritual partner tells me she sees me? Possibly because I am not asking her to. Possibly because she sees my awakened self and my egoic self equally and with love for both. Possibly because seeing each other is the foundation of our partnership.

In my deepest core, I believe we could go for decades without talking, and with a single moment of connection we would see each other. It reflects what is true on our path. It reflects our lack of attachment.

There is no greater gift.

(I have a few Sisters who have grown in spiritual partnership with me. This piece is not a diminishing of my love for them. What I have in essence in partnership with them is such as this too. The title references the 7 sisters who were with Artemis, and honors all my Sisters).