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.

Bending Time

I am told time feels slow when you are young and passes too fast when you are older. 

It is a matter of belief. 

If you believe your remaining time is getting shorter, this is a false belief. None of us know the day we will take our last breath. People who live to be 100 may have expected to pass at 70 – what a waste if they lived those 30 years believing time was getting shorter. 

When we are kids, we are more likely to live in the now. The now is infinite. It is when we live in the past or the future that we get messed up. Neither exist, so they are easy to project our beliefs and fears over top. 

My days are no shorter or longer than before. I experience my days in terms of energy – intense, loving, flowing. I surrender to the moment (at least that’s the intention). 

My beautiful eyes, my innocent eyes

“You are quite naive,” said the Face reader. “You are easily taken advantage of.”  Face reading is a pseudoscience that predicts personality from physical characteristics. It can be insightful; it is at least interesting.  In this case, the reader believes my eyes are shaped and sized in a way that reflects being naive. 

I walked away, incensed. I am a talented negotiator and always leave the table with my goals met. I assess people for a living. How could I be naive?

Mental flash: despite my confidence in life, I have had a history of intimate relationships where I was easily deceived of the nature of my partner. In fact, in all cases of major relationships, my family warned me off each of them. I dismissed my siblings, believing I could see something they could not. In fact, the opposite equally was true. And how many times have I hired staff that were good performers but challenging personalities?  I even have at least two roles where I was not a fit with an organization but I accepted the job anyway. 

So I looked up the word. Naive means innocent, natural and unaffected. As an empathic and a highly sensitive person, I feel pain when I lie or act untruthfully. A line from Tolkien always stuck with me: “the Men of the Mark do not lie, and therefore they are not easily deceived.” 

When it comes to people, I believe I tend to see the most beautiful perfect parts of them – I see the Divine in people. Even when a person is mean or selfish, I see the parts of them that are kind and generous. The difficulty with that in a long term relationship comes when the balance between selfishness and generosity is not there. Or when the balance is tipped away from what is best for me. 

I am naive. I have big, beautiful and innocent eyes. I have a big, beautiful and innocent heart. My spiritual path is not about finding ways to protect myself from others. That would mean my goal is to control circumstances and people – folly. My path is to experience without attachment. My path is to be open to all that is, without Self protection or fear. 

My eyes, my beautiful innocent eyes truly are a window to my soul. 

I Blocked You: Boundaries Are Healthy

I am one of Those people: I delete people on Facebook, I block people in WordPress and I don’t accept LinkedIn invitations from people I don’t know. I see social media as a mirror of human social dynamics and I apply the same rules. 

In real life, if I don’t see you or connect at least once a year, I stop inviting you to parties or sending you cards. If you don’t treat me with respect in real life, I don’t interact with you. So why do we take offense when these things happen in social media?

Simon Senuk has a unique view on this. He suggests that when we get attention on Facebook, or receive a text, we feel positive and rewarding emotions. Over time, our society begins to go to these sources for more instant gratification. A generation may be growing up without the skills to build relationships. 

So why do people get more put off when these things happen in the virtual world? Is it because it occurs more subtley in reality – I am less likely to tell a person we are moving into acquaintance status in real life, we just drift apart. Does Facebook create a new tool of subtle social control – I will make you feel good so you can make me feel good? 

I know one thing: I notice I pull out my phone when I am waiting for a meeting to start and as of today, I will use that time to begin a conversation with my colleagues. I am on a Face fast right now and the difference in my quality of life is surprisingly big. I recommend it. 

Watch the Simon Senik video here:

Of Mystics and Miracles

“What are those things on your altar? Do you pray to them?”, asked one of my 9 year old’s friends. 

I have Shiva and Kali on my altar. I explained that I don’t pray. The deities reflect principles of ego release. But how do you explain that to a child?

I don’t pray. There is no need to beg some designed figure for a miracle. I don’t believe in miracles, at least not the mystic type. What makes that remarkable to say out loud is that I have witnessed mysticism and the miraculous. 

Recently, my daughter was seriously ill for a few months. She was in immense pain, and so very fragile. She had many medications. To ease her pain, I did Reiki. Some medical friends shared research that said it sped healing. I can say quite honestly that it had no effect. Her pain did not change from Reiki – it took pain medication. Her symptoms subsided as per the typical course of her treatment. 

So where does that leave me? How do I sit with this on my spiritual path? 

I think miracles and mysticism are meanings we assign to experience. They give us some sense of control over circumstances. If we pray a certain way, we will be heard and blessed. If we use symbols or sacred sounds, we will experience certain special things. If we find the right mystic, we will see the true nature of the cosmos. Won’t our ego be happily satisfied then? 

“If you are a true seeker of liberation, you’ve got to be willing to stand alone. At the moment of liberation everything falls away–everything. Suddenly the ground beneath your feet is gone, and you are alone. You are alone because you have directly realized that there is no other; there is no separation. There is only you, only Self, only limitless emptiness, pure consciousness.

To the mind, the ego, this appears terrifying. When the mind looks at limitlessness and infinity, it projects meaninglessness and despair. To the ego absolute freedom can look terrifying. But when the mind is let go of, the view changes from meaningless despair and fear to the unending joy and wonder of liberation. In liberation, you stand alone.

 You stand alone because you need no supports of any kind. You need no supports because you have realized that the very notion of a separate you no longer exists, that there is nothing to support, that the whole ego experience was a flimsy illusion.” – Adyashanti

On my path, I will indeed experience mysticism and miracles. But they won’t arise because I go seeking them, or because I have arranged circumstances for them to occur. These events do and will occur, and need not be labelled that way. The events of life will unfold as the events of life. 

There’s a little Trump in each of us

“Fanaticism consists of redoublng your effort when you have forgotten your aim.” – George Santayana

In the book Opening the Heart of Compassion, we explore different levels that the ego sustains, which in turn creates our suffering. The six realms described include:

1. the Animal realm – territory, danger and the desire for laziness 

2. the Hell realm – righteousness and anger and victimization

3. the Hungry Ghost realm – what is lacking, comparing to the past or others

4. the Titan realm – envy  for others, frustrated entitlement 

5. the God realm – self infatuation and indifference for others

6. the Human realm – efforts  to possess experience, to find certainty in meaning  and to control the future 

In my practice recently I’ve been focusing on how I embody the Titan realm and sometimes the God realm. “When we live in the Titan realm we want to prove that we deserve to be respected, to be honored, to be loved, to be secure, and to be treated justly.” – Opening the Heart of Compassion 

One of my habits that creates separation is to mentally (and sometimes verbally) judge my child’s father for how he does not show me respect or honor. It is the fastest button pusher I have in his presence. I can mentally tear apart some of his cherished beliefs and fantasize about what it would be like if people could see how unjustly he treats me. 

When I noticed that in myself,  next I went into what are considered the conceits of this particular realm . There is a superiority conceit, in which you view another person as worse than yourself. Or an inferiority conceit, whereby  you see yourself as worse than the other. Sometimes we use an equality conceit, which says I am just as bad as you are. I tend to move between all three of those when I notice my ego doing its thing.

Othe times, I like to judge my child’s father for any discomfort he causes me. I complain about how he does not recognize my value, or how he becomes a burden when I interact with him. 

“In the God Realm, we admire ourselves and we are seduced by the comfort and joy that results from this admiration. We want to surround ourselves with only those people and things that support our well-being, our self-esteem, or enjoyment, and our happiness. We are able to achieve and manifest our unlimited potential through our unlimited personal power. We are concerned with acquiring things not to prove anything, but to experience the joy of what they bring. We are preoccupied with the feelings that are produced as we fixate on our emotional states of well-being.” – Opening the Heart of Compassion 

So why do I say there is a little Donald Trump in each of us? The Buddhist tradition says that we move through and experience the emotions of the six Realms every day. We may find ourselves in a particular pattern that is consistent with the spiritual work that we’ve been doing but we sometimes will move back and forth. When I study all of the realms,  I see actions  from Donald Trump that look like each of them. But more importantly, I see myself in all six realms as well.

Well I certainly do not want Trump to be a world leader, I think it is interesting that he has emerged at a  time where our  conscious awareness is moving  to higher levels of compassion. We have global views and connections to other people in other countries and begin to see them as more like ourselves. The discomfort that Trump has elicited in our society may actually be just what is necessary to continue us forward on our spiritual path as a planet.