Thursday, October 31, 2013

Celebrating: Going Together on Crazy Ideas

Brazilian drums thumping through the dark, tart lemon, champagne, vodka concoction, funky earrings dripping and sparkling in the candle light, swaths of silks and saris and nigerian robes swishing and ruffling across a concrete floor, and stories.  Many stories shared, between friends, handed between women in partnership, whispered from grandmothers, declared by young leaders.  

Two messages will stay with me from the night of the 25th Anniversary of the Global Fund for Women.   

"Going alone I go fast, going together we go far."  

This African proverb was quoted early in the evening and ripples out into other themes I've been thinking about…that groups give rise to more "mind" than one mind could ever give rise to alone, that tribes shelter one another and carry one another along in hard times, that more ground is covered when we encourage one another along.  And that, in a very real way, our existence is vulnerable, if we are not woven into a fabric with others.

"It is a difficult thing to share crazy ideas," Leymah Gbowee, Nobel Laureate.

Leymah Gbowee's crazy idea was to start a Peace Movement in Liberia in the middle of a civil war.  When she sat down with one of her first funders she said, "I need $2,000 to start a peace movement.,"  and he responded, "Leymah, you're crazy.  I cannot give you $2,000 to do this subversive activity.  I'll tell you what.  I do have a job for you though."  

Gbowee looked at him and said, "I did not ask for a job, I asked for $2,000 to start a peace movement."

He gave her $100, which she took.  And, if you don't know the story, the rest is history.  Gbowee went on to participate in one of the most important, effective peace movements in the history of humanity.  Culminating in the election of Ellen Johnson, the first female president of an African Nation.

About the Global Fund for Women, Gbowee said, "They fund craziness."

Leymah Gbowee is strong, funny, unapologetic and determined.  She has grit.  But more than all that, it is how willing she was to submit herself to a crazy idea, to put herself in service of an outcome that was unimaginable, until she herself was willing to be the first crazy person to imagine it--this is what I love about her.  

Lately, I have been becoming convinced that we shape each others minds more than we know.  That the transmission that buddhists talk about, that apprenticeships, that being in person to person presence has a physical impact on who we are and who we become.  If this crazy idea is true, then a little bit of Ms. Gbowee was planted in me last night, and for that, I will be forever grateful.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013


Every morning 
these days
I step into 
my own back yard
where darkness 
still lingers

and I pick
my breakfast
right off the tree.

Sweet and good.
And messy
with juice
that runs down 
my chin,
and sticks 
to my hands.

I have 
had apples
like these 

Monday, October 21, 2013

Sick Day, Tuesday 10/22/2013

I resisted.
Thought about all the other stuff 
there was to do.

Then I set myself down
and played Polly Pockets
for one cozy, precious morning.

And she thought 
I was taking care of her.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Friday October 11, 2013

"This is the work of the peacemaker, to find the soft spot and the tenderness in that very uneasy place and stay with it."
--Pema Chodron

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Honor how you feel

In more than one conversation recently, a friend has revealed to me to me that they are in pain.  That there is a sadness or an irritability or an exhaustion or a restless boredom that is weighing on them.  These friends were not bitching about the day to day, they were sharing from the heart.

In each case the conversation suddenly tacked in the direction of guilt.  The words were almost exactly the same, "I know I am so lucky.  I have everything I could possibly need.  So I should stop complaining."

I did my best in the moment.  But with time to sit and think, I felt a deeper response arising, one I wanted to share.

Dear friend,

Thank you for sharing your suffering with me, for letting me see the real you.  In my presence, this is never, ever complaining...this is healing, mine and yours.  I am humbled by the gift of your revelation and I promise to hold your precious story with as careful attending as I am able.

 When you say, "I know I am so lucky.  I have everything I could possibly need.  So I should stop complaining," I feel you cutting yourself off.  It's quick, like the slap shut of a spring-loaded screen door; you know, the kind that bites you in the ankle on your way inside.

The words you use make it sound like guilt, but I don't think it is guilt.  Guilt is tender and soft, like a bruise that comes from feeling the pain someone else is feeling.  Guilt emerges from connection and leads to connection. 

What I see transpiring is different.  It is a sudden severing of connection.  It is a thought pattern that redirects your attention away from your authentic self toward the superficiality of your circumstances.  It feels brittle and small compared to who I know you to be, diminishing whatever it is that is asking to come to the surface.  This does not mean that the world's problems are not real.  They are.  But diminishing the real challenges of our own lives gets in the way of our intention to be of service.

So please, the next time the screen door of this false guilt is about to snap shut on your heels, just pay attention.  Don't even try to stop it.  Just watch how quickly it cuts you off and see if you can't feel the feeling that happens right before the slap.  Is it shame?  Is it fear?  I'd really like to know, we can hold that together and follow where the trail leads.

I beg you.  Honor what is arriving at the doorstep.  Open the door and let it in. Treat it as you would a weary traveler who has been unwelcome at many stops, and let your home be a refuge.  Make up the bed, cut flowers, and prepare a warm meal.

This is the kindness it will take. 

Our lives are an awesome responsibility, but we will never be able to live up to our task if we cut ourselves off from our internal energy as it presents itself.  A sadness may be a private gift, lonely for connection, an irritability--an injustice in need of correction, restlessness--maybe a fear.  I don't know what these emotions may be beaconing for you, but I know that somewhere inside you, you do. 

And from my own experience I know, there is something about what is arising that makes you uncomfortable, that scares you, that will require you to be brave.  I know this because I feel scared too. 

That is why kindness is our only answer.  In our current circumstances, only kindness will enable us to unleash our full vitality, our full capacity for love, warmth, connection and creativity.  Only kindness will give us the courage to become whatever it is we were uniquely designed to be.  This is no small task, and yet possibly the one task that will enable us to be of authentic service to the world.

So please friend, be kind to yourself.  Honor your feelings, and let's see where the trail leads.    I don't know where we'll end up, but the one thing I can promise you is that love never fails.

Your friend, 

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Thinking of Friday

Friday sitting is back.
Summer was sometimes heavy
without this connection.
I'm so glad we are back at it.

For the group that is gathering, 
a little Mary Oliver to start us off.

Wild Geese

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting--
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Celebrate :: A Collection

In January I signed up for Ali Edwards online class called One Little Word.  This is my second time taking the class and I've continued to enjoy it (even when I haven't been able to keep up with the monthly pace).  The photo above is my response to the assignment called:  "Put your word out in the world."  On a Sunday afternoon I outlined the word celebrate on our dead end and left some chalk out there to see what would happen.  My kids were the first to have at it, but lots of people added to the design.  Tuesday the street cleaner swept it away, and new drawings have since appeared.  Fun.

Last year, my word was flexible, which meant something to me, but didn't have much resonance out in the world, and that was ok.  But this year, celebrate has popped up in public contexts, and I'm slowly building a collection of celebrate-sightings that makes me happy.

Here are a few of the most recent encounters:

  • Christine Carter, author of Raising Happiness, wrote a blog post entitled:  Happiness Tip:  Celebrate!  
  • Katrina Kenison, author of Magical Journey (reviewed here) uses the tagline "celebrating the gift of each ordinary day," on her website.  
  • And best for last...this just made me laugh...In Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2, which I saw with the kids this weekend, the main character, Flint Lockwood, invents a device called The Celebration-ator.  It's a "party-in-a-box" which detonates whenever his monkey Steve hears the word celebrate, spewing cloyingly cheerful confetti and brightly colored paint all over anyone in its vicinity.  The Celebration-ator ends up being one of Flint's greatest public humiliations as an inventor and catapults him onto his narrative arc for the movie. 

Having chosen the word celebrate for the year, I am aware that I'm at risk of becoming a bit of a Celebration-ator, myself.  And I couldn't stop laughing at this amazing visual representation of the way that celebration, as a word and practice, can fail in a particularly spectacular fashion.  

Apologies to anyone who has had to endure my own version of the Celebration-ator, as I'm sure I've gone down this path more than once.  Hopefully my own character arc is as forgiving as Flint's.  

Cheers, everyone!  Have a great week.