Monthly Archives: June 2010

Pain for the World

In April, I attended a retreat at Spirit Rock Meditation Center on Transforming Distressing States. Joanna Macy was one of the teachers, and is an amazing feminist Buddhist ecophilosopher, who wrote World as Lover, World as Self.

One of the most profound shifts for me on this retreat was Joanna’s revelation about the pain we feel for the world that we totally repress. BP’s oil spill destroying the Gulf, thousands (or millions) of people dying in multiple never-ending wars, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict about to blow, Arizona getting more racist by the minute, and whatever else is going on that I don’t know about because I can’t even stand to read the news. Every new piece of information is like a blow that hits and retraumatizes that wounded, vulnerable part of me – it’s a wonder I can even get out of bed.

Because we believe that we have a separate individual self, we feel the pain for the world and assume it’s all OUR pain. Our individualistic culture tells us to do this, and look how much it helps keep us from fighting the larger corporate and political powers that are creating all this pain. While psychotherapy is generally awesome, it can contribute to this as well – when we talk about our terror over how the land and water is being raped and pillaged by masculine corporate interests, our therapist redirects us to talk about our “real” terror of our own bodies being raped and pillaged. As if there’s no “real” terror to be had over the destruction of our environment.

I’m certainly not minimizing or denying the reality of the pain and terror of our own bodies being brutally violated. But what if they BOTH get to be real? That when the pain & terror comes up, we can name it as about BOTH our own violation and the violation of our world? What if we flipped the therapist’s script, and when our trauma came up, we honored it AND asked “What other trauma is going on in the world that feels like this same pattern of individual trauma that shows up in my life?” And then we honored that too. For me it’s nearly impossible for me to tease out how much is mine vs. how much is the world’s … because it’s really all the same trauma at some level. My trauma ripples out and diminishes the rest of the world, and the world’s trauma ripples out and diminishes my ability to live.

I’ve found it immensely helpful to understand why I’m feeling overwhelmed, triggered, and ready to just shut down – there’s a lot of shit going down and it IS overwhelming and triggering to my system. A little Breathing Through practice is in order – just breathe it all in, and breathe it all back out. No need to transform it, and certainly no need to hang on to it. Open to let it in, and breathe it right back out.


Check-in: 2010.5

An almost mid-year check-in for my version of New Year’s Resolutions.

In the spirit of New Year’s Resolutions: What are you willing to fail at this year? For me:

  • Weekly blog posts
  • A daily meditation practice
  • Asking for too much time off of work
  • Working less, making more

The theme of the year? Consistently showing up for myself.

Weekly blog posts: I’m successfully failing at this, writing just 5 posts since the New Year on this blog and 2 on Rooting Nonprofits. I’ll appreciate that I’ve written at least a few things, since my judgmental memory thought I hadn’t written a single thing. And I’ll appreciate that I’ve mostly been kind to myself about not blogging regularly. I’m keeping pretty busy these days.

A daily meditation practice: I’m successfully succeeding at this one. A meditation retreat at Spirit Rock this April helped me settle my practice into 15 minutes a day. I miss a few days here and there, but I feel really solid about this and if I miss 2 days in a row I start jonesing for some time on the cushion.

Asking for too much time off of work: I’m successfully floundering around in this one. The good girl in me doesn’t want to push the boundaries too far. I don’t want to deal with the fall out of having someone react to how much time I’m taking off. But seeing that this was something I intentionally wanted to push the boundaries on, as a practice in failing and seeing just how much leeway exists in a job, I’m tempted to push the boundaries a little farther on this one.

Working less, making more: I’m both succeeding and failing at this one. I’m earning a higher hourly wage than I have the rest of my life, which is allowing me to only work part time. But that hasn’t really changed since I set this intention at the beginning of the year. I need to ramp it up even more … time to negotiate a raise!

Consistently showing up for myself: It’s not quantifiable, but I think I’m succeeding at this more than I ever have. I’m pretty keyed in to my needs and focused on getting them met. I love the brain trick of being a servant to the sovereign King, as in “Queen Dawn is hungry and must eat soon. Be sure it’s the freshest, most delectable food available. It’s the Queen!” Might as well use it to my advantage that it’s easier to take care of “others” than it is to take care of “myself”!

Overall: A good mix of success & failure. If I was rocking everything, I probably didn’t stretch my goals high enough! Especially since my overarching goal was to practice more failure. Dance of Shiva – yoga for the brain – has also been a stellar practice in failing miserably in an effort to grow and rewire my brain.

How Kate Niles and The Book of John breaks me open and puts me back together again


My dear friend Kate Niles just released her second novel The Book of John. Last September, she sent me an advance copy to read, as in the freaking Microsoft Word document that she had sent off to the publishers. I felt special and fabulous and important to have this advance copy by one of my favorite authors ever. But I felt like an ass when nearly 4 months had passed and I still hadn’t dared to click open the file.

The new year arrived and with it some shifts in energy that made me think that just possibly maybe this was the time to read Kate’s novel. I had finally started to make some peace in an on-again off-again relationship with a dear love with whom I was in a constant cycle of pushing him away and drawing him back. This book – as Kate herself and all her writing does – broke wide open my old stuck patterns and cleared space for a new way to be.

I stormed off a set of emails to Kate while engrossed in the book. Rather than a traditional book review, which I don’t have the first clue how to do, here’s my raw, unfiltered response to Kate of how the book moved me. I hope it inspires you to let this book move you too.

My Love Letter to Kate, or The Review

I finally started reading The Book of John last night. I’ve felt guilty, like a terrible friend for asking for an advance copy of the book and just letting it sit in my inbox for months.

I forced myself to go to sleep last night after devouring the first 2 parts. I have to work today, you know. I need to be responsible again after a few weeks of parties and friends and drinking and flirting with ideas of taking on a whole set of lovers (visions of sugar plums dance in my head).

But damn it Kate, if I don’t wake up at 4:20am, hours before my alarm is to go off, just overflowing with a stream of consciousness review of how amazing this book is, how heartbreaking it is, yet gently heartbreaking in that good way that all our hearts need broken open to air out the gentleness inside, so the pieces of our hearts can heal back together in more wholesome ways. Our hearts (my heart) are such a jumbled mess, it’s like they are Frankenstein hearts mashed together from the pieces of our previous lifetimes, our karma (good and bad) mashing them into something that just barely functions. And we walk through our lives waiting to have our hearts broken open so they can be re-healed in a way that makes them function slightly better, makes us slightly more capable of love, one step closer to Nirvana. This is how your book breaks my heart open.

I don’t think I’ve ever felt so identified with a male character as I do with John. I didn’t realize that I’d given up on reading books with male characters (usually by male authors) because I feel so alienated from the world painted around them. But John. I don’t even know how you make me identify with him, with his painful insecurities which make him run from love and intimacy because OH MY GOD, if someone really saw just how horrible it was on the inside, if I let them in that close and then they SAW – the rejection would be worse than death. I’m nothing like John and I’m everything like John. I’ve been reading since 3 and I am best at those theoretical flights of fancy that John finds so impossible. Yet I settled for an MA when my inability to deal with life made me drop out from the PhD program I worked so hard to try to make work. I’d like to believe that I am not nearly as insecure as John, that his flaws are so much deeper than my own, that when faced with love, with soul connection, that I would transcend insecurity and be made whole in that love. Yet today I’m floundering, failing, wanting to run, wanting to stay on the surface of a relationship that everyone around me who remotely matters can see clearly is this deep soul connection, even my friends who’ve heard me bitch about the worst of it, and are just barely refraining from saying, “Can you dump him already, because I’m tired of hearing you bitch?” – even those friends are saying, “Clearly you two are in for the long haul.” And still I want to run far, far, far away. Still I want to choose something other, something easier, something  where I don’t have to get quite so deep. This is how you make me identify with John who both is and is not me.

And this is where I stop being guilty that I’m just reading the book, because reading a book by you is not simply for the pleasure, not simply for passing the time on a sandy beach somewhere. Reading a book by you makes me wake up at 4:20AM with a broken/healing heart, with a clarity of just how insecure I’m being in this world. Timing is everything when reading this gift of a book, and while I thought I was reading it as your friend, to give you feedback about how  great it is and how much I loved it, I will be honest that I am reading it for myself, which is really the only way to read. And the past few weeks, I’ve been oscillating widely, wildly between risking intimacy with this man and running away into someone else’s arms. And I’ve been watching that oscillation, wondering when I might get off the roller coaster, looking to good friends for insight and answers because I still don’t fully trust my internal experience that has me oscillating so wildly. And it wasn’t until my dear friend Nico turned to me on New Year’s Eve, and again on Saturday night to say clearly, “These excuses about you have to break up because he wants a farm and you want to move to the city – this is all just shit in your head.” – only then was I ready to read this book. Only then could I watch John who is me and who is not me flounder painfully in his insecurities. And because he is enough not like me, I can see the mistakes he makes, how even when he sees that he should ask for help that he’s asking all the wrong people for all the wrong things. How miserable running away to a tiny shack in the opposite of here really is. How tragic. Because he is not me, I can see how tragic this all is, how solvable it all is if he is just willing to risk intimacy and openness about all of his inadequacies, if he stays rather than runs from soul connections. It’s so clear because he is not me, so I can form the solution clearly with him, and only then see how applicable it is back to my own tragedy, how it’s such a big “DUH” in our lives, but I’m too often wrapped up in the drama and my old patterns to see the obvious solution. This is how your book heals me.

An hour has passed while writing this, and it is still not time for my alarm to go off. I’m going to put on a pot of coffee and start in on Part 3. It’s been ages since I’ve stayed up late to finish a book, but I don’t think I’ve EVER got up early to finish one!

Epilogue of Love

Well, it’s finished, read madly this morning, making me late for work – a great start to the new year!

My raw reader response from this morning still stands, with this epilogue. I get to the part about sin, about evil being the denial of another’s humanity, about the sins we commit daily against ourselves when we deny our own hopes and dreams. And I say outloud to myself in the early dawn shadows, “Shit. This is the place in a Kate Niles novel where I start sobbing. Where the container busts wide open, where any last vestige of grasping to inadequacy is obliterated.  Fuck you! Thank you!”

I love you! Thank you for writing another book that helps me rebirth myself yet again. Please please please, don’t you dare ever stop writing!

P.S. Find out how Kate Niles’ brand new book The Book of John breaks you open and puts you back together again. Now selling in your favorite indie bookstore (and those big behemoth ones too)!