Category Archives: Day of Rest

Day of Rest: #terriblesandwich

sundaymorningbluepracticeI subbed a yoga class this morning. I talked about how the full expression of a pose in yoga isn’t about getting into an exact particular shape, but rather finding a balance between effort and ease, practicing in a way that’s not too loose and not too tight. As is often true with any kind of teaching, you teach what you most need to learn, and finding this balance between effort and ease in my life off the mat is something I’ve been trying to figure out.

It will come as no surprise to you, kind and gentle reader, that I struggle with figuring out how much to serve and how much to take care of myself. This equation has turned into some terrible sort of space alien algebra since the election, with every day since being a dizzying barrage of awfulness. I can’t look away and yet it’s just too much. It’s burning my eyes, breaking my heart, and no matter what I do, it never feels like I’m doing enough. But the reality is, it couldn’t ever possibly be enough to balance the horrors of history mixed with the particular nastiness of now. There’s no way I can fix what is wrong, but I also can’t give up — so where does that leave me?

Danielle Ate the Sandwich at her recent album release party

Danielle Ate the Sandwich at her recent album release party

Last night I went to Danielle Ate the Sandwich‘s album release party. We were right in front, really great seats, and it was such a good show. She was amazing, as usual — an amazing musician, singer and songwriter, as well as a super funny and vulnerable human in all the best ways. She started on stage alone, singing her song “Peace to You Brother,” and I barely could keep from crying.

Listening to her sing, interact with her band and the audience, reminded me that there are still good things, people doing good work. It reminded me of what I keep hearing lately about how important art is in “a time like this.” In John Pavlovitz’s recent post 10 Acts of Resistance on Inauguration Day and Beyond he lists “Create” as one of the ten, saying “Remind yourself that even though there is real ugliness grabbing the spotlight and the headlines, that things of great beauty are being born too. Let your art be your defiant resistance.” And Paul Jarvis published an article he titled, Art is a powerful tool for change in which he says “Art and creativity — they’re easily dismissed as just ‘something pretty’. But art is a powerful tool. It has a knack for humanizing emotions and vocalizing injustice in powerful ways.”

The hashtag Danielle used for her show, for people to tag videos and pictures so she could find them later, was #terriblesandwich. It’s a mashup of her new album title, The Terrible Dinner Guest, and Danielle Ate the Sandwich, but it seems like such a good way to categorize the current state of things: a terrible sandwich. Which reminds me of the part in Elizabeth Gilbert’s latest book Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear where she says that, “if you love and want something enough—whatever it is—then you don’t really mind eating the shit sandwich that comes with it.”

terriblesandwich

I eat the shit sandwich that comes with all my regular practices — Writing, yoga, meditation, and dog. Writing is hard, trying to get to the truth and then maybe even create something that would be interesting to anyone other than myself, working my way through all the layers of what’s difficult and scary and boring. Yoga is hard when my body isn’t “perfect” or even entirely healthy, and when I can’t seem to let go of expectations, my own agenda. Meditation, and by extension Buddhism, is hard because it asks so much of me, specifically that I get over myself, show up with an open heart, stay with whatever might arise. Dog is hard when they need so much and I don’t have it to give them, or when they need something but I can’t figure out what and they can’t tell me, when they get sick or hurt, when I love them so damn much and they die.

Add to that the current state of things, and it starts to feel like what the military refers to as a “cluster fuck.” I have a hard time  iguring out how to practice, to be, in a way that balances my effort with ease, not too loose and not too tight, soft and supported, sustainable and workable, wise and compassionate, requiring both doing and not doing.

There’s work that needs to be done, but there’s also the laundry. There was a post recently on Facebook that was a list starting with, “If you’re busy dismantling the patriarchy, you don’t need to know how to fold a fitted sheet.” Its intention was to say that if you are doing important work, that other stuff doesn’t need to be perfect, and yet — that other shit has to get done eventually. We want to be a part of the resistance, but we also need to go to work and it would be nice to do so in a pair of clean underwear. We are constantly negotiating how to balance our effort with ease.

Day of (Un)Rest

#womensmarchonwashington #whyimarch #engagedcitizen

A post shared by Rachel Cole (@rachelwcole) on

 

I didn’t march yesterday. There are all kinds of reasons: my bum knee, as an introvert the thought of all those people in one place terrifies me, and I had mixed emotions about the whole thing, mostly because of what I was hearing women of color say about the participation of white women. For example, (go here to see the whole thread):

mayaangeliqueontwitter

And this,

And this,

I’m still trying to figure out the right way to show up, and marching yesterday just didn’t feel like it was it for me. Although, I did spend way too much time on Facebook yesterday, looking at pictures, reading posts, watching videos, and sharing what seemed important. I’m so grateful for all of the people of color in my Facebook feed, consistently pulling me out of my privilege bubble so I can see things more clearly. I’m also grateful that so many did march, because I think that the number of humans that showed up makes a statement. And yet, I can’t help but worry now that the “fun” part is over many of those same people will go back to their lives and not continue the effort.

It wasn’t that I didn’t do anything yesterday. I signed up to support the continuing good work of the Obamas through their newly formed Obama Foundation. Then I signed up for the monthly “E-Ally Box” from Safety Pin Box, “a monthly subscription box for white ppl striving to be Black Liberation allies via support for Blk Women & completing measurable tasks.” A quote from their welcome packet nails exactly why I signed up, “Understanding and being willing to dismantle whiteness is the only real cornerstone of white ally work.” This opportunity seemed like a really good continuation of the other classes I’ve been taking, 37 Days of Activism, and Hard Conversations: An Introduction to Racism, and Healing from Toxic Whiteness.

Another reason everyone needs to keep showing up: the menu on the left is the While House website issues under Obama, the menu on the right is only a half hour after the inaguration

Another reason everyone needs to keep showing up: the menu on the left is the While House website issues under Obama, the menu on the right is the change that happened only a half hour after the inauguration

And like I said on Facebook yesterday when I shared links to the two new things I’d signed up for, I was not posting (there or here) to congratulate myself or to apologize for being late, but rather in case you want to show up too. I know I’m not the only one trying to figure out how to do that. It’s clear that I have spent a lot of my adult life choosing my own comfort over justice, and I am ready to not do that anymore.

It’s important to note what has actually changed: now I’m ready. Sure, some of the fuel is Trump being elected, but more than that I’m now finally strong enough, confident enough, able to show up, willing to be wounded, able to meet the discomfort with sanity and compassion — most of the time. I was raised, not just by family but also by school and church and culture, to be nice and friendly and compliant and quiet and pleasing to look at. This was what it meant to be a “good girl,” this was how I would earn love and be successful. I’ve spent the last ten years slowly unraveling myself from that. It was really clear the damage it had done to me personally, but I’m only now realizing the bigger issue — me being a “good girl” meant I was not showing up for other people who needed me, needed me to be strong, to stand up and help them.

The other thing I’m still working out is how to be so angry, so upset, but also practice compassion and wisdom.

 

This poster sums it up pretty good. I contemplated it most of the morning, and then I saw this quote from Angel Kyodo Williams, “Anger is capable of pointing us back to love. It arises as a result of an offense to what we love. If we can use anger to reconnect to love, then that anger—the response that we have to injustice, pain, and suffering in the world—can be a generative force rather than a destructive one.”

I still don’t understand how to work with the bullies. I never have, even though it’s been a constant theme in my life. The other day on Facebook, I shared a link, 10 Acts of Resistance on Inauguration Day and Beyond. It’s a list that includes things like help someone, pray, create, rest, and cultivate gratitude. Another friend shared it, and her friend shared it too. Friends of the final person to share skipped past their friend’s post to find my friend’s post, a person who was a stranger to them, and started to bully everyone on the thread, saying protest on that day was childish, a sign of both emotional and mental instability. I posted the definition of an internet troll to be clear what he and his few friends who had followed him where doing — “In Internet slang, a troll is a person who sows discord on the Internet by starting arguments or upsetting people, by posting inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community (such as a newsgroup, forum, chat room, or blog) with the intent of provoking readers into an emotional response or of otherwise disrupting normal, on-topic discussion, often for the troll’s amusement.” My post was met with more harassment, and my friend blocked the people from her page when it became clear they were not at all interested in an actual dialogue.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Justice Community Relations Service "Community Dialogue Guide: Conducting a Discussion on Race"

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Justice Community Relations Service “Community Dialogue Guide: Conducting a Discussion on Race”

Women of color in my Facebook feed keep asking that white women “talk to your people.” The implication is that we can talk to our family and friends and cause some shift, some change. But then I think about people like this man (who is white), and other bullies and racists and such that I’ve known in my lifetime — friends, family, and otherwise — and I don’t see how. I’ve never been able to say a single thing that would change their worldview. A tweet I saw the other day expressed it so perfectly.

whyyoushouldcare

So there it is, kind and gentle reader. The things I am figuring out, what I’m doing, and what still confuses me. As always, I’m open to any suggestion you might have, anything you know that I don’t. May our effort ease suffering, in ourselves and in the world. May we continue to show up, not give up.

Day of Rest

poudreblackriversnowtilopa

The theme this month in the Open Heart Project Sangha is simplicity. The first element of that is to relax — not collapse or give up, but to soften and rest, allow whatever might arise. The second element is three fold: simplify your calendar, simplify your environment, and simplify your mental activity. In terms of that last one, the instruction is to drop the story you are telling yourself about what is happening, drop the story about how you feel, and drop your agenda about how things should go. Just be with what is as it arises, stay open to it, and allow it to dissolve as it goes. This is all really good advice, wisdom that is of course complicated by the current state of things. I sway between hope and fear, knowing that neither one is really workable, neither one is a soft place to land.

I’m trying to keep things simple. At the same time, I’m trying to do more than before. It’s all of value, and this is where I get stuck — if everything I am planning or want is good or even necessary, how do I simplify? What do I clear out? Today it comes up for me this way — I’m trying to take better care of my body this year, part of which requires moving it more. So I move more, but then I’m so tired I also have to rest more, and it takes double the time I expected, and other stuff doesn’t get done. I also want to know more, help more in this “after the election” season, in “the next four years,” so I sign up and volunteer and agree to so much more than I can find the time and energy for. And the only way to access the necessary wisdom to know what to do next, what to let go, where to simplify? Stay still, don’t rush, relax, wait, be patient.

Day of Rest: New Year, 2017

pathwithtext

My guiding word for this year was path. The first time I picked a word, after I’d stopped making resolutions, it was retreat. That was followed by freedom, home, and then nourish. Every time, they never turn out exactly as I expect, end up meaning something other than what I predict.

In those years I did other practices at the end of the year, reflecting and projecting. This year I tried a few. I did both December Reflections and Unravel Your Year with Susannah Conway, but only half-heartedly, completely half-assed. Others I normally do and mostly enjoy I skipped altogether, completely opted out. This is a mix of two things — I’m tired and need to rest almost more than anything, and I feel so utterly IN my experience that being quiet feels more appropriate than answering prompts or making predictions.

This is what this year’s word did for me. It allowed me to sink into my practice, to deepen both my discipline and devotion. It made me kinder to myself, which in turn makes me kinder towards others. It taught me how to stay with my experience, not abandon my discomfort or give up and numb out. It gave me courage, vulnerability, the willingness to be wounded, and confidence in the way Susan Piver describes it, “the willingness to be as ridiculous, luminous, intelligent, and kind as you really are, without embarrassment.” It taught me to be patient, to trust that if I waited I would know what to do. The way I described my word at the start of the year was this:

Path carries with it a sense of devotion — love, loyalty, and enthusiasm. It’s commitment, immersion, dedication, discipline, and joyful effort that springs from a place of love and attention. On a path, there’s a clarity of direction and intention, but also unexpected obstacles and surprising beauty. I show up, open up, stay with what arises without an agenda, thus sinking deeper into my innate wisdom and compassion, experiencing my life more fully. I encounter clarity and simplicity, ease and contentment, stability.

For maybe the first time, what I predicted for my word turned out to be pretty accurate. And now, at the time when normally I’d choose another word, I don’t feel the need to. For a while I toyed with the word “mercy” for 2017, but it didn’t really stick, and I felt particularly unmotivated to find another. Then the other day, I thought to myself (and posted on Facebook), “I think rather than picking a word for the year, I’m going with, ‘I don’t know what’s going to happen.'”

bestnine2016

There’s a website (2016bestnine) that will look at your Instagram account and make a collage of the nine most liked images from your account for 2016. These were mine.

 

Day of Rest

lastbitofgoldI took this picture the day before my birthday last week. It was one of the very last days that any of the trees still had leaves on them, and this one was the last lingering bit of gold in an entire field of otherwise bare trees. It had been one of the last ones to turn color and the morning was windy, so I knew it wouldn’t last long. Something about that was so beautiful, and so sad.

Now it’s winter. The trees are bare and we’ve even had a bit of snow. This is always such a strange season for me, and somehow even stranger this year because it took such a long time to arrive and the world feels so … weird. In winter I feel myself slowing down, but in that shift I also feel so many new ideas and plans bubbling up, the next new year ready to be born. I spent the last few days resting a bit more than usual, after a really busy week (semester, year, life), but today I felt myself turn towards Monday. I finally cleaned off my desk after too much time knowing how badly it needed it, and something about that renewed space, clean and free, felt ready for something to begin.

dreamwithfeathers

Day of Rest

Chicken coop, The Farm, image by my brother

Chicken coop, The Farm, image by my brother

I think I already told you about it, but my friend and teacher Laurie shared a Mary Oliver poem on her blog that I hadn’t heard before, or didn’t remember hearing. It’s such a powerful metaphor for everything I’m feeling, thinking, doing right now, and also everything about where I come from. Then this morning, when I was suggesting to my book club that we change our focus in the next year, I thought of it again, and remembered the picture my brother took of the hen house on my grandma’s farm. The poem is called “Farm Country.”

I have sharpened my knives, I have
Put on the heavy apron.

Maybe you think life is chicken soup, served
In blue willow-pattern bowls.

I have put on my boots and opened
The kitchen door and stepped out

Into the sunshine. I have crossed the lawn.
I have entered

The hen house.

For me, this poem says everything about right now, about the reality of the situation and what has to be done. And there’s something about that little detail, “stepped out into the sunshine” that allows for the tiniest glimmer of faith, trust in the basic goodness of things, knowing that it’s time to get to work and at least for now the sun will keep coming up.