Boxing Day

                                                                                                                             Photo: Vivian Maier

​Boxing Day is celebrated the day after Christmas in nine countries and recognized in seventeen others. The story goes that Boxing Day originated in England in the Middle Ages. Masters gave Christmas Boxes to their servants the day after Christmas for they, the servants, had worked on Christmas. The servants then went on holiday taking their Boxes to their families. So too, at some point, alms Boxes turned up in local parishes where monies were collected and given to the poor on the day following Christmas. This practice became part of Boxing Day. In our times this day is celebrated by giving gifts to tradesmen, mail carriers, doormen, porters and others in service.

Though my country doesn’t celebrate Boxing Day the gesture and sentiments touch me deeply: An echo of my British ancestry perhaps. In my own life the gifts I give those working in the laundry, in the shoe repair, to the receptionist at the medical office, the checker at the market, and so on always gives me the greatest pleasure and joy—more so than other giving.

In our world those with advantage are borne on the backs of the less advantaged: Those having less expend their energies laboring for and enabling those with more. Lower class youth fight and die in wars benefitting the higher classes. In nature greater trees crowd out lesser ones. And so it goes ad infinitum in all kingdoms: animal, mineral, vegetable and fungi.

Life lives on Life! This is an integral design element of our Cosmos. Experiencing pressures and conflicts are inescapable artifacts of our Being—of living. Our Cosmos is annihilation and creation-based: it expands and contracts: Forces and countervailing forces form our basic Cosmic architecture. We experience the high and low pressures of these forces in a myriad forms constantly: Stress and pressure are inherent in living. Angst and suffering are not.

Angst and suffering issue from us elevating the status and value of one Life form above another—from elevating aspects of ourselves above others. We ourselves create angst and suffering. They are after-market add-ons. They are distinct from Cosmic design. They are a consequence of us failing to see into the Mystery’s realities. Yet nothing is hidden from us. Nothing.

My point is not about out there though. Rather, we’ve judged parts of our own selves as less worthy, less beautiful, less correct or relevant than other parts. We’ve given them the cold shoulder—we’ve tried to annihilate them. Yet we fancy others bits. Judging them better. Worthy. We like these things about ourselves. We expand them all the while forgetting they are borne by the disliked parts doing the heavy lifting.

Some say hierarchy is the problem. To me, hierarchy is structural. Its isn’t the problem. Rather, the rub lies in our failure to Love Life—the Whole of it—within ourselves—and the entirety of it out there. We love only the forces of the lovely. To remove angst and suffering we need also to express the love of kindness, compassion, generosity and graciousness within ourselves, and with others. We need to do so while in the throes of the forces of difficulty.

Our failing to Love comes from our failing to see into the Mystery. Our failing to see comes from failing to Love. A cyclic thing.

Let’s go on! Let’s arrange a belated Boxing Day Christmas Gift Box of Love for those inservice inside ourselves. Let’s interrupt the vicious cycle.

Joy Irrespective

                                                                                                            Photo: Vivian Maier
“I’m happiest when I’m happy.” — Shane Koyczan

As Bert Hellinger ended one of his classes saying “May you know joy irrespective of circumstance.” I wondered how the hell ya do that. Now nearly twenty years later I’m getting purchase on these abilities. There are people who’ve finished their lives—completed their ‘karma’. I’m not one of them: I do my work. I bring what comes. Thus my blogging arc on Happiness and joy.

In this series I’ve riffed on with inherently unstable writings—not for me, but for some there’s dissonance in what I write: I don’t mean not agreeing politically for I don’t give a rip about politics. We know that a state’s policies are insulated from its politics: policies continue on irrespective of who’s in office. We know too that political rhetoric is discordant and distracts us from doing what’s necessary. From seeking contexts from which change arises. Solutions are not in found political action.

The necessary changes we seek are those within ourselves—those urging us to think, feel and act differently. To be aware. Clear. To be relaxed and powerfully resolute while flexing and letting go of what we need leave behind. To go where we must to go. To do what we need to do. To be ourselves irrespective.

Dr. Milton H. Erickson said something to the effect that we need to attend to joy for life brings the other things. Our systems require the buoyancy of joy and happiness. We need to really want this buoyancy. This joy. We’ve become inured to pedestrian existences: We have forgotten to remember that we are the chefs at the French Laundry–yet living out macaroni and cheese lives.

We need to believe Happiness is possible for ourselves. We need to know what to do to capture joy and Happinesses’s attention. We need to understand how to do these things. Experiencing Happiness in our bodies reifies its value, its necessity. Though we have active imaginations susceptible to suggestion, direct sensory experience is called for—of necessity for we are sentient beings.

The cacophony of the world is intensifying, growing louder—becoming more discordant. More than ever we need mental and emotional composure—harmony. Internal consonance. We must sit fully and easily in our bodies while feeling vital, relaxed, peaceful, clear—powerful.

For this we need the leverage of Happiness. We need flirtations of joy and encounters with humor–for in their resonance, they and we, form formable partnerships of equanimity. This is an ‘on the ground’ thing inside ourselves. This is the difference that makes the difference. Nothing changes out there until things change on the inside. This requires disciplined doing. We can’t think our way through and into the leverage necessary to carry us onward in these times.

Want to change the—your—world? There are things to do immediately. Of course we will fail. Failure is but feedback. Discovery lies in here. Make these discoveries. Then do things differently. As these things become practiced pieces of our repertoire Happiness expands enabling us to do more out there—if that’s your bent.

1) Say what you mean.
2) Mean what you say.
3) Do what you say you will do.
4) Say what is so for you, when it is so, without blame or judgement.
5) Do the things you love to do.

“May you know joy irrespective of circumstances.” — Bert Hellinger

Gordian Knot

                                                                                               Photo: Vivian Maier

Power… our misconception of it… humility… our misunderstanding of it… and modesty—false modesty… painting by the numbers… coloring within the lines… following the party-line… believing tall poppies are cut down first… gradations of coercion and associated fears… our intense silent resistances… our pettinesses… emotional protestations… our exuberant concurring opinions… we, ourselves, allowing our attentions to be co-opted by the news—and—us allowing ourselves the folly of swinging between states of lassitude and any- and everything else except that which makes the difference… When is enough enough?

America’s plentitude of shootings are but the ricochet of each of us individually, within ourselves, repeatedly shooting ourselves in our own feet.

What have we done? what are we doing to ourselves in breathing in and out cultural strictures wrought from a worldview born of and borne on grand misunderstanding, ignorance and agendas not our own…

Unwitting adherents we have been to conventions taught by wardens out there possessing religious, philosophical, social and political leverage…Leverage we ourselves surrendered.

Acts of terror out there are but the echo of our internalized wardens executing lock-down orders within.

Does it not seem that humanity’s story of all things no longer serves? Here’s an interruption to the story-line:

There is no I and Thou. There is no we and they, nor us and them. There is no subject/object. There is no God/Creation separation. There was no ‘fall from grace’. We’ve not forgotten what came before nor what follows. Dualism is a concept. An idea. A model expressed in a myriad disciplines and religions traditions. It is itself an agenda driven rational plausibility based on misunderstanding which has no currency beyond a peculiar transient moment in history—one for which we must suspend our disbelief to abide. It is a folly-bound sleight of mouth. It lives on providing illusory benefit to the few while offering others of us the ostensible shelter of our complacency.

Are not the shootings and terror sufficient to fissure the ramparts of our hearts and thus ready ourselves to take the Mystery’s hand?

At what cost is our adherence to our thought wardens and estrangement? Were we honest the answer we must give is “Everything!”

Here’s the “Everything”: Our existential and ontological inheritance is being consorts to the Mystery! Yet we deny ourselves. We falsely believe we are estranged from Her. We are not! We are expressions of the Mystery and possess the requisite capacities to interrelate, dance and co-create each moment of our lives with Her. To create worlds differently than what we’ve known. But we haven’t yet: We remain in the Gordian knot of our individual and collective stories—all the while pretending we have no sword.

​When is enough enough?

Not the Boss of Me

Have you had the delight of witnessing a two year old tell their mother “You’re not the boss of me!”? If so, you are indeed privileged. There is a knowing inside each of us that we are sovereign. Though we are irrevocable members of our ancestries and families of origin—all of our other belongings, e.g., marriages, employments, etc., are voluntary. Though we belong, we remain particular and individual—autonomous. We are neither owned by anyone nor are we another’s possession. We subordinate to no one. No form of life is superior to nor inferior to another. We stand sovereign though there exists ethnic, religious, familial, commercial, national and personal mores bent on telling us differently. Bent on treating us as subjects. And, we’ve internalized their stories.

Though we’re distant from this deepest knowing, no one is the boss of us. This reality and our knowing of it predates our upbringings and the training we’ve undergone in the world’s paradoxical hopes of getting us to forget what we know. To forget what and who we are. In our forgetting we rally-on, oblivious and unawares being good representatives and good embodiments of our learned stories—believing that the identities others have ascribed, or those we’ve made for ourselves, are actually who we are. They are not. Inasmuch, we falsely believe we know ourselves. The majority of us do not know who or what we are—nor do most of us believing that we know, actually know! This is spoiler alert #1.

The thing is we cannot know ourselves. We are an expression of the unknowable Mystery. Yet we can adjust our thinking, actions and expressive motion for our lives to become increasingly more resonant and reflective of the numinous Beings—the drops of the Mystery’s Universal Intelligence that we are. Paradoxically, we do this by learning what we can of ourselves through our direct sensory experience…and by being changed in the process.

In recent posts I’ve pointed to the non-negotiable geographies of ourselves and the importance of identifying and defending them. Like it or not, we are most aware of our non-negotiable areas when they’ve been breached. In such moments, we so want a good life for ourselves and feel most distant from it. Whether we use these words or not, we want a relaxed equanimity for ourselves—a safe, responsive, vitally alive and creatively expressive peacefulness within our skin—a good life.

Nowadays our world’s hegemony does little to mask the horrors it perpetrates in service to its ends. We do not go a day without seeing and hearing reports of terrorizing circumstances that others experience. Many of us fear such visitations.

Spoiler alert #2: The greatest perpetration of terror is not taking place out there in the world’s lovely cities nor in the geopolitically interesting corners of our world—Rather—the greatest terror is being perpetrated within ourselves by ourselves and is being rained down upon ourselves in each and every moment that we deny and refuse to be ourselves—in each and every moment that we deny and refuse to creatively express the promises we are here to fulfill—in each and every moment we that we deny and refuse to think and act graciously, kindly, compassionately and generously—and in each and every moment that we deny and refuse to claim our prodigious personal power—and every time we refuse to claim and defend what is non-negotiable within ourselves.

Letting go is itself a great power. It is time now, to acquire this power: It is right now, to let go of the personal arrogance of us thinking that we are small and inconsequential; to let go of arrogantly buoying the falsity of low self-esteem and self-worth; to let go of arrogantly denying our individual dignity, innocence, beauty, creative capacities and our robust strengths and power—and our capacities for clarity———and, for refusing to claim our unflinching capacities to Love.

I write not of politics but rather of Love. Happiness need no longer elude us. Claiming our personal power is a one of our happiness makers.

Know Thyself

                                                                                                              Photo: Vivian Maier Collection

​“Know thyself” is the most famous utterance of Priestess Pythia, the Oracle of Delphi. When the old Greeks got overly wrought in the morass of their thoughts clarity was difficult to achieve. Voila`! the Priestess saves the day for she liaised with the Mystery and was damned good at it.

​Pythia spoke the languages of the Goddesses, Gods and mortals of course. Her role was clear: to provide a human voice—a native tongue articulation to better enable the Mystery to capture human attention, engagement and creative self-expression. Though we are absent Pythia’s oracular voice today, the Mystery is still bent on garnering our attentions. As the great Irish poet philosopher John O’Donohue said “The Mystery won’t leave us alone.” Her intent is compliance: Ours. We are to fulfill the promises of our lives for Life requires an exchange. We’re to render our part in our own sovereign ways of course. The Mystery is persistent. But she won’t beg. Ante your part or live the consequences of an unfulfilled existence. Curiously, the majority remains oblivious to her. Nonetheless…

Whether we’re responsive to her Her or not, deep down we know we are well served to acquire self knowledge: part of this is identifying the topographies of ourselves— that ground within us that the forces of the Mystery have crafted and rendered non-negotiable. Sovereign. Inviolate. “Keep your hands off buddy! You won’t talk to me this way!” And get this: we, ourselves, did not choose which parts of us are not to be trespassed, sullied or messed with. We did not choose which lines in the sands of ourselves are not to be crossed. Its a “we were born this way thing”. The forces of the Mystery marked us, as all Life, as sacred.

One of our life tasks is to identify our non-negotiable ground. Then we are to defend these with Grace—and if necessary, with all requisite fierceness—but only this. There is to be no unnecessary force. Do no unnecessary harm. Do not be polite. Do not be rude. Stand in the Grace of your personal power and tend to your sovereign integrity. Its not a good/bad, right/wrong thing. Rather, there are actions and behaviors that are a fit for us and those that are not. Some people are a fit, some not.

Once we’ve identified our inviolate areas—those requiring our relaxed vigilant attention—we become clear on sentiments and actions expressed by others—on areas of our common ground—which, though ungracious, we can let slide. Let go of. Ignore. Drop. Turn the other cheek. For that other person needs in these moments your graciousness. Your kindness. Your generosity. Your compassion.

Typically we are unaware of our non-negotiable terrain. So too we are ignorant of the places where we can be honestly gracious and caring. Too often our non-negotiable aspects enter our awareness as they are being, or just after having been violated. Then, because we’ve been brought up to be nice we say nothing. Its only later, long after the sovereign territories of ourselves have been breached, overrun and occupied—long after being beleaguered and besieged—long after we’ve sheltered ourselves in our ostensible comfort zones which are too small for us—we yet say nothing. For we are inured to the ongoing battering of the rams on our facades.

Worry not. Should we not take well care. For in the Mystery’s largesse She ups Her ante rendering larger and larger breaches until we redeploy our attentions and take necessary action—those of preserving and restoring the vestiges of our shattered integrities.

More in my next post.

What are your non-negotiables?

What internal resources do you need to enforce them?

The Non-Negotiable

                                                                                                              Photo: “Hands” by Vivian Maier

​I sometimes wonder whether impediments to being ourselves, creative self-expression and choosing happiness ensue from our forgetting to identify and defend those terms of their lives that are non-negotiable, or should be: areas against which pop psychology informs that we must have boundaries and enforce them. Take for example a child speaking abusively to her or his parent: The parent need respond something to the effect: “Enough!! I love you!, and you will never speak to me in this manner again! Ever! Do you understand me? Never!

Saying these things are most effective when the parent is strong, and her or his voice and body language match the volume and intensity of the child’s speech, without the parent, her- or himself, being angry. Yet saying these things is a must. She or he need then enforce future breaches by imposing sanctions that are meaningful to the child. We need be loving, yet firm and fair in our resolve to honor ourselves and be treated properly. This is about self-love!

It is our own individual responsibility to monitor how others treat us. Each of us are autonomous and sovereign beings whether we appreciate this or not–whether our cultural mores reflect this. In the absence of us defending what we deem as non-negotiable, the defending of our dignity, and ensuring that we are treated respectfully, we are, in effect, endorsing, underwriting and normalizing the untenable diminishment of ourselves and our lives. We are then complicit in undermining our integrity and dashing the promise of being ourselves. In this we lower the probabilities of fulfilling the promise of our creative self-expression. We prevent ourselves from having a good life.

I’m a proponent of human decency—of being gracious, compassionate, kind and generous. Expressing these things gives rise to more ease and effectiveness in navigating life’s currents: they reflect our essential ennobling spiritual natures. We need be genuine in this—honest, aligned, congruent—or we are indecent—doing unnecessary harm to ourselves and others.

Pretense is trite and cheap. Graciousness, compassion, kindness, and being generous are not forms of politenesses. Rather, they are expressions of love. Politeness itself is an affront. An obscene one—sullying everyone. We see through such ruses though we pretend otherwise. Politeness never masks indifference, upset or other agendas.

I invite you to deplore and eschew rudeness too. Yet standing up for ourselves is never rude! Standing up for ourselves is imperative—without it no self remains. Standing up for ourselves by honoring what is non-negotiable for us—this is essential to our wholeness, our wellness. Attending to the stature of our dignity is our responsibility alone.

Of course be gracious to the fullest extent possible yet never at the expense of our own self-respect and personal dignity. There are times when the most decent and respectful thing we can do is clearly and powerfully interrupt and stop another when their speech or actions diminish, denigrate or demean us. Some circumstances warrant an unambiguous emphatic “Fuck you!” punctuated by walking away! And staying away if necessary. A “Fuck you” can be literally or metaphorically delivered depending on need. Yet avoid unnecessary harm at all costs.

Proviso: Our intent needs to be clear within ourselves: we are saying these strong things to disrupt and stop another’s unwanted and untoward behavior; it is neither our place nor role to diminish another person. We are to stop their behavior toward us! Nothing more. Nothing less. If our intent is aligned the other can hear and receive our message. If our intent is to indict, punish and diminish the person we only worsen our circumstance and their’s. We must clearly know our intent as it is the difference that makes the difference.

Wisdom holds “If you step on my tail, I will bite you.” Our job is to be powerful, strong and loving in our autonomous sovereignty as we relate well with others.

Caveat: It’s bad form to say “Fuck you” to a spouse or lover, close friend or colleague unless we require an inordinate amount of leverage to get ourselves to leave the relationship. Never harm unnecessarily.

More on this topic in my next post.

What are your non-negotiables?

Polarities 

“Take your well-disciplined strengths, stretch them between the two great opposing poles,
because inside human beings is where God learns.”
— Rainer Maria Rilke

My earlier postings in 2015 revolve round the promises of being ourselves, creative self-expression, and choosing happiness. This post continues that arc.

I began my first draft of this post with this paragraph: “Fear has been the greatest impediment in my life. I don’t mean the life and death fears nor putting myself in harms’ way to assist others…that’s been easy enough. I mean the other ones…those niggling little fears borne on shame…those potent diminishing little phrases orbiting self-doubt that I overhear in my self-talk—and all the rules I follow—rules that aren’t even mine: the can’ts, shoulds, ought tos, the nevers, the what’ll they thinks?, what’ll this mean or say about me?, and so forth and so on.”

Being faithful to petty fears and rules erodes the lovely contours and great powers of ourselves. Failing to let go of such fears and rules are evidences of our having yet to choose to Love completely. And, they evince that we’ve opted to be adherents to knowledge and understanding rather than Intelligence/Wisdom. I contend Love and Intelligence and Wisdom are synonymous terms. Love/Intelligence/Wisdom do not originate in the precincts of the our personalities and psychologies.

Rather, these forces belong to the non-ordinary realities of the Mystery—those beyond mind and body. Everyone is born connected to them—the central organizing force of the Cosmos. One of the many consequences of experiencing trauma when young is our becoming disconnected from this central organizing force. Unless and until connected again we are significantly constrained by our stories and circumstances of ancestors, cultures, pasts—and by our thinking and imaginations–fears and shame. In this we are orbiting but one of the great opposing poles, the personality left to its own devices, and thus hugely limited—yet thinking we know and understand.

We do not reconnect to the central organizing force of the Cosmos via intellect/thought/mind/imagination. Rather, it initiates invitations for our reconnection via our physical bodies’ sensory systems—ordinary and non-ordinary—our direct experience—not our psychological experience. Most of us do not detect the Mystery’s overtures as we are much too engaged and entangled with thought and imagination.

Becoming Wisdom’s Consort means hooking up with Rilke’s other opposing pole–Love/Intelligence/Wisdom. In stretching our well disciplined strengths between these poles…might Rilke be suggesting that we open to Love and Intelligence and Wisdom? Those forces beyond intellect/knowledge/imagination? Those we sense rather than think or imagine? Is he suggesting that knowledge and understanding remain impoverished absent our connection to Love/Intelligence/Wisdom? Is he inviting us to experience each pole?

In our efforts to navigate each pole and the spaces between are we not changed, expanded? Better enabled to be ourselves and creatively express ourselves? …Oh one more thing: Wisdom holds that Intelligence is the effortless absorption of apparent contradictions. This too is Love! This too is Wisdom. Only at Wisdom’s pole can we get our head around this.

Happiness

“Ever since happiness heard your name, its been running through the streets trying to find you.” Isn’t there something simply right about this line from Hafiz?

I’m curious: How can I become visible to happiness? What can I do? Do I go where many streets intersect? Are there specific boulevards I might walk? Do I don bright colors and climb atop the fountain in the Central Plaza and wait happiness’s arrival?

I read part of The Art of Happiness some years ago…however happiness did not find me in its text. I remember wondering “What now?”

Happiness did find me when I saw a video of Viktor Frankl saying the Americans have it wrong in their Declaration of Independence. “…Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness…” Frankl said happiness ensues. It cannot be pursued. Happiness ensues from doing other things, specifically from valuing and choosing to live creatively; by directly experiencing life; and by intentionally choosing life-affirming attitudes. Here’s more:

• Creativity:
We need not paint nor write unless we feel their pull. Creativity occurs naturally while being ourselves—in doing the things we love in our own unique ways. This is creativity. We can do this at work or home and in all parts of our daily lives: how we cook, garden, parent, sing in the shower, dance, whether anyone sees or not…how we talk with colleagues, and so on. And of course, if the arts call or tug on us, yes, we must muster our courage, make the time and do these things. We must say “Yes!”.

• Direct experience:
This is saying “Yes” to our lives and giving ourselves over to our sentience (with our five senses) directly experiencing the richness of our lives: Experiencing the beauty of the foods we eat, the arts, nature, and other people. These are the true pleasures of life from which happiness ensues. Unlike James Joyce’s short story protagonist, Mr. Duffy, in A Painful Case, “who lived a short distance from his body…” we need return home to our physical body and again experience what life brings. Roses have thorns yet this is no reason to avoid the loveliness of their fragrance, color and corolla.

• Life-affirming attitudes:
We are capable of choosing our mental emotional states, our states of being, and our presences (attitudes). We do this by being consciously aware moment to moment where we place our attention. Keeping our attentions on what affirms life, on what is expansive, and lovely (what we can say yes to) in any and all situations. This is what keeps our attitudes buoyant, light and in motion. From these choices we enter our heartedness—whole, kind, strong, and open. This is the heart from which the qualities of character of our human decency flow—so too our happiness. In these states our thinking and actions most closely reflect the staggeringly profound beauty of the Beings we are. Happiness finds us here.

On the streets of our creativity…on the streets of directly experiencing our sentience…and on the streets of life-affirming attitudes—this is where happiness finds us.

Wholeheartedness and the World Out There

                                                                                                                                                        *                                                                                                                                                              “Change in society is of secondary importance; that will come about naturally, inevitably, when you as a human being bring about change in yourself.” – Jiddu Krishnamurti

Are you strong-hearted? Can you be gracious with yourself if not?

Are you wholehearted? Can you be generous with yourself if not?

Are you open-hearted? Can you be compassionate with yourself if not?

Are you kindhearted? Can you be kind with yourself if not?

If you are not these things with yourself, you are not these things with others. If you are weak-hearted, half-hearted, closed-hearted, or mean-spirited, let these habits go.

Knowledge tells us that for person to be alive, pulse, respiration, consumption and waste are required. If not these, no life.

Wisdom teaches that life is creativity—gradations of creativity. The more creativity you express, the more alive you are. If you are not creating, you are dead—whether you think otherwise or not.

Creativity requires strong-, whole-, open-, and kindheartedness, though you may believe you have evidence to the contrary.

Attending to the world out there is distraction until you properly attend to things within. Give yourself over to processes bringing about your graciousness, your generosity, your compassion and your kindness.

Article & image:
http://www.thisiscolossal.com/2013/02/impressive-chalk-portrait-drawn-on-the-streets-of-paris-by-horocue/ 
Impressive Chalk Portrait Drawn on the Streets of Paris by François Pelletier by Christopher Jobson 

Human Canvas

                                                                                          

                                                                                         Dane at Le Moulin de la Galette, Renoir, 1876
Capturing on the canvas 
of our soul
          our life task
     —some say.

The Maestro 
bequeathing each  
its pentimento
          traces of our Being
      —some say.

Residing 
concealed 
          concealed
‘neath myriad 
     brushstrokes 
–textures– of
culture
     ancestry 
          family
               personhood 
     —some say.

Paints of adaptation…
     elegant 
          coarse
—some say.

Capture this
          this 
     your essence 
—some say.

© 2015 Stephen Victor