Friday, February 25, 2011

Anything Is Possible

One time a friend of a friend asked me to sum up my beliefs. He had one very succinct sentence for the core of what he believed about the universe.  It was "Energy changes."  (He was into some kind of chaos magic.)  He was trying to understand my worldview and spiritual beliefs, and so he was wanting me to give him a similar kind of summary.

I was very reluctant to do so, because there's kind of nothing at the core of my beliefs.  What I finally came up with was this:

Anything is possible.

But of course, for this sentence to be true, it must contain the possibility that it's false.

So that's what I said, "I believe anything is possible, but that means it's also possible that I'm wrong."

I still like this statement as an attempt to summarize my beliefs about everything.

(Just as an aside, he did not like this statement, nor have most of the people I have shared it with.)

I do not believe in any kind of objective reality.

Everything humans know about the universe is filtered through our little bodies and minds, which have so much going on in them, it seems to me there is no possibility for objectivity.

If perhaps there is some kind of Divinity with a consciousness, then perhaps it could have an objective view of reality.  But that seems like such a narrow kind of Divinity to me.

I kind of believe that people's beliefs is what makes things true for them.  I don't believe in Truth.  (That is, Capitalized Truth.)  But then that can get pretty complicated.  It's hard to really break it down.

I believe that anything anyone believes has some kind of validity, simply because they believe it.  Now I also believe that we are in a vaguely shared reality on this planet that makes certain beliefs inappropriate, but I absolutely do not think that "reality" is certain or objective.  There's no way to truly say what is so.  I can not absolutely know anything.

I believe this shared reality we are in tends to value love a great deal, something I value as well.  I also value respect and tolerance a whole lot, too.

So whatever you believe, whether you believe in Jesus, Shiva, Diana, God, gods, goddesses, the Tao, Spirit, lifeforce, science, nothing at all, and/or something else entirely, it's all fine with me so long as you strive to be respectful, tolerant, and loving, as well.  

And sometimes I feel sorry for the people who are disrespectful, intolerant, and unloving, that they don't have a place to exist where those things are valued.  I certainly don't think there's anything objectively wrong with those things (because nothing is objectively wrong) but they are anti-social qualities, for the most part.

I think generally we look for objectivity as a way to explain and understand things.  I don't think the universe makes sense.  I don't think it needs to make sense. I take delight in it not making sense.

Now I don't go through my daily life questioning every single thing, in some kind of "Hey nothing is real!" fit.  That's just not really practical.

I do actually have some more specific personal spiritual beliefs, which perhaps I'll attempt to go into in another post, but I say "attempt" because they're not super clear and they can change a lot.

This is all rather difficult for me to write about, because it is slippery and strange.  But I embrace the contradictions and confusion of my own beliefs and of the whole world!  Anything is possible!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

A Milkshake and Pizza Epiphany

So there's this awesome book called Women Food and God.  It's by this awesome woman Geneen Roth, who's written a ton of books on food and eating, most famously When Food Is Love, which I believe is about eating disorders and is considered an important work on the subject.

Her basic stance on eating is that to be healthy and your proper weight etc, you should eat exactly what your body wants.  BUT there are "guidelines" for eating, which boil down to being extremely mindful while you are eating.

I have finally realized that this is what I need to do.  And after a lifetime of not being especially mindful, it's much harder than I expected.

I've been letting myself eat "what I want" the last month (and attempting to do it without guilt), and yes, I've gained back a couple pounds.  I've been trying to keep in mind that an adjustment/learning period is normal, but I was starting to question if this did make sense for me.

Until this afternoon.

I decided for lunch I would have a milkshake and leftover pizza.  Not healthy, but it sounded delicious.

I ate through half of my milkshake quickly, enjoying it certainly, but not really focused on it.  And eating in that kind of way like this might be the last milkshake I'll ever get to have in my life.  Creating strict rules for yourself about what you're "allowed" to eat because otherwise you're a bad person will do that to you.

Then I stopped and looked at it.  I realized I could eat it a lot more slowly, and really pay attention to the experience of the milkshake.

And it was so difficult and foreign. Something about just the idea made me feel threatened.

I realized I have a concept in my head that "milkshake=delicious" and I was so caught up in that, that I didn't really know what I was experiencing.

So I ate a few more spoonfuls, slowly.  The consistency was oddly sticky gooey.  And it had a sickly sweet aftertaste that I was not enjoying but rather overcoming.  I poured the rest down the sink.

Then my pizza.  Even before I started eating, I got a kind of uh-oh feeling.

I don't think I actually liked that pizza much at all, and I know my belly didn't really like it.

And yet, somehow the very notion that maybe I don't actually like pizza was totally threatening to my whole way of life.

Like, dear god, if I don't like pizza, what else don't I actually like?  What else have I talked myself into?  What else have I made wonderful in my head, without really seeing the reality of it?

Somehow just focusing on my experience of pizza with my full attention made me realize that I really ought to be giving the same level of focus on everything in my life.  And I might find some surprising things.

Part of me was in such denial that this was even happening, I ate the whole piece.

In that awesome book I mentioned above, Geneen Roth says: "Our relationship to food is an exact microcosm of our relationship to life itself.  I believe we are walking, talking expressions of our deepest convictions; everything we believe about love, fear, transformation and God is revealed in how, when and what we eat."

I think she's right.

Here are her Eating Guidelines, which I intend to follow a lot more closely now.

1. Eat when you are hungry.
2. Eat sitting down in a calm environment.  This does not include the car.
3. Eat without distractions.  Distractions include radio, television, newspapers, books, intense or anxiety-producing conversations, or music.
4. Eat what your body wants.
5. Eat until you are satisfied.
6. Eat (with the intention of being) in full view of others.
7. Eat with enjoyment, gusto, and pleasure.

Here's to waking up.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Defining Spiritual

I spend a lot of time thinking about spiritual things.  I consider myself a very spiritual person.  I long for more time for Spirit work.

I am not religious.  I was not brought up with any religion.  I was only briefly ever part of a religion, for a couple years when I was in high school and college.  I attended a Unitarian Universalist church in Houston.

A lot of people like to describe themselves as, "spiritual, but not religious."  Myself included.

Recently I've been pondering those terms.  What do they actually mean?

Before I go look them up on, I want to attempt to write out my own personal definitions.

Defining "religious" seems easy to me.  Being religious means participating in a particular spiritual path and/or community, which includes certain common beliefs and practices.

But the concept of "spiritual" seems much more vague.  It's the word "spirit," I think.

I would say that being spiritual means having a relationship with Spirit or Divinity or God or The Universe or Whatever Word You Prefer To Capitalize.

And frankly, that could mean all kinds of things.  It's very personal and subjective.

And I think that's what at the heart of people wanting to distance themselves from the word "religion."  They don't want to follow any prescribed path.  They want to discover and create and follow their own path.

To go farther into defining the word spiritual, I'd have to further define that Capitalized Word.  And that's hard.  I mean, that's part of the point of a lot of those religions, right?

I think the most general definition I can come up with is that Capitalized Word is something greater than one's human self.

And from that perspective, even an atheist could be spiritual.  I think it depends on what exactly a person does and does not believe in.

(And as Joel Fleischmann (the main character on my favorite TV show, Northern Exposure) once said, "I've always kind of admired atheists.  I think it takes a lot of faith.")

So to sum up my definition, being spiritual means having a relationship with something greater than one's human self.

Out of curiosity, I checked just now.  "Religious" takes you to "religion," and it's pretty much what I expected.  "Spiritual" takes you to "spirit," and I find that to be a pretty delightful list of things.  What a very difficult concept to define.

Now, I haven't even begun talking about my personal definition of Spirit or Capitalized Etc.  Another post some time.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Byron Katie and The Work

I am fortunate enough to have just seen Byron Katie in person.  I'm all excited now, and this will probably not turn out super organized, and I'm sure there will be more tomorrow as well, but I've got to get some of this out now.

So Byron Katie is this amazing woman who came up with what she calls The Work.  I like the summary on her website a lot:
"The Work of Byron Katie is a way of identifying and questioning the thoughts that cause all the fear and suffering in the world. Experience the happiness of undoing those thoughts through The Work, and allow your mind to return to its true, awakened, peaceful, creative nature."
To summarize what you do:  You think of a stressful situation, and it's easiest to use a situation where you're upset with another person.  Then you write down all your thoughts and feelings you're having about this person.  (There's a great worksheet that she tells you to use, and after a year of not really using the worksheet until tonight, I have to say: use the worksheet.)

Then you take each thought you wrote down and examine it.  You ask four questions about it:
1. Is it true?
2. Can I absolutely know that it's true?
3. How do I react when I believe that thought?
4. Who would I be without the thought?

Then you do the "turnaround."  If your thought was "He doesn't respect me," there are three turnarounds.  I don't respect me.  I don't respect him.  He does respect me.  Then think of three specific examples of how those statements could be true.

So through Inquiry (the other thing she calls The Work), you examine your thoughts and realize that your thoughts are your problems, not whatever or whoever you think your problem is.

You know, it's all that mind stuff.  Your mind trying to make itself real, ego attachment, all that sort of thing.

You will also realize startling things about yourself.  You know the whole thing about if you dislike something in someone it's because you dislike it in yourself?  Yeah, that's the sort of thing you'll get here, only more so.

She dialogued tonight with a man who was so distraught about his relationship with his son, that he'd driven straight from Illinois to see her.  His main belief that they examined was that his son disrespects him.  By the end of it he'd come to see not only how much he has been disrespectful towards his son, but also towards himself.  As Katie says, he owes his son and himself many apologies.

Quoting her: "If I am disrespectful, I see my children as disrespectful."

And then I love what the man suddenly realized: "Everything is me!"  The audience laughed loudly and applauded.

Your son or your wife or your mother is not your problem; YOU are your problem.

Something I started to grok tonight is that I can do The Work on almost any situation with any person I find stressful, and because "everything is me," I will get to some real truths about myself that are applicable to every situation, because, of course, everything is me.

Another quote from her: "If you say, 'I love you,' it's about you, not me."

So we have these beliefs and thoughts, and our minds work so hard to stay in control of us.  The mind creates its own reality to prove itself right.  It will come up with all kinds of evidence to maintain those thoughts and beliefs.

One of my favorite things she said tonight: "All suffering is a projection of mind."   YES.

Katie herself is so warm and loving and friendly and funny.  There is so much laughter throughout the event.  She herself just kind of glows.

We all recognize the absurdity of the thoughts (and we've all had versions of them, as she says, "There are no new thoughts.") and how can you not laugh?  I find it a relief to laugh at myself like that.

I love her reminders that you are lovable and worthy.  We are as kind as we know how to be.  We are 100% innocent, we're just believing our thoughts.

Tonight she also worked with a woman diagnosed with a fatal disease (Katie: "Everyone has a fatal disease.  Life is a fatal disease.) who is, understandably, struggling with her diagnosis and illness.  At first, the woman seemed kind of grim, and I could tell she wasn't really getting it.

Her first thought they examined was "The disease is killing me."  They worked through the four questions, and the woman was answering and going along, but still didn't seem to fully get it. She did realize that the movies she played in her head about her future suffering were what was causing her to suffer right now, not actually the disease.

Then they got to the turnaround, and she said "I'm killing me.  I'm the problem."  And smiled.  She GOT it.  The audience totally broke out in applause.  It was so moving and beautiful to see someone get it and light up like that.

And then, the part that blew my mind, was the turnaround "I'm killing the disease."  Katie said, "Doesn't everything have a right to live?  If you're going to have unconditional love, that means everything.  Saying 'I love everything, except that,' is not unconditional."


Now, I recognize that not everyone views the Universe this way, and that's fine, but I totally do, and yet I had never thought of this before.  I work on love for everybody but not everything.  Totally eye opening.

Whew.  That was just 3 hours tonight.  Tomorrow there's 6 more.  I can't wait.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Fun and Play for All!

Jago turned 5 on Saturday, and we had a party.

Much like his other birthdays, I invited his class at school, our friends with kids, as well as a fair number of our childless friends.  I invite people that Husband and I are close to, with a special emphasis on people that Jago actually knows.

Now Jago's first two birthdays were packed, and that was before he was even at school, but in both those cases he was kind of one of the first babies in our community baby boom, so I feel like people were still kind of checking out this whole kid thing.

His 3rd and 4th birthdays were almost entirely school friends, which was fine.  He had a great time, and certainly that matters most, though I felt a touch sad to not see more of our friends participating in my family's milestones.

Miela's 1st birthday had about 5 adults and only one kid guest.  And I must admit that did make me sad.  She certainly had a delightful time, but I started really strongly recognizing there's this thing that a lot of people don't seem to get, and here's the point of my post.

It is possible for an event to be fun for kids, fun for parents, and fun for childless adults, all at the same time.

I'm even going to say I think it's WONDERFUL when an event has these qualities.

I feel like a lot of adults make this big separation in their heads between kid stuff and adult stuff.  I feel like there's some notion that for adults to have a fun time there need to be opportunities for intoxication and bawdyness, and I think that's a shame.

Certainly I have enjoyed those adult aspects of parties before, but sometimes when I watch other people I feel like they're engaging in those things more because they're trying to prove that they're adults, rather than because they are genuinely having fun doing them.

One of my favorite things about Flipside and Burning Man is how much there is room for all kinds of fun.  There's plenty of so-called adult fun going on, but you'll often see children running around enjoying the weird just as much.

One of my favorite Burning Man images is from the year we were camped next to the kid village.  At the center of it was a giant trampoline, and every time I looked over there, I'd see kids bouncing up and down in their fairy wings and capes, the same gnarled hair full of playa dust like the adults had, and they were just having the time of their lives at this big place to play.

And see, that's my favorite thing about these Burn events: it gives adults an environment to play in.

One of my favorite Flipside memories is this past year's massive snowball fight on the field.  Or another great one was when the Beer and Darts crew invaded Ish, and it turned into a kind of ridiculous mock battle.

Adults remembering how to play is YES.  I do not think there is enough play in the world.

So back to Jago's party on Saturday.  Completely unexpectedly to me, a ton of our childless friends showed up.  It was a bit overwhelming, but such a delightful surprise.

There were adults gabbing away in the kitchen, adults playing with kids in the living room, and the roving band of miniature superheros battling in the backyard.  Adults talking outside, adults being silly in the dining room, children playing with balls and frisbees with various grownups.  A whole lot of wonderful.

And if you ask me, all of that is real community building.  I think one of the best things about being part of a community is having a place where you feel safe to play.

Certainly having people to call on in times of need or when there's work to be done is an awesome thing.

But mostly I just want my tribe to play with.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Passion and Delight

Why passion and delight?

Those two words carry great meaning for me.  Those concepts are of great significance and importance.

First there was delight.

Somewhere along the way, I realized that delight is my word.  When it finally sunk in was reading Eat, Pray, Love where she talks about different cities having words and then each person having a word, and these words sort of define or sum up the person or city or whatever.  Your word is at your core, in a sense.

Delight is my word, and more than that, it is my purpose.

For my feng shui training long ago, I had to come up with my life's purpose.  In true Emerald style, mine was long and complex.  But it felt like the right thing at the time.

But then later I did some important work with a group of women where we were working on identifying our stories, letting go of what we didn't want, and creating new stories for ourselves.  It was during this work that a new purpose came to me:

I [verb] delight.

The verb can be lots of different things.

I facilitate delight.
I inspire delight.
I share delight.
I spread delight.
I scatter delight.
I cultivate delight.
I find delight.
I give delight.
I embody delight.
I am delight.

Later came the passion epiphany.

I was pondering what is most important to me in the way I live my life, and what I'd want to be known for.

The word passion emerged.

This is the large concept of being passionate.  I strongly value passion for one's work or art or cause or family.  I greatly admire passionate people, those who live passionately.  I have a sense that someone who is living passionately is living a larger life.

For a long time now I feel I've been suppressing a lot of my true passionate nature, because it often makes me feel vulnerable to share it.  I watered it down, calling myself enthusiastic, because that sounds safer and less intense.  But now I understand it's like I've been sanding off the vibrant edge of life.

So now I strive to live both of these words in every moment, or really, to get out of my own way and let them emerge.

I have titled this blog Passion & Delight as a reminder to myself of what matters to me in my heart and soul.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011


What is enlightenment exactly?

I've been pondering that question a long time.

Here's some of what I know.

Enlightenment does not mean now everything is perfect and tidy and you are all done.

Enlightenment can happen again and again.  We need reminders.  And, there are always new lessons, or at least new flavors to the old lessons.

I feel like I can finally call myself enlightened, but I know there will still be unenlightened times.

I will still have times when I am impatient and I scream at the children, when I am judgmental and fight with my husband, when I say mean things to myself and eat too much ice cream.  I will still have days where I feel sad, angry, lonely, insecure, anxious, depressed, and just plain bad.

A person who is very physically healthy can still get sick or injured.  But if they have that baseline health and strong immune system, that means they can recover and heal that much more quickly and easily.

That's what I think enlightenment is truly about.  It's having a solid center that you can easily find your way back to.

There will always be new stuff thrown at you to deal with, and everyone goes through natural cycles of equilibrium and disequilibrium.  That's all part of being human.

Getting yourself to a place where that little light of yours always shines somewhere, at least a little bit, enough to guide you back out, that seems like enlightenment to me.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Speak Your Mind

About 12 years ago I came across a bumper sticker that so resonated with me, I actually bought it:

"Speak your mind, even if your voice shakes." -Maggie Kuhn

Except then I felt like if I actually put it on something--like for instance, my bumper--I would draw too much attention to myself, possibly it would lead to some kind of conflict, and it was just generally sticking my neck out more than I was comfortable with.

Irony, anyone?

All the time these days, I think of things that I want to share with people. Information, opinions, my views on life, or sometimes just things I think are cool.

And yet much of the time, I don't share them.  For the same reasons I've yet to put that sticker on my car.  (Also though, because it's been hard to find the time.)

But "speak your mind" is a sentiment I truly believe in.  And I've decided I'm done being scared of unreal things.  I'm done letting my little lizard brain make my decisions for me.

And so I have challenged myself to start this blog and make a post in it at least once a week.

I would like it very much if you choose to read it, because sharing requires more than just me.