empathy

true

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birthday candles

Fuzzy: What do you think happens when we die?
Willy: We get to have sex again.” -Longtime Companion

at certain intervals recently, i find myself shivering from a seemingly new sense that we are definitely living in a newer era. man buns, social media, selfie sticks, apps,  handcrafting, crowd funding, locally sourced, gmo-free are just a few terms that signal the radical shifts we have made in our daily lives. it as if the american portrait is no longer a rockwell or a remington, but the new american rendering is like a chuck close collage made up of smaller individual pics. i guess you need to zoom-in to be able to see what is at the heart of the story(ies).

close collage

young people (and people in general) especially millennials no longer remain loyal to companies or stay in jobs for decades because there is no sense of security, little hope for a pension, and a large chance of being let go as they age. mergers and acquisitions have created a completely new monopoly board. there have been so many broken deals, cover-ups, and gerrymandering of the system that people are too numb with frustration to bother participating in the political system.

when these random moments that contain a bit of cultural clarity occur, i feel a bit giddy and refreshed as if i had just come up for air after swimming underwater. relieved to breathe again and feeling blessed and hopeful that i am allowed to do yet even more. this is my 6th decade on earth and not only am i amazed that there is more to take in.

i have had another of those moments recently. it’s not a power moment- although it feels powerful- no it’s a humbling experience. i think back to my experiences in say the early 1980’s. at that time i was certain that my bohemian lifestyle and twenty-something world view was uber-insightful and could doubtfully be aced in any way. and then there’s the gift of now which provides me the experience of memory lost and of millennial worldviews that tell a quieter more bittersweet tale of lives and dreams drifting in and out of view.

my blog has always focused on the emotional side of recovery. at first it tried to cultivate the basic  feelings that early sobriety uncovers. this was followed by a more personal journey of emotional sobriety, my own shame and trauma that my younger self masterfully wove into older adult tapestry. now my temple of words remains a small canvas that i splatter, brush, tap, spit, or caress some feelings i have ready on my palette. it is definitely a spiritual practice whose consistent presence has normalized my multi-colored experience.

no no samo samo

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“Perhaps the biggest tragedy of our lives is that freedom is possible, yet we can pass our years trapped in the same old patterns...We may want to love other people without holding back, to feel authentic, to breathe in the beauty around us, to dance and sing. Yet each day we listen to inner voices that keep our life small.”  ― Tara Brach, Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life With the Heart of a Buddha
“Perhaps the biggest tragedy of our lives is that freedom is possible, yet we can pass our years trapped in the same old patterns…We may want to love other people without holding back, to feel authentic, to breathe in the beauty around us, to dance and sing. Yet each day we listen to inner voices that keep our life small.”
― Tara Brach, Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life With the Heart of a Buddha

 

one thing i have come to know closely this last onth is that when i make efforts to change and the universe responds, well then thing are going to be different. damn! it is not easy to be different. it is easier to grow into being different. and of course that’s what happens when we change. we grow. and there is a death. and a dirge. and a birth.

tara branch’s quote is precisely reflecting my conundrum du jour. if i am to change, how best can i do this with true healthy change in view? how can i not make emotional decisions?

 

don’t jump over yourself

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Hope and fear come from feeling that we lack something; they come from a sense of poverty. We can’t simply relax with ourselves. We hold on to hope, and hope robs us of the present moment. We feel that someone else knows what’s going on, but that there’s something missing in us, and therefore something is lacking in our world.
Rather than letting our negativity get the better of us, we could acknowledge that right now we feel like a piece of shit and not be squeamish about taking a good look. That’s the compassionate thing to do. That’s the brave thing to do. We can’t just jump over ourselves as if we were not there. It’s better to take a straight look at all our hopes and fears. Then some kind of confidence in our basic sanity arises.


what a hella week for me. how about you? we were on lock down cuz some ex devotee called in a bomb scare. we had swat teams on several corners with machine guns in tow. add to this the fact that we interface work with many people who have schizophrenia and are paranoid and restless without the presence of ammo. false alarm and no one hurt, however. 
i have been struggling with an acquaintance who probably has dementia and lives on their own. i believe it’s dementia which is caused by their advancing liver disease. i am at once trying to get them to see a doctor or cease their drug use. neither plan is actualizing very easily. and they have now presented with an infection on their leg which encompasses the complete surface from ankle to knee and resembles the  terrain of a red clay volcano with a concave center revealing some bone. 

earlier this week, i helped someone who was struggling with walking, moving hunched over almost in half. they went to their doctor and then referred to another. the term “life-threatening” was strewn about. a coupla days later, they appeared in a too small wheelchair because they were still unable to walk. i gave them the name of an organization that provides free temporary wheelchairs- hoping a better fit could be had. i received a call yesterday from the hospital they had been admitted into. and today i received another more whimpering call today in fear of impending surgery.

a peer to peer recovery group we started last year had it’s 1 year anniversary this week. there was a celebratory pot luck and over 35 persons participated. the participants shared about their success. the core participants in our effort have tripled or more within this year. and the discussion of problems is gently folding into a much more audible conversation about change and possibility. 

there is a sweeping wind of change that is moving through my daily life. it is bending me into an emotional posture resembling munsch’s “screamer” with the skill of rodin. i am playing a part. a part in a much larger story. i don’t know my exact role now, but these dry runs are exhausting. exhausting and exhilarating. there is a deeper dream that is being tapped in me. i am able to discuss some of this with my supervisor with candor. 

i really love this interview with patti smith… give it a listen

Patti Smith: Advice to the young from Louisiana Channel on Vimeo.

smattering

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image credit… pieter heinket


“The teacher who is indeed wise does not bid you to enter the house of wisdom but rather leads you to the threshold of your mind.” — Kahlil Gibran

i have been working as a counselor for a few years now. it is not the samo samo thing at all, really. i mean, most of the people i encounter are stuck somewhere in their lives. many have been stuck for a very long time. what i am learning about my work is that it continues to be more about helping them see that there may be another way, and not necessarily about helping them find it.

in someways, it seems that if they can actually “see” that there is another way, or a way out, they will muster the where-with-all to journey forward and do things a little differently.

but as humans, we are definitely creatures of habit. this being true, we without fail love our own pain and discomfort. if stuck, we have probably been numb to our own pain for some time and have forgotten that it it even hurts. often, not hurting is more frightening than hurting.

it continues to be fascinating to me- this process of education and counsel. there are definitely successes as well as distinctive misses. there is a mosh pit of unclarity sometimes around boundaries, professionalism, and my own human-ness. this doesn’t appear often, but it does appear. people who are in flux or stuck are often rife with drama. and drama is compelling for me. it makes life interesting. it makes the days go by. and i am comfortable with drama, because i grew up with so much near by.

i have let myself forget once or twice that i am on my own journey. those i work with are on a journey, too. part of the work is allowing these two arcs to play themselves out without trying to steer. oh this is without doubt part of the work. 


these days, it is my fashion to discuss the infusion of loving-kindness meditation when working with others. this concept resonates with me because it is frothy with empathy. we breathe in loving kindness for ourselves when we are struggling, and conversely we breathe out loving kindness for the others in the world who are also suffering  as we do. this exercise seems to have the power to remove fear and the “victim” mentality and replace it with inclusion and connected-ness. 


Loving-kindness is a meditation practice, which brings about positive attitudinal changes as it systematically develops the quality of ‘loving-acceptance’. It acts, as it were, as a form of self-psychotherapy, a way of healing the troubled mind to free it from its pain and confusion. Of all Buddhist meditations, loving-kindness has the immediate benefit of sweetening and changing old habituated negative patterns of mind…. reprinted from www.buddhanet.net

“The only reason we don’t open our hearts and minds to other people is that they trigger confusion in us that we don’t feel brave enough or sane enough to deal with. To the degree that we look clearly and compassionately at ourselves, we feel confident and fearless about looking into someone else’s eyes. ”
Pema Chödrön