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Held in Suspension

I am obsessed with progress and growth. I want to do and to achieve all the time. One of my worst fears is getting stuck, of being trapped. It should come as no surprise then I’m claustrophobic and freak out in large crowds when I can’t move as freely as I’d like. It’s not only an external fear, but an internal one.

The thing about my health is I feel stuck. There are many things I cannot do right now. As I’ve written about previously, my dreams are on hold and that suuuuuucks.

I called a friend this week to share my fears with him, and instead of dissuading me from my current perspective, he told me he’s been meditating on the tarot card the hanged man. Some would view the image of a hanged man as violent, something to fear and avoid. My friend however said he views the hanged man as being suspended instead of hanged. Of being still, in a pause, held. And perhaps the same applies to my life right now. That I don’t have to do anything, and instead of fighting the stuckness, I can enjoy the sense of ease that can arise because it’s a moment in time when the divine is holding the rope and keeping me in place. Instead of stuck, I’m held in suspension.

Been meditating on the hanged man. Perhaps he’s only suspended.

I like thinking of it in that way and also I’m reminded there’s more here. It’s important for me to relax while I’m suspended, to embrace the inactive part of me.

In my spiritual philosophy, there are three binding forces in the world called gunas. The forces are sattvic, or sentient, rajasic, or mutative, and tamasic, or static. All beings have a mixture of these forces within them to varying degrees. I can say without a doubt I’ve been denying the static force within me. I’ve been pretending that part of me doesn’t exist, and furthermore, not giving it expression in any way. Even when I’m at home, relaxing, there is an internal struggle within me that says I should be doing something else. Something productive. And even though I haven’t paid attention to that voice, even though I stay where I am and keep reading my book, the voice still lives within me.

This week something shifted and I’m yielding to inertia, to laziness. You would think it’s easy because, “Woohoo! Green light to sit around and watch Netflix all day!” but actually, it’s been excruciating. This week I’ve been crawling out of my skin with how uncomfortable I am. And in fact, instead of embracing laziness, on Friday night I cleaned my bathroom. So. You know. Still learning over here.

Again, as I think of my spiritual philosophy though, it’s one of wholeness and integration. One where we view everything as an expression of an infinite loving consciousness, and that means the static side too. That means the lazy, do-nothing part of me is also divine and I’m not doing myself any favors by pretending it’s not. There is a time and a place for everything, and right now, it’s time for me to be lazy without guilt.

I dream of a world where we embrace all the forces within us. A world where we view all periods of our life as sacred. A world where even if we feel stuck, instead we start thinking of it as being held while in suspension.

Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.

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Grace in the Gunk

I’m reminded even when life doesn’t look the way we want it to, grace can still be found. On a macro level, there are some aspects of my life that are not how I’d pictured them, and it’s easy to sink into woe. At the same time, there can be grace in the gunk.

I’m not saying to avoid feeling woeful – everyone needs a good cry now and again – but it’s interesting for me to note in the midst of not-fun things I can experience wonder and delight. Life is complicated like that.

Last weekend I traveled to Philadelphia for a wedding of a dear friend of mine. It was beautiful and touching and sweet, but I anticipated that. What I didn’t anticipate were the other moments of grace that remind me there is a divine intelligence in the world, and that it cares about me.

Grace can be found everywhere.

Following the last dance at the wedding, the brides (it was a lesbian wedding) rushed out the door under a canopy of rustling wands that we, the guests, held above their heads. Therefore, I didn’t get to say a proper goodbye, which saddened me. The next day, while in the lobby, the elevator door pinged open and there stood one of the brides. I was able to say a few words before the door shut again and we went our separate ways. Quite literally in this case because she descended to the ground floor while I ascended to the fifth. An hour later, I took the elevator to the ground floor and ran into the other bride, my friend, while she waited for her elevator. We had a longer conversation and a proper hug goodbye. If I had left a few moments earlier or later, I would have missed her.

The same day, I trundled around Philadelphia with my rolling luggage, soaking up the sights. Due to losing my way, I arrived at the train station at 4:25, the exact time my train was scheduled to depart. I purchased my ticket and was informed the train was running two minutes late, which meant I just barely caught my train. And I do mean just barely. The train doors had already closed by the time I arrived, but the train conductor reopened them for me.

A few more things happened, like my flight arriving half an hour early even though we left later than our departure time. They aren’t huge things, and they don’t fix the macro issues in my life like my health or my finances, but they’re enough to remind me grace is here, too. I can have poor health and poor finances and still be taken care of. Furthermore, I didn’t orchestrate any of the things I experienced. I didn’t manifest it or attract it or visualize it or have any control in the matter whatsoever.

And that’s the thing about grace – it’s not rational, it doesn’t follow a formula. It just comes. My spiritual teacher says God’s grace is for all – both the virtuous and nonvirtuous. Nobody is unimportant or insignificant. Everyone is a divine child and grace is always with us, even in the gunk.

I dream of a world where we all feel graced. A world where we feel the love that surrounds us. A world where we know grace is not a reward for good behavior, it’s given regardless. A world where we find grace in the gunk.

Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.

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I found out recently in China if a woman is unmarried by age 27, she’s called “sheng nu,” or “leftover woman.” And if you’re 30 and unmarried? Forget it. Life’s over. That’s literally what these women are told. The whole thing makes my blood boil.

I think what pisses me off most of all is the notion that if a woman has a Master’s degree, or is successful in her field, or if she’s helping others and just generally being a good human, she’s still considered “less than” all because she doesn’t have a ring on her finger. Are you kidding me? When did our worth become defined by our relationship status? When did getting married become the most important metric?

It should be noted here I’m not anti-marriage. I’ve been to about 20 weddings in the past 10 years and am currently at one this weekend. I love weddings. I love marriage. But I do not love the idea that somehow a person is “left over” if they’re still single by a certain age. I say this to myself, too. There’s a part of me that asks, “What’s wrong with me that I’m still single?” I have imagined conversations with people justifying why I’m not married because even internally, I feel a twinge of shame that at my age, 32.5, I’m unmarried. However, hearing about these women in China who are harassed and shamed by their families on a regular basis for being single put me over the edge.

Some of us may never get here, or not get here by a certain age, and that’s OK.

This is not a post where I say there’s nothing wrong with being single, or that there’s a pot for every lid, that eventually we all meet our match. No. This is a post where I fume at patriarchy, which is the precise system that dictates a woman is worthless if she isn’t married. I realize some men feel this way too, but in articles about unmarried Chinese men, it’s couched as a supply issue – too few women – whereas in articles about Chinese women, it’s couched as some unfortunate mystery. That somehow it’s the woman’s fault she’s still single. That my friends, is patriarchy.

My spiritual teacher says, in society the value of a woman is not an iota less than that of a man. And furthermore, every human being is a divine child of God – both the unmarried and the married. That means I could be single until my dying days and my value would not be any less. That means I could be single forever and still do great and worthwhile things. My worth does not go up and down depending on my relationship status, and neither does yours.

I realize some people will still look at me and ask, “Why is she still single? What’s wrong with her?” I can’t do anything about that, but I can do something about my internal dialogue. I can remind myself I’m amazing with or without a partner. And I can do my part to extricate myself from a system that works to make me feel inferior because I’m single. I’m not inferior and neither is anyone else, regardless of their romantic situation.

I dream of a world where we realize our relationship status doesn’t define our value. A world where we recognize shaming people for being single is just another form of oppression, of subtly saying they’re only worth something if they’re attached to someone else. A world where we realize we are fantastic and amazing human beings whether we’re in a relationship or not.

Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.

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The Awakening of Women

This weekend I saw Wonder Woman and loved it. Something about watching a female superhero really got to me in a way I didn’t expect. I started tearing up. As I teared up, I was reminded this has been a long time coming. Not only the movie, which it has, but more importantly, equality for women, which we’re still working on.

Last year I would have told you things aren’t perfect, but we as a society have progressed far in terms of equal rights for women. This year I can say that statement is both true and not true. It’s true women no longer need a husband to open up a credit card account (which wasn’t the case until 1974, by the way), but at the same time, we also earn less than men. And the amount is far less for women of color. Also, I can’t pretend women are treated fairly in the U.S. when our current president was recorded as saying as a star, he can do anything, he can grab women by the pussy. Neither can I pretend women are treated fairly in the U.S. when the penalty for sexual assault is so lenient. It’s obvious many in power think of women as inferior beings.

I look forward to the day when we can all shine like we’re meant to.

At the same time, I have to admit not everyone in power thinks of women as inferior, and we have more women in positions of power not only in politics, such as Prime Minister Theresa May and Angela Merkel, but business as well, such as Sheryl Sandberg and Arianna Huffington. What I find baffling is what many don’t seem to grasp, is the better life is for women, the better life is for everyone. I don’t mean that in the sense, “Happy wife, happy life.” I mean, when women are educated, society flourishes.

My spiritual teacher says, “Ideally, women should also move with their own strength and with the same speed as their male counterparts. In the process of movement, if they feel pain in their legs, if they fall on their faces, they should be physically lifted up. The fact is that we must move together in unison with all.” Moving together in unison with all means we all go far. If men are allowed to dominate and demean, we as a society are like a bird flying with one wing.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying women should have equal rights only because it means we all benefit. All human beings should have equal rights. I don’t understand why it’s even a question. My teacher also says, “Women should have as much unbarred liberty to enjoy the light, air, earth, and water like children of nature as men have. In fact, it is not a case of granting rights to women, it is a case of recognizing their rights.”

We already have rights that are not recognized. What will it take for those rights to be recognized? I’m not sure, but I am confident the old ways of thinking will crumble into dust. Just as the Wonder Woman movie was finally made, eventually all women will have equal rights. It will take time, but it will happen. One more quote to end on: “Let women be the vanguard of a new revolution which humanity must achieve for a glorious tomorrow.”

I dream of a world where women lead a revolution that achieves a glorious tomorrow. A world where women’s inherent rights are recognized. A world where all women everywhere shake off the slumber of dogma and inferiority, breaking the shackles that chain them. A world where women wake up to the true magnificence of who they are.

Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.

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