All week I’ve bobbed along on an ocean of grief, coming in and out of numbness. Another community member of mine died, a monk from my yoga and meditation group. He had cancer so it wasn’t altogether unexpected, but still sad. I cried when I first heard the news and then I thought I was over it. Until I noticed I checked my email, facebook, and instagram a million times trying to dodge my grief. How I wanted to escape my life and be in someone else’s. Who wants to feel grief? Grief sucks.

In texting with a friend, I realized I have resistance to grieving, not only about this monk, but other losses in my life, because if I do, that means I’ve fully let go. It’s a real and final goodbye. And in order to keep the person a presence in my life, I’ve tried to block my feelings. Like a child who says, “If I don’t say goodbye to you then you can’t leave, right?” But they have and can and do. Whether I say goodbye or not doesn’t matter. And even when I do say goodbye, even when I know a person is knocking on death’s door, it still doesn’t mean I’m ready to bid them adieu. Is anyone ever truly ready to say goodbye to someone?

“Becoming the ocean” is no easy task. Photo by Ngaere Woodford-Bender on Unsplash.

When I was much younger, I remember trying to comfort my dad after someone died. I tried to console him with the notion that we’re all still connected. That just because a person has left their physical body doesn’t mean the relationship has severed. Nor does it mean we won’t reunite, especially as he and I believe in reincarnation. I’ll never forget, he countered with, “Yeah, but we’ll never meet each other again in this life.” That’s what grief is; recognizing and honoring that loss. No amount of saying, “You’ll see each other again,” can sidestep the loss.

So I’m crying in fits and spurts. I’m also contemplating what my spiritual teacher said about the dissolution of ego. How many people are scared of merging with something bigger than themselves because they view it as annihilation. To describe the process he uses the metaphor of a salt doll and the sea. He says, “If a salt doll goes to measure the sea, it will melt into it. Neither can it measure the sea, nor will it ever return; its existence will merge into the vastness of the sea, releasing it from all cares and worries. If one wishes to take the form of the sea, one will have to become the sea itself; there is no other way.”

If I wish to continue progressing in this life, I have to become the sea itself. I have to let go. To feel the feelings that I’m blocking. And in doing so, I’ll come upon something bigger than me. The salt doll becomes the ocean. Perhaps the grief I feel is carrying me toward something else, something bigger that I’m unaware of. And instead of the loss of my friends as final, maybe I’m traveling to a place altogether new. I’m not sure. Only time will tell.

I dream of a world where we allow ourselves to grieve the dead. A world where we realize the relationship changes into something new. A world where we surrender to the process we’re undertaking and allow ourselves to be swept away, letting go of the old and embracing the new.

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

Bighearted

On Tuesday, I found out someone in one of my circles committed suicide. I didn’t know him well; we had a total of three interactions, but his death shocked me and shook me. All week I found myself crying for someone I barely knew. Hurting because people I am closer to are hurting. It pains me to see others in pain.

All week I’ve battled with myself because my tears don’t make much logical sense. Shawn and I talked about books. We didn’t swap secrets and peer into each other’s souls. How can I feel so sad about this death? In part it’s because I lost a community member, but also it’s because I’m empathic, sensitive, bighearted.

A heart so big it lights up the sky. Photo by Jamie Street on Unsplash

Growing up, I heard over and over again that I’m too sensitive, that I’m too emotional. I heard it so much I internalized it and now when I have big feelings, I judge myself for them. I want my emotions to match up to logic but oftentimes they do not. I realize sensitivity is a gift, but I still resist my feelings. I still want them to make sense, but they don’t. My therapist and other people tell me over and over again, “Just feel them. You don’t have to understand them. Just feel them.” Easier said than done. Easier said than done when feeling them means crying on the floor of my bedroom typing on my computer. Easier said than done when feeling them means sitting with the things I’m scared of instead of trying to talk myself out of feeling afraid.

When it comes down to it, I harbor a sense of shame about my sensitivity. I think there’s something wrong with me that I feel so much, so deeply. That I “should” be able to toughen up, to grow a thicker skin, to somehow become a different person. Friends, I have tried! With much earnestness I’ve tried, and yet here we are. There are certain things about us that are immutable and I’m understanding my big heart is one of them. I’m doing a lot of work on self-soothing and becoming my own emotional rock, but that doesn’t mean my feelings evaporate. All I’m left with is the choice to accept this is me, which is something I think Shawn would approve of.

Again, I didn’t know him well, but I’m reading memories and tributes to Shawn all over facebook and one of the things people write over and over again is how seen they felt by him. How loved. How accepted. In his death, maybe that’s something I can give to myself. I think he’d want that.

I dream of a world where we love and accept all parts of ourselves. A world where we feel our feelings even when they don’t seem to make sense. A world where we understand sometimes our feelings won’t match up with our brains. A world where we realize sensitivity is a gift and that it’s OK to be bighearted.

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

The other day in an email to my recovery mentor I wrote, “There is grace in limitation.” My eyes about bugged out of my head. I couldn’t believe I wrote that because I’m all about freedom, innovation, and unencumbered roaming, yet as I typed it, I realized it’s true.

From my perspective, U.S. culture lionizes pushing boundaries, tearing down walls, unhindered growth. All of that has its place, but so does maintaining boundaries, erecting walls, and hindered growth. I think about shoes. When my sister and I were little, we used to play dress up and wear our mother’s shoes. We clattered around in her too-big high heels, but we couldn’t competently walk in them. Her shoes contained too much space for our feet. In order to not trip over ourselves, we have to wear shoes that are only slightly bigger than our feet. We all need some limits.

I like the life within these shoes. Seems fitting for this post. Photo by Mika on Unsplash

Right now I’m living in the land of limits. My sleep is still terrible, my energy is still low. I’m possibly on a precipice of change but I don’t know for sure. I’m still in limbo, waiting to find out. And instead of rebelling against my situation like I normally do, for this week anyway I’m recognizing there is grace here too.

The message to me right now seems to be, “It’s OK to go slow. It’s OK to rest. It’s OK to take things easy, for life to be small.” I’m not zooming ahead. I’m not initiating new projects or learning new things. I’m sitting still and letting that be allowed.

I know I’ve mentioned this before, but my spiritual teacher characterizes movement as systaltic, like a heartbeat. A pulse. He said, “Now everything moves and that movement is of systaltic nature. Wherever there is any movement there is pulsation. Without pulsation there cannot be any movement. And this pulsation, that is movement through speed and pause, is an essential factor for each and every animate or inanimate object. Wherever there is existential factor there must be this pulsation. An entity acquires strength and stamina during the pause phase, and emanates vibration during the speed period. There cannot however, be any absolute speed or absolute pause in the created world.”

My takeaway from that is no matter what phase we’re in – speed or pause – is natural, normal. There is no period that’s wasted or bad or however else I sometimes think of the pause. The pause is just as crucial as the sprint because that’s where strength and stamina are acquired. There is grace here. There is good here. There is God here.

I dream of a world where we remember all phases of life are natural and normal. A world where we recognize the good in pausing, in stopping, in waiting. A world where we realize pausing is a crucial part of life. A world where we realize there is grace in limitation.

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

I feel vulnerable writing this post because the issue is alive in me. I haven’t moved past it. I can’t tie it up in a neat bow. I’m sharing though because this is the only topic that came to mind to write about, and also I know there are other people who feel the way I do. I’m hopeful my experience will help.

I am deeply unsettled by the murder of Nia Wilson from a few weeks ago. It speaks to one of my worst fears – a random act of violence. (I should mention here police don’t know for sure it was random. It could have been racially motivated but the murderer didn’t say one word to her or her sisters before attacking. Also, women of color experience higher rates of this kind of violence because the consequences are lower.) As for me, instead of viewing strangers as friends I haven’t met yet, I view strangers as people who mean me harm. In public I am constantly on guard. And considering Nia was murdered while at a BART station that I frequent, I’m more fearful than usual.

A sweet picture that I hope conveys my sentiments. Photo by Ravi Roshan on Unsplash

My therapist suggested I acknowledge the fear and remind myself what I can control. I’m in control of my breath, of whether I eat or not. I’m in control of how clean I am, etc. It helps me to think about those things. It also helps to remind myself my perspective is skewed.

This weekend I attended the San Francisco Aerial Arts festival, which was glorious. I went by myself and rode public transportation all the way there and back. Doing so I realized the vast majority of people don’t care about me one way or another. The vast majority are neutral. If I don’t bother them, they won’t bother me. Also at the performance, the sash from my trench coat trailed to the ground and a woman tapped me on the back to tell me so. She demonstrated to me while the vast majority of people are neutral, the remainder of people are good. They want to help. They care about complete strangers and will tell you if you drop something. And then a small minority of people wish me harm. Often it’s not personal and I could easily be swapped out for someone else.

Am I still reeling from the random act of violence? Yes I am. Do I still want to barricade myself in my apartment? Yes I do. And I have to reconcile those feelings with another truth: The world is delightful. People dance on the side of buildings. People sing so well they move me to tears. People paint something that engrosses me for hours. The world is wonderful and terrible. It’s beautiful and hideous. I wish that wasn’t so but it is. All that I can do is what anyone can do, which is continuing to be a good person. To serve others where I can, to stand up for injustice, to sow love instead of hatred, and do my part to leave the world better than when I entered it.

I dream of a world where we remember the world is more good than it is bad. A world where we realize most people are neutral, and those that aren’t are more likely good people than people who want to hurt us. A world where we help others according to our capacity.

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

I read an article in my university’s alumni magazine the other day about Andre Ingram, who at 32 became a rookie for the LA Lakers. Reading his story I teared up because the whole thing seems so surreal, so unlikely.

Since he was 8, Andre dreamed of playing for the NBA. He played in high school and then at our university. Once he graduated, he toiled for years in the NBA’s minor league. And I do mean toiled – he made $13,000 for the entire season in the minor leagues, which is less than what NBA players make for a couple of games. He tutored kids in math while his wife also worked. He says he thought about quitting several times, and some friends advised the same, or to find a better payday overseas. But he persisted.

This picture seemed appropriate. Photo by Patrick Fore on Unsplash

“Every time I was ready to jump off that ledge something pulled me back,” he said. “Whether it was in training, when I’m hitting every shot I take, or in the weight room getting encouraged by the guys. My story is to let that voice, let that encouragement, pull you back in.”

Andre is the oldest American rookie in the NBA since 1964. His story fascinates me because at what point does a person give up on their dream? Sometimes a dream is a delusion. We’ve all seen those auditions on TV where someone thinks they’re an amazing singer or dancer and they have zero talent. To the rest of the world, it’s obvious the person will never be a star, but they can’t believe it. At what point is it harmful to keep believing a dream? At what point is it better to let it go? I don’t have the answers to those questions. I’m sure many people told Andre it was unlikely he’d ever play in the NBA. A 32-year-old with gray hairs competing against people 10 years his junior? What are the odds he could share the court with them? But it happened.

What struck me the most about Andre’s story is that quote I shared about how something kept pulling him back. Every time he wanted to quit, something kept him from doing it. That to me reeks of intuition, which my spiritual teacher defines as a reflection of consciousness or spirit. Just like a mirror, the reflection can become cloudy, but the more we connect to consciousness or spirit, the clearer the reflection will be.

Again, I don’t have all the answers, but it seems to me if something keeps coming up over and over again, it’s likely intuition. But if I get an idea in my head and convince myself it’s true despite all evidence to the contrary, it’s likely delusion. It seems to me there’s a fine line between a dream and a delusion. Perhaps the joy of being human is figuring it out. Sometimes we’re disappointed but sometimes we’re ecstatic. The thrill is finding out which we’ll experience.

I dream of a world where we walk the fine line between pursuing our dreams and dropping our delusions. A world where we keep going when something reels us back in. A world where we understand something may seem out of reach, but that doesn’t always mean it is.

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

Celebration!

As of July 30, “Another World is Probable” is ten years old! I have written a post once a week nearly every week for TEN YEARS. When I started, I had no idea I would keep it up for that long. Nor did I think I’d have so much to say. It turns out when you write about yourself and the world around you, there is plenty of material.

I also have to admit many times I thought about discontinuing the blog because I wondered if anyone cared. Was anyone reading this thing? What has kept me going is hearing from readers and listeners. I’ll be honest, in the past few years what’s helped a lot is people who contribute to my patreon campaign or who donate via paypal. Because even if no one says anything via comments, emails, or facebook, at least I know some people find enough worth in what I have to say to donate money to me on a regular basis. Thank you for that. Thank you for reading. Thank you for listening. Thank you for telling me over the phone or in person how much something I wrote touched you. When I hear from you, I’m reminded why I started this blog in the first place, which was to spread hope, inspiration, and offer perspective. To that end, I thought it would be fun to share the first post I ever wrote. It’s what follows:

If you watch the news today (or any day really) you would think the apocalypse is right around the corner. I don’t share this viewpoint because I am an optimist. Not only do I think the world has the potential to become a better place, it is a better place.

Ten years! Woohoo! Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

When I was a child in the early 90’s, I was the only vegetarian in my entire school. Now vegetarianism is, dare I say it, fashionable. The reason I bring this up is because vegetarianism as a lifestyle is better for your health and for the environment, so the fact vegetarianism has become more popular is proof people are becoming more awake. It’s proof the world is becoming a better place because people are starting to understand we cannot continue as we have. People are becoming more open to alternatives that are better for them and for the world. And it’s not just the hippies in the big cities. Vegetarianism is growing even in Middle America. Food Lion, Giant, Safeway, and other big grocery stores are stocking meat alternatives. The natural-grocery giant Whole Foods is still growing and prospering.

Not only are more people starting to become vegetarian, but “going green” or trying to be environmentally friendly is all the rage. Project Runway just had an episode where the challenge was to use “green” fabrics or environmentally sustainable materials. Project Runway was nominated for an Emmy — it’s not some public access channel show. It’s mainstream. And it’s advocating being environmentally friendly!

I remember as a child my parents taught me about global warming, about how it’s necessary to reduce, reuse, and recycle. Roughly 15 years later, instead of still being a part of a fringe group, I find myself being in the majority. That’s incredible to me. Also, more and more grocery stores are stocking canvas bags people can reuse (perhaps all of them, I’m not sure, I haven’t been to every grocery store). And even though not everyone is using a canvas tote, the fact the totes exist is a cause for celebration. It means people are taking steps toward a better world. One where we are more aware of our actions, our choices, and our responsibilities toward one another. All of this inspires me.

When I look around I don’t see doom and gloom. I see hope and possibility and change. I see people starting to understand their actions have consequences, that what they do affects the world on a global scale. I’m starting to see more acceptance, more tolerance, more compassion. I’m starting to see that another world is not only possible, but it’s here.

Right now I’m editing a re-translation of a philosophy book for my yoga and meditation group. It’s engrossing stuff (for me) because I’m curious about how the world works. I’m always interested in the “why” of everything and this book is answering many questions. One of the tenets, which is also a law of nature, is that for every action, there is an opposite and equal reaction. Something I find fascinating is the book talks about how inescapable that is.

My spiritual teacher says some people will pray to escape the consequences of their actions, or perform rituals to appeal to the gods, but it’s not possible. All that can happen is a delay, like paying back a loan. You can set the terms for 18 months or three years, but the loan will be repaid. Also, for the purposes of this post I won’t address miracles, like when a person was supposed to die but their life was saved. I’m speaking in general terms about how both good and bad, our actions have consequences.

Globes seemed like the perfect image to illustrate this post. Photo by Duangphorn Wiriya on Unsplash

In looking at our current president, I see life catching up to him. The noose is tightening around his neck, so to speak. The evidence continues to mount regarding Russia meddling with the U.S. election to place him into power. Trump is being exposed for all his wrongdoings like laundering money, assaulting women, etc. In some ways it seems like he’s untouchable because we’ve known these things for years, and yet he remains not only free, but still in power. It boggles the mind, and personally, boils my blood.

I’m reminded here that what goes around comes around. One of the other things the philosophy book mentions is that not all consequences manifest during the lifetime in which they incurred, meaning sometimes they manifest in another life. However, no one is invulnerable. No one can escape their fate, no matter how many people they pay off.

I realize this post isn’t very sunshine-y but that’s where I’m at today, feeling somber. I’m thinking about how people, myself included, want to lie for self-preservation. How it’s easier to say, “I didn’t do that,” rather than admit the truth and deal with the repercussions. The repercussions aren’t always fun, but they will catch up to us eventually. That’s why my spiritual teacher cautions taking good actions. Good actions result in good consequences and bad actions result in bad consequences.

In the short term we may benefit from lying, cheating, and stealing, but in the long run we will not. I’m reminded of that quote from John Wesley who said, “Do all the good you can. By all the means you can. In all the ways you can. In all the places you can. At all the times you can. To all the people you can. As long as ever you can.” Words to live by.

I dream of a world where we realize our actions have consequences. A world where we understand we can’t run away from repercussions. A world where we try our best to do all the good we can by all the means we can. A world where we remember what goes around comes around and we act accordingly.

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

Almost exactly a year ago, my coworker died unexpectedly. The news hit me harder than I anticipated, particularly because we weren’t close. Now a year later, my heart still twinges with grief. My company has long since replaced him – someone new writes for us – but in reality people are not like auto parts and therefore not replaceable.

I notice in American culture we tend to believe the opposite; we commodify others, especially in the context of romantic relationships. How often do we say to someone after a breakup, “You’ll meet someone new”? As if the new person will act like putty and exactly fill the vacant space? I realize it comes from a well-meaning place, but Eric’s death shows me how not true this perspective is, for me anyway. We hired someone to literally fulfill all the duties Eric left open, but the new guy is no Eric. He performs his job well, but he’s not a replica of Eric.

People are not mechanical parts. Photo by Aaron Barnaby on Unsplash

Going back to dating, I notice the same thing – I still miss certain things about my exes. Each new man brought something different to the table, but they didn’t erase the person before. Instead of acting like putty, each person has a place in my heart that is theirs and theirs alone, but they share the space with others. No one is forgotten, and no one is replaced, including me. Up until about two years ago, I feared once I died it would be like I never existed, which I think stemmed from inherited family trauma. On my mom’s side, almost all of my relatives were killed in the Holocaust. Entire swathes of my family are a big question mark. In some ways, it’s like they never existed because I know nothing about them, but it’s not true: They did exist.

Even though I don’t know the names of my distant relatives, they still existed. They still impacted the people around them, including those who survived. And their loss still left a mark. Eric’s loss still leaves a mark. It always will because he’s not some cog in a wheel I throw away once it stops functioning.

My spiritual teacher says, “If one ant meets a premature death, it will disturb the balance of the entire cosmos. Therefore, nothing here is unimportant, not even an ant.” I don’t think I fully imbibed that statement before. Today I understand it on a whole new level – how each and every being is important, significant. Even the overlooked and often maligned ant is precious, loved, important. Each person, each relationship, be it personal or professional, is special. It’s a disservice to ourselves and others to pretend differently.

I dream of a world where we realize each person is irreplaceable. A world where we realize each relationship occupies a place in our heart. A world where we understand every living being is important and precious.

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

On Saturday, I cried while sitting in my bathtub reading a fictional book set during World War II. The characters are imaginary, but the circumstances are not. I cried thinking about the atrocities that my own grandparents endured, and I cried thinking about the atrocities people continue to endure. Even now, children sit in jails, unwashed, covered in lice. Thank goodness a lawsuit is underway, but still. Why do we do this to each other?

According to my spiritual philosophy, people reincarnate. And not only do they reincarnate, they evolve. Evolve from what? They start from the simplest organism and get progressively more complex until finally reaching human form. What that means on a practical level is some people are only one step removed from animals. Some people are still guided by their baser instincts and unable to access higher levels of their consciousness. Before someone sends me an email and says many animals behave better than some human beings, I will say, yes, you are correct. Many animals, especially domesticated ones, shows high levels of compassion and love. Wild animals though? Not as common.

I like how hearts permeate the darkness here. Photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash.

It would be easy to say some human beings just aren’t as evolved and leave it at that, but human beings are complicated. It’s not only about evolution, but also about what propensities, or vrttis, we choose to engage with. Some people derive pleasure from cruelty and hatred. In New Age circles, people liken this to operating from the lower chakras, or energy centers. However, in my spiritual tradition, that’s a little too simplistic. Almost every chakra point has positives and negatives. For instance, the throat chakra is associated not only with sweet expression, but vitriolic expression as well. We all have the capacity for both good and evil within us.

Why am I bringing this up? I’m suggesting the importance of holding on to our empathy. We’ve all seen movies where the tortured become the torturers. Where victims become perpetrators. I’m not suggesting good and moral people of the world just “be nice” to neo-Nazis and their ilk and hope the ensuing treatment will change their minds. I’m not a pacifist by any means. I firmly believe in the use of force when necessary. However, I also think it’s important to not fuel hatred within ourselves. To remember we are all human beings, worthy and deserving of love and respect. For instance, even prisons should be like a reform school, according to my spiritual teacher. And the person in charge should be a teacher who is trained in psychology and who has genuine love for society.

Why does he say this? I don’t know for sure, but I’m guessing it’s because merely turning one group of people after another into inferior beings merely perpetuates the abuse cycle. There’s that famous poem from Martin Niemöller about how first they came for the socialists and he did not speak out because he was not a socialist, and then eventually they came for him and there was no one left to speak for him. Not only does he suggest speaking up for others, but he demonstrates how hatred travels from group to group.

What I’d like to see is a world where we halt hatred in its tracks. A world where we remember all human beings, regardless of their race, nationality, gender, sexual orientation, etc., are human beings. A world where we treat each person as a sibling, a member of our universal family. A world where we take corrective action, but we do it with love in our hearts. A world where we sow love among hate.

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

Uneven Progress

I am depleted today so I’m recycling this post from June 2016.

I have to admit, I’m disheartened by the state of the world. I’m not feeling optimistic in the face of the bigotry, sexism, and xenophobia that seem to be crawling all over the place like beetles darting out from an overturned log. Right now the world seems bleak and due to become bleaker.

However, at times like these it’s important to gain some perspective. As you know, I’m a fan of astrology, particularly archetypal astrology, which is articulated in the book Cosmos and Psyche. One of the things I enjoy about the book is it offers a historical look at our world through the lens of astrology. A part that’s pertinent is the reminder that every period of advancement is followed by conservative backlash. For instance, 1960-1972 was a period of empowerment, an eruption of the revolutionary impulse in virtually every area of human activity, and then the early 80s brought a systematic backlash of all the various movements that dominated the 60s.

It’s unsteady, but it’s still progress. Photo by Rita Morais on Unsplash.

My spiritual teacher says something similar: “[M]ovements are systaltic. If the phase of contraction is made more stringent by the application of force, a forward galloping jump occurs in the following phase of expansion. Evolution which takes place as a result of this forward galloping jump is properly called revolution. Similarly, if the phase of expansion is prolonged by the application of force, then the following phase of contraction will undergo greater inertia.”

When I look at even our most recent history I see that to be true. We are like a great hulking Frankenstein’s monster lurching toward the horizon. One foot is progressive and one foot is conservative, but each foot steps forward at one point or another. However, the monster is still always advancing, albeit unevenly. Overall, we as a society are progressing. It’s hard to see that sometimes in the face of all the ick we’re experiencing, but when I look back, I also know it to be true. As a woman, I still have more freedoms than my grandmother, and even my mother had. Yes, there’s still a lot of sexism to be sure, but overall things are progressing.

I’m going to quote my teacher again who says, “There are some people who are pessimistic. They say that the society around us is very bleak … Pessimists say this because they have never made any detailed study of human history, nor do they care to. Had they done so, they would certainly be optimistic, because if they had looked carefully at the symptoms of pause, they would have realized that significant preparations were being made for the subsequent phase of speed. So under no circumstances should human beings be pessimistic. That is why I am always an incorrigible optimist, because I know that optimism is life.”

Right now I’m honing in on the part about the subsequent phase of speed. Yes, right now things are not so great, but I’m reminding myself this is the cycle of life. Movements surge and then die. And right now I need to keep focusing on the progress that is being made and will continue to be made. I need to keep dreaming about the future because like us, while Frankenstein’s monster may progress unevenly, he does progress.

I dream of a world where we remember the history of human society is one of expansion followed by contraction. A world where we remember despite how it may look at any given moment, we are advancing. A world where we realize an uneven gait may not equal a sprint, but it’s still a step forward and that’s all that counts.

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

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