As we enter this new year, I keep thinking about envy. Not the way I normally do in that my chest burns with the emotion, aching to have what someone else does. Instead, I’m thinking about something my former therapist told me, “Someone out there envies you.”

When he first said that to me, I balked. “What?!? My platonic relationships are great, but don’t most people think that? Who complains that their friends are awful? Other than those relationships, how could anyone possibly envy me? I’m not wildly successful, I don’t have a boatload of money, I’m single, and I don’t even live in a large apartment! What is there to envy?!?”

The reason I said that is I was doing exactly what neuroscientists recommend you don’t do to feel happy – comparing up, or in other words, comparing yourself to people who are better off than you are. How did researchers come to this conclusion about comparing up and down? They studied a cohort that’s rife with competition and comparison: Olympic medalists. One study of the 1992 Summer Olympics found bronze medalists tend to be happier than silver medalists because bronze medalists think about how close they were to finishing without a medal at all. However, the silver medalists think about how close they were to winning the gold.

Vine and green wall

I tried to capture an image that was green with envy. Here’s what I landed on. Photo by Runze Shi on Unsplash

The researchers didn’t just ask people how they felt after the fact, they studied facial expressions and we saw real-time evidence of this disappointment with McKayla Maroney and her now-famous pout. In 2012, she was a crowd-favorite gymnast, expected to win the gold for her individual event. Instead, she made a mistake that caused her to miss the gold medal by one-hundredth of a point. She won the silver and disappointment was written all over her face.

It makes sense of course, but thinking this way, of what could have been and isn’t, what you missed out on, etc. is deadly, literally. Another study found silver medalists’ life expectancy is less than that of gold and bronze medalists and it’s posited this is due to the perceived dissatisfactory competition outcomes. These medalists were so upset about missing the gold, their lives became shorter. Yikes. So what’s the solution here? Compare down, and also maybe broaden your perspective.  

I received a dose of perspective a few days ago. A woman whose career I’ve envied for a while isn’t doing so great personally. She got divorced and moved out of the home she bought with her spouse. When I heard the news, I felt pity. Instead of wishing I had this woman’s life, I felt grateful that I don’t. Yeah, her career success would be great, but I don’t want to experience what she does. Furthermore, to bring it back to my earlier comment, my relationships are healthy and fulfilling. I take it for granted that I love and am loved, but not everyone experiences that. In other words, I’m feeling the contentment my spiritual teacher advocates.

He says santośa, or contentment, means a state of proper ease. “Contentment is not at all possible if the individual is running after carnal pleasures like a beast. As a result of extroversial analysis, the objects of enjoyment go on increasing both in number and abstraction and that is why one’s mental flow never gets any rest. Under such circumstances how can one attain perfect peace of mind?

They can’t, which is why contentment is so crucial. Santośa is not about being satisfied with the crumbs of life. It’s not appropriate to tell someone who is near-starved to be grateful for eating every three days. Everyone has a right to a full and respectful life, and at the same time, there’s something to remembering what we do have and realizing someone out there envies us.

I dream of a world where we spend more time practicing gratitude for what we do have instead of lamenting what we don’t. A world where we recognize if we saw the inner workings of other people’s lives, we wouldn’t want to trade places with them. A world where we practice contentment and compare ourselves to people who have less than us, not more.

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

My dad told me about a TV show where people try to be the last person to survive in the woods on their own for a chance at winning $500,000. The premise is interesting because it touches on the themes of competition, human versus nature, and also resourcefulness. I get the appeal. But what I don’t get is the lengths people will go to in order to win.

One contestant swam into a frozen lake in an attempt to catch some fish knowing she’d get hypothermia. She explicitly told the camera she knew that would happen. The woman could have tapped out of the show at any time and said, “You know what? The $500,000 isn’t worth it. Take me to the grocery store,” but she didn’t. She literally risked her life all for what? Money. Money that frankly won’t last very long considering the rate of inflation.

Desperation is real and it pushes people to do things they otherwise wouldn’t. But this woman wasn’t a member of the Donner party, starving to death in the middle of winter. She was in a situation of contrived and self-inflicted desperation. I don’t fault this woman; I don’t know her or her story. She made her choice freely. No, instead what I fault is the toxic worldview pervading our society that lauds this sort of decision: materialism.

cardboard sign more equality, more love

I agree! More equality, more love! Photo by Cody Pulliam on Unsplash

My favorite summary of materialism comes from a friend who says, “Under materialism, only matter matters.” Exactly. In a materialistic society, money and possessions are more important than love, community, and life. Not everyone is willing to become hypothermic for cash, but over and over again, we demonstrate human life isn’t worth more than money in indirect ways: child labor, exploitative working conditions, polluting the environment, etc. We are poisoning and killing one another for something ephemeral.

I’m not here to say money is unimportant because that’s a lie. It is important, but it’s not the only thing that matters. The worldview I use stems from tantra and my friend sums it up by saying, “Under tantra, everything matters.” What he means is matter matters. People matter. The environment matters. Spirituality matters. Under tantra, you take it all into account. Money is not the bottom line every time.

We take it for granted that materialism is the only way to operate in the world but it’s not. It’s a belief system and belief systems can change. A little religious inspiration for you that’s appropriate considering this time of year: Hanukkah isn’t really a story about oil lasting for eight days. It’s the celebration of people unifying against oppression and winning.

A quick recap: Judah and the Maccabees revolted against Syrian King Antiochus in 160 BCE. He enacted a series of harsh decrees against the Jews, including forcing them to give so much of their crops to the Syrian ruling class, the Jews had trouble feeding their families. Jewish worship was forbidden; scrolls were confiscated and burned. Sabbath and dietary laws were prohibited under the penalty of death. This small group of Jewish rebels fought against an army of thousands of men and won.

My rabbi, Michael Lerner, says, “Hanukkah is not just about having a response to the consumption craze around Christmas, it is about affirming a different worldview, a hopeful worldview. [It’s] about replacing cultures of domination with a culture of love and justice.”

We already have examples of worldviews toppling. We know it can be done because it’s been done before. We don’t need to keep operating as if materialism is the only game in town because it’s not. There’s another way to live, a better way. One in which we recognize the importance of bodies, minds, and spirits.

I dream of a world where we topple materialism. A world where we say, “No, materials are not the most important thing in existence.” A world where we recognize the existential value of all life forms. A world where we replace a culture of domination with one of love and justice.

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

Artificial intelligence (AI) has been on my mind because as you’re likely aware, the Lensa AI app that creates “magic avatars,” or in other words digital art, went viral and jumped to number one in the Apple App store recently. Not only that, ChatGPT gained more than a million users in five days around the same time. The AI program can create A+ academic papers and Netflix-worthy scripts.

It’s both exciting and terrifying. Terrifying because as a writer and an artist I’m starting to wonder, “Will I be obsolete soon?” And sure, AI could save me a lot of time and replace the boring writing I don’t want to do anyway such as “compare and contrast the best-selling fertilizers currently on the market,” but still. When I think about AI, my stomach clenches and my whole body gets tense. If AI can do what I do, only better in some instances, what does that mean for me?

The first, obvious answer is I’m so much more than what I do. I’m not only a writer. I’m a daughter, a sister, a friend, etc. The relationships I have with people matter, a machine cannot yet replace my presence, but also the essence of who I am matters. Regardless of whether I never write another word again, I have existential value. My spiritual teacher says over and over again, “Nobody is unimportant, nobody is insignificant. Each and every existence is valuable.” So there’s that.

little girl with a robot

Humans and robots. More to come. Photo by Andy Kelly on Unsplash

But there’s also a more intangible something I bring. Cosmic consciousness, Brahma, Source, whatever name you have for it, is coming to know itself through me. I am in partnership with the divine to create something new. AI by its very nature is derivative. You literally have to feed AI loads and loads of information for it to “learn.” AI pulls from what’s already in existence and that is one of the criticisms of Lensa AI – it sampled from human artists without acknowledging or paying them for their work.

As a human being, I can create something new. I can be a conduit for the divine. Indeed, my spiritual teacher says artists are pioneers. They are at the vanguard of society, leading them toward “true fulfillment and welfare by providing the inspiration for service.” Art is not just about showcasing what’s inside my own head, but a way to spur people forward, to inspire, to encourage, and to hopefully put people in touch with something greater than themselves.

Another quote for you: Artists “have to cleanse all that is turbid, all that is inauspicious in individual life in the holy waters of their universal mentality, and then convey it sweetly and gracefully into the heart of humanity. Herein lies the fulfillment of their service, the consummation of their practice.”

How can AI possibly convey a universal mentality sweetly and gracefully into the heart of humanity? How can AI talk about the touch of the eternal and hint at something that lies beyond the mind when it’s not something to comprehend but rather feel and experience? It can’t. Not unless it copies a human being and therein, once again, my value is evident.

I dream of a world where we understand even if we’re all out of work, we still matter. A world where we recognize while AI is better than humans at some things, it’s not better at everything. A world where we hold true to the understanding there is still value in being human, no matter how much AI advances.

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

I’m working on a novel about a 32-year-old woman who is deeply insecure but tries to mask it with false bravado. She second-guesses every move but tries to hype herself up by saying, “Go me!” and “I got this,” nearly every chance she gets. When I show small snippets of the novel to a writing group consisting primarily of women around my age, the feedback is positive. They’ve told me it’s highly relatable, either for themselves or because it reminds them of their friends. One woman commented this is the sort of book she’d stay up late reading.

However, when I show small snippets of the novel to a writing group consisting primarily of women around 30 years older than me, the feedback is negative. They compliment the writing itself and praise my strong voice, but hate the character. They say she’s self-indulgent and unlikeable. Same character, different audience.

The novel is very much a work in progress. I haven’t even completed the first draft so I’ll change 10,000 things from now and when I deem it ready for the world so who knows how people will respond at that point? Yet, regardless of the changes I make, the experience reminds me you can’t please everyone all the time and it’s not worth it to try. What strikes a chord with one person will be disharmonious to another. Also, depending on the age and stage of life, the same person will no longer like the thing they once enjoyed!

mural of likes

Likes come and go. Photo by George Pagan III on Unsplash

This happened to me on Saturday night. I went to San Francisco for a play and walked just two blocks from where I used to live near Union Square. It’s a neighborhood filled with hustle and bustle. There are about a million people milling about. Cars are honking, people are chatting, and restaurants are buzzing. When I was 23, I loved Union Square. I wanted to be in the thick of things. My feeling was, “Take me to where the action is!” But now at 38, I don’t want to be where the action is. I want the antithesis of Union Square: a house with a yard on a quiet street.

A friend asked me if there’s anything I miss about living there and I do. I miss the public transportation. I could catch numerous buses and multiple train lines easily whereas now my options are more limited. I miss that part but nothing else. I have zero desire to live in Union Square again but for me at 23, it was a dream come true. People change and their tastes change. Because of that, it’s impossible to please everyone. In marketing, they say if you try to appeal to everyone, you’ll appeal to no one. That’s because your product will become so diluted and bland, no one will be interested.

This principle of “you can’t please everyone” doesn’t only apply to art and commerce. It also applies to life. At this time of year, people are pulled in many different directions. They feel pressured to go to all of the holiday parties, visit their families for 10 days, buy gifts for everyone on their list. They get stretched too thin because they’re worried about displeasing their boss, their family, their friends. But here’s the thing: Someone will always be displeased. It’s just not possible to be everything to everyone and if you try, you’ll wind up burned out and resentful.

The more I recognize someone, or rather many someones, won’t like me, my art, my blog, my behavior, or heck, the way I style my hair, the better off I am because it’s inevitable. It’s not bad or wrong, it’s just a fact of life. It’s probably for this reason you’ve seen the overused quote wrongly attributed to Oscar Wilde that says, “Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken.”

I dream of a world where we remember people like different things. A world where we understand not only do other people have varied tastes, but our tastes change too. A world where we recognize it’s more important to take care of ourselves than to engage in people pleasing. A world where we remember we won’t be able to please everyone.

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

I learned something fascinating recently: The idea male and female wolves compete to become dominant within packs is inaccurate. This competition only occurs in zoos and not in the wild. In 1944, Rudolph Shenkel, a biologist, first observed this behavior of vying for dominance in wolves at a German zoo but in the subsequent years, David Mech studied wolves in the artic and found wolf packs are families. In other words, the “alpha male” is the dad and the “alpha female” is the mom. The rest of the pack follows their lead because they’re the offspring, not because they fought a battle and lost.

While I find this little tidbit interesting, what intrigues me more is why the idea of the alpha male and female continues to percolate in our society. I think it’s because we want to use nature as an excuse for why we do the things we do and in a patriarchal, capitalistic society, an alpha is paramount.

In a patriarchal society, men and so-called masculine traits are at the top of the hierarchy. Under patriarchy, we value strength, power, and force. The strongest, most powerful are lauded and anyone or anything considered weak and feeble is disparaged. Men are at the top of the ladder and women are at the bottom, but it’s a continuum so while men who are perceived as more feminine are looked down upon, they are still above women in the power structure.

wolf pack

No alphas. Only parents. Photo by Thomas Bonometti on Unsplash

Through that lens, of course the idea of an alpha male is appealing because an alpha male is the epitome of what we praise under patriarchy. Capitalism feeds into the idea of the alpha because under capitalism, there’s the idea only one person can be in charge. Capitalism operates under a scarcity model – if there’s more for you, there’s less for me. That applies to not only money but power, resources, you name it.

We try to point to nature to say, “See? What we’re doing is only natural,” but over and over again, nature shows us collaboration is the name of the game. For instance, neighboring trees help each other through their root systems either directly, by intertwining their roots, or indirectly, by growing fungal networks around the roots that serve as a sort of extended nervous system. German forester Peter Wohlleben said, “If every tree were looking out only for itself, then quite a few of them would never reach old age.”

Also, bonobo females make lasting friendships and don’t tolerate aggressive males; the friendliest bonobos are always the ones with the most offspring. Ants and bees work together to make colonies and hives. I could keep going because examples of collaboration are endless. Instead of saying what we humans are doing is natural, it’s time to recognize we’re the anomaly. If we want to thrive as a species, we must cooperate with one another.

To quote my spiritual teacher, “Only the cooperative system can ensure the healthy, integrated progress of humanity, and establish complete and everlasting unity among the human race. People should work to enjoy sweeter fruits by establishing the cooperative system.”

Let’s enjoy those sweet fruits and start by retiring the mode of living like an alpha. Instead, let’s continue to take our cues from wolves and live like a universal family.

I dream of a world where we recognize the idea of an alpha male and an alpha female has outlived its usefulness. A world where we understand nature shows us over and over again that to survive and thrive we’re better off cooperating with one another. A world where we continue cooperating because we care about the progress of ourselves and the rest of humanity.

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

My birthday is swiftly approaching and I keep thinking about time. I’m pondering how things happen and when so it seemed only fitting to recycle this post from October 2018. I have yet to see the man mentioned in this post again, but it’s a nice story regardless. Enjoy.

This weekend I met someone formerly associated with my yoga and meditation group way back in the 70s when he lived in Atlanta. That may not seem especially remarkable, but it’s literally never happened to me before. I’ve met people who had some exposure to it, but not people who engaged with the practices and then drifted away.

My yoga and meditation group, while worldwide, is small and the chances of affiliation with it coming up in the first conversation with someone at a party is unlikely. I grin thinking about the encounter from this weekend because it reminds me the universe is not random and chaotic. There is an order and intelligence at play, of which I get glimpses sometimes.

I take comfort in believing order and intelligence reign because there are a lot of things going on in the world and my life that I don’t understand, that I wish were different. There are certain elected officials I wish weren’t in office. There are certain policies I wish were abolished. I wish my body reacted differently to certain foods. I wish I didn’t have certain ailments.

clock and calendar

This picture will make sense as you keep reading. Photo by Towfiqu barbhuiya on Unsplash

And when I spend all my time wishing things were different – while also working to change them – I get frustrated and feel like I’m beating my head against a brick wall. I easily succumb to despair. When life throws a little magic, a little synchronicity my way, hope flares up again and I’m reminded that perhaps I’m unable to see the whole picture. That I’m a character in a play that only knows her lines and not the lines of everyone else.

The other reason I appreciate the encounter from this weekend is the demonstration that things circle back. The man I met hasn’t been an active member of my group for nearly 50 years and now he might pick it up again. In my mind, if something doesn’t happen in the short term, it will never happen. I have big dreams and at the moment it seems like I’m veering away from them. I feel sad about that because these dreams are near and dear to my heart, but at the moment they aren’t feasible given my energy levels and my financial situation. Does that mean I give them up for good?

Intellectually, I understand the answer to that question is “no.” I see many models in society of people who accomplished things later in life, but emotionally, the answer feels like a “yes.” The more reminders I have that things circle back, that dreams can be delayed, the better.

My spiritual teacher says that “whatever happens in this universe of ours is nothing but an expression of Cosmic desire or Cosmic will … when a human desire and His desire coincide, then only does the human desire become fruitful, otherwise it is a sure failure.”

Sometimes when I want something to happen doesn’t match up to when the cosmos wants something to happen. Sometimes the soil isn’t fertile enough. Sometimes you plant something and the yield is pitiful, but after adding nutrients to the soil, the yield is plentiful. I’m reminded here the universe is playing a long game. My recovery mentor says, “You’re looking at your watch while Higher Power is looking at the calendar.” My part here is to have patience, trust, and faith in the timing of things.

I dream of a world where we remember the universe has a long-term plan while many of us only think in the short term. A world where we recognize if we’re not ready for something just yet, it will circle back to us if it’s meant to be. A world where we realize instead of looking at our watches, we should be looking at our calendars.

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

A friend said something to me recently that keeps ringing in my ears: “Wealth is not a sign of good leadership.” She’s right. Let’s look at CEOs of companies who are usually wealthy and considered the leaders of their organizations. Instead of being a good leader, it’s more likely they’re a psychopath because roughly 4% to as high as 12% of CEOs exhibit psychopathic traits, studies find. That’s many times more than the 1% rate found in the general population and more in line with the 15% rate found in prisons, according to Forbes.

A psychopath lacks empathy and doesn’t care about the consequences of their actions. They are typically very charming but they don’t care about hurting other people. They will do what they need to do to accumulate more wealth and power. In the U.S. and other countries, we reward this sort of behavior. There is no check on the amount of wealth one person can accumulate and we let the extremely wealthy do whatever they want under the guise of “freedom” and “choice.”

Elon Musk and Twitter is a perfect example. Within a few weeks, he managed to destroy a social media platform used by people all over the world. Not only are artists, activists, and others scrambling to change their operating mechanisms, but now thousands of people are without a job because they were laid off or resigned in response to Musk’s ultimatum. He said if people want to keep working at Twitter, they need to be “extremely hardcore” and that means “working long hours at high intensity,” according to the Washington Post.

businessman holding a newspaper

Wealth doesn’t translate into leadership. Photo by Adeolu Eletu on Unsplash

In response, people left Twitter in droves. Whatever Musk is – a narcissist, a psychopath, or a sociopath – it’s clear to me he lacks empathy for others because if he actually cared about the people working for him, he would want to promote a positive working environment that takes into account that people have lives outside the office. He didn’t do that. He only cares about his vision and what he wants. He doesn’t know how to lead or inspire people to work for him. All he really has is wealth and a desire for exploitation, which is the opposite of a leader, according to my spiritual teacher. He said:

“The function of a [leader] shall, therefore, be to see that the dominating or the ruling classes do not have any scope for exploitation … The moment one class turns into exploiters, the life of the majority becomes miserable; a few enjoy at the cost of many whose lot is only to suffer. More than that, in such a state of society both the few and the many get degenerated. The few (exploiters) degenerate themselves due to [an] excess of physical enjoyments, and the many (exploited) cannot elevate themselves, because all their energy is taken up in mundane problems …. Hence, for the physical, mental, and spiritual welfare of the administrator and the administered of the society as a whole, it is essential that no one is given any scope to exploit the rest of the society.”

We clearly don’t have that because these days, exploitation is encouraged. What’s the solution? One of my friends says “more governance,” but that doesn’t work with our current politicians because many of them also show psychopathic and sociopathic traits. What we really need is a complete overhaul of our power structures. We need people in power who are actually leaders, not in the sense they inspire followers because hi, just look at cults. No. What we need is people who want to curb exploitation. People who actually care about others. People who understand the repercussions of their actions and aren’t only looking out for themselves. I see some of that already but I hope I see more of it soon.

I dream of a world where we recognize wealth is not a sign of good leadership. A world where we understand true leaders think about others and show care for everyone. A world where we recognize leaders should hinder exploitation because they value the upliftment of all.

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

I wrote this post in December 2017 so a lot has changed since then. My sleep is sorted and my health challenges aren’t nearly as taxing as they were before (although I’m still a spoonie). However, some of my dreams still feel far away so re-reading this post brings me comfort. I hope it does for you as well.

It doesn’t happen to me often that I’m up most of the night, wide awake, unable to sleep, but it’s happening as I write this in my journal. The timing seems only fitting for the topic of this post, dreams.

The other day I pulled an oracle card called “The Retriever.” The Retriever is a fairy who retrieves that which is lost, including dreams. The Retriever will hold onto a dream until the person is ready to pick it up again. Drawing the card, I felt comforted. A sense of ease washed over me. I visualized my dreams as an orb off in the hinterlands, not going anywhere, just waiting patiently.

winter scene

This is kind of what I imagine the dream hinterland looking like. Photo by Denys Nevozhai on Unsplash

So often we talk about our dreams as something to pursue, to constantly work toward, like they’re a marathon to train for. And while it’s true we must take action to turn our dreams into reality, The Retriever reminds me my dreams are ready and waiting for me when I can attend to them. I don’t have to worry about them disappearing like a soap bubble if I’m unable to focus on them at this very moment because they’re not going anywhere.

Right now, as you likely know, I’m unable to pursue my dreams to the degree I’d like. All I have the capacity for at this time is focusing on my health. I mean, clearly something is going on if I’m writing this post in the middle of the night instead of sleeping. While I could heap on further disappointment by telling myself my poor health is evidence my dreams will never come true, and I’ll be stuck here forever and always, I’m reminding myself my dreams are out in a field somewhere, earmarked for me.

My spiritual teacher says that “whatever happens in this universe of ours is nothing but an expression of Cosmic desire or Cosmic will … when a human desire and His desire coincide, then only does the human desire become fruitful, otherwise it is a sure failure.”

That’s a wordy way to convey divine timing, but I also think it’s a message that emphasizes I can focus on other things, like my health, knowing one day my desire will match the Cosmic desire, and my dreams will manifest. I would say I can’t wait, but that’s not true. I can wait and I will because my dreams are out there somewhere in the hinterlands with my name on them. There’s no rush. And that means I can take all the time I need.

I dream of a world where we trust our dreams are earmarked for us in a metaphorical hinterland. A world where we realize our dreams don’t disappear if we’re unable to focus on them when and how we’d like. A world where we have peace of mind, recognizing when we’re ready to retrieve our dreams from the hinterland, they’ll be there, waiting for us.

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

On Saturday, I heard a delightful story from my hairstylist, Jen, about how she started working at the salon. She recently graduated from cosmetology school and was on the hunt for an apprenticeship because she wasn’t ready to strike out on her own as a full-fledged independent contractor.

While she searched, she continued to cut and style hair, including her friends and family. When Jen’s best friend went to the chiropractor one day, a woman came up to her and said, “I love your hair. Who did it?” The woman was, you guessed it, the owner of a hair salon. It turns out she’d been looking for an apprentice for two years!

I love this story because it reminds me what you’re looking for is looking for you. So often when it comes to searching for a job, a romantic partner, a literary agent, etc., we think it’s like looking for a needle in a haystack – arduous and nearly impossible. We think we’re the ones putting in all the effort and if we stop trying, we won’t get what we want. However, what if instead of a needle in a haystack, it’s like a needle and a magnet? The needle is attracted to the magnet and the magnet is attracted to the needle. They’re looking for each other.

Pins on a magnet

There’s a force that brings us together. Image by Myriams-Fotos from Pixabay

Another story for you. Many years ago, before Doreen Virtue renounced all her work and ended the relationship with her publisher Hay House, she created an oracle card deck, which is a deck of cards with messages on it such as, “The angels are telling you to stand in your power,” or “Be kind to yourself today.” Hay House wanted the deck on the market right away but it usually takes an artist a year and a half to paint the 44 pictures needed to accompany the text of the oracle cards.

Doreen needed something immediately and had an image in mind of what she wanted. She went to her computer and said, “Angels, I need to find this artist but I need her to have 44 images available.” I’m not sure what she typed, but Doreen found an artist immediately with 44 images available and sent her a personal email.

On the artist’s end, she previously had high-paying jobs but they’d all dried up and she had to work for magazines doing art she didn’t enjoy. She made a resolution she would never again compromise on her artwork and would say “no” to all jobs unless they involved her true passions. Doreen contacted the artist within 20 days of her making that resolution with a big job to not only license her artwork but license 44 pieces of her artwork.

Why does this happen? Because attraction underpins the universe. When I say “attraction,” I don’t mean sexual attraction, I mean garden variety drawn together. My spiritual teacher says, “[T]he cause of this attraction is the imperative urge for self-preservation. It is only because of this urge for self-preservation that unit beings run after crude, subtle, or causal expressions. And this urge for self-preservation, too, arises due to the desire for happiness in every living being. So it is clear that behind every attraction between one entity and another, which we call by the name of káma, lies the pure desire for attaining happiness. Happiness is the ultimate desire of life.”

We look for one another because we want happiness. Jen wanted a job but the hair salon owner also wanted an apprentice. Doreen wanted an artist but the artist also wanted work. We aren’t solitary beings fumbling around in a forest hoping to run into what we’re looking for. We’re not searching for a needle in a haystack. No. It’s a two-way street. What we’re looking for is also looking for us like needles and magnets.

I dream of a world where we recognize we’re partnering with other people and with the universe in order to be happy. A world where we understand attraction is at the core of who we are. A world where we realize we aren’t needles and haystacks but instead needles and magnets that are inevitably drawn together.

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

On Saturday I sat in the backseat of a car with a moon roof. I stared up at the sky and noticed a rainbow hidden in the clouds. I lowered my sunglasses because usually, that helps me see colors better but, in this case, I was surprised. Leaving my sunglasses on helped me more clearly see the rainbow. It blew my mind a little, to be honest.

We talk a lot about darkness and associate it with bad or evil things. Darkness is something to be scared of, it’s dangerous. But is that always true? Seeing this rainbow through my sunglasses reminded me sometimes darkness is illuminating. That happened for me this week not only with a rainbow but also with a better understanding of trauma.

When I first heard the news about antisemitic banners hanging over an LA freeway, my response was, “Where will I run?” That’s not rational or reasonable. No one was chasing me! Furthermore, I’ve never directly experienced antisemitism – no one has called me names for wearing a Jewish star or bullied me online. So where did this response come from? It’s a bodily memory from my ancestors.

rainbow cloud

The rainbow I saw wasn’t nearly this defined but you get an idea of what I saw. Photo by Mathias Reding on Unsplash

My maternal ancestors lived in Eastern Europe and even before the Holocaust, it wasn’t free of antisemitism. I don’t know much about them, but I do know about my grandparents – both of whom were Holocaust survivors. They both had horrific experiences, but I think my, “Where will I run?” response comes from my grandmother.

During World War II, she dug her way through the ground floor of a Lithuanian ghetto and escaped via a sewer line into the woods. In other words, she ran. To my surprise, when I encounter antisemitism in places I don’t expect, like an LA freeway, that same response shows up in me. My “lizard brain” gets activated. We all have this brain, it’s our limbic system, and it doesn’t respond to logic or reason. The limbic system scans all sensory inputs and responds in a fraction of a second by letting them into the cortex, the thinking part of the brain, or initiating the fight, flight, freeze, or fawn response.

As trauma-therapist Resmaa Menakem writes in his book My Grandmother’s Hands, “This mechanism allows our lizard brain to override our thinking brain whenever it senses real or imagined danger. It blocks any information from reaching our thinking brain until after it has sent a message to fight, flee, or freeze.”

In other words, you can’t reason with your lizard brain. It just responds. What I hadn’t realized, and what I think many people also don’t understand, is that when it comes to big issues, the “isms” and “phobias” we’re facing right now, you can’t reason those away. It might work with some people to explain why racism is harmful to everybody, including white people, but if a white-bodied person feels fear or anger in their nervous system when they encounter a melanated body, logic goes out the window and racism continues.

leaf shadows

Shadows can offer a new perspective sometimes. Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

Similarly, emotional appeals will also only take you so far. Just after George Floyd’s murder, there was a surge of interest in antiracism. Emotions ran high and people purchased books and enrolled in classes more than they had before. But now, those classes and courses aren’t garnering as much interest or attention because emotion faded. But the body remembers. Menakem argues, “If we are to survive as a country, it is inside our bodies where this conflict will need to be resolved.”

After this week and experiencing my own version of alienation and othering, I agree. I can’t reason with people why antisemitic tropes are malarkey. I can’t emotionally convey why staying silent in the face of antisemitism is terrifying for me as a Jewish person. If you don’t get it, I can’t make you get it. What I can do though, is heal my own trauma.

When we do so we make room for growth in our nervous systems and that spreads. It’s like emotional contagion, but instead of emotion, something even more powerful. This isn’t a task relegated to oppressed groups, by the way. Every group has its own brand of trauma including white people. Responding with rage and aggression in the presence of an oppressed group is evidence of that.

Darkness revealed a lot to me this week. And not only a rainbow.

I dream of a world where we recognize logic and emotion only takes us so far. A world where we understand the power of trauma and create more space and peace within our nervous systems. A world where we confront our shadow to make the world a better place for ourselves and others. A world where we understand not only is light illuminating, so is the dark.

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

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