Thursday, June 15, 2017

Worldwide Day of Giving

Today is "Worldwide Day of Giving" and I want to give you something.
  On the occasion of my wedding, a very long time ago, my Dad gave me the greatest wisdom that still holds true. To add emphasis to the sincerity and sacredness of our last one-on-one meeting before my life transition, he drove 45 minutes to join me on my work lunch break one week before the big day. Even before he uttered a word I remember feeling so touched and I sensed something coming that I knew I’d cherish for a lifetime.
  As was his style, he wanted to provide the most beautiful setting to deliver the message he wanted to get across to my still maturing spirit. He drove me to the town park and there on a park bench, surrounded by tall oak sentinels and the bright hues of annual and perennial plantings, he talked about the importance of communication and how to do it effectively. A light breeze whispered around us, enfolding us in a magical bubble, and Dad concluded with, “Always communicate. Good communication is the key to a good life. Good relationship.” We stood to face each other. He kissed me on the forehead, hugged me in such a way that I can still feel it. He stood back with his hands on my shoulders and looked into my eyes, my soul. “See you next Saturday.”
  The following week I sat wearing a long white dress clinging to a bouquet of silk flowers that quivered with my nervousness. My Dad walked into the room full to the brim with stoic emotion that might have spilled over into tears if he said too much. In silence, he sat down and removed the white ballet slipper from my foot, dropped a penny inside. “For good fortune,” he managed to push out between his trembling lips. In Cinderella-like fashion, he tucked my foot back into the slipper.
  He stared into my eyes with such love I felt it rush through my body and travel to the farthest reaches of my being. He took my hands in his, cradling them and holding the gaze. A tear stood ready to fall in the corner of each of both his and my eyes and once more he urged “Communicate.”
  Sixteen years later that marriage broke into irreparable pieces due to dysfunctional, often non-existent communication. A few shards still stick here and there in the scars that formed in my heart from that loss. I imagine that your heart bears similar scars. Scars that resulted from communication that missed its mark or silence that kept you or a loved one from fully expressing a hurt or a need or a question left simmering in your mind. Scars that formed as a result of being misunderstood with no door left open, no recourse for a conversation that might have healed the rift.
  The only thing that stands between you and me and a healing is fear. Fear of vulnerability. Fear of emoting. Fear of being rejected. Fear of being in the wrong. Fear of further misunderstanding. Fear – a senseless wall and an illusion.
  Here on the internet we try and sometimes manage to hit the bulls-eye. Other times we try and miss, try and fail every day via social media, email, and whatever other means keeps us from looking each other in the eyes and feeling the presence of each other. We want that communication with the desperation of a desert wanderer in search of water. We are parched, longing to be understood and loved and not quite getting there.
  So, on this "Worldwide Day of Giving" I give you communication and my vulnerability. But I can only give it to you if you receive it and give it back. If you have ever or will ever feel misunderstood by me, please let me know. If you think I have hurt you in some way, tell me and let’s talk about it in person over a cup of something warm and soothing. Even in face to face conversation two people can misunderstand each other. We make up stories and judgments in our heads about others hundreds of times a week, much based on our own personal history.
  The secret is in leaving fear behind and dropping down into your vulnerable heart and saying, “I didn’t quite get that. Could you explain further?” or “I really want to understand you. Please tell me more.” Realize that I may have misspoken because I’m a fumbling human and leave room for apology and forgiveness. Or you may have projected onto me the hurt you still unconsciously feel from an old childhood wound. I’ve been there and understand and will do my very best to listen.
  Most of our misunderstandings are big huge ginormous mistakes that can be made right. Stick with me through the dark night and I’ll stick with you. May we come to a completion where we can give each other a hug in the light of day, having moved toward an even deeper, more intimate relationship.

Much Love,

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

The Road to Sacred Activism

We're All in This Together
  Over the course of the past two years as tensions rose during the Presidential campaign, election, and subsequent results, I’ve been in a place of observation and meditation to figure where I want to be in all this as a woman and as a concerned citizen. I’ve watched rising movements to save the planet and an upsurge of feminism. Something needs to be done on many counts and I’m feeling that the approach of these movements could benefit from some shifts in attitude. 
  Subsequent marches on Washington appear to have been peaceful overall. People standing up for what they believe in. At the same time I read comments displayed beneath pertinent articles on social media and there is clearly a lot of anger, often aimed at either the author or other commenters. The mindset of “Us vs. Them” prevails in those comments and on social media when in truth there is no either/or, black or white, clear-cut way to divide anything or anyone. Goodness and evil reside in every single human being. There are good women and conniving women, upstanding men and twisted men, believers in God who judge and condemn and atheists who practice humanitarianism like a religion, Republicans with Liberal leanings, Democrats with a touch of Green Party, and Conservatives who would rather go fishing and forget it all.  
Divine Feminine Masculine
I understand anger. I healed my anger and you can too. I’ve been there, especially when I see my beautiful country road strewn with trash or when it’s too obvious I’m being taken advantage of because I’m a woman or because I’m kind – defined as “nice,” “patient,” “peaceful.” I learned, in 14 years of introspective therapy, that underneath the fiery mantel of anger is sadness. I processed a fair amount of anger over time until I could see the offending aspects of my transgressors in my shadow self – the parts of me that I deny or hide. Only then could I transform anger and sadness into forgiveness. I also learned it is possible to have compassion for my oppressors and opponents - to feel relief from the angst inside myself, yes, and to find better, more effective, balanced ways of dealing with those whose actions tweak my sensibilities. At that point I was introduced to the ways of the Divine Feminine and Masculine.
  We hold people like Malala Yousafzai, Mother Teresa, the Dalai Lama, Mahatma Gandhi, and Martin Luther King, Jr. in high esteem for their non-violent methods of inspiring change. These women and their male counterparts were successful in creating societal and world advancement because they each tuned in to their Divine Feminine/Masculine traits. Collectively these renowned individuals endured extremes of racism, bigotry, war, violence, oppression, poverty, and insurmountable odds, yet they maintained non-violence, inner balance, and unerring focus on their goals. Could I do the same? I was sure going to give it a go.
  Malala who was shot by the Taliban in 2012 and lived to share her views with the world says she had no desire for revenge against the Taliban or any other terrorist group. “I do not even hate the Talib who shot me,” Malala said. “Even if there was a gun in my hand and he stands in front of me, I would not shoot him…The extremists were and they are afraid of books and pens; the power of education frightens them. They are afraid of women, the power of the voice of women frightens them and that is why they killed 14 innocent students in Quetta [Pakistan]." I imagine the "Me Too" phenomenon stimulated quite a bit of fear as it raced through media channels. 
After years of working toward understanding how to attain the Divine balance within myself and applying what I learned to personal situations, I realized something. When I meet a person or situation with the same unbridled anger, aggression, sarcasm, and bitterness as my opponent uses on me, nothing is accomplished but more of the same. Female or male, these means are what we resort to when we react without taking a breath, without knowing we have great power that goes beyond emotional outburst, without knowing the balanced Divine Feminine/Masculine aspects of ourselves.
Every time women meet men or groups meet opposing groups with the same attitudes and methods that have been used by patriarchal societies to oppress, those attitudes and methods are reinforced as the one and only way of doing things. In other words, if a woman confronts anger, aggression, sarcasm, and domination with more of the same, instead of resurrecting and accessing the innate feminine powers within her, she is telling her oppressors that there is more power in the way it has always been done. The abused becomes the abuser. Overarching patriarchy - unbalanced masculine without so much as a bow to the feminine - not only remains but grows stronger. The patriarchal ways of war, “us against them,” winners and losers, oppression, force, and aggression are therefore validated and strengthened. An interesting irony isn’t it?

Who We Are Really
 I see too many people asking why things don’t change, why they – “the other” – don’t change when it is each of US that needs to change. If we continue to do things the way they’ve always been done, ongoing issues that plague society have little chance of transforming. As a society we have long forgotten what it is to integrate the Divine Feminine with the Masculine. Many women have lost their sense of true femininity in the quest to become man-like in a man’s world. Many men wander through life with no sense of the Divine Feminine qualities that lay buried within their own being. Though we might say we are all for women’s rights or protecting the environment, we continue to “fight for or against” rushing here and there with fists clenched, arms swinging in search of a target. How many of us even know what the power of the Divine Feminine is or how to access it? What would society look like if we transformed what we have into something that accommodates a balance of feminine and masculine?
The Cure
We must start by taking a good hard look at ourselves and be brutally honest. Remove the stigma attached to therapy and accept it as a necessary life tool. Stop labeling and categorizing each other according to preference, belief, size, shape, color, and all the other diminishments we toss around with abandon. If we are against war, have we as individuals learned non-violent communication and have we delved into the sources of the things that trigger anger and war within us? Where in our lives do we support the things we say we are against? If we say we want a clean environment, do we do everything in our power to keep the environment of our own bodies healthy, make our earthly footprint green, and let our dollars speak for us? If we say we support women in being whole, healthy, and equal do we simultaneously support things that degrade, cheapen, and weaken women? As women and men, where do we degrade, cheapen, and weaken ourselves? If we say we want equality for all humans and an end to bigotry (defined as “intolerance toward those who hold different opinions from oneself”) where do we still draw lines of separation? If we want our leaders to be trustworthy, emotionally stable, and have integrity and loyalty to us, have we ourselves attained an unyielding strength of character, fidelity in our relationships, and emotional maturity? If we expect “them” to be honest and open, to stop keeping secrets and scheming behind closed doors, we must make sure we are doing the same down to the smallest measure of our lives. We are simply this: a microcosm of the things we see going on around us in the macrocosm.  
  No form of activism is effective if we only look outside ourselves at the things that are wrong out there. Activism is not supported by finger pointing and blaming. Equality is not women turning into men and men becoming wimps. It’s not about one person or group giving something up and the other gaining unreasonable influence. True equality is about discovering the best qualities of feminine and masculine that are possible, honing them and integrating them into ourselves. In quiet meditation we can familiarize ourselves and cultivate what is innate in us and work toward attainment of the qualities we were not born with until we reach a peaceful balance. We can start now.
Sacred Activism
Sacred potent Activism is not about fighting and waving fists and crushing our (perceived) opponents with cruel words, or worse, the subtle put downs and mockery of the “other” that tear at the fabric of our one and only human race. These are the tactics of unseasoned male teens battling throes of testosterone flush. Though our beliefs may be different we must remember we are dealing with fellow humans who have hearts and their own history that has brought them to their personal beliefs.  All humans experience the same universal feelings as you do – love, joy, sadness, despair, fear. Sacred Activism is about activating the power that can only be accessed by finding a peaceful balance within. Once the balance is set in place, nothing can destroy it and everything good and rightful and positive CAN be achieved both personally and globally. We must learn to listen to and understand each other. Every time we forget to pass our thoughts and words through our hearts before speaking or acting, we have stepped backwards. We either choose to evolve together or destroy ourselves and each other together.

Horses Can Show Us the Way
  Understanding horses offers great insight into how Divine Feminine/Masculine balance works. Horses are tuned in to their surroundings with a razor’s edge, on constant alert to sights, scents, sounds, movement, and the slightest sensations of physical and energetic nuance. “Under her Alastar pawed the ground. He’d pursue (a wolf they’d encountered on the path), she realized—longed to. To calm him, she had to calm herself (from Dark Witch by Nora Roberts).”
  I’ve experienced empathic horse behavior on many occasions. Once I walked to a horse paddock with a heart full of sadness. I walked up to the fence with tears running down my face staring at the horse I’d visited numerous times who had never given me the time of day. On this day however, the horse sauntered over and pressed his nose to my heart. Boom! A healing took place and I felt heard, understood.
  On another occasion, I was at a retreat working with horses who were total strangers. I was told to offer no physical or verbal cues as to what I wanted the horse to do. “Just THINK about him doing what you want.” You can imagine my confusion. How would a horse know what I wanted just by my thinking it? I mounted the creature and settled onto the gray speckled back, the quivering muscle and alive nerves beneath me – a horse still filled with the sensitivity born in him. My mind gently formed the thought “Go!” The horse stepped forward and stopped as he felt my disbelief. I thought “Go!” and this time trusted the feeling of it to work. The horse moved forward again and I thought “Turn left.” As I turned my head the tiniest bit to the left the horse turned left in sync; the magic of fine-tuned senses and the perfect demonstration of the blending of feminine (non-violent request) and masculine (action). Here was rider and mount operating as a unit in total trust and cooperation. No tugging. No force. No coercion.
  Later that day I had my first lunging lesson. Lunging is where you stand in the center of a ring or open area holding one end of a rope that is attached at the other end to the bridle of a horse about ten feet away. You encourage the horse to run circles around you for exercise and as a way to further ensure alliance and cooperation with each other. Again, I was told to think my request of the horse with one added component, “Feel your power!” My body no longer physically touched the horse so I had to make the connection another way. I knew what the teacher meant but because I wasn’t feeling it, the horse stood still. “FEEL your POWER!” the teacher urged me again and she patted her own solar plexus down to her lower abdomen, the center of our being where power lives. This time I took a deep breath, asked the power to grow inside me, and felt my gentle request. The horse started to move and then trot. Magic again. But not magic, just an attunement of feminine and masculine in perfect alignment. 
  Somewhere in our busy lives we forgot what we learned in grade school: we ARE animals! Just as horses do, we have valuable senses and feelings at our disposal when we don’t let our supercharged brains override the subtleties. We need to understand that we can't hide, can't find peace or justice anywhere unless we find it inside ourselves. We need to calm ourselves, refine ourselves, in order to reach the entities that seek to do harm to us and the greater whole. How we behave physically, mentally, and energetically makes all the difference. It takes practice to exercise those unused muscles but we CAN do it. "It's a lot like nuts and bolts – if the rider's nuts, the horse bolts!"– Nicholas Evans
When we identify and heal old patterned ways of response we connect more intimately with our inner world where real power and strength reside. We can then access compassion, unconditional love, forgiveness, and benevolence over animosity, hatred, and cruelty. Gentleness, kindness, patience, and composure can have great influence on those ruled by anxiety, anger, and intolerance. Empathy, seasoned wisdom, and understanding overshadow fear, suspicion, and discrimination. When we are steadfast in reverence and respect for ALL life we begin to listen more, talk less, and allow our intuition to guide us toward right interventions. And I must add, if you or anyone you know is being physically abused, all bets are whatever you can to find help!
  We are all cells in the larger body of all life and the Earth. Only when we cultivate within us what we want to see in the world, do we earn the right to disapprove of others in their transgressions. Let’s continue opening our arms and hearts together.

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Monday, June 5, 2017

Summer Memories Conclusion

  It was around this time of year when I first expressed my teen ideal to become an artist, to write and illustrate children’s books. When the school guidance counselor poked discouraging jabs at my dream, the wife of my father’s boss stepped in and said, “If that’s what you want to do, you can do it!” The summer of 1972 she came to look at my portfolio and said she had a friend who might be able to help patch up the holes in my dream. Her friend happened to be a dean at the University of Arizona. An interview secured my acceptance into their art program. Though life’s twists and turns took me in a different direction I eventually got around to writing and illustrating my first children’s book “Feather Gifts for All Ages" and I’ve never forgotten the support of those kind women.
  Upon my return from the past to the present, along the tiny spirit road of that small rock I held in my hand, I realized there have been so many more supportive people along this life journey who said, “You can do it.” Mrs. Blatchford gave me sewing lessons after school when my sewing teacher ignored my abilities. Mrs. English pointed me toward my first fulfilling work in a fabric store; sewing being second only to art on my love-to-do list. Members of my beloved storytelling guild who continue to nurture my storytelling and stage presence. Friends, teachers, ministers, lawyers, team mates, co-workers, therapists, and strangers all appeared at just the right time to encircle me with love and encouraging words, to shepherd me onward when I felt lost. Each in their own way let me know I didn’t have to hide behind masks, costumes, or a stage persona. I could step into my own character and feel alive and confident, comfortable in my own skin.
  It’s those extra I love yous I still receive that help me relax when my head is exploding with adult details and confusion. It is a loved one sitting in silence and holding my hand when I’m blinded to the road ahead that helps me know the clouds will clear soon enough. It is a friend pointing to the stars and reminding me they are not so far away that I can’t reach for them that keeps me looking up and toward my dreams. I hope these Summer Memories stories have reawakened some of your dreams and stirred some good memories. Have a great start to your summer, the time of growth and ripening creativity! Breathe in the beauty of this day, your day, and the Earth that supports you! Wishing you well in it!
Love, Robin

Friday, June 2, 2017

  This throwback to my summer memories has turned out to be more than just a stroll through the past. It’s a reminder of everyone who has supported my life and growth. Who supported you as you grew?
  The year I turned seven I received a two-wheel bicycle for my birthday, one I could grow into, lovingly refurbished with light blue paint and fresh grease by my parents. Sometime around the last days of spring my Dad spent hours running alongside me promising “You can do it pumpkin!” Soon enough I pedaled through the hot afternoons of summer and away, flying into new worlds.
  As I grew older, summers sparked bursts of creativity. I recalled the thrill of being on stage during that Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer performance in kindergarten. I hadn’t stepped in front of my classmates as shy Robin that day. I’d become Rudolph and experienced a flying lesson while wearing his skin. 
  I realized I could be anyone I wanted to be as long as the element of stage supported my wings. So, the summer I turned ten I gathered neighborhood friends and wrote, directed, and starred in a series of skits, complete with singing, dancing, and joke telling. In the basement of our church (free access being one of the benefits of having a minister for a father) we held practice, designed tickets and play bills, and eventually set up chairs for the audience we hoped to attract. 
  My dad and two of my friends’ moms filled half of the front row while the rest of the seats ran cold. But my friends and I glowed with the pride that reflected in the eyes of our parents and the sound of their applause for our accomplishment. I never forgot the good feeling of that day. Though I tended to still feel shy in day to day interaction and my creativity developed in more private settings, I knew that somewhere inside a more confident me stood anxious to come out. I’ll tell you more in the next edition. Until then let your creativity soar, even if it must be in the privacy of home for now. Breathe in the beauty of this day, your day, and the Earth that supports you! Wishing you well in it!
Love, Robin