Meditation (personal view)

I learned TM when I was 12. My parents took me to a center and I was instructed as an adult. My family would meditate together on occasion but both my parents work schedules were erratic and we never established a regular pattern. I meditated on my own irregularly for many years until I became interested in religion. As I said, my father is a Zen Buddhist whereas my mother is a barely spiritual occasional Quaker. We went to unitarian church when we bothered to go at all.

I became interested in religion because I was brought up as an atheist. My mother was more tolerant of theism but my father was not when I was younger (he has softened his views since) so I was not going to tell him I was searching for something he thought was foolish. I began going to different churches – Catholic, Baptist, Methodist, Episcopalian, Jewish and an occasional Buddhist service. None of them quite appealed to me in a broad way. I became interested in Wicca and started learning about it when I was about 15. I learned many different variations on meditation mostly referred to as “white light” exercises. Astral Projection was the idea that the body has an astral/ethereal/incorporeal presence that can be taken out of the physical. Naturally I was curious abotu that and began practicing it frequently. It was easy. I learned years later that what i was doing was really a sort of mindful TM or perhaps guided TM – acheiving a meditative state with a goal in mind by focusing my attention on my physical body instead of a mantra. I realized I did not need a mantra – quieting my mind is achievable without it. I could in fact use the meditative state of my body in deep relaxation to focus on anything inside of myself that I wanted to. I explored a lot of myself and who I am on different levels of the self. This tied in nicely to my interest in psychology. I followed several less popular psychiatric scholars (Reich, Piaget, Lacan) and discovered many of the theories they had were a good vocabulary to look within myself and catelogue in a sense who I am and who I wanted to be. I wish I could say I was a regular practitioner but I was sporadic as I was working and going to school as well. I also always seemed to have some boyfriend or girlfriend to take care of as well. INteresting that I was so busy focusing inwards that in the outer life I was drifting aimlessly, unconcerned with where my life was actually going. I realized meditation (at least eh sort I was doing or how i was using it) was becoming a way to create an apathy towards being present. A concept I am familiar with from growing up with Zen. Being present was easy to pretend by being removed and aloof -emotionally detached. It was a good way to avoid being dynamic and making real choices. I realized I also resented what Zen represented to me; a way to avoid emotional turmoil by denying its power and potential. I didn’t want to be an emotional robot forever analyzing everything with logic from an apathetic viewpoint. I had no agency in that regard. I wanted the opposite – to know how to experience the present without being ruled by it. I wanted to be able to feel in control of myself while letting go of control of my environment. acceptance, that elusive paragon of Buddhist “enlightenment” was a lot harder than Zen makes it sound! Especially when the Western interpretation is that one becomes “above” suffering of life by gliding over it rather than mastering one’s reaction to it. Rather than choosing my own state of mind, I was removing my mind from all states. Which was also why I managed to pick up a lot of wounded birds along the way and not know what to do with them.

One of my best friends is a Buddhist priest and he used to call me “Kuanyin” because I worried so much over my own emotional connection to the world that I jeopardized my connection to my own spirit. It isn’t hard to let others crowd out your own self-regard. But what he didn’t understand is that I reject Buddhism’s hyper-focus on lack of suffering. It too often translates into a rejection of emotional power. Buddhism is based on an idealized state – enlightenment but the picture of enlightenment in the West is one of detachment, rather than non-attachment. There is a crucial difference. And Buddhist practice is based on an idealized life that does not exist in the West or most industrialized nations. One does not live like a monk;full of simplicity and self-denial. Self-denial is easy when life only offers you little choices. Sandals or shoes? Robe or wrap? Pffft. Small inconsequential choices that allow a person to believe their state of mind is a clean slate when in fact is it simply in a clean environment. Throw a mirror into a crystal clear lake and your reflection is beautified. Throw a mirror into muddy waters and you’ll see nothing but filth. I cannot possibly expect to achieve the state of mind a monk has while living as a “regular” American. (and believe me, my life has hardly been “regular”) In order to attain some sort of peace within I need to accept and embrace the complicated chaotic state I am surrounded by first.

That is why TM eventually became a failed endeavor: it comes from a state of being that I do not have and do not want. I like running water, indoor toilets, sanitary conditions, transportation, easy access to information, devices that allow me to keep ties to people I love but cannot be near. I want to keep my “modern” life. It does not have to be ostentatious but I do not believe that I must throw away where I am in order to be in touch with who I am. Surely any method of self-actualization can encompass a variety of environmental differences? I don’t think TM does. Yoga does – it does not matter who you are or where you come from when you do yoga. I never was brave enough to try yoga but I have thought about it a lot lately.

On the practical side, TM involves sitting – which is uncomfortable and eventually painful for me. It also involves quietude which I have in rare precious quantities. Most of all, it involves focusing on nothing and becoming “empty”. The Tao has taught me the importance of real emptiness, I do not need meditation for that as a goal. I have different goals that I think go beyond TM – I don’t want to just relax and feel refreshed, I want to be able to actuate my inner knowledge and explore my true self. That is my connection to Godhead, of course, in whatever incarnation she may be. TM failed me there: it was a method to be calm and stop being two eyes peering out from my face but it went no further. If all I need is to relax, I can read a book or listen to music. or sing. Or dance. Or watch my daughter draw. or just be in the presence of someone who is dear to me. Those activities give me relaxation and a sense of connection to godhead because I am connected to someone else. TM just cuts me off from everyone and everything. It makes me feel void, not empty. I become a shell, not a vessel. 

After everything, I truly believe that emotional detachment is the wrong way. Of course being mired and controlled by your emotions is not good – it blinds you to the possibilities of change and you lose agency. But denial of emotions is wrong as well – it forces an artificial state and an unreal expectation. It also leaves you open to exploitation which I have learned enough of to know I want no more of ever. Emotions are powerful when they are examined and used as lessons – sometimes rewarding, sometimes punishing, but always emotions teach us something even if its just “pay attention!” I have acquired amazing energy and resolve through self-examination and realistic goals for my growth. Emotional guidance is something I think never stops teaching. 

and to be honest,what little I have learned from a small study of  Tantra has been far more helpful and introspective than anything I learned in TM or Zen meditation. TM has come to seem like a beginning to me in retrospect. I’ve only been able to understand and practice some Tantra but hopefully with the right circumstances I may be able to get back to it some day. 

From what I read on the Art of Living site, it seems that Sangha is hardly any different than TM or Chopra’s Bliss. Not that that is bad or wrong…

Different meditation styles for different stops along a path. Mine left mantra-laden TM  a while back. I need more than just mindfulness and relaxation. I aim to maintain my connection to godhead. Dharma is important but I want to get away from believing dharma alone will substitute for inner mindfulness. No matter how many rituals I perform or gurus I listen to, it all amounts to nothing if the lesson does not ring my bell inside.

Harlan Ellison

Ellison was the first writer I fangirled over. I proselytized about him everywhere. I gave away his books, I collected old copies from the used store, I bought in auctions et cet. But I knew nothing about the man as a person. Somewhere in my late 20s when I had gotten more “serious” about being a fan (joined forums, went to gatherings, started writing my own fiction, interviewed folk et cet) I heard stories about him as a person. It did not take long to develop a very negative viewpoint of him. So then he became my first writer to feel conflicted over. As a woman, I despised what I kept hearing about him over and over. But his words, his writing still stirred something deep in me and fueled me to keep writing.

Ultimately, I believed the only way to enjoy his work was to dissociate it from the man whenever possible. The more I learned about him as a person, the more flaws I could find in his work but it didn’t change the fact that the man was monumentally talented and a workhorse to boot. But he was also a bully. This is not my personal opinion, it is well known that Harlan Ellison loved to mock and humiliate others.

So, I don’t feel one way or the other about his death personally. I feel like another chapter of my maturation has ended but that’s what happens when you turn the corner on birthday and swing into your 50s.

Bon Mots to you Ellison, you old talented asshole.

Ursula K Leguin

Ursula K Leguin has died. She was the first sci-fi writer I read who was a woman. I was 13. I had read some fantasy stuff before but nothing could have prepared me for the brilliance that was The Dispossessed. She blew my mind. She made me hunger for more. Not just more sci-fi,. but more sci-fi like that. Playing with stereotypes, challenging tropes, and questioning our cultural mores. I honestly could not believe such writing existed before I stumbled upon her. She blazed a trail that was so necessary yet so welcome. Until I “found” her, I didn’t even know you could write things like that (and be popular!) She gave me hope and something to look up to. But it wasn’t just her books, it was her essays, her introductions for other authors and her missives she sent out for her fans. She was a bright spirit, despite what her writing was like,. with a quick wit, a sharp perspective and a very warm personality. I always wished I could meet her just to let her know how important her work was to me. But I take solace knowing that she knew, even if she didn’t know it was me personally, that her work was needed and loved by so many. The best part was knowing how happy she was to be doing what she wanted; sending messages to society, shouting into a void that whispered back in lines of gratitude and love. I am glad I was able to be a part of that. I will miss her. Even though I never knew her, she knew me.

Why I Take Selfies

1) I get worried I will die and my loved ones won’t have any current pics of me at my best

2) I want to remind myself that I don’t look as hideous as the world makes me feel sometimes

3) when I look good, I want to record it. Not so I can gloat about it later, but so I can build up a library of “i was looking good that day” – sometimes I will look back a month later and swipe through thinking “actually I had a lot of good days!”

4) Sometimes, it really is nice to have people say “wow, you look great!”

5) it helps counteract the reactions I get on the street sometimes

6) mostly I do them without makeup (or much makeup – sometimes I hide my face-picking which I think is totally fair) so later I can remember that I can look nice without exaggerating anything. I look okay as JUST ME

7) I imagine someday Lil Miss will look through my pics and maybe she’ll see her own looks peeking out behind my eyes and i want her to not be afraid of looking bad when she gets old

8) Some days I just feel good about myself and want to record that feeling

9) I remember looking at old photos of my parents (My step-mom and my birth-mom) and thinking many thoughts, all of them warm and wonderful. I want to pass that moment on to my kids

10) sometimes a selfie is a reminder of something that happened that was important. One of my favorites was “this is the face of someone who has taken her last final” – the day I earned my bachelors by taking my final final. It was a unique expression and I love looking at it because I feel that feeling all over again

11) I like to record how my hair changes

12) I notice how little my face changes

Single Mom A La Mode

its weird being single mom again. or rather I guess I should say its weird being a single mom who is *old*. No, I know 50 is not really that old but becoming a single mom is something I did in my youth- I was barely out of my 20s and it was perfectly acceptable for me to go dancing and partying and hooking up every night that my kids were gone. At my age, nobody would look sideways at me for doing the same now I suppose but it would feel different (it wouldn’t be new) and also its not what I want to do. I don’t have the same energy levels or good health that I did back then too so there’s that slowing me down.
WHat’s really different though, what really matters this time around is how I feel about everything else. WHen I was a single mom before, I cast aside the notion of companionship as some kind of luxury item I had no time or patience for. I couldn’t see much advantage to having a partner other than emotional and possibly financial. Eventually I decided to try again for both of those reasons and really not much else. I wanted certain things in life that are far easier to get when you have a decent partner. I also wanted a friend to come home to every night. It was something I had gotten used to with all my roommates and I wanted it again. My second foray into domestic bliss went even worse than my first. I suppose some of that was simply due to our different aims. I got what I wanted from teh arrangement but I had to deal with all the messy details that come with having a partner. I didn’t MIND the details themselves, but I did very much mind the person I ended up with. His version of love, partnership and commitment are very different than mine. So another attempt at partnership failed.

Looking at it now, I realize that what I want out of partnership at this point is a *very* different thing than what I wanted the first time I got married. Its very different than what I wanted the second time. Its very different than what I wanted the two times I entertained the notion but did not complete the act.

So this time around, being a single mom has a very different flavor than it did before I got married the second time. OBviously there’s a grave differnce in how parenting is for me as well: I’m a different age, in a different circumstance and have kids who are very different than they were back then. The world is somewhat different too but really not that much. Not enough that I can point to that as being part of what makes my experiencce feel so …odd.

I often wonder how odd I really am… how many other single moms are there out there who have grown kids AND a elementary age kid? How many are geeks? How many are bisexual? how many are monogamous? How many are starting a second career? How many have experience with chronic health issues?

Its not that I think I am so terribly unique (beyond the obvious) but that I wonder how this oddness keeps me from connecting.

When I was younger, it was easy for me to float through different cultures and subcultures – I was a retail store manager and wore a femme suit every day to work. I was a shooter girl in a strip club and rocked the “whore look” every night. I was a student and threw on whatever smelled reasonably fresh. I was a class mom and wore suburban blah-clothes. I was a weekend Goth and had a good collection of black dresses and boots. I was a baby butch and sometimes stepped out as a man.

Now I just want to find a group I can chat with and not worry about how I look, whether I have the right clothes or attitude. I just want to feel like I already am “there”
So every day I start over with what I’m going to present as.. am I femme? Butch? Tight-ass corporate? slightly slutty? Haphazard egghead? Wise crone? Ditzy student? know-it-all mom?

I don’t know… I wonder if all those years I drifted through groups I was wasting my time.. did nothing leave a mark on me? Why do I feel like i have no culture of my own?

I thought it would at least be parenthood… but that’s not working either… I’m older, uglier, more tired, less intense and less patient than every other parent I meet. Children are the only thing in my life that has never stopped being important to me yet I still don’t feel like I really fit in with other single moms….

…. who will I be tomorrow?

downer days

THere are times I still want to find someone and unload all the pain of my marriage onto. All my friends already know, they’ve heard it all many times over. I want new validation, I want to feel less alone in this. I’m certainly not the first, only or most wrong divorced woman on the planet (or anywhere) but sometimes I feel the wrongness of it all over again. It makes me wish it were a tangible thing, this darkness that I could cast out, throw it somewhere and have it stick instead of staying inside me. I do believe time heals in a way, but it doesn’t cure. Old griefs don’t ever go away and old wrongs are never righted; they just erode slowly into a past that you can remove yourself from. You take steps forward in life and the pains of the past get that much smaller and easier to look at head on.

Yes of course I think about all the things I did wrong. Yes, I look inside myself and check to see if those unsavory parts of myself are still there, still ruling me because if I catch even a whiff, then I have things to do, boulders to push uphill again until I feel safe that those flaws will not crush me should my time for love ever come again.

But even knowing what I know about myself in the past, even being able to recite all the things I did “wrong” I come back to the same pain, the same plaintive persistant question “was I *so* wrong that I deserved to be treated like that?”

After two years, I’m certain the answer is “no, I did not”

The failure of my second marriage may not have been “all his fault” but the failure of our partnership was in fact, his fault. I believe that with all my heart.  I carry the blame for ending things and I accept responsibility for my flaws and mistakes but I know without a doubt that even perfection could not have made that relationship work. This is something I remind myself of still to this day – as I did every day since deciding to end my marriage: a partnership is TWO people. If one person cannot carry their weight, cannot support the other, cannot hold the other’s heart with love and respect, then there is no way it can work. A partnership is TWO people. Hard work, communication, therapy, kind words, gestures of love – none of them save a relationship when they are one-way. That is reality no matter how much it hurts.

And it did hurt, knowing at the end that no amount of increased effort on my part was going to change things. No matter how much I loved him, no matter how much I tried, no matter WHAT I tried, I could not make that man love me as a partner. Maybe he never loved me, I doubt he even knows for sure, but to be sure, at some point, he could not love me as a partner. And that is why my marriage failed.  Because marriage is a partnership and a partnership is two people who work together. He did not want to work together because it would have meant focusing on someone else in a real tangible everyday fashion. Something he would never be capable of doing. Hollow temporary gestures are not aspects of love they are only smoke and mirror shows designed to impress whoever was around at the time. Romantic moves are not aspects of love, they are only silencing methods designed to shame the other person into acquiescence.

Aspects of love are mundane, natural and feel as real as the sun on your skin, as comforting as a warm drink on a winter’s day, as secure as a blanket around your shoulders, as poetic as a snuggle in front of a fire in the middle of the night. Aspects of love are plain and simple and show up as often as a text during lunch “hi how is your day?”, as sweet as dishes washed when the partner is putting the kids to bed, as common as checking schedules together so we can go see a movie on date night.

Aspects of love aren’t showy, flashy or loud. They are small, and full of kindness.

THere were no aspects of love that I did not pay for in my marriage. Everything was given not in kindness but in quid pro quo. And no one deserves that kind of treatment.