Opinions Are Fake News

When I see a photo I always wonder if it’s real? Has it been doctored? Did they use a filter? 

When I watch a video, I wonder if it’s staged. I try to find out if someone else was there filming. I want to see it from several different angles. I want louder, clearer audio. I want to know what happened just before the filming began, and just after. I want more concrete information. 

I don’t watch the news anymore. Instead, I search the internet, sifting through for the stories I want to follow. I read 3 or 4 articles about 1 topic to try to get a balanced idea of what’s going on. And I hardly ever feel satisfied. I want more facts. I don’t want someone else’s interpretation of facts.

If I watch CNN, every single one of their stories is projected through their specific lens, leaning a certain way. Let us interpret this for you, our liberal viewer, through this familiar, comfortable lens. If I turn on FOX news, I know that every story is projected through another very specific lens, each with the same bias, the same bend. Let us interpret for you, conservative viewer, through this familiar, comfortable lens.  

But the lens is dirty. All of the lenses are dirty. They are all clouded by interpretation and opinion. Nothing is believable any more. There is no truth, there is only opinion. 

I am not at all concerned with other people’s opinions. I never really was, but my recent decision to remain flat-chested after the double mastectomy has solidified my almost complete disregard for other’s opinions. 

Additionally, I have also realized that I don’t even care about my own opinions. My own opinions have been discolored-, by all of my experiences up until now, by the society that I live in, by the media, by the opinions of every other person I know, by everything I have ever ingested through all of my five senses. 

My lens is not really my own. My past doctors every image. My bias photoshops every thought. I project them all through the same comfortable, familiar lens. And I realize now that sometimes the projection goes completely against my own way of thinking. My lens is faulty. It has been tampered with, by life, and it is not to be trusted! 

I could ask someone else for their opinion, someone whose judgment I value, but they can only offer me their interpretation through their clouded, faulty lens. Their opinion doesn’t really matter. Neither does mine. 

My practice is guiding me towards a factual existence. It is intense. I find myself questioning every thought I have. Is this an actual fact? Or is it a clouded opinion? Is there another angle? What happened just before the thought process began, and just after? Has it been doctored? Is it real? 

If I stand here and look at a photo of myself; my graying hair, my wrinkling skin, my breast-less chest, what is my opinion of my own self? What lens do I use to interpret my own existence?

I take a deep breath in. I exhale. And I wipe the lens clean. 

….

….

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Pocketful of Dharma 

This life is full of ups and downs, yins and yangs, happys and sads. There are moments when I am bursting with joy, and there are moments when I am the guest of honor at the pity party. There are moments when I am confident, content, completely in the zone, and moments when I feel like a total impostor on the verge of complete and utter failure. But I know these moments don’t define me. They are temporary manifestations of my ego, a momentary sense of my self.

Our sense of self is not a constant. We feel our selves differently in different situations. We are all more comfortable in some places than others. More confident in some situations than others. More at ease with some people than others. We feel more like our self in certain places and with certain people. Our sense of self is ever changing.

The ego swings like a pendulum. Sometimes we think our own existence, our own expectations are immensely important. We think our problems, our accomplishments, our opinions, are a very big deal. 

Sometimes we feel unimportant, insignificant. We believe that no one cares what we think, or do, or say. None of it matters. So, we shrink ourselves down, make ourselves small, and shut ourselves off. 

Whenever you are stressed and frustrated you are almost certainly caught up in your own ego. You are most likely thinking things are bigger and more important than they really are. You are all wrapped up in your royal I-ness. When you find yourself angry, stressed, frustrated, ask yourself if what you are stressed about is really that big, in the grand scheme of things?

When you are anxious, sad, unsure, and full of self doubt, you are also caught up in your own ego. You are most likely afraid, so you are shrinking. When you find yourself hesitating, and doubting yourself, ask yourself if you really are as small and insignificant as you think you are? 

There is a middle ground. A place where your ego can rest in contentment. If you practice equanimity, you can learn to balance in that calm space in the center. You can find the space between the body and the mind. Between the self and the environment. Between the ego and the universe. 

Rabbi Simcha Bunim Bonhart of Peshischa tells my favorite story about equanimity. He explains that in order to achieve this balance, everyone should have two pockets. There should be a note in each pocket. At any time, we can reach into one of them, depending on what it is we need. If we are feeling depressed or discouraged, we should reach into the right pocket, and find this note: 

For my sake was the world created.”

And whenever we are feeling self-righteous, self-important, larger than life, we should reach into the left pocket, and find this note: 

“I am but dust and ashes.”

Neither note is better than the other. Neither is more useful, or more important than the other. Both are necessary to keep things balanced. 

When you feel like life isn’t meeting your expectations, like things should be going your way, like you are entitled to more, grab a handful of humility. 

When you feel unworthy, insignificant, filled with doubt, grab a fistful of fortitude.

We can stand here, in the middle of two pockets, resting in the center, always remembering that both exist. In all situations there is a bit of both. The whole of the universe is mine-all-mine, and I am nothing more than dust and ash. 

Wherever I am, whomever I’m with, whatever I am going through, there is nothing to worry about. There is no need to stress or fear, no need for pride or sadness, because I am nothing more than dust and ash, and the whole entire universe is mine. 












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This Post is For My Non-Racist White Friends

Do you remember Daniel Carver, the KKK wizard, or dragon, or whatever he was? He was always on the Howard Stern show back in the 90s. Remember how he always said ‘Wake up, white people!’ with that deep Georgia drawl?  It was sort of melodic, almost sing-song.  It has stuck in my head all these years.

Sometimes, to this day, when I go into my kids’ room in the morning I shout it at them just for fun! ‘Wake up, white people!’ 

And now I know why it stuck. It’s because he was right. We white people do need to wake the hell up. Of course he was trying to wake up the racist white people. I’m talking about us, my non-racist white friends. 

There is a movement going on right now in our country. Because we live here, we are all, by default, a part of this movement. Some of us by our actions and some of us, by our inaction. 

With every movement towards any sort of change, there is resistance. Sometimes it takes action to resist. Sometimes, inaction is resistance.

There was resistance to ending slavery, even though it was morally and ethically the right thing to do. There was resistance to women’s suffrage, even though it was morally and ethically the right thing to do. There was resistance to the civil rights movement, even though… you get the idea. 

There is always resistance to change.

It’s hard for me to understand resistance to a movement whose goal is fair and equal treatment of all people. It’s tough to wrap my brain around resistance to a movement that is morally and ethically just. How could anyone be against equality? Have we not evolved beyond the place where we believe one life is more valuable than another? 

No, not everyone has. And I want to understand where the resistance, anger, fear and hatred come from. So I started looking into some white nationalist hate groups. I ventured over to the Dark Side (the Really Really White Side).

I found the White Aryan Resistance (they’re still resisting civil rights). And guess what? They have a great slogan! 

‘White revolution is the only solution’. 

Isn’t that fantastic? As soon as I read that, I said ‘Yes! Sign me up! It IS indeed time for a white revolution!’ Of course, they only want the racist white folks to revolt. But I’m talking about us, my non-racist white friends! 

It is time for us to get-up-stand-up for our black and brown brothers and sisters. It is time to step up and be more supportive of their ongoing efforts. It’s time to use our own privilege, every little bit we have, to make other people’s lives better.  

I know, you’re not a racist. And I am not a racist, but… our system is. Our country was founded upon racist principles. It was always good to be white, and bad not-to-be white. A few laws on the books didn’t change that too much. It is still an easier life if you are born white in America, than if you are born black or brown. There is no denying this fact, my non-racist white friends.

Our neighbors of color are navigating through a racist system every day of their lives. They are fighting in the revolution every day. I am aware of this. I think we are all aware of this. 

If we are aware of this, then our inaction is actually a form of resistance. Maybe for some people, it is passive aggression. I know, we haven’t done anything personally to hold the movement down. But have we done anything to help lift it up? 

This movement has been magnified in recent weeks (months/years) and I believe it is the moral obligation of every compassionate human being, to get involved. 

How can you get involved? You can start small, my non-racist white friends. 

Start by trying to connect more deeply to your friends/ coworkers/ acquaintances of color. Ask them to share their stories about the discrimination they’ve faced. Ask them to describe how it feels to be a person of color moving through this world of ours, this country of ours, this political climate of ours. Have the painful conversations. Really listen. Hear the words. This is their revolution that we are joining. 

Oh wait, maybe you don’t have any black friends. Maybe you don’t have any black neighbors. Then get on social media. Follow some black activists. Don’t know where to start? Try Lee Merritt, Shaun King, VerySmartBrothas.com. They will lead you to others. 

Speak out every time you hear a racial slur, racist joke, questionable remark. Every time. No matter who says it. Even your own mom. Make it a habit.

Call out coworkers, subordinates and superiors for harmful rhetoric. Even if there are only white folks in the room. There is no such thing as ‘just locker room talk’ anymore! (I sure hope we all learned that lesson).

Seek out and purposely patronize the black and brown owned businesses in your town. Are there any in your town? If there aren’t, then venture out of your comfort zone. Venture out of your usual neighborhoods. See new sights, meet new people, try new food, hear new music.

Reach out to an organization that supports equality and promotes justice. Ask them for information. They are everywhere. 

Get out and volunteer somewhere that is not quite so suburban. Expand your horizons.

Go out and make yourself visible at a few meetings, or a rally. You don’t have to scream and shout and carry a sign. You can simply stand by and be an ally. There is strength in numbers. And I know in my heart, that our numbers are huge. Huge! And not in the fake news sort of way. In a real way, my non-racist white friends.

There is a movement going on right now, and we are all a part of it. Either by our actions or our inaction. 

So, wake up, white people! I’m talking about us. 

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Called to Action

I am being called to action.
It was a whisper in my ear.
Now it has grown so much louder 
that it’s drowning out my fear.

I am being pulled to action.
There’s a tugging on my heart. 
An aching need for forward movement,
but I don’t know where to start.

I am being stirred to action.
I can feel it in my brain.
Thoughts of hatred and injustice,
thoughts of other people’s pain.

I hear and feel the call to action-
I’m just not sure what I should do…
So I summon Strength and Service,
and I hope they’ll see me through.

I am being spurred to action.
There’s a twitching in my fingers.
Write the words down- read them clearly,
loudly. Let the echoes linger.

I am being stirred to action.
There’s a dryness in my mouth.
Swallow hard, gather composure,
let the righteous words come out.

I am being moved to action.
There’s an itching in my feet,
to put on shoes and grab a sign,
and march right out into the streets.

I hear and feel the call to action-
I’m just not sure what I should do…
I summon Kindness and Compassion,
and I hope they’ll see me through.

I am being stirred to action.
There’s a rumble in my gut.
Hungry for justice, empty, hollow.
Something must be done. But what? 

I am being pulled to action.
With each moment, with each breath,
I feel closer to the answer.
But no, I’m not there just yet.

I am being called to action.
And now, I’m gathering my thoughts,
searching for my place in history,
hoping that I don’t get lost. 

I hear and feel the call to action-
I’m just not sure what I should do…
So I summon Grace and Spirit,
and I hope they’ll see me through.
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Emotional Roller Coaster 

I’ve been thinking a lot about roller coasters lately. I used to love them when I was younger. Everything about them. 

The anticipation of waiting on line, zigging and zagging through the metal bars with friends and strangers. Sometimes waiting an hour in the hot sun, then finally making it into the shade of the building. The buzz of the conversation and the overhead fans. The growing excitement as I made it to the stairs and finally, through the turnstile. 

Anticipation building. Energy rising. Adrenaline pumping. Can you feel it?
 
Come with me for a ride.  

Sit in the car. Put the harness on. Shift around until you feel comfortable. Maybe think for a moment, What the hell am I doing here? Or perhaps, This is gonna be awesome? 

Everyone is in. Let’s start rolling. A smooth, flat few seconds, and then it’s the first hill. Hear the click click click click. Feel that feeling in the center of your chest, in the pit of your stomach. Click click click. Tilted back in your seat, looking straight up at the sky. 

You know what comes next. How steep will it be? Click click click. Is it getting louder? Click click click. It’s so loud.  And then…

a second of silence.  No sounds at all. And every cell in your body is still, and silent, and aware of this very moment.  

Everything you know disappears, the law of gravity is broken.  Suspended in air, you hold your breath, your stomach flips and then, swooosh! You’re speeding downwards. 

You realize that you’re not breathing. You make a mental note. On the next drop, I’ll remember to scream

Looking ahead you see the enormity of the coaster. We’re gonna be here for a while. This is much bigger than I thought it was.

You adjust in your seat. Make yourself comfortable. As comfortable as you can be in this moment. And try to breathe. 

As the coaster rises and falls, rises and falls. You see a curve up ahead. You will be turned on your side. You brace yourself. Another steep climb, the clickclickclick. You breathe in deeply as you approach the summit and let out a scream that lasts all the way down. 

It’s so much better when you scream. So much better than holding your breath. So much better than holding in your fear/excitement/emotions. You vow to scream on every loop and descent! 

Moving faster and faster now, through the ups and the downs, the twists and the turns. They pass just as quickly as they come. You feel as if it will go on forever, an endless wave, an infinite loop, when suddenly, it is over.

You are back where you began. You lift your harness, breathe a sigh of relief and step back out onto firm, solid ground. It takes you a moment to get your footing. 

You are shaken. Shook. You are awakened. Woke. Your body is filled with sensation. You are alive. Aware. And back here standing on solid ground. 

A sigh of relief. A moment of contentment. You can’t wait to get back in line and do it again.  

Now imagine I’m not talking about roller coasters at all. Imagine that I am talking about meditation. Because, of course, I am. 

Sit down, strap in, and enjoy the ride. Feel the anticipation, hesitation, fear, hope. 

Listen to the buzz of conversation in your head. Hear the incessant, maddening clickclickclick of your thoughts. Is it getting louder? It’s so loud!  Hear the thought that this is not gonna be good. Wonder again, Why am I doing this?  Feel the trepidation. Feel the energy gone wild. Let it build. Let it happen. Ride it all the way up.  And then, the crest. 

Are you holding your breath? Exhale. Exhale big. Exhale as big as a scream. Exhale yourself right into that moment when it’s nothing but pure sensation. You are completely alive. Completely aware. In touch with every cell in your body. 

You vow to feel all of the feelings. The ups and the downs, the twists and the turns. They will pass just as quickly as they come. 

It’s all spread out before you, bigger than you had imagined, There is the thought that you want this be over right now. And there is a wish that it could last forever. 

And then the bell rings, and the ride is over. You open your eyes, and slowly rise, and step back onto solid ground. It takes you a moment to get your bearings. 

You are shaken. Shook. And you are awakened. Woke. Your body is filled with sensation. You are alive. Aware. And standing on solid ground. Back where you began. A sigh of relief. A moment of contentment. You can’t wait to get back in line and do it again.  

Come, take a ride with me. Sit down. 

….

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Skip, Joyfully

When was the last time you did something for the pure joy of it? With no goal in mind? With no other intention? 

This morning in the yoga studio, the teacher asked us to remember how it felt to ride a bike when we were 12 years old. Not for the exercise. Not to get to certain place. But for the pure joy of it. 

I imagined myself pedaling down the city streets, wind in my hair. I remembered the feeling of releasing the handlebars, raising my arms up in the air, riding with no hands! 

I remember the joy of it. Not the exercise. Not the destination. Just the joy. 

I try to do things for the pure joy as often as possible. It’s why, as a grown woman, I started skipping instead of walking my kids to school. It’s why I loved running, and why I love yoga. 

It’s why I always loved dancing. No matter what was happening in my life, I could find joy on the dance floor.  

Back in the day, there were a few local dance clubs that played the music I liked to dance to: punk, new wave, goth, industrial, hardcore. The louder the better. It turned my anger, frustration, confusion, into pure joy. 

There was a group of people that would frequent these clubs. I didn’t know them all by name, but I spent a lot of time sharing space with them. I’d see them in one club on Thursday night, and the other on Saturday. In one the next Wednesday and the other on Sunday. The same faces, the same cliques. 

There were some people who stood out, for the way they dressed, or the way they moved on the floor. There was one guy who stood out because of the joy he exuded. When he walked into the club, there seemed to be a collective hello. Everyone knew him. His name was, appropriately, Skip. Skippy. Hipster Skipster. 

He made his way onto the dark dance floor and he brought a light with him. His energy was contagious. I shifted myself to be in his orbit. I must’ve danced with him to 1000 songs through the years. Slamming into him, pushing him into the pit, raising a fist to shout lyrics. Sharing our love of music, sharing our energy. We were ageless, and timeless. It was epic. Legendary. 

Over the last few years, thanks to social media, and nightclub reunions, I had the opportunity to actually get to know him a bit. I could tell you that the knowing demystified the legend … but it didn’t really. 

He was, in my experience, just as he had always been on the dance floor. Smiling that smile. Laughing the most contagious laugh. Loving life.

His housemate has referred to him as a man-child on more than one occasion. Her word seems to sum it up perfectly. Sure, he was a grown-up with responsibilities, and a regular life, but he wasn’t an old person. He may have been 55 on the outside, but he still rode his bike like a 12 year old! 

He lived life to the fullest, and he died doing what he loved. Yes, he died young, but at any age he would’ve still been young. 

We’ve lost an ageless, joyful spirit. And now there is a gaping hole in the heart of an entire scene. 

The only consolation is the joy that he shared with everyone he danced with, rode with, played with. And as it seems, the joy he shared with anyone he ever met. 

With his untimely passing, the urgency of living a joyful life is reinforced. 

Ride like a 12 year old. Live for the pure joy of life. 

Dance. Jump. Skip.

—-
Photo grabbed from Aldo’s Facebook page  


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Sharing the Darkness

My deep love of music has been saving me since I was a child. It made the good times lighter and brighter, and it carried me through some of my darkest days. 

The artists that I was most drawn to were those who shared their own darkest days in their songs. Taking cues from them, my own darkness began pouring out of me in poetry when I was ten or eleven.

Sadness, anger, confusion, rage, despair. Somehow when these feelings had rhythm and meter and rhyme, they were so much easier to express. And sharing the darkness, even if just on paper, was a great release. 

I couldn’t get enough sad, angry, emotionally charged music. I found my own validation and release through the words of so many artists through the years, too many to list. But I think it started with my dad’s Little Anthony & The Imperials album when I was nine, returning the needle to Tears on My Pillow over and over and over.

By the time Linkin Park came around, I was already a grown-up; close to 30 years old. By some standards, I should’ve been over the angsty-angry lyrics thing. But I wasn’t. I fell in love with Chester Bennington’s voice, and I connected with his words. 

When he began speaking about his history of sexual abuse, I connected with his story. As I sang his songs, I connected with his darkness. Darkness set to rhythm and rhyme, the validation and the release. 

The people we connect with on the deepest level in our lives, are not the people we only share our light with. They are the people who know both the light and the darkness within us. 

Chester Bennington knew my darkness! He felt it! He survived it and he turned it into beautiful music. He had found a way to release it. He was a survivor.

But those of us who were victims as children, who are survivors now, know all too well that these things never leave us. They are woven into the fabric of our being. And sometimes, there’s a snag, a pull, a tear in the fabric. 

No one can know what drove Bennington to the depth of despair. The reports all point to his history because he spoke openly about how those events led him down a path of drugs and alcohol. He spoke openly about the demons that haunted him. 

He also talked about how music saved him time and again. 

For that very reason, his suicide has stirred up a whole stewpot of emotions for me. He was a survivor. A vocal survivor. A beacon of light for other survivors. 

And now, he stopped surviving. I guess it just got too dark. 

His lyrics will still save me. 

Linkin Park, One Step Closer
Still saves me.
….

 

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