Wednesday, August 28, 2013

My Miley Outrage

"Be kind for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle."  ~ Plato

  I am outraged over the Miley incident!

  I am outraged first of all that the media, and the population at large seems to care more about this, spend more time thinking about this, posting more about this, than actual travesties, actual injustices, actual real world problems, to the point that here I am too posting about this!

Honestly I usually dismiss this sort of nonsense, superficial, completely vapid gossip news crap. It is maddening that we can be more concerned with what will happen next with the Kardashians than the fact that wars are being fought, blood is being shed, children are suffering and dying. Wake up!!

So why do I care about Miley? What has happened in the aftermath of Miley's performance says volumes more about us than it does about her. I have read post after berating post, each one more vicious than the last, defiling her in far worse ways than anything that she did on stage.

When I watched the video clip on YouTube to see what all the fuss was about I saw a confused, awkward, struggling young girl. I saw struggle. I saw a girl like any other at that age trying to find herself, to express her new and yet not fully formed womanhood and sexuality. I saw her trying to do what she thought would be cool, attention getting, provocative. It should be noted as well, that she did not create that performance all by herself. Why is no one pissed at the TV executives, MTV, and no one is lashing out at Robin Thicke. Robin Thicke's  music video closely resembles what Miley did on stage, and the song is about drugs and sex.

Honestly, when I saw the video I wanted to reach through the screen and pull Miley into my arms and hold her like the child she still is and tell her that she is so beautiful and loved, and just hold her.

All anybody wants is love and acceptance and here is a girl who was thrust into the spotlight as a child, put under the pressures of such a life, exposed to all it's darkness as well it's shining lights and we are shocked once again at this outcome?

Many of the women and men who are now ripping her apart in the most shaming and cruel ways possible, were probably singing along and dancing in their family rooms with their own little girls to the latest Hannah Montana CD.  Miley is not Hannah though, and Miley was sure to grow up just like our little girls. Our little girls will go through these same turmoils of adolescence, they too will make mistakes and have moments of poor judgment. They too might explore behaviors and activities that we can only pray they will have the wits and self esteem to avoid. The only difference is that Miley has the added dimension of celebrity, and a stage to advertise it on, which clearly, she did not choose all on her own.

My point here is where is the compassion?

The deluge of angry, debasing and down right nasty articles and posts makes me wonder not what is wrong with her, but what is wrong with us? Are we really this callous and uncaring, full of only judgment and self righteousness?

It becomes clear to me that there is little regard for her as a person. She may have made an object of herself, and she is clearly looking for something, but we have perpetuated that objectification further with a complete lack of sensitivity and a failure to see the humanity in what she did. We don't want her to rise above this and become a healthy, self respecting woman, if we did we would help her. If we wanted that for her we would say, "Honey, that was not the best choice, but it will be OK. Everyone makes mistakes, everyone. You are still loved and precious and dear. Learn from the mistake, but don't let it define you. You can start over, you can begin again. Tomorrow is a new day."

I for one want her to know that, I hope someone tells her. I hope someone shows her not by cutting her down but by building her up. I wish for more kindness and tenderness in her world and in the whole world. I want that for Miley, myself, my children, and all the daughters and sons, for every being.

"Be kind whenever possible, it is always possible." ~ Dalai Lama

Now those are words to live by. Love, peace, and harmony.


Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Right vs Wrong and "The Usual Shame"

    Shame: a painful emotion caused by consciousness of guilt, shortcoming, or impropriety

  My son Mason is 14 years old. He is the oldest of my children that I gave birth to. He has an adopted sister who is now 23 years old, her name is Meg. He also has two younger sisters, Avery, 12 years old, and Harper, who is 8. I can honestly say, as can most every parent, that I have done the best I could, with what resources and energy I have had available from day to day, and circumstance to circumstance. I have loved my children intensely and sometimes that is messy! There have been times when I have looked back and wanted to do moments over because my reactions to a behavior or event were less about any wrong doing on their part, and more about my old wounds and stories, my self judging and shame spilling over onto them.

This is what I will refer to as "the usual shame". I got this terminology from one of my teachers while on retreat. She was talking about some of her recent life events and became tearful. The rest of the group clearly wanted to comfort her and she said, "Oh don't worry, it's just the usual shame." When she said this we all started to laugh, and she did too. We laughed because we all knew exactly what she was talking about, and she brought us into togetherness with that expression. Her words like arms pulling us close to each other in deep human understanding.

Later as I thought about those words "the usual shame", I was brought back to an event that had happened just a week earlier.

I was with my kids in Milwaukee visiting my sister and her family. I went to high school in Milwaukee, and so I still have some friends from school who live there as well. I made arrangements to meet up with a couple of those friends, one single and one married with two kids. We decided to do a picnic dinner in a park and my sister and her family came along as well.

Now my sister has three boys, 7 years old or younger. Jack, the eldest, is 7 and is on the autism spectrum. Jack is a delightful kid, funny and smart, but he can't tolerate certain certain things and struggles in some social situations.

When we arrived at the park the kids headed off to the playground and the grown ups sat down to chat. The kids would play a bit and then come around to hang with us and have some food. Mason was playing quite happily with Jack over on the playground.

At one point I look over, and I see Mason struggling to carry Jack, as Jack cried and flailed. Mason was eventually able to deliver Jack into my sisters arms, and she took Jack off to the side to comfort him. Mason made his way to the table where I was sitting with my friends and a few of the kids.

I asked him what had happened to Jack?  He said that two little girls had been teasing Jack and chasing him, and that both he and Jack had asked them to stop because it was making Jack uncomfortable and upset, but the girls would not stop so Jack had picked up a rock and thrown it at them. The girls rushed off and told their mother.

Mason then described how the mother came after Jack and began to scold him. Mason said he told the mother to leave Jack alone, that it was not his fault, and that he has Aspergers and he can't be blamed. Her daughters wouldn't stop teasing even when they asked them to stop.

I felt so proud of Mason as he told of his heroic defense of his little cousin. I found myself thinking  about how good of a mother I am, and how impressed my friends must be.

Then Mason said, in front of my friends and their children, "Mom, that lady was an asshole!" I felt a bolt of horrified shock run through me, and my girlfriend's husbands' eyes grew wide. I said, "Mason that is not appropriate language, and there are little kids here!" So he said, "OK, she was a butthole then!"

( I did not laugh at this at the time, believe me, but I do now, and so can you.)

I looked at the shocked father sitting across from me, and I felt the usual shame pouring through me, a wave of defeat and self deprecation, and an impulse to punish Mason for this wrong doing. I apologized to the dad that Mason had used bad language in front of his little ones, but added, "He is a 14 year old boy." The father replied, "And does that make it OK?"  I meekly said, "No, it doesn't."

Just after that it was time to go, we all packed up and went on our way. My mind was still reeling and tumbling with guilt and hurt, but it shifted away from needing to make Mason wrong, and I saw how this feeling was coming from a well of old wounds and pains, the usual shame, it was really about me, me being flawed, me being a failure, me not making the grade.

By the time we got back to my sister's house I had decided that Mason deserved that badge of heroism despite his slip of the tongue, which only showed how fiercely he felt about defending his cousin. I saw the goodness in him, his strength, and how he was stepping into being a man, and a great one at that. A great man defends those weaker or smaller than himself, even in the face of authority.

How often do we punish our children, not because they are really doing something "wrong", but because they are bringing up pieces of old baggage and touching old wounds that send our egos howling? How often do we punish them for being completely appropriate for children, but the environment, as well as social dictates and pressures are harsh and unforgiving? How often is it really about us as parents and our own fragile self images versus a real behavior issue? I am not saying children should not be disciplined. I am saying perhaps a closer inspection of where the impulse to punish or correct is coming from, and how we as parents choose to implement it, is needed.

In this instance I saw through "the usual shame", which made me reactive, and incited a punitive impulse toward my son, and I arrived at a new place of love and tenderness. I saw the "right" of my son, his right to act, to express, his right to be fierce and bold, demonstrative. Honestly there was nothing to fix. I had a brief talk with him about using expletives in public, and especially around little ones, but I also told him how very proud I was of what he had done for Jack, and how special it is to be a person who stands up for others.

I think, wow, what a world we would create if we had a new paradigm of parenting free of "the usual shame"! What if we could all gather together in love and honesty, have that laugh and cry, be in a deeper human understanding together? What if the parents re parented themselves and shifted out of oppressive strictness and into compassionate awareness?

We could create a new generation of someday grownups, future leaders, innovators and parents living beyond the legacy of "the usual shame". I know that new paradigm is generations in the making at best. I know I won't always succeed in being so mindful, and I will try to be much more self forgiving in those moments too. Awareness is where it starts, love is what it is.  


Tuesday, August 20, 2013

My Summer Gift

 My kids and I went back to the USA for summer vacation. Initially we were quite busy and I was off to Kripalu for ten days and the kids visited my parents in Tennessee during that time. I joined them in Tennessee for a few days and then we went home to Connecticut.

We went home not just to our town, but to our house which we have been able to keep despite our move to China. Our furniture and everything was all there, it was almost like we had never left, and summer was shining through the windows and singing in the woods.

When I had considered these weeks we would have in Connecticut I envisioned them busy with social outings and activities; the kids off on meet ups with friends and me doing much the same. Some of that did happen, but not as much as I had imagined. Their friends, and mine, were busy in camps or at work, or away on vacations. That had always been our summer too, kids in camp, me teaching yoga, and time away.

The weather was brutally hot for those weeks in Connecticut and no air conditioning in the house. I had my three kids with me all day every day. This was something I had not had in years, well ever in reality. Me, by myself (Stephen was still in China working), with the kids, and no schedule or structure of any kind.

The first couple days I felt a bit agitated and quite a bit anxious. My mind was filled with logistical question marks, some valid and some ridiculous.

"What will we do all day?" " How will we keep cool?" " How will I cope with the kids fighting if it is all day?" "How will I keep up with household stuff? " Where is my ME time going to come in?" "Will I break down and just fail?"

These and many more worries and considerations stuck into my mind, but then there was a shift. As I have found so many times the key to transformation is to stay. Stay the course, moment by moment and breathe. Breathe, relax, feel, watch, allow; the wave system of my Kripalu yoga tradition, so simple and so powerful with applications that reach far beyond my yoga mat and right into the nitty gritty of my life.

Stay, feel it, breathe. I did this and after a day or two something marvelous happened. I rediscovered my children. My love and adoration for them grew new and beautiful blossoms. I realized that THESE are my favorite people. Who else would I want to spend weeks of spacious, free for all, "what do we do next?", time with?

It was still a bumpy ride with crabby moments, fighting episodes, grumbles and complaints on all our parts, but it was splendid and rich. I feel like I got to know my kids even better and more importantly they got to know me, the total me.

After a few weeks Stephen came back from China, and we traveled to Milwaukee and had time with even more family and it was brilliant, especially reuniting with our older adopted daughter Meg. We had not seen her in years and she is now 23, in a stable relationship and expecting a son. So I guess that makes me grandma to be, blessings abound, miracles do happen. We are family and sometimes we are far away geographically, emotionally or needing some time to grow and learn. It is not neat and tidy, but it is beautiful.  We see each other, and with those closest to us, we are our best, and sometimes our worst selves. 

That is bliss, being perfectly ourselves in the best company. That company that might call us out on our ugly moments, or pitfalls, with whom we sometimes come into the deepest conflict and suffer the greatest heartaches, but always knowing that in the end they will love and adore us just the same, and we will love them right back.

The gift of my summer was that I stayed. I weathered the worries and moments of conflict, and in that I found love truly does conquer all.                 

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Cultivating Compromise, Calming Sister Strict

“Because one believes in oneself, one doesn't try to convince others. Because one is content with oneself, one doesn't need others' approval. Because one accepts oneself, the whole world accepts him or her.”
Lao Tzu

 I am recently back from my summer away in the USA, and back in Shanghai, China.

 Just before leaving the states, I had the blessing to go on retreat with my yoga family, The Acharyas, and our beloved teachers, Vidya and Devarshi. We did a lot of deep soul work together, as we usually do. Many things were shared, felt, and miracles requested for transformation and awakening.

My personal work was about continuing to step through a door that has become more and more known and clear to me, a door to more vulnerability and authenticity. Some of the work I see for myself on that path is a shift in my warrior nature, moving on from a struggling, protective warrior and a victim identity, to a loving spiritual warrior, fully empowered from the deep wells of heart and soul.

There is also a crucial component of acknowledging and embracing a new life mantra, "I have nothing to prove."

I have found as I inspect much of my life and my patterns, I have invested an enormous amount of energy in proving my worth to both others and myself. This has caused a mindset, and internal culture of perfectionism and strictness in my life. That mindset has kept me from softening into myself, from fully enjoying the gift of my beingness, and has kept walls of defense in place. On the other hand, it also has gifts of discipline, resilience, stamina and strength to offer when it is in balance with open-heartedness, self esteem and that good ol' yogic non attachment to results.

As I come back to my blog now, I will hold an intention to write wide open, to make this a vessel for that miracle of truth and vulnerability, transparency, and guided by my mantra of "nothing to prove". I will write to know myself and for you to know me, maybe we will find some awakening together.

As I headed out for my morning run today I had it in my mind that I would be running four miles. It is extremely hot and humid here in Shanghai right now, and even at 7:30 the heat was staggering. My run consisted of running around the block I live on, one block equalling one mile.

By mile two I was dripping with sweat and my body was protesting, but I was enjoying the idea of getting cleaned out, sweaty detox, a purification ritual. Mile three brought more intense sun and I emptied of energy and resolve. Sister strict showed up, that's what I will call my strict mind, and she started to throw all her judging and berating at me, because I was ready to quit at three miles and call it a day. Then it dawned on me I was overlooking another option for myself, compromise.

It did not have to be all or nothing! It should be obvious, but for someone like me, not so much. I chose a different approach. I did the last mile as a run walk, guided by my intelligent body. I ran slow until my breath and felt sensation prompted a shift to walking. The last mile was perfection. I allowed it to be just right every step of the way.  I let go of expectation and opened to the wisdom in me, beyond the story, and beyond shoulds and coulds.

Would it have been equally OK if I had stopped at three miles? As I reflect on the shift that happened, I find much more spaciousness existing in me for all alternatives. I can trust myself, I open my inner hearing, I listen to my life. I listen to my life and the right path is revealed.

And the journey continues.....