Sermons and Sex

“When the soul lies down in that grass, the world is too full to talk about. Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field, I’ll meet you there.”  —  Rumi.

 

The Methodist church in our rural village recently voted out a young, [celibate] lesbian, political progressive with a strong commitment to service and community.

The new pastor is an older, white Evangelical male.

It took me months to show up again, after our Brené Brown quoting, Bible is not infallible, meaning inspired, hell is a modern construction, loving all and excluding none female was ousted.

(One afternoon I visited during her office hours, we enjoyed a long talk, I told her about my work, and she empathized without flinching and said, “there must be a lot of stigma you must deal with.”)

Here’s an important back story to this entry: a childhood friend is a rabid evangelical, and her conspiracy laden, 45 loving world view is dismal to say the least.

Apocalyptic, to be precise.

Years ago, she attended a church in Manhattan, where she now lives, and she mellowed and found supportive connections, until the message included upending the status of same-sex partnerships.

She left the congregation, and her spiral into extremism and conspiracies has escalated.

She’s a victim, a persecuted Christian.

So I hold her as a great teacher: the ego loves being right, it relishes victimhood, and works hard to create stories that have little to do with anything.

I don’t want to be that person.

Love binds.  Ego separates.

I don’t want to be someone who is never wrong, for whom my opinions matter more than my Presence.

This challenges my well-developed ideas of right and wrong.  After several stubborn months, I took the situation in my local church as my invitation to re-examine where I am, what I am doing, and to excavate possibilities, instead of closing doors.

Much as I have done under the regime of 45 — an invitation to dig deeper into a more authentic identity, the Self’s limitlessness, letting Presence and awareness flow through me as the change we need.

Closing doors, usually the ego and stasis.  Opening possibilities, almost always growth and insight.

So I returned to the congregation, and I was welcomed with an overflow of “oh we missed you so much,” as well as hugs and kisses.

Last week’s sermon was palatable: I made a conscious effort to lift the myopic dogmatism into metaphor.

Yesterday’s message was egregious in most ways.  I found myself simply going within and smiling as I often do when dealing with clients carrying pretty heinous imaginative depravity.

Not all clients, but a few, and I am sparing readers the details.

Banality and ugliness: evangelical sermons and aspects of phone sex work, usually two sides of the same imaginative coin: banal and bereft of intimacy’s possibilities, a rat wheel of empty mind chatter that self-satisfies.

There’s no misnomer to say that both are masturbatory, in the word’s most pejorative sense.

(I use the word lightly, because like whore, it assumes connotations that are socially conditioned.)

As I have written before, be careful about asking for wisdom, you’ll become a sex worker, at least for a short period.

For one navigates ambiguities that few are comfortable with but are necessary if one is to break our cultural myths and find a deeper well of Being.

Similarly, be guarded in asking to serve.  Sunday morning, I’m listening to a well-meaning old white man who really seems to care, but is ignorant and short-sighted, probably a 45 supporter, spew what are essentially Jesus or hell, turn or burn theologies wrapped in faux Methodist intellectual humility.

He kept telling our small congregation that he was simplifying “very complex ideas” (thanks, that’s a problem for me), and all I can think about is the morning meditation reading I did which talked about complexity being the ego’s favorite playground.

Life is a choice between fear or love, in any given moment.

That’s pretty much it.

Life is simple — “consider the lilies of the field.”

The complexities we create are usually less about our real circumstances than the beliefs given to us, and into we’ve situated ourselves and our source of identity.

I smiled and nodded.

Because my showing up isn’t about the church or this pastor.  It’s about keeping my heart and mind supple and open as I practice awareness, love, authenticity, and Presence.

Yes, it would have been nice to have a young, progressive female with a strong, sharp mind and huge heart.

But I have already learned more about myself and my path under these less than ideal pastoral conditions.  I said “no” to being right.  Don’t know where this community relationship will lead or for how long. But I did what I needed to do, because I am a heretical mystic, breaking down the seen and discovering the Beautiful unseen.

That requires letting go of ideas of right and wrong in service to Love.

What struck me vividly and intensely as I sat in the pew and shifted my focus from the words being said to my inner light was: “You take your miracles with you.”

Indeed.

 

 

 

Leave a Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Death And Life

A couple of weeks ago, a client I’ve known for at least 15 years wanted to talk.

For the past couple of years, he’s been very regular, much more so than in earlier years, and financially supportive.  Polite and easy to work with.

A reformed Catholic, he’s one of the best type of clients if one’s in a business that allows one autonomy, with high social prices:  he had closeted submissive fantasies, was respectful, smart, creative.  We talked politics (“I was home sick from work during the Benghazi hearings, and I knew when I watched them that Hillary was the real deal, Presidential to the core.”) and spirituality and meditation and music.

He appreciated a smart woman, and wasn’t threatened by brains.

That morning, I received an email from him at 7:28 a.m:

 

“If you are up (Friday am) and can do a short T&D any time up until 9:00 am please call. Then hoping we can do a longer call some time 11:30 -1:30. xo”

 

I also received an email asking how much time he had left on his package.

“An hour.  You have plenty of time,” I wrote back.

I called at 8:41 for sixteen minutes, or so my iPhone history tells me.  This call was part of a long tease and denial thing we’d been doing for a few months.  Fifteen minutes here, fifteen minutes there over the course of a couple of weeks.  No release allowed.  Heighten the experience.  Draw out the tension.  It’s a discipline of heightened pleasure, especially in an age devoted to instant gratification.

We talked about the intersection spirituality, sexuality, and delaying gratification as a “practice.”

He loved it, I enjoyed the control, and it was good business.

I called him again at 11:47, 11:52, then at 12:25, leaving a message with the last call.

One of the most conscientious clients I’ve ever had, this was unusual.  In fact, he could be annoying.  Because if we had a 1 p.m. appointment, he called at precisely the time scheduled.  Always.  I can never remember a time when he didn’t call on the dot, as a courtesy to me.  Never early, never late.  Not by a minute.  Part of the submission thing, squared.

I note this, because I’ve found that part of male privilege is often calling when convenient, keeping me waiting for an appointment.

Some men are too professionally important for personal courtesy, which also tells me that they don’t have control over their lives or circumstances.  I take note.

No such thing with him.  On time.  Every tine.

His absence was an aberration.   We’d been doing the tease and denial for two weeks, and he was on the edge.  Waking up nights, not sleeping as he should, feeling like an anxious seventeen year old, again.

He never wrote an email follow-up apologizing for the no-show.

He could be email needy, always with charm, but by his own admission, needy.

No follow-up to the cancelled appointment.

I thought perhaps he’d been caught by his wife — who he was entirely protective of.  He never mentioned his reasons for doing calls, never talked about her, never said her name, and he was scrupulous about protecting her and leaving no evidence trails.   I suspect that given my control over his pleasure, they weren’t physically intimate, and hadn’t been for sometime.  Often this happens for health reasons, not just libido differences.

A friend suggested that he may have”dropped dead.”

Nah.  Didn’t think it possible.

It took time for google to catch up, but I discovered his obituary yesterday.

In reality, he didn’t have “plenty of time.”   It’s possible that our morning chat was the last conversation of a man not yet even middle age, with lots of life and adventures and success ahead of him.  There were three hours between our 8:41 talk and my next call, when he didn’t pick up.  He was working from home that day, squeezing in play time while his wife was at work.  I suspect she came home from work that night, and found him dead, from whatever took him quickly and without warning.

There’s no judgement in the above.  If I’ve learned nothing else, I know the split between personal and public is breathtaking, invisible, lost in hype and mythologies about family and popular culture.  The people you least expect are often the ones who need a secret closet the most.

Unlike many for whom this split hides personal demons in sexual sublimation, this was a man who enjoyed making people feel good, who was kind and well liked, and who needed a safe space to deal with his sexual needs.

Now he’s dead.

With most of the world in existential crisis, I count everyday that 45 hasn’t played with the nuclear codes a gift.

Now this.  The gift of death.  The much-needed splash of cold water that says, “wake up.  No time for playing.”

I was a part of his life that will forever be invisible, yet, as I have learned over and over during the years, I held an important part of his imaginative and emotional life, for whatever reasons.

I honor the space that many have entrusted to me, with its complexities and ambiguities, and I respect what those ambiguities and uncertainties have given to me.

Looking through his emails this morning, I see how much our conversations  meant to him, because he cared about the people in his life.

To have given him safe pleasure, good conversation, and a spiritual perspective that helped him, for that I’m grateful.

May we be gentle and loving.  Our days are short.

 

 

Leave a Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Meditation Program

 

 

Hello Friends,

On the eve of her-story, I invite you to join me in an online February meditation program being led by Sharon Salzberg.

The program is free, open to all, those with no meditation experience, and experienced mediators.

Connect to your breath, expand your awareness, and nurture your self with a community, as we go forward together.

 

Meditation is a life changing tool, requires no religious belief, and the science supporting its benefits is overwhelming.

 

The book for this program is straightforward and sans woo woo, focusing on breathing exercises and the practice of sitting and being.

You don’t have to purchase the book to participate, but it’s a worthy, modest investment.

“Real Happiness: The Power of Meditation.  A 28 Day Program” currently sells for 1.99 as a Kindle download on Amazon.

The Kindle app for your phone or computer is also free.

If you participate, I hope you’ll email me or comment.

 

I’d love to hear about your experiences.

 

Here’s the link:  Commit To Sit In February

To purchase the book:  Real Happiness, on Amazon

 

Please note: I am not affiliated with this program or Sharon Salzberg.

Above image courtesy Salzberg’s FB feed.

 

Peace as we move forward.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Happy Holidays

 

May 2017 bring you extraordinary health, limitless happiness, and relentless good fortune.

May you find community and hope where you least expect it, and comfort when you need it most.

I am grateful for all of you.

Thank you.

Peace.

4 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Growing Eden

I take pleasure in looking at my garden throughout the day. Its opulence is a creation of imagination and nature, a space where my vague idea about growing Eden in the backyard, and then hauling soil, planting seeds, transplanting seedlings, hauling water up and down the stairs, has become a prolific transformation of elements under sun and sky.

The garden is an accomplishment that is mine and not mine, for its abundance comes from our only provider, and best teacher, Mother Earth, and the inescapable yet ignored truth that life is interdependent. A garden’s wisdom surpasses the little anthropomorphic understandings that we strain in and against daily. Planting, caring, working, watching usher a garden’s caretaker beyond human concerns and into immanence, for the gardener.

I doubt anyone wanting change for themselves or the world can do so until they have planted a few seeds in soil, participated in life’s effortless expansion, and observed the interplay and interconnection of the beautiful and so-called repugnant elements that make life possible. Seeds, soil, water, bugs, and sun change the one who plants, because life is resilient, persistent, and necessarily loves itself: life harbors no doubts, no expectations, no cynicism.

Life is, and there is no qualifying adjective.

And where life is, there is hope. Hope is the word we use in English, but it is an inherent quality of life that defies language and requires only attention, or awareness. It’s not a feeling, an emotion, or something that exists when we move beyond despair.

Hope is, because life is.

Distinctions break down in the zen given by a garden, as life’s particulars dissolve in moments of lucid acceptance that everything changes every moment yet life unfailingly persists. For as I meditate on my backyard garden’s glory, and the indiscernible yet profuse changes that take place daily and weekly,  I know another reality waits. In a few short months everything will die, that everything may come once more to life.  Then again. And again. This is the promise, for in the intimate coupling of life and death there are no discrete beginnings and endings, only an unbound continuum.

I planted a cucumber last year that was deliciously prolific. It died during the winter. I cleaned out its grow pot this spring, and then heavily seeded the soil with zinnias. A couple of weeks ago, I noticed odd fuzzy leaves with yellow flowers sprouting underneath the zinnias, around the pot’s edges. “Those look like cucumbers,” I thought, not remembering if this pot once held the cucumber. The zinnias crowd the grow space while reaching for the sun, but my guess was confirmed yesterday, when I saw the tiniest cucumbers growing from the fuzzy leaves under the zinnias. Less than half an inch long, and thinner than a pencil, they have found their way from the soil’s depths. In the cucumber’s roots, after the plant died, life waited.  I am happy to let them do as they will, allowing them to push themselves against the zinnias and reach for the light: they remind me of life’s quiet, unstoppable, inevitable hope —  its volatile power.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Two-fer Post

I received a complimentary email about my latest post that revisited the idea of radical self-love (“charismatic feistiness” is cool), but with some confusion about the time frame; the time line jumped from the eviction reprieve to the amount of time I lived in that building, and that was confusing.

I’ll briefly explain why I so jumped.

The post was about radically loving ourselves, despite ourselves, and moving beyond those things that we too often castigate ourselves about.   For myself, it’s that contrarian-hubris thing.  Too many people would have taken the advice of those presumably well-meaning attorneys.  I refused to do so, because I knew best for myself.

And I did.

What didn’t translate well in that twenty-minute, hastily proofed post, was that because I refused to listen to the lawyers, I remained in that same building for most of my adult life, no exaggeration.  I lived on Irving Street in Cambridge for nearly half of my life, moving from the boarding house room, to a charming room with a balcony, then finally to a full apartment.  All in the same building.

There’s a compelling back story to how I found that building, a story which sits as an important set-piece in my memoir, but for now I’ll just say that landing in that building was a “miracle.”  The circumstances circling around my finding that building, that I wasn’t evicted, became self-employed, went back to school, and enjoyed the amenities of living in Cambridge for so many years, well, there’s too many convergences for this entry, this morning.

I may revisit this as an entry later this month; know that it sits prominent in the memoir.

To clear up any confusion: it was a building that I was nearly evicted from, the building I escaped to while avoiding eviction in Manhattan, and it become the building I lived in most of my adult life.  It became a book-lined home merely two blocks from Harvard Yard, and my life’s domestic, professional, and academic epicenter because I walked out of the good advice of two well-intentioned attorneys.

That is, I once again refused to do as told, without blinking an eye.

Radical self-love embraces this stubborn “I don’t give ten fucks” attitude as part of The Great Dance.

No questions, just acceptance.

I hope that clears up any confusion, and fills in the leap from eviction to planted butt.  I refused to listen, because I knew what I was supposed to do.

Some folks call that hubris; I call it faith, in the broadest, most meaningful way possible.  As Thoreau wrote, “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.”  And despite the fact I was yet to enter my deepest, darkest psychic hole, I lived two blocks from the yard, around the corner from my academic aspirations, and I wasn’t about to leave, eviction be damned.

If I have only muddied the waters, wait for the book.

Or perhaps a future entry.

**********

Now, another meditation.

About a week and a half ago I fell down an entire flight of stairs.  I mean, from the top of the stairwell to the bottom.  I hit my head first, hard and with a frightening thud, and before I knew what was happening, I felt my body go down the stairs as in slow motion. I thought to myself, “you are falling down the stairs, and there’s nothing you can do about it.”  When I reached the landing, I rolled into my bike which sits opposite the stairwell, and it crashed on top of me.

Yes, I am fine.

Yes, it was scary.

Had an enormous black-eye, serious bruising all over my body, racked my knee out, and the like.

All is on the mend.  This happened after a strenuous two-hour workout.  I wasn’t paying attention, my quads were trashed, and I was trying to get several bags of fresh produce up the stairs.  Trying to do too much at once, not paying attention.

But I’ve had a series of insights after the fall that I wanted to share.

I wasn’t paying attention because I still lug around that “do more, be more” story in my habits and behaviors.  A completely, totally, unqualified line of b.s.

We can only do one thing at a time.  That’s it.  The rest is mind chatter, and a waste of energy.

Trying to do more is a big old myth and a hydra that siphons our energies by squandering our focus.

The less we do, the more we get done, and the better we accomplish our priorities.

Because of my meditation practice, I simply went with the fall instead of fighting it.  I believe otherwise, I may have broken my leg, arm, or neck.

As I work through another injury, I realize the gift of injury is that it forces us into deeper consciousness, if we choose to use it as a tool instead of a set-back.  One step at a time, one breath at a time.

Thankfully, I’ve been using the Chi Running and Walking program (highly recommend) to focus on form and breath, and I expect to be where I want to be sooner rather than later.

Not despite my injury, but because this fall and injury have shown my need for an even deeper and broader awareness, and a lived consciousness that less is more.   Choose what’s important; be present.

Now, that may be an obvious platitude for any meditator, but sometimes we’re given something to show us we need a little more work in this awareness thing.

A gift beyond measure.

A friend said, “you’re damn lucky.”

I replied, “no, I live in Grace.  I try to build on it.”

(I then mentioned  that my head is the hardest part of my body, for which I am also grateful.)

 

Have a safe and happy Fouth of July.

Peace, love, and good stuff.

 

 

 

Leave a Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Radical Self-Love, Revisited

I scold myself for my “bad attitude,” that open mouth, insert foot, fight until the death thing that too often has made me feel like the lone wolf, the black sheep, the foolish outcast.

The “I don’t give 10 fucks what you think” thing that has proved a stunning survival mechanism.

Because for all my personal style and elegance, that very inelegant caveat to my person I learned early on.  Or was born with.  Perhaps it was being bullied as a child and having too much responsibility in my home life.  Although loving and being loved are life’s center, I just don’t have the patience for other people’s good opinion.

Perhaps it’s the “This Machine Kills Fascists” rebel Guthrie blood.

My life lesson hasn’t been learning to get a back-bone, it’s been learning that radical self-love means the ability to let go gracefully, as well as fighting for what you want.

A story keeps coming to memory today, so I thought to put it down.

Years ago, when I was fighting eviction in Cambridge, managing to stay off the street by courtesy of rent control, social services recommended free legal counsel.

So I tied up my eviction in rent control by requesting continuances, and always filing extensions of time.  Staying off the street when you are mentally disintegrating is no small feat, it’s a full-time job.

So I took social services lead and contacted legal services (several more continuances, as I now had legal counsel), and met with two nice, officious lawyers who were going to help me with my case, ease the burden.  One was a Birkenstocks wearing leftie, the other was a suit and tie community service type.

I had several meetings with them, gave them all kinds of paperwork.  At our last meeting, the suit and tie community service guy said to me, “well, there’s really no reason to ask for a continuance, so we see no reason to file one.   But we can help you find alternatives to your current situation.”

I thought, ‘what the fuck is this guy talking about, ‘find alternatives.’  He doesn’t know squat.’

“What the hell do you mean no reason to file a continuance,” I said in a raised voice, “living on the street is a pretty damn good reason.  What exactly are you here for if not to keep me off the street.”  I was livid, and I let them know.

“Well, if you don’t follow our advice, we can no longer represent you,” was the summary of his help.  The leftie wearing Birkenstocks had guilt written all over his face; Mr. Suit and Tie remained unphased.

“Fine,” I said, looking at his blank, dull eyes.  I got up and walked out.  I didn’t follow their advice.  I fired the free representation, and decided to fight on.

Thankfully, the rent control board had coincidentally hired a new director, a woman who was entirely sympathetic to tenants and their circumstances.

Apparently, I lived in a room that according to rent control law my landlord was required to furnish; he didn’t.  She managed to work the law and give me credits for furniture and all kinds of other legal loopholes, that gave me another few months of a place to live.

I think of this today, as I scold myself for my big mouth, my opinions, my iron will, and I smile.

Part of radical self-love is embracing all those things that you think are your failings, and realizing that they are what make you shine, make you survive, take you through life to your next step.

I lived in that building for the next 15 plus years, went back to school, managed to get into graduate school.  Rent control was eventually voted out, but my butt remained planted two blocks from Harvard Yard, and years of unabated, untrammeled learning.

I look at that bad attitude, and for its many flaws, I am learning to love it.  I don’t love all of it, but when push comes to shove, it has saved me from the bad opinions of others, the bad judgements of folks who had no investment in my survival, and the naysayers who I’ve left behind.

Radical self-love.  Sometimes it edges are grittier and harder than popular culture lead us to expect.

And the longer you do it, the less you feel alone, for I’ve entered the peace and happiness that “I don’t give 10 fucks” gives.

 

Leave a Comment

Filed under Uncategorized