On the Impulse to “Do Something to It/Them”

                       10-pack-DONALD-TRUMP-FOR-PRESIDENT-2016-BUMPER-STICKER-10-MIX-BEST-GOP-Decal-USA-0-1

This morning as I walked, I saw a truck with a Trump sticker on it. I’ve seen it several times when I walk the dogs. And each time, I noticed the impulse that rose within me to “do something to it.” I then noticed the little “proper” voice within me begin to pump me up with pseudo-virtue regarding the decision not to. Eventually, if I pay attention enough, I also heard the internal response that acknowledged a slight fear that I would be caught and that someone with a Trump sticker might be moved to “do something” to ME.

This morning, this is when I realized that the reaction to “do something” to eliminate or change the nature of what makes me uncomfortable is in these types of situations rooted in the very same intolerant seeds that have flourished in others. We are all related–the actions of others, virtuous or evil, speak to my own potential. I remembered the words of Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr., about the violent nature of the existence of “hatred in one’s heart.” I considered how Gandhi’s early history of racist bigotry might have informed his eventual awareness of how violence begins internally, often in the guise of the absence of outright aggressive violence.

The impulse to eliminate, convert, insult, belittle, joke, or otherwise “do something” to that which makes me uncomfortable or frightens me; which challenges the boundaries for what I’ve learned or decided is sacred, holy, or right; or which triggers me in areas where I’ve been traumatized and moves me to hyper-vigilant defensiveness—these are seeds which can be nurtured to become violent, judgmental, intolerant…or can be repotted in a soil that nurtures my own capacity for understanding and compassion.

Out of that “repotting,” dialogue and mindful expression of my own experience and critically-rooted reflection can inform my speech and actions so that my responses are not disempowered or made bland, but are no longer distorted by a veiled desire to “do something to it.”

Colonialism in the Americas and religious “holy” imperialism in Europe and elsewhere has given us a legacy that can feed these seeds with the impulse to convert and perceive the world with an inquisitional zeal and desire to forcefully or manipulatively, mold others into shapes and scripts that match ours. Agreement feels good, and we’ve learned that power is the ability to influence.

But today I am mindful of how easily I could flip or switch, and how the seeds for violence are the same as those for mindful, compassionate, inquisitive, and engaged discourse/conversation.

I have been a religious education teacher, a youth minister, retreat coordinator, professor of spirituality and Dean of a graduate program in spirituality headed by a prominent theologian.i am a yogini, with 38 years of practice and moderate experience teaching. I have been repeatedly drawn to a life of spiritual practice and yearn, often, for life in a religious or spiritual community. But I have never been able to find comfort within the often passively harsh control that is disguised as holy or driven by a religious mandate. What I have learned is how the sword of kindness and religion can often be a sword of intolerance, an attempt to silence or stop the expression of views or positions that make one uncomfortable. It’s passive aggression, micro-aggression, and hard to address because it is a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

As a teacher and, a woman committed to justice and human rights, I cannot remain silent, nor distort through critique if I wish to address imbalance both outside of and within me. I must strive to be vigilant about what I’m actually trying to accomplish when I speak or act. And if there’s even a tad of a desire to feed my fear or seeds of righteous intolerance and vengeance or hate…I must recognize that these are seeds of violence. And I aim to prevent myself from acting or speaking, while correcting the way I’m addressing or feeding the seeds within me.

I must be transparent and not strategic. And willing to “take back” my words, to apologize. I must be, not “do.”

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She Who Banishes Those Who Devoured Us…or “It’s Not Nice to Fool Tonantzin.”

20151121_214213What is sacred?  What is too sacred to address?  What is so sacred it must be handled tenderly, gingerly?

And what is respect? What is dignity?  What is the significance of one’s identity within a socio-cultural climate in which there are clear markers about what and who has more power, more privilege, more rights to a sense of entitlement?20151121_213640

What is it that happens when we become so educated in the ideas of socially constructed reality, relativism,  and postmodern/post-structural aesthetics that we can violate that which others hold sacred, private, intimate, or secret?

These are the types of questions that quickly came to my mind after seeing James DeMars’  “Guadalupe: The Opera” performed by ASU’s Lyric Opera this past weekend. 

Let me start by saying that the arias were beautiful,  the set minimally powerful, the music by Carlos Nakai and Xavier Yxayotl heart-opening. I’ll come back to some of this later, though.  Because what was overwhelmingly present for me during the entire performance was the blatant rewriting of the “legend” as traditionally passed on, to, and through the Mexican people since 1531.  And that’s where the paradoxes and contradictions complicate the repeated sense of violation that I experienced while watching the opera.

You see, one of the best ways to confuse someone is to combine something they’ll wish to destroy with something they wish to hold sacred.  And DeMars succeeded in doing just that, in a very parallel way to that of the Spanish Roman Catholic Church when they took the Aztec imagery and symbolism of Tonantzin, earth mother, and combined it with the language of Mary, Santa María, the doctrine of the Church, and the power of the Spanish Inquisition’s threats of torture and death.nican

As I marveled at the beauty of the arias sung by Juan Diego and tenor Peck’s reverential presence on stage, I simultaneously was repeatedly struck by the casting of a plump and pink-faced “Malinche” as the competitor with Juan Diego for the Bishop’s attention.  I had to keep telling myself, “It’s a college student production,” and simultaneously reminding myself, “but DeMars changed the historical facts in favor of his story.” It’s this sort of inner dissonance that made the original Aztecs vulnerable to colonialism and the Inquisition’s version of a holy faith, and which is the reason I found the opera deplorable today.  While the predominantly white audience appreciated the story that I can only assume most knew only distantly before seeing the opera, I was also aware that many Chicano/as and Mexicans do not know detailed historical accounts such as those scholars of Guadalupe and Mexican colonialist and cultural history could tell.  So we were all stuck with what DeMars “told” us through his English text viewed above the staged production. And it was dramatically and significantly changed to serve the contemporary Roman Catholic doctrine–even radically more distorted than the initial stories. (I could go into prolonged narrative detail here regarding history and the stories, but I suggest if you are interested that you read from books such as those listed at the end of my blog.)

Let me just say that there are places to read what the original legend claimed the lady said, in native Nahuatl, the language of the Aztecs/Mexica. She did not claim to be Mary, but ambiguously referenced herself in a way that would confuse and mystify–and in fact some hold that she gave her name which had some phonetic similarity in places to the word Guadalupe, the name of a town in Spain with an associated image of Maria. And let me say that even the image on Juan Diego’s tilma was the “new” image, after the original image “miraculously” lost her crown a little over a hundred years ago when the first image began to show signs of wear and tear.  20151121_213828

The issue here isn’t “what really happened?”  The issue is who gets to share the story in a semiotically powerful staging of beauty in images and sound, so that it imprints itself on the minds of those learning the story perhaps for the first time.  Who gets to portray the Aztec heart sacrifice with melodramatically struggling victims (learn the history to know why that is relevant) in order to tie the heart sacrifice to the “beauty” and “wonder” of what DeMars’ cultural experts (provided from the Church) led him to sanctimoniously proclaim as the first “peace treaty” between the equally confused savage and real Spaniards and Aztecs? Who gets to decide that Tonantzin, called Guadalupe, has suddenly become mestiza, and ceased being a Nahuatl Mexica woman? Apparently, today, as then, it is not us. That is today’s neocolonialism.

And let me say one more thing–despite the discordant imagery of what I could only call “hipster Azteca” members of the chorus, a  Guadalupe dressed in the Eurocentric light colors of Mary humming in a way that sounded as if she would be more comfortable singing a southern Afro-American spiritual, and the repeatedly stridently flirtatious and millennial Malinche…despite all these things on TOP of the neocolonial propaganda we were being fed in the libretto…I had one very powerful reminder of who we are.

When the wonderful tenor as Juan Diego dropped his tilma to reveal the image of Guadalupe as we know her, my heart jumped, and I instantly began to cry silent tears of deep love.  My friend who had brought me to the opera shared that she, too, had “to admit that moved me.” That image holds archetypal ancestry for us, traces of our original spiritual roots as both Mexicans and Spaniards. And as recent research has begun to admit to us, our DNA holds our ancestral trauma and history.  My body knew. I just wonder what the bodies of those who do not hold our history say to them when they see us protesting the spiritual political and dogmatic fairytale they just found “delightful.” 20151121_213901

 

READING: For a variety of perspectives and interpretations of the story of the apparition of Guadalupe and how it is held and experienced by the Mexican people around the world, here are just a few books I suggest:  Rodriguez’ book, Our Lady of GuadalupeGaspar de Alba & Lopez (eds)’ book, Our Lady of ControversyCastillo’s book, Goddess of the Americas my book, Maria SpeaksSteta et al’s book, Una Gran Señal Apareció en el Cielo.  Also, for an excellent lesson plan prepared by the Yale National Initiative, see “Context Clues: The Appropriation of Malinche and the Virgin of Guadalupe 

About her name: What the church says she said about who she was is based in the official translations of the Nican Mopohua, the Nahuatl account written for the Mexica. It managed to conserve more of the Aztec meaning–see Rodriguez’ book named above for a powerful accounting of the text.–  It takes effort to find the translations today with the “two Nahuatl alternative names that sound similar to “Guadalupe”, Tecuatlanopeuh [tekʷat͡ɬaˈnopeʍ], which …translate… as “she whose origins were in the rocky summit”, and Tecuantlaxopeuh [tekʷant͡ɬaˈʃopeʍ], “she who banishes those who devoured us.”(Anderson Carl and Chavez Eduardo, Our Lady of Guadalupe: Mother of the Civilization of Love, Doubleday, New York, 2009, p. 20)

 

Why Jorge Ramos is the First Person I’d Like Breaking the Rules in My World

When your words disrobe the emperor, suddenly the #politicsofturntaking become the self-righteous way to avoid admitting there’s a bigger picture.

As press conferences began to be disciplined in the Reagan era,  the gag on serious investigation and interrogation of our leaders began to be pulled tight on journalists.  Who the hell cares if Miss Manners approves?

We’ve been granted the freedom of the press so that the unwanted questions could not only be asked,  but their answers reported so citizens will not be  duped or manipulated by inquisitional, imperial, fascist and economically controlling factions and individuals.  We’ve come to accept the control of the press to such an extent that those who ask hard questions,  insist, and push are now disciplined by people who don’t even read the news or know much about what’s going on.  And that,  my friends, is a dangerous, very dangerous state of affairs.

What the person answering the questions wants to do or say other than answer questions,  is not the function of a press conference.  The reporters aren’t “in class,” invited to high tea, or chatting at a polite reception. A press conference isn’t a place to gather the pre-selected soundbites chosen by a candidate or official. The closer we get to that,  the more we’re watching the construction of propaganda.

The more reporters attempt to avoid that which will keep them from being invited to the party,  the less they are likely to think,  to critique, and to share with US, what we otherwise wouldn’t know.  Jorge Ramos may not have followed the rules,  but the rules he didn’t follow should be broken. Again and again and again. And no reporter should stay in line. #vivalaprensa

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Day 6: Thirty Days to Mindful Heresy–My Cry for Heresy

Today’s blog is an introduction to what it means when I say I am a mindful heretic.  I first began to think about this idea in 1993, when faced with an assortment of scenarios in my workplace, my church, culture, and family. I wrote about ten pages in my journal at a particularly frustrating moment, needing to express and explore the things that I was experiencing. I was at an odds with the norms for what it meant to be a legitimate member of my profession, what it meant to claim an ethnic identity as a mestiza Chicana with Jewish, native American, Mexican and Basque ancestry.  And in those pages, I wrote that I felt I should proclaim a “cry for heresy.”  Since a heretic was traditionally someone who could be formally ostracized, and even put to death throughout history, I began to consider what this meant.  What if one chose to walk the path of heresy, but simultaneously knew at a very deep level that this was not a challenge to the heart of their membership or identification with the group?  What if I didn’t leave or allow myself to be run away?

The orthodoxy of a culture or group membership is the established, authorized, or expected norms of practice, behavior, belief, etc., These can be stated or unstated, but they are commonly known and used as the basis for evaluation of the adequacy, appropriateness, or praiseworthiness of an individual and/or his/her actions.  Orthodoxy can include things such as the etiquette for social relationships, rules for dress or eating, codes of ethics, and can range from formally articulated rules to unconsciously held assumptions.  But what these norms all hold in common is the shared awareness (by the members of the group) that they exist, and that it’s preferred to be orthodox over unorthodox. Orthodoxy is the defining ideal for group membership.  And a heretic violates this.

When I claim to be a mindful heretic,  I have come to know this as a result of the fact that I am a member of a group, or personally identified with one–and  so intimately connected with it that I do not simply walk away from it because I disagree.  Rather, I stay, because the sense that I should have to divorce myself from my identification or membership causes me serious dissonance or discomfort.  I’ve come to recognize, over more than twenty years during which I’ve reflected on this, that there is something about the particular group membership or association that is important to me.  There is something about that membership or association that I do not wish to give up, because it is an important aspect of what I know I must do or be in my life.  Examples of this for me are family, my culture, my role as a university professor, and my identification of myself as a person of faith.

Because of my strong identification with the group, I know these rules and norms, even if I do not agree with them all.  I am aware when I am at odds with the dominant norm for the group.  It is this knowledge that keeps people in check in normal situations, by preventing too much deviation.  We know what it is to be “unorthodox,” and because we are group members, we feel the deep dissonance between what we have come to believe and what we have learned to be required for orthodox association or identification with a group.

As a mindful heretic, I am aware that there are “big” and “small” issues and rules. The ‘big’ ones are the ones that are harder to violate or oppose without seriously challenging the idea that we are “good” members of the group. As a mindful heretic, I have come to recognize that there are some serious problems with the ways some of the ‘big’ items are expected to be maintained in behavior, attitudes, beliefs, etc.  I have come to sense that rather than walking away from the group or identification, it is the norm that is problematic–and specifically, the implied necessity to be in agreement or compliance with it.

As a mindful heretic, however, it is not enough to simply know that we are not in agreement with the orthodoxy of the group.  Mindful Heresy is not a silent practice of dissent.  A mindful heretic comes to realize that closeting one’s beliefs, actions, identity, etc., out of allegiance to a group, or desire for continued group membership, is not tolerable or acceptable. It is not desirable at an important level of principle.

As a mindful heretic, I am aware that there are consequences for violating the norms of conformity and compliance associated with group membership or association.  I am aware that it is undesirable to the group and its members, and those who identify with it, for a member to act in ways that seriously or systematically threaten the orthodoxy.  Orthodoxy, in a sense,  is what holds together the social fabric.

As a mindful heretic, I mindfully, with conscious awareness, choose to act in accordance with my convictions.  This may be through speech, behavior, public decisions, demeanor, or proclaimed intentions or statements of values or belief.  As a mindful heretic, I mindfully,  with conscious awareness, anticipate the difficulties and tensions that this will cause, along with the often strong pressures to conform that will surround me if I am in association with the group whose norms I am violating.

As a mindful heretic, I am not necessarily an activist or leader of others in efforts to change the group.  I act out of personal conviction for how I know I must live my own life in order to walk with integrity.  In some instances, this may lead to larger movements or actions for social change.  Because orthodoxy is at the heart of a social fabric, it could be said, I suppose, that by choosing to be a mindful heretic, even if I am not an activist, there is an inherent strain towards change or adaptation implied by the fact that I do not ‘leave’ or abandon the group.

Day 5: Thirty Days to Mindful Heresy–Breaking Any Habit Helps

When I work with my “Masks, Transformation, and Change” classes, I always suggest that when the students are going to pick a habit to break during the course’s personal transformation project (PTP), that they try not to aim too high.  We don’t know how intricately our habits are linked to other patterns, beliefs, and identities. No matter what habit we choose to break, if it’s really a habit, we will be rewarded with insight into the other things we do, think, say, and believe that help to keep us blindly obedient to its call.

A good habit often goes unnoticed, like a well-behaved child who doesn’t seem to get noticed while his or her siblings who are misbehaving in many ways seem to get more attention when they do even one ‘little’ thing well.  Similarly, we don’t notice that the reason a good habit goes unnoticed is that it’s become largely unconsciously motivated, and it takes little effort or none to remember to do it.  When we have what we consider a bad habit, it’s the repercussions of the action that get our attention.  Whether it’s our health, suffering an injury, a recurring argument with a loved one, or getting in legal or financial trouble, those things we consider to be bad habits turn around and bite us.  But if they’re habits, just like the good ones, we are often unconsciously motivated or habituated in our behavior.

When I am struggling with a ‘big bad habit,” I’m beginning to learn that often it’s the cumulative outcome of many other smaller habits that are related to similar thoughts and emotions that somehow move me to do what I don’t want to do.  And when I focus on my “big” bad habit as my adversary, I often  have failed to see the army of little bad habits holding it up.

The thing about getting used to doing what I don’t want to do, what I “shouldn’t” do, what I know will hurt me or others, what takes me down a path of shame, regret, embarrassment, or suffering, is possibly strengthened by my desire to avoid the smaller things that have been out of balance in my life–perhaps for a very long time.

When it comes to learning how to break the habit of silencing ourselves in the face of oppression or a serious violation of ethics, harassment or violence, in our workplaces, families, friendships, and even in our communities of faith, I believe that we are going to have a much harder time being an effective voice if we’ve got a lot of baggage built up around other things.  For me, that’s often resulted in a really angry tone in my voice when I speak out, even when I’m not feeling enraged about the thing I’m discussing.  But chances are that I’m pretty peeved inside about a lot of other little things to which I’m not attending.

So I’ve learned that taking on small habits, one at a time, begins to have a cumulative effect, until ultimately I am not as threatened by the bigger challenges in my life.  When I gain confidence in my ability to change destructive patterns in my life, even if it’s just being better about cleaning the house, or drinking more water in the summer, that confidence is present when I am facing the orthodoxies in my life that I truly want to challenge.  And I can do it without losing my balance, because I’ll be standing solidly on level ground with my own two feet, rather than stumbling when I try to avoid stepping on the painful evidence of what I haven’t been able to change.

Day 4: Thirty Days to Mindful Heresy–Being Brave Enough to Accomplish Our Life’s Purpose

As human beings, we are said to function as if we are mirrors. Sometimes we look into a mirror and see ourselves; other times, we are the mirror reflecting back from the world around us.  Commonly, we compare ourselves to what we see, and other times contrast our sense of who we think we are with the evidence around us that tries to give us a glimpse of our frailty.  “That’s not me!”  “I wonder if I am like that?” “Is that what they think of me?”

Such manic and habitual thinking works really well to keep us in our place, we might think.  But from the perspective of mindful heresy, it very often is working to keep us from our place.  Being able to cultivate a connection to that inner voice that tells us what we are meant to do is a practice that takes courage, a connection to our hearts, and a relatively deaf ear to such things as markets, careers, images, and identity.

Sometimes, the call to our hearts can come so piercingly that we are catapulted out of our little corners of predictable culture and identity, and we reach to the heights and distances that we are truly capable.  We make a difference–one that is palpable and observable, and doesn’t need to be argued in a personal statement justifying one’s life or work.  That’s when mindful heresy is no longer in a tug of war with the ego.

I was moved to write today’s blog by the story of Narayanan Krishnan, and I invite you to watch this video with his story and ask yourself, “What would I do if I were as brave as this man?”  And then realize that we are all brave enough to accomplish our life’s purpose.

Day 3–Thirty Days to Mindful Heresy: Learn to Laugh About Everything

Have you ever felt yourself resist laughter out of a desire to “stay put” in the way that you were thinking or looking at something?  One of the most enjoyable aspects of cultivating the potential to have more power than your own beliefs is to learn to laugh about everything.This doesn’t mean to laugh AT everything. To laugh ABOUT everything is to be able to see the humor in even the most stubborn and proper, fixed and “serious” things in your life.  This has become one of the most enjoyable parts of my life.  My reason for cultivating this practice is not to become someone who ridicules or fails to act with proper regard for things when they call for it, but to develop the ability to detect when I am rigidly opposed to seeing the humor in something.

If I am attached to a particular way of seeing myself or another, to an argument I’m making, or a perception of a situation, so much so that I cannot step back from it and see what I’m doing, I’m probably not going to be able to laugh at it.  Comedians are masters at making us look at the things we take for granted and do habitually.  A good comedian can make us see what we do and think all the time, and when we see the nature of our own performance, we laugh.  Everything is play.  Even the most serious things in our lives.

When I can let go of the most serious, sacred, and intimately held aspects of my life, enough that I can laugh at the humor in them, I have learned I am far less likely to be controlled by them.

So, part of my practice to be more capable of responding authentically to the forces in my life, rather than responding out of a role or script to which I’ve become attached, is to watch comedies.  A lot of them are my favorites, and I get a lot of help from watching them–mostly, if I am honest with myself, by relieving stress and just enjoying myself.  My favorite comedies are in a way helping me to laugh at very familiar things, but probably also things that I’m already comfortable laughing at. The most helpful comedies to watch sometimes, are those comedies for which  I cannot find a way to laugh, when it’s clear that there’s something funny going on. Especially when I can feel myself going to a place of judgment and rationalization about why I not only didn’t laugh, but “neither should anyone else.*” That’s when I have a sense of the things that I hold on to most rigidly.  Some people have a hard time laughing at slapstick or physical comedy, others at comedy that makes light of body functions, still others have trouble when the humor in religious or patriotic practices is highlighted.  I’m not talking about “making fun OF,” but noticing the humor.

Our minds are a wonderful thing, and they can help us to overcome the barriers to growth that we put in our own way.  Just think of how many times you’ve probably heard someone say that you can reduce your nervousness in a public-speaking situation or an interview by imagining your audience in a compromising way–say, in their underwear.  It’s the rigid framing of what we’re doing, who we are, the groups we belong to, and what we believe, and many other things, that slowly builds to create a strong orthodoxy in our social behavior.  It’s hard to defy an orthodoxy that has its hold on our very capacity to think.  Try laughing at something you are doing or thinking over the next 24 hours, and notice how you can actually feel yourself loosen up.

*(Note:  I wish to make clear that I am not encouraging ridicule and humor aimed at hurting others, or bullying.  In fact, that is the very opposite of what I’m talking about.  In those instances, individuals are most often actually strengthening and reinforcing rigid categories and ways of seeing the world, rather than lessening how much they are controlled by these things.)

Day 2: Thirty Days to Mindful Heresy–On the Practice of Paying Attention

One of the quickest ways to stop paying attention to the world around me is to think that I know what is happening–know it so well that I confuse my inner certainty and boundedness with my sense of observation and listening.  When I think I know what is being said, what is being done, who people are, or what the nature of a situation is, I allow my mind to rely on my brain’s ability to speed up my perceptual experience. I’m much less likely to actually pay attention.  When I think I know something, I can rely on my mental categories and rules, society’s structures that I have learned, and my habitual emotional responses as the indicators of what is going on.  I can agree or disagree with something simply by noting quickly if it appears to be in line with who I’ve decided I am, who I wish to become, or who I wish to impress.  But that is not paying attention.

Paying attention is a lot of work.  If I ask my students to engage in a one-minute deep listening exercise with a partner, reflecting back everything they’ve heard, and increase the time to two minutes, then five…in less than ten minutes of listening time, they readily admit that it is a lot of work.  Our memories are not accustomed to being used to recall everything we hear or experience; we rely intensely on using categorical and symbolic thinking, so we can use our precious energy for something other than attention.  This is one reason it’s so much easier to take on a sort of “your team–my team” attitude to the world and our opinions.  If I can simply know to what, to whom, and how to align my responses, then I can be ‘right,’ ‘cool,’ ‘someone to watch,’ or simply self-deluded about my own brilliance.

We learn that individuals who are paying attention, and who, through their responses to the world around us, call attention to our misperceptions, miscategorizations, and faulty judgment and actions based on our habitual modes of seeing the world–well, we learn that we should pressure them to conform, or forget about them altogether. We can simply categorize them as wrong and discredit them immediately, or apply social pressure by making apparent our conditons:  “You’re either with us, or against us.”  “Are you in or out?”  “Team player or not?”  “Part of the family?” Even being a rebel or critic takes on a typical and scripted way of being performed, so that in time those considered activists are doing and saying fairly little that actually impacts the social orthodoxies of our world. It hurts when we’re rejected, teased, ridiculed, or otherwise shown that we are not in agreement with those with whom we wish to be associated. And in most instances, this works to keep us acting in alignment with the secular orthodoxies that surround us, as well as in some instances, more formal orthodoxies of behavior on which membership to a part of humanity is determined.  Or we may choose to harbor the wounds in isolation, rather than engaging in difficult interaction. Misery is actually easier than paying attention.

When we pay attention, it’s harder to go along with the automatic interpretations and reactions to the signified realities around us.  When we pay attention, it’s harder to be considered ‘right,’ not only by others, but by the inner monitor of our categorical system of thought and response.  We have to adjust and stay awake during the experience of our everyday life, spend less time in the subjective experience of our own habituated reactions, and processing the data of everyday life at all times.  Being mindful  isn’t just another category for feeling good about having made correct perceptual choices; it’s about being present and aware of what we’re actually living, what we’re hearing, what we have said and done, and where we are–what is happening.  And being a heretic isn’t just some cool term for aligning ourselves with a notion of ourselves as rule-breakers, activists or renegades and mavericks.  No, it’s the willingness to make our decisions based on the mindful experience of what is actually happening around us.  The mindful heretic pays attention, and when it’s necessary to change course on the basis of what is happening, the mindful heretic doesn’t simply scream foul or come up with a trendy internet meme; the mindful heretic shifts direction in attitude, action, or posture.  And not everyone is comfortable with that.

But if you’re paying attention, you’ve already figured out that when everyone is pleased with you all the time, your mind is probably not heavily engaged, even when you think you’re thinking.  In fact, when I have become too comfortable with myself, that is probably a sign of functioning with a sort of habitual, couch-potato sort of mind. When it comes time to speak out about real injustice or unfairness, unethical practices or behaviors, it’s going to be a lot easier (to do what is not so easy to do), if we’ve cultivated the difficult art of paying attention, even when we get no social or ego reward for it.

Day 1: Thirty Days to Mindful Heresy

autodefeThe cultural and group-bounded aspects of religious narratives and archetypes can put obstacles on our spiritual path if we fail to notice their mirage-like quality. Ultimately, a powerful and true archetypal narrative will take us to the same place, same be-ing, same awareness. By transcending our in-group certainties, we open up to the most beautiful and powerful capacities of what it is to be human. Similarly, by opening our hearts to see how we, too, contain within us the seeds of all that is ugly and destructive in the social world around us, we can respond in a productive way rather than adding to the chaos. We don’t become bearers of false good will, or masked ill will, but fully engaged in the world, aware of its complexity, and our explosive, but frail, natures.

My biggest challenge in this area comes when I see outright unethical, unfair, and mean behavior that goes unaddressed or is not called out, out of fear. I know that when I call these things out, my own frustration and sense of entrapment by the dynamics of bullying, hostile environments, & harassment, color my tone with flashes of anger and fear that defeat my purposes. The mindful, compassionate solution to which I aspire is to be able to call out and address these things with an ontological trust that does not give my power to that which is untrue or unfair–nor hide it behind a mask of false civility.

I can only hope to attain this level of presence, devoid of strategy, with practice–not a practice of how I ‘act,’ but a practice of being present, so that when I am challenged, I don’t ‘leave’ and allow myself to be embodied by spirits of fear, desperation, anger, guilt, fatigue, pretense, or even the joy that stems from an over-active ego.

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