4/16/2013 4:36:32 PM
When Katie Haegele finds a 1970s Ideabook at a yard sale, it unveils a world of meaning behind her own fashion choices and those of women in the past.
clothing is a Post-Modern genre, "a highly visible way of acknowledging that
its wearer’s identity has been shaped by decades of representational activity,
and that no cultural project can ever 'start from zero.'"—Kaja
Silverman, 'Fragments of a Fashionable Discourse'
One time at a
yard sale I found this weird book called Ideabook. A child of
the 1970s, I was drawn to this outrageous-looking thing like a moth to a lava
lamp. On the cover was a photo of a smiling woman in full seventies regalia:
long shining hair and big, round, yellow-tinted sunglasses, her head tilted
glamorously to one side. She’s raking that healthy hair back from her face with
one hand and smiling with all her teeth. In the background is her little brood,
a rugged lumberjack-poet dude with a kid on his shoulders. The family is
standing in a grassy field, but the photo’s color wash is so weirdly golden it
looks like the Serengeti. I find this scene hideous and appealing to almost
exactly the same degree, and if I could climb inside the book and inhabit it I
would. Since I couldn’t do that I bought it, as I have bought so many old
things that can no longer be used for their intended purpose.
purpose was as a catalog, from which you could order S&H Green Stamps items.
I didn’t know what Green Stamps were so I asked my mom. She told me that in the
seventies (and for forty years or so before that) you could get these stamps
when you bought certain foods at the grocery store. You then pasted the stamps
into a booklet, and when you’d collected enough of them you could redeem them
for household items and clothing. When she got married, my mom told me, her new
mother-in-law gave her a stamp book with some of the stamps already in it, to
put toward a vacuum cleaner.
My Ideabook, published in 1971, has tons of great-looking photos in it,
all of them full to the brim with goofy “vintage” charm. There’s a picture of a
few young guys playing guitars under a tree; you could order the guitars as
well as any of the clothes the guys were wearing. There are pictures of little
girls in knee socks, women lounging catlike on the floor to talk on phones, and
the family from the cover walking toward a picnic lunch on the Serengeti, which
was being served in clear Thermalene casserole dishes. You could order
space-age table lamps, shaggy rugs, stereos and refrigerators, all of them
pictured in super ugly rooms done in beige, orange, and avocado green. To my
mother, though, the things in Ideabook do not look
ugly or funny; she got a little misty, looking at them. To her I think they
still represent a lush lifestyle that she and my dad could not afford in 1971,
the year they got married.
So why do I love this stuff so much? And how about you, reader of a
blog post about old catalogs and ladies’ fashion from the seventies? What do
old things mean to you? I can tell you that I first learned to dress myself as
a young teenager at the Salvation Army, where the few bucks I had in my pocket
could buy me a whole outfit. It really opens up your imagination, looking at
clothing from so many different decades. The thrift store was where I first
learned to envision myself as one of many possible things: a tough girl in a
leather jacket, a summertime hippie in a long skirt, a party girl in party
dresses. Back then, in the nineties, my friends and I mostly came across
polyester tops and bell bottoms from the seventies, but we sometimes found
older things too, like the bead-encrusted cardigans from the fifties that had
held up beautifully, even if the yellowed lining under the buttons showed the
garment’s age. These were gorgeous, but they were funny too. We weren’t fifties
ladies! We listened to Hole and gave people the finger! Sometimes we even found
(and bought and wore) secondhand men’s clothes, like the gas station
attendants’ jackets you used to be able to find with the employee’s name
embroidered in cursive on the breast. Does anyone still wear those? Gosh they
Not too long ago I was reading an old
issue of WORN, an indie
fashion magazine from Toronto, Canada. WORN looks at
clothing from a feminist perspective, and in one especially insightful essay
author Emily Raine wonders if feminism can be practiced through fashion.
Sometimes, she writes, and quotes scholar Kaja Silverman, who has argued that
wearing vintage clothing is a positive feminist practice because wearing
clothing that another woman once wore “plays up commonalities between women of
That idea lit me up like a light bulb.
What a good way to think of it! Some of the smart feminists I know have called
out the nostalgists among us, reminding us that the good old days weren’t
always good, that imagining a simpler time is reductive and inaccurate, and
it’s unwise to romanticize the times when, for instance, Jim Crow laws were
still in place and abortions were illegal and dangerous. They are right about
that. But the clothing, oh, the clothing. There’s something electrifying about
channeling the past by dressing up like it; by mimicking the women I have
looked at in photos all my life, I get to be them for a minute. And why not? If
it weren’t for fate or luck or whatever, I would have had a life like theirs,
like anyone’s. The cat eye glasses of old family photos, a Donna Summer-looking
sequined top, the punky, printed heels that put me to mind of a musical and
cultural moment I dearly wish I’d lived through: filling my closet with
clothing from different eras has allowed me to piece myself together into some
version of today’s woman, which is a person who surely couldn’t exist without
the women who went before her and is in some sense a pastiche of them all. If I
thought I could pull off the Ideabook lady’s get-up
I would wear those fugly sunglasses in a minute.
once read a good zine with a funny name—I
Love Vintage (but I wouldn’t want to live there)—by a writer named Holli
Mintzer. In it Mintzer gives instructions on how to make a circle skirt from an
old bedsheet, and she does a fabulous little deconstruction of the social
meaning behind the clothing worn by a white female civil rights protestor in
the mugshot that was taken after she was arrested for participating in a
Mississippi Freedom Ride in 1961. But the things Mintzer wrote that had the
biggest impact on me had to do with how she reconciled her aesthetics with her
politics. On a checklist titled “Why Vintage?,” the bullet point “Because women
should dress to suit their shape, not change their shape to suit the dictates
of fashion” appears just before “Because I want to reclaim vintage styles
without their racist, sexist, homophobic, patriarchal bullshit baggage.” How do
you separate the old styles from their historical baggage? By mixing them up
and wearing them knowingly, with a little wink (or “quotations marks,” as
Silverman would have it) for whoever’s looking.
Finding the Ideabook made me feel closer to my mom,
for sure. It gave her a reason to tell me about Green Stamps, which as far as I
know she hadn’t thought about in years. I enjoy thinking about her setting up
house and home with my dad —they also had a tiny pet turtle named Ted, and an
injured blue jay they rescued and nursed back to health, called BJ— and even
though I’m not married with kids like she was at my age, I care about vacuuming
my place and keeping it nice, just like she did. She probably didn’t feel the
need to dress up in costume to do it, but she wasn’t postmodern like me.
Katie Haegele is the author of
White Elephants: On Yard Sales, Relationships, & Finding What Was Missing
. Read more of her
blog posts here
Image: "Parade Pattern Ad" from ionascloset, licensed under Creative Commons.
4/9/2013 12:23:15 PM
Most of us long for greater community feeling and action, but in our hyper-individualistic culture, community can be hard to find. Here are 16 ways to build and strengthen yours.
This article originally appeared at Huffington Post.
Over the years I've watched people struggle to build community and community organizations in a culture that has become more and more hyper-individualistic. "What's in it for me?" trumps "What's happening with us?"
I've founded organizations from scratch (The International Documentary Association, aprofessional organization for documentary filmmakers) and served on the board of others. I've been a member of still more. Some have been more informal and/or countercultural (a Voluntary Simplicity Circle, a local permaculture guild, the early National Organization for Women) and some more traditional (our town's rose society). Some have survived and thrived; others have fallen away.
Most of us long for greater community feeling and action. And as we wake up to the enormity of the challenges we face in an era of degrading environmental, economic, political and social conditions, we instinctively know that unless we can come together to effectively create constructive change, we and our children may not survive.
So what does it take to build and sustain an effective community or organization? Humans have understood and used this social technology since we gathered around the campfire in the Paleolithic, but we in modern Western and westernized industrial cultures seem to have forgotten many of the basics.
For anyone planning on pulling something together effectively, I offer this simple checklist for community-building success.
1. Build a campfire. Sometimes we want to literally build a campfire to gather a crowd and sometimes we need to create another kind of clear, focused attraction that draws us into the circle.
2. Connect with nature and the seasons. Our community programs and activities can either connect us to the rest of nature or they can further separate us from the Earth and universe that make life possible. Tying whatever events we hold into what's happening seasonally to all beings (human and otherwise) is a traditionally effective way of creating community.
3. Take the time to welcome each person. Some groups have designated "greeters." Other groups take time to go around the circle welcoming and acknowledging each participant before proceeding with the event's main activity. This isn't a frill. It's basic to building community. People who feel seen and known are more likely to continue their involvement than people who remain unwelcomed and anonymous.
4. Provide food and drink. Again, so basic. Traditional societies always took hospitality seriously. Having people bring things to add to the collective feast is better than mere catering.
5. Ceremony, ritual and even a sense of spirituality or the sacred. If we've tied our event or meeting to the seasons we've already added a sacred dimension. And every culture throughout history has created its own form of ceremony and sense of occasion for various community purposes. We can get great ideas from them all. Deep in our collective human memory lie countless spring or harvest festivals, ceremonial or religious events, meals and celebrations that included a strong sense of passage, initiation and the sacredness of all life.
6. Collective problem-solving. I've found that we can't create community for community's sake. People bond into a community when they can come together to participate in solving a real-world community problem or heal a person, group or situation that demands a community solution. In our society we tend to deny our need for a community until our interdependency becomes painfully evident, and that's the teachable moment when people are fully motivated to participate! We also need some agreed-upon method of solving internal disagreements. For some groups, it's Robert's Rules of Order. For others, it's discussion and community consensus. And everyone in our society needs to learn the techniques of nonviolent communication, because we've been brought up knowing how to complete but not cooperate.
7. Storytelling. Humans are a storytelling species. This goes way back to those Paleolithic campfires. We learn best when see and hear stories told by storytellers or acted out in theater or other visual media. Literacy is a latecomer in human culture, important as it is. And rational science is later still. As our brain structure reveals, facts don't arouse us as much as stories and full-body experience do. We need all of these, of course, but too often would-be community builders make the mistake of thinking that bombarding people with facts will create change. It doesn't. Most of us now "know" the facts about global climate change -- but few are inspired to act on this knowledge.
8. Elders. In every functional tribe or culture, the elders have been valued for their storytelling. How else do we know where we've been and how things worked out in previous efforts at change? Who else can share the lived lessons of birth, life and death? Even people who can no longer participate in the hunt or the barn-raising or the harvest can provide valuable service to the community by sharing stories. Adults in high-stress industrialized culture tend to find elders' stories slow and boring, but they are a critical resource for our collective survival. We also need to beware of the "Star From Afar Syndrome" where we bring in outside professional or celebrity storytellers from some other community rather than honoring and developing our own community's storytellers who don't abandon us at the end of the evening.
9. Gifts and sharing. As we focus on creating a sharing society (as opposed to our current "gimme gimme" culture), it's nice to give small gifts (plants or flowers from our garden, seeds, passalong gifts, etc.) to those who attend our events, as a way of helping everyone feel valued and appreciated. Also it's critical to de-monetize community organizations and activities. Like their corporate counterparts, too many modern non-profits have become obsessive money-charging and money-generating machines, losing sight of their higher purpose. Expensive events and fund-raisers destroy community, creating the sense that the moneyed few are the valued guests. True community welcomes everyone, wealthy or not. The key is keeping events local, simple and created by the community for the community. "Many hands make light work." Some of the best community-building events I've ever participated in cost nothing and involved everyone bringing their own chair, outdoor blanket and food utensils, plus food to share.
10. Shopping. Yes, we're trying to recover from being mindless consumerists, but we also need to remember that humans have been bonding through meeting others in the marketplace since ancient times. This is why the sales or silent auction tables are perennially popular at many events. And again, the money is a gift to the community.
11. A little excitement. At each meeting, our local rose society holds popular raffles of donated plants, rose-themed items or useful gardening objects. Archeological evidence shows that humans have been gambling since prehistoric times and many of us seem to enjoy a little flutter to add some fun to daily life. And of course whatever money is raised goes into the common coffers, so is a "gift" to all.
12. Child care. Traditional community events were always multi-generational. If all of us are not welcome, we're reinforcing the generational segregation that is destroying modern society. Besides, children provide a critical source of untamed energy and entertainment for every gathering. A society that no longer enjoys the sound of children playing is a sick society indeed. And banning children from adults-only events deprives them of the role modeling and true education they crave. Those of us who remember being at local community events as children now realize how these gatherings formed and shaped our adult lives, even if at the time we didn't understand what was going on or were bored or distracted.
13. Transportation. In tribal or village society, this wasn't such a big problem, as people lived close together. But now, even in smaller communities there is always the question of how to get everyone to the event. Helping people travel together and providing transportation for those without cars or unable to walk is a great way of building community even before the event starts.
14. Music. Our amazing ears are portals to the soul and spirit of the human psyche. Even a simple drum can bond individuals into a coherent group. And community singing can be extraordinarily powerful medicine, as our churches and temples have known for millenia.
15. Dance and body movement. Modern society makes us sit, sit and sit. Bringing the body into action connects us the way nothing else can!
16. Beauty. Those of us focused on changing the world can often forget to appeal to humans' inherent love of beauty. We want action, not aesthetics! And then we wonder why few come to our meetings. Our eyes, like our ears, are portals to the inner life. Too often we forget that our species has been painting on rock walls since we gathered in caves. A simple flower on the table or painting on the wall brings powerful archetypal energies to bear as we gather in community. And a meeting held outdoors brings all of nature's magnificence to our senses, adding extraordinary power to our community activities.
The bottom line? Any community gathering, organization or event that engages body, mind, soul and spirit has a far greater chance of surviving and thriving.
Linda Buzzell is a psychotherapist, ecotherapist, and co-editor of "Ecotherapy: Healing With Nature in Mind."
Image by Quinn Dombrowski, licensed under Creative Commons.
2/27/2013 4:38:58 PM
As Pope Benedict steps down, speculation stirs that the next pontiff could be a man of color or from outside Europe.
While many qualifications trump nationality when it comes picking the leader of 1.1 billion Catholics, an end to the European dominance of the Holy See is still an enticing suggestion. On his Sirius XM radio show last week, Cardinal Timothy Dolan mused that it was “highly possible” there might be a pope from the Americas or Asia or Africa. The former cardinal of Washington told the National Catholic Reporter that he thought the church was ready for a pope outside the West. The Pew Research Center found that most American Catholics (60 percent) think it would be good for the next pope to come from the developing world, hailing from South America, Africa, or Asia.
For some, a pope from the Global South would offer a new perspective, energizing a church faced with the challenges of the modern world. The move could signal an overcoming of past injustice, a herald that all parts of the church hold equal weight within the body. “I think it would send the message to the global church that they recognize the present and future of the church, and that they want to give voice and authority to what’s increasingly becoming the majority,” says Michelle Gonzalez Maldonado, a professor of religion at the University of Miami who specializes in theologies of the Americas. “It says you are really a part of the authentic church, not just the colonized church.”
Like many global religious bodies, the Catholic Church now sees its most fertile reach outside historical power centers in Europe. Vibrant religious growth in the Global South means the largest share of Catholics now live in Latin America and the Caribbean, with the fastest church growth happening in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia, as recorded in a new Pew study. Just 24 percent of Catholics reside in Europe, a marked decline from a century ago, when the continent was home to 65 percent of the world’s Catholics. Today Brazil boasts the largest number of Catholics—more than 126 million—with Mexico, the Philippines, and the United States following in the rankings. Even in the United States, the face of the church has changed: just 20 years ago, white Catholics outnumbered Hispanic Catholics in the U.S. 5-to-1; now that gap is just 2-to-1, according to the Public Religion Research Institute.
The church’s shifting demographics are, in some ways, the remains of colonialism, the product of churches following empires and globalization, bringing the Christian faith with them. Yet such subjugation has a way of being thwarted; religious doctrines are not delivered by rote, but rather evolve and transform, creating new forms of religiosity. Out of this problematic legacy some of the most dynamic theologies have emerged—making another argument for a theological leader from the church’s more recent provinces.
I cannot help but think of Latin American liberation theology, which emerged out of this ethos in the late 1960s, a seeming fulfillment of Vatican II’s call to update and “throw open the windows of the Church” to meet modernity. After Latin American bishops met in Medellín, Colombia, in 1968, the Rev. Gustavo Gutiérrez, a Peruvian priest considered to be the movement’s founder, later wrote, “Liberation theology is closely bound up with this new presence of those who in the past were always absent from our history. They have gradually been turning into active agents of their own destiny … changing the condition of the poor and oppressed.”
Liberation theology grappled with social justice, poverty, and the gap between rich and poor—not the spiritually poor, but the materially poor so often found in the Global South. It was a daring edge of theology, beginning on the margins for those on the margins, one that talked back to power and hierarchy. Arising alongside feminist theology and black liberation theology, this Latin American school multiplied, conversing with theologies and postcolonial thought around the globe. Today we speak of liberation theologies in the plural, with words from womanist and mujerista thinkers, from the theology of the minjung in South Korea and the Dalit in India, and from a growing cadre of perspectives.
Despite its influence, liberation theology has struggled as a movement. Its Marxist communitarianism looked a lot like communism, an anathema to the Polish-born Pope John Paul II who worked to fell the Iron Curtain. His contemporary and successor Joseph Ratzinger criticized elements of the movement and censured well-known liberation theologians in his role as head of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF). Even Gutiérrez, when asked about the movement’s reputed decline in a 2003 interview with America magazine, acknowledged that “liberation theology is linked to a particular historical moment.” “Any new insight within a particular field of knowledge initially receives a lot of attention, but then it slowly gets incorporated or assimilated into the normal ways of doing things,” he said.
Its assimilation could be taken as a sign of success. The “preferential option for the poor”—language from Latin American liberation theology—is now a repeated refrain of Catholic social teaching. The newest head of the CDF, German Archbishop Gerhard Müller, is said to be sympathetic to liberation theology and even co-authored a book with Gutiérrez. Benedict, like many Catholic theologians, has been a staunch defender of the poor and a loud critic of economic oppression in his teachings and encyclicals.
The Global South could be considered an important source of innovative theologies and the place where the Catholic Church is most alive. But would a pope from the region be able to bring that vitality to Vatican City? “Representation by a member of the Global South in the papal office need not necessarily mean a true representation of the concerns of the Global South,” says Susan Abraham, a postcolonial theologian at Harvard Divinity School. As she explains, “The cardinals have been appointed to toe a particular stance in regards to the Vatican.” Regardless of nation of origin, the next pope will have been made a cardinal by John Paul II or Benedict XVI. He will be one of their guys. He will not be so much a dramatic change as a continuation of their leadership.
The next pope’s election is also still a political process, and the odds heavily favor a European papabile. While there are contenders for the papacy from the likes of Brazil, the Philippines and Ghana, journalists like CNN’s Eric Marrapodi and Dan Merica, along with Religion News Service’s David Gibson, have demonstrated why some of these candidacies are longshots. Often that reasoning results from sheer numbers: Of the likely 115 cardinals who will choose the next pope, 61 come from Europe, 28 from Italy alone.
In 2005, during his first general audience in St. Peter’s Square, the new bishop of Rome explained why he had chosen the name Pope Benedict XVI. It referenced Pope Benedict XV who led the church during World War I, as well as St. Benedict who helped spread Christianity across Europe. “St Benedict is therefore deeply venerated, also in Germany and particularly in Bavaria, my birthplace,” he said. “He is a fundamental reference point for European unity and a powerful reminder of the indispensable Christian roots of his culture and civilization.” A son of Europe, Benedict felt called to rebuild the declining church in Europe. Perhaps the next pope will feel the same. Or perhaps he will be called to champion the church elsewhere, maybe even in his own place of origin in the Global South. Only time and the College of Cardinals will tell. Until then, we wait.
Tiffany Stanley is managing editor of
Religion & Politics
, where this article first appeared.
Image courtesy Sergey Gabdurakhmanov, licensed under Creative Commons.
2/27/2013 2:33:59 PM
Our livers, kidneys, lymph glands, and skin often work overtime to keep us healthy. An occasional break from the daily grind of food preparation and digestion can give them a chance to do even more.
Coming Clean: A Conscious Guide to Food Cleanses
originally appeared at Reality Sandwich. The book, which offers information on various cleanses, was released by Evolver Health e-books, a new series of novella-length digital
The Oxford dictionary definition of “cleanse” is
“to make something thoroughly clean or to rid (a person, place or thing) of
something seen as unpleasant, unwanted or defiling.” You can think of it as a
clean-up, a tune-up or even a clearing out. A cleanse is simply meant to free
your body of the unwanted accumulation of food, toxins, etc. It’s an
opportunity to do right by your body, especially if you don’t treat it well on
a daily basis.
One way to
look at toxic accumulation is from the perspective of a car. You would never
put soda in your car engine and expect the car to run. So why would you put
junk food in your body day after day and expect it to stay healthy? When you
use the wrong fuel, eventually you will need to clean out the system.
A cleanse can bring
attention to areas of your life that you’ve been neglecting. When you lighten
up on food and beverages, you ease the digestive process, allowing for more
time to rest and reset. With this extra time and freedom, the body can work on
a deeper level to cleanse, heal and give you more energy. It’s a way to help
your body run better and feel cleaner. For many detox enthusiasts,
cleansing is considered routine maintenance. We put all kinds of crazy foods,
drinks and chemical into our bodies knowingly or unknowingly and more or less
hope for the best. The body may not react initially but with time it speaks out
through an array of health problems ranging from weight gain to exhaustion to
disease. And even for those on a healthier kick with food, you may still be
struggling with caffeine, alcohol, sugar or other drug-like substances in your
diet. How’s it going with sleep and stress levels? Is your water from a fresh
spring or from a plastic bottle with a picture of a fresh spring? Even before
the world was so toxic, fasting and cleansing were part of the human
experience. In Siddhartha, Herman Hesse
wrote, “When a person has nothing to eat, fasting is the smartest thing he
fasted between feasts. Jesus, Gandhi, Plato and Socrates all fasted for greater
peace and awareness. Ancient cultures around the world, especially in India and China, have used detoxing to rest
and relieve the body from illness for centuries. Most spiritual traditions have
fasting rituals, especially during high holy days or at certain times of the
year like Lent, Ramadan and Yom Kippur. Mormons fast on the first Sunday of
each month to feel closer to god or to ask for help on a specific issue. Hindus
typically fast on the New Moon and during festivals like Shivaratri and Durga
Before we had
modern medical techniques, we had to rely on the body’s natural healing system.
Detoxing is one way to enhance the system. Our bodies are already designed to
detoxify every day. Our colon, liver, kidneys, lymph glands and even skin work
hard to keep everything moving through. But an overload of foods, chemicals or
some combination can clog the natural process. So while it might look more
extravagant these days with expensive juice programs or ads for fancy
supplements, we have a long history of helping the body detoxify. But the need for cleansing has
never been greater.
Read the rest of this article at Reality
Suzanne Boothby is a health writer, speaker and regular cleanser. Her first e-book, The After Cancer Diet: How to Live Healthier Than Ever Before, empowers cancer thrivers to improve their health through simple and sustainable diet and lifestyle changes. She also co-wrote Integrative Nutrition: Feed Your Hunger for Health and Happiness with Joshua Rosenthal, founder of the Institute for Integrative Nutrition.
2/20/2013 4:41:35 PM
Our true feelings might not be politically correct, but getting past them means admitting them to ourselves.
This article originally appeared at Reality Sandwich.
It's a typical Bioenergetic healing session. My client in his late 20s (we'll call him Dave here) shares how a female colleague, Sarah, is constantly begging and bothering him to complete her tasks for her. I ask Dave to sink into his feelings each time this situation arises and share what actions he would like to take based on his own emotions. A sense of anger and resentment immediately charge the space between us and, strangely, I end up whispering to myself, "Please say you want to hit her, say you want to hit her." As awful as it might sound (especially given its violent nature), from several years of therapeutic spiritual practice, I have come to recognize this powerful psychological shadow material is exactly what needs to be acknowledged and expressed for real healing to occur, and to avoid future unconscious aggression.
Knowing Dave, I'm fairly sure that, like most of my clients, he is too polite and "kind" to express such unsavory thoughts, but then Dave's eyes widen brightly, his shoulders relax, and his chest opens proudly as if suddenly relieved and empowered by an unseen force. "Oh, my God," he smiles, shaking his head in disbelief, "I totally want to punch her!"
Now that Dave has courageously uncovered (and connected with) the 800-pound emotional gorilla in the office cubicle, we can help guide the gorilla out of the corner so that he can move and transform. Examining the scene closer, Dave suddenly realizes that he can never look Sarah in the eyes when she annoys him.
We have now successfully tracked down gorilla No. 2: the shame Dave experiences from holding anger toward Sarah. As I had initially suspected, potent emotional force impregnates this seemingly small office interaction. Dave is suffering from what we in Bioenergetics call a "double bind." While Dave is incapable of exhibiting his anger toward Sarah because he, and society at large, view that emotion as shameful or unworthy (and also potentially dangerous), he also can't free himself from those guilty feelings without first expressing them.
Rather than either/or solutions, the healing response usually offers unexpected both/and possibilities, where a "miraculous" third way emerges, one that egoic thinking and societal conditioning normally miss. In this alternative scenario, Dave grants himself permission to experience 100 percent of his anger, free of guilt, while still holding love for himself and, ultimately, for Sarah. This third path heals and unifies rather than divides and punishes.
Through some brief exercises, I share with Dave how to allow the charged energy to circulate safely up and down his spine, flowing forcefully and naturally, without him ever projecting it back on Sarah or internalizing it into his own body as guilt. By letting his anger move, instead of pushing it down, Dave is able to temporarily feel the power of his anger while simultaneously holding a space of love for both of them. Given this freedom, he soon lands at a place of personal empowerment where he can even thank Sarah for teaching him an important lesson about his own wounding and its emotional healing.
The main purpose of this kind of Bioenergetic process work (my spiritual and healing practice) is to unblock stuck or crossed energies in the human energy field, much like the holistic practices of yoga, acupuncture, thai chi or qi gong. At its finest, Bioenergetics is staggeringly improper, unwaveringly un-PC, wonderfully iconoclastic and warriorfully liberating. It asks clients to leap into emotional terrain they falsely believe to be off-limits, to move beyond their fear threshold ("the death layer" as Bioenergetic pracitioners call it), to connect with, and own, their own emotions as unredeemably dark as they might appear to be; thus, enabling them to reclaim unintegrated aspects of their lost self.
Read the rest of this article at Reality Sandwich.
Image: "scream" by mRio, licensed under Creative Commons.
2/13/2013 10:43:28 AM
Why does passion
ebb over the course of a long-term, committed relationship? Love and sex
specialist Alex Allman investigates that question, proposing ways to
short-circuit the phenomenon.
This article originally appeared at
The challenge for so many loving and
committed couples is in keeping desire, attraction, passion, and presence in
their sex lives.
can feel like your sex drive is betraying your heart. You wish that you could be
consumed with mad attraction for the person you love, and yet all too often,
familiarity actually kills libido. You might even begin to feel shame around the
simple truth that you are often more sexually aroused by thoughts of complete
strangers than thoughts of the person who is so dear to your heart.
it would be naive, or worse, self-deceptive, to not acknowledge that this is the
way humans are built, and in absence of some intentional action on your part,
this is likely the way your relationships will evolve.
big part of the problem is that most people define "making love" simply as "sex
with someone you love."
danger with that definition is that it assumes that love is passively to be
enjoyed during sex, rather than something that you DO.
if you examine the phrase "making love," you might notice that it is not
grammatically passive. There is a powerful action term in there. "Making" is
creating -- perhaps the most demanding of all actions. One can watch, listen,
or even walk quite passively, but making or creating requires attention,
intention, and presence.
my definition, making love is in doing the work of surrendering the mind (or the
ego) in service of relating. It is being present with your shared desire rather
than being wrapped up in your unconnected mental or emotional
of the unexpected consequences of this definition is that it is possible to
engage in profound love-making with a total stranger in a
"in love" is not required for "making love." Rather, what is required is an
openness to love itself and a willingness to "do love" by being present.
Further, it is often easier for some individuals to do this with a relative
stranger than with someone they deeply love and respect, with whom they have
shared many of life's trials and rewards, and with whom they've developed a deep
and trusting relationship.
are two reasons for this counterintuitive experience:
first is that for a couple who have not practiced and worked at "doing love"
while "making love" throughout their relationship, the path to being truly
present with each other during sex becomes overgrown with all of the accumulated
disappointments, minor betrayals, grudges, wrong-makings, and resentments of the
years living together as partners in the business of life.
for many couples, they wake up one day to discover that their life partner is
the single most threatening person in the world for them to become sexually
vulnerable, present, and real with.
partner is the person they are most likely to feel judged by, and the person
they most fear judgment from. There is simply too much at
Read the rest of
this post at Reality
Alex Allman will be a guest on the
Evolver Intensives course "
From Sex to
Super-Consciousness: The Future of Love
." For this live, interactive video
course, host Adam Gilad has assembled 7 remarkable experts on the ways that
sensuality and intimacy provide an ecstatic path to profound spiritual
experience. Joining Alex will be Annie Lalla, Sera Beak, Michael Mirdad, Marc
Gafni, Carol Queen and Reid Mihalko. It all starts on February
Photo by Camdiluv ♥, licensed under Creative Commons.
2/5/2013 4:30:30 PM
This article originally appeared at Reality Sandwich.
Razzle, dazzle, drazzle, drone, time for this one to come home
Razzle, dazzle, drazzle, die, time for this one to come alive
And hold my life until I'm ready to use it
Hold my life because I just might lose it
Because I just might lose it
--from Paul Westerberg's Hold My Life
An essay I've recently published in Reality Sandwich, "An
Esoteric Take on The Big Lebowski," has been very well received. There
are a few works out there, be they novels, movies or even pieces of music, that
manage to make the esoteric, exoteric. Such works rarely surface, though,
because the shallow machinery of the publishing, movie and music industry is
mostly allergic to them. As I was re-reading Lin Yutang's masterwork, The
Importance of Living, I found so many passages that seem custom-made for
the Dude that I thought it might be fun to explore the points of departure and
arrival of both works, in tandem. To do that, I need to start from the
not-so-distant premises that prompted Lin Yutang himself, back in 1937, to
write his book.
Even today, despite the West having gone through an unprecedented process of
secularization, the numbers are staggering: there are 2.1 billion Christians
worldwide; 1.6 billion Muslims; about 900 million Hinduists; and 350 million
Buddhists. Therefore, almost 5 billion people follow the four largest
religions, which have one common trait -- they are life-renouncing.
In a nutshell, the Abrahamic religions -- Judaism, Christianity, Islam -- see
life as a period of probation in which man, by acting virtuously according to
the doctrine set out by each religion, will earn for himself a place in heaven.
The focus, therefore, is on the afterlife. Life on earth is a series of tests
that must be passed and temptations that must be resisted. Again in a nutshell,
Hinduism and Buddhism, the two major Indian religions, are similar in that both
hold that life is suffering and the only way out is freedom from the endless chain
of reincarnations. The ultimate goal of life, referred to as moksha
and nirvana respectively, consists of liberating oneself from samsara,
thus ending the cycle of rebirth. Union with
God can then be attained.
Recently an old friend of mine, for years a convert to Buddhism, suffered an
aortic dissection, a life-threatening tear in the aorta that I am familiar with
because my father died of it. When he began to feel sick a friend who was with
him, a medical doctor, rushed him to a hospital, where he was operated on
within minutes. For days his life hanged by a thread in the ICU. His anguished
wife, back at home, organized reunions with fellow Buddhists who would pray and
chant together for him to be spared and then recover. As I followed from a
continent away, my heart went out to him and his family and friends, but in the
back of mind I couldn't stop hearing a nagging voice. It asked: "What
business do Buddhists have in asking to prolong one's life?" It was
incongruous. The followers of the most life-renouncing religion known to
mankind were fervently praying for this one man to cling to life. Mercifully,
the surgery was successful and my friend pulled through, but I still wonder if
his Buddhist wife and friends behaved consistently with Buddhism?
Of course they didn't, and this incident is meant to make a point: almost five
billion people living on this drinkable, edible, and breathable planet of ours
follow religions that, I fear, go against our nature. Normally, we want to
live, not to let go of life. It is only natural, so natural, in fact, that it
seems very strange that this would need to be stated in the first place.
Lin Yutang's world was less populous than ours, but in proportion more
religious yet, especially in the West. Back in his day some pioneers were
exploring the "occult", that more than vague definition that has been
since subdivided into many fields: the Royal Art, Alchemy, parapsychology,
extrasensory perception, dream interpretation, lucid dreaming, out-of-body and
near-death experiences, not to mention humanity's penchant for the most varied
psychoactive substances in the hope that altered states will lead in the
exploration of parallel or otherworldly realities. From all this and the four
major life-renouncing religions I'm bound to infer that by and large we don't
like our lot on earth. Lin Yutang started from the same premise.
Like early man, do we envy the birds for being able to fly? The fish for being
able to breathe under water? Cats for seeing in semidarkness? The list goes on and
on: from a physical standpoint, we're inferior to so many species. But not to
worry, modern man has come up with a number of flying contraptions, scuba
diving equipment, night vision goggles, and many other gadgets that mimic the
abilities of more physically gifted species. And yet the premise stands: either
our adherence to a life-renouncing religion, or, more recently on a large
scale, our multifarious attempts at transcending our very nature and
That we feel distinctly uncomfortable in our own skin is not a supposition but
a statement of fact. Do we feel so chokingly uncomfortable because the first
time we realize that, sooner or later, we are doomed to die, our natural
impulse is to cry? My wife and I have witnessed this reaction in two of our
three boys. When, around five years of age, they understood that life doesn't
last forever, they cried inconsolably, out of disbelief, then anger, finally
fear. This tragic cognizance we carry inside ourselves for our whole life. It's
our congenital memento mori, which kicks in the moment the concept of
time ceases to be a present-tense continuum, as it is during early childhood,
and becomes one of duration, with a precise beginning and end.
For the materialists, those not interested in religions or attempts at
transcending human nature, there are the following bits of ancient wisdom:
Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius's "Live each day as if it were your
last;" the ancient Roman poet Horace's Carpe diem, seize the day,
which was reprised during the Renaissance by Lorenzo De' Medici in his famous
poem Canzona di Bacco, Bacchus Song, which begins: "Youth is
sweet and well / But does speed away! / Let who will be gay, / Tomorrow, no one
can tell;" even the ancient Chinese proverb: "Enjoy yourself;
it's later than you think." Many agnostics, atheists, and skeptics have no
better guideline than this to live by, and accordingly try to feast on life,
which, they perceive, is "here today, gone tomorrow."
Lin Yutang offers an approach that goes beyond life-renouncing religions,
daring transcendental explorations, and clichés such as enjoy yourself, it's
later than you think. One thing was clear to him as it must be to so many of
us: being alive, living, matters. The Austrian poet Rainer Maria Rilke suggests
why in the ninth of his Duino Elegies, written between 1912 and 1922,
and excerpted here in the translation of A. Poulin, Jr. To the question,
"Why, then, do we have to be human and, avoiding fate, long for
fate?" the poet replies: "Because being here means so much, and
because all / that's here, vanishing so quickly, seems to need us / and
strangely concerns us." And a few lines down: "To have been on earth
just once -- that's irrevocable."
How are we to celebrate, then, the plain yet miraculous reality of being alive?
The poet surprises with "Praise the world to the angel, not what can't be
talked about. / You can't impress him with your grand emotions. In the cosmos /
where he so intensely feels, you're just a novice. So show / him some simple
thing shaped for generation after generation / until it lives in our hands and
in our eyes, and it's ours. Tell him about things. He'll stand amazed
So there it is, straight from the pen of one of the most mystical poets in
western literature: an exhortation to speak to the angel not about grand
emotions but about the world, about things. Some years after Rilke
finished his elegies, Lin Yutang wrote in The Importance of Living:
"As for philosophy, which is the exercise of the spirit par excellence,
the danger is even greater that we lose the feeling of life itself. I can
understand that such mental delights include the solution of a long
mathematical equation, or the perception of a grand order in the universe. This
perception of order is probably the purest of all our mental pleasures and yet
I would exchange it for a well prepared meal." Years ago, when I first
read this passage, I laughed out loud. It was liberating. But where is Lin
Yutang coming from? In another book of his, The Wisdom of China, he
remarks: "The Chinese philosopher is like a swimmer who dives but must
soon come up to the surface again; the Western philosopher is like a swimmer
who dives into the water and is proud that he never comes up to the surface
I'd tend to agree, but there probably is a linguistic reason for this. The
Chinese never developed a proper alphabet, but rather ideograms, or Sinograms,
or better yet, Han characters. The Kangxi Dictionary contains the astonishing
number of 47,035 characters. Compared to the 24 letters of the Greek alphabet,
the 23 of Classical Latin and the 30 of the German alphabet, it's evident that
writing and reading in Mandarin is an effort in itself, which explains the
emphasis placed by Chinese on calligraphy.
Ancient Greek, Latin and German have been used by most of the greatest
philosophers of the western tradition, with Latin being the lingua franca of
European scholars for centuries. Inevitably, intellectuals would be tempted to
play around with words -- and they did! Western philosophy is immensely more
voluminous than its Chinese counterpart, but its value should always have been
considered from an historical perspective. No one in his right mind should have
argued over, say, St. Thomas Aquinas's five proofs of the existence of God --
but that went on for centuries. The history of Western (theoretical/discursive)
philosophy ought to have been read like the history of architecture:
philosopher so-and-so built that castle in the air, while his opponent built
this other castle. Western philosophy should be appreciated aesthetically
rather than intrinsically.
Again in The Wisdom of China, Lin Yutang writes: "The Chinese can
ask . . ., ‘Does the West have a philosophy?' The answer is also clearly ‘No.'
. . . The Western man has tons of philosophy written by French, German,
English, and American professors, but still he hasn't got a philosophy when he
wants it. In fact, he seldom wants it. There are professors of philosophy, but
there are no philosophers."
So, what exactly does Lin Yutang prescribe as a philosophy of life? And how
does the Dude, our hero (I haven't forgotten him), happen to behave in
accordance with so many of the philosopher's ideas?
Read the rest of this article at Reality
Sleeper Cell, licensed under
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