My values, philosophy and peace practices all revolve around my identity, first and foremost, as a Lover. My projects are always big and consistently about healing and connection with all aspects of myself, first, and then with others. The time I've spent in inner exploration has not been wasted, but has enhanced my journey in ways that are too numerous to list. I am still working on finding peace within, and yet, some days, it feels like I could be making a little progress.
If there was one word that would describe me best, it would be the word, Visionary. I have never been comfortable with the world the way it is, and I have envisioned and yearned for a very different world since I was a child. I've had a hard time staying in this world. I remember the day that the concept of suicide landed for me. I was eight years old, and it was such a relief for me to realize that I could choose departure at any time - abort the mission, so to speak. My heroes have been the men and women who have dedicated their lives to making the world better: Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., Gloria Steinem and Eleanor Roosevelt, to name just a few. I have spent time studying the great master teachers: Jesus, Buddha, Krishna and many who walk among us that are unnamed and unknown. In some ways, everyone is a master teacher, if we accept the lessons given us in relationships.
I was taught at a very young age, by my narcissistic, abusive mother, that my needs did not matter. She convinced me that my life was unimportant compared to anyone else’s. The good part about this is that I have lived a life of service to others. The bad part is that I have never considered my own needs in the choices I’ve made and the lifestyle I’ve had. I find myself at 61, having to clean up the instability and health problems that emerged from the belief that I don’t matter. I want to continue to serve, but in a more balanced and holistic way, including myself in what I wish to create for others. I have always wanted everyone to be OK – better than OK – to have all our basic needs met, physically and emotionally, so that we can move into the realm of self-fulfillment through co-creativity, bringing prosperity and abundance for all. Our earth offers everything we need to live well, if we all live simply.
My values are rooted in the belief that there is really only One of us here, and that what happens to one of us, happens to all of us on some level. The reason I've been so drawn to Tantric and Taoist teachings of sacred sexuality, is because there are practices that prove, in an energetic way, that duality and separation are illusions. I've played in that field with myself and with lovers and teachers, and words are weak, but the closest I've been able to come is that it feels like I enter into the outwardly pulsating expansion of everything that exists and it is somehow all about Love. The first time it happened I was hooked - initiated, in a way - into learning all I could about this state of expansion via engagement with sexual energy or life force, which had always made sense to me. I'd just never come across the language or the teachings until I was ready for the teacher. When I could manage to speak after that first experience, I looked at my teacher and said, "I have two questions. Can I do that again? And can I help others do that?" He grinned at me and said, "Yes. And yes." This was in 2000, and I've never looked back. The healing that happens when we address sexual wounding is the rest-of-my-life's work.
Everything I do seems to be about healing. My own path of healing trauma and "moderate to severe PTSD" (and more recently the more appropriate diagnosis of 'complex' trauma) has led me to believe that there are layers of trauma in everyone: no one escapes. Some function better than others, or just have better coping skills, or maybe they are just better at denial. Some people are much more sensitive than others. It seems I was born with a wide-open heart and took on everyone else's feelings in my family dynamics. This has taught me emotional intelligence and given me a lot of personal work within the realm of boundaries and buffers.
I believe in allowing people to be wherever they are at, as I conspire to love them, unconditionally. I've worked in prisons with mostly men, some who have done horrendous things. I was able to separate the man from his behavior (and sometimes his personality!) and see him as a fellow traveler, having created the karmic undertaking of being a murderer. As a reincarnationist, I believe that we've all done all of it - every despicable act - and died in every conceivable way, multiple times. We need only to embrace ALL of it within ourselves and others, to truly Awaken. The shadow work is important, and not found in most religious teachings, because of the ancient play of good versus evil - another illusion of duality. It's all God. Religions have been used to control the behavior of the masses through guilt and the threat of punishment, something that I'm certain our Creator never intended.
The community values I hold are all about creating sacred spaces for those who are healing trauma, surrounding them with good therapies, organic food, people who understand the process, sunshine and work outdoors, animal friends and any other forms of support that they need for their healing.
What if we were able to take in the homeless and disenfranchised and give them space and time to clear all the traumatic things that have happened to them? People who are so outside society have a great deal to offer to those who are entrenched in cultural programming. Perhaps the renegades, the ones who have rebelled against the dominant paradigms, are the ones who can lead us out of the messes we've made as they help us learn to truly honor the individual gifts that each of us bring. Learning to understand, live with and ultimately heal trauma as we also explore the power of gathering in collectives to share and support each other seems like a most worthy undertaking to me. We are living in these amazing times of transition, that may hold the potential for healing ancient patterns of distress and cultural insanity.
For me, the value of acceptance is important. I accept that there are people who are polluting our precious air with the chemicals in cigarettes, and it's still my biggest (and maybe only) trigger that brings judgment with it. None of us are perfect. I can't always choose the right trashcan in the moment I'm throwing something away, but I've recycled since 1978. I eat meat, and love animals. I'd be happy to raise my own animals and humanely kill them when it's time (I grew up on a farm where this was done). I've hunted birds with my grandfather and his beloved bird dogs and owned guns off and on throughout my life. I'm an advocate for women's rights, and I long for domestic skills to be considered just as valuable as the ability to be out in the world, making money. I want us all to learn the parenting skills that enhance a child's chances to grow up strong and smart, and have a fully activated life. I stand for the upliftment of the oppressed Divine Feminine, and the healing of the out-of-balance Sacred Masculine. We've all suffered under the dominator culture for eons of time. I want the 'gender wars' to end, and for anyone to be able to love whomever they please, without any concern for what package they come in, or what others might think. Integration and harmonic balance of Yin and Yang, dark and light, sun and moon - all the opposites and extremes - is where our attention should be placed. Not eliminating any of it, because it is all within the embodiment of all that exists, and it must be here for good reason.
Since coming to Naropa, I have more hope. I think it's because of the brilliant young people I'm meeting and getting to know. My generation was disturbed by the social ills of our time: lack of equality and opportunity for everyone, the Vietnam War and all it entailed, the oppression and secrecy of the government, and rampant consumerism at any cost. If we can shift things away from valuing money and material possessions over taking care of people, we can then work toward changing everything else. What if the first question asked was "What do you need?" and then, "What will you contribute?" Until we address the basic human needs for everyone on the planet, we cannot all thrive into the evolution of 'we' instead of 'me.' I am seeing the emergence of these values in the young people around me at Naropa, and I know we can model this new era, this new vision, for others.
"God may be in the details, but the goddess is in the questions. Once we begin to ask them, there's no turning back."
~ Gloria Steinem
Notes about the images used on this page:
Image 1 ~ New Vison
Image 2 ~ Thunderbolt
Image 3 ~ Traveling
Image 4 ~ Healing
Image 5 ~ Integration
Image 6 ~ Breakthrough
Image 7 ~ The Master
The source of the images is Osho Zen Tarot ~ The Transcendental Game of Zen by Osho and Deva Padma (New York, NY, St. Martin's Press, 1994). With grateful acknowledgement to Osho for the brilliance of these images. I like to think he would appreciate my use of them. www.osho.com