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Shock and Awe: The Call to Adventure, The Hero Self

Degrees of Understanding Over Time

Image Credit: https://www.crystalinks.com/merkabah.html

Before someone named it cyclothymia, I thought it was just an awareness of the seasons and life cycles of nature. In my blood I feel the frenetic energy of summer and the call to hybernation in winter, the preparation for the darkness in fall and the spike of seedling energy in the spring. This is sometimes labelled SAD. Seasonal Affective Disorder. Cyclothymia and SAD aren’t the same thing. Perhaps they are comorbid. I don’t know. All I know is the earth calls and I still have to go to work. The sadness of SAD comes from not making space to honor these changes of the seasons, the cycle of life and death, the way people have for so long. I feel my lack of connection with the earth like a missing limb.

As I may have said here before, I’ve dabbled in many religions. The one that I have been exposed to the longest is Christianity, but there are some true traumas in my relationship with what they call the one God. I had to find my way back to being able to say the word by turning to spirituality from a mythological perspective–stories that people over time have used to understand the unknown. I sought to explore these stories and found a thread of something similar in all of them, though each belongs to itself, much like consciousness as it runs through human beings I imagine. I turned to Wicca when I was sixteen, a rebellious reach in the opposite direction of the dogmatic Christianity I was exposed to and have since decided that limiting my beliefs to one religion, including science and rationality, was the best way to become a product of those belief systems, rather than a conscious individual within those systems actively seeking to embrace and/or improve upon those systems for the better of the self or the self and the community. I believe the same goes for one’s culture. Blindly believing in the American dream made me a product of it. And products do not think. Nor do they have souls.

I am not here to bash the American dream. It is a beautiful concept that I simply forgot was built on the assumption that we are all aiming for common human decency. Maybe I forgot this because I pursued money and material success only to find it was meaningless without substantial character, without friendship or love. Like Harry Potter‘s Voldemort. When one is driven merely by the preservation of the physical self and goes to any lengths to save that self including lengths that are at the expense of the well being of others, all we have left is fear.

Have you ever gotten mad at your loved one for something that seemed really important to argue over, argued over it, pissed and moaned thinking it was the biggest deal in the world only to look back on the argument later and wonder what the hell it was even about?

I feel that kind of ambivalence towards the American Dream in regards to earning money. Money as an end goal is always empty. Now, chasing the American Dream in regards to creating something grand out of practically nothing against all odds even though I’m just one person because I have the help of friends and loved ones who are aligned in a like minded cause and maybe I’m not the hero of their story but I can be the hero of mine helping them be heroes too like the Avengers: That I can do. At least, that’s the kind of dream that will motivate me against all odds.

“I want something good to die for to make it beautiful to live,” wrote Queens of the Stoneage and I came here to make this life beautiful to live only to find that that the things I would die for are, well…

I didn’t know. But I think I’m figuring it out slowly. Aren’t we all?

Here’s an interesting article on modern witches and the resurgence of polytheistic and pagan religions in the modern global capitalist complex. Perhaps this resurgence is because we all feel the call to nature of which I spoke at first. I might have started considering myself a witch the first time I picked up Harry Potter in third grade. I believe all people have magic within them. I believe science and magic are the same thing, only one is demonized because we do not understand it. I think they’re both just different pieces of a bigger picture that incorporates them both as valid and the same. How’s that for out there? The story of Merlin brought me to this idea. The Once and Future King, by T.H. White is an excellent read. Fictional and excellent. It is the story of King Arthur in a traditional sense, and yet Merlin hints at being a man from the future (our time).

Merlin is considered a wizard because he understands concepts of science that are from the future. He’s magical because he can do things people understood as magic in the Middle Ages but that we now understand as scientific. I imagine that knowledge and further understanding will eventually bring us to the place where both our sciences and our religions will be considered rudimentary and crude and I hope that for our future generations. We must buy them the time.

What if we see as magic now what will later be called science?

What if mental illness as we understand it now can serve as a gift with further cultural education? It’s not madness, it’s this kind of intelligence, or that kind of intelligence. Maybe labeling this thing we understand as an illness once worked because it didn’t fit with the current cultural model, but when 1 in 5 Americans adults (just the adults) will experience symptoms of mental illness in their lifetime, it starts to look like perhaps the narrative of the current cultural model has failed to account for something important regarding the health of it’s people. As Jiddu Krishnamurti said, “It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.”

What I like about Wicca is it is nature based. It helped me to acknowledge the cycles of nature as it moved around me in such a way that these cycles began to inform my understanding of my moods. I get the same moods in the same cycles every year. These cycles reflect the cycles of nature. They have been the same for fifteen years. I have journals to show them. I haven’t actively practiced wicca in maybe two years? I dated a man who called it, disdainfully, a coping mechanism and I found myself too afraid to practice while with him. Everything is a coping mechanism. He drank a six pack a day.

I believe not practicing wicca or, for that matter, any spirituality that positively molds a framework of narrative for my weirder, out there experiences, has negatively impacted my mental health. My mental health is better understood as I understand, pay attention to, respect, even revere the cycles of nature. It is better, also, with meditation, intention setting, writing, reading, focused, meditative work which come with most religious practices. I practice kitchen witchery and kundalini yoga, or was when my kundalini awoke. Now I practice labels and seek clinical help. The clinical speak around mental illness scares me more than the witches and demons. Isn’t that hilarious?

I do not like the idea of strict adherence to any man made text or set of rules. The rules are written within us and the heart knows them in innocence.

Meditation and present moment awareness significantly improve my mental health if I practice them daily. Present moment awareness, when cultivated alone, can be brought to other activities. I must practice daily in order for it to be effective. I do not practice meditation at all right now. I have not found a quiet place to be alone and practice in a long time. That or I do not go to be in a quiet place alone because there is a part of me that resists. There is a part of all of us that resists.

Today I start to meditate as part of my morning routine. Meditation is the difference between me getting out of bed and going to work and feeling like there’s no point.

Its easy to say, “Just meditate every day.” It was easier for me to run two to four miles a day, timing each mile for speed, than it was to meditate every day once for ten minutes. But ten minutes in the morning is what it takes.

Yesterday I asked myself when the healthiest I’ve ever been in my life was.

I lived with my mom. I was 25. I had a pretty steady routine that involved writing, three meals a day and snacks, cooking, work four days a week, taking care of myself and my dog with a daily run to the river, and a trip to Tahoe for school every six months for residency. It seemed to me then that my life was a mess, that the worst disaster that could have happened happened and I moved back home to once again depend on my mother. I’d failed at fleeing the nest. I was not one in the Darwinian gene pool to be meant to continue its lineage. My mind is a mean dark place sometimes.

But I also had daily conversations over a glass of wine with my mom and a smoke–a spliff on my end and a vanilla something or other on hers. We healed a long broken relationship, or strengthened what was a shallower relationship before perhaps. I use harsh language but it wasn’t all that bad. Things just got better. I learned to love my family. Somewhere along the way, with loss of innocence maybe, I forgot how much family means. We healed. I visited my dad and my brother and sisters over the mountains then, too, and we healed. My life was not a disaster. I was taking much needed human time to build relationship with people my lifestyle had separated me from.

My sister came home and the three of us lived under one roof again with my step dad and our brother and sister from him. I was sixteen the last time we lived this way. I was sixteen when they moved and I got emancipated. My growth in the realm of family ended there and it would be nine years before I would get an opportunity to revisit this part of existence that was once integral to survival, at least in tribal culture.

I just realized I didn’t know what the fuck I was talking about regarding family and looked into the concept of what a family is. Here is some literature I found from the North Carolina Sociological Association called “The Concept of The Family: Demographic and Genealogical Perspectives” by Charles B. Nam, Center for Demography and Population Health, Florida State University.

Nam writes about the demographic perspective:

”  In the United States (and, for the most part, throughout the world), the “family” is defined in censuses and surveys as two or more persons  related by blood, marriage, or adoption, AND living in the same residence  (Fields and Casper 2001) .”

”    In fact, some persons who meet the standard demographic definition of the family and are included may have little association with other family members in the same residence.  For example, they may have different schedules of sleep, work, or other activities, and they may not communicate by phone or mail.  Their inclusion in the family is pro forma and based only on the given family definition. These facts raise questions about the boundaries of the standard demographic definition of the family and its consequences for interpretations of how family structure might be changing over time.  “

And about the genealogical perspective:

” One can examine a family tree and extract a family structure using a variety of family definitions, based on how extensive one wishes to consider the family (Finnegan and Drake 1994).  Family trees typically distinguish between living and dead members of the family, so that several family definitions can be applied to only living members.  In this sense, the genealogical approach to looking at family structure provides for a broader range of family forms than is possible from the demographic approach.  Thus, one can describe a couple and their offspring, living together or not; a multi-generation family, living together or not; as well as extended family groupings. “

These are just two, of many perspectives, surrounding a complex subject. There is always more than one perspective.

The demographic approach is the current cultural structure. The genealogical approach is the structure of the current human within the broader scope of history that widens the possibilities of definitions for family.

Rationality and science and math and business seem to me the demographic approach to life. The creative, spiritual, artistic, receptive, surrendered, unconscious, archetypal divine feminine allows for a more “genealogical” approach, I think. Both inform each other. There’s no reason to not consider them both equally valid. There is no reason one cannot embrace both and practice both. We are complex beings with enormous capabilities if only we could stop placing ourselves in boxes. Boxes are easier to understand, but they are still prisons.

I had no idea family was something I needed to cultivate until given the opportunity to cultivate those relationships. The value of family is beyond measure and, having discovered it, I cannot imagine having gone through life without loving my family. What a horrible thing to admit, but we all have horrible potentials within us.

When I was fourteen, fifteen, I kept to myself. My definition of family then was more the demographic “pro forma and based on the given family definition,” type because I had never been without family. I read books and played trombone and video games and shut the door only to emerge for dinner or the occasional family outing. I resented my family for reasons I still don’t understand. Probably the resentment is from my own fear of self-expression which I have blamed always on others instead of taking responsibility for and growing the balls to express myself. There’s probably a lot more to it than growing balls.

But my life imploded. I had a hypomanic episode at 25 and moved home. That’s what they say it was. I have a manifesto that I wrote then in a journal open on my lap. I have a trunk full of journals I have been keeping, writing, and accumulating memories in since I was fifteen. A personal Pensive. I won’t publish it here–it’s long and my perspective has changed since then. Perhaps in another way at another time.

The essential mission of the manifesto was to reclaim my freedom by reclaiming my spirit, which I felt had been taken away from me by the inundation of material distraction in the world in the form of advertisements playing on subliminal desires so constantly they were changing the neuropathways of my values. I was introduced to the internet on a cell phone at the same time I hit puberty.

To be honest, the thought quite scared me at first: that media was playing a central role in shaping my identity. But I have come to understand since then that our identities are shaped by many things: Religion, genealogy, biology, race, ethnicity, occupation, location, education, experience, language. As our identities change from experience, location, age, knowing, and understanding how much we do not know, as we move through experience and space and time, there is a consciousness within that shapes a narrative around the events of our lives, trying to make sense of them, trying to return us to a state of equilibrium with ourselves in the world. A sort of entropy of identity. A “normal” if you will. I call this consciousness the observer or the witness, a concept that has its roots in Taoism and Hinduism. Ram Dass talks about it. I did not start listening to Ram Dass until two days ago. But the witness or observer consciousness is an old concept. I think that The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself, by Michael A. Singer, was perhaps the best read I found that explains the witness or observer to the animus/ego in a way that it is palatable. I found my way to consciously understanding the Witness mentality through this book.

This is an affiliate link. Sharing openly for you to purchase at your discretion in whichever way you please. This was a great book though. I’ll review it here soon.

Stories, religion, philosophy, art, music, history, psychology are the tools we use to consciously shape the identity of ourselves, our culture, and our values. Reference Joseph Campbell’s The Hero With a Thousand Faces.

As a kid I read. As an adult, I meditated. Meditating allowed me to look back over the time I’d spent learning and reading and to reach for the narratives I’d read, real or not, that related to my experience. No matter what I was going through, I could reach through time and space into the mind of someone who lived 2000 years ago because they wrote a story that we have then interpreted through a western cultural lens.

If we then apply psychoanalysis to this lens, as Joseph Campbell did, we understand the subconscious motivations of civilizations and can witness what subconscious motivations led to what consequences.

We can use these to inform our culture. But there is a caveat.

When I moved home at 25, it was difficult to face myself as an adult who lived with my mother. I had more pride than I imagined. Pride is associated with Ego, the animus. There are many stories about pride being the downfall of man. Pride was the downfall of Satan. My culture quite values pride, as do I. Now I strive to temper it. Having the cache of human-related story to reach for helped me ask some questions that shifted perspective.

I went from asking: Am I crazy? Why can’t I take care of myself? How did I wind up here living with my mom again?

To instead asking: What is within my control? What is outside my control? What am I learning here?

My story shifted from the viewing myself as a person who failed to meet the expectations of my western cultural consciousness to be a successful independent woman to instead viewing myself a western woman in an unconscious culture that had taught me to abandon the important value of family. Then I started to understand that while it had something to do with my culture, it had quite a lot more to do with me. I started to take responsibility. I started to follow the call of the heart.

I have been overidentifying with having a mental illness in a negative light because I am calling it an illness. It is an imbalance. Physically, it is something that requires more attention than others might need for their own self care. I need a lot of exercise and stillness, a lot of meals in small doses, a lot of little things in exactly the right place, a lot of quiet and alone time to contemplate and create to inform my understanding of my identity or my life unravels. Its always a struggle to find my equilibrium of identity after a big shift. It’s not fun.

Then again, it doesn’t have to be.

As a kid, I remember reaching for stories to inform my weirder experiences. I had a lot of them. Sweat lodge, for instance, or Ceremony. The drumming in the teepees and my sister, my mom and I these white people. I felt like we were encroaching on something that didn’t belong to us just because it was in us the tiniest bit they said. I didn’t want to use my voice. Another time I thought about stories like Pocahontas as the blankets closed around the hut made of hard, bent willow branches and tied with sinew. The hole in the ground in the middle of the domed hut held the hot lava rocks and two men tended the door on either side to pour water and sprinkle herbs which we first pass and pray over aloud sometimes. I may have prayed aloud once. They close the flap. I don’t remember if the singing begins first or afterward. Or the prayer for that matter. It is all a blur. We sit in one row in a circle around the pit with the rocks, facing the rocks on our knees or foreheads to the ground in prayer, or cross legged as we please. Mother, my sister, and I. I am seven or eight years old. The tent is damp with steam from the hot lava rocks and thick padding of blankets over the domed hut. I do not know what it’s called unfortunately. I am eight years old, and do not have the language with which to judge and identify this experience other than with stories. I think on Pocahontas and the way grandmother willow is animated and I pretend to be her (Pocahontas, not the grandmother) and the steam against the glowing rocks shows eight-year-old me faces of the ancestors. The singing moves through me at first. Then the darkness sets in and the only thing I see are these red lava rocks and the steam and the glowing of the faces around at a spark and then dark again and wild chanting and singing like wails and women crying and yelps. A prayer in sound and fire and water and earth. Being joined in voice and song in prayer or intention, should you like to call it that, is nothing short of a psychedelic experience. There are no drugs involved. It is immensely healing. A test in will and in one’s understanding of the power and place of that will in aiding the larger will of it’s tribe. A group of humans kissing the earth, breathing, singing to feel her cool promise of eventuality. I stayed every round pretending I was Pocahontas and knowing I was getting stronger.

The preface to the 1949 edition of Joseph Campbell’s The Hero With a Thousand Faces opens with a quote from Freud:

“‘The truths contained in religious doctrines are after all so distorted and systematically disguised,’ writes Sigmund Freud, ‘that the mass of humanity cannot recognize them as truth. The case is similar to what happens when we tell a child that the newborn babies are brought by the stork. Here, too, we are telling the truth in symbolic clothing, for we know what the large bird signifies,” (xii, Campbell).

Jacques Derrida argued in his book, Limited Inc. that, ” that linguistic meaning is fundamentally indeterminate because the contexts that fix meaning are never stable,”(https://books.google.com/books/about/Limited_Inc.html?id=-ANhg9zaAtIC).

That is, the meaning of language, which is the symbols we use to communicate complex ideas, changes according to context. My favorite example is this.

“It” means something different now than if I write “it” again now. The context of the second “it” is being informed by the first mention of it and that meaning changes when we reach the third “it,” in the second sentence to then include the mention of the first and second “it”s. I believe this is something like the example used in Limited Inc. by Derrida, but it is well worth reading the text yourself, as I’m sure his examples are better understood firsthand.

Joseph Campbell wrote, too, in the preface to the 1949 edition of The Hero With a Thousand Faces, “It is the purpose of the present book to uncover some of the truths disguised for us under the figures of religion and mythology by bringing together a multitude of not-too-difficult examples and letting the ancient meaning become apparent of itself. The old teachers knew what they were saying. Once we have learned to read again their symbolic language, it requires no more than the talent of an anthologist to let their teachings be heard. But first we must learn the grammar of the symbols, and as a key to this mystery, I know of no better modern tool than psychoanalysis,” (xii, Campbell).

The stories of minds throughout time built the one that informs me today. I read and I have been analyzing my mind through a psychoanalytic lens for fifteen years through dreams and Jungian psychoanalysis.

I believe our culture only practices a part of the story of what it means to be a human being on earth. The end game is not material. At least, not entirely.

The only modern literature I’ve found to talk about cyclothymia supports it as an illness. The literature I’ve found only addresses the physical and chemical symptoms. Therapy helps to build stories, and the stories we build within ourselves to communicate with one another build the stories of our culture. Ancient stories about mental illness approached it as a spiritual battle. Whether you believe in spirit or not, approaching the idea from a psychoanalytic perspective, as a myth that helps to inform a part of reality we do not yet have the science to fully understand, can allow for a suspension of belief.

I highly resisted the call to any form of spirituality, having felt the oppressive, fear-based dogma of the Christian god at a young age. The oppressive dogma is the man-made interpretation of language. The heart of the religion is a guide to finding the heart of one’s self. Approaching spirituality, religion, science, and myth as stories that constitute only one part of a grand picture no one person can ever understand, allowed me to engage with them without hatred or fear as well as if humanly possible. I learned to explore the stories people live in. A theological drifter with one foot in the material world and another in the myths of my people over ages and centuries, cross referencing them always with my own experiences. Is this true? Is this working?

Back then, my relationship with my family was weird and distant. A back and forth once in a while about money or health.

I moved home after a brush with mushrooms that had me reeling through some otherworldly experiences I did not have a cultural context for understanding. Reading and educating myself have helped. When I set aside the pride and saw that this was a chance to understand family, I realized this was a chance to change. I started coming out of my room. I started cooking with my family, playing video games with my brother, music with my sister, talking with my mom and my step-dad. I felt like the sixteen year old kid who, instead of disowning my family, decided to love them. We healed. We do not get along all the time. We annoy each other. But love is something that is as present in being annoyed as it is in being in joy.

The fall, the way back to my mother’s was a shock to my identity, one that jettisoned me out of many boxes: Stable, sane, in a relationship, employed, functional adult, student. I became a daughter instead, a hatchling returned home to nurse battered wings. Pride? Gone. Shame: came from the stories my culture tells me about who I’m supposed to be versus who I am. Action: question what you are ashamed of. Ask yourself what can I do about it in this moment? Do that. Over and over. Each little step is another in the direction of pride again. Is there a middle ground or are the spikes and crashes necessary?

And what if we go in the direction our culture validates as successful only to find the cultural lens of success is not a guide to good character or health or wellness or sustainability? We must find these. They exist within the current structure somewhere. Just like a person getting well, reallocating resources to address what is not functioning as it should, or can in respect to its potential, is necessary to the health of a civilization. We are only as well as our people and our land, even if individually we manage to find wellness.

Just a couple months prior to moving home with mom, I prayed to reclaim my spirit, feeling I had lost it somewhere. The prayer was the wish. The fall a disaster. The journey, an adventure. Upon successful venturing through my deepest fear (moving back home-there are so many worse things!) the reward is one I didn’t even know existed, greater than I possibly could have fathomed, and is beyond the material. A rekindling of family.

I have come to understand manifestation, reclaiming of spirit, and the path to enlightenment in cycles that often begin with a wish and a shock to the identity. I believe these shocks come from drugs sometimes, from the death of someone close, from moving to a new location, switching jobs–anything that significantly changes the narrative around one’s personal identity.

I believe, like in any story, the hero starts out in a stagnant state. Recognizing that the way of their kind is just one way in many, the hero’s curiosity leads them to wonder. Could we do better? The hero makes a wish. Something happens. A disaster. The Hero is to blame. This is the call to adventure. The hero rises to it and is successful or denies the call and hears it over and over until they must pursue the adventure or go mad. The outcome is the difference between tragedy and comedy. The perspective along the way is the tone, the style, the type of story one’s hero’s journey relays.

My favorite heroes are the ones who stand in their own way because they do not realize their own power. My favorite heroes are the ones who are motivated to win for their friends and their family. My favorite heroes are the ones who are their own worst enemies. And my favorite heroes are the ones whose friends and families remind them towards the end what they are fighting for.

Harry Potter faces the evil in himself metaphorically when facing Voldemort. They are both of the same soul, Harry being a horcrux, and yet the part of the soul that wins out is the one who knows love and friendship.

Flick, in A Bug’s Life, or Turbo in Disney/Pixar’s Turbo, are very small characters who face great odds against giant systems that are in place outside of their control. They find a better way for their people by answering the call within themselves to take action, although the action is one they are not certain they are capable of rising to.

In following the call within, I found my way back to family and embodied the hero who values love and friendship. I defeated my metaphorical Voldemort. The nature of life being a changing and cyclical one (as in the cycles of nature), I believe we have many opportunities to face our demons in this way–a shock, a stripping of pride, a reclamation of positive personal identity through myth.

In his article called, “How Industrial Cultures View Mental Illness,” by on Big Think.com, Mike Colagrossi writes, “Culture determines how mental illness or aberrant mental behavior is viewed and dealt with,” and “Culture is the arbiter of our conscious reality. To say that it influences how we think and act would be an understatement. For the non-inquisitive or complacent mind, it can set us into the inane doldrums of prefabricated patterns we take to be both our day-to-day reality and how we even view our own psyches and world around us. It comes as no surprise that it also has a significant effect on what we consider to be a normal psychological disposition.”

I have not looked into the research behind this article or its sources, though I intend to.

The point I’m getting at is the above article talks about how people with mental illnesses were once revered as guides to aid people through times of spiritual awakening or as guides, essentially, through the subconscious, aiding the “non-inquisitive or complacent minde[ed]” through the forest of the shadows within the psyche when, as the human experience commands, we must face those shadows. The language in the article is used to describe people is negative in context of our culture and may not be the appropriate language to use here. Everyone thinks differently and all perspectives serve to create the whole of the cultural perspective. In ancient cultures, people like me helped people who were facing their downs, through the downs by spiritual means. You may not like the word spirit. I know I didn’t when I was younger. But is is a symbol for something. A symbol for something humans have not yet identified with science but that many humans throughout history have experiences with.

With the eradication of the value of spirit in a modern materialist culture (the path to success led away from the value of family which is as immaterial as it is material) and a lack of understanding around what spirit stood for in the psyches of the peoples of the past, we have lost a significant part of our humanness: a positive mythology to describe things we still do not understand regarding the workings of the mind, consciousness, and it’s path to finding meaning that is not one as simplistic as “progress for the sake of progress” (hello Umbridge) which is the American dream applied without positive, humble, selfless, sustainable values.

My culture’s story about mental illness is a mythology based on one perspective: a clinical one.

I do not wonder at the rise of wicca and new age mythologies today. I believe people crave the language of myth to inform the unknown which our culture claims to know through technology and science which are part of a much more fantastic picture. I believe the craving for this fantastic picture comes from the inherent inability of the fulfillment of the American Dream to fully inform the wide breadth of human experience of which we are capable.

Mental illness is misunderstood, or it would not be so prevalent. That or it was always prevalent, and it was better understood. Probably there is a story in which both statements are true. Probably we are an intelligent enough culture to tell that story and act by it instead.

Modern tribal cultures have less of prevalence of disease and mental illness and I wonder if it is because they value community and spirituality over the material. Ancient cultures found places for mental illness and even revered it in the realm of the spiritual, emotional, and what a Jungian psychoanalytic approach might call the archetypal divine feminine. Dark, shadow places of the psyche, not unlike the sweat lodge in which I heard the voices of my people and felt a sense of community unrivaled by my experiences on the normal “American Dream” path through school and sports and teaching and blah blah blah. This is important. But it lacks imagination and meaning if one has not taken the time to formulate meaning for one’s self. I lived a pretty passive life and found myself at the end of school and in a career on the track set out for me only to discover it had no meaning for me personally. That lack of personal meaning led to a lack of caring about job performance, and when the job performance is the shaping of minds of our future and those minds are only a handful of years younger than yourself…well I was not equipped to think I knew anything they wouldn’t learn eventually. I had to live. I had to feel like what I had to offer was more meaningful than just the reiteration of statistics and data fed to me through academic channels of a structured, federally approved curriculum.

Here is an excerpt from an article on cultural preservation from Cultural Survival Quarterly Magazine about the mental health of indigenous people as it relates to colonization, industrialization, genocide, and in many respects, Christianization, and the importance of offering meaning to one’s society as an individual:

“It is critical to note that an essential feature of a people’s sociocultural environment is meaning. Each culture provides pathways by which individuals may satisfy their needs for positive affect, prestige, and meaning. Small-scale, hunter-gatherer societies provide several such pathways: excellence in hunting, storytelling, or as a healer. More complex societies offer a greater array of pathways. Whatever its size, complexity or environment, a central task of any culture is to provide its members with a sense of meaning and purpose in the world. What happens, then, when a people’s way of life is destroyed through disease, genocide, loss of territory, and repression of language and culture, when pathways to meaning are no longer available?” 

My culture once told me that if I went to school, got a degree, and worked hard, I would be successful. I did these and success was empty because I looked around my world and saw chaos and anger and sadness and saw too that some carrot I saw dangling at the edge of my future was in itself a symbol that represented the very happiness found in the things I was running from: family, community, humility, spirit, ritual, emotion. I had moved through life, consciously cultivating meaning with this American Dream construct of assured success at the end only to find that the American Dream promises a kind of success that does not require the individual to find meaning beyond the federally approved curriculum. I am not negating the importance of material well being or the beauty of the American Dream. The body is our connection to reality, but that fact does not make the physical our only reality or we would not have concepts like meaning and spirituality, and religion and philosophy. I’m only saying that a to achieve the American Dream without also cultivating and consciously crafting one’s personal identity makes one a product of their culture instead of an inhabitant of the culture, actively participating in its creation.

Active participation requires questioning, self-care, curiosity, risk, adventure, meaning, a search for meaning, bravery, communication, community, humility, and an open-minded interpretation of reality that allows space for things to be unknown and uncertain.

I had to learn to care about people differently, to approach values differently, and to cultivate them consciously and in order to do this I needed to let go of my story about what I thought it meant to be a successful adult. I had to fail. I failed fantastically, but the lessons learned in the loosening of my grip on what I thought was real were far outside my capabilities to imagine until I dove into what was unknown.

The shock of being a failure to my culture allowed me to see the failings of my culture and to understand where I needed to take responsibility for actively participating in the creation of my identity within it and where I could craft that identity to hopefully aid in repairing myself and one small corner of the hole that is the moral fabric of the modern American mind, even if that mind is only my own.

Even if one does take the time to formulate meaning around one’s identity through stories based on one’s experiences, I believe it is also imperative to social health that these stories also contain meaning for one’s role in their tribe. I do not know my tribe. But I know that Joseph Campbell said everyone has within them, the potential to be a hero. Check out this analysis of Star Wars and the Matrix from this Campbell’s Jungian psychoanalytic perspective.

Who knew going in the opposite direction of what I thought was success would lead me to this hero self? I say this and it sounds egomaniacal perhaps, but Joseph Campbell posited that all people have within them the structure of this journey of the hero, that it is ingrained in the structure of western thought, and that each person has within them the potential to embody this inner hero.

A quote from an article in Quartz Magazine called, “May the Force Be With You: This Classic Formula Can Show You How to Live More Heroically,” says:

“‘A hero is someone who has given his or her life to something bigger than oneself,’ according to Campbell’s definition. Anyone can become a hero—on purpose or even accidentally. But it involves a painful evolution that is a prerequisite to greatness.”

He approached this idea through a psychoanalytic lens .

I believe the painful evolution is the shock, the crash, the stripping of pride when we find ourselves at our lowest.

I am faced with a diagnosis now, and my call is to heal this from within with all the methods available to me and publicly that this may stand as some kind of record for someone.

The heart calls and we must follow it no matter how crazy people tell us the call is. We must follow our call to adventure or remain stagnant. Nature does not allow things to stand still. Forcing it to be other than it is only delays the inevitable…kind of like our economy after the 2008 crash.

My culture’s understanding of bipolar and schizophrenia are like the demographic understanding of Family illustrated above: data driven, physical, and lacking in the cultural or humanistic perspective. I am not saying it is wrong. It is just one perspective of a bigger picture that needs more information. In the event that one’s body is at risk of harm from bipolar or schizophrenia, my culture’s understanding of bipolar and schizophrenia call for a pill, restraints, talk therapy, sometimes even jail if the person is lucid enough. But modern medicine can cure what was once incurable and it can help to keep one safe temporarily. You go to the hospital for a broken bone and they fix it but if you go back out into the world and jump off the slide again the leg is going to break. My culture fixes the “breaks”–the episodes, the intolerable snap.

My tribe’s culture calls for sweat lodge and the ancients knew certain diets and told stories about ascended masters and spirits and ghosts and aliens. If I treat these stories as symbols for the unknown human experience, rather than as factual accounts of otherworldly beings–that is, if I use otherworldly symbolism to explain the emotions and experiences I don’t understand the science of–then I have a much better story and a much less stressful human experience than if I were an ill mental patient who needs a pill to make her right again. I can’t not identify with something my culture tells me is an illness. I must be able to participate in my culture to be healthy and to feel meaningful and thus the ill factor must be addressed. But I must participate actively instead of as a product of my culture to create meaningful change within it. And the change that means something to me based on my story and the stories of so many people I love who have had brushes with chronic mental or physical illness, even been consumed by it, is a change in the way we view illness as a culture. Chronic illness is a cultural epidemic the likes of which was once healed by spiritual methods, which might just mean stories we told to explain things bigger than ourselves.

Imagine for a moment that what you think you know about anything is just a big story we’ve all decided to participate in. Imagine that by participating in this story, you are helping to write it. Every day. With every action. With every dollar spent. Every morsel devoured. Every word spoken. Every judgment. Imagine every action as leading to the next and what the outcome of these actions equal on the individual, interpersonal, familial, societal, cultural, national, global, universal scales.

We are not intelligent enough to calculate these in every moment, and yet every moment does echo through all of these spheres.

But we do have a cultural story that allows for understanding things bigger than the self: The Journey of the Hero.

Today, I step into my hero self. The best way I know of to proceed is to understand I know nothing. Innocence breeds curiosity, kindness, and understanding. I would rather tell myself a story that deems me as crazy but lets me learn things like the value of family, of caring for myself and my people despite and even because of our individual differences, than tell myself a story about my identity that would let me hate them, blame them, be different from them. Somehow they became them. I don’t even know who they are. This metaphorical “they.”

“They” are people like you and me. I would rather sit at a bar with someone who spouts a bunch of stuff I think is nonsense and laugh and accept their ideas are working for them, maybe ask questions, and let them continue on with their life than I would spite someone or condemn them as wrong. What do I really know? What does anyone really know?

That’s not to say I’m not mean sometimes or spiteful or judgmental. I am. I’m a moody person. But, as best I can, I make amends and try not to make the same selfish mistakes again.

In the same light as WWJD, I sometimes ask myself, What Would Harry Do? because Harry Potter is a character in my culture’s mythology who embodies a hero to me. Who are your heroes? I know it’s silly, but it’s better than hating on people, better than making people feel low so I can feel slightly higher. Why not just build my own identity? Carve out my own space in this place. Take responsibility for my adaptation instead of hating on them or him or her or my president because he is evidence of my country’s total ambivalence towards consequences that don’t involve guns, money, or walls apparently.

I believe the need to be right stems from fear of losing control of one’s narrative of identity in some regard or another. I believe this because I have often needed to be right and found at the root of my fear a question about my identity revealing something I didn’t want to face. Like what a selfish sixteen year old I was. Like what a selfish 25 year old I was. But the parts of ourselves that live in the shadows must be recognized to be brought into the light. I saw my selfishness, let my walls down, and let myself become part of my family.

A large part of my depression and mania have originated from this incongruence between my idea of who I am within vs. who I am in the world now. This, I believe, is why present moment awareness is such a valuable tool. Instead of identifying with my past and the labels of who I was within the context of my occupation, my best friend, my location, my purpose and passions even, I am here in this moment in the world in the reality of it experiencing it with curiosity and innocence. This perspective lets me see the basic building blocks of reality when there are too many stories from external realities trying to inform my personal one. The present is the seat of consciousness. It is the truth inherent. The stories are there to help us weave the narrative of experiences in the present. As best I can, I try to let the present inform my personal narrative about my identity, but sometimes there are inexplicable things which I can call an illness or a gift or perhaps there is a perspective out there which holds both as true, knows a larger scope of the story, and I suppose that’s what I’m here to discover.

Both past and present must inform the whole of the identity. The present identity co creates the future.

This is all theoretical. It’s a subject I can write a book about and intend to. For now, may we all find the bravery to take the leap into our hero selves, whoever they may be, whatever that might look like.

Be well. Be brave. Break boxes today. It’s okay. We’re all a little crazy.

The Mechanisms of Addiction

When alcohol killed my best friend I wondered why the hell she didn’t stop.

When it ruined my friends, I wondered why they didn’t stop.

When I wound up in jail, I wondered why I hadn’t stopped.

When my friend calls about her boyfriend who can’t stop drinking even though they have three babies who need love and attention and care, I wonder.

In rehab for bulimia I learned about the way dopamine is released upon successful completion of a task or upon successful imbibing of a drink. Throwing up releases dopamine. So does getting high. Drinking.

Andrew Huberman, a Stanford based neuroscientist, recently said on The Joe Rogan Experience: “Addiction is a progressive narrowing of the things that bring you pleasure.”

When we do difficult things, like set out to run a mile, we are forced to push ourselves beyond our limits. It hurts. It sucks. But the release of dopamine after a good run brings pleasure. You might not hit that runner’s high state until you’re able to run up to two or three miles. First, there’s that two-week stage of just clearing out your lungs and lymph nodes, getting everything flowing again. Then there’s that secondary stage of passing through the muscle fatigue, stretching, breathwork and maintaining pace to push beyond that stop sign at the end of that 2 mile mark. Then there’s the third stage: Run as much as you want…the high is the best freedom you’ve ever experienced. Now you’ve just got to make sure you’re eating well and drinking enough water.

Natural highs take work.

Alcohol, it was explained to me in rehab, and weed and throwing up and shopping and eating guilty pleasure foods are quick fixes we turn to so that instead of taking the time to work hard for the more sustainable, healthier payoff, we can feel immediate relief.

The problem with this regarding alcohol or any self-destructive behavior really, is that the more we turn to whatever that fix is for relief, the less tolerance we maintain for pain. We reinforce the pain, which is often caused by a lack of self-esteem and self-worth, perpetuate it by pacifying the pain instead of addressing it at the root, and turn to it even when people we love start to fade out of our lives because alcohol causes brain damage and dependency. Eventually, after long enough, the distance between you and pleasure can only be measured by the distance between your gullet and the next drink.

I know this because I’m an alcoholic and I’ve switched up one addiction for another plenty of times.

Jail and fear of losing everything are the only way I was able to find the motivation to stop, but there was nuance to that.

In his investigation of Ashininca Ayuhuasqueros and their use of botanical plants in the Amazon, Stanford anthropologist Jeremy Narby writes about the eye: 

“…the human eye is more sophisticated than any camera of similar size. The cells on the outer layer of the retina can absorb a single particle of light, or photon, and amplify its energy at least a million times, before transferring it in the form of a nervous signal to the back of the brain. The iris, which functions as the eye’s diaphragm is automatically controlled. The cornea has just the right curvature. The lens is focused by miniature muscles, which are also controlled automatically by feedback. The final result of this visual system, still imperfectly understood,” [hail science], “in its entirety, is a clear, colored, and three-dimensional image inside the brain that we perceive as external. We never see reality, but only an internal representation of it that our brain constructs for us continuously,” (105). 

I like his use of the word diaphragm. We breathe to live and the diaphragm works like the lens. By looking at something with the diaphragm in the eye, do we breathe it into being but like, with light? Visualization is a powerful tool.

What’s more, the images we “see” are processed upside down and take up to 13 milliseconds for us to recognize, on average, during which time our brain fills in the missing pieces of what we didn’t take in consciously with a sort of predictive text function we call expectation which adapts to the context of the situation to keep us sane, very unlike the predictive text function that turns “fucking” to “ducking” on my cellular device. This function of expectation is one born of the collective agreement upon what is sane—or, our cultural narrative. 

But it is still a story around a thing that is storyless without our interaction with it.  

Anil Seth, a cognitive neuroscientist, came out with one of my favorite Ted Talks ever in 2017. He explains these processes in much more detail and with a much more thorough understanding, but I will share here one thing he says: “All that changes is your brain’s best guess of the cause of that information, and that changes what you consciously hear.” 

In other words, what you think you know, changes what you consciously perceive. So unless you think you know absolutely nothing, you’re walking around in your own world which is very far from objective. We all have likes and dislikes, fears and desires, impulses and habits, idiosyncrasies.  

This happens often in arguments. A stranger in a restaurant says, “Pass me that napkin,” and you (the proverbial you, of course) grew up believing in manners, so the lack of a please or thank you makes you perceive them as rude. They are asking for a napkin to help clean up a spilled soda that a little girl is crying over, not because of the soda, but because she is ashamed to have made a mess. Her mother is controlling the scene, so the poor girl has some internalized, mommy-induced shame to work through later, but that really is her problem. Life is easy for no one. Therefore, you are now rude for not helping that man and that little girl. Further, you’re petty.  

The brain processes about 11,000 bits of information per second, 40 of which we are consciously aware of. The other 10,960 bits account for the subconscious expectations which influence our perception of the non-seeing picture we develop of the world. What’s more, previous expectations that are entirely unrelated to this experience other than the experience was ours, can see us bringing our expectations to a scene and committing in action to that story of our past trauma instead of the present story of what is now.

You want objectivity? Be present always. It’s impossible unless you’re Buddha who doesn’t operate in a the cultural narrative which is a version of insanity by all technical definitions. The ego is what we use to interface with one another. It is necessary. There is no such thing as objectivity unless you are totally enlightened, in which case you’re no longer human.

What I’m getting at is it’s possible to change our subconscious narratives, but we must take control of our own personal narrative or surrender to the narratives to which we are exposed. I don’t know about you, but I’m not stoked on a lot of our modern narratives so I’m down to craft my own thanks.

Our minds seek the problem as a means of finding the solution, but often we get stuck only looking at the problem. It’s habitual to do so, but not exactly helpful. Famous problem solvers like Einstein and Isaac Newton, believed in the power of the subconscious and intuition to solve problems. If Einstein had a problem, he’d nap on it.

The 10,960 bits per second are being processed in the “90%” of the brain capacity we don’t use. When we use meditation and visualization to focus our intentions, the subconscious mind starts to understand: this is the problem we are working to solve and this is the result we want. (The subconscious mind also knows when you are convincing yourself you want something instead of actually wanting it. That’s a different post in the making right now. We’ll problem-solve that later.)

We have revealing dreams. “Synchronicities,” start to appear, signs and coincidences, although it is likely they are just opportunities our brain wasn’t noticing before when we were training it to only notice the problems. Instead, we must train our brain to look for the solutions and we must know what result we are looking for so the subconscious mind can get to work.

We will cal this alchemy, for these are the foundational principles of the law of attraction from my practice, understanding, and many more intelligent peoples’ research over years of hard work and exploration. We have the power to train our minds to be our servants.

The addict is a slave to the mind. The battle to recover, then, is one we fight daily through choice, intention, conscious awareness, and cultivating healthy values that are good for us and our people.

 I would agree with the statement that we haven’t ever truly seen reality objectively, arguing only that instead of never seeing reality, we always have the potential to see various versions of reality until we commit to the construction of the narrative.  

We commit via action.

What do your actions tell you about what you value?

When I reached for that bottle, I was committing to being an alcoholic. What’s more, I’m still a girlfriend, a mom-to-be, a person in a family, a friend. Those facets of me didn’t just go away. I was an unsupportive girlfriend, a woman who definitely wasn’t ready to be a mom, an alcoholic who had used her family and blamed them for her circumstances, and a friend who only called when she needed to blow off steam, which was always.

Addicts suck. It is what it is. Addiction is a disease born of mistreatment of the brain and a hijacking of it’s natural reward system. An addicted person is not free. An addicted person lacks self-worth.

I suspect alcohol is only legal because the industrial complexes around death, health, and productivity at the expense of a human being’s precious time are all fed by alcohol. 50% of all accidents–not just car accidents–all accidents, involve alcohol. Most reported cases of sexual abuse involve alcohol. The Native Americans were done in as much by addiction as they were by white force. It is an evil, toxic substance. Some people can handle it though I don’t know why we bother anymore. We have better things to do like saving our country and our planet and ourselves and the animals and stuff. First I need to just stand on my own two damned feet. Are you with me?

So, cool.

I was there in jail realizing I’d really fucked up remembering how my friend’s boyfriend called the cops on her per my suggestion once when she was beating him. She was drunk. He had a few broken ribs.

In jail my dead friend stands next to me and learns along with me. Her anger in life was too bitter for forgiveness. Her company is welcome. We have a silent conversation. I know better than to speak aloud to ghosts, though I see them all the time.

First we talk about how I fucked up and I have to fix things because no one else is responsible for my mistakes or my life. I do not have time to feel bad for myself anymore. I tell her I’m sorry I couldn’t help her and she tells me to help myself. If I can do that, I can help others.

So I start running instead of drinking, understanding that the struggle to push my body is also the struggle to push past my mental limitations. Also, not drinking made me feel like crawling out of my skin and there is really a lot of anger and resentment to address, so running is the healthiest outlet I can think of and requires no money. Just me and my shoes and my body.

It should be difficult.

We turn to addiction because we fail to overcome.

Second: Now that I’m committed to a different story, what actions shall I take instead?

Don’t feel like doing the dishes? What kind of person are you?

Don’t want to be sober? What are you choosing instead?

Where in your life are you unhappy? Probably, you’re going to have to do some hard things to correct that, but you must start. Start somewhere.

The alcoholic has no self-esteem with which to become motivated. The only pleasure, until distance and healing of the brain are achieved in some minor capacity, is the promise of the next drink.

What’s sad about all of this is that if we can work this stuff out in our subconscious minds with a solid picture of where we’d like to be (start with something small) is that the problem seems not to be alcoholism or addiction at all but a lack of an ability to imagine one can become better.

It is hopelessness.

You can be better, I promise.

It’s not your fault. It’s no one else’s either. This is just your life and you’re responsible because you’re the only one who has to be in it.

No one told you, maybe, and maybe no is going to tell you besides me, but you can be better. If you have the courage to imagine you will reach for your kids instead of a bottle and you have the strength to face the shame for all the times you should have and didn’t and you summon the conviction to act you have already become a better person than you ever were.

It takes real chutzpah to look at oneself full-on and say “fuck you, you drunk sad self. You can be better. I love you person in there who is sad. Why are you doing this? Stop it. You know you can do better. What’s better? Holy shit we can have that and we’ve been drinking it away the whole time?”

Here’s where the cycle of shame starts again. DONT let it.

“FUCK YOU, SHAME. Today, I am strong. Today, I have courage! You want me to drink? NO! I’m going running and it’s going to suck and I’m going to feel so good when it’s done. Today, no bottle of booze will come between me and my love of life. No more.”

Fight. Fight for your life. These are the stakes for the alcoholic always.

I called my alcoholism a demon and put myself in a story of light against dark and started to tell those demons to fuck off. Daily. Minute by minute. It was maddening.

Eventually, it was so maddening I became fueled by anger which needs a healthy outlet, which became running, which became needing to eat more, which became a healthy diet.

Just start by naming the drink or the fix for what it is: A demon.

Alcoholics are possessed by alcohol which in those words just looks fine, except the further you go, the more fucked you get. Stop now. We cannot buy back our time. Use your time like it’s money. Spend it wisely.

More on this later. It’s a start for now.

All my love.

Be well humans.

Women with Dicks and Boys with Sticks

I decided the other day I don’t want to be a woman with a dick or balls.

I want to be a woman with a vagina who embodies woman.

Many women my age grew up calling themselves tomboys, myself included. There was an element of pride to be won in not being womanly, in embodying male traits, in growing up rational and shutting off one’s intuition. Women’s intuition is called crazy. Rational is the only way.

At thirteen, when puberty hit, hormones changed the way my clean, pure rational mind worked and I started crying a lot and feeling ashamed for it all the time. I was a weight lifter, a basketball player, a soccer player, a trombone player. There was little about me I personally found feminine, but my hair grew longer and I developed an ass and boobs and the man I’d been trained to try to be (strong, tough, not a crybaby, Daddy’s first girl of five) just wasn’t meant to be in a body like mine.

I have a tiny waist, a big ass, and a diamond-shaped face that needs no makeup but these are traits that just seemed to get in the way of my friendships. The boys started to ask me out and I didn’t say no because I didn’t know what going out meant. Two weeks later I’d be like, “Yeah this isn’t working,” because it was just this weird obligation to talk on the phone for longer periods of time or tell them what kind of panties I was wearing and I was into studying Japanese and figuring out how to get out of my house. Mom was pregnant with my little brother. A sixteen-year-old and a fifteen-year-old in the same house with my pregnant mother was just…

There really aren’t words.

My mother, my sister and I all have some version of this cyclothymia thing, which I often believe is just heightened sensitivity based on what I’ve been told from therapists (at least ten in my lifetime). The diagnosis has never been super solid but therapists still don’t exactly know what it is.

It is attunement with the cycles of nature–not just nature like that thing we place outside of our perfectly rational selves for some completely irrational reason (let’s call it ego). It’s an attunement with one’s inner nature and the cycles of nature.

When fall comes along, I’m readying the harvest, pickling, making savory food, knitting, getting outside for those last blustery days. Winter has me at a lower energy, wanting to stay inside. Spring is all about new growth, fucking, and making plans, and summer is about work and play. It’s all coded into our DNA after generations upon generations of evolution.

We are the first generation in thousands and thousands of years of evolution to not have to rely on agriculture or the seasons in their immediacy to feed and sustain ourselves. We have technology, refrigeration, freezers, and food processing. We call this freedom.

The following is one of my favorite of many quotes from the father of Psychoanalysis, Swiss Psychoanalyst, Carl Jung, my soul mentor.

“The fact that a man who goes his own way ends in ruin means nothing … He must obey his own law, as if it were a daemon whispering to him of new and wonderful paths … There are not a few who are called awake by the summons of the voice, whereupon they are at once set apart from the others, feeling themselves confronted with a problem about which the others know nothing. In most cases it is impossible to explain to the others what has happened, for any understanding is walled off by impenetrable prejudices. ‘You are no different from anybody else,’ they will chorus or, ‘there’s no such thing,’ and even if there is such a thing, it is immediately branded as ‘morbid’…He is at once set apart and isolated, as he has resolved to obey the law that commands him from within. ‘His own law!’ everybody will cry. But he knows better: it is the law…The only meaningful life is a life that strives for the individual realization — absolute and unconditional— of its own particular law … To the extent that a man is untrue to the law of his being … he has failed to realize his own life’s meaning.”  

― Carl Jung

A google search of the word “attunement,” brings up this blog post which basically states that attunement into other people’s inner state is the basis upon which we form relationships. No one ever tuned into my inner state except a handful of friends. When I was rational, tuning into other people was a matter of examining and trusting human nature. You don’t have to know a person well to get a sense of that.

I was watching Patrice Oneal’s Elephant in the Room last night and thinking about how he is basically talking about how we have suppressed a vital part of human nature. He talked a lot about nasty things, and some people think he hated women because his impressions of women always involve a lot of talking (nagging), but comedians–especially him I think–present things as they are in a way that is hilarious so they don’t hurt as much to look at.

Men, he supposes, are like fisherman. It’s his bit and I won’t explain it to you, go watch the stand up if you haven’t, I highly recommend it. I could tell where my femaleness (not my real femaleness, the idea of femaleness I’m supposed to embody per my culture) started to rise up. It was when he began to excuse men who cheat for being the kinds of creatures who think with their dicks. And, when he said women’s health is women’s responsibility.

I could see where he was coming from when considering the rules of human nature, but the rules of civilization are made by men and civilization is the practice of suppressing the human instinct for the sake of progress.

From the rational perspective, feelings and kindness and all those gentle nurturing qualities associated with women have historically been an irrational but necessary function of the wild human being. Nature, it turns out, is savage and a moment of emotional overwhelm can mean death if poorly timed–such as when Prince Oberon tries to tease an apology from the Mountain in Game of Thrones. We all watched that scene and thought, “What are you doing?! Just kill him!”

And if you’ve watched that scene, you know how it ended.

We live in a weird time though. Many of us exist in a civilized world that is so walled off from the natural one, we don’t develop natural instincts strong enough to outshine our civil inbreeding. If you think you know your own nature and you’ve never been dirt poor, you don’t. One doesn’t know the extent to which the animal in the self is capable or incapable until the civilized part isn’t nourished. Without shelter, without food, without company, without clothing, one must strive for the basest, most fundamental resources and whatever thoughts you might have of rightness must be abandoned for the animal instinct to survive.

Now on the nature of men and women–women have historically gathered in groups. It’s both a protective mechanism since women are physically more susceptible, on a fundamental biological level, to being harmed by men than men are to being harmed by women. If you don’t believe that, go be a woman by herself on Skid Row and try going around convincing anyone who tries to fuck with you that you are biologically equal in strength.

Yes there are exceptions. No I’m not here to argue that. Nitpickers who want to go deeper than that are just being argumentative as far as I’m concerned.

The ideas of what gender roles are in our civilization are typically determined by academics and scientists, preconceived notions of a nuclear family, and a history of oppression that leaves women unable to vote until the ratification of the 19th amendment in 1920, an effort that laid to rest 60 years of women demanding to be heard.

Only after a woman by the name of Carrie Chapman Catt, contrary to the movements of her contemporaries, merged many suffrage groups in to one called the Women’s Suffrage Party and doubled voluntary enrollment in war efforts in WWI by pledging the efforts of NAWSA, more than 2 million strong, to the government since it was “protective of all other rights.” This was a turnaround from the tactics of women like Alice Paul who picketed the white house and went on their first hunger strikes, having learned civil disobedience tactics in London.

A little over a month after NAWSA pledged their support, Wilson declared War and women became central to the successful operation of the military industrial complex. Two years later women in every state were allowed to vote.

The first time a man cheats on me I stop eating and cannot understand why this is my reaction.

My great grandmother was born in 1911 to a wealthy family. During the great depression, her father left and didn’t return. The bank took everything. Great grandma worked in an orange factory and sometimes they subsisted on orange peels alone. Great grandma grew her own food, stashed money around the house because she didn’t trust the government, avoided processed anything, painted, led meditation groups, conversed with aliens, drank a thimbulfull of brandy every night and a smoked 1 tobacco pipe. She didn’t drink caffeine. She walked a mile every day, played music, taught art, and was highly sexually active well into old age. She died peacefully in her sleep at the age of 98 I believe? Ninety something.

She did not have a man by her side in later life and pictures of her with a baby in her arms, a younger married woman, reveal a deep resentment I’ve come to understand in a circumambulatory way. I didn’t realize that the urge to stop eating was this internalized, perhaps DNA level awareness, that my freedom is not the same freedom men know.

In Patrice O’neal’s stand up mentioned above, the natural male is presented as a beautiful creature, imperfect but natural. I can accept this narrative. I can accept that if it is in a man’s nature to cheat in order to keep the woman he wants while also maintaining his own nature, he must be true to his nature.

What I cannot accept is that men hold the power of the cultural narratives which determine what my nature is supposed to be. It doesn’t surprise me at all that women are only allowed to vote as a result of supporting War. Historically, this is what women’s roles are for men–support structures in the home so that when the nature of men to become violent lends itself to violent practice, as human nature dictates, there is something to return to, somewhere to nurture the violated soul.

What I cannot accept is my soul practice has been diminished to cooking and cleaning by the mechanisms of the rational.

Yesterday in meditation Isis and Osiris came to me. Say what you will of visions, they are a perfectly normal human experience. The rational mind is afraid of this unknown wilderness, but the wild woman is powerful beyond the homemaker bitchmade thing modern civilization has made her out to be.

In pursuing what it is to be natural woman, I became spiritual, sexual, confident, and I was often called a bitch–AM. Am often called a bitch. It alarms me that because I’m a woman who speaks, people are wary of me. I worked in kitchens for years with men and with women. The man’s kitchen is always loud and full of shit-talking. The environment is different. One has to attune themselves to a different kind of nature. It’s a different wavelength. Patrice was definitely right on that point. Men and women are simply different. Also, it’s worth noting I think that when I work with women who are well-behaved and have themselves together, the environment is quieter.

I started to speak up for myself at about 25 because I grew tired of being spoken for all the time just to appear easy going, not a crazy bitch. That kind of oppression is the best way to become a crazy bitch if you ask me.

I recently started a new job which pays minimum wage, promises 20 hours a week, blackout holidays, and I get Thursdays off but no promises. The boss lady doesn’t tell me the training is eight hours, but she does tell me I can pick my schedule, failing to mention that because I lack any seniority, the other girls pick their schedules and I get the scraps. Here’s the deal: This is a temporary gig. It’s a transitional thing while I get back into online teaching and freelance writing, something I’m actually pretty established in at this point. I’m taming my proud, hard-won wild woman ego to remember humility, be grateful I have a transitional opportunity so close to home that is pretty flexible and has benefits.

Ten years ago, I’d have been like, “Alright,” and wouldn’t have said a word about the conditions of this workplace welcome. To me, minimum wage, blackout holidays, and no say about when you work is a form of slavery, or at least incarceration to a society I never wanted. If I’d had it my way, we’d all be living in the woods learning about plants and building our own damn houses, growing our own gardens, living as humans were intended to live but with some exceptions–no need to throw out the baby with the bathwater. We’ve come so far technologically, it would be great if we could implement that into our natures and nature, reinvigorate the symbiotic relationship of the human being with the planet and it’s creatures before we smother ourselves in our own war mongering greed egos.

But I don’t have it my way.

My way is the wild woman and my people fear her.

She represents chaos to the rational person because intuition isn’t rational. A woman who stops eating because she knows something is off and can’t pinpoint it is following her intuition, perhaps an intuition in her DNA that stems from the history of hunger strikes that were necessary to get her heard in the first place.

I overcame my eating disorder by naming it ED. There is a great book about this if you are in trouble with this demon. I call them demons because that is the only way I can take something intangible seriously enough to fight it daily. I learned to eat with gusto, to fuck for fun, and I did so by undoing my conventions.

Someone, a high class woman I respect immensely, told me recently that “as we get older, we wear darker lipstick.”

I said, “Do we? I wonder who determined that.” Who am I to argue with the conventions of women? I wear makeup once or twice a year maybe and I recognize this as a failure to integrate some parts of the female convention into my practice of her. The rejection was necessary in order to understand a deeper, wilder side I think, but this rejection initially looked like being a tomboy, shaming what is is to be woman, embracing instead the qualities of man.

When we talk about patriarchy, it is this idea of the half woman as an acceptable embodiment women for men who fear her. It isn’t my fault that you don’t want to hear me talk all the time. If you knew how to listen, maybe I wouldn’t have to repeat myself.

There are men cringing at those words and women laughing and that exchange is gross but common.

It is not in the nature of people to disrespect one another, men or women. It is a person’s individual nature which determines their ability to accomplish things like not thinking with their dick, or thinking enough with their head to justify thinking with their dick in such a way it’s actually kind of charming. Women are capable of this too. We are no exception to lust and infidelity.

But I don’t want to be a babysitter my whole life.

This is what relationships have historically felt like to me: Babysitting.

Joseph Campbell surmised that the lack of modern ritual to signify the transition of men into adults has essentially created a land of man children. This isn’t entirely true. Unfortunately, one’s exposure to academia and civilization is directly proportional to one’s total wildness.

Unless you’re actively cultivating your own path and seeking the inner wilds, civilization will sweep you up in things you’re supposed to become for the sake of continuing to feed the industrial war complex.

That is what it comes down to. Look at history. Not just ours. Ours is repeating itself. Issues of equality, race, gender, and nature versus nurture always erupt from the insecurities of wartime and justifiably so.

Wars are fought to reinvigorate the economy. Whether we like it or not, we are still trapped in the regular mechanisms of nature–kill or be killed, gather resources or take them if unavailable–but we are so removed from our own natures that we believe that these are matters of state.

No: These are matters of a state of mind that derides the intuitive, the chaotic, and the unknown, grasping for security and certainty at all costs.

I’m not saying there is anything wrong with this.

DJ and I got in a fight a couple of days ago.

I’m pregnant. I have a Master’s Degree and I’m transitioning to a part-time, minimum wage job so I can work from home and love on the baby. These are my natural instincts and this becomes the intention without my conscious mind understanding it. I’m making less money now and to many, money is status, status is dignity. Without being able to care for one’s self financially, pride and dignity are lost.

This is the sad consequence of disrespecting the wild woman: the people for whom we desire security in the first place, and in whose name we take action like going to war, are forgotten. Instead, war becomes the game, the conquest, the mechanism of pride-boosting pump juice that feeds the national ego.

What is an ego without a soul?

I’m not talking about a divide among men a women. There are plenty of women out there who have dicks, both literally and metaphorically nowadays. There isn’t anything wrong with that either. For my own part, I realized I was striving to be a woman with a dick when really, I just want to be a woman who is respected for her nature. I shouldn’t have to embody the qualities of man to be respected.

This is what we mean when we talk about “the patriarchy.” It is that in order to be respected, one cannot also be emotional, vulnerable, gentle, and open-minded.

Staying home to work and raise kids is no fucking cake walk. I’m only doing the first part right now, and finding work from home, implementing the discipline to do so, cleaning, and cooking and maintaining house, it’s nice for me but still work. Plus pregnant hormones.

Working one’s ass off and putting aside any emotional setbacks to provide security is no cake walk either and DJ does this without complaint, enthusiastically I would say.

There is sometimes, when things get hard, a feeling of resentment for what he has that I do not: freedom, maleness, that ability to set aside emotional setbacks and provide physically. He is a reliable employee, a reliable and loving partner, and providing seems to be something he wants to do–perhaps it’s unconscious, just a part of his nature.

Then, I’m sure, there’s resentment from his side sometimes when things get hard that my emotional nature kicks me into nurture mode as though on autopilot. When his dog died, I gave him massages, cooked with extra care, and avoided any nagging.

I know that these “woman” things are mine and I accept them.

My sister and my mother are the main providers in their families. The men in their households suffer for it, not, I think, because it’s horrible to be home and take care of kids, but because our culture values male attributes more than female attributes.

What’s more, the disrespect with which the provider has historically been allowed to treat the nurturers seems to bleed over across the boundaries of gender. The one who has the money makes the decisions. Role reversal is just as toxic.

We are looking not for role reversal or gender equality I think. We are looking to understand human nature, male and female nature. Our best hope is to understand, as Carl Jung put it, our own nature, discovered by following one’s own law.

A culture that doesn’t value family–or worse, values resource as much as if not more the families for whom those resources are supposed to be won–is soulless. I so resented my mother, the provider, and my father, the provider, for the time that providing took them away from me. My family’s nurturer was my dad’s mom.

My mother’s nurturer was never nurtured or nurturing. My great grandmother was not keen on children and embodied a proud, stubborn, intelligent woman with a strong intuition and a widely open mind. Her father was not kind. My grandmother, her daughter, was with men who beat her. My mother was the first ever to have the ability to choose to make her own money so she could make her own decisions.

Faced with this sense of vulnerability, that the man I love is providing, that we are taking this leap together, my wild instincts rare up and my claws come out. I’m yelling because I’ve been wanting to see my family for a year now and I don’t want to go alone, but he’s shown no interest in meeting them for now. We are starting our own family and we have bills to pay and things to take care of here and this toxic history of “money decides,” twists my gut into distrust.

I list the instances in which I have been disrespected for not providing, despite the support I have given him financially and otherwise in pursuing his career. I’ve moved jobs so he can have the car and go to his job that he loves. I left the job I loved to make more money because we weren’t making enough. Not making enough led to this default disrespect which is in our culture. Here is why and I’m sure you know:

If you are homeless, the boundaries between you and a job are more than needing a home. You need a shower, clean clothes, nutritious food with which to properly allow the mind and body to function. You need technology (during the pandemic, libraries are not open). You need to write a resume, brush your hair, and walk in with shoes that aren’t duct taped together.

In high school, people I’d known since I was five-years-old, and with whom I’d had rapport, started calling me a dike, a lesbian, a weirdo, because one day a lady at Walmart, perhaps just new to her career, cut my hair too short. While kids in high school are notoriously shallow and evil little bastards, it is not because they are bad people, it’s because they are awakening to the chemicals which drive human nature and learning to operate on them. What’s more, they are incorporating the biases of civilization into their daily lives, learning to handle money, to drive according to the rules of the road, to be women who use contraception and men who buy condoms and people who do people things according to how they are supposed to be done.

I left highschool, graduated early, did what I was supposed to do and found no freedom from the torments of being a woman in a man’s world. I became a man-hater for a while, tired of always having to “make myself little,” in the words of Miley Cyrus, for a man who feels emasculated by my power.

Women have incredible power and we misuse it I think.

The argument, the history, the comedy, and the science, all had me wondering: What is a woman, to a man, who can provide for herself?

She’s a doorway to understanding.

After the Great War, Carrie Chapman Catt returned to the women’s movement, deciding not to join any groups after being turned out following the pro-war pledge, which was a majority decision. She was the scapegoat.

I wonder if this is when women started to turn on one another or if this was normal even then. It was never easy to make female friends, especially as a female who doesn’t wear makeup. Bitches be jealous. But in the last 5 years, as the hormones of young lust wear off and the animal competition to mate and find worth and security is behind me I see that a powerful woman must empower others or become the resentful, freedom-seeking, caged being who tries to negate her existence, which she hates, by not eating.

The woman who can provide for herself is a symbol, to man governed by instinct and ego, that he must relinquish control–for unless he plans to physically restrain her, the means by which men have controlled the story of women is purely financial.

The man who cannot control his woman must instead learn communication using wordy word words and feely feel feels. And this threatens what we believe it is to be a man, culturally that is.

The greatest Heroes of myth are feely feel wordy word men with battle hardened bodies and physical prowess alike. Odysseus was a pretty emotional man driven to adventure reluctantly, desiring instead to stay home with his wife and child–even going so far as to pretend to be insane. An eloquent speaker and dutiful soldier, he was capable of powerful nurturing both as husband and kind, but also powerful destruction as a warrior.

The powerful women of Sumer, Egypt, and Sparta were revered for fertility, fairness, beauty, skill in art, and quite often, their cunning. Women’s power, her own battle-readiness, is in the realm of the psyche today.

She must, from the first, battle forth against the slings and arrows of the outrageous boxes which war, that sickening display of pampered man-child ego painted all over the earth in the blood of her children, has tucked her greatness into.

When war becomes not a show of strength and skill, but of force and domination, the female power to nurture is bypassed. Nurturing takes attention to detail, cultivation of small steps and seeds over time, patience. Force and domination are crude, but I’ve been quite a forceful, dominating woman in my time.

Now I’d like to be nurturing, to be patient, to cultivate over time the little things. This is my Power. She need not be jealous and cruel or dominating. She need not have a dick to be respected.

What is really sad about all of this is how, for the most part, these binaries are only a part of the conversation on a media-wide scale, an academic scale, a political scale, and a workplace scale but because we are exposed to these facets of culture, we learn to internalize these mechanisms of garnering pride from cash and dolling out disrespect for sensitivity.

On a human level, working together to survive is always what is has come down to. The argument we had, my resentment, “You have more freedom than I do!” turns out to be a fear born of the internalized expectations I have that men will take advantage of a woman who doesn’t provide for herself financially. This isn’t true for all men and all women. What’s more, I am providing financially.

A petty part of me snuck in the fact that if I were only out to care for myself, I would be doing far better in the financial department. Hell, if I’d been focusing on my career instead of men I’m afraid what kind of cunt I’d have become. Power like that does something fucked up to my head–it makes me not have to be accountable to others. This is the freedom of the selfish.

I’m learning a different kind of power: the power to observe human nature and respond to it as it demands. An angry person wants you to react. When you don’t, they are forced to be angry alone. This takes away their power in that situation. A sad person wants you to nurture. Sometimes, like when his dog dies, nurturing is all that is needed. Some sad people just want to be nurtured instead of doing what is difficult. I know because I’ve been this person. That person needs to be told to get the fuck up and fight. That’s the archetypal male nurturer.

Really its not a male or female things. It’s a nature vs. nurture thing. We’ve just been nurturing a structure of toxic masculinity for too long. Yes yes, we have so many virtue signaling words in here but I’m not here to disrespect men.

Men, too, have been disrespected. Men can be poets and soldiers…some of the best men of history were. Men can be spoken to instead of nagged. Men should not be expected to provide just because it might be in their nature, and men have been told their whole lives to “suck it up,” like life is just this long road of gobbling the dick that is duty.

What it comes down to is human nature is not understood and certainly not respected–otherwise nature would be well and psych meds wouldn’t be so prevalent. When you’re cramming 1-6 minds into boxes maintained by pills, perhaps it is because there are pieces of the human psyche that are supposed to be allowed to spill out. My fundamental problem with relationships is that I refused attunement to the biases of my civilization in favor of hairy legs and armpits and a total ignorance of who decided we were supposed to wear red lipstick as we get older.

Rejection of culture to the extent that one cannot be tamed into a regular job meant homelessness for a while, which is why I know what it means to be an animal and not a person in the eyes of other people. It’s just some makeup, some clothes, some food, a shower, and perhaps some dignity that stands between you and becoming an animal. That’s it. The ideas of what we are supposed to be are cultural stories.

I followed my own story and happened to move in these cycles that seem circumambulatory, a word Jung used to describe what the process of Individuation feels like, but the story was tested by my own instincts and capabilities against the element of my own nature vs. what this civilization wants to do to it.

When I got this part time job, the corporate computer training is eight hours long. The multiple choice test comes after about 20 minutes of information that is presented in a somewhat disorganized fashion. I had an AA by the time I was supposed to be graduating high school and was teaching college by the time I was 26, straight out of my master’s program with a Dean’s list 4.0. All that jazz. This test fucking sucked. I still have four hours of it to complete. They tell you, after all the information is presented, that you must then answer questions which are worded subjectively according to the company culture of safety or diversity. That is, this test is not objective. It’s basically a training in safety and the cultural competency of the environment.

It’s also the first hurdle for anyone off the street getting into a full time job, or anyone in high school getting a new job. To participate in a culture, one must believe in it and be equipped with the facilities to operate within it.

1 in 5 Americans is illiterate. I don’t know what the digital literacy rate is. I don’t know how many people struggling to land a job would meet that test and give the fuck up, but I know I almost smashed that damned computer. What’s more, you don’t take the test in a quiet room. People are talking, the fluorescent lights are glowing, the subjective answers are laughing at me and I hate the stupid little boxes in which we securely operate.

I asked my new boss about the way the steps for lifting a trash can are supposed to be answered in exactly this order, but that these steps are subjective, and she answers, “Nope. That’s the right answer. I get you don’t like it but we all have to do it.” And i’m’ like, I’ve lifted enough damned trash cans and can write well enough to understand that while they were trying to offer this answer and said it this way in the training, the wording is wrong. The person who wrote the test didn’t know how to use the proper language and everyone who does this training now has to use memorization instead of common sense.

This is why I left high school.

We are not standardized one size fits all. We are forgetting ourselves and I rage every day against the pacification of my wild side. My claws are out but I will never again turn them against my people. It isn’t their fault.

We all have to?

No. We don’t.

We all choose to do things we don’t want to do, because making your own way…that’s fucking hard. I went so far as to study herbs and plants, hunting, gathering, putting together my go-bag which can sustain two people for at least a couple of weeks. I was so afraid of being controlled by others that I wanted to make sure if it came down to being myself or being a slave I could go out into the wilderness and be myself.

That mentality…we all have to do things we don’t want to do…is fine. When it is in the name of justifying the survival of a system one doesn’t believe in…that’s complicity.

My people are afraid. My people are the people who know what it is to be paid minimum wage while bartering too much of their damned time just to provide for the resentful family at home who never see them.

My people are not treated with dignity. The resentment I feel for our lack of freedoms is almost equal to the disgust I feel at willful ignorance for the sake of ease.

In the bible, the Israelites are slaves to the Egyptians. They build their pyramids. Moses comes to set them free after God appears to him in a burning bush. When Moses first arrives, the Israelites tell him to leave them alone. They don’t want to anger the Egyptians who retaliate against Moses’ requests for Pharaoh to “Let my people go into the wilderness and worship.”

God sends plague–locusts, disease, acid rain, dying livestock and animals, spoiled crops. Those who recognize the cycles of nature do not suffer. The Israelites are eventually allowed to leave and Moses famously parts the red sea for their crossing.

After the red sea swallows up the Egyptians, who pursue them, the Israelites follow Moses into the wilderness and there they grumble and complain the whole way. The passages that follow in the old testament discuss how they must learn to provide for themselves from the land and there is no happiness in this process. It’s as difficult as building the cities of Egypt and many complain that at least in Egypt they got all the bread and water they could ask for.

It is natural for people to prefer security to freedom, even at the cost of slavery.

This, perhaps, is the crux of that search for individuation. We are not free. We are trapped in nature by human nature and must abide by the laws of nature or else transcend it. Civilization might be able to circumvent those laws temporarily, but without reinvigoration, after too long, the taxed soul of the earth will strike back with her warm seas and her plagues and her dying animals and acid rain.

I often wonder if we are in the midst of evolving into a completely different species. Here’s a wonderful Ted Talk called, “Will Our Kids Be a Different Species?” by Juan Enriquez.

I wonder if this step in evolution will see us integrate the best of our civilization with the best of our human natures. I hope we are on the verge of transcending our own natural inclinations to self-destruct. I hope we are becoming self-aware–individuated from the animal milieu from which we evolved. I hope we are becoming true stewards of the earth.

This is why I don’t protest. I work. I’m a part of this country, this system, these people, as much as my wild nature might want to protest. Fighting against what nurtures me and my people is like fighting with DJ about my lack of freedom as a woman: it’s pointless because the target of frustration is misplaced.

It is not the culture that cages me or you. It is our willingness to accept that culture’s story, that culture’s values, and live by them. What’s more, one finds that to reject such values and stories makes one a “bad” person because instead of working for the good of people, you are standing against what supports them and their illusions, even if they are choosing slavery.

So how can we be free, powerful women and men without the toxic stories of our culture infiltrating our subconscious minds, and without totally abandoning the niceties of civilization like jobs and showers and cookies?

Perhaps we can start to fight the war within finally, and leave the sticks and stones and bombs and drones in the pages of history as a testament to our ignorance and impatience, our lack of cunning turned to force out of desperation or again, impatience.

When the thoughts that would turn you against another arise, be patient, hold your tongue, and witness the awesome power of receptivity and saying no to what you will no longer tolerate. Summon your strength and fight. Saying no will send you into the wilderness and there one must have faith, patience, and perseverance. It is this or it is slavery.

Give your power ONLY to empower and when you are being crushed, have the strength to reach out and ask for help. When the angry person comes along, be patient and see how patience and surrender of the ego, virtues of the archetypal woman serve as a reflecting pool for the spiritually unconscious. What we do not attune to, we do not feed.

“We all have to do this.”

No, we don’t.

The virtues of the archetypal female to nurture, to cultivate, and to be patient are ours. The cycles of nature have moved so that now it is time again for war not fought with sticks and force, but with intention, cultivation, and a decisive surrender of what we believe we know for what we choose to believe.

Put down the dogs that howl in your mind with a better story about your purpose in this world. You can do it. Start small. Maybe give up beer or wine. I always kind of figured asceticism was a way to free the mind. The less you need from others, the freer you are to proceed alone. The freer you are to proceed alone, the more others who are not free will despise you. Encourage them to be strong. Encourage them to be free. Encourage them to choose the way of freedom by enjoying it.

Time for me to take my own advice.

I didn’t know how lucky I was.

Here we are back at mimimum wage and black out holidays, only this time it is temporary and voluntary. Not so for my coworkers who are all peacefully going about their lives nursing addictions and recoveries to cope.

Addiction is a cage. I lived as a slave to my own nature for a long time. I resented my freedom at first because now I have all this responsibility to create, to cultivate, to nurture and I’m angry at having fought so hard for freedom only to find the free are slaves to the fact that they cannot do everything alone.

It is not slave and master, us and them, civilization and nature, man and woman. It comes down to us. Just us. We’re in this together despite the stories and beliefs. The master is the one who can see past the beliefs and the culture into the nature of the person. What do you need? How can I help you?

The one who is not a slave is the servant. Moses was a servant to God and the Israelites. He didn’t even want to lead them. He gave his life over to service the path of service. Any great leader in history gives his own selfish interests over to the path of service.

The worst, the tyrants, seek instead the path of greatness and self-fulfillment. These are the Pharaohs, the dictators, and the crony capitalists.

“Let my people go into the wilderness and worship their Lord.”

The wilderness, now, is the psyche. What peoples choose the destruction of the only security promised them (the earth you follow)?

A traumatized one.

What has driven us to this threshold of our natures that we question our meaning and place on the planet except a lack of satisfaction with our own stupid greatness?

Is this not a tiresome game already? Have there not been enough tyrants, enough con-artists in banking and the stock market, in politics and corporations, for us to understand that these are just people aiming for self-satisfaction in a world that demands a leader who will serve?

Perhaps the total uselessness of our political corporate military industrial complex except to cause suffering to our natural dispositions is a testament to how much we’ve evolved. Now what?

Be patient. Be kind. Trust in your own power. The security provided from above–those who say what we must do–are only as secure as the believers by whom such securities are held in place.

Flow like water or the blood on the red moon.

Embrace her, the goddess of chaos. She is owed her sacrifice. Walk into the wilderness of your own mind. Face your fears. What is it you do not know about how you can become better? What is it you never allowed yourself to believe about meaning, about what you mean? What stands between you and self-worth?

Nothing, ever, but your own choices.

We are here because we are not fighting. So perhaps it’s worth it. Or maybe there’s just a smarter way to fight.

“Conscious and unconscious do not make a whole when one of them is suppressed and injured by the other. If they must contend, at least let it be a fair fight with equal rights on both sides. Both are aspects of life. Consciousness should defend its reason and protect itself, and the chaotic life of the unconscious should be given the chance of having its way too – as much of it as we can stand. This means open conflict and open collaboration at once. That, evidently, is the way human life should be. It is the old game of hammer and anvil: between them the patient iron is forged into an indestructible whole, an ‘individual.’ This, roughly, is what I mean by the individuation process.”  

― C.G. Jung

Faith, Trauma, Appropriation

Oh no.
Seriously though, the word faith *shivers* brings me back to all kinds of memories that have nothing whatsoever to do with my current idea of the word. Few are pleasant.

The only positive influences I had around Christianity as a kid were so grossly hypocritical I outright fled to hedonism at my first chance to do so.

That being said, I find that developing a relationship with that word, faith, has been nothing but beneficial.

I was cheated on by a man when I was young. We were together five years and he was cheating from week 3 on, I believe. What’s more, he was really good at hiding it from me, but I had a feeling in my gut.

I’m not proud to say a young version of me knew that what I believed about him said more about me than it did about him. Naive nineteen-year-old me thought this meant that I should have faith in him despite my instincts.

Holy shit was I wrong.

That relationship was nothing short of traumatizing and the only thing that got me to leave, finally, was sheer exhaustion. I’d neglected myself for a man who needed so much attention because he never felt worthy of love himself. Abandonment issues. I have them too. It’s no excuse cock sucker. Yes I still hate him if only because he represents how little faith I had in myself–in which case that hatred is really just shame and embarrassment.

I feel it necessary to mention this because anger is often a disguise for shame and that is part of what I explore here. I think we need more words for more complex emotions. The English language is sadly sparse in this regard. There are emotions we don’t have words for and anger to disguise shame should have its own name. Maybe I would have addressed my shame sooner. Who knows?

DJ and I recently moved into a bigger apartment with a prettier view outside the city and finally made it out of that 390 sq foot box (literally the same size as a king county jail cell btw). I figured I’d be through the roof with excitement.

Moves are triggers for me. For a week afterwards I cry and panic and have that same gnawing feeling that something is off, something is wrong, something is not as it seems. We fight after I accuse him of lying, of cheating. There’s a part of my mind that knows I’m being irrational and another part of my mind that knows instincts, while not rational, should be heeded in this situation.

The thing about traumatized instincts is that they are developed from trauma, not rationality. So what’s the difference?

I think it’s pretty enormous.

It’s always surprised me the way my sister and DJ can get a fairly accurate read on a person in the first minute of meeting them. Usually, they are right.

Sometimes though, they are wrong, and the person we might have initially thought is a scum bag ends up being really down to earth. A great example of this kind of character is the handyman who I believe is called “Eddie,” in Augusten Burroughs’ memoir, Toil&Trouble.

I’ve always been one to tout the underdogs and from my point of view, if there is even a chance, its one worth taking. Being seen is sometimes all a person needs to remember themselves and I set out to be a witch and interpret dreams so I could help people. So this is where I started, young naive me, with the hope that the cheating fuck I dated back then would, with enough love, come to love me enough to face his cowardice and stop lying to me.

He never did and I left and he cried and he deserved it. Sorry not sorry.

Fast forward to a decade later and DJ is suffering because I exposed myself to that trauma for the sake of a hope. I’m not going to beat myself up about it. It’s passed. We have worked through it. Here’s the run down:

My initial fear is triggered by my trigger: moving and abandonment issues which were WAY bigger than I ever imagined.

I can tell the difference between the trigger instinct and the rational instinct because DJ never gives me that feeling like something is wrong, something is off. It comes along only during the times my abandonment issues do, and those are a hydra I must slay regularly unfortunately.

Nonetheless, accusing someone of doing something they aren’t, even when you are triggered and irrational, is a good way to push them right on into doing it…if they are immature. DJ might have a boyish sense of humor, but he’s my man through and through. Rationally, I know there is nothing in his character likely to go fuck a woman on the one hour lunch break a day I don’t see him.

Triggers and trauma are messy evil beasts and giving them the attention they ask for only feeds that energy. My old traumas were messing up a really good new thing. What’s more, my insecurities were so bad for a while that whether he was faithful wouldn’t have mattered–I was still stuck in that paranoid head space.

I think this is what led me to the bottoming out that I call surrender.

Cyclothymia involves cycling of emotions that are unpredictable, intense, and polar opposites–hence it is on the bipolar spectrum.

Depression and hypomania basically escalate from neutral until I freak out or bottom out. Surrender is the graceful way, and an enormous part of what this site is dedicated to. In a flow state, one releases the worry or object of attachment, simultaneously recognizing that we cannot control that which is without. All we can control, if we’re lucky, is our reactions to it.

So here I learn a different lesson around this cheating paranoia–for one, my reaction to an unfounded suspicion is unreasonable. Two, my reaction is from a past experience which means I am not being present. Three, if you can’t have faith in god, have faith in yourself.

Of course DJ accuses me of not trusting him. He’s given me no reason not to and I’m hating myself even more because I don’t understand it either and then the shame and then the guilt and then the clinging, and then the fear and the accusations again…It’s the cycle of shame. We all know this cycle and as much as shame is a bitch I want to stab with a fork and gobble up like spaghetti, the only way she goes away in this scenario is when I finally find the words I’ve been looking for–perhaps for years.

Hey, last time I trusted someone else’s instincts over mine I wound up in rehab with an STD after a vacuum abortion he forced me into. I’m trusting you more than my instincts right now. Please understand I’m doing my best given the circumstances. That being said, you don’t deserve to pay for his mistakes. I will trust you. I will not snoop through your messages. I’ll believe you when you say you love me. You can talk to me about anything and I’ll stick it out with you because I love you too. The one thing I won’t tolerate is lying. I promise if there ever is something and I find out, from any source other than you that you’ve been lying, I will leave without a word. That seems fair to me given the circumstances. I’m trusting you with my heart, mind and body. I love you and hope you have a good day.

It went something like that and it felt as awful as it did like an exorcism. That teenage girl back then really needed some self-respect, some boundary-setting-skills, and some faith in her own ability to operate independently.

Hell I needed it.

When review the facts, again, DJ isn’t the kind of man to do anything like that. Even if he were, he is straightforward as they come. Even if he had and he weren’t straight forward…would I be there anyways?

The ultimate form of love, the Jesus Christ version of unconditional love, is love your neighbor as you love thyself. Jesus is betrayed and crucified and still loved that betraying Judas. Unconditional love is the recognizing that, ultimately, what you believe about another person and how you treat them is your choice no matter what the circumstances. Jesus is such a baller because even when they were driving nails through his palms and his feet he was like, “I still love you all,” and this is the idea of heaven on earth–the unshakable human heart, seeing through the animal and the instincts to the person beneath and loving them even when the animal takes over–perhaps especially.

Love is not a transaction.

Love is a state of being.

That being said, I learned the hard way that nothing is worth feeling worthless over. The relative answer is what can I live with while maintaining self-respect?

Without self-respect, the cycle of shame is inescapable. If we cannot respect and love ourselves, it doesn’t matter how much another person loves us…we won’t see it anyways. I think a lot of people are here in their relationship with loving themselves.

We are in a difficult time culturally. Our economy is collapsing, we’re all stuck inside wearing masks, and a decision to elect a new leader is further dividing people along bipartisan lines. It can be difficult to feel a sense of worth when it seems nothing you do is paying off. When that’s the case, look at what the end goal is.

Mine was, surprisingly to me, a happy family. Not once in my life since I was sixteen-years-old did I ever think this would be my end goal. My conscious mind believed for a long time that what I wanted was to write a book and become a writer. At first it was a goal, a simple dream. Eventually it became an obsession, like doing what I set out to do would justify all of the fucked up things life can throw our way. I still want to write, but not for some sense of fulfillment or validation.

The trigger, and my Judas ex, and DJ’s saintly patience with me have taught me an extremely valuable lesson.

Love thyself.

It’s so bland on paper. There is no replacing with words the experience of a lesson learned first-hand, but at least there are words here for guidance through those times when we need reminders perhaps.

When I promised myself I would tolerate no more abuse and discovered I fully believed in my ability to act for the sake of self-preservation if necessary, a wonderful thing happened.

The faith in myself that was crushed, along with all those naive expectations and childhood dreams colliding with the weird chaos that is reality, was resurrected. My irrational fears no longer dominate the narrative. When the what-ifs pop up, I know how to have faith in DJ because I know how to have faith in myself.

Love is a symbiotic state.

I realized that feeling worthless was not only harming me, it was indicating that I expected he was the kind of man who would pick someone worthless. It is, therefore, impossible to respect another without respecting the self–at least, you can only love another insofar as you love yourself.

When you wonder how much you love yourself, does it feel good?

We are interconnected this way. This is how reason helps us out of the traumatized instinct. What’s more, its a narrative about reason supporting love as reasonable, not the toxic, confusing, tragic thing it’s always been presented to me as before.

It’s a growing process though. We journey through our imperfections not with the goal of reaching some perfect end in which all is awesome and serene. How boring. Love is in how we navigate our way through these growing pains together. Are you gentle? Judgmental? Harsh? Adaptable? Kind?

We are all these things: human beings are multifaceted. Part of the journey is learning when to call on our capabilities and why.

When I see the way we have turned on one another in this country, this is the lesson that comes up, personally.

If you’re going to love yourself, let it be for the sake of loving someone else better. If you’re going to be mean, let it be for the sake of learning how to be kinder. If you’re going to give up, let it be for the sake of a stronger resurrection than ever before. I gave up on a broken love with a broken heart, a broken mind, and damn near a broken body.

The decision to love again and to trust DJ is the best decision I ever made. I can say that because I know that no matter what, there is no gift greater than believing I’m loved except perhaps knowing I’m lucky enough to love and be loved by others.

If you don’t like the word “love,” I once had an extreme aversion to it, as well as Christianity, Jesus, and any mention of things like god or faith. I used the word “see” for a long time.

Being comfortable in the self is necessary to look at another person without projecting. Knowing the self is necessary to see another person without projecting. I have a different, fuller understanding of what it means to love someone. I still feel bad for putting him through that and am daily seeing an improvement in our relationship as I learn to trust.

My dog, Anya, reacts much the same way to other dogs. It’s amazing the way dogs help us this way. She shows me what I need to work on. As my trust in my capabilities to stand on my own two feet, accurately judge a situation, and deal with the consequences of inadequate judgment increases, so her fear of other dogs lessens. She isn’t picking up on my victim mentality anymore.

Again, the shame arises just mentioning it. I knew I had trust issues. No amount of therapy has ever fixed them.

Back to faith:

I read a journal from when I was fifteen-years-old the other day. I’ve been keeping journals (44 in number now) for fifteen years. The second entry states my intention:

“I’m really interested in dreams and visions and magic lately. I think I’m going to become a witch and study my dreams and help people. But of course I can’t take on everyone’s problems. I need to fix my own before I can fix anyone else’s. From now on I’m going to keep track of all of my dreams and study magic and visions.” 15-year-old me didn’t know at all what that meant and she certainly didn’t believe any of that could be real.

30-year-old me forgot this is what I set out to do.

Last year at this time we were about to move to the 390 square-foot place in Seattle. I was drinking every day, smoking weed and cigarettes, and would soon be facing the darkest depression of my life.

Abandonment issues, pregnancy and abortion and pregnancy again, alcoholism, poverty, a move across two states, changing jobs, tight quarters, no pride, no mind even, the death of my best friend, my grandfather, loneliness, and jail are some of the things I’ve experienced in the last year and my year has been nothing short of fortunate compared to so many, many people’s.

I began to see how people suffer and how they stay strong. The way my boss’s smile falters when she needs her picture taken shows what she thinks of her appearance. The way the woman sneers when I tell her my dog isn’t friendly and would she mind waiting a minute reveals her disapproval and defiance…was she told what to do all the time? Did she work hard to train her dog? Could I learn from her?

I begin to see people and to respect them all immensely at least on the basis that they are human beings. I will say it…even our president. It is no small thing to endure suffering. It is no easy thing to survive, especially when the planet on which we rely is as mistreated as we have mistreated ourselves and others.

What is your worth? Perhaps a better way to phrase this question is, for whom and for what do you suffer? Is it worth it?

On faith, the book was there all along. I only saw that it was written when I decided I had to have faith in myself, not for my sake, but for those I love. In knowing myself, I am now able to help others.

I’m sober finally. I’m clean. I’m loved. My family is happy. My intention here was to document how this occurred and share it.

Now I’ve learned to work through my traumas with dreams, with magic, and with vision, but most powerfully, with story. This healing is half my lifetime in the making and there are daily records for the steps I’ve taken to tackle these. What’s more, there are dream logs tracking the symbolic story of these traumas in my subconscious, tarot readings, records of bizarre inexplicable experiences that I cannot wait to share. A book on using narrative and symbolism to construct one’s reality is in the works–in fact, it’s already written in 44 journals waiting to be organized and enhanced and made legible. But it’s there. Fifteen years of dedication to helping myself that I may help others, getting totally lost in the wilds of growing and forgetting my original purpose, only for it to appear here on the other side of the worst of it to show me it was there all along; I’d just been looking at it wrong.

It’s not about me.

Perhaps that phrase is better put this way: What’s about me is about you is about me. We are a symbiotic species. Words just won’t replace the experience of it.

I wrote even though I had given up all faith in any of it. It practically wrote itself given the writing is a compulsion, and I can only think that it did so because the original intent was not for me. It was for you person I don’t know who might enjoy this. It was for anyone hoping to feel less alone like I felt. And if it helps no one at all besides me, at least if I run into you one day, I’m a better person for this and therefore a better person to you.

Set your intentions.

Go forth love.

There’s no need for prepositions.

There is no name for it.

It’s a state of being.

A symbiosis.

Embrace your power and your boundaries in love.

Be love.

Wasn’t that Christ’s main point?

Reconciling with God was like accepting my ex taught me something–distasteful–but God was a word, a symbol, a faceless entity, much like we use the words “they” or “people” to describe individuals with complex lives as inexplicably nuanced as our own. The word stands for a symbol that was stolen and manipulated many times by many leaders with motives to conquer and control over many thousands of years until the shame induced by the word GOD was all that was needed in every household to keep us subservient.

In AA, they say “God, whatever that means to you.”

Do not let traumas live on in the symbols designed to perpetuate them. Attribute new meaning, better meaning, and you will be unshakable. We were not made to be lowly and worthless and to live in fear of hell. Feeling worthless is hell–for everyone. I thank God I didn’t listen to the red flags of trauma induced by my choices around my ex this time around. I had faith. I attributed new meaning.

If fifteen-year-old me saw that here, she’d ask me to choose a word less loaded with “witch-burning” connotation, but no religion takes the power of that word from me. It is a state of being. A symbiotic relationship.

This is how Christianization of the world was achieved: appropriation of language and stories of pagan peoples. Those who wrote held the stories held the world. Hold your stories unique unto yourself.

I am taking this word back now.

Faith: to proceed knowing one does not know, trusting that as surely as one is affected, one also has the ability to affect.

This is how I have experienced faith.

Christ: Love is you is me.

God: Great Out Doors–no laws are more convincing to the human being than the laws of nature.

Know yourself down to the very meaning of the words you choose in each moment. Do not give your power away to the traumas of the past. We begin here anew.

Welcome.

Have courage!

And when fear threatens to undo you, set your boundaries and love yourself enough to respect them. Trauma is the result of a boundary crossed. If those in the past have taken your power away, know that you can take it back with faith–not the appropriated version…the real kind.

FAITH.

Blessed Be.

Prompt for Self-Discovery:

When you look at yourself, what do you see?

When you look at others, what do you see?

What labels do you use?

If you were to describe without labels or judgments, using your senses only, how would you describe yourself and others?

Are what you think and what you feel aligned?

Maintaining you can only control yourself and your own actions, what can you do to bring these ideas closer into alignment?

If they are aligned, what can you do to tell a story about yourself that makes you even happier to be in your own skin? This increases your light and your strength and makes you more available for others.

Be Well Humans.

Until next time.

All my love.

It’s Not About the Money

I was always using the excuse that I didn’t have enough money or time.

Six months ago I was jobless, fresh off my dream job in this sweet little scratch kitchen and full blown out of my mind. The move, the depths of winter here so gray, my family far away. The pandemic hadn’t yet struck. I was an alcoholic, smoking cigarettes again, and high all the time. I watched so much television. It took me so long to read half a book I still haven’t finished I’m embarrassed to say. DJ and I were fighting constantly and I trusted absolutely no one, especially not myself. At one point I opened the front door of the Buick whilst still rolling at 30 or so and stepped halfway out of the car as though to stroll right away before DJ yelled at me to ask what I thought I was doing. He was understandably consternated.

We still have the same jobs. That hasn’t changed. But our lives are wholly different.

We live in a two bedroom apartment. There is grass for Anya to run on. We are paying our bills on time.

What changed?

It was a change in values altogether. No more drinking either. Pay your bills and buy your groceries and don’t spend unless it’s necessary. The inadequacies of character I’d been pawning off on alcohol and lack of money became quickly apparent.

I began running.

That was it.

No booze.

Exercise.

The mind and body are happy.

The difference in my quality of life is truly astonishing.

I’m not smoking weed now either and the uptake from depression to getting by to laughing and really feeling it is just as surprising.

It’s one thing for the mind to know what is good for you, it’s another to feel that difference. It’s worth it. Unquestionably worth it.

Why didn’t I stop years ago? Looking back on my twenties is like looking back on a different person. She went through a lot. I’d always figured my life was too easy to result in an alcoholic, traumatized woman but my life wasn’t easy, though it certainly wasn’t awful.

I just drank to get through school, through my doubts, through everything until that’s all that was left. Andrew Huberman calls addiction a “narrowing of the things that bring one pleasure.”

I like this.

I will say, my environment has changed considerably since I first tried to quit drinking a few years ago. My people have changed.

Looking back with a clearer mind, I can see how being surrounded by addicts made it considerably more difficult to quit. We adapt according to our environment according to our biological natures. To change a behavior that alters oneself so significantly is to welcome an ego death, a big change that feels like a literal death. Our instincts resist being ostracized or alone because historically, aloneness equaled death. Also, we adapt our personalities and egos to fit in to our surroundings. You can change your surroundings without changing yourself, but for me, changing myself meant I no longer wanted to be in my old surroundings. The self and the environment are symbiotic. If you’re not in symbiosis with your environment, you’re probably in the wrong place.

I tried to quit for years surrounded by the same bad influences. Cooking and industry work perpetuated that lifestyle for me as well. It’s no one else’s fault—my choices—but I feel it necessary to mention that with all of those influences out of my life, things got better faster.

My reluctance to quit drinking and my blaming everything on money or others or my parents or the circumstances was as much a reluctance to take responsibility for myself, especially because I’d neglected myself for a long time. She needs a lot of work. I didn’t know. But here we are and the work is kind of nice with a clear mind.

With a clear mind, I see that to care for myself is to alleviate that responsibility from anyone else. What’s more, the better I care for myself, the better I can do for others.

Today I’m grateful and there’s a million things more to say about how changing one’s values and oneself is the key, but not always enough, how setting those destructive behaviors aside also sometimes mean cutting people out of our lives.

I think about the friends I’ve lost along the way and how they went and I know they went because I was a bad influence. At this stage in my life, feeling bad about it and wallowing are behind me. There are people who would still pick up the phone if I called them ten years later.

I’m grateful for all of my flaws, for the rough times, for the assholes who I allowed into my space for too long, including my own drunk self.

Those sore spots are the markers for where to start on the journey of being a better person.

The first thing I had to look at was the blame. If you’re blaming anyone or anything, that’s where you’re giving away your power. Start by taking back your power. Own yourself.

For me this looked like running every time I wanted a drink until I ran so he’s I didn’t want to smoke cigarettes either. Running increases the dopamine.

I’ll admit, I would get high and go running at first. Some people don’t enjoy exercise whilst stoned, but I found it was the best way to zone in for a while. Now running is the high. I’m writing more because I’m not stoned and content to stare at the television all day, my house is clean, the chores are done, work is…well it’s still work. That hasn’t changed, but my attitude has.

So I guess the process of getting out of addiction was a widening in the scope of things that bring me pleasure.

I’m nearly two months sober. For any of you trying to get sober or stay sober, I wish you all the best, all the support, and all the health. If you need a leg up today, let it be the leg up you take to own another piece of your power today. Don’t give yourself away to anyone or anything that doesn’t bring you joy, satisfaction, and meaning including money. Money is a tool, not the end goal.

Joy and suffering are inextricable. If you must struggle to find joy, struggle against the demon that tells you to drink today, that tells you you’re not worth it, not enough. Tell it to fuck off and drink water like you’re slapping it in the face and then go outside and find something to explore. You are enough. You are worthy. Buddha, challenged by the storm, touched the earth to claim his right to be there and the storm passed.

Look at bugs. Learn about plants. Watch the clouds. Observe the birds. Breathe.

Kicking the habit: 5/5 stars.

Blessed be mon ami.

A Room of One’s Own

There really is nothing like a room of one’s own, especially if, like me, you’re the kind of person who uses space and quiet to unpack the experiences of the day or week, synthesize them into some semblance of meaning.

The simple act of writing down my daily thoughts is sometimes the difference between a defined personal ego identity and being a being, arguably, a blob of fear and anxiety.

DJ, Anya, and I moved into a two-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment this weekend. Anya and I have moved enough that she was excited when we started pulling the furniture out of that little 390 sq foot box of an apartment.

She does circles in the bedrooms, the living room, lays luxuriously out on the back deck when we arrive at the new place. We are all more at home here after two minutes than we ever were in the box.

The box taught us a lot. You know how it is. Diamonds form under pressure.

The day I spent in jail, I realized we had less space to move around in that apartment than most prisoners in a jail cell in King County.

At first, we move in small orbits around one another as though we are still in the tiny apartment. It has left an impression on our senses of space, of self. My self seems to expand tenuously, as though wondering if this is real.

I had told DJ before we moved that I was feeling anxious and couldn’t understand why, having moved a million times. He suggests perhaps it’s because this is the first time I’m moving without a plan to go anywhere else for a while.

This hits me hard and like a merciful hammer. Thank god. Is this what it feels like to approach stability?

The space invites us to make it ours. There are two rooms and a living room and we can fill it with our things as we collect them, choose them, hand-pick them. I haven’t indulged in the simple act of setting space in some time and I’ve forgotten how rewarding it is.

My anxieties trigger a few roadblocks. It’s a feeling I can’t shake…something is wrong, something is off. It’s anxiety.

The thing about having a mood disorder is that our emotions are what influence is to act. I must often question the source of my mood.

Most of the time it’s hunger. If I feel sad at 3pm and wonder about what it feels like to jump off the bridge I’m crossing, most likely I just need a burrito. It’s fucked up.

When we move and the foundations of all things that keep me stable and secure are uprooted, anxiety is a demon I carry around like a backpack with its claws sunk in me.

I’m interviewing for a remote teaching position because the commute is a little longer and meanwhile writing for the blog at work, interviewing a James Beard Award-winning chef, and I wake up wanting to drop a bomb on the day because I feel like something is wrong even though, objectively it’s all good.

Is this self-sabotage?

Yes.

So much yes my self-worth wants me to stay worthless because worth means a responsibility to myself and others not to wallow and succumb to a life lived unambitiously. Below my potential.

A room of one’s own…this is where I find it.

Lake Monster

It takes almost everything I have to meet a demon in my closet who has been there since I was a little baby. Abandonment, shame, guilt, the events in life that led to the root of these feelings and the neurosis upon which I have been acting.

I cannot drink because Hyde awaits on the other side of a bottle. Whatever I came here to do, it’s a sink or swim game. No wading in the shallows for me, not anymore.

The anxiety is pure energy. Once I push through the emotional discomfort which seems so painful and disorienting and polycausal I cannot place it, only to discover it is the very basic disappointment of being a human being in a body with a lot of things in her mind and nothing constructive to make of them.

I sit down. Meditate. Run. Run. My lungs burn. My throat hurts and it feels like my heart is ready to make its final squeeze before letting go and giving up. The running motivated me not to smoke initially and helped to alleviate the anger which is a result of brain and liver damage from heavy drinking.

Projection is a low-level coping skill, so I have clearly damaged my brain significantly.

The night in jail acts like a key that unlocks a flood of memories that I begin to write down in some semblance of a story only to realize it is remarkable. How I came to wind up in jail for being drunk when, originally, I set out to avoid this person at all costs.

How did I get here?

When I unleashed the monster from the lake of my childhood traumas, the poor thing came up dead and cold. Although parents had caused the wounds which initially opened the pains of the experiences which led to these lives and the likelihood of these actions, it is only now that the reality I’m wholly responsible for my life as an adult is sinking in.

Lauren Groff’s Lake Monster in The Monsters of Templeton was a symbol that I couldn’t have begun to understand six months ago. Today it is genetic inheritance, the subconscious factors that motivate us, the strong influence of small moments over time especially, the need for spaces in which the old is cleared and the new is seen, the inevitable influence of change upon all things through time.

Jail is the best and worst thing that could have happened to me.

I’m unquestionably sober. When cravings start to creep in like mirages in a desert, I decide to set a long-term goal of running a marathon. Two weeks later I’m running four miles on weekends in ninety-five degrees feeling the way my body has adjusted to the heat by making me shiver when I slow down. Maybe it’s heat stroke.

Running through the grave yard, I think of how ironic it would be for me to drop dead there until the heat is eased by the shade beneath a cluster of tall maples over a fork in the road. A breeze picks up, cools the sweat on my neck and face and I’m grateful like it’s cold water.

Thank you.

The Power of Ritual and the Science of Intention

Ritual.

The word connotes the occult, the weird, the religious, karma, fear.

At least it did for me initially and does, currently, for many who do not intentionally practice or who fear the underworld currents of the old pagan ways brewing beneath the surface of the culture.

There is a pagan counterculture dedicated to reclaiming the sovereignty of connection with the Divine not in a walled church built to demonstrate the extravagance of man’s abilities in God’s name. I do not deny the holiness of beautiful and grand or equally quaint and small churches. Also, I have felt the grace of sanctuary in churches and am grateful for those moments. But my god’s church is nature.

If I sound bitter, it might be because even though I was born in 1989, I was raised to believe my abilities, which are completely human and have belonged to humans for thousands of years, are necessary to hide. The fear of witch burning in old Salem has not been eradicated from communities of modern pagans in America. Despite a huge rise in the numbers of people who openly practice, the cultural context of pagan ritual is so associated with occult traditions that opposed our founding father’s religious statutes upon which framework the current constitutional structure is built, that to practice paganism in modern America is to actively engage in an American counterculture.

Now witch burning takes place in mental wards, with psychiatrists, pills, feeding tubes. This was my experience anyways. Some people benefit greatly from these practices and I need to remember that. For me, the modern methods of addressing mental health felt like being tied to the stake waiting for the flames only the flames never came. The waiting is maddening. All those doctor’s and therapists standing in the commons, waiting. Poking and prodding with needles and doing tests. Waiting. What’s wrong with me. Waiting.

Only to tell me I’m just hypersensitive and probably the testing and the stupid fluorescent lights in all these office buildings are making it worse. The hell stops when I embrace my pagan self.

Meditate, ritual, yoga, G.O.D. (Get Out Doors).

Rituals come in all shapes and sizes though. We practice the daily rituals, for instance, of brushing teeth, going to work, meal times, sleep schedule, etc. Each of us partakes in our own forms of daily ritual.

And the more we partake in these rituals, the more habitual they become until, eventually, the habit is nearly subconscious.

This is the amazing thing about ritual.

If you want to manifest something in your life, action is necessary, but sometimes we don’t exactly know what that action is. Ritual is the conscious commitment to action through subconscious programming.

I like to start here: write down every action you take today—not your opinion of them, not what they meant to you or others…just the actions. This happened, and then this happened, and then this happened. Write a summary of your day and make it as detailed as you can.

Alright. When you return home, look at those actions.

Does anything seem out of alignment to you?

Today I choose my morning meditation instead of a cigarette.

What I like to do here is pick one thing—only one—and decide what you will replace this thing with.

Sleeping in?

Get up early.

Irritable?

Meditate.

Out of shape.

Exercise (make it fun. Shoot arrows or something. It doesn’t have to be torture).

It’s best to start with something small. If you’re an alcoholic for instance and you want to go from guzzling a bottle of vodka a day to not drinking…that’s probably not going to happen in a day.

So trying to tackle your biggest demon right off the bat may serve to overwhelm you and set you back further. Little steps, little changes, build confidence to risk bigger changes. So maybe just eat more veggies today or something. I mean that kind of small.

Eventually, these little changes add up to a changed life. Changed actions that equal different results. But it’s a patient process. Do one thing and intentionally practice this thing until it is habitual. Then keep practicing it until it’s second nature. It does eventually become automatic, but since you are practicing new muscle memory and making new neural pathways, it takes a few trips down a new dirt path to make it a road.

See how long it takes. Hell, put the day you start on your calendar and note later how long it takes for you to repeatedly do something until you don’t have to think about it.

This is what you’re working with. The time frame will allow you to understand how long significant changes may take in your life so you are not disappointed when it’s not instant.

For me, it’s about three months. If I do something regularly for about three months, it becomes a habit I no longer have to consciously remind myself to do.

The thing is, whatever is replacing your “thing” should bring you joy (if that’s what you’re cultivating), but sometimes joy lays on the other side of fear.

We often find ourselves in empty rituals, monotonous rituals, or dissatisfying ritual routines primarily because we like comfort zones. Stagnation is a sign of one who has stopped in the face of fear, established comfort, and never opened the door again to conquer that ugly voice in the back of the mind that says you’re not something enough to bring it down.

Starting a business, for instance, is pretty manageable with hard work, classes, dedication. But if you don’t believe in yourself, what’s going to stop you from giving up on your commitments that day?

For my part, I noticed I spent a lot of time thinking about what I should or could be doing instead of doing it. This was my thing. Thought without corresponding action.

Fear was why. Putting myself online in video format was kind of terrifying. I’m an introvert with a history of disastrous encounters with stage fright.

So here’s what I did. I took the website offline, declared a redesign publicly to hold me accountable, and I recorded a practice video.

Guess what?

It wasn’t that bad.

The next morning, I woke up and made another video. And the next.

It doesn’t matter if they’re usable, if they’re perfect or if they completely fall short. I’m daily facing this fear and daily participating in the conscious action of creating something in my life that brings action to my hopes. And daily these hopes are manifesting because I am acting on them.

Furthermore I made a schedule.

I dread schedules. The creative in me raves against them, but there’s a lot to do to build one’s own way of life into the structure of a culture that doesn’t have a clear space where one fits.

But what if you can’t get past that initial block of fear? What if you don’t know what that leap or action is?

This is why I enjoy the Wiccan ritual methodology. It’s very similar, in some ways, to native rituals I’ve participated in.

The basic idea is that one uses tools to represent the elements—a cup for water maybe, a candle for fire, incense for air, a rock for earth. Engaging with each of these things creates more neural pathways in your brain associated with the intention you are setting forth; therefore you have a more likely chance of recalling that intention throughout the day or week (more pathways=more chances for association). This is how I understand it in a loosely scientific fashion.

In a more subconscious psychological sense, ritual trains the subconscious brain to engage with your intentions by using symbolic objects.

Symbolism is what Carl Jung used to understand the subconscious mind, and Jung even proposed that hallucinations could be subconscious projections of subconscious symbols, a waking dream essentially in which the subconscious talks to the conscious mind.

With ritual, we tell the subconscious mind how we want it to speak to us by choosing which objects or symbols we use to associate with our intention.

The subconscious, because it is not bound by the rational restrictions of the conscious mind, then alerts you throughout the day or week through “signs” that may seem like they come out of nowhere.

Say you do a ritual, for instance, for integrity and you walk down the street later that day and see a sign that says something like, “integrity is integral.” Furthermore, you use a yellow barrette for your ritual because you like the color and the wind in your hair.

You hear “wind in her hair” on the radio and notice little girls in town with yellow barrettes. You’ve set the reminder like an alarm clock. Please brain, remind me of my intentions. These signs are just your subconscious recognizing the set intention.

So what do you do with that?

You’ve set the symbols in ritual. Check.

You see the symbols and hear them in your life. Check.

Now you interpret them, and take action.

Sometimes the action is very clear and interpretation is not necessary. This is the action your subconscious brain believes will take you where you want to go based on what you’ve told it. Since it can draw connections you consciously cannot, it probably knows something you consciously do not. Actions are best taken with integrity and trust.

Sometimes, though, the signs are a bit trickier. For clarification I like to use tarot cards. Again, These are simply symbols. Say you pull a card with a yellow butterfly and it says something like: “you are holding onto the past because you miss innocence, but one does not have to be young to be innocent. The butterfly is the symbol of transformation and yellow is the color of the third chakra…will power. Take action to change your life, whatever that may be, and have the bravery to transform. Innocence is in the eyes of the beholder. Break free from your cocoon and witness.”

So you think back to that wind in the hair song, to the young girls in town who had yellow barrettes, and here’s where the connection could go: I just want more outdoor play in my life, maybe with other women my age.

I think what scares people about tarot and ritual is that many people associate such practices with the occult which connotes evil and demons and is a connotation left over from centuries of Christian slaughter and repression of pagan peoples.

Come on. We are smarter than that people. We are smarter than fearing some old world magic. I’m fact, if we were smart we might figure out what made the controlling Christian military forces so afraid of it that they crushed it down at all costs for thousands of years.

If they feared evil and destruction and greed, that’s already here.

Check this out: the Roman Catholics stole pagan rituals, assigned their own religious symbolism to these rituals and gave it a different god, and set up churches where the stolen practices were preached to gain control of state through the church. It was the only way they could convince pagan people’s to bow down—take the gods they believed in, turn them into one god, and tell them there are punishments if they do not follow that god. Enforce those punishments harshly using resources of state (armies if necessary) and withhold knowledge from the people so they do not learn any better. The priests of Rome, scribes, and rulers were the only people who were literate. Taking away knowledge was an amazingly easy way to control people—especially superstitious people. Superstition without the ability to gain knowledge is a sure recipe for being manipulated by someone who know better.

Herbalism’s story is an excellent example of this systematic genocide since herbalism was passed down primarily through word of mouth and the recipes were often individual to the household though based on the basic properties of plants. Plant knowledge is an old shamanic knowledge and shamans are the most ancient of the practitioners of ritual. When scribes and priests became the master holders of knowledge specifically because they were literate, the ways of the people, the pagans, and their shamanic roots were changed in the history books by those who could write, held as highly valuable knowledge belonging to church and state, and the knowledge was prevented from being perpetuated in the populace by witch burning, crusades, and the intentional withholding of knowledge to promote superstition and therefore complacency in a slowly and newly converted peoples.

Witches were condemned for their healing Magicks and rituals which were essentially knowledge of herbs and of how to be whole as a person in connection with the divine through nature and ritual. these individual connections with the divine threaten the ruling authority of the church, since if one could talk to god in his or her own practice, what need was there for a church? How then should the state rule the thoughts of its people?

Christmas, Halloween, Easter, May Day, and others have their origins in ancient pagan rituals. Christmas was a Druidic ritual held in a grove of oak and involving the slaughter of a sacrificial lamb, the lighting of candles, and the collection by of mistletoe to spread the blood of the lamb. It was celebrated under a different name obviously, and eventually became known as Yule. It’s the mistletoe that gives away its Druidic roots. The druids used the mistletoe to spread the blood of the sacrificed lamb on a tree I believe. https://gnosticwarrior.com/the-druid-festival-of-christmas.html.

The role of plants in changing a polytheistic peoples into a monotheistic peoples must be fascinating. Look what marijuana did for us.

All that being said, I do not by any means hate Christianity or the Christian god although I did spend time in my teenage years doing so. I’ll be the first to admit that I wanted to hate Christianity for its complicity in destroying the credibility of my gifts which I saw as curses. I wanted to hate Christianity for motivating me through fear for so long. But it was the interpretation I was exposed to which made me fear it and interpretation others were exposed to which made them condemn. The concepts are not the practices.

I believe that, like any religion, it is the practitioner’s interpretation of the religion and the practitioner’s corresponding actions which makes the concepts of it good or evil. I know many godly Christians who I would trust with my everlasting soul, and many who I wouldn’t trust with my spork at the lunch table.

So now we get into interpretation of the meaning of symbols in your ritual. If you are getting evil symbols and feedback…I hate to tell ya, but this is your interpretation of these symbols. What’s worse…if you’re interpreting symbols in a negative light, this is indicative of a general practice of doing such, which means the action you’re looking at changing is that of changing your mind. And that’s a lot easier said than done.

Yesterday I did a meditation for presence and DJ and I had a long lunch. Afterward he said, “That was nice. We should do that more often. Just be present.”

He didn’t know about the meditation, but a small five minute meditation in the morning allowed that moment to occur and a sign came back to me in the form of his comment. This is the feedback loop of the universal flow. We change the feedback loop by changing our actions, and changing action, as far as I know this far, is greatly mitigated in difficulty by engaging in ritual.

In fact, I believe it was the effectiveness of pagan ritual in connecting us with the divine that made it so condemned.

Anyways, a ritual can also be something as easy as making a practice of doing the or at regular intervals. So what is your same thing every day? What are your rituals? Why do you worship?

Are Millennials the Hero Generation?

This guy is my hero
This woman is too.

My sister and I were talking over the phone last night about finding meaning, “integrating work,” as Ms. White mentions above, with life, relationships, health, etc. in a purposeful and sustainable way.

White mentions the boomers vs. millennial sentiments we see floating around the internet. You know the ones: that the boomers are always making fun of millennials because we are the entitled generation, boomers worked hard, walked to school both ways in the snow, ate spam and made clothes out of flour sacks for soldiers and sold cigarettes to pregnant women. They did a lot of crazy shit. And millennials are just lazy, entitled, full of complaints about how they feel about things and what’s the point of it all?

But if Boomers’ kids, and their kids’ kids are concerned about things like meaning, are having to redefine success as something that incorporates meaning and health and sustainability, that is a sign that we have progressed. We aren’t entitled. Boomers have laid down the foundation of a world in which we can concern ourselves beyond the basics of security to such an extent that we have evolved to understand basic security is not all we need.

Putting down the younger generations for actually evolving is a little like laughing in the face of progress.

And putting down the older generations for not having evolved is a little counter intuitive and, yes, can look ungrateful. Did you know we are the most educated generation ever? Literally of all time? Our parents and grandparents hammered that shit home. Get an education.

I’m not going to say that being educated makes a person smarter. You can sit through as many classes as you want and pay for that piece of paper, but if you aren’t engaged and you’re not learning that paper is basically just a pass to access an inundated job market. That being said, really engaging in an education is priceless and I think it’s great that our parents and grandparents were so successful in getting us educated that education is no longer a guaranteed ticket to success.

My mom still thinks that having a master’s degree is a guaranteed ticket to employment. It is not if I rely on the linear models of success of which Ms. White speaks. The market is inundated with so many educated people we cannot pay educated people enough to compensate for the incredible school debts such people have accrued. But if I hustle, as Smiley suggests, my education has provided me with the tools, the creativity, and the discipline to create success for myself.

What that required first was this understanding of who I am, where I come from, what I’m working with, what my limitations are and which limitations I want to grow beyond. A quarter-midlife crisis. What I like about both of the above videos is that they emphasize turning this “Crisis” state into a search for meaning where meaning was lacking.

Now we get to be creative y’all.

One thing both videos touch on, as well, is the importance of emotional intelligence and taking responsibility for who we surround ourselves with (Smiley mentions “believers” or people who hold you accountable and Ms. White mentions taking responsibility for how we feel when we engage with social media). Both videos mention, too, that this emotional intelligence and responsibility lead to authenticity or, as they put it, alignment.

We’re the generation responsible for laying down the emotional groundwork for a society that values meaningful work–meaningful as in risking instability to work at a job that doesn’t require a person to mentally check out for eight hours of the day, doesn’t require misery, and doesn’t brutally degrade the body. Meaningful as in we have quality time with ourselves, each other, and find purpose in our existences.

This call for alignment rings bells in my mind associated with yoga, with Tao, with balance, meditation. Align your chakras. Align your heart with your body with your mind.

There are many who believe this alignment looks like present moment awareness which is what this desire to not “check out” at work looks like to me.

We want presence.

We want to stop living as faceless formless avatars and start living as human beings with purpose and intention.

We are seeking to become more aware of ourselves, our intentions, our actions, their consequences, and to become responsible for taking the first steps onto the risky plateau’s of valuing the emotional and physical well being of human beings OVER progress for the sake of progress or success for the promise of a stability that isn’t on the way.

The linear model of success is not only unsustainable for the individual, it’s unsustainable for our people and our planet.

Spending eight hours a day in a place you don’t want to be is, of course, going to make you unhappy.

Millennials, as mentioned above, are the “Purpose Generation,” the “Yes,” generation. Both of the above speakers mention that the first signs that they were not in the right career, despite being extremely successful, was the body shutting down or breaking down in an alarming manner.

Smiley, in the first video, woke up every day with shooting pains in his back that went from his leg all the way up his spine and persisted all day despite being only 28 at the time. Sally White, in the second video, was having seizures, couldn’t eat, couldn’t walk, couldn’t function and had to move home despite being extremely successful. The doctors couldn’t figure out what was wrong with her except that she showed symptoms of chronic stress. She was in her mid twenties.

Both of them decided to pursue meaningful work, work that resonated with their personal values, and the physical symptoms went away.

A statistic I quite enjoyed from Smiley’s video is that “50% of millennials[…]would take a pay cut to find work that matches their values,”(Refusing to Settle).

Aw y’all. I’m touched.

I had no idea that at least half the people in my generation feel more motivated by the search for meaning than the search for material success. This makes me damned proud of my people.

It occurs to me that this whole process of being diagnosed, told to do this, that I’m susceptible to that, that I function this way and need to do things just so has been immensely taxing on my sense of autonomy. I was so terrified of my brain’s potential to betray me, I needed people who understood what was going on in there from a clinical perspective to tell me it was going to be alright. You’re not getting worse. You’re just wired differently. Not broken, just different. But putting down my defenses enough to let other people’s understanding of me define me felt violating.

I was one of those kids who did all the things she was supposed to do right up through grad school and into teaching. Those things I was supposed to do were bestowed on me by others who believed that such a model of success would guarantee well being, but it turns out that meaning must be found within and I could not find meaning in that model of success which aligned when it was handed to me.

Funny, I see all kinds of ways teaching is meaningful and loved that part of the job. But it felt wrong to be teaching people about meaning, about discovering their intentions for going to school, about understanding that it doesn’t guarantee success or intelligence, about how to craft meaning and engage in critical thinking and build their dreams through education, when I had not yet pursued that search for meaning for myself. Sometimes I would come into class feeling jaded about my future and the futures of my hopeful students and the discussion would lean dark and heavy. It felt irresponsible.

Equipped with that information and set free from the promise of further therapy, it behooves me to move forward from what has essentially been a quarter-midlife crisis (Who am I? What does all of this shit mean? Why do people do work they hate? Why do I? Take the risk. Make the leap.) into what these crises lead to–a shift in consciousness that allows for meaningful action to be taken.

What does this look like?

Both of the above videos also mention taking risks, not comparing one’s self to others, and “shifting away from a linear model of success,” by following one’s calling even as that calling progresses and shifts. We might not have just that one thing that defines us. But awareness of this inner calling and it’s shifts require emotional intelligence.

Both videos also talk about the influence of social media in creating incredibly high expectations for who we think we are supposed to be or where we believe we are supposed to be in life. Ms. White mentions that failing to be authentic on social media has created an expectation of perfectionism that isn’t achievable from any realistically human standpoint, while Smiley mentions that comparing ourselves to those inauthentic representations of successful people further distracts from understanding that success is defined by the individual if we are imbuing it with meaning. Meaning is subjective. Therefore one must look within to find it.

I believe Millennials, in this regard, are the Hero Generation.

Check this out.

In The Hero With a Thousand Faces, Joseph Campbell describes the purpose of the hero as follows:

“The hero, therefore, is the man or woman who has been able to battle past his personal and local historical limitations to the generally valid, normally human forms. Such a one’s visions, ideas, and inspirations come pristine from the primary springs of human life and thought. Hence they are eloquent, not of the present, disintegrating society and psyche, but of the unquenched source through which society is reborn.The hero has died as a modern man; but as eternal man–perfected, unspecific, universal man–he has been reborn. His second solemn task and deed therefore (as Toynbee declares and as all the mythologies of mankind indicate) is to return then to us, transfigured, and teach the lesson he has learned of life renewed.”

(p. 14-15, Campbell, 2008)

There is another Ted Talk called “Life Crisis? Start a Business,” by Bailey Richert, in which she describes the kinds of decision-making necessary in entrepreneurship as the kind of decision-making which allowed her to define those “visions, ideas, and inspirations come pristine from the primary springs of human life and thought.”

She wasn’t just asking herself what she wanted, how she was going to get it and what that would look like. She was asking herself all of those questions after understanding that her “personal and local historical limitations,” (i.e. the linear model of modern success) were not representative of “more normally human forms.”

Each of the above Ted speakers finds themselves in positions of success according to the socially accepted model of success only to discover that such was formed by “a disintegrating society and psyche.” Each decides to “die as a modern [wo]man,” in the metaphorical sense by reaching that modern model of success and foregoing it’s promise of stability because of an inner call to find purpose and meaning. We might identify this as the Call to Adventure, the first step in the journey of the hero.

So maybe millennials look like the lazy generation because we are doing things a little bit differently than our bare-knuckle boomer forebears who muscled their way through life and buried those emotional scars done unto their psyches by the basic drive of any species to find stability.

They paved the way physically. They laid down the infrastructure. Gen Xers killed it with breakthroughs in technology, science, math, physics, psychology, medicine, etc. Now Millennials are seeing the social, individual, psychological, medical, and environmental impacts of such astounding progress, finding the paved paths to success end in material wealth while forgoing the “normally human forms” of wealth in relationships and self-actualization, and are trying to establish meaning, now, around what the astonishing progress is all in the name of if money and security are not the end game we thought they were.

We are the Hero Generation. We are dying to the modern ideas of man and woman, delving into the deep dark of the psyche, and bringing back boons like:

Ignoring one’s emotional state for too long leads to physical, mental, and spiritual degradation (demonstrated in the three videos mentioned above, in many of the videos I’ve shared on this blog, and in our country’s healthcare crisis, which may be linked to this crisis of meaning).

One thing to note is that Smiley talks about one successful entrepreneur friend of his who came to San Francisco from Spain with no job lined up, asked Smiley on the street (a perfect stranger at the time) if he needed a designer, and through that ask ended up becoming the head designer for a startup team of four or five people who were “bought out by Yahoo for 80 million dollars.”

That stranger heeded his call to adventure by moving across the world, to a city he didn’t know, without a job lined up, and asking complete strangers on the street if they needed a designer and the payout was enormous, not only monetarily, but because he’d followed his dream and become successful at it.

A lot of people are afraid to heed the call to adventure by taking risks. What if you invest in that business and you lose everything? What if you quit your job to get another and find there are none available to you? What if you pursue your dream and it never comes true? Is that worse than never pursuing it?

Those risks look different for everyone. Sometimes that risk is simply talking to another person. Sometimes that risk is turning to something other than self-destruction. Sometimes that risk is speaking your truth or letting someone down who you had hoped to hold up. The call to adventure comes from within.

“The first step,” Campbell wrote, “detachment or withdrawal, consists in a radical transfer of emphasis from the external to the internal world[…]to the peace of that everlasting realm that is within. But this realm, as we know from psychoanalysis, is precisely the infantile unconscious. It is the realm we enter in sleep. We carry it in ourselves forever[…]all the life potentialities that we never managed to bring to adult realization, those other portions of ourself, are there; for such golden seeds do not die. If only a portion of that lost totality could be dredged up into the light of day, we should experience a marvelous expansion of our powers, a vivid renewal of life.”

p. 12, Campbell, 2008

This process of withdrawal and going within to seek meaning is present in each of the above stories and Campbell describes this process as visiting the lost pieces of the self in the unconscious, those pieces left behind or forgotten or never realized, and bringing even one into the light of day.

Self-actualization.

Even more interesting, I think, is that he describes this process of individually hearkening to this call on a cultural scale.

“Moreover,” he wrote, “if we could dredge up something forgotten not only by ourselves but by our whole generation or our entire civilization, we should indeed become the boon-bringer, the culture hero of the day…”

p. 12, Campbell, 2008

Millennials are not lazy. We’re culture heroes. We are trying to face ourselves, go within to find meaning, reach beyond the stereotypes and limitations of modern culture to find the innocent self, the human self, and dredge up from those forgotten pieces of humanity into the light of day what it is we’ve been missing.

Alignment.

Presence.

Purpose.

Meaning.

Health.

Those are some pretty big forgotten pieces of culture. So I guess if you feel the need to withdrawal, if you are feeling like something is missing, wondering what it’s all for, maybe you’re hearing the call to adventure. Maybe it’s time to withdrawal, ask yourself what you want, take the risk. Probably your whole generation is feeling it. You’re not alone. We are all looking for meaning here. It’s alright. We are an entire generation of culture heroes.

For my own part, this attempt to appear completely transparent on an online platform has opened me up to a lot realizations about who I thought I was, who I actually am, and where to go from here. It was scary. That dive into the self is…well its uncomfortable. And every Hero’s journey is met with obstacles to be overcome, many from within. This journey through the self is a way to find the self that exists outside of the boundaries of the present and the culture. Strangely, presence is a great way to discover that self.

Practical Action Step: Meditate, exercise, dream.

Practical Action Step 2: Step outside your comfort zone into the direction of your dreams.

My Practical Action Step today was a morning meditation. This afternoon I’m going to record the first video in a vlog series. It’s a risk I’m not super stoked about taking if only because it feels uncomfortable, but it’s been in the works as an idea for the next step on this site for a while.

So here we go.

Starting in on that Practical Action.

Joining my fellow Culture Heroes.

Thanks all.

Be well.

References:

Campbell, J. (2008). The hero with a thousand faces. 17. New World Library.

Life Crisis? Start a Business | Bailey Richert | TEDxHarrisburg. (2016). [YouTube Video]. In YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ybZp0Fi-Hws

Quarter Life Crisis: Defining Millennial Success | Sally White | TEDxRoyalCentralSchool. (2017). [YouTube Video]. In YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dgf0OUsQJuA

Refusing to Settle: The Quarter-Life Crisis | Adam “Smiley” Poswolsky | TEDxYouth@MileHigh. (2015). [YouTube Video]. In YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ddek3gQVt9Y

Manifest

My doggo has been sick for a couple days, so she and I have been up all night making sure she gets her business taken care of outside. She’s getting old and people food is now officially off the menu in all regards. I’m standing out there with her in the middle of the night wondering if there’s something I’ve done to manifest this, but sometimes a sick dog is just a sick dog who needs some love and care.

That being said, today is a follow up on the “do what you want and you will get what you want” spiel, adding a further layer of complexity to this beginning bud stage of what we call manifestation.

The basic principle of manifestation is that one receives what one puts out. The pioneers of the law of attraction in this age were Abraham and Esther Hicks with their channeled messages from a group of non-physical entities called Abraham. You can listen to their channeled messages on their website, on Youtube, or echoed in any modern practitioner’s philosophies. Their teachings were the basis of the movie The Secret, an oversimplified and fluffy introduction of to a concept that is actually a bit more complex.

I take what I will from philosophers and gurus and teachers, never comfortable with accepting any one person’s teachings as fully truthful or accurate, but one of the things that remains true for the law of attraction, or rule of three as it’s known in wicca, is that we attract experiences into our life via emotion.

Here’s the rub…

Our culture has suppressed us emotionally, told us to suck it up, and now we are a bunch of emotionally unintelligent people so we keep accidentally attracting all the things we fear or have suppressed. I believe learning to identify, own up to, and heal one’s emotions is the most important task granted to human beings today because I also believe that if multiple religions and teachings and philosophies over centuries and various cultures state that we get what we put out, perceive, and feel, that there’s probably something very valid about the idea.

That and I’ve practiced manifestation and emotional body healing and I will tell you from personal experience, healing emotional wounds changes the emotional landscape and changing the emotional landscape changes the physical, mental, and spiritual landscapes. The difference between trying to change one’s circumstances and trying to change one’s perspective on and responses to one’s circumstances is the difference between the finger pointing at the moon and the moon itself.

It might be argued (and this is a doctrine I hold to as a practice to do no harm) that all desire to change external circumstance is a reflection of resistance within. Surrendering to this resistance by allowing for what is to be with acceptance, absolves us of the root feeling of the desire to change the external circumstance.

Teal Swan is a spiritual teacher who has many, many resources for emotional body healing. I highly recommend using them and I highly recommend approaching her teachings with a Buddha-like objectivity since too much attachment to any one person’s works or teachings is essentially and exercise in occultism.

Here are the nuts and bolts as I understand them. Feelings are like frequencies. As we walk through life, we collect experiences that offer us feelings around which we create narratives that influence how we perceive the world around us. If we have a collection of experiences that are good, it’s easy to have a good outlook. If we have a collection of experiences that are not so good…well, it’s much more difficult to have a healthy outlook.

Mentally we can do our best to train ourselves into objectivity by understanding psychology, how people work, how we work, going to talk therapy, reading up on why people do awful things to each other and why people are good to each other. The collection of experiences we endure called life becomes a narrative around which we start to understand ourselves in the context of the world and our meaning in it.

If those experiences are primarily negative and we have not managed to find a means of becoming useful within the context of our community or family unit, the responsibility of the individual is to generate meaning enough that one can continue on at least without being a burden upon the existence of others.

The language and tone of this language is very masculine. It reeks of strength and endurance, a scale of strong and weak, of more or less, black or white.

Here instead:

If those experiences are primarily negative and we have not managed to find a means of becoming actualized within the context of our community or family, the responsibility of the individual is to watch, learn, and listen, feel the flow of the existence of others, and surrender to it.

Reading is an excellent way to understand people and different ways of thinking and is therefore also an excellent way to nurture and cultivate compassion.

We can try to reconcile with, punish, reinforce or change our behavior and that of others, but what we are ultimately aiming for is a place where everyone feels good. This is civility. Peace on earth. Etc.

People are not going to feel good until we learn how to feel.

And until we learn how to feel good within ourselves, we will try to change the world around us or will look to what is outside us to satisfy, to make us feel better, and so we buy things and vacation and enact laws that enforce a patriarchal Christian viewpoint on a nation that could probably use some archetypal divine feminine nurturing.  

When we feel trauma and suppress trauma, we hold that trauma and continue to manifest instances in our lives that reflect that trauma until we learn to face it…facing it meaning sitting with the emotion of it. These experiences are most commonly reflected in our relationships with others. An example I think many of us can relate to is in dating: Have you ever been or seen the person who dates different kinds of people but always ends up in the same kind of relationship? The common denominator is you, and yet you can’t understand why this shit keeps happening?

What a lot of people fail to mention regarding the law of attraction is this initial first step of getting good with yourself as absolutely necessary for conscious manifestation and then people go to try and manifest and think it’s bullshit when it doesn’t work. You can spend all your conscious energy, for example, telling yourself you want a big house and aiming for that, but if there’s a subconscious part of you that believes you don’t deserve it or aren’t worth it, that is the energy you are putting out into the world and you are going to keep not getting a big house. Even if you do get a big house, that subconscious part of you that believes you’re unworthy haunts the happiness you hoped to gain. I’m in the life I’ve been dreaming up since I was a dreamer, for example, but still have depression and anxiety that must be managed. It doesn’t matter what you manifest: If you are not good with you, that energy will poison the wellspring of your life. The only antidote is self-love.

On the word energy: Considering that matter vibrates at a frequency which allows it to hold shape, that frequencies change the shape and patterns of matter on the molecular level, and that we are made of matter, is it not reasonable to argue that thoughts and music (aka: frequencies…frequencies that we are able to CONSCIOUSLY CREATE with our mind brains people!) might affect the matter we are made of and the matter we come into contact with? Check out Dr. Masaru Emoto’s famous experiments on the effects of sound on water molecules here if you’d like a better and inspiring example of what I’m talking about. Also, is it not kind of ironic that EMOTE is in his last name.

The etymology of emotion

“emotion (n.) 1570s, “a (social) moving, stirring, agitation,” from Middle French émotion (16c.), from Old French emouvoir “stir up” (12c.), from Latin emovere “move out, remove, agitate,” from assimilated form of ex “out” (see ex-) + movere “to move” (from PIE root *meue- “to push away”). Sense of “strong feeling” is first recorded 1650s; extended to any feeling by 1808.” https://www.etymonline.com/word/emotion

Emotions are a reflection of how we move through, affect, and are affected by the world.

Google search says:

“e·mo·tion/əˈmōSH(ə)n/Learn to pronouncenoun

  1. a natural instinctive state of mind deriving from one’s circumstances, mood, or relationships with others.”

We have a whole lovely cache of subconscious fears and programming to dig into in order to understand what frequencies (emotions) we’re putting out and we must learn to embrace and change that programming, but how do we do that if emotions are formed by encountering circumstances, relationships, and moods, all things that seem to be outside of us or our control? All we can do is take responsibility for ourselves, our own actions, and our own reactions to the aforementioned stimuli.

Think about it.

My personal triggers are around fear of being cheated on. An ex cheated and it fucked me up. Afterwards, I suspected every boyfriend of cheating or being capable of it. I realized this was a story that was causing me to act towards them as though they were cheating whether or not they were. So I was creating a circumstance that was lose lose. I had to choose to embrace trust, jump into that fear, and stop telling that story by telling another one. You are loved. This person loves you.

It sounds like a lie at first.

Imagine that.

The story we tell ourselves about our experiences and our actions influence our perception of the world and people in it, which therefore influences how they react to us. Because emotions are instinctive, many of these exchanges of signals and reactions are so subtle, we are not aware of them. The more tuned in you are to your own and others’ emotions, the more apparent these signals become.

Here’s an exercise:

  • Write down something you’d like to manifest in your life.
  • Now, without thinking about it, write down all the reasons you want this thing in your life now.
  • Once you’re done with that, write down how you will feel when you have this thing.
  • Write down how you feel now.
  • What is the difference between what you are feeling now and what you imagine you will feel like when you have managed to manifest this thing?
  • The discrepancy between these emotions is the distance between you and manifesting your goal.
  • The only thing that stands between these two emotions is you. You have to figure out what the point of resistance is.
  • Release it.

In practice, this looks like deciding not to go through my boyfriend’s phone when my mind starts to wander there. I’ve looked a million times and there’s nothing to find. DJ is faithful and my rational mind, when in shows up, knows this. My paranoia is deeper than I thought. My mind wanders there now out of habit, I’m realizing, which is sad. My self-esteem is pretty fucked then. Instead of being a nosy stalker and staying fixed in the distrust some asshole left in me, I’m deciding he doesn’t get to have that part of my life anymore. Imagine that.

Here is where I can do something about something. When that energy comes up again, even if my most passionate instinct says I must act on my distrust, I must NOT. Over and over and over. If I feel like going through his phone, what’s more, I know the root cause is insecurity, so instead, I do something to bolster my self-esteem. Go running, cook and eat a good meal, shower and do my nails. I’m consciously reinforcing the opposite This is the act of changing one’s habits, which changes one’s beliefs, which changes one’s emotions, which influence thought and action.

I may even go so far as to say that for this reason, beliefs are powerful. They shape us, our interactions, and our worlds.

It’s much harder to believe you are going to be successful when there is nothing in your life to encourage you than it is if you’re born with a silver spoon in your mouth.

I might even go so far as to say that imagination shapes reality and many of us have simply never dared to imagine better. Hope takes courage and resolve and faith. Therefore to manifest requires a strong heart and mind.

The closer you can align your emotions with the perceived emotion of receiving what you are manifesting, the more in alignment you will be with the manifested frequency. The law of attraction basically posits that we are tuning forks, that the tune is our emotional frequency, and that our conscious thoughts can change those frequencies.

So how do you begin to change your own mind if you are working from your own limited experience and perspective?

You must look at those experiences which formed your mind to begin with and change your mind about them. This is emotional body healing.

  • I encourage you to start by sitting in whatever emotion you are in right now. Breathe it in. Gently ask yourself when the first time you felt that emotion was. Sit with your eyes closed. Go back to the last time you felt this way. The time before that. The time before that. All the way back until you meet yourself experiencing this emotion for the very first time.
  • When did you first feel this emotion?
  • What did you need in this moment?
  • Picture your present self offering this past self exactly what you needed in that moment.

What happens when we do this is we create a mental landscape that allows us to learn the lessons from difficult experiences with a healthy cognitive distance. It also allows us to see where we are and how far we’ve come, that we are not our experiences, and that emotions are intensely powerful influences in our lives which can positively or negatively steer the course. It is up to us to take the wheel and drive and this exercise gives us a test run in taking the wheel.  

Whatever you are manifesting, may you start simple, may you love yourself, and may you always come from a place of love and the greatest good of all.

Also, keep in mind that you are as much a cause as an effect. What you eat, watch, think, love, spend time with, become you. If there are areas in your life that need some cleaning up, I encourage you to take those first steps today, even if all that means is figuring out how you feel.

Be well and in joy friends.