Psychology + Zen = Philosophy and methods to relieve suffering and reveal happiness.

Psychology:  We project onto others what we reject in ourselves.  Some call it a Shadow.  Healing comes from making the unconscious conscious, taking responsibility for our projections, integrating what is split off as our own thing. 

Zen:  There is no separate self.  When we can be at one with every aspect, then we belong everywhere and we reject no one.  

We heal the world by becoming intimate with our whole selves.   


Entries by Elena Taurke (115)

Tuesday
Aug202019

Mixed Messages Medley, Chapter One

If you could go back and change one thing about your mother's life that would make a difference to your own, what would it be? How would it affect your life?

I'm working with older and younger women to explore this question through improvisation, to feed from it to understand each other, to confront what we transmit so we can be free. Here is a sampling from our first rehearsal. 

If it moves you please consider making a contribution so we can continue the process. Funds go to paying the players, the cinematographer, and for rehearsal space. Find me on Venmo (Elena-Taurke) or if you want to make an official tax deductible contribution, here we are on Fractured Atlas

Here are the cast and crew for this rehearsal. 

Cinematographer: Traven Rice

Players:

Ara Fitzgerald
ReW Starr
Elena Taurke
Barbara Thomas

Katelyn Atanasio
Katherine Anne Marie
Manatsu Tanaka
Vassilea Terzaki

August 2019

 

Friday
Aug162019

Your mother?

"Elizabeth Warren" by Gage Skidmore is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 White male says to me: "Elizabeth Warren? I agree with what Bill Maher says about her...she reminds everyone of their mother." 

Oh. Really?

And that is a problem because you would never elect your mother for president, right?

Why not, exactly? Because she nagged you when you didn't clean your room? Because she picked up after you when you didn't and perhaps hated herself for doing it, then suffered with low self-esteem because she was cleaning instead of writing/surfing/acting like she was born to do? Because she judged you? taught you right from wrong so that later when you chewed with your mouth open no one would say "Didn't his mother teach him manners?"

I get it. Women of that generation, my generation (a tad older but still, I see it coming) don't get much love. We had to make the difficult choice as young women, be a strident feminist or be a femme and manipulate the patriarchy. Neither role gets us points now. Younger women like Alexandria Ocasio Cortez and Rashida Tlaib can be fierce and beautiful, but if you are fierce and older, mockery follows, unless you are Nancy Pelosi, who unapolagetically uses old-world style to keep her cool and keep the men in place. 

The New York Times In Her Words column recently skewered likeability coaching for professional women, and then reviewed gender judo, which is the practice of using a gender stereotype in order to gain power in surprising ways. Like, act like a helpful mom 95% of the time so that you can slice and dice on the sly. Hats off to Nancy Pelosi for mastering this practice. Those of us who are a bit less smooth careen off those likeability rails.

The other day I was walking along in the West Village and saw a clump of young adults bump into a woman my age. Apparently she made a sound because the group cracked up imitating her: did you hear that? “woah!. woah! woooaaah” hahahahhahah. They took turns bumping into each other and making this feeble sounding exclamation. There seemed to be something hilarious about the slight silliness with which she took offense.

How I wished I could have been a superhero at that moment. I would have given the woman shoulders to turn around, square off, and demand an apology. She had a right to take up space on the sidewalk. We're not done yet. 

August 2019

Monday
Jul012019

On Limits

Dharma Talk June 30On Super Gay Pride Day, June 30th, the weekend of the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall uprising, I gave a talk on limits. I've decided to post the whole transcript as well as the link to the talk, just in case you want to hear my personal story and the story of several female Buddhist ancestors, two of them disabled. 

I'm posting the transcript, in its talky format, to save myself time editing. Why? Time limits.

For those of you who don't want to read, I begin by asking, What is a limit? and talk about what we are not able or not allowed to do, how that starts a process of adaptation that can be mutual. We can adapt to the culture and the culture can adapt to us. I use examples to show the complexity of navigation. How do we know whether to sit through pain or change positions? And I conclude with a sweeping generalization: Limit is the answer to limit. We limit our reactions to release us from limited thinking. Our practice of sitting zazen, subtle and mysterious, is a radical act, especially now in the face of weaponized distraction and scapegoating.

Click to read more ...

Saturday
Jun012019

Game of Thrones Addict Wakes Up

Let's start with the antidote: it's the brothels, Baby. Some smart feminists have opined on the forms of feminine power and how they are portrayed, and there is a lot to say about that. Personally, I think Game of Thrones accurately portrays our world and that is why it is compelling. The women who have power either have it through the men or by becoming masculinized exceptions to the gender rules. 

Some other stuff I found essential and interesting: good people are hurt and betrayed and killed. Sometimes they are avenged and sometimes not. Unlike most stuff we watch, we don't always know who is the good one. This complexity deteriorates in the end, as many have noticed,

Click to read more ...

Thursday
May022019

What's in a Name? Francie

Here's another example of working with what presents itself. I happened upon these umbrellas whipping around in the wind at nearly the same moment that my collaborator overheard a conversation. They came together without coming together. One minute, thirty eight seconds.

April 2019

Tuesday
Apr302019

Taking the Poison

Joanna Macy: Ever Widening CirclesYou know how when the jackhammer stops you realize how much your body was participating? It stops, I relax, relieved, now I can write. But then it starts back up again and, oh the pain, can I write through it, with it? It doesn't do any good to try to feel what I felt when it stopped; it just adds a layer of frustration. It doesn't do any good to pretend I don't hear it; that adds a layer of tension and dishonesty. When I'm pretending I'm not noticing, and then there is no flow. Writing about it, on the other hand releases me to make connections, thus:

Some of us want to leave the country. It's just too much. The oligarchs seem to have all the resources, the patriarchy is entrenched, the good don't win, the earth is wailing as we gang rape her. New Zealand looks so much better from here. But recently I listened to a podcast with the very old and very wise Joanna Macy in which she drew inspiration from Rilke as she faced difficulty. Some words from a sonnet to Orpheus:

Let this darkness be a bell tower and you the bell.
As you ring, what batters you becomes your strength.
Move back and forth into the change.
What's it like, this intensity of pain?
If the drink is bitter turn yourself to wine.
In this uncontainable night
be the mystery at the crossroads of your senses

Macy talked about what we do if a dear child or our mother is dying. If we love we stay, we try to stay, we don't avoid the pain, and neither should we love the earth less because we fear it to be unhealthy, or even our democracy. Even that. Or our poisonous culture.

I love to say I don't watch TV, don't have a TV, but that requires that I mildly pretend to myself that I am immune from formula, from a hunger for suspense, for romance, for good guys triumphing over the bad, and it is nearly always guys. Looking for a new show to binge, my friend recommended Rectify, and so I watched the whole 20-plus hours, watched the wronged white guy get supported by his family, his black friends who held no resentment for his comparative freedom, and countless lovely women who were smitten by his awesome depth and fascinating awkwardness. Yeah, because I fell for guys like that, wasted a lot of time projecting my own qualities onto them and then trying to obtain them by getting them to love me. It doesn't do any good to try not to do that. I can only ring the bell of pain. And as I do that I hear my voice, and there, I'm free because I already have what I want. 

Now I'm working on understanding Game of Thrones. So far the best part is that instead of checking phones, they have to wait for ravens to deliver news from other realms. What seems problematic are the gorgeous happy naked whores being trained by men to pleasure men (someone tell me they fix this in the next 20 hours!), the equation of honor with blood lineage, the constant butchery and treachery in the name of revenge and justice, and of course the damnable disproportionate screentime for men. If we don't see it, we can't interact with it at all. There are virtually no non-pretty powerful women anywhere in film or TV. Behold the first two lines of the cast page:

70% male

The whole page has 19 women, all beautiful, and 31 men, many old or fat or strange looking. Actually I'm remembering that there is an old woman who played a maid, but she is not included in this cast page. Anyway, seeing this line-up activates the not-enough software installed by the symbiotic glamour industry. I feel mad, gloomy, anxious, want to get highlights, want to disappear. Move back and forth into the change. I am still here, existing as I am, as are the beautiful women around me who don't look like the Hollywood ideal. If I keep showing my face as it is that isn't nothing. It is an intervention. I turn myself to wine. And maybe get some highlights? 

Joanna Macy and others have noted that even as our country is being devoured by the forces of greed there are many communities growing out of a different model, one that acknowledges interconnection and strives for justice and the true equality of appreciating difference. We can ground our attention there while we partake in the poisons. We can notice our breath as we feel jerked around by the unceasing demands to look, to buy, to one-up the other customers. I am a customer, yes, but I am also the mystery at the crossroads of my senses. Thank you, Ms. Macy and Mr. Rilke.

 

April 2019

 

 

 

 

Thursday
Mar282019

Doing It

No, not that, though the same principles apply.

Once you have a schedule that works, that you can really trust, that you know won't leave you in a panic before the train, that will get the bills paid, that will accommodate respect for people on the sidewalk, then you can make yourself a little pocket. Maybe even a big pocket, but 

the main point is that within this pocket there is no time, no rushing, no distraction; there is concentrated attention given permission to roam. 

We are human beings above all, not just shoppers. As D. Graham Burnett said beautifully during our Urban Sesshin, our attention is being bought and sold by the richest companies in America. Google and Facebook want us to be distracted, want us to fail to focus, want us to procrastinate by buying that updated device. 

But each of us has something important to say, something to give to the world, to help us actually evolve instead of repeating the tussles of the past. Each of us has our own unique expression. We don't have to be capital A Artists, just alive.

Here is my offering for today, a 5 minute meditation on my place:

 

 

Thursday
Mar282019

Why You Need a Psychotherapist

The other day I was doing laundry and I overheard this conversation between a very perky person and a politely suffering person.

Perky: "Other than being sick, how are you?"
Suffering: "Ok I guess" 
Perky: "How's the puppy?"
Suffering: "The puppy died; we had to put him down."
Perky: "oh well, now you don't have to worry anymore."
Suffering: "still, it was sad."
Perky: "it's a tough decision but it was the right thing; how is your husband taking it?"
Suffering: "he was crying for days"
Perky: "how is he now, ok? are you getting a new one?"
Suffering: "I don't think so, no."

I suppose it continued in the same vein but fortunately, because I was finished loading the dryer, I escaped before tearing a giant hole in the social fabric of this public perky space.

Click to read more ...

Monday
Feb252019

Do Things Exist?

Madame Vivian V and her grandmother. Photo by Jessie OhIt's all about Getting Things Done, right? If we get things done we can feel accomplished, worthy. I've studied the organizing self-help literature exhaustively and tried a panoply of systems. I've mindmapped, I've bucketed, I've wandered, I've prioritized and I've panicked. I've let it all go and gotten depressed. I've put myself back on a schedule, felt better, then constrained, then pissed off, so I ditched it all again. I have a structure now, which developed after I ruthlessly looked at what I actually do, how long things take, and what my body needs. It's an ongoing process, continually adapting to change within and without.

But what about the thing itself? Creativity is fickle. When you try to tie it down, it slips away. Sometimes I give myself related tasks, like learning a program, and then it bubbles up in a small act of resistance. Creativity itself is resistance, isn't it? You know how things are supposed to be done but there's a little voice that protests: "It doesn't have to be this way." But I get stuck in how to give life to the alternative.

Going back to Artist's Way recently, I remembered the importance of practicing flow by writing whatever comes to mind. Later I remembered why I stopped--so much drivel! At one point I burned my diaries. Because there is something deeper than the chatter of the mind. When I sit still in zazen I sense it. When I watch water hitting rock I feel it. When I walk in nature I know it. The camera never captures it. What is it, really?

Last night at 3am I was bathed in some kind of idea, really awash in it, and it seemed so important that I actually wrote on a post-it: Excess. This morning, what? Maybe it has something to do with learning from an old friend that millennial speak now includes: "oh Mom, that's so extra!" Why is that a bad thing? I guess for the same reason that people tried to be cool back in the day. And for sure the aesthetic of nothing extra appeals to me. Why else do I give things away, burn things, abandon things? But there is something really great about excess, something beautiful. Look at drag queens for example. The same stuff that can be imprisoning for women becomes glorious in excess. Watching a play recently I couldn't take my eyes off Madam Vivian V. She was huuuge, towering over the other players in platform stilettos, and confident as only a queen can be.

But I digress.

Or do I? I meant to write a post on time management, but the existential title plopped out and then I followed it and somehow arrived here. We could say that existence itself is excess, especially for the humans. Or we could say that nothing is ever really added or subtracted. Anyway how can Madame Vivian claim so much space when many women my age apologize with their bodies for even being in the room? Millennials telling us we are too much. It’s an old message, freshly packaged, newly poisonous.

Oh yes, we exist. As for things, I don’t know.

February 2019

Tuesday
Jan292019

You Be You

Last Sunday I gave a dharma talk* at the Village Zendo on the matter of becoming yourself. Like many Zen practices, it's an absurd and paradoxical goal. You already are who you really are, and yet things get complicated by the mind. 

The previous weekend we had a panel discussion with two Black Zen teachers who talked about how it is to be the only Black person in a community, how it is to deal with racist projections and expectations. James Lynch spoke of the importance of caring for yourself, not defining yourself by how others see you. And Malik Hokyu talked about confronting the objectifications that arise, how hard it is to locate their source. 

For the most part, Zen practice focuses on clearing away the delusion of a separate self, and there is no doubt that the more we sit the more we can drop our dependence on identity. But when we see each other, we see the marks of identity: skin color, gender expression, clothing or hairdo, disability if visible, body type and so on. Our minds are built to categorize and predict, so it is impossible to eliminate the expectations and judgement that shape the way we interact with each other. 

When you are a person who is marked as different from others, the usual process of forming an identity gets tangled; what gets reflected may not feel true. When I was growing up, moving from army base to army base, there were no other Russian disabled kids. I felt like a misfit, and so I struggled to imitate the customs in each place. Only in the woods by myself could I feel alive and genuinely connected. By high school I figured out how to construct an identity as a quirky drama girl that allowed me to behave in odd ways and still be popular. People saw in me what I wanted them to see. 

But this sort of thing initiates a split between who we feel ourselves to be and how we are perceived by others. and that split drives us to Zen, or psychotherapy, or destructive acting out. The bad news is that healing the split actually requires meeting the aspect of self that we try to cover. 

For me, that is weakness. My disabilities are serious but not visible. I've figured out how I can adapt movement so that I can dance, adapted my household so that I can eat (hint: don't bring me a jar unless you will open it for me), adapted my personality so that I see myself as a hero not a victim. But underneath there is still an aspect that is the toddler who can't walk, the kid who can't keep up, the adult who gets tangled up trying to get an item out of my pocket without a wrist to bend. And that aspect feels shameful because I have learned that it is better to cover it. 

Fortunately or unfortunately life always serves up what I reject. This year I've developed a quaver in my voice, something sticky in my throat or diaphragm. I believe it reads as fear, which is not ok at all, right? The more I try to control it the more prominent it gets. So the good news is that I have no choice but to embrace the fear, and fear of fear. I breathe, do what I do as I am, notice how people respond, sometimes say something about it, watch it come and go. 

It doesn't seem like good news when something comes up to challenge our identity. But actually taking down who we think we are or who others think we are, over and over again, is what makes us grow, and even to become fearless. That's the paradox. Rejecting nothing, including everything, that's how you can be who you really are. 

After I wrote this, I listened to an On Being podcast having to do with just this, exposing what we are taught to be ashamed about. So, for me it's whatever a vocal quaver indicates, but it could be anything. What would our culture look like if we all had the courage to out our true selves? 

*The Dharma talk has a slightly different focus, on the matter of being alone.

January 2019