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 in Belonging (6)

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

 

 

 

Thursday
Jun142012

I am I: A Tribute to Margaret Cho


Inspired by Cho's gestures, energy, and mission, a group of dancers celebrate human diversity in all its splendid manifestations.  

Conceived and Choreographed by Irene Ruiz-Riveros
Video Directed and Edited by Elena TaJo
Music by Steve Elson

I am I: A Tribute to Margaret Cho screened in June of 2010 at Anthology Film Archives as part of an excellent series curated by New York Women in Film and Television.  Running time 5:37 minutes
 

Saturday
Jun022012

It Doesn't Show

Updated on Friday, October 15, 2010 at 11:50AM by Registered CommenterElena Taurke

Updated on Friday, June 8, 2012 at 4:50PM by Registered CommenterElena Taurke

It doesn't show, they started to say after the surgeries.   This should have been a cure for shame, and maybe it was, but it also produced a new problem.   A deep and integral aspect of my personhood became invisible and unknowable. Don't look. Juvenile arthritis is a peculiar and defining experience.  As a toddler, you get braces and casts instead of the exhilaration of walking.  As a kid, you get the special  role in the ballet recital.  Then, as your wrists are progressively deforming, Phys Ed with its impossible pushups and volleyball falls by the wayside.  You are left with the other rejected kids in Choir and then in Drama Club, where, to vanquish your depression, you pledge yourself a career and vengeance.  The twist (pardon the pun) in the story is that, along the way, you fall in love with dance--the one thing that everyone agrees is totally out of the question. 

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Friday
Jun012012

Michael Jackson, The Whole Man

Is it good manners?   Is it out of some sense of politeness that every column I've read about Michael Jackson makes a brief bow to the latter half of his life, then moves on to massage every detail of his splendid, brilliant early career?   As in: whatever you want to say about the weird thing he became, you have to appreciate how he electrified the world with Thriller.*   Is it good manners or is it that we don't want to face what his gruesome demise might say about us?  About our culture, I could say, except we can't just dis the culture without taking some responsibility.

How do we understand what happened to him? 

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Thursday
May242012

Picking up the Other Dog's Poop

I have a dog. My dog poops.  So do the other dogs. People get mad at dogs because their owners leave the poop under their shoes.

I love my dog and want him to be accepted by the community. So, I help him out if I pick up the other dogs' poops, the ones just waiting to slide under your shoe. But I can't bring myself to do it...well, once I did, because I wanted to be able to brag on this site. Is that a worthy reason? 

What will it take for us to take responsibility for each other? Self interest? Wisdom? Empathy? Enough poop on our shoes?   (12/17/08)

 

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Wednesday
May232012

What Seduces You?

What tempts you to fall out of your mind?  For me, it is belonging.  If someone says you are one of us, I'm toast, especially if it's a  group that disdains all other groups.   I forget my values, my preferences, my feelings, my family ... and become a faulty mirror of the group, a groupee.   But maybe triumph is more seductive for you.  Maybe it's chocolate...or money...or fame...or boobs...or cherries...what are those things, anyway?
What can you learn about yourself from your temptations?
How can you encourage yourself to disobey their instructions?

What else will meet the craving?

What will satisfy the longing?

Can you stay curious long enough to sense the difference between craving and longing?  And can you allow the longing to pull you into connection with the whole universe?