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 Disability (19)

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.

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Monday
Sep042017

On Feldenkrais

Sure there are the miracles.  Walking along one day you realize the knee twinge is no longer part of your experience.  Or the neck doesn't lock, or the electric toe is at peace. 

But the most profound effect of Feldenkrais method is pleasure. The practice of trying things, sensing what connects with what, what makes what move, and finding ease in All That is really so much fun.  I remember noticing my young daughter's attitude when she was playing: what happens when I do this?  

It is still possible to play, to engage in discovery, like figuring out how to roll like a baby or lift your neck as if it is the first time. It isn't always easy, especially if you are old, or grew up with disabillity, or both. Feldenkrais technique aims to disrupt compulsive action, or habit. In most Awareness Through Movement lessons, the teacher introduces a wierd counterintuitive thing like moving your eyes in the opposite direction of your head. Oddly, after doing such a thing, all of this spaciousness sprouts, and then there is freedom of movement where there wasn't before.  

Of course doing this again and again provides direction and practice for the mind. When I encounter something really hard, I try switching things up, like the antidote to the oft-quoted notion that insanity is doing the same thing and expecting different results. Just do something different.  See how it goes. If you don't like it, try something else.  

I think this is all tied in to listening, to improvisation, to letting go.  What comes next?

 

September 2017

 

Wednesday
May032017

And, Rest!

Oops. I forgot the most important thing.

In my enthusiasm to Reckon, Refuse, and Respond, I neglected to include what makes it all possible: Rest.

Rest is what enables us to listen deeply to what is true, and Refuse what is false. Rest is what enables us to think clearly and Reckon with this political disaster. Rest is what gives us the energy to Respond in an effective way. Rest is what Donald Trump never does.

It is easy for me to get confused on this point. Growing up as a weakling with a disability I needed drive to keep me from collapsing into something that I understood I could not get out of. It served me well back then. When I couldn’t achieve popularity I studied hard and excelled academically. Later I studied popularity and achieved some. And along the way I pushed and pushed my body--to dance, to stretch, to keep going no matter what.

It’s taken me a very long time to understand that there is a whole other aspect of living that cannot be comprehended in the drive mode. Sitting zazen (meditation) certainly makes it clear, injuries make it clear, mistakes make it clear. Tasting creativity pulls me toward that aspect. In Feldenkrais practice there are these oft repeated messages:  Do less. Find a way to do it without strain. Let go of effort. Try it and see. And then after a series of strange movements:  Leave it alone and rest!

Oh, that.

The confusion comes when I’m doing something important, and something in me tells me it can’t be done or it is wrong or something like that. I then feel fear that I won’t be able to do it, so I start to push. But I don’t have the energy and I feel resistance, so I push harder, drink coffee, can’t sleep, have less energy, drink more coffee, don’t feel what I want to feel, push harder… You get the idea. It's a cycle.

Rehearsals for Fountain of Oldth have been alive and interesting. But when we decided to have an open rehearsal it became all about transitions and cues, ‘running through’ the whole show, getting feedback. It felt wrong to me, and that’s when I started pushing. The open rehearsal wasn’t a big failure or anything but it triggered a pretty serious relapse of chronic insomnia. And that’s when I remembered this. Rest. Listen. Follow the thing that matters, not just the thing that calls out most loudly for attention.

I'm doing my best to keep up with letter writing, petition signing, protesting with community, but I also want to bring attention to the deeper things, the things that made all this happen, like misogyny in the form of contempt for vulnerability. I want to stand up for vulnerability in all its forms--getting old, being a woman, being disabled, being poor. And that doesn’t just mean fighting for rights. It also means breathing into that soft underbelly and listening to the birds, for example, or really taking in the sight of the bright new buds sprouting everywhere now.

And then, sprout. 
 
 
 

 

Tuesday
Jun022015

Yes, Doctor. May I see your computer?

It started out well enough.  The pain specialist in the spine department--let's call him Dim--was friendly and respectful, and did a quick and gentle exam of my neck.  Then he brought me into his office, offered a seat while he communicated with his computer as he complained that electronic medical records were ruining his practice.  I sympathized; he continued on about how this keeps him up at night, then asked me many questions that had nothing to do with my neck, presumably required by the machine he was facing.

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Thursday
Jan152015

Zen Retreat Redux: Sit. Stay.  

I didn't see it coming.  

Unlike the high drama and torture of last year, this zen retreat was relatively uneventful, which is to say it was a veritable cauldron of long-forgotten demons, physical pain, boredom, and large helpings of bliss.   Nothing special.  So, when I came home I was surprised to discover vast swaths of freedom in my life where previously there were tiny little congested closets.

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Tuesday
Sep092014

Failure and Freedom

Lisa AltomareFinally, the clown took stock, gathered herself, and delivered the message to the teacher:  fuck you.

I gasped, then exhaled to partake in the laughter.  "More of that," said the teacher, and the clown delivered:  "FUCK YOUUU!!"...middle finger in full salute, body crouched, shaking with rage and pride, she expressed the truth of her experience, and it was absolutely hilarious.

It was the first day of the weekend workshop with Caroline Dream, master clown teacher, and we were playing games.Caroline, with class 

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Monday
Sep012014

PsychoZen of Clown

Nightmare, Brick Theatre, January 2013Why is it that I love clowns so thoroughly and yet so many of my friends tell me they fear and loathe them?   Ok, I understand that they look ridiculous, do silly things, and sometimes embarrass the audience, but scary??  loathsome??? 

Lumping all the clowns together for now (even if they don’t like each other’s company), I include circus clowns, theatrical clowns, tricksters and jokers, court jesters with surprising insights, various imbeciles, happy-birthday-party clowns, bouffons, and provocative wise fools.   All these characters have a way of breaking the rules that we so carefully follow. 

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Monday
Feb042013

Breaking Bread with the Crips

A packed house, a teen nightmare, a sweet story of communion, and a deeply offensive work of not-art.   

Not by Bread Alone features a troupe of deaf blind 'actors' ladling out friendly vaudevillian vignettes that feature pantomime, supertitles, and kinesthetic sign language.  Also, they are baking bread.  We learn that the deaf and blind "have dreams, too," dreams of love and marriage, and dreams of having hair done by a super duper stylist.  Just like us.   

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Wednesday
Jul042012

Shining Shit

How can something that has never been soiled be cleaned? asked the teacher when a monk requested the job of Sanitation Officer.  When the monk presented his answer, the teacher hit him, the monk broke into a sweat and stepped into enlightenment.  In gratitude, he diligently cleaned the toilets in the monastery for 10,000 years.  I suppose he was cleaning what was not soiled.  Was his shit shining?  Steaming and oh, so luminous?

We humans are very interested in cleaning soiled things.  We sanitize, kill our bacteria, hide our homeless, cleanse our ethnics, and defeat our dictators.  Striving for purity, we

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Thursday
Jun072012

Crips on the Subway

Updated on Friday, June 8, 2012 at 4:33PM by Registered CommenterElena Taurke

My hips were already hurting as I was standing on the platform.   I could almost feel the relief of the seat as I waited for the train…and waited…and… the desire intensified with the growing awareness of the delay, the imagined relief intensifying the pain.  

By the time the train pulled in, a crowd had gathered and I was terrified of the competition for seats.   Naturally, there was exactly one seat in the car and the woman who pushed her way past me got it.    In agony, I pondered:  Was she disabled?  My hips don't have a big sign on them and I'm not carrying any supports like crutches.  Do I say something?  What if she is mentally disabled and doesn't understand the subway protocol?   If she gets angry and accuses me, do I understand her as limited or mean?  What's the difference?  Who deserves what?

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