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 Feminism (18)

Tuesday
Oct312017

Conversation

I used to say that I was on a mission to shift perspectives through art and conversation, but then I realized that I can’t stand conversation. The older I get the less obligated I feel to participate in what seems to be artifice meeting artifice. Even in ‘talkbacks’ that supposedly encourage audiences to process what they have witnessed, all I hear is people trying to be clever or praising things that actually could have used a little bit more of this or that.

Recently I heard the great Zen master Norman Fisher give a talk about friendship, and it was very powerful and encouraging, and of course he was talking about speaking from the heart, so I asked him: 

"Hey, it’s all well and good to speak from the heart when those are the rules of the game, for example in council practice (no crosstalk etc), but what about chatting? Chatting is all about breaking the precepts," I argued.  "We split people into good and bad, elevate some, dismiss or mock others; we forget to bear witness, give inappropriate advice right and left; we pretend we are doing better than we are; and so on and so on on."

And he said: "You follow the precepts."  And I said:  "Oh. Right."

I was doing exactly what I was complaining about. I was blaming conversation itself when I could have been changing its nature by attending to my own sense of morality.  Since then, I’ve been trying but it isn’t easy.  I really prefer a structure that gives permission via restriction.  Almost anything shakes up a bad habit.  In Fountain of Oldth, improvisational structure led to truth and communion, every now and then.

Friday
Oct202017

Weinstein's World

What don't you see?

We all live in Hollyworld, even Weinstein.  For sure, the man was wrong to abuse his power, to use beautiful women to address whatever deep dissatisfaction he couldn’t live with.  And I am heartened to see women coming out about their experiences, but just as we don’t fix hatred by killing off Trump, we don’t fix misogyny by getting rid of Weinstein.

Click to read more ...

Tuesday
Oct032017

10,000 Regrets

Note that searching for "regret" images produces pictures of happy people accompanied by corny slogans about "no regret," and this.There is a poem written by Zen Master Mumon:

Not falling, not ignoring;
Odd and even are on one die.
Not ignoring, not falling:
Hundreds and thousands of regrets!

I am starting to write about the importance of old women standing up for themselves because I am not ready to be sacrificed and I don’t think it will improve things. Nor do I think much good comes of chronic guilt. White guilt causes blindness. Mother guilt, along with sacrifice, causes defense and anger. 

And yet my regrets are many. It is with relief that I confess with the community at this time of year. We acknowledge that to be human is to err, to do harm, again and again, even as we love, attempt to repair, attempt to do better.  

I regret the times that I couldn’t soothe my daughter, that I ran away in my socks, that I fell apart during the divorce, that I fled my body. I regret the times that I attacked my mother, that I belittled and blamed her, that I failed to understand. I regret the times I wasted time and the times I rushed through time. And so much more. 

Not ignoring.  Not falling.  Survival is my answer to the koan.  

October 2017

Tuesday
Oct032017

The Sacrifice

Humans of New YorkAnd in conclusion, appreciate your mother.

I’ve been trying to write this post for years, and as the evidence accumulates I feel less and less articulate.  Trump’s little gif, manipulated to appear that he had smacked Hillary with a golf ball, emerged around the same time that a pharma exec offered a $5000 bounty for a strand of Hillary’s hair. Contemplating such things, my eyelid twitches and I want to vomit or curl up and go away. But that's what they want, so I'm staying put.

I’ve written about becoming invisible when I crossed the 50-year mark, but then something even weirder started to happen. Young men who couldn’t ignore me started to hate me. An actor I rehearsed with called me controlling and told me to shut up. Another sent an email to say “Fuck you!”  Believe me, I was much nastier as a younger woman but such insults were absent.  

As the young men delivered venom, my teenaged daughter delivered contempt. It was nothing personal, just the way daughters separate nowadays. How else do you distinguish yourself from a disrespected elder? Better to be up than down. While this was happening, I saw other mothers suffering, humiliated, but saying nothing because, after all, we want our daughters to be strong, to stand up for themselves. As is my way, I started conversations with many mothers who had survived the teen years--with nurses as they were drawing my blood, with divorce attorneys as we were discussing terms, and often I would hear:  “I nearly died.”  There were stories of being hospitalized, losing hair, retreating to the comfort of this or that substance, and by the way, this is all often happening while being replaced by younger women either at work or at love or both.  

How do you think that feels?

What are the long term consequences of sacrificing my generation of women? Who benefits?

Fountain of Oldth was a conversation between older and younger women, and we put this dilemma right on the slab. How can older women support younger women when they are being obliterated?  How can younger women truly grow into their strength without models?  

When Hillary C was interviewed for Humans of New York, she told a story about men yelling at her when she was taking a law school entrance exam. Here is a glimpse of the Fountain of Oldth riff.  I haven't figured out how to make a gif yet though I have learned how to pronounce it.

Yes, I did figure it out.  Do you like it this way?

via GIPHY

We have a long way to go, baby.  

October 2017

Monday
Sep042017

The Other Narrative: Pretty women...

my mom, so prettyAt the close of a zen retreat, we have a practice called Open Sozan, which means that after a week of silence, people take turns speaking from the heart. It's almost always hilarious and touching. Gratitude spills over onto everything and there is a sort of sleep deprived giddiness that feels like bliss.  

After the Open Sozan this year Roshi commented that it was interesting which narratives were selected to be given voice. Indeed. Because I certainly had been wrestling with a demon with whom I am quite intimate--the pretty woman. As I've mentioned, I come from a long line of beauties and I am not one. Please don't pity me or compliment me. It's a good practice.  

The thing is that our Shuso (senior student practice leader) is gorgeous, really beautiful in that simple and elegant way that is completely unattainable for many of us. She is also really kind in a humble and elegant way that is disarming. So my hatred couldn't find any traction. And then, during her first Dharma talk, she proceeded to knock it out of the park, abandoning preparation and facing the moment honestly and boldly.  

What I realized after all this is that her complete and beautiful manifestation of herself takes absolutely nothing from me. In fact, I feel more free to express my own thing now. Why is this different from what I felt with my matriarchs?  Well, Shuso isn't there to approve or disapprove.  I don't need to measure myself against her. And we can co-exist, supporting each other. I don't blame my matriarchs, mind you, it's just a big set up.  

 

Photos (c) A. Jesse Jiryu DavisThat is all.  Thank you, Shuso.

 

September 5, 2017

 

Monday
Jun192017

Fountain of Oldth

This happened.  It was my first experience creating and directing and producing my own work. I will write about it soon.   

Thursday
Mar232017

Understanding Trump? Running Amok

Image by Liz West“Can he help himself?” a client asked.

There is an idea out there that because Trump has malignant narcissistic personality disorder, he is not fit for office.  Without a doubt the man has narcissistic personality disorder, but don't you think most titans of capitalism are similarly afflicted?  Are they not grandiose, entitled, arrogant, driven to dominate and inflate their status?  Do they not lack empathy?  Are they not interpersonally exploitative?   

But using a mental illness paradigm to describe the ugliest aspects of human nature undermines the purpose of mental medicine.  A diagnosis should be a heuristic label, a summary that suggests a treatment, so the use of a diagnosis as an insult impedes the healing of mental illness every time.  If we find a narcissistic quality in ourselves and insult ourselves about it, narcissism defends itself and gets worse.

What to do about narcissism varies according to what theory you prefer.  Some say the narcissist has never been truly heard, never understood from the inside, so their needs for external affirmation are insatiable.  Some say the narcissist suffers from a lack of limits.  Usually relationships provide an ample supply of limits, because people are actually limited.  Unfortunately, some situations trump normal limit setting.  For example, great wealth.  For example, being a white male in a culture that disproportionately empowers and values the white male.  For example, (not quite on the point of Trump, but still…) having mothers who believe their own needs are not important.

As I was working this out, I said aloud in conversation that Trump hadn’t been properly limited and a person trying to be open minded blurted out:  "You don’t know that!"  This phrase has caught on in the Zen community.  Of course we want to encourage don’t know mind, but I don’t need evidence from childhood to know that Trump has not been limited.  All the evidence is in what he has acquired. No one stopped him.  Our culture praised and admired him.

And the same could be said for all the people who acquired great wealth at the expense of the poor and vulnerable who could not stop them, and who were entirely supported by our greed-admiring culture and the government bodies that greed has purchased.

So let’s shift focus from Trump the man to Trump the Running Amok of Greed, Anger, and Ignorance.  I understand what greed feels like, but I've been stopped from sucking up resources that don't belong to me.  I understand what anger feels like, but I also experience love and respect, which stop me from doing great harm.  I understand that I am ignorant and so I encourage myself to learn from those who know what I don't.  

Let me be clear.  We can't heal Trump the man but we can stop Running Amok.  Reckon, Refuse, and Respond. Repeat.  

Tuesday
Mar212017

Linda: The Nagging Crone

I walk around oozing questions about aging, beauty, and power, so people around me respond and make suggestions.  One wise woman told me to see Linda at the Manhattan Theatre Club, so I did.  

The play opens with an extremely pretty woman, Linda, claiming to be 58, making a presentation to a cosmetics company for a product called Visibility.  Inwardly I roared in response.  Hear Hear!  Or, rather, See See.  This unasked-for invisibility is a major theme that I and my actors are playing with.

Click to read more ...

Monday
Jan232017

Reckon. Refuse. Respond.

What we thought was reality is not reality.  What we thought was a nightmare is actually reality.  

But, what is it?  Is it the man, Trump, who caused misogyny and xenophobia?  If so, we are merely victims.  Better to understand what his rise to power tells us about human tendencies and structures.  

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Thursday
Nov172016

Reckoning

I've written and dumped a few blog posts since It happened.  Oddly, I started with Reasons for Hope, then hope gave way to lament, so I parked hope and wrote First, Lament, but by the next day the fever had subsided and I felt empty, so I wrote nothing.  Nothing spawned new layers of understanding, and then more confusion, and then a sense of community, because actually we are all fucking confused, and maybe that's a good place to start.  

Click to read more ...