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 (24)

Friday
Nov022018

Rapunzel, 40 years later

Well, folks, here's a sloppy but fun little cut of my improvisation at the Barrow Group. I cut the nine minute piece to three and a half, taking liberties with speed and audio, but I think you'll get the jist.

Can Rapunzel break free of the patriarchy? 

For those of you wondering why I missed the summer Zen retreat, it was for this. :/ 

 

Thursday
Nov012018

Something about anger

I have to start somewhere. Next Thursday (November 8th), following the midterm elections, I'll give a talk on kabillion year-old rage, intense female sexuality, and love. Might as well start with something about anger.

Last month, following the Kavanaugh hearings, our Zen community met for council practice and someone told a story that featured million-year-old rage. That sparked a flame around the circle and so we burned, kabillion-year-old rage fueled by memories of abuse, oppression, shame, helplessness, terror. Even if we can't remember what happened 10,000 years ago, our bodies howl in response to today's injury.

A line from a koan: When the dragon howls, clouds moving over the caves grow dark.

Clouds respond. Humans respond. When I asked Roshi whether Trump is the howling dragon, she said he is the tail. How can we respond effectively to the war he is cultivating? 

It is said (on bumper stickers) that if you aren't outraged you aren't paying attention. Ok, but Kavanaugh was outraged too and now all the troops are out on both sides. This country is built on the idea that adversaries will arrive at truth. How's that working? The courts are wasting time proving technicalities instead of repairing, congress is a bloody mess with fangs and ruptured jugulars, and the populace is ever-ready to bend the truth to the victor.

Is it possible to live in peace with all this? Some would bypass it, live in some kind of dissociated equanimity, but I strive to include everything, including anger.

Buddhist advice on anger ranges from the fundamentalist--cease from anger, to the aspirational--be kind, think loving thoughts about your mother, to the psychological--hold the anger like a baby or inquire into it (see for example, Thich Nhat Hanh or Ezra Bayda). 

In my work as a psychologist and in my own life, I understand feelings as being comprised of sensation, thought, and action tendency.

Anger is felt differently by people depending on what they experienced--their own anger or anger they witnessed. My own is nearly indistinguishable from fear because I grew up with disabilities that prevented me from ever winning a fight. Many women experience a mix of anger, fear, or sadness, and almost everyone experiences tension when trying not to act out. Of all the feelings, anger has the strongest action tendency that is forbidden. Well, it used to be forbidden; now it is stoked by our president.

What to do!? 

When we sit in meditation, the urge to punish can fall away, leaving clarity and determination. Fear can rise and fall, informing effective protection. The flow of sadness can open our hearts, giving us inspiration and fortitude to have conversations with those who differ from us. And maybe tension can ease as we accept the variety of experience. And then we act. We respond.

Please don't check out. Take care of yourself and those you love, have some fun, eat some food, get some sleep, and then act. Donate to someone, help get out the vote, go to a march, have a good conversation with someone on the other side. Take heart in impermanence and the certainty that every breath, every thought, every glance, every word affects the outcome. 

Next up, emergent strategy and intense female sexual desire, a response to Musho's talk: "Intense male sexual desire." 

October 2018

 

Thursday
Sep272018

Goodbye Patriarchy, Hello Whatever

I'm writing on the morning of The Woman's testimony for the Kavanaugh hearings. Terrified for Dr. Blasey as she faces the "female assistant" who will torment her on behalf of the squad of Republican men, I am ready for the world as we know it to fall apart. 

My own patriarchal world has been disintegrating. At some point in adulthood I faced the inevitable disappointment: Daddy doesn't get me. I love him anyway, though, and wish him well. But as anyone who has been in therapy knows, knowing who your real father is doesn't eliminate the introject. Subtly I've been constructing myself for the male gaze all my life and checking myself in his mirror. Recently I broke up with a man on whom I placed all my longing to be seen and appreciated and loved. Naturally he couldn't do it. He was busy wanting all that from me, not to mention trying to help and teach me. The more he helped the weaker I felt. 

When I extricated myself I was shattered, grieving and terrified that no man would ever love me as I am, forgetting that love is available elsewhere. Weeks later I am on the solid ground of groundless experience, free to be a subject instead of an object. In Fountain of Oldth, I featured the stories of women who were freed by the invisibility of old age, but I guess I didn't want to be free yet, didn't want to be an outcast from the patriarchy, thought I could be a player. 

Women are losers in this game but we don't want to see it. Layers and layers of adaptation, like deformities, create new structures. A woman I work with told me her martyred mother was deeply passive aggressive. Is there any martyred woman who isn't? When we don't have direct power, we take it where we can. Pretty women are not aware of the power of beauty until it fades, and they ride that crest believing that things are available because of their merits. Old women, desperate to recover what they lost, carve up their faces or freeze them, but men still prefer the 35-year olds. Such is heterosexual normative life in the patriarchy. If you are a man reading this, please know that I do not blame you. I know that patriarchy has hobbled you too but this post is not for you. 

What happens if women themselves turn away from the centrality of men? Women can love women; many of us are fluid and can define beauty according to what actually exists. Women can run for office, not just vote for some old man who says the right things sometimes. We can stop trying to convince men to see us or hear us and just do what needs to be done.

What needs to be done? Please. Do whatever feels most important to you. Read Rebecca Traister on the rage of women and revolution. Listen to Gaelyn Roshi's excellent talk at the Zendo: speaking the truth is more important right now than trying to be polite about it. Question your conditioning. Question everything. It's a new world.

September 2018

 

Thursday
Aug022018

Fountain of Oldth: On Beauty and Age

Here is an extract of our PsychoZen Play, Fountain of Oldth. Older and younger women ponder beauty and confront a boast: "I have always been a great beauty." What happens when you say it? 

Last month, I sent the video to the cast of the show. You can enjoy their comments below, and add your own to help me continue editing and culling. 

July 2018

 

Friday
Dec012017

How old are you?

Crones tell it like it is, in about a minute.  with Ara Fitzgerald, Nancy LeRoy, ReW Starr, Elena TaJo.   

 

November 2017

 

Monday
Nov272017

A Dangerous 'Me Too'

Me too. 

Is he a villain?The revelations have prompted a potent and welcome challenge to the patriarchy. It's time for men to take responsiblity for mis-use of power, for sexualizing professional exchanges, for crossing of boundaries, and for just generally acting entitled to take what they want. It's time for men to claim their emotional life

But they can't do it alone. Women have been colluding in the patriarchy all along, and it's time to stop. Bell Hooks calls out mothers who reinforce gender norms, is disappointed when they give up and buy the guns. But mothers can't do it alone. I know from experience how it is to go against the prevailing culture. It's damn lonely, you make mistakes, and the kids won't thank you.  

As Pema Chodron says, Start Where you Are, by acknowledging what we do. Weinstein claimed he was playing by an earlier set of rules. I have perpetuated the patriarchy by playing by those rules. I have said no when I meant yes and said yes when I didn't know what I wanted or how to trust myself. There were times I would have gladly volunteered for the casting couch, not just to get the job but also because playing with power can be fun. 

Boundaries and power are confusing to navigate. Once, I jumped into someone’s arms and they considered it a violation and cut off contact forever. Clearly I mistook friendliness for permission to play. Once, I flirted with a young man whom I was employing. Did he think he had to flirt back to keep the job? Probably I underestimated my power. More than once, I made sexual innuendos in public settings. Possibly people were uncomfortable but felt even less comfortable saying so.

Someone I know has been sexually harrassed. Someone I know has been accused of sexual harassment. Both situations are saturated with trauma. Each situation has a particular configuration of variables whose combination and intensity differentiates a mistake from a crime.

To stop these tragedies, we need to go beyond casting out villains and learn a new civility, learn how to talk about power dynamics, boundaries, and consent. Start here. 

November 2017

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