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 (31)

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

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:

 

 

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

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