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 (28)

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, but I don't really agree with the suggested repairs. For example, Daenerys goes from a valiant warrior for justice with a bit of a temper problem but learning from her mistakes to a vengeful unstoppable madwoman within minutes. Ok, those minutes involved seeing her best friend beheaded, and yes, she had a history of significant trauma (as do they all, actually), so it is plausible as a deadly trigger. However, even a full-on rage attack has a lifespan. To bomb the entire city of innocent citizens served no purpose either strategically or psychologically. 

No, but it served the story. It allowed her and Serse, the other vengeful despot, to be destroyed. By the way, the suggestion for repair involved having her learn from her mistakes, then make the tough choice to destroy all magic, including her beloved John who was only alive because of it. The same critic would have also featured Jaime's moral development. Jamie, for those who will never watch the show, is the dude who pushed a boy out of a window rather than be caught having sex with his sister whom he later raped and then chose to die with. I'm a psychologist so I'm skeptical that either one can be redeemed, certainly not without at least 20 boring episodes of psychoanalysis.

So let's look at the broad strokes. Two powerful vengeful women dead. Of the honorable Stark family, one big sister (Sansa), who has learned to hide her power and manipulate, leaves the capital to be Queen of her own realm. The younger sister, who has become a great warrior, also leaves to pursue the unknown. Good for her! but note that there is no room for her in the civilized world. Toughie Brianne is abandoned by the man she loved and now gets to function like a man on the council. Most of the other women were either killed or their story lines were just dropped. oops, I guess it wasn't important.

By the way, speaking of honor, one hero defines it thus: "A man of honor serves his King even if he is a drunkard, liar or mad." And actually, some of our heroes challenge the rules of honor. Arya disobeys an order to kill someone she values. John can't kill a wildling woman. (Wildlings stand for the rejected outsiders in this show, though they are all white.) And I do think this is another value of the show. Unlike the obedient Republicans, we need to be able to see through what a despot commands, and disobey. 

I would take it a lot further though. A. lot. further. Let's look at the last scenes. Daenerys and John cancel each other out and so we are left with a council of nobles who have no problem 'voting' for Brandon Stark as ruler of the realm. Brandon is the youngest of the Starks, the one who lost the use of his legs, the one who spent most of the time while everyone else was fighting living in the past with his eyes rolled up in his head. What has he learned from his daydreaming? We don't know. He's barely eighteen. Have you ever dealt with a teen boy? Would you want him to rule the Seven Kingdoms? We don't even know if he can pay attention to the basics. He didn't even develop his upper arm strength, just expected others to push him around. Didn't even thank them much. Sound familiar? 

Then it gets worse. Directors seem to love to give us jokey talking as a relief from tense drama, but actually it's in the jokes that the truth is revealed. At almost the last scene we are treated to an affectionate council meeting in which there is playful banter about whether funds should go toward building defenses or repairing the brothels. heh heh, I know where my money would go, heh heh

Many women were offended by the naked sex workers as well as the onscreen rapes and other brutality. But the brutality felt like brutality; the sex work was never challenged. The prostitutes were usually laughing, horny as hell, and seemed to love their work, as if they had chosen it. But they didn't. They had no choice. They were slaves. They never expressed resentment about their bondage. They didn't get to be any kind of hero. They were never liberated. They were never even noticed. After a while they became background. We watched the men have conversations while naked women sat on their laps.

And so this penultimate scene is what I found to be most distressing, disgusting, and in need of calling out. If you show us many wrong things that meet their consequence yet continue to show the happy enslavement of women then you are a slave trader, a user of women without their consent. This is what we need to question, just as we need to question the received ideas about beauty and the matter of the electibility of women. 

Game of Thrones is a world we can step out of in order to see alternative possibilites. Let's use it to repair our own. 

May 2019

 

 

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.

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