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 Healing (18)

Tuesday
Jan292019

You Be You

Last Sunday I gave a dharma talk* at the Village Zendo on the matter of becoming yourself. Like many Zen practices, it's an absurd and paradoxical goal. You already are who you really are, and yet things get complicated by the mind. 

The previous weekend we had a panel discussion with two Black Zen teachers who talked about how it is to be the only Black person in a community, how it is to deal with racist projections and expectations. James Lynch spoke of the importance of caring for yourself, not defining yourself by how others see you. And Malik Hokyu talked about confronting the objectifications that arise, how hard it is to locate their source. 

For the most part, Zen practice focuses on clearing away the delusion of a separate self, and there is no doubt that the more we sit the more we can drop our dependence on identity. But when we see each other, we see the marks of identity: skin color, gender expression, clothing or hairdo, disability if visible, body type and so on. Our minds are built to categorize and predict, so it is impossible to eliminate the expectations and judgement that shape the way we interact with each other. 

When you are a person who is marked as different from others, the usual process of forming an identity gets tangled; what gets reflected may not feel true. When I was growing up, moving from army base to army base, there were no other Russian disabled kids. I felt like a misfit, and so I struggled to imitate the customs in each place. Only in the woods by myself could I feel alive and genuinely connected. By high school I figured out how to construct an identity as a quirky drama girl that allowed me to behave in odd ways and still be popular. People saw in me what I wanted them to see. 

But this sort of thing initiates a split between who we feel ourselves to be and how we are perceived by others. and that split drives us to Zen, or psychotherapy, or destructive acting out. The bad news is that healing the split actually requires meeting the aspect of self that we try to cover. 

For me, that is weakness. My disabilities are serious but not visible. I've figured out how I can adapt movement so that I can dance, adapted my household so that I can eat (hint: don't bring me a jar unless you will open it for me), adapted my personality so that I see myself as a hero not a victim. But underneath there is still an aspect that is the toddler who can't walk, the kid who can't keep up, the adult who gets tangled up trying to get an item out of my pocket without a wrist to bend. And that aspect feels shameful because I have learned that it is better to cover it. 

Fortunately or unfortunately life always serves up what I reject. This year I've developed a quaver in my voice, something sticky in my throat or diaphragm. I believe it reads as fear, which is not ok at all, right? The more I try to control it the more prominent it gets. So the good news is that I have no choice but to embrace the fear, and fear of fear. I breathe, do what I do as I am, notice how people respond, sometimes say something about it, watch it come and go. 

It doesn't seem like good news when something comes up to challenge our identity. But actually taking down who we think we are or who others think we are, over and over again, is what makes us grow, and even to become fearless. That's the paradox. Rejecting nothing, including everything, that's how you can be who you really are. 

After I wrote this, I listened to an On Being podcast having to do with just this, exposing what we are taught to be ashamed about. So, for me it's whatever a vocal quaver indicates, but it could be anything. What would our culture look like if we all had the courage to out our true selves? 

*The Dharma talk has a slightly different focus, on the matter of being alone.

January 2019

 

 

 

Sunday
Dec242017

Why I Love the Solstice!

Let me count the ways!

1. It's my birthday.

Enough? It seems like everyone is catching on nowadays. See this nice piece by Taylor Plimpton, for example. I can remember the moment, almost 20 years ago now, when the major depression that felled me every "Happy Holiday" lifted for good. I was on a retreat with Shefa Gold, and she spoke of the clarity of the light within the dark, the contraction before the expansion. Once I welcomed the dark, I could notice the real sparks, not just the tinsel. 

Since then I have loved this time. I give myself permission to do little, to sort through Things To Do and drop as many as possible, to simplify gift giving, and skip festivities whenever possible. And this year I chose to be alone, to feel my life, and it was wonderful. Without having to speak, I was able simply to receive.

That's enough language. Enjoy!

 

December 2017

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

 

Monday
Aug012016

The Main Point, or, a Few Ignoble Truths

You may have noticed that I've been gone a while.  I've been busy doing nothing.  What happened is that I had a pretty good idea and I started to write, but then it went sideways and I had a hundred more ideas, and they led to a hundred more, so I started jotting everything down, and it was all connected, so I couldn't finish it, or, rather, them.  I suffered. 

So I decided to step back and remember the main point.  

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Monday
Sep072015

Really Undoing Racism

The parade of slayings and obscene statistics have finally yanked our attention to the crime of racism in America.  Eyes open, horrified and heartbroken, we march and protest.  "Black Lives Matter!" chant Whites and Blacks together, coming together to rise up and defeat the oppressor, or at least get him to put a camera on.  

Several months ago, during a formal conversation on healing racism, a zen teacher--Kodo Sensei, the first Black woman to receive dharma transmission, asked a question that sounded to me like "What's in it for White People?"   The question spun itself around in my guts like a sharply angled koan.

For one thing, White people want

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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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Tuesday
Jul292014

Seeing Kara Walker's Subtlety

A brilliant and articulate volunteer guides us through interpretations of “A Subtlety, or The Marvelous Sugar Baby" and the public reaction.  I hope you can forgive the limits of the iphone4.  As a friend and collaborator says often, the best camera is the one you have on hand.  I just had to share what I learned from this installation, all melted and destroyed now, at the former Domino Sugar Factory in Brooklyn.  

Friday
Apr192013

The Bomb, the Family, and the Fundamental Attribution Error

I'm glad he's ok."  "What a relief!"  "So glad your family escaped the horror."    Photo by Aaron "tango" Tang, courtesy of Creative Commons

Finishing the Boston Marathon 50 minutes before the blast, my ex-husband and father of my beloved child was well clear of the bomb that killed three, seriously injured many, and scared the crap out of a whole bunch more.  Trauma proliferated as we shook our heads and huddled with our families.  Thank G-d it wasn't us.

 But it was.  

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Tuesday
Nov062012

Hurricane Hits: The Movie

Struck by the juxtapostion of gigantic problems and tiny but important personal problems, I made this offering.   For New York City, October 2012.  

 

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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