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 Outsider (14)

Tuesday
Apr302019

Taking the Poison

Joanna Macy: Ever Widening CirclesYou know how when the jackhammer stops you realize how much your body was participating? It stops, I relax, relieved, now I can write. But then it starts back up again and, oh the pain, can I write through it, with it? It doesn't do any good to try to feel what I felt when it stopped; it just adds a layer of frustration. It doesn't do any good to pretend I don't hear it; that adds a layer of tension and dishonesty. When I'm pretending I'm not noticing, and then there is no flow. Writing about it, on the other hand releases me to make connections, thus:

Some of us want to leave the country. It's just too much. The oligarchs seem to have all the resources, the patriarchy is entrenched, the good don't win, the earth is wailing as we gang rape her. New Zealand looks so much better from here. But recently I listened to a podcast with the very old and very wise Joanna Macy in which she drew inspiration from Rilke as she faced difficulty. Some words from a sonnet to Orpheus:

Let this darkness be a bell tower and you the bell.
As you ring, what batters you becomes your strength.
Move back and forth into the change.
What's it like, this intensity of pain?
If the drink is bitter turn yourself to wine.
In this uncontainable night
be the mystery at the crossroads of your senses

Macy talked about what we do if a dear child or our mother is dying. If we love we stay, we try to stay, we don't avoid the pain, and neither should we love the earth less because we fear it to be unhealthy, or even our democracy. Even that. Or our poisonous culture.

I love to say I don't watch TV, don't have a TV, but that requires that I mildly pretend to myself that I am immune from formula, from a hunger for suspense, for romance, for good guys triumphing over the bad, and it is nearly always guys. Looking for a new show to binge, my friend recommended Rectify, and so I watched the whole 20-plus hours, watched the wronged white guy get supported by his family, his black friends who held no resentment for his comparative freedom, and countless lovely women who were smitten by his awesome depth and fascinating awkwardness. Yeah, because I fell for guys like that, wasted a lot of time projecting my own qualities onto them and then trying to obtain them by getting them to love me. It doesn't do any good to try not to do that. I can only ring the bell of pain. And as I do that I hear my voice, and there, I'm free because I already have what I want. 

Now I'm working on understanding Game of Thrones. So far the best part is that instead of checking phones, they have to wait for ravens to deliver news from other realms. What seems problematic are the gorgeous happy naked whores being trained by men to pleasure men (someone tell me they fix this in the next 20 hours!), the equation of honor with blood lineage, the constant butchery and treachery in the name of revenge and justice, and of course the damnable disproportionate screentime for men. If we don't see it, we can't interact with it at all. There are virtually no non-pretty powerful women anywhere in film or TV. Behold the first two lines of the cast page:

70% male

The whole page has 19 women, all beautiful, and 31 men, many old or fat or strange looking. Actually I'm remembering that there is an old woman who played a maid, but she is not included in this cast page. Anyway, seeing this line-up activates the not-enough software installed by the symbiotic glamour industry. I feel mad, gloomy, anxious, want to get highlights, want to disappear. Move back and forth into the change. I am still here, existing as I am, as are the beautiful women around me who don't look like the Hollywood ideal. If I keep showing my face as it is that isn't nothing. It is an intervention. I turn myself to wine. And maybe get some highlights? 

Joanna Macy and others have noted that even as our country is being devoured by the forces of greed there are many communities growing out of a different model, one that acknowledges interconnection and strives for justice and the true equality of appreciating difference. We can ground our attention there while we partake in the poisons. We can notice our breath as we feel jerked around by the unceasing demands to look, to buy, to one-up the other customers. I am a customer, yes, but I am also the mystery at the crossroads of my senses. Thank you, Ms. Macy and Mr. Rilke.

 

April 2019

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

Tuesday
Feb242015

Rise up, Old Woman!

Julianne, photo by Nicolas Genin"Well, she is more contemporary," the young lady clarified when I looked mystified. We were at a networking event for filmmakers and actors, and I had boldly raised my objection to the disappearance of older women.  She responded by kindly offering hope that things were changing, and presented Julianne Moore as an example of an aging star.  Thinking hard, she filled out her list of two by including an actress in her 30s.

Her 30s.

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Thursday
Jun142012

I am I: A Tribute to Margaret Cho


Inspired by Cho's gestures, energy, and mission, a group of dancers celebrate human diversity in all its splendid manifestations.  

Conceived and Choreographed by Irene Ruiz-Riveros
Video Directed and Edited by Elena TaJo
Music by Steve Elson

I am I: A Tribute to Margaret Cho screened in June of 2010 at Anthology Film Archives as part of an excellent series curated by New York Women in Film and Television.  Running time 5:37 minutes
 

Wednesday
Jun132012

An Oasis of Peace

Wahat al-Salam Neve ShalomWahat al-Salam in Arabic. Neve Shalom in Hebrew.   Oasis of Peace.  The name evokes both longing and sadness. Just an oasis?   In a human desert of outright wars and subtle destructions of the spirit, there is a place where people from opposing sides of what is arguably the most difficult conflict on earth choose to live in peace.

I wanted to visit this place because I am a very jaded psychologist--an optimist disappointed with the failure of ideals

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Saturday
Jun092012

Gay Pride, Woman Shame

Along with so many others, I cheered for New York State last weekend--for our Governor who showed courage and resolve, for all the beautiful people who could now marry their beloved.  At the Gay Pride Parade on Sunday, we were all bubbling in a soup of triumph and ecstasy.  Most of you know that several years ago I decided to divorce my heterosexual spouse because the unfairness of the whole thing, especially the "Defense of Marriage Act," was unbearable. 

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Wednesday
Jun062012

How to Change the World, Justina

Updated on Friday, June 8, 2012 at 4:40PM by Registered CommenterElena Taurke

One morning on the way to Ballet class, I hear the news that Black Americans are moving away from northern urban areas toward the South and into the suburbs.  This interests me for what it will mean for diversity, so I remember it.  

As we chitchat before class, Justina, a young Black woman just returned from a family visit to Tennessee, comments:  "The South never changes."   I argue briefly and then ponder her comment for the remainder of class.  (You can blame all my mistakes on that!)   When class is over I ask her what she meant.  A graduate student in Social Psychology, she is frustrated by entrenched patterns:  expectations shape behavior, behavior reinforces expectations, and the cycle perpetuates itself.   Indeed, I agree.   Except here she is, an exception.

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Monday
Jun042012

Crutch Master

Gales of laughter in the bus as he gets the first reaction--people on the street in some kind of shock and awe at a man using crutches to skateboard through the streets of New York.   He is known as the Crutch Master, and the mastery is evident and spectacular.   We are in the bus as the audience to his performance.  Hooked up to cameras, a DJ, and a major sound system, it feels like a combination of a hip dance party and a sting operation. "Wall Stall" Shannon Technique 2010 

So we are in the bus to watch the watchers.   We desperately want to see people on the street react to our Crutch Master.  We want their "Huh?"  We want to see them dislodged from their complacency.   We are hungry for it.    Many of us standing, craning necks from window to monitor display, aching to see a bystander get shook up.  Crutch Master is doing his best to deliver.  Here he is bumming a cigarette from a Wall Street Trader.  There he goes doing a jig for a tourist bus.  We see the people try to resist, turn their backs, shake their heads.  In the bus, we are cracking up, laughing forcefully at how people try to just keep going, how they can't recognize a true phenomenon, how they miss what is right before their eyes.  

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Sunday
Jun032012

Gay "Marriage"

Made in 2008 or so, Gay "Marriage" exposes the dilemma of the maddening and unfair paperwork imposed on gay couples who want the same financial rights as heterosexual married couples.   It is a tragicomedy that blends interview and animation to bring to life the horrifying effects of paperwork unfairly imposed on gay couples:  JTROS, taxable gifts, powers of attorney, HIPAA, and more.   

A star-crossed lesbian couple get the romance knocked out of them as they wake up to legal reality.  Music by Mayra Casales.  Running time, 12:13 minutes. 

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Saturday
Jun022012

It Doesn't Show

Updated on Friday, October 15, 2010 at 11:50AM by Registered CommenterElena Taurke

Updated on Friday, June 8, 2012 at 4:50PM by Registered CommenterElena Taurke

It doesn't show, they started to say after the surgeries.   This should have been a cure for shame, and maybe it was, but it also produced a new problem.   A deep and integral aspect of my personhood became invisible and unknowable. Don't look. Juvenile arthritis is a peculiar and defining experience.  As a toddler, you get braces and casts instead of the exhilaration of walking.  As a kid, you get the special  role in the ballet recital.  Then, as your wrists are progressively deforming, Phys Ed with its impossible pushups and volleyball falls by the wayside.  You are left with the other rejected kids in Choir and then in Drama Club, where, to vanquish your depression, you pledge yourself a career and vengeance.  The twist (pardon the pun) in the story is that, along the way, you fall in love with dance--the one thing that everyone agrees is totally out of the question. 

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