(Satan Sowing Tares–Félicien Joseph Victor Rops 1833-1898)

Sometimes I look at other people and think, it must be easier for them than it is for me, they’re always so happy. I’m really picky. I only like certain things, at certain times, in certain colors, and they have to smell good. When things go off and get a different color, or maybe they were softer yesterday, or maybe they weren’t smart enough to dazzle me, or they biffed whatever fine point of perfection I was looking for at that moment, I get disappointed. Then I act like a fool. I throw little fits that are blanketed in clouds of judgement and disappointment and blame. Because as long as it is somebody else’s fault, I don’t have to change.

I recently attended a life changing conference with Marianne Williamson, called Enchanted Love. I got really clear on what I need to do to change my life with my partner. Take 100% responsibility for my experiences and my perceptions, stop pointing fingers, stop being a crackpot. Then I came home from the conference and I was great for about 48 hours…and then I threw a doozy of a blame fest. I won’t get into the details, but it wasn’t pretty…”poor little me,” mixed up with “you’re so mean,” mixed up with “why do I bother?” I took a late night drive and relaxed for a few hours on the couch, letting how much un-fun I was having settle in.

We have repeatedly emphasized that the barrier of grievances is easily passed, and cannot stand between you and your salvation. The reason is very simple. Do you really want to be in hell? Do you really want to weep and suffer and die? (A Course in Miracles–lesson 73)

Being mean is not fun. Being angry and defensive isn’t either. I give up all three, starting yesterday. Satan, Get Thee Behind Me. Thank you God.


(the charming smirk of Count Cagliostro–Freemason, con man, alchemist, pimp, and saver of souls)

I’ve begun reading the book entitled The Last Alchemist: Count Cagliostro, Master of Magic in the Age of Reason. It’s a pretty good book. I just got to the part where the Count, who’s really just a regular-ish fellow named Giuseppe Balsamo, got initiated into the secret world of Strict Observance Freemasonry this evening. The author, Ian McCalman described his entry into the society thusly:

After he’d intoned his oath of absolute secrecy and obedience, several officials dressed in caps and aprons, blindfolded his eyes, tied a rope around his waist, and hauled him on creaking pulleys to the ceiling. Suddenly the rope gave way and he crashed to the floor. His complaints of a damaged hand did nothing to mitigate the ceremony’s next phase. Colonel Cagliostro watched uneasily while a pistol was loaded with powder and ball. His eyes were once again covered. He was handed the pistol and brusquely ordered to comply with the oath of obedience by blowing out his brains all over the tavern. He hesitated; he heard yells–coward, get on with it–and pulled the trigger. There was a detonation, he felt a blow on the side of his head and smelled acrid gunsmoke. By some miracle he was still alive; and as his panic gave way to clarity, he realized it had been a ruse: the lodge officials had given him an unloaded pistol and simulated the discharge (pg 40).

This passage reminded me of another book, The Secret Teachings of All Ages, by Manly P. Hall. Hall describes the tests a candidate had to survive in order to learn the Druidic Mysteries, to be “born again.” These folks had to get buried in a coffin and ride out to sea in an open boat. He also mentions the “strange machinery” found under a Greco-Egyptian temple of Serapis:

These machines indicate the severe tests of moral and physical courage undergone by the candidates. After passing through these torturous ways, the neophytes who survived the ordeals were ushered into the presence of Serapis, a noble and awe-inspiring figure illumined by unseen lights (pg. 25 and 27).

So. According to Manly P. Hall and other sources, there were two stories that Mystery School teachers came up with. One was simple, a moral code meant for Joe Everyman, which instructed him on the correct way to conduct himself in the world. The second story was deeper and secret, a story that had been passed down through the ages and only told to a very select few. These select were born into certain families and had passed the sorts of severe tests mentioned above. They starved themselves, broke bones jumping off cliffs, had limbs twisted into strange positions for long periods of time, etc., etc., in order to prove that they had overcome earthly limitations and were worthy of the truth (or perhaps to prove that they were willing to die in order to be included in the elite knowers of truth…)

There’s a lot of energy right now around these types of groupings, the elite v. Joe Everyman. A friend gave me a pin that says “99%” and I’ve been wearing it on my lapel. But, there’s something that’s been bugging me. What does being a part of the 99% mean, exactly? I wasn’t born into a fancy family. I have done a fast or two, but even just this morning in the shower I was vowing to never do one again. I hate being hungry. Am I a slave to my hedonistic nature? To be truthful, most of the work I’ve been doing with my counselor has been to help me feel ok with actually being who I am. Not trying to live up to some “moral code” written by some other dude who wore a wig and probably stole alms from the poor.

What does being a part of the 1% mean? Can the 1% be compared to the initiates of the past? What tests do they have to pass in order to get in? I can go to the library and read loads of words that tell me exactly what the different secrets of the ages were. It’s actually downright overwhelming all the secrets I’m privy to, and I didn’t even have to wander naked into the woods without any food or water. Does that make me a part of the 1%, now that I know the secret handshake? But then I remember that 2500 years ago Plato was splurging “secret” meeting minutes all over town after he was initiated into the elite.  Even then the secrets were available to anyone who was even slightly curious.

Do you think that God would put you on the earth without the tools possible for you to understand the secrets to sublime happiness? Are some people truly here without recourse from a life of misery, bound to the “simple moral code” of behave-now-and-you’ll-be-rewarded-later, forever doomed to 80 hours a week of assembling iPhones? Do the 1% still know some secret handshake that the 99% don’t? Is it possible that reading a book on a secret understanding won’t clue me in to the actual energy behind the words without the experience of pain and suffering that precede initiation? Why am I so lucky to be happy, when other people are suffering?  Is it because of what I’m doing? Or is it just because I’m lucky? To boil it all down, are there really secrets that you have to be born in the exact right time and place to understand? Or are these all figments, illusions, distractions?

More to come on this illustrious topic…Feel free to answer any of the above questions.

(Mystical Seven–a secret society at Wesleyan University of Connecticut)

the mighty seesaw.

I was talking to my counselor the other day about the fact that sometimes I say mean jabbing things to my partner and I want to stop doing that. She asked me why I say mean jabbing things. I said that it’s because my partner sometimes says mean jabbing things to me and so I feel justified in retaliating. My counselor then told me about the “victim-perpetrator seesaw.” That sounded like a horrid funhouse ride in H-E-double hockey sticks at first, but after she explained it I understood: when one person is disempowered [by a mean jabbing remark] she feels bad and so to get out of feeling bad, she retaliates. You can picture the victim-perpetrator seesaw going back and forth, on and on, forevermore…UNTIL…you realize that it doesn’t feel good on either side. It is never balanced! It’s always one up, one down, each position maintaining it’s own particular brand of misery. After I had this conversation with my counselor, two interesting things happened to cement in my mind the theme of balance.

Interesting thing one: I read an article in the news that according to the United Nations Population Fund, the global population is going to reach 7 billion people on this Halloween. There is some nervousness about how Mother Earth will cope with these rising numbers (we’re the perp in this one by the way). After I read the article on the population, I remembered reading a different article that stated that ancient tribes practiced infanticide in order to maintain efficacious hunting/gathering. They knew that if there were too many people, they would all suffer.

Interesting thing two: I started a new block studying ancient India with my fifth grade class. Yesterday we talked about the goddess Kali. While studying up on Kali for myself, I came upon this poem by the mystic poet Ramprasad (don’t skip the poem! It’s really good!):

Mother, incomparably arrayed.

Hair flying, stripped down.

You battle-dance on Shiva’s heart,

A garland of heads that bounce off

Your heavy hips, chopped-off hands

For a belt, the bodies of infants

For earrings, and the lips,

The teeth like jasmine, the face

A lotus blossomed, the laugh.

And the dark body boiling up and out

Like a storm cloud, and those feet

Whose beauty is only deepened by blood.

So Prasad cries: My mind is dancing! Can I take much more? Can I bear An impossible beauty?

(It’s a very different kind of love story than the ones we’re used to these days) After I read the poem to my class, we drew pictures of Kali dancing on Shiva’s heart, tongue hanging out, eyes wide and white, a different weapon or a demon conk in each her many hands, skulls around her neck and severed heads around her waist…my fifth graders were aghast at the sight! (ok, they were more grossed out than aghast, but whatever, man). I explained to them that Kali is the goddess of destruction. She tears down the old in order to make way for the new. While she may be fierce and bloody, without her there could be no world.

My point may not be obvious here, so I’ll go ahead and bring it home for you: Balance is a interesting and complex maneuver. Often something needs to sacrificed in order to maintain it. The choice of what I choose to let go of in order to maintain balance is my own. Do I throw the baby out with the bathwater? Do I cut my losses? Cut the fat? Do I [fill in favorite aphorism here] in order to survive? Kali is equally happy to destroy healthy tissue or necrotic sludge. The choice of what to offer her is mine alone.

My counselor’s suggestion to the problem was to instruct me to visualize my life with my partner not as a hellish seesaw, but as a journey taken side by side, one in which we help each other over fences,  pick each other flowers and treat each other kindly, because we love and respect each other.

So that’s how I will balance my little seesaw. And who knows? If enough little seesaws get balanced…the whole globe could feel the effect.

Elvy Musikka

The following is a summary of an interview between Sue Supriano and Elvy Musikka. You can listen to the terrific interview in its entirety here at Steppin’ Out of Babylon, a radio interview program minus the filters of corporate greed. This posting is in honor of the fact that I recently saw Elvy Musikka at an activism event and I remembered how totally awesome she is…

With a bucket of marijuana cigarettes…(photo by Don Ryan for the Seattle Times–Associated Press)

Elvy Musikka is one of four people who have a federally granted permit for to use medical marijuana. As a child Musikka suffered from congenital cataracts, which developed into glaucoma after several surgeries. She began using marijuana to treat this condition despite the opinion of her ophthalmologist, who felt that she should have surgery instead. Musikka chose to have the surgery on one eye, while continuing to treat the glaucoma using marijuana, obtained illegally to treat her other eye. She was in constant fear of getting arrested and loosing her children, but the marijuana was working.

By 1987 the eye she was having surgery on was blind and Musikka was arrested for possession of marijuana. By this point her children had left home for college. The press was alerted to the story and followed every move from her arrest to her trial. At the trial, Dr. Palmberg, Musikka’s doctor, convinced the judge that no marijuana for Musikka would be a “life sentence to blindness.”

On August 15, 1988 Musikka was acquitted. Later that same year she was enrolled in an experimental program run by the Federal Government that allows her to fly to Florida annually and pick up a year’s worth of marijuana. She also completes a progress report every year that is never published, because, according to Musikka, the government is driven by the demands of the pharmaceutical, tobacco, alcohol and prison industries which all gain by the “hideous prohibition” of medical marijuana.

Since her acquittal, Musikka has become an activist to help others who are in the same position she was. In September 1988 Francis L Young of the DEA stated that “marijuana in natural form is a benign therapeutic substance.” He also stated that for a government to come between patient and health benefits of medical marijuana is “capricious, unreasonable and arbitrary”—Musikka adds that it is also unconstitutional and immoral. Musikka travels the country speaking with legislators to push for changes in the law regarding medical marijuana. She also speaks at educational functions in order to raise consciousness about this issue.

There are 20 million people in jail for drug possession. There are one million drug related arrests per year. The environment suffers. Elvy Mussika says (citing the source medicalcannibus.com) that our government is “arresting and robbing own citizens.” She also says that it is our own “personal responsibility to end this hideous prohibition.” If we don’t, the consequence will be on us.

May the true spirit of love be your guiding light.-Elvy Musikka

(mid-sagittal brain fibers that connect the two hemispheres through the corpus callosum, photographed by Thomas Schultz–2006)

In my last post, which you can read here, I noted that it is important for me to take some quiet moments to listen to what my emotional body is telling me. If I’m able to do that I can make proactive choices about things that I’m feeling yucky about and make them better, thusly living a happier and more authentic life. Here’s an example:

I have a weird and possibly obsessive hatred of dry things touching other dry things. As a school teacher, this is an unfortunate hatred, because chalk and chalk boards are both very, very dry. Very dry. I’ve managed to survive by using this particular type of “dust free” chalk that comes in a green box. It’s denser than most chalk. I tell myself that it’s denser because it has more water in it, which allows me to use it without all of my teeth falling out. But that’s just an aside. The real story/pain comes in wiping the chalk off the board. All that bone dry power wafting into the air, dusty eraser fibers scratching along the slated board…I feel faint just thinking about it.  I try to have the students do it most of the time (even then sometimes I have to stand at the back of the room and not watch) and in the winter time, when it’s raining outside, I can handle it. But in August, hot and dry, sun burning down outside the window…oops! My bicuspid fell out! Dang.

Anyway, I’ve been cleaning my room in preparation for the first day. The boards have been on my list for days. I kept avoiding them, ignoring them, doing other jobs that don’t need to be done, without ever noticing or questioning why. Yesterday I stopped myself and said, Self, why are you avoiding the chalkboards? Then I answered Because the dryness is too much. If I have to, I will, but only with hatred in my heart. So then I asked myself, How can I make the job better for you/me? and then I answered Go and buy a giant sponge and fill up a bucket of water and use the giant sponge and the wet water on the dry, dry board.

So then that’s what I did. Well, actually I found a giant sponge and used that instead of buying one, but it came to the same end. The boards are clean and ready and I enjoyed the task.

I could have ignored myself. I could have powered through and wiped the boards with the dusty eraser and rubbed them black with the cloth that I keep for the job. But I would have had hatred in my heart, and now all I have is love. Love, moistened with the 98% water that’s in my body.

The point of this little story is to illuminate the dual nature of individual humans. How can there be a part of me that I ignore unless I have parts to me? How can I talk to myself and answer myself unless there are multiple sides to my nature? There are loads and loads of informative websites and books and research projects that have proven that the left and right hemispheres of the brain serve different functions. The left brain hemisphere controls literal language (grammar and vocabulary) while the right brain hemisphere controls the understanding of non-literal language (reading between the lines, intonation, sarcasm, contextual meanings). The left brain deals in facts–decoding the rational, linear, and objective–while the right brain deals in intuition–focusing on patterns, connections between experiences and things, and with a subjective understanding of the world. In other words, the right brain is all about feelings and the left brain is all about facts. The two hemispheres are connected by a band of nerve fibers called the corpus callosum, which allows the two sides to communicate with each other.

While we use both sides of our brain constantly throughout the day, most people tend to show a preference for one type of thinking over the other. (Here’s a fun test to see what your brain preference is.) Don’t worry, my point is still coming. Most people are left brain dominant, meaning that most people will believe facts coming from an external authority above their own feelings and intuitions, even when the facts are at odds with their own experiences. Over time, we begin to lose touch with our own feelings, choosing instead to focus on what is happening outside our actual experience. This leads to, at best, a superficial and un-authentic  life littered with depression and prescription drugs. At worst, it leads to illness and violence. Feelings that are pushed aside and ignored do not go away, they find alternate paths to the surface.

Fortunately, with a little conscious action, I can cut through that big bossy mouthed left hemisphere that always wants the facts. I can kneel down and put my ear on the track of that gentle, soft spoken feely, feely right hemisphere and give a good listen. It’s not that hard, once I remember to do it, and wow, I’m so much happier (and whole-er and more balanced) when I do.

All neurosis is a substitute for legitimate suffering.– Carl Jung

I passed a bumper sticker the other day. It said “Dare to Feel.” I’ve been thinking a lot about that. A few years back I went to a massage therapist who does a massage technique called Rosen bodywork. She’d be working on me and then she’d ask, often right in the middle of the massage, “How do you feel?” At first I answered, “fine” but she would continue on asking me questions. “Do you have any pain? Any anxiety anywhere? Where is it? How does it feel?” At first I found it mildly irritating, because I go to massage to relax, not to think about how I feel, but when I finally stopped to think about how I felt, really think about it, I realized how seldom I paid attention to what is really happening inside me.

Maybe I have a little stomach ache.  I can think to myself (when I remember to anyway) Why does your stomach hurt? Maybe it’s because I dread something that’s going to happen later. If I know about it, I can make a plan on how to make it better for myself. Maybe I can cancel it. Maybe I can eat some ice cream and it might be better. The point is, when I locate my feelings and put words to them, I can actually be proactive on working through the feeling, rather than ignoring it and creating an alternate and altogether unreal existence.

It’s a lot harder, for sure. But it makes me happier in the long run. Up next, what does all this have to do with the right and left brain hemispheres? (I just now thought of the connection while I was writing this…yahoo for therablogging!)


On April 14 of this year I put my old dog down. She was almost fourteen years old, ancient for a Saint Bernard. She wasn’t able to get up to walk around anymore. When I woke up to her crying in the living room, having slipped and fallen down on the one hardwood spot that we hadn’t covered with carpet for her, unable to get back up, I knew it was time to let her go.

Choosing when an animal dies is so hard. There’s always that question in the back of the mind…what if it’s too soon? Who am I to decide this for her? What if she doesn’t want to go? What if this is a mistake? A great friend who also went through choosing to let go of an old, old dog friend, relayed what his vet had told him: An animal’s last day doesn’t have to be her worst day. He also told me that when we make the choice to bring animals into our lives, we also make the commitment to make the hard decisions that go along with creating both a life of quality and a death of quality. I could have probably bought another month with Bridget. But at what cost? What quality of life would my old girl have been living?

We did everything right. A kind and very compassionate end-of-life-care veterinarian (Dr. Roberta Boyden) came to our home so that we wouldn’t have to stress Bridget out by putting her in the car and driving her to a smelly office. Bridget died in my living room, after a long brushing and some delicious treats. A family owned company that does pet cremation came and picked up her body shortly after. As painful as the process was, the sweetness of these folks who came to offer not just services, but condolences as well, made it bearable.

And I say so long to a great friend–one who saw me through my first real break-up, my first real leaving home, my first real cross-country trip to a new life, my first real parenting gig, my first real job, my first real marriage…the list goes on and on. She was a really special girl and I’ll love her and miss her forever.