The Fault in Our Stars

That’s a stolen title.  From a book I just read, in which the main character is a teenager with cancer.  Read it.  If you want to be ripped open and sobbing at 2am, that is.  (Yes, like me.)

I’m just back from NYC, which always seems to be revelatory for me.  This trip, I got to see how acting, meditation and yoga come together in my life, as well as to take this little dive into early morning mortality and despair.  What a strange, strange trip we’re on (which is a misquote from the Grateful Dead, and I know it because I gave my younger sister a Dead album and then she and the next youngest brother became Dead Heads and followed the band around the country.  Oh, how our simplest actions come back to haunt us).

Anyhow, I rode Megabus back to the city, nauseated the whole way (why do I use that line?  $3 ticket is why…), and in the middle, because I couldn’t find my Ipod or my headset, and I was too nauseated to even try to read, I called my friend A., who reads Noam Chomsky and just about everyone else (though he may not have finished college, he is the smartest person I know), and talked about doing my new monologue, about a woman who’s ex neglected to watch their youngest, knowing the girl was uninhibited and impulsive, and so the girl drowned.  After 15 years of refusing to take responsibility the husband shows up to torture her again by absolving himself and threatening to take away her house (which he owns), so she kills him.

My kind of monologue.  And A., who misses nothing, said, “Why is it your kind of monologue?”  And I said, out loud on Megabus, “Because I can just really relate to a life of unbearable and endless injustice.”  And then we started cracking up.  Which is, of course, why we’re friends.  I mean, not everyone would see that as funny.

I don’t know what the people on the 6:10pm from New York to Boston thought.  Probably not my business, anyhow.

Here’s the thing–in America, we are taught to be happy.  Pretend-happy, as it turns out.  At least, I find true joy to require open heartedness and a willingness to be dashed against the rocks.  Pretend happy just requires that you pretend all the bad shit happening around you isn’t happening.  My family specialized in that kind of pretend happiness, and I couldn’t stand it.  It has left me with a lifelong passion for unpleasant truths.

So today I sat in an acting workshop in New York, having a bad day at best, watching the perfectly made up (everyone was super made up and super chosen in their outfits as only actors can be) and very talented actors try to hit.  I saw some great craft, and some very skilled acting, and heard some very great instruction.  I thought about how acting requires an ability to not be thrown while truly opening up to the unknown moment in which we live while everyone is judging you.  I thought about how acting requires a comfort in your own skin, with your own body, a comfort in revealing your personality, at least, and hopefully your soul.  I thought how I don’t want to forget that acting is about that kind of meaning and courage for me…and I do.  My ambition has always made me unhappy, because acting then becomes about staying thin, and getting my teeth fixed and other ridiculous shit.  Like every other actor, I keep asking, how do I get them to let me in the game?  And if I get too scared that they won’t, I’ll go start my own theatre company and make myself miserable.

It’s not just actors, of course.  We’re all dreaming of things we may or may not get–who knows.  And, going back to the cancer book, there are both possibilities and impossibilities.  That’s the problem, really, in this United States, where supposedly anyone can pull her or himself up by the proverbial bootstraps.  We look to the possibilities, and we are pretend-happy.  Or, we are happy where the possibilities open, and try not to deal with where they don’t.  (Jane Goodall, miracle woman, but so much trouble in her marriages.)

I love that Buddhism is the bummer religion.  I love that meditation is about coming to terms with “what is.”  I love that yoga challenges me to find the truth of my body in so many ways.  My love for unpleasant truths tells me that acting asks me these things:  1) to get over my insecurities, 2) to be relentlessly present, 3) to reveal what I most want to hide, 4) to have openhearted joy and be willing to be thrown against the rocks.  I did manage to spend years learning the craft, but if I’m not relentlessly present, the craft can be pretty useless, and if my insecurities get me, I can’t be relentlessly present.

I find, that because I relate to lives of unendurable injustice, I have a story to tell.  I find that this story is mine, and it is as much about impossibility as possibility, as much about surrender as accomplishment.  It is, in other words, a human story.  And because I relate, I have depth, but because I relate, I have insecurities.  This means I don’t find it a walk in the park to be relentlessly present.

You have to take that paradox somewhere.  I take it to the mat, to the cushion, to the page, to the phone, and then I find myself laughing with A. about the absurdity of everything.

We don’t get to be happy all the time.  As it turns out, happiness isn’t about resting, or stopping.  The real joy that comes seems to require the pursuit of something terribly difficult, a dharma you don’t necessarily get to choose.  As Stephen Cope quotes in his book, The Great Work of Your Life, “You can be anyone you want, as long as that person is you.”

This is me, at 2 in the morning, after a bad/good day, nauseated on Megabus, not relentlessly present in NYC, not having a day in which I can show who I am, and loving my friend A. because he laughed, and my partner because she understood my shame enough to give me a lift out of the hole.

This is me, understanding teenagers dying of cancer, and the impossibility and possibility of dealing with unendurable injustice.  My own, and therefore yours, and maybe, if I meditate enough, everyone’s.

This me.  May we all be well, may we all be happy, may we all be safe and protected, may we all be at peace with what is.

Ayurvedic Pre-Cleanse Day 6: I Have Come to This

Once, a little more than a week ago, I wrote about Buddhism, and non-violence and the nature of the universe.  Now I write about bodily functions and will, no doubt, continue to do so for the next 8 days during the cleanse and then the post-cleanse, or integration period.

Oh, how low we fall.

So let me say, by way of an update, that in some ways I am a very lucky person.  I ran with the bulls in Pamplona and didn’t die, for example.  I also jumped out of an airplane, tubed down the Gila River in flood season, went free-climbing in the Alps, leapt from the top of some monkey bars into a tree five feet away at midnight (yes, I’d been drinking), hitchhiked around Europe, Japan and parts of the United States, back-packed and hiked by myself everywhere and didn’t die.  Instead, I was adopted, over and over again, by people who seemed to find me entertaining.  The nuns at my high school who took me in to live with them (and then listened to me preach atheism), the women in Spain who invited me to stay at their houses when I missed trains, etc, the family in Ireland who took me in for Christmas–I have been loved, all over the world, by strangers.  Move over, Tennessee Williams and Blanche DuBois for the queer world traveler, also dependent on the kindness of strangers (and so far no Stanley calling in the men with the white coats).

However, even given these very meaningful experiences about the benevolence of the human race (look, I am stating benevolence exists before going to bodily functions!), I must now register a complaint about the pre-cleanse experience.  Yesterday, when I finally stopped trying to do everything perfectly and ate egg whites as well as two smoothies (both with avocado and protein powder), I didn’t have headaches, mood swings or light-headedness.  Of course, today is the last day of the pre-cleanse, so of course on top of facing a whole new more rigorous phase of the diet including drinking oil tomorrow morning, I had to get my f$%^ing period.  With worse than usual cramps.

So basically, I would still like to kill someone.  Benevolence be gone.

My partner has taken to reading this blog and then texting or emailing to ask if it’s safe to come home.  OF COURSE IT’S NOT SAFE!  I AM A HYPO-GLYCEMIC MANIAC!  WHO IS NOW DMC!  (During Menstrual Cycle)

Unfortunately, the daily meditation forces me to recognize that trying to be perfect before rebelling and finding my own way is a pattern (see my blogs about yoga teacher training and attempting to live through four hours of flow without complaint…I failed miserably).  Meditation forces me to recognize that I didn’t put superwoman to bed when I learned to make fun of myself, to have humility (1 or 2 minutes of every day when I consider I may not be smarter than absolutely everyone), and to say metta.  Superwoman is alive and well and kicking my butt.

I have two words to say on that subject.  German mother.

Let it not be said that this pre-cleanse, homicidality and extreme menstrual cramps have taught me nothing.  I took a pain reliever right away, two minutes after the cramps hit.  It’s called Ecotrin, and it doesn’t work quite as well as ibuprofen, but still.  I am not trying to be perfect.  I just want to stop whining out loud about my gonads falling out and get to work for the day.

One can hope.

Everything moving down and out on this cleanse, in more ways than one.

On to basmati rice, yellow mung beans (dal) and curry-like spices.  I’m allowed to add in protein powder stuff to keep from killing people.  I’m also allowed to quit, but I’m eager to get to the day on which you drink a lot of Castor oil and purge.  That just sounds like fun.  Or at least it was fun when my partner was doing the cleanse alone and she’d yell, “Out of my way,” and run for the bathroom.  Of course on this, her third time through, she’s having no side effects whatsoever.  She’s like, “I’m not focusing on the cleanse much this time.”

I’m like, “I noticed.”  (Imagine my homicidal glare.)

Then I think sweetness and light and go stare at the Cacao Bliss.  Yesterday she moved it to the back of the cabinet.  She is worried, very, very worried.

As well she should be.

Ayurvedic Pre-Cleanse, Day 4: Homicidality on the RISE!

Okay, so, I’m hungry all the time.  And sometimes light-headed.  And don’t feel like doing anything.  I find myself wanting to eat the grossest, most disgustingly unhealthy foods ever.  French fries at Cane’s, next to the Boston Playwrights’ Theatre.  The jar of Cacao Bliss in the cabinet.  A steak.  Fried anything.  I find myself getting angry at every meal (I’m up to about 10 a day now, so that’s saying something).  I’m like, what is with you, you f*(&ing green soup!?  I mean, you have a problem in that I would really just like to kill you right now!  Forget you, aduki beans!  You don’t even fill me up.  I don’t care how much chipotle powder there is in your recipe!  And as for you, avocado, you are becoming a significant disappointment in my life, since you are making me fat and not even satisfying my craving to eat a car, a house, or anything covered in fat and sugar.  Rice, oatmeal, and 100% rye bread, you can go stick it.  I used to like you, but now it’s just a bored, washed-out relationship….

Before this cleanse I was moderately insane about food, more than some women, definitely not as much as others.  I ate healthy, I watched calories, and I knew what I needed to do to maintain a healthy size 8, which I did and do actually care about.  I had passed the stage of starvation diets or any diets at all, and I didn’t get hungry much if ever, since I ate lean protein and healthy fats instead of carbohydrates and sugar.  I had accepted that since I’m Irish, with a body somewhat good for child-bearing, I was always going to have curves and my thighs would never be skinny, and this was okay with me.  Aging, not so much, but I was working on it.

Now, however, I’m probably going to end up a homicidal size 12 in 2 weeks, ready to eat pretty much anything.

And on top of that, all I have to do is think about someone I didn’t like who I knew, oh, say 25 years ago and I want to go kill him/her.  Like, I mentioned my train wreck first girlfriend in the last blog, and all day today I’ve been monologuing in my head about how she did me wrong and she was in the top three of most amoral women I have ever known, and how she voted for Reagan, twice, in the midst of the AIDS epidemic and actually used ethnic epithets.  Instead of being all Buddhist and being like, “Well, you know, she was nineteen and so were you, and who knows anything then, and unfortunately she knew less than most, and was more f-ed up…”  I’m like, “Where is she?  I’m going to X state and find her and make her pay!”

I also didn’t think, “Well, you could have left a lot earlier than you did.”  I thought, “I don’t care how gorgeous she was or talented or how much of an idiot romantic I was about those things, SHE WILL PAY!”

So, I think I need some f$#^ing food!  Preferably something protein soaked in a lot of fat.

But, I am remembering the cleanse leader saying that feelings may come up.  I’m like, Right.  I already went in this week and told the IFS therapist she dresses like an interpretative dancer and talks too much and she better get with the program on how smart I am.  I’m not having any feelings.  I am FINE!

Perhaps I will now drink some water with a cinnamon stick in it and meditate mindfully on my homicidal feelings.  I will learn something new about my dark side, as if that needed any more encouragement.

And then, sometime tonight, my partner will come home.  She slipped up today and ate Indian food with some FAT in it.  I am so jealous, I could…

I will meditate.  I will.  I will stand on my head for at least 3 minutes.  I will do a handstand.  IT WILL BE FUN, DO YOU HEAR ME?  FUN.  FUN.  FUN.

I think there are about 10 more days to this cleanse.  It is very hard for me to say die, but it might be real enlightenment to do so, if death (for someone) is the other alternative.  I am considering this.  Ahimsa.  Or flatulence.  Or unmitigated rage.  It’s hard choice.

PS–I have no back pain.  So apparently, all my rage is now conscious (read John Sarno mindbody blogs if you don’t know what I’m talking about).

I Love My Life! (at least for the next 10 seconds)

Today I was in yoga teacher training after 5+ hours of working on devised theatre with 22 teens and some super talented adults.  And though I am so tired I keep walking into walls, forgetting things, adding things wrong, I am also grateful for the day.

Working backward, since I just returned from yoga teacher training, I have to say, where do these women come from?  I ordered a bunch of blankets and blocks in bulk for us, and I’m basically dealing yoga materials out of the back of my car, and everyone is so conscientious about giving me money, and trying to be generous about the better colors, or the better quality blankets, and I’m so spacey I walk away from the money with the trunk and car open and someone stays with it…I never really understood why I took this training and I still don’t, except that I really like being around these people.

Then, the yoga philosophy discussion was great.  Like church, just listening to what each person utilizes to pull him or herself toward the light, whatever that light is–but definitely non-harming.

And all this followed a day of coordinating the monologues and scenes the students wrote themselves with movement we’d found accidentally in improvisation with them, and watching it work, watching it fall into place, deep, sweet, young, holding every poignant thing about life.

So, for today, I love my life.  Even though I bought all these yoga materials thinking I was going to leave theatre behind in some way, and now I had a waiting list for my last acting class, registration coming in for fall, a new potential opportunity for a fall collaboration, auditions, etc.  So it seems like many of the blankets, straps, mats, etc might not get much use.  But, oh well.  I still get to love everything, to be doing the exact right thing, right purpose, right moment, right life.

I’m about to post on the yoga teacher training facebook why people should come to this teen show.  Not to support me.  But because it looks to be so magical and funny and moving, that the human experience of watching will be rare and full of wonder.

I’ll go back to complaining and having aversions and everything tomorrow.  After I get some f$#%ing sleep.

The Thing About Restorative Yoga Is…

I’ve been lying around a lot.  Anyone who truly knows me will doubt this as a real fact, but it is, nevertheless, true.

I have two yoga bolsters.  I pile them on top of each other and lie on my stomach for, say, 30 minutes or so (asana: balasana).  Then I take the pile apart, prop my knees up on blocks, lean my back on the big bolster, strap my legs to keep the soles of my feet tight together (asana: supta baddha konasana).  Then I put my legs up the wall (asana: viparita karani).  Then I go to sleep like a corpse (savasana).

So, I’m lying around a lot.  But, as my title says, the thing is, being on floor level for an hour or two a day mostly makes me notice that the carpet needs to be vacuumed or that there’s dust and pollen coating what from standing look like gleaming wood floors.  I lie on my stomach, looking at the lint and threads on the carpet.  The carpet is navy, and I also see that it is kind of matted down and old, and it shows lint horribly.  I look at my pale hand, slightly curled up.  Then I look at the carpet again.  I think about vacuuming and I don’t move.  Then I marvel that I’m not moving.  I think of my German mother’s anal higiene (she vacuumed at least 3 times a day…she had 6 kids and our house looked like something out of a magazine).  I think about vacuuming again.  Then I think that it’s been my turn to vacuum for about a month, but my partner keeps doing it and I keep letting her.  Then I close my eyes and lie there some more.

These are my profound thoughts about which I do nothing while restoring myself with yoga.

Sometimes I do think about hiding more Snoopy stickers where my partner can’t see them.

And sometimes I think I may never move again and why did I ever want to be an unstoppable force, a go-getter, a shaker and a mover (all things people have called me throughout my life) in the first place.

Sometimes I think about getting up and then I don’t.

Or I get up.  And then I make homemade ice cream and eat it.  I look at the carpet and I don’t vacuum it.

I think this is ahimsa.  It could also be called extreme laziness, but I’m convinced it’s somehow spiritual.  Because I am watching the anal cleanliness thoughts come and go and not cleaning, and that’s got to be worth something.

(My partner’s like, “Yeah, it’s worth hiring a cleaning lady, oh Queen of the Universe.”)

Satya–Do I Really Need to Be More Honest?

My yoga teacher says that whatever issues you have will show up on the mat when you do postures.  It is partly for this reason that I frequently want to kill her.  (Of course, I want to kill EVERYONE because I am reactive, unenlightened, have an aversive personality–according to the Buddhists–and am basically a dramatic artist who enjoys swooning over every emotion I feel.)  (I long to swoon in yoga teacher training, but then I might fail and yoga teacher training is EXPENSIVE.)

Here’s what shows up on my mat:  AVERSION!  INNER CONFLICT!  And F*&(ING TMS SYNDROME!

Yoga is so peaceful, truly.

(When I do it at home it’s peaceful because I lie on a bolster in several different positions not moving and usually falling asleep.  I have become a yoga slacker.  This is the result of yoga teacher training, for some reason.)

Anyhow, if I’m talking about satya, or honesty, the second of the yoga yamas (the first is ahimsa, non-violence, and I’ve already written about that, ad infinitum) then I really have an excuse to say that TMS Syndrome is kicking my butt on the mat.  (TMS Syndrome’s other name is mindbody syndrome, a term coined by John Sarno.  Basically, TMS people like me have no severe anatomical abnormalities, but still experience chronic pain, usually in their backs.  I have it in my back, but sometimes also knees, and occasionally shoulders.  (You know, I don’t do things in half measures.  Probably I have pain in the guy down the street.) Anyhow, the pain, Sarno says, comes from an unconscious process that denies some amount of oxygen to areas of the body to cause physical pain as a distraction from emotional pain like, for example, homicidal rage.  (It’s because of Sarno I talk about how homicidal I am all the time.)  (Look at me!  I’m blaming someone I’ve never even met!)

Anyway, as I practice self-study (also a part of yoga, but really just an excuse to be fascinated with myself), I can’t help but notice how it goes on the mat in yoga teacher training.  Here’s how:

It’s Saturday.  Usually we do 3-4 hours of yoga in the Saturday practice.  So, 2 hours in I start to want it to be over.  By 2.5 hours in I REALLY want it to be over.  I mean, I start to feel like I’m being tortured.  I’m getting angry.  But I’ve always been athletic, and as you know if you’ve read my other blogs, I had a football player father who taught me to never be a quitter.  Plus, I want to prove I can do anything anyone else can do.  (Both of these things are insane, so it’s a good thing I’ve never claimed to be, you know, sane.)  At the same time, I want to practice ahimsa, not only because that’s what yoga is REALLY about, but because it’s the kind thing to do for myself, and though I am insane, I hate being unkind to myself.  So basically, during yoga teacher training, the inside of my head is like World War 3.  Right around the 2.5 hour mark, as we approach inversions (which I love because going upside down is really fun), and I realize I’m too blasted tired and whacked to do inversions, the inner conflict reaches its zenith and WHAM!  BACK PAIN!

It’s only because you’re not allowed to talk during yoga practice that I’m arguing with myself and noticing all this stuff.  And it has become glaringly obvious that when I want to be kind to myself and there’s pressure to do something else (perceived or real pressure, mind you), all this tension builds inside of me and then it goes into my back.

And get this:  when I figured all this out and really took breaks and gave up being Ms. Middle Aged Cool Yoga Girl, I didn’t have any back pain AT ALL.

I guess John Sarno is right.

So in my fascination with myself, I’m now on the hunt for my moments of intense inner conflict and tension, trying to notice them, trying to just stop, breathe, sense into my body.  Yoga teacher training is prime fodder for this practice.  As is any time I’m trying to act like a mature adult and not jump on my partner’s lap (a struggle I always lose, but here’s hoping).

Anyhow, crazy or not, my need for gentleness and kindness, from myself, first and above all, would be legend if anyone knew about it.

Oh, I guess you now do.

Send flowers.

Though money would be better.

Knocking on the Door of the Yoga Sutras

Last night in yoga teacher training we spent time on sutra 1.33, which is:  By cultivating an attitude of friendship toward those who are happy, compassion toward those in distress, joy toward those who are virtuous, and equanimity toward those who are nonvirtuous, lucidity arises in the mind (the mind retains its undisturbed calmness).  (Incidentally, this is called the 4 locks and the 4 keys.)

And yes, I pay money to read language this stilted.  But beyond that, I have to say that I’m glad I’m such a heretic/rebel and instead of really working on my homework I spend a ton of time doing related reading in Buddhism.  Because this sutra DRIVES ME OUT OF MY MIND.  (Not, admittedly, that I’m in my mind most of the time, but hey, meditation says that’s a good thing.  Hah!)

And, my class is to consider the last of the 4 locks and 4 keys–equanimity toward the non-virtuous.

I HAVE A LOT TO SAY ABOUT THIS!  And, of course, I have to practice step up/step back in class and not do a 40 minute lecture on the nature of evil and the dangers of holding ourselves to standards of perfection.  So, here I am, blogging away.

The first thing to say about sutra 1.33 is that the sutras, as part of Hinduism, can be a little like the 10 commandments.  They are gentler–they say, if you want to be calm, do this.  The commandments threaten hell and damnation.  But outside of that, it’s all about rules for behavior.  And I don’t disagree with the rules so much except for the fact that the minute someone lays down a rule I want to rebel in some way.  I mean, I don’t want to covet, lie, steal or kill…or, with the sutras, give myself over to jealousy, coldness, condemnation, etc.  But I know this–I can’t pretend that my fears, jealousy, resentments and withholding don’t exist.  I mean, me, personally, I’m really good at pretending about a lot of things, but not about this.  And it’s good, really, to be in reality about the nature of being human.  It’s mistake with these kinds of teachings to repress, deny, and bully ourselves into trying to have good behavior when we just want to get homicidal or at least bitchy.

This is why I’m glad I’m a heretic/rebel.  My latest book on Buddhism is called Living with Your Heart Wide Open, which I bought because I thought my friend Don had such an open heart, and I truly want to learn to be more like him.  And thank whatever/whoever, the book contains all these mindfulness practices for being with your jealousy, judgment, self-hatred, shame, etc.  It teaches you to live with them in kindness to yourself.

What scares me about the sutras, over and over again, is the idealization…that we are somehow capable of being all happy for people all the time with no envy, or capable of witnessing evil without real pain.  The sutras contain a potential for disowning what is broken and hurt in me and I know, as deeply as I know anything, that disowning is a recipe for disaster.  It causes shame and feelings of not being good enough, whenever I try to meet impossible standards.  And in trying to be perfect I build a strait-jacket that I then must escape…and the internal pressure means the escape is likely to be desperate and not very pretty.

Like I always say, it’s much better to just say I’m f*&(ed up… and enjoy it.

And so, part 2, we now come to the 4th lock and key, having equanimity with the non-virtuous.  The teacher of the training asked us to think of what this might mean, other than utter denial.  She asked us to think about non-virtue…or evil.

And I have been thinking.  Remembering.

I’ve been an activist since 1987, first as a volunteer, and then as a professional working with women through Family Planning.  The first issue I worked on was stopping violence against women and children.  In my position as a counselor and community liaison at Family Planning, I joined SECAT, the South Eastern Child Advocacy Team and became the secretary on the executive board.  This led to some networking (with the Nashua Rape Crisis Center among other non-profits) and I organized a supportive protest at the trial of Jessie Murabito, who had taken her children into the Underground after a jury found her husband not guilty of felonious sexual assault against her six year old daughter Bethany.  (Bethany had testifed against her father. )  I was in the room when the judge found Jessie Murabito guilty of abducting her children and took away custody.  I had heard about the social worker who independently decided that Mark Murabito was a good guy and made a unilateral decision to give him unsupervised visits–and then, after his ex-wife found guilty of abducting the children, he was given custody.  (In the late 80’s and early 90’s this was how it went when women took their offending husbands to court…especially if their husbands were white and upper middle class.)

I don’t have equanimity about this.

But the story–mine at least–doesn’t end there.  Two years later I was teaching creative writing and one of my students won a grant to go into the New Hampshire prisons and interview sex offenders, some of whom were part of an in-prison rehabilitation, and some of whom had refused to participate.  She interviewed 10 men, then wrote their stories in the first person, so the reader had the same experience she’d had, of listening to a man’s life.  She asked me to edit the book.

She’d done a brilliant job.  With each man–and these were serial rapists who’d raped 40+women, multiple offender child abusers–I entered the story of their painful childhoods, and I saw them as boys, being hurt.  And inevitably, as they became teenagers, I could feel the line approaching, the line they crossed…at 15, 16, 17, when they offended for the first time.  In my mind, reading, I’d be saying, “no, don’t,” even as I knew that they would, that they did, that they had been incarcerated for just this.  But I was enough on the side of these men that I wanted them not to cross the line–not only for the horror of what they did to their victims, told in detail, but the horror of what they did to themselves.

Reading that book made me want to scream, but it ripped away any ability I had to judge without mercy.

This morning, following last night’s class, I have been thinking about this…about my life as an activist, about evil, about women and children, about all the men I watched die of AIDS while Reagan refused to do what he could have done to halt the epidemic, about my witnessing of racism, about my own experiences of discrimination as a woman and queer person.  My yoga trainer wants us to come up with a way of understanding equanimity about evil, or another word that might express this sutra.

My words are spiritual fortitude.  Because while I can’t, in the particular, think of Jessie and Bethany Murabito without crying and wanting to scream at the injustice of their lives, I can, in the universal, hold what I know about humanity.  It must be held, all of it; it must be held by me, because it has been given to me to be up close and personal with evil.

How do I hold it?  This morning, I’ve used the mindfulness practice–I have to do this first–and I’ve sensed into my body, into the emotions, into the particular grief of the Murabito story and my connection to it.   But there is a larger awareness–all the women who came when I put out the call to support Jessie, the heroism and kindness I’ve seen in my own life and that I’ve read about, the people who fight, and those who love.  I put that with Mark Murabito getting custody of his daughter, with Ronald Reagan’s homophobia, with the cops with their hands on their billy clubs as they kicked my African-American friends out of my apartment in 1978.  I put it against the Holocaust, I put it against Rwanda and the Sudan, and then I grow bigger, bigger, bigger, in awareness, in the depth of my own heart.  I open.  It isn’t comfortable or easy–it’s a very painful stretching to just know and hold to knowing:  this is all of who we are, there isn’t anything else, the war and the palm against a cheek, the outstretched hand and the knife.  This is who we are.

I call this painful stretching spiritual fortitude.

In Stephen Cope’s book, The Wisdom of Yoga, he describes a character who he calls Rudy, a man who, Cope says, is the closest to enlightened of anyone he’s ever known.  Rudy is at peace, but it is a peace edged with sadness.  Rudy does not deny the world, or its terrible and beautiful reality.

Sometimes, these days, I approach that kind of peace.  For a minute, or an hour, or half a day, I know it.

I believe I am beginning to be able to hold the death of my friend Don, his tenderness and kindness that is not here any more, and yet is, if it lives in me, if I can find it in myself and give it away, over and over again, as he did.

Spiritual fortitude.

Metta for Bethany and Jessie Murabito, wherever they are.  May you be well, may you be happy, may you be safe and protected, may you be at peace with what is.

As hard a thing as that is to achieve, in the life you have been given.


If you’d like to read more about the Murabito trial, go to:,384372 (About the decision to let Bethany Murabito testify),5130150  (Other accusations against Mark Murabito.)  (Brief article about parents using the underground to protect their children)

There is also a TV movie, starring Meg Tilly, based on cases from the late 80’s, called In the Interest of the Child.