Category: self-judgement


Covet

One of the books we’re reading for seminary is Leonard Felder’s “The Ten Challenges”, an interfaith look at the Ten Commandments of the Hebrew Bible.  This month, I read the last chapter, on the 10th Commandment: “Thou shalt not covet your neighbor’s house, his wife, his slave, his slave-girl, his ox, his ass, or anything that belongs to him”.  I read this a few hours after coming home from standing on beautiful land that a friend is going to buy.  Here’s this month’s homework:

      For much of my life, I’ve been confident in my ability to get what I want.  My parents helped me cultivate the skills of persistence, negotiation, and having a big picture view of situations.  My spiritual upbringing helped me develop an understanding of the power of a positive perspective and belief in my own worth.  I have pursued grand dreams and goals and achieved them.

One area of my life that I haven’t been confident in over the last decade has been in the realm of MONEY.  I’ve developed an identity around being poor, because (in my story) people have to exploit people or the land in order to get lots of money.  I’m not willing to do that, so I’ve accepted poor as a given in my life.  This means that things that cost a lot of money seem out of reach for me, unless I can get a scholarship or some kind of financial aid.  With this perspective, buying my own house and land has seemed totally out of the question.

When my dear friend Renee called me earlier this week and told me she found the land of her dreams, and that it was completely affordable, and she was going to buy it, my first reaction was envy and jealousy.  Why hadn’t I found it first?  When she took me out to see the land, I was in awe, and my envy felt like a heavy lump of clay in my chest.

Knowing our friendship could hold my complex feelings, I started to share my experience with Renee.  As I spoke, the clay loosened and lightened, and underneath it I found inspiration.  “If she found wonderful, affordable land, — I can too.”  And then, beyond that was the awareness that Renee has been working her ass off, holding a vision for this land for at least the last 15 years.  She’s looked online at real estate listings every day, almost as a spiritual practice.  She’s visited dozens of lots for sale, and each time it’s refined her vision about what she really wants.  And now she’s found it.

I realized that I’ve been putting this same kind of energy into my professional life for the last several years.  I’ve been looking at job postings and sometimes applying for positions, and feeling the deep knowing in me when something isn’t a right fit, and when it is.  Now I have 2 jobs that allow me to use my passions and talents, and I’m on my way to being ordained as an interfaith minister so I can really do my work in the world.  This is where I’ve put my manifesting energy.  Once I tapped into that understanding and appreciation, my envy of Renee’s land completely melted away, leaving my happiness for her (and my new inspiration to find spectacular and affordable land of my own) pure and clear.

Realizing that I’ve been manifesting what I truly want in my life was a great gift, born out of processing my experience of coveting Renee’s land.  It was possible because I accepted my experience instead of hiding or running away from it, and then looked deeper into the many layers.  It seems like this is an important piece of the “Thou shalt nots” of the 10 Commandments.  It doesn’t mean that having those experiences are bad or wrong, just that those experiences are an indication that there’s some work that needs to be done.

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Quick update on what I’ve been doing, since I’ve been incommunicado for a bit.  I’ve been travelling north, stopping in Rhode Island for a fantastic wedding of some amazing people I’d never met (a friend of the friend I’m traveling with), and then up to New Hampshire to stand naked on the edge of an icy mountain, then to Vermont to meet more great friends of my travel partner, and now Maine.  I visited the family I lived with 5 years ago as an apprentice on their farm, and got to watch the whole maple sugaring process (the sap has just started flowing — perfect timing for a visit to New England.)  Last night I taught a class about Twin Oaks at the Maine College of Art (MECA), and today I’m teaching at the University of New England.

The presentations have been going well.  I’m more prepared than I’ve been for the last many presentations I’ve given, and the preparation is really paying off.  I’m happy and brilliant and passionately ranting and chatting with students for 20 minutes after class ends.  Ahhh… this is the life.  Last night I stayed in a fancy Bed & Breakfast and took a long bath and read The Fifth Sacred Thing (which I’ve nver read before — I’m loving it), and this morning I had strawberries and ice cream for breakfast!  The berries and cream, though, can’t compare to the glorious feeling I have when I’m standing in front of a room of 30 college students describing the freedom I feel when I’m walking down the path at Twin Oaks without a shirt on, and they’re staring back at me with alternating smiles and bewilderment and horror.

I’ve actually been having a bit of a challenging time, personally.  Self-judgement stuff, recognizing how stuck I am on figuring out whether I’m essentially, universally, spiritually Right or Wrong.  Yuck.  I’m feeling a lot better today after having such a great time with this last class.  One more talk over lunchtime, meeting up with my travel partner, and then we’ll begin the journey south this afternoon.    What a life.

I’m down at Tekiah again, the community in southern VA that I’ve visited a few times before. The community is dissolving after 13 years because they haven’t been making it financially and the woman who has really been the heart of it, Joy, is moving to New York. My partner Pax, his partner Hawina, their son Willow, and our friend Spot have been down here for a few weeks helping Joy finish things up here and saying goodbye to this place. This has been a significant place of retreat for us, a three hour drive from Twin Oaks. There have been major Samhain rituals and other healing rites held here. The land is beautiful and the community has been open and flexible. I came down a few days ago to help out and drive the clan back home tomorrow. We’re saying goodbye to the land, closing their hemp hammock business, and honoring the work that we’ve done here (especially interpersonally — Hawina and I have really evolved our relationship during our stays here, as have Hawina and Spot, Joy and Pax, and all of us as a group).

Last night we helped Joy host a farewell party in Floyd, the small funky town in which the community is located. About 40 local folks came, including many people who had lived in the community and then moved to town. We had a light solstice ritual, and then a “saying goodbye to Joy” ritual where she put on her coat and walked away, out the door, while we sang a song and waved goodbye. We rested for awhile in the feeling of having her gone, and then she came back in for cake and dancing! It was a sweet and powerful experience, for her especially.

My big news now is that I’m hurt. I was dancing at the party, right at the end, and I did something that squinched my back and now I’m having a hard time with pain whenever I move. Yikes. It feels pretty significant, like it will take awhile to heal. Joy and Hawina are both wonderfully talented healers, and they’ve been giving me a lot of love and attention. I noticed that my first instinct when I got hurt was to go hide in a corner behind a table and stretch on my own, but then Pax came and found me and got Joy to help me. It’s so interesting to me that my first instinct was to go hide by myself, when I was surrounded by people who I know are healers and who I know love and care about me. I think it was a “I have to be happy all the time” kind of thing, thinking that other people wouldn’t want to deal with me when I was struggling. And of course, that’s not what I THINK; on some level, I guess it’s what I BELIEVE.

When Joy came over to me, she had me lay down on a long cushion so she could work on my back. At one point she asked me to roll over so she could work on me from a different angle. I couldn’t. My muscles just couldn’t do it. Eventually a few people came over and helped me roll slowly onto my side. I laid there, with different people coming over to work on me and talk with me and just be with me, until the party and cleanup was all over. When we were ready to leave, I struggled to get up, wanting to do it myself and simply being unable to. Pax and Joy helped me get up, and I felt so sad and frustrated that I started growling. “Yes, do that!” said Hawina. “Do what?” “Do that release thing you were just doing. Let it out!” And I growled loudly, which turned into a yell and then a scream and then sobbing. “That’s it, let it out. Keep going,” Hawina said. And I screamed and cried and yelled and at some point I looked down and saw two year old Willow staring up at me with a huge smile on his face. He was just beaming. This morning I was hanging out with him and I told him I was having trouble moving because I got hurt last night, and I asked him if he remembered when I was crying and yelling. “Yeah, it was a song” he said. “A song?” “Yeah, it was like a song.”

So, here I am. I can walk slowly pretty well, and I can sit without pain. Getting up from laying down is very diffucult, and I haven’t figured out a way to put on my shoes successfully (Hawina and Joy have loved helping me with my shoes, kneeling down at my feet, each taking a foot). Joy has been massaging me hourly, and I’ve been doing ballet exercises in front of the woodstove — keeping my back completely straight and doing plies and other french-titled moves. I’m getting lots of love and allowing myself to recieve it. It’s amazing what a conscious choice that has to be — my first inclination is to feel guilty that I’m taking so much time and energy from them. ! What a fucked up mindtrip. When I realized that was going on in my head, I intentionally chose to trust that they were doing it out of a place of love, and if they didn’t wan’t to be doing it, they wouldn’t be. So there, all you messages of inadequacy perpetuated by mainstream culture! hah ha! I choose something different. I choose to nurture myself, and allow others to nurture me.

Where to start? It’s been one month, almost exactly, since I’ve really written anything except a brief apology for not writing.

Do my readers deserve an explanation of what i’ve been up to, or should I just dive into the thoughts I want to share tonight? A synopsis of my last month will suffice for now, I suppose. I’ve been travelling, falling in love, sharing the commune with a college friend, pondering on the nature of sanity and otherwise, travelling some more, falling in love some more, negotiating complex relationships, and thinking of the brilliant reflections I wanted to write about the last round of comments about the insular life of the commune.

I’ve noticed a pattern in my blog writing that whenever a great conversation gets going in the comments, I pull back from posting for awhile. I think I get caught up in my “perfectionist” persona, wanting type out a magnificent manifesto in response to the comments, and I don’t want to post anything until I post brilliance. Well, I miss writing this blog, so I’m just going to give it a go and see what comes out.

I struggle fairly constantly with the challenge that Patch was addressing in co’s comments. I came to the commune driven by a passion for emotional, social, and spiritual health — not just for myself, but for the world. I had worked in Cincinnati and DC doing “in the system” political change work, and I felt like I was beating my head against a brick wall. I felt like the work I did was band-aid work, while the knife continued to slash and create more wounds in need of more band-aids. I wanted to be doing “knife stopping” work, creating a different social and economic structure not rooted in oppression and exploitation. (When I mentioned this metaphor to a friend, he replied that a more apt visual is pulling drowning babies from a river vs. stopping the person who’s throwing them in… grotestque, yes, and perhaps more poignant). Said again by MLK Jr: “True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring.”

Choose the metaphor that works for you; it’s important for me to remember that BOTH levels are important. You can’t bleed to death while you’re trying to stop the knife, and those babies need saving once they’re in the river. It’s just not a one-person job. There are many people working in many ways for the overall health of our world.

So then my struggle here is asking myself how my life on the commune is working to create any real change in the world. It’s so easy to get insular and isolated here, focusing on the minor details of bureaucratic process and community budgets and interpersonal conflict. And yet, learning how to negotiate these things repectfully and healthily is important for creating the kind of culture we want to promote! That’s really the piece that I focus on — making the idea of a healthy culture accessible to people. The concept of CHOICE about what one’s life looks like, of ACTIVE CREATION OF CULTURE, of INTENTIONAL INTERACTIONS with people that involve deep communication. Any person can choose to live with other people in healthier, more sustainable ways, but only if they know that they have that choice. Mainstream culture promotes an ideal that seems stagnant and passive, “this is the way things are”, “this is what success is”, and “this is how normal people interact with each other”. I see my participation in the larger world as offering the idea that something different is possible, and my life on the commune is directed towards creating and living that possibility — one manifestation of it, at least. I don’t purport that we’ve got it all figured out. We’re living in search of something different than the obviously unhealthy and exploitative dominant culture.

So how effective am I? How effective are we as a community? I don’t know. We haven’t gotten any new members from the talks I’ve done in universities, and I’m okay with that. That’s really not the point. The seeds we plant have a long incubation period, and we don’t really know what the actual plants will look like. This is all an experiment based on a deep conviction that something different is possible, and absolutely necessary.

I struggle with not having tangible effects of my activism. No legislation gets passed, no sick folks get well, and no candidates get elected. I often ask myself “what am I really DOING here? Should I be working to develop affordable housing in Cincinnati?”. And then I go out into the city, and I remember the path I’m on to “restructure the edifice” that produces the need for “affordable housing.”

And, not everyone here is committed to the same ideals as I am. There are lots of folks here who are quite happy with their lives on the commune and wish that all the visitors and tourists would just go away and leave us alone. And they wish that I (and other people who do work like I do) would redirect our energy and labor to the garden and the tofu hut. Sometimes I ask myself if I’m supporting the community enough, if I should spend less time doing outreach and more time making tofu.

This is enough for now. It is a fairly constant question to myself, how/if I’m really affecting any real change. Thanks to Patch, Chris, Free, Pax, and everyone else who commented for fueling the exploration. More comments welcome (if you’re all still around after my prolonged absence!).

love, tickledspirit

ps — you’re all invited to come out and visit, just to see what we’re doing here. Check out our website for information about our Saturday Tours and our 3 Week Visitor Program.