Why Do I Feel So NAKED?

Have you ever had to have a conversation with someone that you dreaded having? I bet you wished you could skip the whole process, or that they could read your mind, thus taking the pressure off of you. Unfortunately, things don’t happen that way. People may be perceptive enough to sense when something is wrong with you, but chances are high that your friends aren’t mind readers, so how could they possibly know what’s bothering you if you don’t communicate that to them clearly?

Most people are terrified by the mere idea of being vulnerable with someone. More so emotionally than physically. From a very young age, we begin to develop emotional defense patterns, also known as “5 Personality Patterns” according to Steven Kessler. We can either shut down, become flighty, neglect/project our own needs onto others, or become quite aggressive when feeling threatened emotionally. These patterns can come into play when we are given critiques we were unprepared for, as well as moments where we are the ones giving the criticism. Generations predating Generation Z, did not grow up with TED Talks and other resources that we have today. We coped as best we could and communicated with as much emotional maturity as we had available and adapted as more information was provided via life research or life experience.

One thing I’ve learned from personal experience is that there are some self assessing moments where we have to have conversations with ourselves that cause us to self correct and self soothe and there are others where we take the resolutions of those internal conversations and share those findings with those who are directly impacted by the issue at hand. Just the other day, I had to have a conversation that I felt in no way prepared for.

For about a week I had been feeling at ill ease with the state of a situation, but didn’t fully understand why. The more I sat with myself, quieted my mind, and let the thoughts and emotions flow, the clearer the root of the issue became in my minds eye; I was being triggered in the present by somethings I hadn’t dealt with from the past. It took me having a moment of clarity on the couch to see what my subconscious was trying to communicate to me. The kicker is that the communication couldn’t end there. This situation called for me to identify the issue for myself and share that information with someone else. Thankfully, the person that I had to communicate my feelings to hadn’t seen me in my distraught state of mind until I myself had identified the problem first. I gathered every bit of courage that I could muster, hid my face under the readily available blanket, and began to spill the contents of my heart. It was by far the most naked I’ve ever felt in my life. Vulnerability is like sitting that dream where you’re nude in a classroom of your peers, but they see all your emotional flaws. I don’t mention this to scare you, but to prepare you because the results were beyond worth it. I got a strengthened bond, they got a deeper understanding of me, and my fears were quelled.

The key thing in moments of vulnerability is that the person you are communicating with validates your emotions and respects you, because you respect this person enough to share your thoughts and fears with them. Surround yourself with people who value your emotions and respect you and your boundaries. Moments of vulnerability are few and far in between, but they produce gems that should be shared with loved ones and cherished forever.

Social Justice and the Mindfulness Bell Go Together

Please support the Plum Village Community with a purchase of The Mindfulness Bell Autumn 2020/Issue 85 and read the Venerable Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh‘s guidance for cultivating “Peace, Love and Happiness” during these challenging days. Plus, you can read my contribution, “Peaceful Warrior,” about how I’ve coped with COVID-19 in my new city.

The Spaces in Our Togetherness

risk everything.

And nothing.

I found you whole, a perfect imperfection.

Saucy and hot!

Stay close, hug up on me, bump me–again, worry, smile, cry, mansplain, masseur, get provisions, pay the bills, pick up G, wake up too early, laugh, grade papers, water the garden, teach, teach right after, teach some more, learn two or three things from your wife, get takeout, walk up the hill, put out the bins, close up the house, deliver my bud, check your email, call your siblings–

all kind as love!

And, just this morning.

Edissa mentors artists and writers of all ages in alignment with her conviction for working in radical solidarity to achieve social justice.

Featured photo by Jason Reyes for Living Artist Project.

Watch Your Mouth! Self-Care Through Self-Affirmation

We have made it to the fourth quarter of 2020! With only three months of this year to go, many are feeling emotionally and existentially tired. With things running together on what seems like a continuous feedback loop, many may have fallen off their usual self-care routines. The fourth quarter is where games are won and lost but, in the words of Ms. Lauryn Hill, “how you gonna win when you ain’t right within?” Practicing self-care in your usual ways, traveling, going to the gym, attending family events, may not be practical right now. In a climate rife with complaints and murmuring, the easiest way to maintain self-care, and remain in balance, is through the practice of affirmations.

What Is Self-Affirmation?

Self-Affirmation is the process of speaking life into yourself. It is using your own ashe (divine energy) to shape your circumstances and reality around you. It’s not just positive thinking, thought that is part of it. To affirm yourself means to speak life over yourself from a standpoint of truly wanting to see those things come to pass. Affirmations also aren’t wishful thinking either. The affirmation needs to have actionable intention behind it. For example, if you are affirming that you are a top scholar, you have to do more than just declare that over yourself, you have to do the work and study. Words are the starting point, consistency brings it home.

What If I Don’t Believe the Affirmation?

Of course, believing the affirmation makes it all the more powerful, but as Donald Lawrence and the Tri-City Singers remind listeners, sometimes you just have to encourage yourself. You don’t always have to feel in the mood to affirm yourself though generally, it’s when you’re feeling down that you may need it the most. If you are having trouble speaking positively over yourself, there are a few ways to go about shifting that paradigm.

  1. Therapy. For numerous reasons, within the Black community going to therapy is seen as weak or ineffective. There was a meme on social media that stated essentially that many are exhausted from trying to pray their way through things they needed to seek help for. Self-affirmation can be placed in this context as well. Sometimes, you need a licensed professional to help you understand the root causes of self-esteem issues and other troublesome patterns of behavior. Once you’ve dealt with the root, you can then begin to plant a new harvest.
  2. Enlist the Help of Friends/Family. If you don’t feel that you are able to encourage yourself, try and see if you have family or friends who would be willing to offer you words of affirmation on a fairly consistent basis. Some people need to have things externalized before they internalize them. If that is you, get an affirmation buddy and make it reciprocal. You affirm them, they affirm you, and you build one another and by extension communities.
  3. Meditate. Sometimes it may not be that you have an issue believing the affirmations. Your mind may just be too cluttered with the minutiae of life. Take a moment, or several, to ground yourself and align yourself to receive positivity. For more information on meditation and mindfulness, check back in November!

How to Begin Self-Care Through Self-Affirmation

There is no wrong or right way to affirm and care for yourself. But if you are looking for some starting points, here are some suggestions.

  1. Scriptures, Proverbs, and Parables. Regardless of what spiritual system you subscribe to, if you subscribe to one at all, proverbs and parables abound. They also are prevalent outside of a spiritual context. Though many may find organized religion problematic, there are some gems contained in the Bible, Torah, Koran, Odu Ifa, the teachings of Ptahhotep, et al. that can start as the basis of your affirmation list.
  2. Music. Music is powerful with a specific energy. If you need affirmations on the go, try looking for it in music. Some personal recommendations are any album by India.Arie.
  3. What needs to change? Another starting point is by looking at what things need to change, or what things have died in your life. Once you are able to identify these items, you can move forward to speak life into them and build yourself up.
  4. Social Media. Social media is usually seen as harmful to one’s sense of self. However, there are a few accounts that are great at providing affirmations. Two accounts to follow on Instagram are: @thenapministry and @blackselfcaretalk.

Whichever method you choose to begin, the important part is to get started. Start setting your foundation for 2021 now. Happy affirming!

excerpt from “The Will to Change” by Adrienne Rich

PART I

11/69-2/70

1.

We were bound on the wheel of an endless conversation.

Inside this shell, a tide waiting for someone to enter.

A monologue waiting for you to interrupt it.

A man wading into the surf. The dialogue of the rock with the breaker.

The wave changed instantly by the rock; the rock changed by the wave returning over and over.

The dialogue that lasts all night or a whole lifetime.

A conversation of sounds melting constantly into rhythms.

A shell waiting for you to listen.

A tide that ebbs and flows against a deserted continent.

A cycle whose rhythm begins to change the meanings of words.

A wheel of blinding waves of light, the spokes pulsing out from where we hang together in the turning of an endless conversation.

The meaning that searches for its word like a hermit crab.

A monologue that waits for one listener.

An ear filled with one sound only.

A shell penetrated by meaning.

For all the fallen angels of the Black Lives Matter Civil and Human Rights Movement of 2020, your life has meaning. You are not forgotten.

Healing Begins with Paying Attention: Start by Identifying What You Want to Heal

Where is your pain? What is the shape of it? How long does it last? By interrogating our bodies, we can map out the areas that need attention. This requires quiet time, Quiet time can come in the form of prayer, meditation, even bath time. Once we know where it is and what it does, When we can study the body’s systems using resources developed by professionals, those resources provide a roadmap of what we already know and don’t need to invent. it gives us more power to discern the root of the disease and heal it.

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For my primary focus in this post, I’ll look to provide context for my ear to understand chronic ear infection and now a new sensitivity to cold and precipitation. I’ve had ear infections, throat and tonsil problems from the earliest I can remember until about the time that moved away from NYC. This lifetime, recurring illness seemed to leave me until some recent trips during the winter season and new colder evening weather in the mountainous region in which I live.

Two things are at play: The physicality of my ear and external, environmental factors. My physical ear canal is short and wide, allowing water, air and other airborne particles to enter easily into the inner ear. That’s obvious. This means, I probably get more direct exposure to in my ear region than people whose tragus covers the opening to the ear canal, and also, who may have a longer ear canal. Folks who have bent or long canals may have an advantage. Environmentally, I grew up poor in public housing, which comes with it’s own socioeconomic predispositions. I’ll examine this more for the historical context of my chronic ear condition.

After a lifetime of ear problems, two courses of action become apparent. First, I need to protect my inner and middle ear during winter, travel and bathing. Secondly, I need to investigate and understand what factors impact my susceptibility to ear infection. Healing for me is no more ear infections, because the cure is always harder.  In other words, we must define, identify and name our healing. I want to restore the ailing member to optimum functioning. In this situation, I have to ask myself, What is healing?

 

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Healing Practice:

You will need to choose an area of focus for your attention, healing and study. This requires love and compassion, not judgment. Handle yourself with tenderness. You may need to do these activities regularly to allow the spirit to speak to you. Ask for guidance through prayer.

  • Meditate on your body. This can be in the bath, seated or lying down and during applied Reiki. See what emerges. Document any insights in your journal for this practice.
  • Write about your healing and see what comes up. Explore questions that open as you write.
  • Focus on an area where you already have difficulty, injury or other disease. Use a quiet time to touch the area with your hands, mind or vision. You may also examine medical records and note important points with the area. Make notes of any patterns that arise.

As ever, I’m open for questions, comments and suggestions.

On the Path to Healing: The Practice of Intimacy

I have been thinking about whether we humans can heal themelves for some 35 years now. In truth I’ve been healing myself all my life and continue to deepen my understanding of healing and myself. There are so many things that I’d like to know, heal and accept in myself. Suddenly COVID-19 is giving me an accelerator in which to look at and heal myself. So let’s begin with a question: Can we heal ourselves?

I believe that we can. It’s not easy, but it is possible. Healing is a radical, positive change on a physical, mental, metaphysical or spiritual level. The problem is that we humans naturally fear change so we have built up resistance to it. Only a few powerful masters can probably heal something like a infectious disease, but most of us may be able to manage chronic conditions with which we live. This Coronavirus outbreak is making space for personal intimacy, which a wise massage therapist named Gordana once explained to me thus: “Intimacy really means: “In-To-Me-See”. Essentially, intimacy is the actual seeing deeply into the beloved. Who, then, could possibly be more beloved than the self? What kind of love exists in the absence of self-love?

In fact, we cannot love another if we cannot truly see them–(and I definitely don’t mean with our weak eyes). Seeing here, is the embracing, accepting and understanding of the beloved. By using this time of isolation to look at areas within ourselves that need healing, we can resolve situations in our lives in ways that bring radical change to an area using our consciousness–our applied awareness.

We can then use the ability to see into ourselves, the practice of intimacy, to study and learn from the situation as it manifests in us and apply new behavior or mental conditions to alter an area through meditation, touch and or visualization. Using this technique, I plan to look at two areas of my body: in the middle and inner ear and the feet in order to transform pain in the latter, and chronic illness in the other.

Please join me on the journey inward into ourselves. You can do all of this at home. Get comfy; we’ll be here for while. Email me your questions or respond directly to the post. Here is what you will need:

  • An anatomy book to help you understand the basics (How the Body Works: A Comprehensive Illustrated Encyclopedia of Anatomy edited by Dr. Peter Abrahams is excellent.)
    • Also you can use a massage or Reiki book using Chakras, meridians or acupuncture points
  • A journal or writing paper with which to document
  • A quiet comfortable area for study, meditation and practice
  • An open, curious and willing mind as more sources and recommendation are forthcoming
    • Please note: We will NOT work with emotional trauma, as I believe working with trauma requires a loving human presence with appropriate training.

 

“Heart Parts” a poem by Kelechi Ubozoh

This thing inside me beats again

Size of a closed fist

Strained muscle

Pink insides

Awake Aorta

Vulnerable

Artic exposed

I can’t control it.

Years of being buried under another’s name

tattoo across closed tricuspid valves.

See, he wants lazy phone calls and holding hands.

He wants sky gazing on a blanket.

He wants to ask me all the questions.

This Chicago kid with a chipped tooth smile.

Honey brown eyes, full lips…

He wants conversations about books.

He wants soft whispers.

He wants time.

I want to devour him and drown in this feeling.

Who knows if I’ll ever feel it again?

Contracting heart

Blood flowing

Pumping

Woke up from a death like sleep.

Oh precious heart, I thought you perished in the fire.

Awakening hurts.

Fleshy pink, so raw and open

No fresh dew softness

Jarring sharp

Numb breaking

Band-Aid ripped off a cool scabbed wound.

Missing film around my heart.

I lean in.

He leans back.

Don’t turn me crazy with your silence.

You woke up

all my heart parts.

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Elliott C. Nathan in collaboration with Living Artist Project

Definitions: The Necessity of Art (Part I)

I have spent years looking at color and studying history through the lens of art, attempting to make the world around myself beautiful. Certainly, what we create is deeply influenced by what we see: the fragmentation or wholeness of life begins within. My walls burst with a vibrancy I believe reflects my deepest nature. The collective images around me emerge into a singular experience of my own story, retold.

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Writer Toni Morrison

In times of despair, art is no luxury. Essential to the healing of the psyche, beauty in her many forms is a conduit for soothing inflamed pathways, a distraction from our own external or internal whirls, a meditation on purpose. Through our eyes, the story of the extraordinary other, the Beloved, is transmuted into wordlessness, a state of suspended ego. Go there.

 

“This is precisely the time when artists go to work. There is no time for despair, no place for self-pity, no need for silence, no room for fear. We speak, we write, we do language. That is how civilizations heal.”    ~ Toni Morrrison

The Art of Reconciliation

I don’t know how to fix things. I don’t know how to make things work again once they fail. I’m no engineer. I am a tinkerer.

I know how to listen. I listen with my ears. I listen with my mind. I listen with my memory. I listen with my heart. I listen with my intellect. I listen with my emotions. I listen with my eyes, my experience and my pen.

Each listening hears differently. Each listening possesses its own attunement. Listening is a teacher, a healer and a decision maker. Listening is passive and active. Listening is an ancient form of communication, a dance with the moving molecules of existence.

How do we listen to one another? How do we listen to the beloved? How do we listen to God, to history, to our deepest self?

These simple questions, unpacked, can tell us about how we hear and process the world.

In many religious traditions, a time of quiet contemplation, reflection and solitude are prescribed for a special kind listening and hearing to happen. The challenge in contemporary society like ours is to value and consecrate time to the practice. We unfortunately view quiet and solitude as suspect, luxurious or superfluous. Without dedicated time for listening and stillness, we cannot hear our highest calling—we are not able to listen for our next steps. And, instead, we fill all of our time with noise, in essence, censoring our own receptors from the deep hearing our souls need to thrive.

With what do we fill our lives? For some, life is endless talking without pausing to digest, listen or consider. Next, we permit ourselves to be saturated in the constant bombardment of media from televisions, radios and other sources of media. We are addicted to social-media platforms, unable to eat a meal without a device in one hand, consuming tasteless food and ingesting unexamined content with our eyes. Whether we fill our time with other people, fictional or factual content, sounds in any form, we cannot reconcile without some sort of retreat into solitude and serenity. In the second episode of the deeply grotesque and compelling series, Black Mirror, the main character tries to lie down silently in his room; unable to shut down the endless stream of programing that is forced upon through all of his waking hours, he shatters one of the many screens lining the walls of his room. Even this does not afford him even a temporary reprieve from external stimulation.

The metaphor in the episode is only partially hyperbolic. We are under the constant pull of instant news, messaging and reminders. Only when we are about to burst will we try to shut the devices down—even then, we may not be able to sever ties to the technology that plugs in to the noise. We may not pay in the literal sense that the show depicts, but we come close. Serenity, the show suggests, becomes the domain of the wealthy, but I’m not sure that the wealthy are any better at getting quiet or sitting in stillness.

We all need to step back from life, devices, Internet, news, chatter, magazines, regularly. For some, a daily retreat in the form of meditation or prayer is necessary; for others, a periodic abstaining from external stimulus or a foray into nature will suffice. The dedicated time needs to be intentionally gifted to the self, an official offering of the heart, for renewal to happen. If we don’t make a conscious choice, our bodies and minds will often decide for us. That can be a very painful process.

Clearly, I am not an expert on how to patch up broken moments. I am a woman who was once desperate to repair important relationships, holding to an uncompromising optimism about outcomes and drowning out the pain with business. The surrender for me came when I could no longer exact effort, forced into isolation by physical ailments and immobilized by emotions owing to my inability to repair the damage to important relationships. At that time, I found the opening into radical acceptance, a place of listening and hearing, a knowing that was the entirety of the experience—sitting with my pain with my raw emotions. At first the solitude and quiet turned into an enormous dragon, my monstrous failures eating me alive. Gradually, the dragon settled into a protective guard dog, alert and vigilant, yet utterly gentle and loving, a new experience of the self.

Now I seek moments of solitude, reflection and silence regularly. Cultivating the practice of retreat in myself, I allow for serenity and stillness, to make the necessary peace with my life. Peace requires turning the external world off periodically. We can lose so much of ourselves in the process of life. We are prone to forgetting our priorities when we don’t make time for introspection. The process of retreat is necessary for compassion and healing and opening. The reconciliation with the self, returning the self in loving kindness is the only possible way to find peace. We must cultivate that peace in ourselves.

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