Becoming Captain America

Times of grit and times of grace are needed, now more than ever. Homeless families trying to keep minimum-wage jobs, global warming crisis that is causing levels of panic, veterans coming home from war and causing harm to themselves and others. We are no longer peacemakers if we want to make an impact, we have to be the cause-and-effect participants in helping the person next to us. 

And it starts with the nuanced hero at home.

Look at your life, everything about it. Which parts make you feel scared? How often do you find yourself alone with your thoughts and they make you feel lost? Which parts of yourself are you really convinced may someday be the end of your own happiness. 

Comic book movies have been hitting the theaters and making big bucks lately : The Amazing Spider Man 2, Captain America, Winter Soldier…

Image

What do these movies have in common? Good guy. Bad guy. Good guy wins. Bad guy loses. It’s what we are all hoping for ourselves : some clarity of the enemy and the hero. What we are doing wrong and what we are doing right in our life becomes a true or false question. We become heroes. 

Today, I give myself permission to be the nuanced hero at home. The hero who has trouble getting out of bed sometimes because things are hard for her. The hero who then decides to do yoga instead of feel bad about it, and calls her friend to say hello. The hero who sucks at math. The hero who is constantly apologizing for things that aren’t her fault. The hero that isn’t sure how to live in this world, but keeps trying to be better even when she sets herself back.

I’ve got some news : the nuanced hero at home is the good guy and the bad guy all at once. Make peace with who that nuanced hero is RIGHT NOW, and end your suffering. End the idea that you have to have it all figured out. End the idea that you can’t handle the unstable life you have, or that peace is an impossibility. Because at the end of the day, the nuanced hero needs to be happy – and he’ll find that making himself or herself happy first, then sharing that with others. 

I wish all this for you, my heroes. 

Sat Nam,

Advertisements

Ways to Take Up Space

1. Say what you feel the moment you feel it. Tell the grocer he made a mistake in a very kind way. Tell your friend they are making you feel pressured, marginalized or hurt. Tell your lover that you love them and appreciate everything they do for you. Tell your parents thank you. 

2. If that makes you uncomfortable, write those feelings down and then say them later to the person. It still counts.

3. Sing loudly. In the car, in the shower, on stage, recorded or into your hairbrush. But sing with your whole body.

4. Hog the covers. If there is someone next to you at the time you attempt this, play-fight them for it. Roll around as much as possible while doing this. Wedgies are fair game. You know you are doing it right when the covers leave the bed and there are no winners. If you are single, make a fort just for you in the living room and invite in friends – or enjoy the solitude. 

5. Do some creative vandalism. Something impermanent that changes the landscape of how your space is defined. Arrange a few post-it’s so they make a smiley face on your wall. Put a ribbon on a statue. Make the outline of a heart in rocks on someone’s door. Attach a kite to the back of a garbage truck.

6. Think like an animal. Growl. Run. Chase. Fetch. Play. Find a field where you can run around and bring out your inner wolverine. Watch people be curious, and then not give a crap. Just don’t leave…traces. 🙂 

7. Reserve It – Is there a place in the park you like to go, a library, a dance studio, a street you like to run? Give yourself space to be in those spaces and give yourself time to be happy in them. For me, that is the bathtub. Mine, mine mine. 

8. Be selfish – Take care of buisiness, then do what you want. You have the right to be where you are and have that be exactly where you want to be. You get there by expressing the need from your true self, and then letting that true self take action. Take what you need, because then you acknowledge the plenty you have. 

9. Do something completely out of character – Ask someone out. Take a class you always wanted to. Travel. Eat something you are curious about. Make space for yourself to explore something new, and you will feel new space inside of you grow. 

10. Love – Love makes you big. Love makes you so big that all the issues you have to deal with become small. Love yourself so much that nothing will disturb your peace of mind, that you feel big in a land where you are taught to play small. Love your limits and go through them. Love everyone around you so the size of your love can carry you. 

May you take all the space you need, and give all the space away. May you vibrate time and space so that all may serve you.

Sat Nam

The NASA Article – 20 Things to Do When the World Ends

I used to act in theatre shows. Usually, by the time the show ended was when I figured out how to play the part. Which is why, when I read this today I started to think about the various ways I figure things out right before they are over.

Yogi Bhajan, the great teacher of Kundalini Yoga, taught us that Akal means deathless. You go to a place where death cannot touch you, and death becomes a part of you. Recently, I’ve been trying to go to this deathless place because when I don’t meditate I go to this place of paranoia. The world is in this state of paranoia because of climate change, and as a result we are feeling the pressure.

But what if that deathless place was actually a power position? One of my friends who knew Yogi Bhajan claims that in the months before his death he had an incredible magnetism, more than his usual amount. His radiance shown on the path of his physical decline as he transitioned to the other world.

What if the declining state of our planet could actually move some of us to realization of how we want to live peacefully? Things we want to do when we feel that planetary pressure?

In order to ease my paranoia, I want to make a list of 20 things I want to do when the world ends.

1. Everything I am doing right now. I hope I am so present with my path that every action I am taking are things aligned with my inner destiny.
2. Hold hands with Michael Fassbender on the beach as we watch the sun grow warm.
3. Laugh with someone so hard that my sides start to burst, and I forget for a moment that everything is over.
4. Find something beautiful and appreciate it.
5. Find family. The ones that want to share in the fortunate present and not panic about the immediate future.
6. I may stray from veganism for a moment so I can enjoy my Dad’s steak recipe for the last time. Buffalo Wings and Goat Cheese, you aren’t safe either if you are still around.
7. Go to work if it’s somewhere I love being. Find work helping someone else if that isn’t the case.
8. Dance. Feverishly.
9. Go somewhere I’ve never been before. If people have rioted their way into the White House? I’m going to wear Michelle Obama’s inauguration dress to my quickie wedding with Michael Fassbender.
10. Go somewhere I have been before, but find a new way to experience that place. Turn the parking lot of Wal Mart into a canvas. Turn an abandoned auto shop into a place for crossfit trainers to throw car parts around in a Strongest Person in the Apocolypse competition.
11. Be naked. A lot.
12. Sing. All my favorite songs and all my favorite sounds. Rosemary Clooney, Amos Lee, Nina Simone, Rilo Kiley.
13. Kiss a stranger on the mouth and tell them they are perfect. Then walk away.
14. Kiss a robot on the mouth and tell them they are perfect. Then walk away. Unless the robots have taken over, then feverishly seduce robot in order to secure food.
15. If there are still movies around, re-watch Drop Dead Gorgeous, like, a million times.
16. Forgive myself for not living up to my full potential. Then do something to correct that.
17. Chant and do yoga in the morning hours and then go outside and feel the soil in my hands.
18. Read a story to someone. If I can’t find a book, then make one up.
19. Tell everyone I’ve ever cared about that the love they have given me means more than the end of the earth.
20. Never spend another minute on Facebook.

May you bring peace and healing to your planet.

Face Ritual

Tribal Warriors, Bridesmaids, Receptionists, Fashion Models and Incoming High School Freshmen Girls. All approach the ritual of the face with stunning discipline. Growing up, I had a friend who had a ceremonial way of putting her face on and taking it off. White headband, wash, foundation, powder, eyeliner, mascara. Every day, same time and same stunning attention to protocol.

When I was a waitress, I called makeup my “War Paint”. When waiting tables, you need to feel like you are in control as the elements around you swirl with chaos. Wearing makeup was a way to show my tables “I got this”. You would be amazed how many naked-face days came up with fewer tips than when I wore eyeliner. I don’t think it had anything to do with aesthetics – more the fact that when I looked in the mirror I knew no one would call me “dearie” that day, or think it was my first day on the job. That gave me confidence.

But what kind of ritual was really engaged in the putting on and taking off of a public mask? Are the foundations we create for ourselves, even on a surface level, foundations for soulful development?

We see a movement in celebrity culture towards the “naked face” and “non photoshop” photo. People commend these culture makers for being so brave and honest and open about what they look like, but the ritual of our criticism remains the same. We judge naked-face photos just as rigidly as we judge bad photoshop; with stunning cruelty and love it or hate it rigidity.

I participated in The Color Run last week, a 5K where participants are bathed in colored chalk. A celebration of happiness, health, and fun. Some of it felt like the selfie olympics – people would stop to take group photos during the race. Some of it looked like fun, as people played pranks on each other and recorded them with cameras, but the constant posing? Part of me was like, hey guys – want to actually walk or run in this and see the world around you that is happening?

Have we reached an era where we are more interested in recording the surface aspect of our lives rather than participating in them? Do we want our face-value image more than we crave the actual experience?

Last night, I did an impulsive meditation. It wasn’t a part of my yoga practice, but it felt like real life. My skin, after being drowned in colored chalk and bathed in hard water? Has been breaking out. I wanted a soulful remedy for an irritation – to be PRESENT with my face as I cared for it and ceremoniously created a ritual of small amounts of self-love.

I took a Q-Tip, put cleanser and water on it and I traced all the dirt off with the ends. I rubbed the edges of my blemishes with precision and curiosity. I was tempted to break the skin, even use tweezers. But like all problems the gentle solution is usually the easiest one. I took a warm washcloth, soaked as steamy water rose off of the edges. I gently washed every corner of my face and neck and took stock in the places missed and re-worked. I must have spent 20 minutes with myself, the water, the mirror, and the present moment. It felt amazing.

I think the best part of this ritual was the eye contact. When looking yourself in the face and seeing all the history of your experiences, the laugh lines and the dark marks, it becomes valuable to you. The warmth and love that I give to my face is like the warmth and love I want to give to myself : every day, and acknowledging all the things that I am and am not with joy and cleansing ritual.

Your naked face is what you live with every day. No matter what you put on and take off, learning to lean into the deep and infinite parts of yourself will bring you peace. May you learn to make loving rituals for yourself that truly give you grounding. As you put on and take off life’s tasks and rituals, may you value the person who participates in them. May everyone who looks at you be healed by the love behind your eyes. May your face heal others as it communicates kindness and compassion. May your joy be present in your face.

Sat Nam

facewash

The One Thing Wrong With You

“What IS that?” “Did a boyfriend beat you up?” “Did you grow a unicorn horn and cut it off?” “Are you the devil?”

With questions like these, it’s no wonder we have a warped view of who we truly are. I have a scar. Its dark, it’s prevalent on my forehead, and it affords others opportunity to ask because unconscious people are ready to believe you are willing to discuss every small detail about yourself that is different. When something is apparent yet subtle about someone, most are quick to assume it is a flaw rather than a piece of the puzzle about your unique and beautiful soul.

Let’s start with apparent. If something is obvious about someone, most people would choose not to point and stare unless they were jerks or had hangups about that particular transparency.
I categorize the apparent by:

A) Ethnicity B) Handicap C) Unique Dress D) Assumed Image of the Beholder.

Then there is the subtle. That which isn’t always apparent but different enough that people feel like they can bring it up in conversation without being rude. Sometimes these are a matter of choice, other times they are not.
I categorize the subtle by:

A) Hairstyle or Hair Growth B) Scars/Tattoos C) Accessories D) Symbols or Slang

Let’s group them for easier handling, and see if we can’t get a piece of this puzzle put together. Note that all of these categories could go with any other on the list, and you could make an argument for any one of these to  but for the sake of following a pattern in our culture I have generalized. Yes, I am fighting generalizing with MORE generalizing. Deal with it.

Ethnicity/Hairstyle or Hair Growth

Both of these would be assumed as the organic and beautiful parts of who we are as people. Whatever transparency our race is we can’t hide the fact that we each have a crown on which our glory resides. In Kundalini Yoga tradition, the growth of a man’s hair to a long length is what is called his “Rishi Knot” or place where wisdom resides. Whether someone chooses to even show their hair, as in the tradition of the Hasidic community of Judaism, is completely their values and judgement. Whether someone wears a turban, has dreadlocks, or if a woman cuts her hair short in the Buddhist nun tradition. Different cultures have different views on what style works, and what doesn’t.

And yet I hear all the time about TSA agents requiring Sikh men to remove their turbans. I’ve heard horror stories about black people having strangers come touch their natural hair with NO respect for their space.  I go to a hair salon and ask to cut it short? The stylist asks “are you sure?” In other words “Are you sure you want to remove the thing that’s culturally feminine about you? You might lose some opportunities…”

Handicap/Scars, Tattoos

When I was a kid, my parents were ardent against tattoos for professional reasons. I brought home someone who had multiple tattoos and ear plugs, and bless both my parents they loved him too. But whenever I asked my boyfriend about his fears of cutting off his professional opportunities because of his tattoos? He told me that he did not want to work anywhere that would judge him by his modifications. When I came across more people who had these kinds of modifications, they all remarked that the tattoos and piercings made them feel more like their real selves. They were becoming who they were in essence.

People assume that when you have a scar or tattoo, there either is an emotional handicap about it or that you have dark issues you need to solve. But the truth is our scars and modifications normally have real significance for our lives. They mark passages, honor friends and show us the passage of our real time problems. My scar happened because of stressful periods in my life that caused me to break out and pull off pieces of my skin. Now I wasn’t really willing to talk to strangers about this, but now that you know are you more willing to ask?

Unique Dress/Accessories

Now this does tend to vary based on community. In big cities? Usually this doesn’t apply because everyone is celebrating the unique wave of fashion within urban culture. But picture this: a man walks into a liquor store completely dressed up in Women’s clothing. Suri Cruise wears high heels while walking in downtown SoHo. A woman wears a see-through dress and walks into a grocery store. Two fans of the cult-hit cartoon “Adventure Time” make a pact to dress up as the lead characters and traverse the countryside having adventures.

Seemingly meaningless crimes against fashion, doesn’t it? Would you be quick to devalue that person because they wanted to wear something different than anyone else? Would you take a picture of that person and post it on social media with something like “WTF? FAGGGG”. We often lose out on what we are missing when we choose to marginalize the person who shows us a different way of life. Exterior is only a part of the picture. Imagine what we could learn from someone who has absolutely no fear of being judged in the public eye. When Lady Gaga does it, we call it art. When your neighbor does it, he’s a freak.

Assumed Image of the Beholder/Symbols or Slang

Just like these categories, humans enjoy putting people into tribal groups. Hipsters, Druggies, Hippies, Shiny Happy People. We don’t have time to recognize the middle area of persona because we are too busy with our own hangups. I’m guilty of it too, I see someone with a Romney/Ryan bumper sticker and I instantly try to pass him with my Obama 2012-mobile. But in truth, I’m not passing anything but a fake symbol of a fake idea with my own fake symbol and fake idea. The image I portray is nothing compared to what kind of person I am and sometimes I forget that when dealing with opposing views.

When we see someone who has an assumed image of, let’s say “alkie”, what exactly do we mean? Do we mean it like a sorority girl does to tease someone who drinks with her at 10 in the morning before finals? Do we mean it like someone who is seeking treatment? Like someone who needs help but can’t ask for it? Like the guy we could secretly idolize who can get into a fight while still holding his beer? Like our relatives we excommunicate because of behavioral patterns? These symbols are meaningless, and yet we find ourselves getting hung up on them when we can’t figure out the minute details of that person’s life.

So here’s my conclusion. The one thing wrong with you? Is ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. I figured out that the more gravity I give to my scar, the more people will comment. So I choose to believe that it truly is a piece of me that isn’t wrong at all but perfect and real. My apparent subtleties are beautiful, and so are yours. May you find all that is wrong with you right. May you chase the parts of you that are different and can’t be put into any of my dumb categories. May you appreciate every loose end that you have and live by them as a child of soul. May you love yourself exactly for who you are. May you be perfectly imperfect. May your differences unite. May your true self prevail.

Sat Nam.
IMG_20140114_190643_020

Flawless. 🙂