From July 2014:
Today in hot class I was thinking a lot about this idea of stillness that we see fairly prevalently in yoga and meditation practices and spiritual traditions of many kinds. While laying in one of the many savasana we take during what my studio calls the fire sequence, which is a fairly stationary alignment and strength focused practice very different than the style of yoga we also offer that I teach, which is called vinyasa, I really started to trip out on this idea of being still. So many people ask me before and after vinyasa classes what vinyasa really means, and how this style contrasts from other styles. Vinyasa refers to the transitions we take between the postures or asanas, so it's the way in which we get in and out of the pose. The practice - especially in my personal experience - is about bringing together breath and movement in a way that all the processes of all the bodies - energetic, mental, physical, etc - start to flow seamlessly and with clarity and ease. I say a lot during my classes to let the mind have a break during this time, to let the thoughts fall away. There is a lot of talk in meditation of the monkey mind, that hops around from thing to thing, flinging thoughts into the forefront to assert the dominance of the ego in a world that constantly establishes hierarchy of some egos over others. This so-called "stillness" of the mind, or quiet, or often the analogy of a pond without ripples, is used and is supremely useful, and has been for me, especially as I've pursued study of kundalini, which places an increased focused on, well, focus, on strengthening the mind so that it can stay still in those quiet meditative moments. I've found this whole experience totally invaluable for my life, in as much as I live in my head and let my thoughts run rampant sometimes, and for the moments when I do want my thoughts to actual dominate, I feel like I can just think, do and be more efficient, can manage stress and direct my focus with actual ease, and it feels, honestly, amazing.
The thing that I realized today, though - laying in a pose where we encourage stillness and the embrace of rest, of cessation of movement as an actual facet of the work required in every pose - is that nothing is ever still. Ever. In a world where even gravity seems more and more likely a function of the forces of thermodynamics that keep our universe the expanding spiraling ever-moving phenomenon that it is, when even matter itself actually seems to be just another occasional, and often mercurial property of energy, to be still would be to cease to exist, to be nothing. I often think in terms of the cardinal elements of many magic or esoteric systems, in more of a divinatory than foundational sense, I might add, and think about the different ever-changing elemental compositions of just a body, like, am I mostly carbon, bones, matter that will return to the earth, or am I mostly water as science suggests, or am I air, the breathe of life and respiration an essential property of almost all life, the thoughts I think as much a part of me and influence on my self-definition as anything, or am I fire, the sparks of life, the synapses and discreet but powerful nervous system, the even more discreet (and arguably more powerful) energetic matrices that make up a body within all the different hyperobjects and hypersubjects of our planetary collective superorganism, the impulses that drive me to act. What am I the most? But the truth it seems is that, as we look scientifically or spiritually, what I am mostly is empty space, void, mystery, my atomic nature really mostly just a lot of tiny things orbiting around each other but mostly just space between, as is the planet, as is the solar system, the galaxy, ad infinitum, all of us in such constant motion that our minds cannot even perceive of it, cannot even perceive of the orbit or rotation of the planet we call home, because it's that fast, that constant. We almost certainly never occupy the same space in space-time more than once in our lives, so what are we really looking to find when we embrace this stillness, this rest, this quiet, what are we actually trying to do here? Because to become truly still would seem counter-productive, even destructive, would be to freeze, to wrench ourselves out of synch with everything we know and are defined by and between, all of these ever-shifting contexts that make up our lives.
I often say during spinal bending exercises in class, remind spine how flexible it is, even as we move through the rigid world outside, stiff with hierarchies, power dynamics, state borders, personal boundaries, encapsulating definitions of who we are and what we can be. Another lesson that leads me forward in this stream of thought is when we practice balancing postures, like say, tree pose or vrksasana. I caution students that just like a tall tree or skyscraper, balance while erect really relies on the ability to move, not on the ability to be rigid, so it really becomes a mental exercise of noticing and flowing with the minute movements we feel when we try to find stillness in a one-legged balancing posture, rather than stiffening or fighting against these movements, which only results in toppling over, just like a rigid skyscraper would simply tumble if it wasn't able to sway with the wind, or a tall tree would come uprooted if it weren't immensely pliable. It brings into mind a new concept of strength, of pliability, and indeed I find the brunt of my Wiccan practice where it intersects with my yoga practice involves meditating as a tree, evoking strength through that metaphysical metaphor, simultaneously grounding myself to a strong core and center of the earth while embracing pliability and strength through growth and flexibility, the ability to grow in different directions when I need to, to sway in harsh winds when I need to. But this brings me to what my real point here is, is that stillness will always be an impossible and purely metaphorical idea. Just like our bodies, our minds will never truly be still, be empty, and maybe that's the whole point. Maybe what we actually seek when we look for stillness, when we activate the breath and train the mind to be focused, sharp, still, quiet, maybe what we are really aligning ourselves with is the movements of the Earth, of our star the Sun, of the solar system and our galaxy and universe and all of it, maybe that's what the real striving point should be, not moving within a herd mentality but within our own particular, special and beautiful orbit, "in the flow" as some New Thought writers have said it. Maybe when I'm actually resting in savasana, is the only time I am really moving in exactly the way that I am supposed to be moving, in tune with everything else. It's just a metaphor, I guess, just like anything - a person, identity, a science, a practice - these are all metaphorical definitions that we make real by embodying and practicing. This idea suddenly makes so much more sense to me and has I think opened me up to a whole new phase of my practice, so I thought maybe it would be helpful to share.
I fucking love yoga! lol. I love living! I love having a body! It's crazy how far I have come since I first popped in that Yoga for Beginner's DVD.
Seems hella basic but something I realized during meditation is how much the energy changes if you allow a little smile in.
“‘Goddess’ is the word we use as shorthand for the ‘great cycles of birth, growth, death, and rebirth’ or ‘the heart of mystery.’ When we speak of ‘the Goddess,’ we often mean ‘that life that consciousness, which underlies the living being which is in the earth, and who is herself a cell in that great living being who is the cosmos.’
We also use the word ‘Goddess,” however, to refer to various aspects of that life-force that have taken on particular attributes, faces and personalities: Demeter, Kali. There are thousands of Goddesses from cultures all over the world, as well as thousands of Gods - male deities who also embody the cycles of life, death, and regeneration.
‘Goddess tradition” refers to the many branches of Paganism that hold as central a focus on the Goddess as the embodiment of the cycles of birth, growth, death, and rebirth. Goddess-based spirituality includes men, although some groups and some traditions within the larger movement may bet or women nay or focus explosively on female deities. Men, too, may choose to create ritual with other men, and great power and healing can come from women’s and men’s mysteries.
We of the Reclaiming tradition honor many Gods, many male images of deity. But our emphasis is on the imagery of the female, the life-bearer, because we value life itself as the domain of the sacred. We do not elevate spirit above matter; we hold that spirit is immanent in matter, in the physical, material world. This emphasis on the world itself as the body of the divine affects our view of death, karma, and rebirth, as you will see.
We also feel that at this time in history an emphasis on the female is necessary to counterbalance millennia of male domination in the spiritual as well as the material realm. “Don’t we need balance?” people sometimes ask. “Why not a neutral term rather than either ‘God or ‘Goddeess.”
Our imaginations are conditioned to read “neutral” as “male.” In theory God is a neutral term - yet how many of us can use it without subconsciously thinking of a man with a long white beard? Perhaps our children, or their children, will not suffer the same constraints of the imagination, but that transformation lies in the future.
Balance is not stasis, but movement. Twenty-five years of a feminist spirituality movement cannot counterbalance many ages of patriarchy, especially when male domination is still the rule globally.
Because freedom of thought is important to us, we accept no dogmas and implement no required beliefs. We do, however, have a working model of the universe that includes interconnected realms of matter and spirit. This worldview underlies all we say and do about death. But we offer it to you in the spirit of an evolving hypothesis. Test it against your own experience, and change or revise the material here as you see fit. At the heart of the cosmos is mystery, that which can never be defined or controlled. Any images we place around that mystery are only tools to help us more deeply encounter the sacred.
Reclaiming’s approach to magic and ritual is experimental; we are constantly learning, growing, trying new techniques, and critiquing the results. Our practice is alive and growing, something to be constantly extended, refined, renewed and changes t the spirit moves us and need arises, rather than a tradition to be learned and repeated in a formulaic manner.
When all is sacred, every act becomes religion.
The world can be a really intense place but it is not your enemy. Consider whatever boundaries you hold to constitute yourself as a staging ground for how you interact with the world. Chances are, if you treat yourself like an enemy, the rest of the world will, too - in any way, from the food you eat and the choices you make to the way you narrate your life or address your feelings. But flip that story around and treat yourself like your closest and oldest friend, actively loving and caring for yourself, practicing compassion for yourself when you make mistakes, giving yourself a lot of leeway to fuck up and explore and love fearlessly, then your dealings with the world outside will for the most part follow suit, and the interactions that don't will find a you that is dramatically more prepared to love anyone like a friend, even when they are still trapped in the mindset of treating you like an enemy. I think in this way, the boundaries between self and other start to blur and fall until you realize that everything is so deeply connected that everyone and everything deserves love and compassion, even those who have woven institutional webs of seeming steel to trap the world in the model of fighting the "enemy." Just something to think about.
My intention has not been to claim that Jezebel was a woman of saintly virtues.
She was as zealous in adherence to her religion as Elijah was to his religion. She was threatening to the Levite priests because she was not intimidated by their god or their brutality but meted out brutality for brutality. It is said that Jezebel and Elijah were “equally determined to eliminate one another’s followers, even if it means murdering them. The difference is that the Deuteronomist decries Jezebel’s killing of God’s servants (at 1 Kings 18:4) but sanctions Elijah’s decision to massacre hundreds of Jezebel’s prophets.”
It is Jezebel’s strength and integrity with regard to her religion that enrages the Levites. It is their story of her that we have inherited in the Bible. Levite xenophobia and religious absolutism as expressed in their hostility to the goddess and to women’s free sexual expression and autonomy heavily color Levite portrayal of any woman who runs counter to their prescriptions for moral behavior. These are by-and-large the same prescriptions in place today. Hence, Jezebel’s enduring legacy.
Queen Jezebel represents female autonomy. “She lives her life according to her own convictions, steadfastly maintains her religious independence, exercises what authority she possess, and dies bravely. Yet Jezebel almost universally hated.” Jezebel is defamed by biblical writers because she was indeed a threat to patriarchal prerogative and monotheism.”
Attention to he socio-historical context emphasizes the antipathic relationship the Levites had toward female sexuality. This antipathy helps explain the historical connection between Jezebel’s purported evil and sexuality. The exploration has also enhanced my personal understanding regarding society’s schizophrenic relationship to sexuality. A cellular memory of sexual sacredness is submerged beneath the conceptual moralizing and fear of punishment connected with Levitic laws of moral and sexual conduct.
Jezebel is not a whore as the term is commonly used today to describe a woman who has multiple sex partners outside of marriage. However, in Jezebel’s time as today to be decried a harlot or a whore is considered a defamatory affront. Also, as Luisah Teish has pointed out the term has come to be virtually synonymous with being female:
“The word ‘whore’ carries an incredible amount of power, most of it negatively directed toward women. Ministers condemn women from the pulpit, and rap artists degrade their sisters with this word. Innocent little girls have been accused of instigating incest; and women have been murdered by serial killers trying to rid the world of whores. Women may be regarded as whores irrespective of their age, their race, their income or their conduct. So what does it really mean?”
To be a whore/harlot, as conventionally conceived, can be viewed as a challenge to the prescribed absolute right of male authority over female sexuality. Unfortunately, the sacred aspect of sexuality so important to the Goddess is sorely missing from the equation. The contemporary whore often lacks a sacred connection to her sexuality and a sacred connection to herself that would engender loving self-respect. Additionally, in bitter irony, sexual license has become a tool of patriarchy primarily through the commercialization of sex.
Investigating the woman who was Jezebl reminds me, yet again, of the important of psychological deprogramming from patriarchal brainwashing. The research stimulates my thirst to imbibe a spirituality in which women and the Goddess are sacred, in which women’s sexual and economic autonomy are not perceived as threatening to men, and in which men and women form equal, complementary partners enacting hieros gamos - sacred union - in our everyday lives.”
- Annete Williams, M.A. , “Jezebel. Whore?” (from She Is Everywhere! An Anthology of Writing in Womanist/Feminist Spirituality Volume 2, 2008)
I think it's really interesting, and obviously very important, that this year everyone suddenly seems to be questioning the values espoused by the advertising associated with gay pride events all over the Occupying States of Gaymerica (or the Occupied Territory of Turtle Island), but if you were so put out by the white-washed, heteronormative, upper-middle-class lifestyle commodifying corporate ad machine during this one week of the year, how come your ass wasn't complaining about the prevalence of that shit during EVERY OTHER WEEK OF THE YEAR, in almost every other product, movie, show, event, pop song and through basically every form of media you could imagine, all the damn time? I wish we could widen our scope and not lob criticism at a big, easy, but, I would argue, very important week like Gay Pride, aka Gay Freedom, but at the Western capitalist regime itself, which has seemingly absorbed rich gay white men into its ranks as weird, heteronormative courtesans to its ruling classes. If you really want to disrupt corporate lifestyle culture, think about how much money ya'll asses is giving to cigarette and liquor companies on the regular, to luxury fashion conglomerates and Beyoncé's record label, all the time, every week of the year. It's important that we can safely celebrate who we are, but we should be aware of the continued cost of our being here and able to do so for the %15 in poverty in this country, the millions of native people displaced and killed whose nations still live under occupation and apartheid, not to mention those who can't even hold hands on the street for fear of violent death because of the reactionary regimes and exported Western cultural values in place because of generations of colonialism all over the world. Obviously our domestic marketing and media should be more diverse, but is it really the content or the whole idea of marketing luxury items when most people on this planet are denied access to the basic fundamentals of life? Think about it. Happy gay pride, ya'll, and I will see ya'll asses at some fancy hotels in Manhattan, quietly spinning my subversion, we can get stoned and talk about life.
“The evaluation of mortal life as evil and the fruit of sin has lent itself to an earth-fleeing ethic and spirituality, which has undoubtedly contributed very centrally to the neglect of the earth, to the denial of our commonality with plants and animals, and to the despising of the work of sustaining the day-to-day processes of finite but renewable life. By evaluating such finite but renewable life as sin and death, by comparison with “immortal” life, we have reversed the realities of life and death. Death as deliverance from morality is preferred to the only real life available to us.
The separations of the holy from the unholy, the spiritual from the carnal, and immortal from mortal life have also mandated phobic relations to the death side of the life cycle, to decay, dead bodies, and the life fluids of sex and reproduction. These phobic patterns have been used to structure social apartheid along gender and ethnic lines. Such phobic patterns also express the inability to integrate the death and decomposition side of the life cycle constructively, turning wastes into toxic poison rather than matter for new organisms. Thus the very effort to separate oneself in a sphere of purity against “pollution” creates pollution.
Such despising of finite but renewable life is closely related to the despising of women as birth givers. Both the Jewish and the Greek traditions contributed to the compounded Christian scapegoating of women for both sin and death, the source of both impurity and finitude. Tentative beginnings of an egalitarian view of male-female relations in early Christianity were quickly overwhelmed by this woman-blaming tradition. Not only is woman’s “natural” subordination justified anew, but limitless victimization of women is justified by attributing the origins of sin and death to female insubordination. Through woman, “man” lost his “original, natural” immortality.
The negation of woman as the “moral other,” which the male must negate in order to grasp his lost “immortality,” is also extended to other victimized groups. Religious, social, sexual, and racial-ethnic “aliens” have been viewed through the same dualistic lens that separates the godly from the ungodly and the spiritual from the carnal. Either conquest and subjugation or genocidal destruction has been justified as a way of dealing with such aliens who threaten the purity and power of the “men of God.”
The reconstruction of the ethical tradition must begin by a clear separation of the questions of finitude from those of sin. Finitude is not our fault, nor is escape from it within our capacities. Mature spirituality frees us from ego-clinging for acceptance of the life processes of which we are inescapably a part. Within the bounds of finitude and mortality, there is certainly much missed plenitude that is outside our control or decision-making; that is tragic, but is not “sin.”
What is appropriately called sin belongs to a more specific sphere of human freedom where we have the possibility of enhancing life or stifling it. It is the realm where competitive hate abounds, and also passive acquiescence to needless victimization. It is not easy to delineate exactly this region of culpable evil, for the boundaries between freedom and fate are fluid, and humans have greatly extended their power over things once though unchangeable.
The central issue of “sin” as distinct from finitude is the misuse of freedom to exploit other humans and the earth and thus to violate the basic relations that sustain life. Life is sustained by biotic relationally, in which the whole attains a plentitude through mutual limits in interdependency. When one part of the life community exalts itself at the expense of the other parts, life is diminished for the exploited. Ultimately exploiters subvert the bases of their own lives as well. An expanding cycle of poisonous hostility and violence is generated.
The question mark over the Christian ethic is the extend to which it has contributed to this very effect of exploitive violence through the misnaming of death as sin. I suggest that in its quest to escape from mortal life, and its projection of the blame for sin and death onto the victims of exploitive violence, the Christian definition of sin has served to promote, more than to avoid, this cycle of violence.
There are certainly also recoverable elements for an ethic of eco-justice from our Christian heritage. One of these is the Hebraic understanding of evil as unjust relations between peoples and the destructive effect this has on the earth. Repentance means special advocacy of those who have been victimized by systems of oppressive power.
From the Pauline-Augustinian tradition, we derive a profound existentialist recognition of the divided self,a citing against its own interest and desires. In the concept of inherited sin, we also recognize that evil is not simply the sum of individual decisions. We do not start with a clean slate, but we inherit historical systems of culture and social organization that bias our minds and wills negatively. Our freedom to chose good is not only limited by the fluid boundaries of finitude, but also distorted by a heritage of deception and injustice masquerading as good.
We are called to exercise our real but finite freedom within these limits and in struggle against these distortions. This means that, while we should not hold ourselves culpable fro the entire system of sin, much less for biological mortality, we also should not imagine ourselves purely innocent either. We are an integral part of this whole reality. We need not only compassionate solidarity with those who are most victimized, but also realistic acknowledgement of how we have benefited from such injustices. Only by eschewing paranoid projection of all evil onto malignant “aliens” cans e begin to reconstruct the tissues of relationship in a way that produces more biotic plenitude and less toxic violence.
Sin, then, as that sort of evil for which we must hold ourselves accountable, lis in distortion of relationship, the absolutizing of the rights to life and power of on side of a relation against the other parts with which it is, in fact, interdependent. It lies further in the insistent perseverance in the resultant cycle of violence, the refusal to empathize with the victimized underside of such power, and the erection of systems of control and cultures of deceit to maintain and justify such unjust power.”
- Rosemary Radford Ruether (from Gaia & God: An Ecofeminist Theology of Earth Healing, 1992)
"Concepts create idols; only wonder comprehends anything. People kill one another over idols. Wonder makes us fall to our knees." Gregory of Nyssa.
Sorry for the hectic formatting lol ya'll don't care. Is anybody reading this?