Just This: Multitude of Selves

Just This: Multitude of Selves

KNOWN
(and adored)

David Bowie was a master of self exploration. He saw (and shared) parts of himself to remind us that we all contain multitudes. I think he would have said “Each of you, see your–selves.”

HEARD

Just when you got it out of your heads… Every tween I know was into this song last summer. The title says it all: Watch Me. But I’m down for anything that gets a lot of people dancing.

SEEN

Time–lapse portraits have become popular; watching a child growing up in four minutes encapsulates the impermanent nature of self (and of parenting).

Just This: Cosmos

Just This: Cosmos

KNOWN

The above image was taken recently by the Hubble Space Telescope and is part of The Cosmic Evolution Survey (COSMOS) which is studying particular areas in space. This is a small area pictured and even the smallest dots in this image are galaxies (click on the image, you’ll get a better idea), some up to 12 billion light-years away… Galaxies, people, galaxies.

SEEN

Speaking of Cosmos… Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey is a documentary TV series hosted by Neil deGrasse Tyson. Even with its empirical scientific bias, a sense of mystery and wonder reigns throughout the series. The premier episode alone is worth the human space/size/time perspective (hint: we are hella insubstantial!). For those in NYC, Tyson narrates the spectacular AMNH Hayden Planetarium Space Show Dark Universe.

HEARD

How awesome is it that I get to reference 2 black physicists in the same newsletter? This On Being interview with string theory pioneer, S. James Gates explores the conceptual limitations in how we understand the universe at the smallest versus the highest levels of reality. Gates’ research in supersymmetry might help reconcile this conflict and along the way uncovers as many mysteries as it purports to solve.

Just This: A Year to Live

Just This: A Year to Live

KNOWN

In his powerful book, A Year to Live: How to Live this Year as If It Were Your Last, Stephen Levine asks us to investigate the inevitability of death as a way to live life with more awareness, vibrancy, and love. This book guides the reader through heartfelt strategies and practices for this deep contemplation.

SEEN

Fierce Grace is a documentary that chronicles the life of spiritual teacher Ram Dass after his 1997 stroke. It is a portrait of the strength and beauty one can bring to the challenges of illness and ultimately death.

SEEN

Cindy Sherman is widely known for her stylized self–portraits which is why I was surprised when I first saw her “Disaster” series (1986–92). The photographs are graphic and gruesome scenes interpreted as her reaction to the AIDS epidemic that devastated the NYC arts community. Chromogenic death contemplation.

Just This: The Systems Stink

Just This: The Systems Stink

KNOWN

Buddhist Peace Fellowship created The System Stinks training to help “the arc of history bend towards liberation.” The curriculum explores the roots of suffering from both the personal and political perspectives.

HEARD

In this talk on the Reclamation of the Sacred my teacher, Thanissara, highlights the historic causes of our collective dislocation and identifies the tender heart as our way back to wholeness. Her new book explores similar themes.

SEEN

The documentary, Race: The Power of an Illusion, is some years old, but still a powerful examination of our myths and assumptions about this totally made–up designation and the power and very real consequences of the illusion.

Just This: Creativity

Just This: Creativity

 

KNOWN

I own a print of the above image by Antonio Benjamin (best. title. ever. — Lots of Black People). I got it from Creativity Explored, an organization that provide artists with developmental disabilities the means to create, exhibit, and sell their art around the world. Great art. Great cause.

HEARD

In this podcast, poet & peacemaker, John Paul Lederach, explores the heart of haiku — the haiku attitude — linking creativity with peacebuilding and the essential work of being fully human.

SEEN

Elizabeth Gilbert’s first TED Talk on your elusive creative genius has been viewed over 10 million times (a few thousand by me). All of it is inspiring for anyone creating absolutely anything but her breakdown of the words genius and olé make it golden.

Just This: Citizen(s)

Just This: Citizen(s)

 

KNOWN

Claudine Rankine’s book Citizen: An American Lyric is a profound meditation on race. Her form (poetry that investigates like essay interspersed with striking images/typeset) is as incredible as her content (scenes and dialogue from her life that evoke the fear, ignorance, woe, and rage of our wounded selves). Her grace shines through as she navigates indignities and insults, insights and inspiration.

HEARD

Ibeyi is the Yoruba word for twins and the name of a Cuban/Venezuelan–French music duo (twin sisters Lisa-Kaindé and Naomi Diaz). Singing in Yoruba and English, the pair combine the rhythms and sounds of their many cultures (African, Cuban, jazz, hip–hop) into a fusion of ancient and modern sounds.

SEEN

Kehinde Wiley: A New Republic is at the Brooklyn Museum until May 24th. If you live in NYC and have not yet seen it, close this NOW and GO. These images challenge our ideas about the representation and perception of black bodies — especially black men — and utilize classical European styles to reconnect the subjects to the innate divinity and nobility so often denied them.

Just This:  Every Atom

Just This: Every Atom

SEEN

My very talented friend, Felicia Megginson, produced the self–portrait above — a meditation on the natural world and her place in it. This photo and her series remind us how few creative explorations there are of black womanhood in relationship with the rest of the natural world.

KNOWN

My copy of Leaves of Grass is very well worn. Walt Whitman’s classic is filled with lyrical expressions of the transcendent manifest in lived bodies. He conveys the profound connection between body & soul, between humans & nature. For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.

SENSED

When my best friend Peter lived in Hawaii, every Sunday morning he would go to Ecstatic Dance where a DJ played an eclectic mix of soulful dance music in an outdoor space. Peter called it church. It reminded me of so many dance clubs we frequented in our youth — but without the controlled substances and in the sunlight… Dancing outdoors is radical.

Just This: Stillness

Just This: Stillness

HEARD

My winter soundtrack includes Brian Eno’s Thursday Afternoon. I don’t usually go for beatless music, but I find the ethereal nature of the album (one 60 minute piece) is perfect for the natural stillness of the season (even if NYC and my own mind won’t comply). On really cold days, I listen to it walking in the streets to bring a sparse wintery texture to my experience or play it in my apartment as I start my day.

SENSED

I was introduced to the practice of Yin Yoga some years ago through the work of Sarah Powers. Her book Insight Yoga is a deep and illuminating introduction into this simple but profound practice. Another winter favorite, Yin Yoga encourages long holding of poses (at least 5 minutes each) and helps me tune into the power inherent within stillness. Often, I will play an ambient album, holding each posture for the length of one song.

SEEN

Feel free to welcome me to this era; I’ve joined Instagram — @wiseawake. I haven’t posted as of writing this but what I’ve enjoyed is witnessing the ordinary moments of wonder that my friends capture and share. Some are arty-artists. Many are simply moving through their day open to all that surrounds. No links and extras needed. Simply bits of beauty uploaded.

Just This: Spirit

Just This: Spirit

SEEN

The image above is from a documentary about Anna Breytenbach, an animal communicator. Stay with me. Really, the connection she has with animals is grounded in deep listening and a profound ability to feel both internally and externally. Something we all long to do even a little bit as well as she does (even if we don’t know it).

SENSED

I recently took a course with my friend Madelyn Kent, a playwright and director who created Sense Writing — a program that integrates the principles of Somatic Education (Feldenkrais) into the writing process — resulting in greater connection and ease. I find the process very liberating. When I make the space and time to do it.

HEARD

I’ve loved the music of Oumou Sangaré since I discovered her album “Worotan” in the late nineties and have begun listening to her a lot again recently. She is a Malian musician who writes, composes, and sings traditional Wassoulou music. Her voice and sound resonate deep feeling and power and remind me of the beauty of West African culture.

Just This: Liberation & Joy

Just This: Liberation & Joy

I intended “Just This” as a place to share what’s going on for me: what I’m reading, thinking about, listening to, watching.

“Just this” is a reference to the Buddha’s instructions to Bāhiya on liberation; that when we see (hear, taste, smell, sense, know) things truly, without distortion, just as they are, just this is the end of suffering.

Well, what’s going on for me these days is the despair and rage I feel about the recent grand jury verdicts and also the energy and power I sense in myself and others in response — the many incredible expressions and actions taking place across this city and country.

The teachings of the Buddha are about liberation. Liberation includes undoing oppression internally and undoing oppression externally (and undoing oppression both internally & externally).

My spiritual practice is not about pretending to be peaceful, calm and well when what is going on around me is not peaceful, calm and well.

Liberation is a vision and practice of joy.

Joy that is an expression of the true heart. What just is. The undivided heart does not separate anger and despair from happiness and hope.

Walking across the Brooklyn Bridge the other night with thousands of righteous beings, my voice raised in chant — joy. As the police helicopter lights shined down on us and we raised our hands in a simultaneous–silent “don’t shoot” — joy. As tears fall — joy. As laughter rings — joy.

Right now, for me, joy is my ability:
* to create space and time for connecting to presence and power
* to live in the midst of rage and fear with my soul intact
* to imagine kinder, more spacious ways of being

I am taking time, space and care with myself and others. Doing less, connecting more, choosing better, letting go of what does not feel absolutely vital and essential right now.

May all beings be free. May joy prevail.

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