Metacentricities

  • Activism of the Heart

    As you may or may not know, I used to be an activist. I spent many years (from ages 22 to my early 50s, at times much more intensely than others) in the trenches - organizing with like-minded people in living rooms and out in the streets on a wide variety of topics overlapping in years. I started out focused on environmental causes, then got sucked into the AIDS crisis, like many of us, and after that spent time as an anti-death penalty and prison reform activist, protested against every war, worked in the pro-choice movement, worked on food access issues, then finally, briefly and very peripherally, Occupy.

    I stopped calling myself an activist a few years ago, because I didn't feel like one, at least I didn't take part in activities in the way I used to. And if someone would ask me a while ago why I left being an activist, I think the only answer I could give would be "I was tired, and burnt out, and wasn't sure it was working anymore."

    But I have gotten a lot more clear in the last year or so why I'm not an activist, and what it would take to get me back into being one.

    I've talked about this before, and I'll spend a little time explaining things here. So we have this wonderful part of our brain, called the Amygdala. It is responsible for keeping us alive, which is, of course, a very good thing, for the most part. It's basic function is to monitor whether our environment feels safe, and if not, to cause a cascade of responses, including secretion of adrenaline and cortisol, both of which have a whole host of physiological effects. In our brains, what happens is that the Amygdala "hijacks" our neocortex, and …

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  • "You will know them by their fruits."

    It has been a sad few days since the Orlando shooting at the Pulse gay bar. I've spent a lot of time thinking about how to address the intersecting issues that arose in the aftermath of the shooting. The issues around gun control, rising Islamophobia, the apparent self-hatred of the shooter, and the ways in which people are talking about (or not talking about) the issues at hand.

    As I've been thinking about this, a set of verses from Matthew come to mind:

    Matthew 7:15-20 says:

    15 ‘Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16You will know them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorns, or figs from thistles? 17In the same way, every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. 18A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. 19Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20Thus you will know them by their fruits.

    Now of course, these verses are often used by conservative Christians to beat people over the head with, and tell people they are going to hell. But when you really read the gospels, and listen to what Jesus said, you can't mistake what these fruits really are. The fruits are acts of kindness and compassion to people no matter who they are, nonviolence, welcoming the stranger, and taking care of the poor, hungry, sick and imprisoned.

    And I keep thinking about our politicians and public figures whose only fruits are fear, hatred and delusion, even as they speak platitudes, and send their "thoughts and prayers" while sowing more fear and hatred. How do we hold them accountable for these fruits? How do we …

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  • A Wisdom School, Overview

    This post starts out talking about a character in my writing, but it's not about my writing, or writing, or even science fiction. Bear with me.

    In my Casitian Universe Series, I have a character named Jal'end'a. She's Casitian (from another planet, for those of you who aren't familiar,) and before she arrived on Earth, she started out as a physicist, then moved to more spiritual pursuits (not so unusual on the planet of her birth.) She became a contemplative.

    Here's an excerpt of the novel about that chapter in her life:

    Jal’end’a hadn’t started out studying religions. Ever since she was a teenager, Jal'end'a had been on a search to understand the universe's origins. She had originally decided to study physics, and had been trained by some of the best teachers on Casiti. She had remained unsatisfied by the process of translation of texts written by the ancients, and the theoretical and experimental approaches to understanding what many thought of as the earliest moments of the universe.

    The deeper Casitian physicists delved into the origins of the universe, the more they found the face of the divine. Some physicists were working to use their methodologies to understand the divine, as Jal'end'a's major teacher did. She had even begun to work with a number of other teachers in crafting theories that unified various fields of knowledge: from origins of the universe, lyre'es'gkin, theories of the mind and brain, and other phenomena.

    In the end, Jal'end'a felt the call to go within herself, to sit, to contemplate, to connect deeply with the divine wisdom inside of her in order to understand the divine wisdom of creation. So she withdrew from science, requested permission to be supported by the community, and lived alone, in a small dwelling far from …

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  • Why Do We Still Have Zoos?

    The uproar around what happened in Cincinnati reminded me of my extremely ambivalent relationship to zoos. When I was a kid, I loved going to the zoo. I really enjoyed watching the animals, and learning about animals I'd probably never see elsewhere. As I got older, I got more and more uncomfortable about zoos, and about the lives most animals lead in zoos.

    Zoos have a history not unlike many other parts of our society - a history based on both privilege and colonialism. Zoos started their history as "Royal Menageries" showing off the exotic animals of far-away lands - lands often colonialized. Zoos in general weren't open to the public until the 18th century. Human beings, usually Africans or Native Americans,  were often in zoos even into the early 20th century. In the modern era, we think of zoos primarily as institutions dedicated to preserving endangered animals, and studying wildlife, but of course zoos make most of their revenue from visits from the public.

    Of course, human beings have extremely complicated relationships to animals. Some animals we keep for food, others we keep as pets. Some are hunted, some are not. Some we think are really cute, others we kill when we see them. Our decisions about which animals are expendable and which aren't is based on a very convoluted rubric of dangerousnes (or whether they are considered pests,) use to humans, and history. And, of course, between and within cultures, there is a wide range of attitudes about animals, sometimes consistent, and largely not.

    Of course, there is the completely arbitrary separation of "humans" and "animals." We are animals, and share 99% of our DNA with our closest relatives. Many animals and birds have intellects that are on par with human children. Some animals (such as cetaceans and elephants) might …

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  • The Greed, Hate and Delusion of Donald Trump

    As many people have, I have been transfixed by this unfolding train wreck that is the candidacy of Donald Trump. For many months, I giggled gleefully at all the late-night jokes on YouTube (the hair, the tan, his small hands, etc.,) and felt satisfying schadenfreude at the rich elites of the Republican party getting hoist by their own petard of 40-odd years of the Southern Strategy. But now that he is the official nominee of their party, and is one Clinton campaign misstep away from being president, I'm not laughing anymore. (In the unlikely event that Bernie Sanders wins the Democratic Nomination, I will breathe much more easily, since his poll numbers in swing states are much better than Hillary's.)

    Make no mistake about it: Donald Trump could in fact be the next president of the United States. I know, it makes me shudder with disbelief. I don't drink much, and haven't gotten drunk in more years than I can count, but I have to admit that the simple idea of a Trump inauguration makes me feel like getting shitfaced. Hardly the contemplative spiritual response, but there you have it.

    But, speaking of contemplative spirituality, I'm pondering the meaning of his candidacy, much more deeply than simply either, "he's a brilliant narcissist who is just doing it for the lulz," or "he knows what buttons to push in people." Both of those things are true, but what's underneath all of that for those who support him?

    Greed, hate and delusion are called The Three Poisons in Buddhism. They are also called "attachment, aversion and ignorance," but for modern, western ears, greed, hatred and delusion might make more sense. They are called the three poisons because they are, in Buddhist philosophy, what causes suffering. More than that, these three are also …

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  • My Salvation Theology

    If you know much about me, you know my soteriology (salvation theology)  is not anywhere near small-o orthodox Christian. (Actually, it's much, much closer to the soteriology of big-O Orthodox Christianity.) I'm sorry. I just can't possibly worship a god for whom "justice" is eternal torture for unbelievers, or anyone, for that matter. And since I'm not a trinitarian, for me Jesus was a child born out of wedlock who grew up to be an incredible dude, way, way more in touch with God than just about any of us can manage.

    I was on retreat last weekend, and I suddenly had a much bigger picture about what salvation is, and what it means (to me, of course. I can't speak for you.) We live in a time that is precarious. We actually do need saving. Desperately. Between the suffering caused by the hatred and delusion of the -isms, to the greed and delusion that destroys the earth and impoverishes billions, we need salvation.

    Carl Sagan once commented that one answer to the Fermi Paradox (the paradox that the galaxy must have the capacity for abundant intelligent life, but we haven't met any of them yet) was that once a species gets to some level of intelligence, they are likely to do themselves in (we certainly are well on our way.) I was connecting that to the work I do in the world, helping people become more conscious, by among other things, tame their reptilian brain with mindfulness.

    Could it be that the core issue of the evolutionary leap to sustainable intelligence is how we make it from a life where we needed those old neural circuits to survive, and a life (like now) when they just get in our way, and in fact, become self-destructive? And of course, what's …

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  • So You Want to Start a Internet Biz and/or Coaching Practice? 12 Things

    This article is a culmination of experience I've gained over the past 2.5 years in starting the business "Conscious Girlfriend" with my partner. Conscious Girlfriend is a largely online (with some live components) business, geared toward lesbians & queer women, teaching them skills to find the right partners, and be the right partners. This article is geared toward anyone doing an online business that sells coaching or courses in the personal growth realm. This is not* geared toward people doing business coaching or online marketing, and not for people who are in this largely for the money, and think of "6 figures" or "7 figures" as an essential goal. If you are in those categories, there are gazillions of other resources. *

    Some of these things are things I wish I'd known, some I'm glad I learned along the way, and wasn't warned about (otherwise, I might not have gone ahead and done this thing.)

    1. It takes time. For everyone. Years of time.  It took us about 1.5 years before the business was sort-of sustainable (that is, would start to pay *our* bills, not just the businesses bills.) It's still a bit touch and go at times, but it's basically working.
    2. Absorb a lot from the big online marketing/enrollment people, but don't pay for it (we did, so you don't have to!) Sign up on the mailing lists of Marisa Murgatroyd, Jeff Walker, Lisa Sasevitch, Bill Baron, etc. Listen to their webinars, read their guides, read their blogs, etc.  There are a lot of great ideas, and there is a lot of useful stuff that they give away (or put in books which are cheap) and a lot you can absorb.  The programs of these folks are geared so strongly in the direction of teaching other business coaches and …
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  • Pronouns

    It's national coming out day. It will come as no surprise to any of you that I'm queer/lesbian. I've been able to be out and proud about that since the mid 1980's - a combination of family acceptance, and living in places and doing work where it was accepted. And now, not only am I publicly out, but I make my living helping queer women (out, or not) have better relationships.

    What you also probably know, as I've made mention of it several times, is that although I don't identify as trans, I'm genderqueer. What does that mean, exactly? For me, it simply means that my own personal, embodied gender, is complicated. I'm not a man stuck in a woman's body, but I am also not just simply a woman. I'm both, and neither. The term "agender" doesn't really work for me, because I don't feel without gender. I guess Bigender works better, but somehow, that doesn't really fit either. Two-spirit would work, but alas, I don't actually get to call myself that. Had I been born 40 years later than I was, how I get to form and define myself as a human being probably would be a lot different (and, likely, a whole lot easier.) But being 56, having lived as a woman for my life, and having been formed largely in the lesbian feminist 80s, it's a bit more challenging.

    For most of this year, I have been pondering pronouns. The funny thing about pronouns is that you rarely hear people speak yours in your actual presence. But anyway, getting to choose one's preferred pronoun is important, and it's important that people respect the pronoun you've chosen. I have to admit to occasionally flubbing it up, especially if I've known someone for a while, but I do …

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  • Curb Your Adrenaline, Change The World

    One of the things I do a lot these days is teach women how to heal conflict. One of the hallmarks of conflict in relationships is that we start from a place of being triggered, which leads to words and actions that we will indeed regret later. Those reactions can be hurtful, self-sabotaging, and deeply damage relationships, sometimes immediately, sometimes over time.

    Why does this happen? It happens because of a little part of your brain called the Amygdala. That part of your brain is the one responsible for keeping you alive. Yes, that's right. What happens when we get triggered is our brains get ready for action. Your body is flooded with adrenaline (and some other stuff,) and your brain thinks you are dealing with a life-threatening event. Even if the stimulus (a partner's comment, an action or inaction, a Facebook Post) is relatively innocuous, your brain decides it's a life-or-death situation. And then, the Amygdala does something really interesting. It hijacks traffic to your neocortex (that is, the thinking, wise part of your brain.) So when you are triggered, you actually aren't thinking. And your actions and words are not rational, and likely to be destructive, or at least not constructive.

    I was boiling in the soup of my own triggers in dealing with Facebook over the last few days, and I realized that our methodology to heal conflict within couples might actually be useful in a much broader context. So I figured I'd outline it, and you can try it out, and see what you think.

    The process is called "SCORE". It has 5 steps:

    S: Step back into yourself. Breathe. Notice the feelings in your body. Breathe some more. Disconnect from the story (she said... he did...) and focus on how your body is feeling.

    C …

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  • Bernie Sanders and Me

    I grew up in a household of politically active people. Both of my parents were involved in politics and cared about politics. Local and national politics were dinner table conversation. It still is when see each other. As I was growing up, politics was seen as a reasonable avenue to real change, and in fact, certainly in the 60s, for African Americans, it was. But the game is, and, in a sense, has always been, rigged. There have been moments when the control of the government wasn't quite fully in the hands of the elite, but largely, it has been, since our founding, and is increasingly so. The Citizens United decision made much more real and open what had been going on for many years more in the background.

    When the health care bill passed, even though I was thankful it gave me health insurance I'd not been able to get, it was utterly clear that it was designed as a boon for health insurers and big pharma. It was not the single-payer system many of us had hoped and fought for. For a while now, I have been disillusioned that national politics is any force for real change that will actually help non-rich Americans.

    In my life, I've done my share of volunteering for presidential candidates. In the fall of 1972, at the tender age of 13, I sold buttons for McGovern. I volunteered for the Mondale/Ferraro campaign in the 80s, volunteered for Al Gore in 2000, and Obama in 2008. I sat out 2012, and I assumed I was going to sit 2016, and every election afterwards. Hillary Clinton, fed and watered by Wall Street, might be mouthing populist rhetoric, but she was likely going to be even less able and willing to change anything for the …

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