Posts Tagged ‘PlanetWaves’

Inner and Outer Cultures

June 1, 2018

No sooner do I comment that it would be nice if we could go a few months without major expenditure, to recoup the finances a bit, then the well pump quits. On a Saturday, with no possibility of knowing what is wrong or what it will cost in time and money to be repaired until Monday at the earliest. We lose electric power often enough that life without running water is familiar.  I lived two years of my early teens without running water also, and have that old knowledge to draw on. Making the transition from flowing taps to only water stored in large and heavy bottles nonetheless takes a bit of doing. Not exactly what I intended to spend my weekend energy engaged with. But then, we know what comes of intentions and plans.

Before learning of the pump failure I did enjoy a day of walking in Santa Fe, seeing creative new jewelry designs, unique treatments of photographs, and some very original free form pottery at an art fair adjacent to the Farmer’s Market where I purchased beautifully multi-colored heirloom tomatoes. In addition to completing routine errands (including refilling the aforementioned large water bottles) I savored the quiet reflection time of my hour drive each way.

Based on what thoughts, remarks, and experiences have caught my attention these past few weeks, I must conclude I am engaged in some part of the process of self-definition. Not the who I want to be if I ever grow up type of self definition, but rather the what am I and what values do I channel? What is important to share and what is best not just left unspoken but totally dismissed so that it vanishes completely from my awareness and thus from my life. My recent rant about cultural appreciation versus so-called cultural appropriation is some part of this larger question I am pondering, because as I wrote the lengthy but still far from comprehensive listing of identity elements in that rant, I was aware that I was merely listing external traits and experiences that have influenced me. That external listing may be the common means by which we share something of who we are – but even as I wrote the words I was aware I was not describing the essence of me.

During  a reported in-house meeting at The Atlantic, Ta-Nehisi Coates participated in a discussion of whether the publication can achieve diversity while maintaining its long-standing tradition of political neutrality. Given the magazine’s recent difficult encounter with trying to add Kevin Williamson to its staff, a move Coates initially supported despite how different the two men’s values are, the question is particularly salient. It touches on other closely related questions such as how much of a range of opinion is acceptable under the mantle of encouraging diversity, and at what point does tolerance of diversity slip over the edge into tolerance of unacceptable extremism? Isn’t diversity as a positive value already a political statement and therefore a step away from political neutrality? Is it possible ever to legislate values and still claim to be politically neutral? Isn’t our current deeply divisive political environment largely due not to disagreements about politics, but disagreements about which values should be enshrined in legislation by our politicians?

A few days break since I wrote those last lines. Well pump has been replaced, water is flowing once more – and an analysis in The Week concluded that what used to be the political reminder “it’s the economy, stupid” has now morphed into “it’s the cultural clash, stupid.” Seeing in my own life just how challenging it can be to adapt to new and different values, blend different cultures, integrate new attitudes, I can readily understand how a nation as diverse as the U.S. can end up as fractured into tribal units as we seem to have become. Each of those external traits I listed in my last post could be considered a distinct tribal identity, to any one of which I might choose to adhere closely, abandoning the others as “not really me,” By not doing so, I place myself in the “multicultural” tribe and take on various implicit values that I admit I wish to see implemented in “my” society.

A theme running through many of the essays published on PlanetWaves, in conjunction with some very fine-tuned astrology, is the persistent narrative of our times, that “the personal is political and the political is personal.” I take that as meaning everything I do has repercussions in the wider society within which I live, and how that society is functioning affects how I think and feel. I can easily remember how affected I was by the last presidential election – the sense of very personal affront that so unqualified a male would be chosen over a perhaps tainted but still intelligent, vibrant and capable woman. My whole life of being put down, overlooked, ignored, insulted and scorned simply because I am a female more competent than many of my male coworkers felt summed up in those election results.

It is less easy to see how my actions affect society, beyond the one-on-one of my work and friendships. I suppose the fact that I post these reflections must be counted as me affecting a larger world in ways of which I am mostly unaware. I do consciously consider what I am “putting out there” and try to may it positive.

Hmmm… might some of the contentiousness of current public discourse come simply from the fact that we are all more aware of how society affects us then we are of how we affect society? Isn’t much of the frustration being expressed lately a form of attestation that too many people feel that they are not able to alter what is going on around them? No one does well when he/she feels helpless to change circumstances.

Which brings me once more back to the recognition, central to my spiritual training, that too much focus on the outer, whether for self definition or sense of achievement, leads to fading  energy, loss of joy, mistaken thinking and a degraded quality of life. Without a daily, disciplined practice of turning inwards and upwards, to the spirit/ Soul /Divine/ Master/ God-self by whatever name through contemplation/ meditation/ prayer (to each according to his/her Path) we are all less than we could/should be and the world is less in consequence.

Baraka Bashad

I Know What I Like

February 19, 2017

I sent an email to my (very understanding) supervisor recently, expressing my deep reservations about a proposed move to video visits being pushed by upper management. Not that I don’t know how to adapt my interviews to a video format, but I live in a region of limited Internet connectivity and the people with whom I am expected to conduct these visits have neither the technology nor the money to acquire the technology to participate. Most run out of minutes on flip phones before the end of each month.

More importantly, to my mind, is a concern for the disappearance of meaningful interpersonal connections. Too many of us now live in isolated bubbles, glued to smart phones and tablets, Googling for answers to test questions instead of reading and learning and thinking things through for ourselves. Too many of us can be seen sitting with others, everyone with his or her head down staring at a screen. Too many of us spend too much time “connected” only with those who visit the same websites, think the same thoughts, agree with whatever we say, and take righteous offense if anyone contradicts the group’s predetermined set of beliefs.

I’m not originating these thoughts – some of them I read in an analysis by Eric Francis, astrologer and writer and producer of PlanetWaves. Some I heard during an interview with a journalist scorned by his liberal peers for writing a biographical piece on Milo Yiannopoulos. The journalist’s original position was a sort of “know thine enemy” belief that one cannot effectively implement programs or persuade others who hold different views, if one hasn’t heard enough of those views to discover where there may be common ground upon which to build a successful compromise, or a persuasive argument for a different outcome.

I’m reminded of a speaker brought to my college campus in the early 1960s. Once a week the entire campus was gathered for Collection, to hear a presentation meant to give us food for reflection. Attendance was mandatory. One spring morning, the speaker was a South African government official who presented a defense of apartheid to an audience almost entirely composed of supporters of the civil rights movement then actively unfolding in the United States. Some students made an initial effort to block the speech, primarily because of the mandated attendance. The school administrators insisted that we hear the official’s viewpoint “in order to understand how best to argue against and counter it.” The speaker presented a closely reasoned and very persuasive argument in support of separation of races that could only be countered, I realized, by catching – and taking apart – his implicit assumption that people are more comfortable “with their own kind” and that race is a necessary and sufficient condition for dividing kinds of people. He only verbalized the comfortable with one’s own part of the premise; the racial implications corollary was never stated. In case you didn’t take logic in school, the speaker implied but never stated that in and of itself skin color creates an unbridgeable gap between people such that I as a Caucasian can never be the same kind of person as anyone with a Negroid complexion.

Had I not heard the South African speaker, I might never have been able to pinpoint the unstated assumptions on which so many people base their objections to the sort of social integration that has been experienced in the past 40 years in the US. And had I not heard that speaker, I probably would not have grown in my own ability to reach across very real differences, to find common ground with people whose views are significantly different from my own. I have friends, good and caring people, who support the newly elected Congress and President. I don’t agree with their political views, but I also cannot fault their day to day treatment of neighbors, nor their commitment to good education, appropriate care for the needy, and fair treatment for all.

The devil is in the details, as they say, and one of the details seems to be that we as a nation have lost the capacity to relate to anyone different from ourselves. How many people, now, would object to the statement that “people are more comfortable surrounded by those like themselves”? How many of us choose to go outside our “comfort zones” or our technologically reinforced personal bubbles to listen to, interact with, care about those whom we perceive as different from ourselves?

The journalist who was scorned for writing about Yiannopoulos had called himself a liberal, but reacted to their scorn by redefining himself as a “new conservative.” Not that he changed his own values, but that he perceives today’s “strident” liberals as unable to listen, unable to discuss, unable to tolerate different viewpoints from their own. They have become, he claims, just like the alt-right in that both sides are equally intolerant.

A Quaker friend (a Friend friend) of mine recently raised the question of how to reach out to those whose views differ from our own, in order to better understand steps to take to heal the growing divide which he sees as threatening to tear our democracy apart. I found myself wanting to answer “shut down the social media sites, turn off the Net, create an environment, at least for a week, that will force people to actually see and talk to and listen to one another. Don’t replace in person visits with video visits, don’t require doctors to focus on data entry into a computer when they should be listening to their patients. Don’t allow objectors to prevent a speech, however unpleasant the views of the speaker. And don’t let implicit assumptions about similarity and difference slip by unquestioned.

It may be true that we are generally most comfortable with those like ourselves. What matters is how we define the phrase, like ourselves. I remember that I used to say the only thing about which I am intolerant is intolerance. I suspect that is still true. Intolerance, to me, means lack of respect for the humanity of another. I need to ask myself whether I can respect the humanity of a bigot. Can I find that of God in a hater? I found it in killers who were my students when I taught in the NM Penitentiary. I have certainly found it in those friends referred to earlier, whose political views are so different from my own. If I can do so, it does NOT mean I accept anyone’s right to act on bigotry and hatred. But if I can do so, I think I’ll have a better chance of diverting the haters from implementing their bigoted agenda.



May 29, 2016

A much needed break from my day job has just come to an end. Returning to work, I could feel the familiar skin of tension wrap itself around me, its confining pressure made up of having to be “on” at all times, a plethora of deadlines, and the need to adapt to constantly changing requirements. Knowing that the work is stressful and trying the usual tricks to reduce the impact of that stress – the vacation trip being one – still didn’t prepare me for the visceral reaction I experienced when I returned to work a few days ago.

Knowing about the stress, and intimately experiencing its descent upon me, are very different levels of awareness. The latter has motivated me to rededicate myself to living by my spiritual Master’s will, leaving control of how each day unfolds to wiser guidance than that of my own mind.

In practice this means I’m coming back to work intent on “redoing” my approach to my responsibilities so that I can use the awareness of the tense extra skin as a red flag – when I sense it, I know to stop, release the mental straightjacket into which I’ve wedged myself, and give control of my Self back to the Master. I already know that when I function from no-mind, all goes well, the work gets done, and I have energy left for the rest of my life interests.

As with any habit, I will need to implement this release repeatedly, until I no longer wear the tension sheath at all. My health will, I know, immediately improve, as it did during the short vacation break.

The second half of my vacation trip was also a redoing – or perhaps more correctly an undoing of a previous negative experience, replacing it with a positive one.

Some 15 years ago I made a similar trip across the Midwest to see a former getaway student – to Fargo rather than Rochester, my UWC student/temporary daughter then a Senegalese rather than an Asian. In the first instance my companion was, unknown to me, strung out on heroin and pretending not to be. As a result, when we were supposed to be enjoying a sightseeing return trip, he was too sick to do anything but insist we make it home as fast as possible. It was summer, so hot my Subaru’s AC couldn’t keep us any cooler than 90 and all I wanted was out of the heat and away from the anger and harsh attitude in my passenger seat. We drove within sight of the Crazy Horse monument, but did not see Mt. Rushmore, nor any of the other attractions of the Black Hills area.

This trip has been so different – relaxed conversation, enjoyment of the densely varied shades of green in Nebraska, Minnesota, and South Dakota with subtle differences between the three states noticeable to eyes attuned to grabbing whatever green can be found in New Mexico’s desert tans. We passed through areas of rolling hills which my husband said look like the area around Bamenda in his native Cameroon. We also passed a number of windfarms in Minnesota, the clean white towers with their sedately turning blades overlapping into the distance like a giant mobile decorating the sky. Farming continued between and below the strong white pillars, corn for biofuels being produced on the same lands as electricity from wind.

Following a warm family-feeling graduation/anniversary/birthday event in Minnesota, we drove back through South Dakota and down through the Black Hills, snapping pictures of the Mt. Rushmore faces and spending time in the museum at the Crazy Horse monument. The museum’s assembled collection of native crafts from all across the country provides visitors with an opportunity to appreciate differences in design, perhaps reflective of differences in perception and world view, between tribes. I particularly noticed a 150 year old beaded pouch from the Winnebago tribe with a floral design that put me immediately in mind of Georgia O’Keefe’s flower paintings. Distinctively different from the straight lined geometry I previously have associated with Native beadwork.

Recent astrology patterns suggest this spring to have been a period of review, with the opportunity to renew and revise one’s goals, as well as to set new patterns of social interaction. Eric Francis of PlanetWaves pointed out that each time of reconsideration (planets in retrograde) appears as an upheaval on the larger social scene, as we are collectively subjected to pressure to make changes. No surprise then, that we are looking at a political scene which has totally confounded the pollsters. And no surprise that I’ve been given the opportunity to make changes also, creating new memories and finding new and healthier ways to carry on with daily obligations.

Model of what is to be

Model of what is to be


The familiar that is

The familiar that is


En Famille

En Famille

Forward, or Back?

November 9, 2014

A younger friend is in the planning stages of a surprise event for her parents’ 50th wedding anniversary. She asked me, since I am of an age with those parents, to mention some of the significant events of “the sixties.” Her intention is to link her parents’ years of marriage to marker events they would have lived through.

I’ve met her parents, and know them to be of a different world view than mine, more conservative and less traveled, but teachers and caring, engaged individuals. I tried to name events that might have personal meaning to them, not just the by-now-made-trite-by-media images of hippies, Woodstock, anti-war protests, long hair and drugs. Together, my friend and I came up with a list of singers, TV shows, commercial logos and slogans, hair and clothing trends, popular movie stars, and also specific political events of the sixties that have shaped the succeeding years.

One of the personal experiences I shared was of being made to turn in my credit cards, acquired as a single woman, when I married a man who did not have a credit record. I was not considered, legally, enough of a person in my own right to have a credit rating separate from that of my husband of the time. To this day, I have never again shopped in the stores that so denigrated me, nor held a credit card from the company that made me turn mine in. Looking back to that event, I would say society has progressed somewhat as regards the status of women.

Looking forward, since the election, to probable legislation and legal decisions affecting woman, I regretfully believe that we are a very short step away from a return to the non-person-hood of women reflected in my credit experience.

Eric Francis, of PlanetWaves, has just posted an amusing and pointed essay about laws requiring men to have permission from two doctors, attesting to the man’s intent to create life because he has access to a fertile egg, before that man may ejaculate (see his essay through Facebook or at

I did not begin this essay with the intent to rant on how close we have come to full circle, from the constraints on women in the early sixties, to those being imposed again now. I intended to write about the differences between people who tend to look forward to what comes next in their lives, and those who tend to look back at what used to exist in those lives. The forward lookers generally seem happier, more open, more accepting people. The backward lookers strike me most often as sad, missing what has passed, finding little or no pleasure in their daily experience – and urgently trying to drag everyone else down into their own depression and regret.

I work with people who are in pain, who are sick, who have lost much of their independence and freedom to choose to walk down the driveway to the mailbox, or to dress themselves without help, or to cook a meal. One woman has been on dialysis for ten years, and recently spent nine months in a nursing home after she fell and broke a hip. She is a forward looker: an artist, a grandmother teaching her granddaughter to carry on the family tradition of pottery-making, while she herself explores new forms in clay.

A few days ago, I met with a couple who are split – the husband is totally focused backward on all that, due to severe pain, he can no longer do. He won’t have someone come to build an entrance ramp to his house because “people will see that he, who worked construction all his life, is no longer capable of this project.” His wife also speaks mostly of how she raised six children and ran a household while holding down a job, of how limited she is now, and dependent on her youngest son to cook meals and clean the house.

Until her husband leaves the room.

Then she shares how much she enjoyed a five day visit to a grown daughter’s home, even though she had the same mobility limitations on vacation as she does at home. She would be a forward looker, were she not being dragged inexorably down into negativity and backward-looking regret by her husband.

It would be easy, just now, for me to lament the direction our government seems to be taking, and to look backward to even ten years ago, when we were celebrating new accomplishments by women and expecting ever more equity in the workplace. But looking backward means, to me, having little hope, few aspirations, no sense of adventure and no courage. It may not be pleasant looking toward what I expect to emerge from Congress and the Supreme Court over the next few years. It is nonetheless necessary to do so, and to do so with determination not to be overwhelmed.

I recommend the use of inner resources, inner resolve, and a conviction that there is merit to the saying that “it is always darkest before the dawn.” Given how unexpectedly a new love relationship, a new purpose and a new energy arrived in my own life, I must attest to a certainty that “anything is possible” if one remains focused on looking forward, open to possibilities, and expecting the best.

Expecting the best is one of the attitudes listed on the Alternatives to Violence Project mandala – a circle with Transforming Power at its center; caring for self and others, respect for self and others, seeking a peaceful solution and expecting the best in a surrounding ring; and an assortment of techniques to be used in an outer ring – techniques like humor, patience, courtesy, surprise and caring. That ring of techniques keeps expanding, as workshops held in prisons across the country, and in tension-filled countries around the world, teach people how to find non-violent solutions to conflicts. The techniques are equally effective for maintaining a positive focus in one’s own life, and for bringing one back into awareness of the strength of spirit we all possess.

The backward-lookers may have won some recent political elections – they will NOT run my life. Please don’t let them run yours!

‘Tis a Gift

March 23, 2014

I have only a little time this evening, set aside for writing, but without any strong motivation regarding a topic. There are four or five essays I’ve started at various points in the past few months – none of them grab me just now, asking to be completed and posted. Too abstractly intellectual; too much social commentary when I don’t feel particularly engaged; too removed from my current state of being… Too, too, too.

The only immediate concern that engages me in this moment of relaxation, is how to keep my present calm acceptance and contentment going when I am bombarded by Saturn’s powerful strictures, or the draining needs of others. I’m sure you’ve encountered people whose sense of deprivation, or overwhelming pain, or just plain exhaustion have turned them into emotional black holes, sucking life force from everything around them. I’m not referring to those who have been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder – the ultimate in black-hole-ness. Working effectively with these fragmented people requires professional training and a great deal of practice.

No, I’m referring to people who mostly manage to make their way in life, but lean extensively on anyone and everyone around them in order to function. They hold jobs, they raise families, and they suck up the energy, the enthusiasm, the very vitality of those around them. I’d forgotten how many such souls draw on our health care system for portions of their support. I’d forgotten to what an extent I have to develop mechanisms to balance myself out, after spending days working with these needy individuals.

Some of the exercises in my weekly Ba Gua class draw energy from the earth and bring it up through the body and out the fingertips. After a particularly challenging work day recently, I rooted myself in the standing tree pose until I felt a resurgence of chi in my body. The technique is effective, but not one I can practice easily in the car, traveling between clients.

Checking in with my Master helps, always.

So does the company of friends, though I feel cautious about relying on the energy of others, not wanting to become, myself, the sort of leech that I am seeking to recover from.

At Upaya, a Buddhist retreat center in Santa Fe, there will soon be a workshop on compassionate caring, subtitled how to be engaged without being entrapped. It sounds like an answer to the challenge of my present situation. I will have to absorb the lessons by osmosis, however – I can’t take that much time off from work just yet.

Nor do I think such a workshop will guide me in dealing with the most serious source of leeching energy – the brutally frustrating, inefficient, too often non-functional data software system with which I must interact on a daily basis at work. I’ve learned that my employer is threatening the computer system contractor with a breach of contract lawsuit – and cancellation of the contract for failure to perform. One part of me is cheering wildly at the thought of becoming free of the monster. Another, though, cringes at the idea of having to redo – in a new data base – all the work already completed since the first of the year.

You’ll get some idea of how awful the data system is, if I say that keeping paper records and duplicating multiple entries by hand would be far more efficient and user friendly than the program we are expected to negotiate, when it works – if it works. I had set today aside for data entry – and couldn’t even get into the system until almost 1PM, effectively losing half my work day. To keep up and not feel totally overwhelmed by unmet obligations, I’ll have to work on Saturday – again.

I can work on Saturday. I’m free to work on Saturday. I have paid work to do on Saturday. I have a good paying, mostly enjoyable job being of service to others, after many long months of being turned down for every sort of work I sought.

No, I’m not practicing affirmations, just reversing a possible spiral into negativity that could begin with today’s frustrating failure, yet again, of a system that is supposed to be an asset in my work my life.

Giving attention to that which uplifts, enjoying the company of friends, sharing a bit of my daily life with these words – these are activities which allow me to regain energy, to move forward into my next day of interaction with whatever sentient or mechanistic black holes cross my path. Outstanding astrologer, Eric Francis of PlanetWaves, urges that we face the coming months of a unique and powerful astrological grand square by daring to trust. For me, that translates to moving forward with confidence that my inner sun is strong enough (provided I remember my Source) to keep shining despite any loss of energy or sapped strength.

To have the opportunity to experience this constant regeneration is a gift for which I am most grateful.

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