Pondering Empowerment

Saw this sign while walking. Therefore, I trust it.

Empowerment: 1)  authority or power given to someone to do something, 2) the process of becoming stronger and more confident, especially in controlling one’s life and claiming one’s rights.

My sister posed a great question to ponder this holiday: “When have you felt most empowered? Most disempowered/least empowered?”

The question gets at the crux of limits or no limits to individual power, ways that others assign power to us or seek to restrict our power, stereotypes we have based on external factors about other’s power, and allows us to unmask pain points and vulnerabilities in our own experience.

Like a dutiful ponderer, I pondered. And walked.

Thoughts I arrived at in approaching the question.

  • I have personally rarely felt empowered in relationship to other humans. I do not understand fully why though probably could concoct some long explanation.
  • Activities that I have been told by others would be empowering, like public speaking, completing a college degree, being in intimate relationship, earning money I have experienced as less empowering than completing a knitted project, volunteer work, walking by myself, experiencing energy from trees, meditation, caring for myself in ways that reconnect my mind-body-spirit into a whole.
  • The fact I choose to live with limited relationship to people it dawns on me may actually be my ultimate self-empowerment and a profound privilege many women may not be afforded without having their very survival and body violated.
  • My privilege is that I am a woman who is choosing to say “I like to and want to live alone.” As a woman who does not want to choose dependence on a man, I could have been born into countless circumstances that would make this choice impossible.
  • Despite carrying an intense desire for independence, I am aware that ALL is relationship. As independent as I may wish to be, my existence and every breath is dependent on a series of interconnected relationships.
  • If we accept that we are steeped worldwide in a human society that is abusive to women on the whole and not serving men’s souls either, only with that awareness can scripts begin to be rewritten.
  • Can all humans learn to be “pro-human empowerment?” Can we as a society learn to stop destroying ourselves and taking the planet along with us long enough to truly foster spaces where people can be in touch with their own knowing in connection with all that has supported us?
  • Recently, I have had many awakenings and healings after countless baby steps over decades, so they did not happen “overnight.” I am free of body hatred. I have let go of reliance on asthma medications and antidepressants because I arrived at healing through food and daily self-care practices. My experience tells me that self-empowerment is at least as powerful as being provided empowering space by others, because only the self can rewrite what goes on in our own minds. I can choose to make myself feel empowered at any given moment. And maybe by virtue of my introverted, extremely rare INFJ personality type, I feel best when alone and self-supporting despite caring about others. That in itself is a privilege and an empowered place for me to be, even if others may not perceive it as such.
  • I know my own life experience has crossed many boundaries that defy stereotype others may have of me as a white woman currently living in an ethnically homogeneous, rarefied setting among a fairly monetarily privileged community. I know I must keep my heart open to awareness that I cannot judge another’s life experience by any external factor (skin color, economic status, profession, etc.). I have spent a good chunk of my years living in places with much greater socioeconomic and ethnic diversity than I do now and I appreciate to no end the humility and perspective this taught me, aligned with the universal ecological principle that diversity equals sustainability and strength.
  • My ethnic background includes generational trauma just as many people’s lineages do. Carrying the weight of this in my very DNA helps me have empathy, even if I like every other person also have largely unconscious biases. I recently learned of the Whitney Museum sugar cane plantation open since 2014 that is the first space to memorialize slavery from slaves’ perspective. To genuinely comprehend that African-American men and women propped up world economy from the birth of America to very recent history and is equivalent to terrorism and genocide feels essential. And that the cost of living in a world economic system that depends upon such atrocities and suffering in order to maintain itself is truly a dead-end and must never continue. I also recently saw an Instagram post that read “black people had lives before slavery,” reminding me of the bigger perspective that says, “We were whole people with whole lives before the destruction.” And “We are resilient survivors.” I also recently learned of Jane Elliott‘s famous experiment exposing that treating anyone inhumanely based on arbitrary characteristics is insanity. To keep in awareness that everything can change in a blink of an eye for an individual or an entire group of people in the equation of disempowerment/empowerment fosters at least compassion in my heart for every other human being that I can bring to the luxury of my meditation time.

A blessing I left on behalf of me and my daughter (ladybug and dragonfly) in the center of the labyrinth.

Thanksgiving Carrot Pants

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Bits and Bobs

Taking a moment to rest in being a deciduous tree in a coniferous forest.

“Self-care is never a selfish act – it is simply good stewardship of the only gift I have, the gift I was put on earth to offer others. Anytime we can listen to true self and give the care it requires, we do it not only for ourselves, but for the many others whose lives we touch.”  ~ Parker Palmer

Christmas colors existed long before Christmas

Someone dear to me told me a doctor has prescribed mindfulness and that it is good there is an “expert in the family.”

Lest anyone view me an expert, consider the fact until today I was three weeks behind in yet another Mindfulness course I signed up for online. I have now committed a time to the task, and settled myself into Week 1 that asks “Why are you here (in course)?”  Answers that arrived:

  • To practice silencing voices of others (paid work) and allow my own to be heard.
  • To wrestle with questions I have about building a life entirely on mindfulness practices.
  • To invite answers around isolation versus contentment, healthy mind and body versus regimented discipline.
  • To let go of anxiety about things beyond my control, primarily my child being halfway around the world for a year and of course political mayhem.

“Any Morning”
by William Stafford

Just lying on the couch and being happy.
Only humming a little, the quiet sound in the head.
Trouble is busy elsewhere at the moment, it has
so much to do in the world.

People who might judge are mostly asleep; they can’t
monitor you all the time, and sometimes they forget.
When dawn flows over the hedge you can
get up and act busy.

Little corners like this, pieces of Heaven
left lying around, can be picked up and saved.
People won’t even see that you have them,
they are so light and easy to hide.

Too Many Works in Progress, Says My Judgment

Acknowledging gratitude for my sister‘s gifts and impact on my insights.

From her Creative Constellation Cards.

My Primary (unpaid) Modes

My Primary (paid) Mode

What I Want For My Future

Her Past Gifts To Me

Mountain Dream – 2008

2003 – Year I most needed Courage

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When I Grow Old

A photo shoot of a gift I made that to honor a person in my life who loves the poem read by the author below. (Designer: Helen Stewart, Snowmelt Shawl).

And when I grow old, I shall continue to write poems and continue knitting with hopefully more time to do both. Some days I dream of what I could accomplish if knitting was my full-time job. But maybe friction against commitments is what gives our work urgency to completion.

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Managing Cacophony

When so much public discourse right now fits the definition of cacophony (1. harsh discordance of sound; dissonance. 2. a discordant and meaningless mixture of sounds), how do we manage?

Here I share a few practices I do daily that may not help anyone else, but I suspect we all need as many methods as we can manage right now to remain stable.

Cacophony is the WordPress word prompt from two days ago, and I have been busy enough that I am only now taking this moment to jot down why it occurs to me cacophony management is one more way to think of mindfulness. One aspect of my work listening to human voices is to notate ambient sounds in a transcript. This means I get paid to manage cacophony and include both foreground and background sound that can be heard in the same moment. After 10 hours of listening in stereo, I can be pushed to a certain edge of overwhelm where all my daily practices are needed.

  1. I begin each day with coffee and a bowl of oats. Making my morning oats has become truly a gratitude practice and causes me to focus methodically and allow myself to absorb pleasing aromas of cinnamon, anise, allspice, cloves, and apple all of which go into the steaming bowl of comfort. And now in the season of pumpkin spice lattes, I make my own version with a bag of cinnamon spice tea that contains orange oil and almond essence, a teaspoon of honey along with soy milk inside my coffee.
  2. I listen to nonhuman communication. Tonight an owl calling and smaller birds in the woods.
  3. I walk in nature, darkness, rain, wind or shine.
  4. For one hour that I am not working, eating or sleeping, I make sure I connect to something real, whether literally sitting on the ground, stopping to take photos of natural beauty and pausing to “see,” and allowing worries or concerns to be released to the world outside my screen brain.
  5. I knit for an hour most days.
  6. I thank trees for being there for me and all that benefit. I never stop being amazed how each tree is an ecosystem in itself for countless creatures. (As humans are too, if we can manage to get past our squeamishness to reflect on that truth).

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Flip It

 

After we take a thousand or more baby steps, suddenly breakthroughs in awareness can happen. These epiphanies can seem sudden, but they are built on all those micromovements behind it. One of these awakenings happened to me this week when I suddenly recognized that I felt at home in my body. For the first time in my adult life. I do remember having the sense of coherent body as a child, pre-life traumas, pre-adulthood.

Losing 40 pounds this year was not unique, as I’ve done something similar twice before, but this time it was about letting go of emotional eating and looking at physical health as a sort of math equation, a balance of activity and intake that can be harmonious, completely separate from emotions. And emotions can be observed and handled any number of different ways separate from food.

Feeling at home in the body can start at any point and not be connected to any specific weight, but for me the two coincided, having little to do with outward appearance and everything to do with harmony.  The morning I woke up and realized my decades long feeling of wanting to crawl out of my skin any time I reflected on being inside a physical body was simply gone, I recognized a huge shift had happened. Lightness on many levels.

Then I considered applying whatever this flip was to other aspects of my life. I thought, can I flip any way of thinking? I started practicing with one of my biggest fears, something I’ve intuitively sensed my entire life.

“Monetary success means cloaking my true nature and being disconnected from the natural world.”

I started realizing that I do have a means to earn a living, and even if my media freelancing can seem nature disconnected, can be unpredictable in volume and requires me to be stationary in front of a screen rather than active outdoors, the freedoms I experience in being self-directed and self-employed are worth any negatives.

I try to think continuously about what I can do to honor Earth, to give rather than take. I have a vision of the way I’d like to live that is not entirely manifested yet, but for now I have to acknowledge some baby steps. I do not have a lengthy vehicle commute. This alone honors Earth. In lieu of commute time, I have freedom to continue my daily nature connection practice where I consciously focus on reciprocal relationship with any or many given elements in the natural world as well as attune my radar to the four directions. This freedom has to be taken into account as part of “success” for me.

After two slow summer months where I began to question finally giving up my work of 25 years completely and forge a new unknown direction, I instead sat and touched base with my spiritual “support” and asked for help and guidance. I asked to be shown a new way to earn a living and/or help remedying my present lack of ability to pay bills. Rather than forging which takes great effort, I allowed what happens to happen. Within one week, I was offered as much work as I could possibly want and in this particular week worked 90 hours in 7 days in order to achieve a specific goal.

I do not intend to sustain 90 hours a week of transcribing, nor is it physically advisable anyone do this. I do have to consider the fact that escaping injury while doing this feels like a miracle or at least spiritually supported.

Slowly I’ve begun flipping the idea I am lacking in abundance simply because of my income or having a somehow deficient relationship to money, and instead experience great happiness and love for my hands’ ability to do what they do, and the freedom I am able to build into every single day, even if for minutes, that allows me to keep connected to my true nature and the natural world where real prosperity lives.

IMAG1931

 

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Window to Light

Emotional pain can be a window to light.

During my daily wander through the woods, I was pondering the best TED talk I’ve seen on topic of gratitude, a great reminder that leaning in, touching, embracing our pain, sadness, grief, whatever is our suffering helps us live with more equanimity.  Then I encountered this.

What I learned from this tree echoes my lived experience. That when we touch sadness, grief, rather than push it away, it becomes possible to recognize even darkness exists inside a container capable of refracting light. Once we know this in our cells, we unburden ourselves from at least some of the heaviness of our suffering.

Today I have grown taller from walking with the trees. ~ Karle Wilson Baker

This morning an industrious orb weaver set up a shop window, spanning its web from door frame to plant stem.  As I watered plants I became mindful to allow the concentric circles this weaver is building to remain unbroken.

Very little grows on jagged rock. Be ground. Be crumbled, so wildflowers will come up where you are.

~ Rumi

Windows on Greenbank Farm

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Abundance

Any Saturday morning I can spare from work, I walk 7 miles round trip to the farmer’s market. This time I returned with the always loved red cabbage in my backpack, a vegetable I had not tried before (kohlrabi) and gorgeous cherry tomatoes. When I returned home, I found a neighbor had left more gorgeous cherry tomatoes on my doorstep and a housemate left a jar of honey from a hive she harvested. This morning, I looked at the kitchen counter and thought, “If that is not a picture of Earth’s abundance, I don’t know what is.”

It’s already carved up, so not in photo, but turns out, for anyone who cares to know, kohlrabi is kind of like a jicama or daikon radish great raw and nutrient rich. I did not google it before I thought I’d taste the leaves, and turns out they make a tasty little saute with garlic, cumin and cayenne, just like kale or collard greens. Here’s a link to a blog that lists kohlrabi recipes.

My deepest intention is to live in a way that takes less and less from Earth, only what I need to sustain and celebrate Earth’s life of which I am a part.

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