Category Archives: Mindfulness
Props to Sista Zai, storyteller and thought leader, for introducing me to this passage – follow her on Facebook here.
You best believe I’m adding this bell hooks book to my long reading list.
“Even though feminist thinking and practice focusing on connections between racism and sexism helped generate awareness of the way in which black womanhood is devalued in an imperialist white-supremacist capitalist patriarchal culture, individual black females must continually work to challenge and change negative perceptions of our being and our behavior. As teachers, we struggle to resist students and colleagues placing us in the role of mammy caretaker because they have been unconsciously taught that this is a black woman’s place. When I began writing and teaching about the connections between racism and sexism, I was often told that I was so angry. I refused to accept this projected identity. Instead, I would challenge audiences to consider why analysis of race, gender, and class that called into question accepted ways of thinking always appeared to them to come from a place of anger rather than a place of awareness. Often, the individuals who accused me of being angry were masking their own rage at being confronted and challenged.” [emphasis mine]
~ bell hooks, Teaching Critical Thinking: Practical Wisdom
The passage I bolded is of particular interest me, observing the way liberals respond to critical thinkers, and how people take critiques and analyses that are not personal, really personally. I am questioning what is wrong with being angry, if the anger is about a very real injustice. But I am also thinking about how critical thinkers need to do continuous work on themselves to ensure that the critiques they do offer are not coming from ego (ego-related resentment, envy, etc). Sometimes, that does mean reflecting on the anger we feel, making sure it’s coming from a pure place within us. And if it isn’t, doing the work to release that shit so we can focus on what is essential.
This is a quick post for everyone who struggles with strong emotions.
I used to be one of those people. I still feel things deeply, and I am slightly bipolar – it is mild, gives me intuitive and creative blessings, is not severe enough to require medication. Nonetheless, I do contend with my natural pendulum swing of emotional highs and lows.
There isn’t one magic solution that will “fix” people like us. A disciplined, holistic approach to ones mind, body, and spiritual health is necessary in order to keep us all in a good place – fit enough to make the most of our lives and be happy, functional people contributing to the world.
However, over the years I have found one practice that has helped me profoundly to balance during times of emotional turmoil: MEDITATION.
Intuition during hard times has led me to try and practice many forms of meditation over the years: Eckhart Tolle’s presence method of detaching from ‘the Thinker’ and ‘the pain body’; mindfulness meditation; numerous guided meditations, and Transcendental Meditation (TM).
All the methods I have tried are aiming for the same thing: to enable the practitioner to get beyond both their thoughts and their emotions – which are intertwined – and become the Overseer of everything that is going on both inside and outside of them.
Many people have a permanent and regular meditation routine that they follow, but I find that I use meditation regularly only during periods of instability and emotional turmoil. This is mainly because I am able to stay in ‘Overseer’ mode for long periods these days.
Tolle talks about practicing presence all day, everyday, and I actually find I do this – primarily because my family – whom I am in regular contact with – present constant challenges to my emotional state. In his books, Tolle talks about how simply staying ‘conscious’ with ‘unconscious’ relatives is the ultimate way to become a Master of presence. I think this is absolutely true.
Tolle also says having to transmute intense suffering can lead to the ultimate ‘awakening’ in the person who is forced by circumstance to transcend their suffering… and the only way to do so, again, is presence – going beyond thinking and emotional reactions, stepping into a higher consciousness. Transmuting suffering into consciousness is the ultimate alchemy. I have multiple experiences with this scenario, too.
So, I highly recommend giving meditation a go. And if you can, check out Eckhart Tolle’s books – I listen to his audiobooks regularly. If you’re on a tight budget (as I am!), see if you can order them in at your local library. There are numerous free meditation podcasts on iTunes – I love the ‘Meditation Oasis’ podcast. And you may be able to find affordable, accessible meditation classes at community centres in your area.
On a comedic note, below is a link to a 2 minute soothing guided mediation: for those of us who strive for “nirvana”, but adore the F word 🙂
Next post in 9 days. Have a great week.
[sorry this post is a few days late – I’ve been having issues with my wordpress admin page]
This post is about living, loving, and joyfully navigating the world in a body that may be culturally stigmatised, socially marginalised, and structurally discriminated against. I experience the pleasure, the privilege of insights, and sometimes the pain of inhabiting one of those bodies.
Because when your body is the target of discrimination, it is a challenge to not internalise some of the nonsense that is directed at you by others. Even when you are a strong individual who powers yourself from within – which I am (most of the time). I re-listened to a podcast earlier this week, that reminded me of the importance of body acceptance work – for people whose experiences moving through the world are coloured by other people’s prejudices against their “different” bodies.
The podcast was Lena Dunham’s Women of the Hour, Episode 2. In it, Girls star Aidy Bryant shares what it is like to be an actress happily living in an overweight body. Ethiopian writer Hannah Giorgis discusses the politics, style and magical bonding that connects Black women who embrace their (often stigmatised) natural afro locks. Young musician Mindie Lind, who has no legs and rides around on a skateboard, explains how being a “crip” is a daily creative process (a brilliant description), and talks about being the object of sexual desire.
Episode 2 also features writer, TV presenter and activist Janet Mock, answering questions about her experiences of being a transgender woman of colour; plus filmmaker/writer Rachel Fleit, who has alopecia, sharing truly beautiful insights from her journey of “coming out” as a bald woman. Rachel says the way she handles people’s weird reactions to her baldness, completely depends upon what she calls her “spiritual fitness” on that day – something that really resonated with me, in general.
In fact, aspects of the experiences of all of these women resonated with me: Aidy’s carefree joy in her body and positive professional experiences within it, despite the rampant discrimination people often warn her about; Hannah’s bonding with her Black girl friends over hair and politics; Mindie’s sense of both power and vulnerability regarding her sexual life, and the creative adaptability that being a “crip” necessitates; and Janet’s simple desire for reciprocal love – a loving, public, respectful and equal partnership.
To me, the experiences shared in the episode highlight how people who inhabit bodies that are socially marginalised, often need to develop – through persistent, loving, self-acceptance work – a confidence in themselves and their being that can withstand and transcend the dumb shit they will encounter in the world. The late poet and disability rights activist Laura Hershey wrote: “Remember, you weren’t the one who made you ashamed, but you are the one who can make you proud […] you get proud by practicing”. For me, this simply means to continuously embrace and love your body.
I am practicing doing that again. In my previous post I wrote about how I am in the process of gaining my physical strength back after recovering from PTSD – integrating a new health and exercise routine into my daily life. At the age of 31, I am closer than I have ever been to realising a permanent, unconditional love for my body, that transcends all the harmful false beliefs I have allowed to exist within me in the past – all of which were internalised from negative experiences in the world, related to the way my body has been accepted (or rather, not accepted) by others.
These experiences started from the age of three. This is the age I was when I first experienced racism. A Japanese girl (funnily enough) at my pre-school told me at length and in great detail (quite alarming, given her age) why my Melanesian body – skin, hair, facial features – were ugly and not as lovely as people whose features were Asian or white. I was the kind of completely open-hearted child who believed everything the world told me at that age, so naturally, in that moment, I internalised it.
But it actually didn’t scar me too much, as I grew into a sensitive but confident child, with many a limerence-afflicted boy admirer and a healthy amount of affirmation from the people in my life. Nonetheless, the “bug” of that incident of racism was still embedded in my psyche, reinforced by the pro-white biased culture I was immersed in, and triggered whenever experiences of racism occurred. And when I say triggered, I am not talking about merely remembering the first experience – I am talking about feeling, in the moment, as inferior and uncomfortable in my body as vulnerable 3 year old me did in that pre-school playground.
I cannot pinpoint an exact moment when I started to “de-colonise” my mind, and completely purged it of the white/light supremacism that permeates much of the world. But I do know it had everything to do with connecting with other Black people who already had unburdened themselves of the bullshit. Since racism begins as body-based discrimination, the unburdening process naturally involves a positive reclamation of the body – specifically, of all the traits that white/light supremacism deems unacceptable. Going natural with my afro-curly hair in my mid 20s was not only an aesthetic choice; it was a political act. A freeing, personal expression of both my antiracism and my feminism.
Becoming sick at the age of 13 presented another psychological challenge to overcome – more layers of body dysmorphia, discomfort with my physical form. I was a naturally athletic and sporty child, so losing the ease I always felt in my body was a shock to my system. And, just as my unconscious discomfort with my Melanesian features owed completely to the experience of being immersed in cultural white/light supremacism, my discomfort with the effects of illness (which in my awkward teens included scoliosis, scars and reduced muscle tone) owed largely to the unkindness of other people – and societal attitudes about “different” bodies.
Unburdening myself of that particular form of internalised -ism, happened strangely and miraculously when I became a paraplegic, at the age of 21. Given my medical history (the illness I battled in my early teens affected my spinal cord), becoming disabled was the one thing I was most afraid of. Ironically, though, I became healthier in the aftermath of that particular trauma. For the duration of the year after that life-changing event, I worked out every day, my skin glowed, my appetite improved and I felt extremely present (and, yes, fly as fuck) in my body… until I started full-time work in an office and no longer had time for it. Different story.
So here I am now, 10 years later, recovering from another extended period of trauma. Not only can challenging times in our lives seriously harm our physical and emotional health – they can also seriously damage the relationship we have with our bodies. For me, I think these last six years have really been marked by a desire to take care of and embrace mine… but an inability to do so consistently and effectively. The PTSD symptoms totally depleted me of the energy, stability, and clarity I require in order to be able to take care of myself as a disabled woman.
2016 for me is about giving myself that energy, stability, and clarity. I have designed my new health/body routine to ensure I am maximising the amount of vitality, gratitude and joy I feel within it. Because it is this amazingly resilient form – this Melanesian, disabled, female body – I will live my long, long life and dreams in. And it is by really, truly loving and caring for it – embracing everything the unconscious world around me signals in subtle and overt ways is unacceptable, every day – that I will be strong enough to make those dreams come true.
Just watch me 🙂
HERE is a brilliant clip of the latest edition of Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. In it, John breaks down just how the business of cheap mass fashion works – why it’s cheap. why it’s profitable, how they get the masses (mostly women) to keep buying the stuff, and why all of this is so gross and damaging. This show is so darn quotable!
Watch the entertaining clip in its entirety… and consider the possibility of taking responsibility for the apparel purchasing choices you make. You can stop supporting child labour and virtual slavery via supporting hugely profitable, ethically bankrupt apparel companies – and instead support ethical companies and efforts to compel bad ones to change their business practices. You can live well (and dress well) without buying their stuff.
A lot of insane, dreadful and potentially world-ruining things happen on this planet everyday – issues so big and beyond our control. I am continuously heartbroken by it all. But in the face of this, it’s good to remember the things we DO have control over. Where and how we choose to spend our money is one of them.
Please choose wisely, and kindly.
DONATING TO RELIEF EFFORTS IN NEPAL, VANUATU & PACIFIC ISLANDS
Speaking of choosing kindly, you can donate to life saving relief efforts in Nepal (following the devastating April 25th 7.8-magnitude earthquake) and Pacific Island nations including Vanuatu (following the March category five Tropical Cyclone Pam).
Here is how you can help out Nepal:
Here is how you can help out Vanuatu, Pacific Islands affected by Cyclone Pam:
Previous related posts:
And stay in the loop by liking Stella Magazine on Facebook here.
After a year-long article writing hiatus, I wrote a piece for the next issue of Stella Magazine, Issue 13 – a profile on Nattali Rize, Petra Rumwaropen and Lea Rumwaropen of the band Blue King Brown, and their relationship to the struggle for human rights in West Papua. Blue King Brown use their music to raise awareness in their audiences about the cause – a very personal one for the Rumwaropen sisters, who came to Australia as political refugees.
In addition, all three women live their politics and values in their day-today lives. We talked music, family, faith, the magic of performance, global resistance and freedom. It was a pleasure to interview them.
So make sure you grab a copy of that one too 🙂
I recently watched Jonathan Haidt’s 2012 TED talk called ‘Religion, evolution, and the ecstasy of self-transcendence‘ – have a look:
In it, he talks about how seeking transcendence is a part of being human:
“Most people long to overcome pettiness, and become part of something larger. And this explains the extraordinary resonance of this simple metaphor, conjured up nearly 400 years ago: no man is an island, entire of itself. Every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.”
And it reminded me of these words I wrote on the “My Philosophy” page of this blog in 2010:
“There are many who are already transcending the old divisions of the past and shackles of tradition, forging new identities based not on gender, race, religion, ethnicity, or political factions, but, instead, rooted in a higher awareness and understanding of themselves as unique and powerful individuals that are part of a greater interconnected whole.”
The words on that page remain true for me. I wrote about the necessity of moving “past tribal dependency towards individualised awareness”. But this does not mean that I think one has to renounce all “tribal” loyalties. And if what Haidt contends in the video above is correct, for most people this is actually impossible to do. Even individualists “circle” around a sacred value, a sacred cause… liberty.
In contrast to the pure individualism I was into in my mid 20s, today, I nourish my roots to place and my kin/group in Rabaul, Papua New Guinea. I am concerned about the conservation of our traditional lands and healthy development. But I also know that the safety and well-being of my kin is deeply and inextricably connected with the well-being of us as individuals, the well-being and survival of all of humanity, and the health of the ecosystems that sustain us. This – these linked concerns – are the highest priority. And they are linked to my love and concern for the country in which I was raised and am grateful to live, Australia.
So here is my broad contention: we face multiple global threats as a species. Given this, it is the people pursuing a form of self-transcendence that allows them to perceive beyond loyalties to tribes (subcultures, cultures, nations, religions, ideologies, “people like them”) who will lead the way to safety. This is because their self-transcendence will enable them to fully comprehend that our survival depends upon a global consciousness, the ability to see how our localised realities and concerns do connect to one shared human destiny.
They will lead the way – and are leading the way – by being able to speak to and mobilise their tribes, their groups, to safeguard humanity’s common destiny, and in turn the destiny of their group. They will lead (the individuals in) their groups to progress towards more holistic, healthier ways of living and working together. And they will mobilise (the individuals in) their groups to connect with, cooperate with, and care for others who are doing the same. I have discussed such leaders in the past. In posts to come, I will discuss more.
It’s been a while since I posted on Stella Magazine – publication went on hiatus for personal reasons, but publishing has resumed and Issue 11 is on sale now – covergirl is Naomi Bukalidi!
List of stockists here.
Online subscriptions are available for residents in PNG, Australia, New Zealand, Asia/Pacific and the Rest of the World.
Subscribe here for your chance to WIN.
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Previous issue’s cover – Issue 10:
It’s International Women’s Day (IWD) today – read the backstory here. This year’s theme is ‘INSPIRING CHANGE’. The official page for this day implores us: “So make a difference, think globally and act locally !! Make everyday International Women’s Day. Do your bit to ensure that the future for girls is bright, equal, safe and rewarding.”
I’m currently making tea and about to tune in this morning to Brekkie With Kulja Coulston And Sara Savage (Producer Elizabeth McCarthy) on 102.7FM RRR at 7-10am. This broadcast is a part of ‘Girls to the Mic’, a 24-hour IWD presentation of radio made by women from the Community Broadcasting Association of Australia’s Digital Radio Project and Community Radio Network (the first time this has been done here). Here’s some info on what the Brekkie broadcast will entail – I’m looking forward to it 🙂
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what women, lucky enough to be able to spend time and money on anything other than the essentials (and have multiple choices in regards to where we purchase those essentials from), can do daily to ensure that we are not contributing negatively to the well being of women and girls, and positively contributing towards a more peaceful, humane and equitable world for everyone.
Seriously. What is something we can do daily? And what do we all currently do daily that impacts not only on our own bodies/wellbeing/life situations, but the bodies/wellbeing/life situations of others? Perhaps people we will never know or meet? Women? Children? Men? Families? And animals and the Earth too?
The answer is obvious. We CONSUME. We spend money. We buy stuff. Food and household products, transportation products, beauty products, entertainment products. We buy products of necessity and products of vanity. We buy products to help us get from A to B and products for sheer pleasure. We buy products to enlighten ourselves, and products to distract ourselves.
We buy things for our families, other loved ones, and for us. Occasionally, we might buy things to assist people we don’t actually know, or have a personal connection with. Whatever we choose to direct our money towards, we make these decisions, daily – and these decisions, collectively, are shaping the planet we live on.
Numerous articles published in the last few years have described the phenomenal “purchasing power” of the developed world’s women – at least women, in the US. In one example, The National Times cites a study that said women spend more than 70 per cent of consumer dollars worldwide. Other articles challenge these figures – like this one in the Wall Street Journal. But whether women control most of it, or half of it, middle class (and above) women do spend a lot.
As a woman living in the West, just another bozo on the bus who has the ability to spend a small amount of money on non-essential products if I so choose, and who claims to value principles such as universal compassion, mercy, justice and empathy, I fully realise that an absolutely essential component of holding these principles is actually living them.
Part of living them, is ensuring that the consumer decisions I make on a daily basis (or every other day, rather), are in line with the values that compel me to take note of something like International Women’s Day. This includes opening my eyes to where the products I use are coming from. It means making choices that support businesses that treat their employees with dignity, and the earth with respect.
And it’s tough. It is impossible to live in this society and be “pure”. I am obviously using a computer right now, a computer I need to work, stay connected with community, and survive. My computer has enabled me to learn about the world, make a living, seek specialised medical advice, receive and offer comfort from and to loved ones, and connect with opportunities that have directly improved the quality of my life situation.
But there is a good chance that this computer was made by ill-treated workers under duress in a factory overseas, out of non-biodegradable materials created with the help of thousands of metric tons of carbon emissions, and resource extraction methods that may well have caused environmental damage. The world humans have created is messy, and cruel.
Still … there are choices I can make, about what I consume, and it is my responsibility to make them. I can join collective efforts to try to force corporations who make these products to behave ethically. I can choose to investigate where the products I do purchase come from, and alter my choices depending on what information I find. I can think about the way animals are treated, and whether I am okay with supporting industries that exploit and torture them.
I’ve started a spin-off blog, Live Simply, to kind of document my own gradual shift towards – as much as is humanly possible (given my disability and media-related profession) – a lifestyle based on conscious consumer choices, that are in line with the humane and holistic principles I firmly believe are essential to the survival of our messy, crazy, wonderful human race and, to the esoteric minded, our evolution.
Remember the words of MLK: “We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” This is as true in relation to our economic system as it is to ecosystems. Everything is interconnected. So the CHANGE I’m inspired to make this International Women’s Day – or recommit to – is to live, and consume, increasingly consciously.
This is important.
Please watch these videos. All the way through.
REAL MEN aren’t violent towards women.
And real men try to CHANGE, learn and grow, if they have been in the past.
[A warning that the following videos contain accounts of extreme violence]
‘AUSTRALIAN MEN SPEAK OUT ABOUT DOMESTIC VIOLENCE’ (NRL men speak out):
“90% of violence is perpetrated by a man, so it’s men who have got to fix it. And good men like yourself, like me hopefully, and others, we’ve got to say to people that violence isn’t acceptable against a woman… or anyone for that matter.”
‘Patrick Stewart on violence against women’:
“Let’s be clear – domestic violence is a crime. Violence is a choice a man makes, and he alone is responsible for it. And its practice, its habit, can be passed on.” Patrick has first hand knowledge of the horrors of violence against women.
‘Tony Porter: A call to men’ (TEDX talk):
“My liberation as a man is tied to your liberation as a woman.” Really fucking honest stuff here from Tony, on the collective socialization of men.
‘Men against Violence Against Women: Stop the Violence, Start the Change’ (excellent – looking at men across the globe taking a stand against gender based violence):
“We need to promote healthy models of masculinity, but to do that, young men and boys must be encouraged to become the advocates we need. We need this generation of men to make a break from the ingrained behaviour of generations.”
30% OF WOMEN worldwide experience intimate partner violence. It is the most common type of violence against women.
ONE WOMAN EVERY WEEK is killed by a current or former partner in Australia. 36% of all homicides take place in a domestic setting; 73% of those involve a woman being killed by their male partner.
ONE IN THREE WOMEN in Australia over the age of 15 reports having experienced physical or sexual violence at some time in their lives.
And according to the paper Understanding the Statistics About Male Violence Against Women, less than half of women who experience domestic violence report the assault to police.
Further, only 30 per cent (18,000) of the estimated 60,000 adult sexual assaults are reported to police each year.
This crime, and it’s after effects, can be found at EVERY LEVEL OF SOCIETY.
In EVERY COUNTRY ON EARTH.
Including in Australia.
Men have the power to change this. Find out how HERE.
‘White Ribbon Day in Lakemba – Australia’s Campaign to Stop Violence’:
Hi again 🙂
I’ll have a new post up tomorrow. Just wanted to share this first. It’s an article titled ‘How To Turn Negative Emotions Into Your Greatest Advantage.’ I”m introspective this evening.
Recently I’ve been thinking about how to transmute “dark moods” and negative emotions through mindfulness practice (being both an occasional bearer of bad moods, and a practitioner of mindfulness).
You no doubt have, as have I, met wonderful people who seem to be natural masters of what is known as “positive thinking” or optimism – people who have a natural lightness to them, a natural disposition of light-heartedness.
Whether through genetic inheritance or early socialisation (or both) they have the inner foundation that gives them the ability to glide through life with perfect enthusiasm, most of the time.
It took me a long time to compassionately accept that my own “energy” levels, in contrast, tend to be rather “bipolar” – in that I tend to naturally fluctuate between very, very light-hearted, optimistic moods, and very intense moods, that cause me to seek solitude to find peace.
More than the average person does. And those intense moods are… powerful, to say the least. With every year that passes, thankfully, this “fluctuation” becomes less pronounced. I’m getting closer to equilibrium. Exercise and mindfulness help tremendously in regulating/boosting my energy levels.
And, having practiced mindfulness for a while now, I am pretty good at taking a breath and shifting into an “observer” mode in the middle of an intense mood or situation – as if looking at myself from above. In this space, one can actually observe ones own thoughts and feelings in an objective, non-judgmental way.
Being able to observe, without judgment, means that, in that moment, one has actually detached oneself from the problematic thoughts and feelings. For an over-thinker/over-feeler like me, this is freedom. It is not a headspace of giddy joy, nor darkness or despair. It is a point of sweet BALANCE, and acceptance.
Becoming the Overseer is thus one of the big boons of mindfulness and meditation practice: being able to detach from thoughts and feelings and just see oneself, others, and life, as it is. With universal compassion and graceful acceptance.
But it was this part of mindfulness that took me a while to really “get” – as I unfortunately listened to advice early on from self-styled “positive thinkers” that: a) any negative emotion was bad and needed to be suppressed; and b) I just needed to act happy in order to train myself to be happy.
Happiness is not my goal. But point b) kind of works for me. I believe practicing gratitude and being consciously (and genuinely) thankful for things in ones life is essential to well being – I have found this to be the case in my circumstances. Practiced over time, it is as if you train your brain to seek the “positive” things in life.
Point a), however, has been ineffective, and harmful, when I have tried to practice it. The article linked above points to why that might be. It should not be a cause of shame to feel negative emotions – such emotions are part of being human. Sometimes, they are understandable reactions to events and circumstances in our lives.
Nothing to be ashamed of. Not a sign of weakness, or moral failure. But a natural part of being alive. So, mindfulness – as it relates to dealing with negativity – is not about being a ray of sunshine 24/7, and it certainly doesn’t involve pretending, or suppression.
Rather, it is about the WAY we respond to – and transmute – “negative” emotions, and the powerful energy behind them.
The article linked above has some interesting suggestions on how to do that, looking at SIX NEGATIVE EMOTIONS: Anger, Adversity (not an emotion, of course, but something that produces disturbing emotions), Shame, Pessimism, Envy, and Loss.
Successfully transmuting these emotions into positive actions and fuel for “enlightened” growth can come after mindfully accepting, observing, then working through, those difficult emotions.
Anger, Adversity and Loss are the emotions that have been prominent in my life, as well as Scepticism (a position often interpreted as Pessimism). Sadness (not on the list) is an inherited trait for me, but one that gives the gift of genuine understanding, and compassion.
Personally, I see the beauty – and even necessity – of all these “dark” emotions, when approached mindfully and harnessed positively. And I believe in continuing to learn ways to process and transmute, rather than suppress, the ones I experience, into “light”.
How about you? What’s your “darkness”?