Friday, August 26, 2011

The Remembered Dance: Acts of Courage or Betrayal?

Was this a betrayal, or was it an act of courage? Perhaps both. Neither one involves forethought: such things take place in an instant, in an eyeblink. This can only be because they have been rehearsed by us already, over and over, in silence and darkness; in such silence, such darkness, that we are ignorant of them ourselves. Blind but sure-footed, we step forward as if into a remembered dance. The Blind Assassin Margaret Atwood

This passage touched a tender spot. I didn’t want to admit that past acts of betrayal, however subtle or minor, had indeed been practiced or self-rehearsed. They seemed momentary decisions, like the courageous ones, that surprised even me as I found myself committing them. I sat with it, first digesting the easier one, that of spontaneous acts of courage.

In previous years, I often critiqued my ability to act fast when witnessing an accident or even a minor mishap with another: I wasn’t the first to grab the parcels dropped on the ground or the first to ask a stranger if they needed help when in distress. In reflection I put this down to a reluctance to put myself forward and, in effect, be seen. To be seen was not safe — it risked exposure, ridicule; humiliation. Safety involved being behind the scenes, going slow; avoiding visibility. The consequence to this supposed safety, however, was that my humanity suffered: I was no longer involved in life in a way that gave internal satisfaction or a feeling of being connected.

So, I started practicing, rehearsing in my mind, things I would do in case of mishap. It started quite innocently, just a desire to be a more compassionate person. I watched as elders got on the bus and imagined how I would help if they fell or dropped something. I observed others and, creating sometimes absurd stories, planned how I would assist. It worked. Through this rather active imagination, I am now quicker to move when adverse things happen. Not that I put myself in danger, but I am less concerned with what I look like and more with how I can show another, whoever they are, that they are important enough for a stranger to offer support.

This example is by no means the equivalent of saving children from burning houses but for those, like myself, who have not felt safe enough to risk being seen it is, however subtle, courageous. But what about betrayal? I thought about the times I betrayed another and, once again, I do not talk of betrayal on a grand scale. I speak of the little betrayals from thoughtless gossip, minimizing a friend’s hurts or assuming the worst about someone. Had I somehow rehearsed these actions?

The answer is, unfortunately, yes. Not that I planned how I would hurt someone but, in an indirect manner, have contributed to this way of being by falling into self pity or negative thinking. From melodramatic “nobody likes me” and “they hurt me” to “I’ll show them” is, in a way, rehearsal for larger actions. Is it not easier to withhold support for a friend, for example, when you feel nobody likes you? Is it not one short step to gossiping when you assume (but don’t ask) what the other really thinks? Dark thoughts and actions like these compulsively swirl inward and stop us from connecting to others and from manifesting our interdependence.

Blind but sure-footed, we step forward as if into a remembered dance. The remembered dance is the steps we take every moment of the day. Are these steps ones of courage? Or are they ones of betrayal that ultimately lead us to hurt ourselves and others?

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Eve Ensler and Interdependence

I’m a big fan of Eve Ensler. I respect her work, her courage and her voice that encourages others to tell their story. I first saw her on Ted talks about two years ago when she spoke of the “girl cell” in all of us — men and women, boys and girls.

“Imagine that ‘girl’ is the part of each of us that feels compassion, empathy, passion, intensity, association, relationship, emotion, play, resistance, vulnerability, intuitive intelligence, vision.

Imagine that compassion informs wisdom. That vulnerability is our greatest strength. That emotions have inherent logic and lead to radical saving action.

… Now imagine that a few powerful people, invested in owning this world, understood that the oppression of this cell was key to retaining their power, so they reinterpreted this cell, undermining its value and making us believe that it is weak. They initiated a process to crush, eradicate, annihilate, humiliate, belittle, censor, reduce and kill off the girl cell.”

A few months ago, she appeared on video again. She talks about being diagnosed with cancer and finding her healing through love, community and coming into relationship with her body. Although she has always believed in our interrelatedness she now physically felt it: how cancer was not her private personal story but an international tale. One that resonates throughout the world where rampant, heedless growth, abusive power, hate and fear not only threatens us but hurts, demoralizes and kills us regardless of who we are and where we live.

This is a story about interdependence: caring for the world as we care for ourselves; caring for ourselves as we care for the world. Valuing our interrelatedness and thereby beginning the healing of our wounds. Knowing that when we hide or ignore injustices we only hurt ourselves and when we hide from ourselves, injustices occur.

Thursday, August 11, 2011


I recall a discussion I once had with a client about choice. Choice, I said, is the only thing we really possess. Even when the power we hold over our daily life is minimal, we still have choice in how we respond to that powerlessness.

The discussion had begun over the topic of suicide, the ultimate choice that, paradoxically, reneges on itself once completed. And, viewed in that way, it cannot really be seen as a choice but an abstention of life. Choice engenders new choices; suicide cancels the vote.

On a smaller scale, we make parallel choices throughout the day. Every choice we make is a new pathway, a new fork in the road. The unchosen path dissolves, a metaphoric death, never to be seen in quite that way again. Sometimes we agonize over these choices, other times they are impulsive moments, forgotten seconds later. Regardless, we choose, and in that choice, we have power. Or we choose to abstain from decision making and we flow with known (or unknown) forces —a potential power in its own right.

Understanding the power of conscious choice is the basis for interdependent living. This fall I will teach three classes on the different manifestations of choice:

Codependence – the choice of living life in false hope

Boundaries – recognizing the choices that are ours to make (and those that our not)

Interdependence – the choice of responding (rather than reacting) to life

Check out the calendar of events on my website.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Creative Living: Being "Paid" to be Yourself

I’ve never been one for horoscopes, couldn’t quite see myself as the home spun nurturer, cooking-up-a-storm while caring for the world kind of “crab” I was typecast to be. So, when I received a 20 odd page birth chart compiled by Steven Forrest complete with the meanderings and influences of all the planets from a client several years ago, I didn’t pay much heed to it. I glanced through it but for whatever reason I put it aside not to pick up again till this year. And what a shock, it was like reading my autobiography. Spooky, really, with its high degree of accuracy.

One of things I most enjoyed in it was the quote: “With the Sun in the Tenth House, it’s as though Spirit has asked you to figure out a way to get paid for being yourself.” Nice. Maybe that is why I have been devoted to writing about interdependence and codependence — the latter to figure out the past and the former to chart a path for the future… all in the name of finding and being true to me.

Unfortunately, many of us “get paid” to be anyone but our self. And I don’t necessarily mean paid in money. We can get paid with approval, status, promotions and just plain acceptance. It is the nature of society, or at least much of society. It is also the basis for codependence. But with interdependence, our payoff comes from within. And that is the jewel worth fighting for.

I’ll be teaching a few classes on interdepence, codependence and the boundaries therein this fall with what I call the Creative Living Workshops. Look forward to seeing you there.