The Bones

Foreseasonal Experiences

You know that crisp, cool day, just before the heat of summer yields its scorching temperatures, that seems to come out of nowhere to remind us that fall is around the corner. There is at least one of these “foreseasonal” days towards the end of each season. It’s like the universe’s way of giving us a heads up that something new is coming.

I realized a couple decades ago that this gift of the universe is not exclusive to seasons. For every significant experience in my life, there have been similar moments of peering forward that let me know where I was headed. I remember riding up the elevator of The Baltimore Sun ~ I’m not sure if it was a particular smell, or the way the light was reflecting off of the stainless trim on the elevator door, but I do know that in that moment I heard an internal voice say, “I will be working here sometime soon.” Sure enough, within a few months I was. I am guessing that I am not the only one with these semi-psychic experiences. I am also assuming that this phenomenon is not reserved for individuals, but can be more generalized.

I was at the wedding of two community changers in Baltimore recently. I am only semi-sentimental. Well, that is a semi-lie. But I certainly don’t cry when there is nothing but the architecture of ceremony to evoke emotion. This was different. Really different. It was a perfect day. Billowing white clouds. The temperature was warm enough to hold you, with a breeze that kissed you cool just when you needed to feel it. The setting was an absurdly enchanting place ~ The Cloisters. It looked like a full scale gingerbread castle, with a glistening slab mica schist roof ~ impossibly heavy, and absolutely eatable. Flowers abounded, bursting out of the earth like I remember from my childhood visit to Hawaii. And the people were as radiant and multicolored as the flora. It was as if the gods said that it was ok for babylon to fall, just for this moment, to remind us of what we can be.

The children ran carefree, with flowing dresses and little suits, allowing all the adults to care for them as if they were their dearest aunts and uncles. As the African Drums announced the procession, time stopped to watch. The drummers were dark, beautiful and strong. A stilted glowing white bird emerged from the castle reaching six feet above the heads of the procession. Then came the fathers with their daughters perched upon their shoulders, both adorned with huge flowered robes that flowed to the ground. The girls distributed paper cranes, flower pedals, and rainbowed bubbles throughout the gathering. Feathered girls and tassle-capped boys followed ~ faces shining with the spectacle.

The procession opened. A sound emerged that pulled open my heart to its breaking point as it moved through my soul. Radant Sisters, adorned in Gomesi and other traditional garb, hands opened to the heavens, moved and sang in harmonic waves as though our lives depended upon their song. Everyone, to the smallest baby was as still as a tree.

When the song fell silent, Mark and Rebecca emerged, holding hands, joining their many worlds together. A Black, revolutionary healer, with a White, Jewish, creative, facing each other under a flowing chuppah held by witnesses honoring the four corners of the globe. They spoke intimate truth to each other and to us. They laughed and cried as we echoed the emotional honesty. In that foreseasonal moment, the world was in peace.

We all knew it ~
and the tears flowed free throughout the cloistered garden.

It does not matter that the summer’s heat has returned. Nor is it important that the divisions that set us apart in this post babylonian age, continue to tear at the fabric of humanity. I know, that this moment was a remembering forward, that we as humans will find a way to hear the song the Sisters sing again, and that we will learn their ways and weave the torn pieces of beautiful and tattered fabric together into a quilted tapestry that will cover, protect and adorn us all.

The Human Club Card

Weening myself from four wheels to two has been transformative in so many ways. But the most significant shifts were totally unexpected. When I got on my motorcycle I began to notice that the world treated me a bit differently. First, I noticed that just being on a bike entered you into the exclusive club of bikers. As a Black man, I grew up with warnings of danger regarding the marauding packs of leather- and denim-clad bike gangs, flying the colors of the Hells Angels and other endearing nomenclature, riding threateningly down Route 73 on which we lived. You can imagine my surprise as folk looking the same way began to extend a low, left-handed wave as we passed each other. Equally surprising were the cops. Having experienced my share of DWBs (driving while black), one resulting in being handcuffed for hours outside of Cleveland, surrounded by 6 squad cars, I had developed an enemy view of blue. Upon mounting the iron horse, traffic cops were stopping oncoming cars to assist me getting across intersections, they would gesture me to proceed ahead of them as we faced off at a light. They would walk up and start conversations, asking jokingly if they could take  my bike for a spin. These club card benefits were well more than I had bargained for.

The other shift was from just plain folk whom I didn’t know, seeing me carrying my helmet, would start a conversation about riding. Most of these people didn’t even ride. And as the conversation would come to an end, they would inevitably say, “Be safe out there”, with the sweetness of a family member. Who knew? Somehow, being close to death called folks to be kind ~ even if the danger was chosen.

Saturday, my bike broke down on the side of the highway. I was sitting there for hours waiting for a tow truck. While I was on the phone, an off-duty cop pulled over and got out of his truck and asked me if there was anything he could do to help. He followed his offer with “I’m a rider.” Shortly after that, a wiry white dude, totally covered in fading skull, snake, and pin-up girl tattoos got out of his 4-by and said he would go back home and get his pick-up and take me home.  He followed his kindness with, “I’m a rider.” It is amazing to me that it is this easy to create a bridge between cultures that have been assigned diametric opposition in our social construct.

It is all about employing a very thin point of association. What if, instead of two wheels serving as the catalyst, we simply use being human as the connecting point that we all share. What if we all gave that nod of acknowledgement every time we passed a human. What if we, seeing a human on the side of the road, automatically stopped to offer our help, just cause they belonged to the human club. What if we told everyone we met to “be safe out there” as we acknowledged just how close to death and vulnerable we all are. Let’s just create a Human Club Card, give it to everyone, and act like we care ~ just for the hell of it. And when the recipient of our kindness gives that quizzical look of disbelief, we simply say, “I’m a human.”

Disturbing The Peace

I have kids ~ I also love kids, they remind me to be hopeful. It also pains me to no end that the world we are giving to the next generations is operating in support of so few, and ecologically deteriorating at a rate that makes me worry about my own elderlife, no less the future for those to come.

There is a better way. But we have to build an imagination that shifts the direction of this hopeless trajectory we are on. We must collectively visualize and believe that things can change ~ we must see that change in order for it to manifest. Let us call this future PEACE. Jimi Hendrix said, “When the power of love overcomes the love of power the world will know peace.” This is the formula for the shift.

It is really that simple.

I was sitting with Susan Hailman, the person whom I hold up as the example of integrity when ever the opportunity presents itself ~ which is quite often. We were discussing the absence of limits of greed that is the hallmark of this time in which we live. It is embarrassing to be a human. Chinese philosopher, Lao-Tzu, also had another answer over 2600 years ago. Lao-Tzu offered, “He who knows he has enough is rich.” Susan said, we need to introduce the understanding of ENOUGH! She’s right. I am sure you will hear more from her on this, so definitely stay tuned.

As an idealist, I have come to believe that change, even massive change, at the level of what we speak here, is possible. I also believe, as is evident from the title of this blog, that each of us holds the power to move the entire planet. We rarely exercise this power, so things move in the direction of the prevailing trajectory ~ social and environmental decay. It is time to trouble these troubled waters. So what can we do to shift this reality? We need to make the change ourselves ~ with every ounce of integrity we have. The change is mostly within our imaginations. As the prophetesses En Vogue once said, “Free your mind and the rest will follow!” Here are the three ingredients to beginning this work.

First we must create in our imaginations a compelling vision of peace. To me, peace is the state of actualizing our collective responsibility to ensure that everyone is OK. As I was writing this, I observed a Black woman in the coffee shop who was struggling to attempt to carry two large drinks from the counter to her table while trying to juggle her clutch purse at the same time. She had to leave one of the drinks. Without a word, a Asian sister who clearly didn’t know the woman, picked up the other cup and followed her to the table, delivered the left item, then simply walked away. That is my vision of peace. Yeah, that was just a coffee cup. But the message behind the act is the transformative genius. “I will be your hands.” The fact that these two individuals were demographically different drives home the point that race and other forms of perceived difference is simply a myth that masks the truth that we belong to eachother. Imagine if this way of being spread across the planet with the same compelling power as capitalism.

The two other ideas that need to be engaged are those spoken by Jimi and Lao-Tzu. We must raise our level of loving above our need to fill the emptiness we feel. What I mean by love is our knowledge that we are not individual beings, but cells comprising the same organism ~ earth. Would a body try to accumulate all of the blood for only its head? We must also learn to operate in a state of enough. Enough is about balance. It means we can actualize our potential ~ both as individuals, and collectively. Over-consumption is a sign of insecurity. What are the “minimum specs” we need to reach our potential? What would it take to be willing to trim down to that scale and release the power of enough to engage our true wealth. How do we use the residual resources to “lend our hands” to others to ensure their ability to reach their potential? This is how we create peace through our lives.

One last little thought. Imagine if the worst crime committed was disturbing the peace ~ being out of balance with the flow of resources to create peace. What would the world look like? How much the richer we would all be. Maybe that insatiable hunger for more, and the accompanying feeling emptiness inside, would disappear.

Eddie

Eddie is amongst the most beautiful and powerful beings I have ever had the blessing to meet. He is brilliant beyond measure. He is clear as a bell. He is a teacher, a visionary, and a master strategists on the level of vibe that I experience Nelson Mandella. And his laughter makes you feel home ~ maybe for the first time in your life. Eddie is the epitome of what African Elder means to me. Eddie is the best of what certainly Man has to offer.

Eddie’s mom died last week. She will be laid to rest today. Eddie is not allowed to see her. Yeah, I said “not allowed”, Eddie has spent the last 40 years behind bars. Incomprehensible, right? Gets worse. Eddie didn’t do the crime.

People who don’t understand life on the inside always say. “Of Course! There is no such thing as a guilty prisoner.” I’ve heard it a hundred times when I talk about Eddie. That’s TV. Truth is, I have known a lot of people behind the walls. This is simply my experience. The folk I have known are the most truthful folk I know. There is something about living in an 8×8 box for 40 years, or even 40 months, that makes anything but truth seem really like bullshit, unless bullshit is all you know. Folk inside ~ especially the lifers ~ like Eddie, can smell it from miles away. When you get down to the bones of it through poverty or through pain, truth is one of the only things that feels real, so the smart ones work the magic of giving meaning to what is intended to take it away, through the most powerful tool on the planet. What I call “THE ROCK” ~ TRUTH.

I can smell it too. I have been blessed to only be within the walls by choice. But I was also blessed to have experienced enough pain that I can feel it. Not with the near the degree of clarity as Mr. Conway, but enough to see the crystal clarity with which Eddie does everything. He simply did not do it. I would stake my life on it.

So we, All of US, have allowed this innocent and amazing man, to sit in a cell for 2/3rds of his life, because we aren’t him. That’s the truth ~ down to the bones.

What cuts deepest into my soul, is that Eddie, after enduring this, has to say goodbye to his mother, who is finally free of the pain a mother who knows her child was consciously, blatantly and wrongfully put behind bars, from the one place on the planet that was overwhelmingly the source of her daily pain.

This is insanity.

So even if you don’t believe that he isn’t innocent ~ for what ever reason. He has been doing nothing but overwhelming good every day of his sentence. How have we faired in the good-for-the-planet department for the last 2/3rds of our lives? I know I have some catching up to do ~ a lot. What kind of society will not lift up an example of, at the worst, incredible transformation, at the best ~ saintliness beyond measure. What motivation does that offer to our young people who are struggling to decide whether to take the impossibly rough road out of poverty, or the easy one. Where does being a Saint get you?

Its time for Justice!

Google Marshall Eddie Conway and see what feels real, or at least just, to your soul.
Send a Letter, Make a call! Thoughts and Prayers are good too.

President Barack Obama

Governor Martin O’Malley

Gary D. Maynard, Chair
Secretary, Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services
Maryland Police and Correctional Training Commissions
6852 4th St, Sykesville, MD 21784-7433

Telephone: 410-875-3400, Fax: 410-875-3582

And for those of us who can stand in witness to represent Eddie, you are invited to attend the funeral. The family has arranged for the services to take place Thursday June 17th at 1:30 pm at March Funeral home.

The address is:

March’s Funeral Home
4300 Wabash Ave
Baltimore, MD 21215

Lets keep calling until Eddie is Free!

Epilogue: The Cell Revisited

Overkill

For those that didn’t read the last post entitled The Cell, my phone got jacked a couple weeks ago. I didn’t rush out to replace it. It was a bit of a test, and a bit of a strategy. Thus far I have gone two weeks without my iPhone. I learned at least three things:

  • How much I depend upon my phone for a false sense of companionship or distraction. I want it to be neither, seconds are too precious. Definitely shifted that relationship.
  • I depend upon my phone to stay in touch with critical people in my life ~ both for my soul and my work. This is what I want it to do. As Jackie Boone suggests, it is a life-saver for this, as well as a fabulous tool. But so is a jack hammer, and I don’t use that to brush my teeth.
  • Finally, I use it to keep my many pieces in order, and as a tool to store “little ideas”… Given the challenges of my style, this has been a critical asset for the time I have owned it, one week after it’s release.

Sweetly, old friend and creative partner, Dennis Boni, hearing that I lost the phone, blessed me with his first-generation iPhone (prophetically, the one pictured in the previous post) that he wasn’t using following his upgrade to the 3GS. This is plenty for me to do what needs to be done. Thanks Den! The rest I will do with my peeps rather than my phone!

Sankofa Bird ~ Symbolizing Looking Backward to Move Foward

This time and space without this tool has provided me with a welcome upgrade to my operating system and the invaluable lesson, sometimes we need to downgrade to upgrade.

Upgrading Our Operating System

Everything has an operating system ~ a set of rules govern how things flow ~ whether conscious or unconscious. Take water as an example. It will always seek the lowest point to rest. Its nature is to flow downward until it can no longer find a way deeper. For people, that operating system is based on our internalized system of beliefs that form the way we construct our relationship to the world. These beliefs are formed by our experiences, particularly early influences such as parents and other relations who provide feedback to us about us. We form our approach to relating to, or managing, the world around us based upon these beliefs. Once formed, our operating system is incredibly difficult to change.

Part of becoming an adult is taking responsibility for the way in which we interact with the world. But for most of us, this process is unconscious. If it remains unconscious, it will become more and more entrenched the same way that the constant flow of water along the same path will eventually produce a Grand Canyon. If we engage our will and the support of others, we can make fundamental changes to the way we operate by shifting our vision, our beliefs, our communication, our values, and our actions which will eventually shift our conditioned way of approaching the world.

In a recent “Bones” session with a client, unpacking a relational challenge she was experiencing, the difference between operating out of fear and out of love came up in contrasting the way that men and women are conditioned in this culture to deal with problems. Inevitably, through facilitating the Bones guidance work, one cannot help but reflect on one’s own association to what arises. It became clearer to me, that although my life’s work and personal desire is to move out of love, just how much of my relational orientation is still trapped within the archetypal male operating system which is anchored in control and competition ~ in essence ~ FEAR. Yes, men are fundamentally afraid ~ even we who project that we are enlightened and in touch with our feminine side. This seemed like a revelation to me. But my love would gently tell you if asked, she has been trying to get me to see this for years. It is so difficult to see ourselves, particularly if we are moving from what appears to be our strengths. We have to engage with others and have the courage to ask for feedback in order to understand and then alter our operating systems. The smarter we are, the harder it seems, as we toy around with the window dressing without addressing who we really see through the looking glass.

The challenge is, we have relied upon this operating system for our survival and identity formation since our first moment of self-consciousness. Our survival system screams “DANGER” if we even think of adjusting our fundamental paradigm, and we instinctively retreat into our standard operating procedures. Even as we become conscious, we will construct a complex set of devices to make ourselves think we are being different, when really, we are just doing the same thing a different way so that it looks to ourselves (and maybe others) that we are doing something different.

As an example, I saw myself as incompetent as a child due in large to my ADD and Dyslexia. My initial way of controlling my circumstances was to be a clown which would distract and endear others, preventing them from identifying my incompetence. Much later in life, I figured out that I that I was kind of smart, and shifted my operating system to exhibiting the areas in which I was smart. This worked to reinforce my own sense of self by isolating my interactions to my strengths, but it never really addressed the fear of being exposed. So the underlying driver remained hiding my inadequacy ~ it is just the strategy that changed.

My partner has done more to unearth a path to really freeing this core belief than any other single influence. Her operating system is to love what is flawed. This regularly sends my internal operating mechanisms into chaos as my operating system attempts to hide my flaws, as my desire to love and be loved attempts reveal them to her. My operating system usually wins. But its grip is starting to slip after 8 years of internal back flips.

F. Scott Fitzgerald said, “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.” Thus, the chaotic feeling is the sign that something is shifting. It is our job to both continue to function, and to hang in with the chaotic anxiety long enough to get the lesson at the same time.


Though water is water, if we add heat to it, it becomes free of its standard operating system and becomes a vapor that can rise into the sky in the form of clouds, or if we cool it enough, it will form hexagonal patterns of frost on our windows. We too can add light to the shadows of our operating system, and illuminate and free up our standard ways of being to choose to move beyond unnecessary fear toward connection. The truth is, our fear keeps our power encased in a useless dance of distancing and control. Let us instead, choose to embrace our flaws, our hidden places, and see what amazing patterns will emerge if we just chill out. Time to UpGrade…

Subjective Support

Eachother

EachOther

The western world has this obsession with the myth of objectivity, as if there as any such thing as an objective viewpoint. In a 1998 study, researchers at the Weizmann Institute of Science conducted a highly controlled experiment demonstrating how even a beam of electrons is affected by the act of being observed. They proved that the greater the amount of “watching” takes place, the greater the level of influence on what is being watched. That means that even inanimate objects are effected by the presence of others. That’s deep, huh?

So when we go to individuals for support or guidance in the hope they can offer us an “objective perspective”, an oxymoron, what are we actually asking? Are we asking not to be moved by others? Are we actually asking that they cease to exist? Are we asking to stay stuck where we are because we fear change? SpiritBone Catalytic Guidance is a partnership, one in which it requires the guide to be fully subjective ~ to be who s/he is in order to enter a mutual moving ~ a dance. It is through this dance that the supportive relationship emerges in which both partners evolve and free up to be more of who they are. It is dependent upon what was proven at the Weizmann Institute. It assumes that we are interconnected to such a degree that your existence literally changes me. Even if we do not know each other.

In South Africa, the Zulu people have an understanding which is called UBUNTU. There is no English translation for this word. There is a reason that our Western ideology does not have this word. It is dependent upon the negation of this truth to sustain itself. But it is also the same myth that allows us to have the word “objective”. UBUNTU, as close as I have been able to process it through my Western training, means we are responsible for eachother’s wellbeing. Maybe even, we are eachother. Now, as I type the words “wellbeing” and “eachother” as singular words, my spellchecker underlines them in red, reminding me that those ideals should be broken apart and isolated from each other. The true revolution is to sit with the judgement of this individualistic, objectified culture and continue to know that they belong together, with every cell in ourbeing.

What if the truth is that the doctor is being healed by the patient, and the therapist is being healed by the individual on the couch? We actually know that somewhere in our souls ~ both as practitioner and patient ~ that the benefits of the interaction often weigh on the side of those in the healer role. It is actually the relationship that creates the healing. If we deny that truth to maintain our power over others in an imbalanced, patriarchal relationship, are we not doing more harm than good?

I have a close friend who was just diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer. He was told very concretely by folk in white coats about his future on the planet. He jokingly said to me, “I told them, ‘You can’t talk to me that way!’, and I hit them!” But he is right ~ who the hell are they to pretend objectively that they can tell him anything in such a detached way as if something is happening to him and not US?

What if the whole premise of our individuality is simply wrong?

I am not a doctor, I simply sit with folk who want to work in a collaborative way to emerge what is going on with, around, and between US, from the premise that we are connected like the electrons are connected to the observers. And that by our sitting together ~ exploring what is emerging in our collective reality, we can help eachother to understand our next moves ~ on behalf of eachother and the whole of humanity ~ The Big Family. My friend’s sister partners in the SpiritBone work with me. She said at our last session that she breaths healing into her brother’s cells. I know for certain she can do this ~ as can I. So I am joining her in that process. So can you, without even knowing him, you can breath wellbeing into his cells, because we are all connected. So I invite you into this very subjective work of supporting eachother. I invite you to breath wellbeing into my/your brother’s cells. And let us together be very subjective observers of the powerful influence WE have!

For more information: SpiritBone Catalytic Guidance