self help

Blackbird

I walked into the restaurant and over to the bar and greeted the bartender. My eye was caught by a slightly familiar, partially balding man who seemed to recognize me. The memory slowly returned as I moved to the corner of the bar where he was purched. We had talked about the music the last time we met. I had played a few songs. He smelled our era through the lyrics and chord choices. He said he was about to go to some music festival, a throwback to the post Woodstock days when 3-day festivals filled with unshowered hippies abounded. They have apparently returned, only now the young tiedyed dervishes were munching on ecstasy, not mushrooms and acid as was the trend in our day some 35 years ago. He loved the music, he said, “And besides that,” he smiled, “I still love the young girls.” His words hung silently in the air between us.

Tears pushed out of my throat and down my cheeks as I reached the first-third mark of the 90 minute soul masterpiece, Blackbird, at the Everyman Theatre in Baltimore just days before. I am not really a theater aficionado, though I have taken in enough professional and amateur performances to judge what moves my soul. I finally began to understand the deep and painful mystery that had illuded comprehension these 35 years of emerging manhood. It is the deepest reason that I haven’t been able to trace the source of so many women’s rage. It has been violently suppressed ~ to protect men from taking responsibility for our acts, and to provide cover for our ability to continue to perpetrate sexual violence against girls and women.

Blackbird takes on this reality in an unbridled form, laying bare a brutally honest view of the complexity of this all-to-pervasive reality for women. The brilliant writing peels back each emotional layer, exposing a story that gradually coils the stomach as it weaves the context of this hidden, ugly truth. Blackbird leaves no room for the simple duality of understanding we men long for in stories that have a villain and damsel in distress. It forces our face into the mirror of our own complicity, revealing the collusion we have with the continuation of this unbearable, silent pain that has been carried by our daughters, our girlfriends, our wives, our mothers, since the beginning of time.

I left feeling embarrassed, that as a “conscious” man, how unconscious I have been for so long about this reality, and how ever subtly, I have ~ and virtually every man I know has ~ helped to build this invisible prison in which girls are forced to live. There is no passageway out of this sentence. If you tell the truth, you are pulled into the light of ignominy. If you remain silent, you remain in a purgatory of perpetually reliving the violence in the isolation of suppressed or conscious memory. Even if they have never been touched inappropriately, we see the eyes of men of all ages lingering too long in the calculation of their thoughts that form the cave of isolation in which these acts are conceived and committed, and are silenced by the shame and fear that keeps them locked within our sisters, to carry alone in their souls for a lifetime.

It is without question that I recommend that each and every man see this play, and in particular, this performance if possible. Megan Anderson and David Parkes offer a window into the silent scream of integrating the incomprehensible that, if you are courageous enough to face, will leave you changed ~ hopefully.

As a young woman stood waiting in the line to be seated at the restaurant, the dark, drooping stare of this all-too-typical man hung locked below her head, scanning up and down her exposed legs and sundress. I felt the sick feeling well across my soul as the silent, “harmless” violation took place right in front of me. Thankful now, to have some medicine to offer in response to the illness I witnessed. As he was leaving the restaurant I called him back for a moment, “Hey man, have you seen Blackbird at the Everyman Theatre?” “Its the most powerful 90 minutes I have experienced in, maybe, ever. Take some of your boys and definitely check it out.”

“Oh, no, I definitely will, thanks man!” Thank you Everyman, for the courage to stage this amazing work. And thank you Megan Anderson, for the courage and power to bring this truth into the light!

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