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an unreliable truth

As our country’s elections unfolded recently I witnessed vitriolic glee as one side attacked the other genuinely believing their position to be right and true. It got me wondering how such opposing ideologies can simultaneously exist?

The focus of each party's policies (in many cases) were framed by how they would benefit the individual and their nuclear family. This paradigm of individual gain over our wider society's welfare seems to go largely unquestioned (and as a friend laments, ‘is the neo-liberal agenda’). Where is the call to our higher selves; to think not of our own direct and immediate benefit but to make sacrifices for the betterment of future generations; for the health of our planet; for the care of our neighbour? Humanity has a great capacity for altruism but too often our governments are grooming their citizens’ basest motivations.

All faiths espouse generosity and compassion as a fundamental tenet but more often than not these fail to be reflected in the electoral outcomes that influence the provision of resources. JFK’s famous words, “ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country” seem too corny for today's cynical world but would be an interesting reframe of the lolly scramble that is current politics. Individual security, fear of change and patriarchal bias has translated in the polling booth to a quick tick for our personal advantage and what is familiar. But these short-sighted gains ultimately cost us. Inequality degrades hope and creates outsiders who have no motivation to abide by the laws of a society that has excluded them through entrenched poverty, inadequate housing and under resourced education/health systems and which continue abuses resulting from the effects of marginalisation and a core sense of unworthiness. These costs are not only fiscal but I believe spiritual for when we withhold the resources to help those in need our hearts do not believe our minds reasoning.

The stumbling block to changing people’s minds are the filters of influence and experience that cloud what we consciously and unconsciously allow ourselves to see. I experienced this recently as I tried to locate an unknown fellow student I’d been assigned to work with - she was late, lost and hadn’t contributed to the work. As I waited I noticed my irritation rising. When we eventually met my irritation was replaced by humour and openness as I realised ‘Nan’ the young Asian woman I was expecting, was in fact ‘Nan’ a young Asian man. I’d been attributing thoughts of selfishness and disrespect to this woman’s lateness. When I saw ‘she’ was in fact a ‘he’ my judgements relaxed and become, ‘he’s a guy’, young guys are disorganised, it’s not personal’. Neither story was fair or accurate and it was disturbing and revealing to see the biases and expectations I impose on my view of gender, situations and reality. Likewise in our society and media we seem willing to give certain people a pass and hold others to unreasonably high standards. It calls into question the veracity of the beliefs we hold so fiercely and our ability to see anything clearly.

Is there are a way to check the reliability of my own truth? The writer Elizabeth Gilbert suggested in a podcast to “test everything against love". If my idea of truth is in any way defensive, attacking, unkind, self-serving, aggressive, grasping and so on, then likely I’m coming from my head and its disguising stories of fear and protection. If there is warmth, open-heartedness, generosity, maybe vulnerability, maybe discomfort even, then likely love is in the house and truth will follow (or at least compassion). Perhaps as was told to ‘The Little Prince’,  “It is only with the heart that one can see rightly”.

-am

inside 50

How can this be
I’m ticking a box 49-54!
Tides have long eroded this shore
contours collapsed and new lines drawn
but I could still pass for young
if the lights were low and youthfulness
wanting to be someone.

Suddenly slowly the wheel has turned
beneath this moon
tectonic plates creep
twisting bones as I sleep
eclipsing projections of lives dreamed for
and childhoods that never were.

In most rooms now I’m the older one.
My to-do lists mostly done.
Wondering what now whilst knowing
there is no ‘there’ there,
only here and
now and
kindness and
compassion.
I turn my face to the sun.

-am

maine

Two flags had dropped when we came home
proving their point of impermanence.
We felt changed when we came home,
a room emptied and the windows cracked –

in no hurry for anywhere.
Hearts kinder
as though judgment had lost it’s teeth
as though everything was ok.

I am between this and that,
relishing the heat on my bare back.
This harbours’ quiet –
that surging shore whose Artic current
lit you up,
drawing heat from cramped joints and conversations.

Nine summer nights
in our dinky double bunk room.
Plastic wrapped mattress, worn carpet tile,
pitch pines below
and the shrine room where the teacher sat.

‘OM MAMA RULU RULU HUM BHYO HUM’

And now back to wanting that –
the teacher,
the dharma,
the sangha,
taking refuge in all.
Longing for that broken hearted possibility of liberation.

goodbye ‘gorgeous’

‘Gorgeous’ seems to be the most commonly expressed adjective in response to the curated self images we share on social media, but I’m beginning to wonder if this well-intentioned compliment might ultimately do more to undermine than uplift.  Being called gorgeous can feel great and who among us doesn’t like to be ‘liked’, but something about it makes me squirm when it’s directed exclusively at appearance. Continue reading

permission

Today my dear you must rest.
Halt your endless march on
making everything just so.
Let your ship run aground.
Let the jungle brush it green.
See what mystery boards.
You have been keeping planes in the air,
lending your heart to every disadvantage,
planning the ends of every start,
holding, holding,
lest everything fall apart.
Giving more than you’ll ever let in.
Weighing each encounter.
It’s exhausting staying ahead and
keeping the benches clean.
You need to know, it’s not what you do
that makes you necessary.
You’re holding up walls
that were made to fall,
to end their days in the soil,
so you can grow beyond the picturesque rubble
of your childhood ruins.
Dear one,
there is nothing
to do.
-am