Monday, April 27, 2015

Celebrating Bricks and Rocks

There is SO MUCH going on lately.

Actually, there is always so much going on. But in the past week or so, events and issues that I care about are swirling around me at rapid pace.

First there was a week of Take Back the Night events at the university campus here. I can't even begin to describe the profundity, liberation, outrage, and solidarity I feel after discussing sexual assault and how to challenge it with dozens--even hundreds, during the march Thursday night--of allies.

Now, my Facebook feed is filled with videos of protesters throwing rocks at cops in Baltimore. And me, someone who blogs about Nonviolent Communication--I'm thrilled! (Not so surprising, given that I was an anarchist long before I heard of Marshall Rosenberg.)

I don't want anyone to get hurt. I wish we could solve our problems without violence. But it is inevitable that when the oppressed are ignored and increasingly abused, they will fight back, if nonviolent reforms are unsuccessful.

And I am glad. Because I am sick of and sickened by not only the incomprehensible, gory acts of violence that men in police uniforms are committing across the US of A, but the acceptance, even endorsement, that other police officers, departments, and average citizens are giving to this brutality.

I have been sharing so many articles on social media lately, about so many things that I have not had or taken the time to digest, that my comments on them project the violence outward, not knowing how to take it all in. Does this sharing of information without any synthesis help? I think it does a little bit. It meets needs for awareness, for responsibility, for transparency even.

Amidst all this violence in the world, all this suffering, how do we maintain connection to our own humanity, and our ability to see others' humanity, so that we don't lose all hope of the just world that activists are out there throwing bricks for lack of? (I refuse to call them "rioters," as this term makes these people seem random and takes them out of the extremely political context this behavior is taking place in.)

Here is me teaching a workshop last month:

I was sharing my understanding of Nonviolent Communication with folks in Arcata, CA. Part of why I love doing workshops in Arcata is that so many folks there have their hands and minds and hearts in some form of social justice work or another.

I realized a few years ago that is valuable as NVC may be to communicate across political divides, it may be even more useful within already allied networks. There is no network too small to have disagreements. That is such a fundamental aspect of reality that it almost seems ridiculous to have to write it out, but for some reason we humans seem to have a hard time dealing with it. We freak out when someone disagrees with us. I do it too.

Sometimes that is because I associate that person's statement with something horrible. When I hear someone say they are not a feminist, I basically hear, "I condone rape," because to me one of the fundamental principles of feminism is bodily autonomy, and rape in its broadest sense is anything that takes that autonomy away--for example, forcing a woman's body to bear a child she does not want. I don't think all of the people who would say they are not feminists would consciously condone rape. So if I have a little space inside me, I can take that moment to ask, "Are you against rape?" Most people will answer yes. That is reassuring.

I look at that picture above, with universal human needs listed on it. I wonder, What needs of mine are met by people throwing rocks at cops after another man was brutally killed by the police force in question?

I feel relieved that people are taking some action, any action. This gives me hope for healing. As long as the status quo is maintained, healing cannot happen. The burning of cop cars changes the status quo.

My need for community is met by these people's actions. Freddie Gray is not disappearing into obscurity, another invisible casualty of white supremacist policing. People care. This matters to me. I want us to care about each other. I want it to matter when someone is killed by police. These actions show that it does matter.

I want people to be free of harm. I want communities to find ways to defend themselves when they are being harmed. I would be relieved if that defense was not necessary, because we didn't try to hurt each other in the first place. But if the offense is coming, I want people to find a way to free themselves from harm. I am not very hopeful that throwing bricks and rocks is a long-term solution, but in the moment, I am MUCH happier to see that than yet another defenseless crowd being flashbang-grenaded or pepper sprayed or pelleted with rubber bullets.

I want healing, I value community, I care (though probably not enough), I believe that those who suffer and die at the hands of officers matter, and I want all people to be free from harm. Right now the images of cops retreating as bricks and rocks come flying through the air towards them gives me a sense of relief. Thank god they are backing off. The people they are trying to attack have some space, some safety. I'm not advocating vengeance here, although I know how seductively sweet it can sound.

If those initiating the original acts of violence--the police--would listen to the people they are hurting and killing on a weekly basis, it wouldn't have come to this. If we as a society didn't condone outrageous police violence, I don't think it would have come to this.

So what can we do, if we say we want the violence to stop now? Listen to the folks who the violence was started for long ago. Hear the needs they are SCREAMING to be heard for, burning to be heard for...and care. Care as much as we do now that these so-called riots have broken out.

I am mourning that it has come to this, and hasn't been changed another way, but I am celebrating that something is happening, anything--because as the status quo is unsettled, maybe there is an opportunity to find a leverage point to keep it from settling in to the same old patterns yet again.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Back to Basics: I-Messages for Activists

So, there is a lot I want to say on this topic. Someone recently told me she was very interested in reading about using Nonviolent Communication as applied to activism. I consider this post a "pre-NVC" skill building invitation. I hope to go more in depth in coming weeks.

Last week I went to a meeting of an organization a friend has been trying to get me involved in. I went as a witness to observe and learn how the group functions and what it focuses on, not to participate directly yet. The meeting progressed in a somewhat typical fashion, with many of the communication challenges faced by groups of people attempting to work together cropping up.

At one point though, I started to feel quite uncomfortable. A very new idea came up, a way of doing things that would be a big change from how this group has historically functioned. But some people in the group seemed to think that it was both completely reasonable, and perhaps even urgent to implement this idea. One person in particular kept saying, "They should...[do this]. We should [do this]."

I felt worried. I was introduced to the problematic aspects of the word "should" about 10 years ago. I actually feel scared of the implications of the word should. I think it is a word that underwrites violence, whether that be micro-aggressions or all-out crusading war. The very idea of the word should is a rejection of reality as it is, an unwillingness to be present with our emotional response to something surprising or uncomfortable, and act from there. Instead, when people want to avoid feeling the discomfort of something unfamiliar, they act from a place of should, which means trying to force or coerce someone into their comfort zone. Here are some examples of how "shoulding" leads to violence.

1. A straight, cis man sees an apparently male-bodied person on the street wearing what to this man seem like women's clothes. The guy thinks, "He shouldn't be wearing those clothes. That's gross/ a sin/unnatural." He starts to harass the person. The man might have felt attracted to the person he saw at first, and then when he noticed cues that he was taught to associate with "male," he thought, "I shouldn't be attracted to a man! He shouldn't trick me!" This might escalate to physical assault if the man in question is so unwilling or unable to be with his discomfort with this unfamiliar experience.

2. A parent tells a child not to do something. The child questions why this is, or says that they really want to do the action, such as drawing on a wall with crayon. The adult in question has a belief that "children shouldn't talk back/should respect their elders," so they either slap the child across the mouth, or hold them down and "wash their mouth out with soap."

3. A teenage boy who is passionate about sustainable living sees his neighbor throwing recyclable items in the trash. He thinks, "That guy should know how to separate out his trash and recycling!" He starts to yell at the neighbor, "What the f*** are you doing? Don't you know how to f***ing recycle? Are you trying to destroy the Earth?" The neighbor, a college student hungover from partying the night before, gets defensive and punches the boy in the face in retaliation for this confrontation.

This last example might be hard for some of my readers who have great care for our planet and great mourning for the way we are harming our home seemingly beyond repair. This is the essence of the word should though: it comes from a place of unwillingness to be with that grief, or whatever other uncomfortable feelings we have about something--and results in attempted coercion of other people. (For ideas on how to be present with grief, see the two posts previous to this one.) It also escalates violence instead of de-escalating by speaking from our hearts.

In our collaboration efforts, I think we as activists will better embody a more respectful culture now if we speak for ourselves, rather than trying to speak for the whole group, to make it conform to our whims. This is another problem with the word should: it pretends to speak for objective reality (should as a universal truth), rather than the speaker taking responsibility for their own preferences and vision.

The most simple translation from the word should, I think, is "What I'd like to see happen is...." Here are a few examples.

"We should start raising the admission fees to events and make them mandatory instead of donation,"
"I'd like to see us raise the admission fees to events and make them mandatory instead of donation."

"You should recycle your bottles and cans! You're destroying the planet!"
"I'd really like to see us recycling in our neighborhood. I don't want the planet to be destroyed."

"You should treat your elders with respect,"
"I'd like to be treated with respect." [Could continue, "What that looks like to me is...."]

"We should include the police in our efforts at community building,"
 "I'd like to see us include the police in our attempts at community building [because they are a part of the local community too and have an effect on us]."

"We shouldn't include the police in our efforts at community building. They shouldn't go around shooting people if they want to be included in the community,"
"I'd like to see us exclude the police from our community building efforts, because I want to build an infrastructure with people I trust and feel safe from violence around."

This last piece starts to bring in more detail about why we'd like to see this thing that we may have been thinking everyone "should" do. And maybe we even discover that we don't have a why, and that we don't even like our own idea anymore! Or maybe we are able to better articulate our reasoning in a way that our collaborators can understand. Either way, the movement will move forward from a place of personal responsibility.

For now, I invite you to share an example of something that you think a fellow activist, or group of activists should do (be honest with yourself) and then translate this into a simple I message of "What I'd like to see happen is...." Does this feel more vulnerable? More powerful? For me, it is both.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Grief Around the World

In my last post, Grief & Innocence, I discussed some of the ways grief shows up, and is needed, for those of us living activist and counter-cultural lifestyles. When people speak and write about grief, it may usually seem like an abstract, amorphous, overwhelming, and unworkable emotion that we have no control over and, too often, no support in.

But people are creating spaces and structures to share our despair. It may not make it much easier, but at least we have allies. Here is some of what I have turned up in the past week.

I searched for "grief activism" and most of the articles were about what I consider "mainstream activism"--taking action about an issue in a way that doesn't challenge the status quo, but works within the system on reform. The grief was usually about a personal loss, rather than about the grief for the whole world.

This gem about Dark Optimism stood out from the rest, and I am pleased to make the acquaintance of Shaun Chamberlin, who came by the blog here to say hi after I commented over there. This quote stood out to me: "Even if we are into a world of unstoppable, runaway climate change, for example. There’s still love to do, there’s still positive change to make in the world."

Yesterday, I sat by the creek where I live--a creek I have not visited in months--and cried. I've been feeling so much despair about the world (I don't need to name the things that are overwhelming for someone who dreams of a world where we nurture all life). And I broke through into more clarity. What I need to grieve is not just the tragedies that are happening now. I remembered that when I was a very young child, and my mom first told me about all the suffering in the world, I thought, "I'm gonna fix it when I grow up!" I was so sure of this. I've been trying to hold on to this image of my adult self that can save the world. But I don't think I can; it doesn't seem possible any more. I need to be honest with myself.

This is why the Dark Mountain project--something I read about in the interview above--speaks to me. The person who started this movement says that we need to be honest with ourselves. Movements like are selling us a lie--that we can stop climate change. We can't. It is already on us, and do we really think we are going to get everyone on board in time to stop it? At best we can hope to slow it down, and even more realistically, it is time to think about adapting to a world that is going to be very difficult to survive. 

On the other hand, as I was crying by the creek there and admitting how devastated I am that I cannot save the world as I wished, that I cannot save the tigers from extinction--or bring back those creatures already lost--I had another epiphany. My giving up on hope for the world is a way of prematurely breaking up with a dearly, dearly, beloved, in fear of having my heart broken when they break up with me. I hear this happens in human relationships, although I haven't practiced it myself. Yet I am doing it with the world, listening to the media telling me we are beyond hope, and withdrawing into myself, instead of listening to the creek and the birds (who were somewhat startled by my sobs). 

I apologized to the world for closing my heart in fear of the pain of seeing death of any more life that I care about. It won't protect me anyway. This beautiful practice from Joanna Macy is a healthy way to let this suffering move through in an honest way that I believe promotes resiliency in the face of a world both in the middle of a mass extinction and on the edge of another dark age. It helps me remember not to break up with this world I love so much because she is dying of cancer or whatever other metaphor we can ascribe to the transgressions of human civilization.

I also gratefully return to the tools Nonviolent Communications offers for grief work. It uses Universal Human Needs as the focal point for mourning loss of any kind. I want to share a way to do this in steps, but keep in mind that it in real life it is not always this neat and orderly. I find it helpful to journal about these things, also allowing myself to write anything that wants to come through my pen. I can always come back to the prompts when I run out of spontaneous expression.

You may want to do this exercise with an ally and share as you go along, in a place where you won't be disturbed and can express yourself with tears and other noises comfortably if you wish.
  1. What is the loss you are grieving? A person dying, a relationship changing, an action you regret, an experience that was violating (such as assault)? Is it the extinction of a beloved species, the clear-cutting of a local grove of trees, or a conversation you had with a family member in which they re-ified racism, human supremacism, rape culture, etc?
  2. What needs (see list above) were not met in this experience? If a person leaving, whether by death or break-up, what needs were met in that relationship that you fear won't be anymore? If it is an action you regret, what needs were not met by what you did? What values did you find yourself out of alignment with? What needs do you think would be met if this event stopped happening or hadn't happened? (I.e. safety for my community if a clearcut stops.)
  3. As you name these needs, what emotions arise in you? Stay with these. Pause to really feel them. If doing this with a friend, share the feelings and needs, and respond simply with, "I see you, and I honor you." It's OK to feel silly, or cry, or anywhere in between. If screaming your rage in a residential area, using a pillow may help prevent neighbors from worrying that someone is in danger.
  4. Writing or speaking aloud, connect the feelings to needs, if you haven't already done so yet. For example, if the grief is about a relationship de-escalating, it might be, "I am so afraid that I will never experience intimacy or shared sensuality again." For me, when I am mourning tigers and foxes going extinct, I grieve for the loss of beauty. I feel hopelessness and despair. What kind of world is it without these beings? Do I even want to live in a tiger-less world?
  5. As your grief naturally runs its course, let yourself come into a more relieved, still place. It isn't over permanently, especially for the global tragedies that never seem to cease bombarding us. But for now, hopefully you have a clearer mind and can stand strong in your next actions coming from a place of a heart ready to love this tragic world. 
  6. What comes to you to in this moment? Are there any actions you feel led to take from this place of clarity? When I did this kind of exercise with a group once, my next action was to go speak to a local conservative group about de-escalating the antagonism in our town between political factions! It was very clear to me that that is how I could promote an intact, whole, world in my sphere of influence. Even though it was scary--and different from what everyone else I knew was doing--I felt guided by a powerful sense of purpose and clarity. Write down your assignment(s) from your clear-hearted self, to remind you in case you forget.
 If you feel comfortable doing so in a public forum, please share any way that this process served you in the comments section. Comments about what didn't speak to you or was difficult are also, of course, welcome.

I see you, and I honor you.


Monday, March 16, 2015

Grief & Innocence

I've been thinking about the importance of grief lately, about how we work with grief in the Nonviolent Communication (NVC) community, and about how important it is in the lives of activists. Then something timely happened. A long-distance friend who has participated in some of my teleconference NVC offerings for activists asked if I had heard what happened at the rainbow gathering in Florida (yes, I know it is debated whether or not this was a "true" rainbow gathering, but that is how I got the news).

 I quickly did a news search and discovered two people were seriously injured and one shot dead at a rainbow-inspired gathering in Florida. While these people may not be your definition of "activist," they are at least on the periphery of a wider counter-cultural group, many of whom participate in social change in some shape or form.

In the wake of this event newspapers are publishing various reports that seem fairly unbiased, but do not tell the whole story as I am hearing on rainbow list servs and from friends. All that I got from the news was the injuries, nothing about how or why the fight broke out. There was alcohol involved. But it sounds like more specifically, there was a fight over burning tires, taking pictures, and a phone thrown in a fire.

What was most interesting to me is what people were saying in the comments of these articles. The rainbow-affiliated folks are mostly saying that this gathering was not affiliated with the rainbow gathering. This is many people's first instinct: to disassociate, because they (we) don't want to suffer the consequences of a reputation as an unsafe place that locals don't want coming to their town. The regular rainbow attenders point out the differences between this gathering and the usual rainbow way of doing things: alcohol vs no alcohol, permits vs no permits. As I read these comments, I felt both distant from the situation and sad. I wrote on one news site that, regardless of the choices these folks made and the unwanted repercussions that may have on people's biases about rainbow gatherings, this is a sad time for the injured folks and their friends and families. I wished them compassion and healing in their grief.

Behind the scenes, on rainbow list servs, for example, things are a little different. Some people are asking for help fundraising for the medical expenses of one of those critically injured, and also for the costs of transporting remains of the person who died to his family. Others are critiquing the folks more specifically, having met them, saying they will not send money because this was a matter of inevitability for someone (choosing to?) live that lifestyle.

There is more than one thing to grieve in this situation. There is grief for the individual who died, for those injured, and for how this will affect all those affiliated with the rainbow gathering--for taking a big step back in any progress made towards cultivating trust with more conservative society. People are angry, which we are told is a normal part of grief.

There is a lot to be angry about in this world.  I feel anger about many things. I'm angry that someone (whom I was involved with) recently told me that the creators of my new job are taking credit for my work, when I have seen these people work hard over the past year to create an amazing way for people with my skill set to have livelihood. That person assumed it is something to write off as just more exploitative capitalism, it seems, when I see it as an alternative to the capitalist model. Their dogma seemed to be that unless you have a co-op structure, a business cannot have integrity. I am sick of dogma all around: mainstream dogma and counter-cultural dogma. No matter what, when you have dogma, someone's needs don't matter. That's what many of those conversations on all those news sites demonstrate, too.

That's how many of activists talk about the causes we care about, myself included. We turn the tables and say, OK, you people in power who have been denying others the ability to meet their needs--now it's your turn to not matter! We don't empathize with all parties (one exception to this, often, is the Quaker community, which I am grateful to be a part of). We activists had a conversion experience at some point, where we "awakened to the light" of racism or environmental degradation, or whatever it is, and we forget what it was like to be on the other side of that divide.

Take driving cars, for example. Most of my community accepts as fact that the ethical mode of transportation is bicycles, or public transit, or at least ridesharing. I remember a time, though, when cruising around in a car, blasting the radio and guessing which song would come on next, while going through a drive thru for soft tacos, was the height of excitement. I was very young when I experienced this--before nine years old I would frequently do this with my mom and aunt. I felt joy at this freedom a car could bring.

I wonder how many environmental activists were born into green families, and how many have had a similar experience to me. Who can remember a time when car driving was an innocent activity (as far as we knew)? Is this something we have ever taken the time to grieve?

I sometimes still feel that rush when I find an excuse to use a car (my roommates let me borrow theirs) and I am cruising around town. I get that high. I feel supercool. No, it isn't worth the extinction of polar bears or drowning of island nations--but wouldn't it be great if there was not a cost? If we could have both, wouldn't we want it all?

I'm not saying we should focus on tech solutions. I don't think that is the answer to our world's problems, at least not the main one.

What I'm saying is that, despite my usual hesitance to use the word "shaman" for reasons of cultural appropriation and misapplication of the term, there is one definition I often see for that word that I find applicable here: having one foot in both worlds. Can I keep one foot in that world of childhood in which cars were not the evil things they are now, but tools that could be used to access joy, and one foot in this one, where the planet is literally dying from the burning of fossil fuels, and I am willing to sacrifice--and grieve--that lost innocence, because it is necessary to care for life? Can I, by keeping one foot in each world, help others cross that emotional and perceptual boundary, help them re-orient?

Anger is part of grief. We have to roll with whatever emotions come up. There is a type of madness that wards off grief, but there is also authentic rage. Both are important; one for surviving until you have room to process, and the other one for moving on and moving forward.

I think, though, that activists get stuck in the anger portion of our grief, because we haven't created safe spaces to delve into the other feelings we have about our planet's tragedy. I have tried to create those spaces in my sphere of influence. I hope this can be one here. If you feel called to share stories of what you are grieving, please do so below. What innocence have you lost from before you were awakened to injustice? And how can remembering that help us to speak to those who aren't yet ready to give it up?


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Monday, February 16, 2015

Playtime as [Better than] Self-Love

Self-love feels like a chore to me.

Even coming up with ideas of activities I could do for myself that fall in the realm of "self-love" feels like a chore. I come up with a list of chores to be undertaken. Even going to the park for a hike sounds like a chore. There is no spontaneity in these lists, that I get assigned regularly from books and other "personal growth" sources. I keep reading such books, and participating in such workshops, ad infinitum, even though these exercises keep driving me crazy.

Self-love requires spontaneity for me. But spontaneity is not the only ingredient, it is just one. I can spontaneously check Facebook and do homework and clean dishes, and not feel like I'm nurturing myself necessarily. And it's ironic, because if I don't schedule time for "myself," as all the self-help gurus say these days, when will I ever make that time? The standard answer is that I won't.

I do want to hike on Table Mountain. I do want to do yoga. Or dance to music in my room. Or make art. It's just that setting aside time to do these things doesn't feel quite right. It feels forced, contrived. Like praying in church. It is painful to switch from one state of experience directly to another one.

Starhawk puts forth a model of the Three Selves in her classic book, The Spiral Dance. I have my Talking Self. This is my basic personality that helps me survive in lifo, my ego. My Talking Self contains my mundane interests, hobbies, pastimes, and endeavors. My personal Talking Self likes to play Forty Thieves solitaire, watch Sailor Moon, learn LOTS (and is taking about eight online classes at the moment), and "identifies" as an Activist Pagan Polyamorous Witch. She is also on multiple committees and volunteers at nonprofits, but can never manage to stay on top of most of these things. I certainly do not have a Type A Talking Self.

There is Deep Self. This is the profound part of my being, the part of me that awakens--sometimes--during rituals, intimate moments with beloveds, silence, and in wilderness. Or on mushrooms (and that can be a painful way to get in touch for sure!). I think this is the part that self-care is supposed to tend.

The week before last I participated in the opening session of a class series which offers people an opportunity to, as best I can tell, try to drop in to Deep Self, and share and witness this with others. I actually took this class series five years ago, and had some fun. I do remember a niggling background feeling of discomfort though, which I have felt in other "personal growth" (I keep putting that phrase in quotation marks because I am not 100% sure what I mean by it) settings. This discomfort relates to a sense of having to "perform" deep spiritual experience or transformation. I'm sure that this has been a component of all of the personal growth (there, it lost its quote marks!) modalities I've been involved with--Emotional Freedom Technique, Tantra, Ecstatic Dance (that one more than others), and a Healing the FatherWound workshop at Harbin Hot Springs.

This is ironic, too, considering that most of these modalities are supposedly about liberating ourselves from our masks and performances for others sake. And yet, when I show up with my authentic self, I find myself being shut down by facilitators of these kinds of work. I find no authentic way to get into the material. This is painful, because I am receiving a contradictory message: Be yourself, but do it within the parameters of *my* exercise (which may or may not have room for the real Meagan).

I experienced this recently in the class mentioned above. I was in so much pain for most of the session. I had very little sense of trust with most of the people there, and yet I was being asked to be vulnerable with them in a way that I did not trust they knew how to hold space for. This was not a safe container for me, and I wanted to run out. I felt like crying the whole time. I said at the beginning that my intention was to break free of any obligation to "perform personal growth," but this was extremely difficult, and I did not feel that the environment supported me in doing this. This painful experience was partly because of a mismatch for my presence there in the first place--I was attending by personal invite for connection with two of the participants, not because of any strong desire on my part to explore the modality further.

This is how I sometimes feel when I try to do something that is "good for me" when I don't really feel like it, such as yoga or going on a hike. The past few months have been a time of liberating myself from obligations to dogmatic ideas I internalized from various countercultural ideologies. Most of my life I have rebelled against mainstream society (for many good reasons I hope I don't need to iterate here), but at times I have also replaced that with finding an alternative voice to be the guru, the guide, the signpost to the good life. I then feel guilty if I don't live up to those standards, whether the standards are to meditate for such-and-such amount of time daily, or to make sure I celebrate all the Sabbats and Esbats.

In liberating myself from countercultural dogma, I don't want to fall back on mainstream cultural values and assumptions. It is a fine and risky line to tread. There are some ways in which I am not even sure if I am maintaining my balance on that line, or falling back onto the easier side, the side with social momentum. Here is an example. I was part of a program for a number of years that encouraged a considerable amount of time in nature on a regular basis. I never lived up to the goals of this program in terms of how much time I spent 'communing.' I realized a few months ago how damaging it was for me to turn time in nature into a chore, with required times! I had a moment of liberation, where I was standing on the Vallombrosa bridge over the creek with my bike, and remembered that ALL of Planet Earth is Nature. I then wandered through the city with the same attentiveness I try to bring to hikes in Upper Bidwell. Was this me selling out, giving up, and becoming domesticated by civilization? Maybe, but what do you know? I found a cute little square of wilderness behind a shopping center, complete with logs, trees, tall grass, moss, etc. When I gave in to spontaneity, I found something beautiful.

I think Spontaneity is the province governed by the Third Self I haven't mentioned yet: Younger Self. This playful part of me and everyone is, according to Starhawk, the part that links and communicates between Talking Self and Deep Self. This could be seen as our inner child, or past self. This is the little kid that did voice-overs for elaborate stuffed animal conversations, had fights with my imaginary invisible friend, chalked all over the sidewalk, and, nowadays, wants to play Muggle Quidditch or dress up as Sailor Venus. I think that this was the piece missing from the class I dropped out of--there was no intermediary step. And I think that this is the part of me that I need to curate if I want to authentically drop in to my Deep Self and experience Oneness with Existence. So my ideas for self-care are no longer pretentious otherworldly grown-up activities. They are the games my playful child wants to do for fun, rather than for spiritual transcendence or even to recuperate from a stressful week of work. Kids don't play to de-stress or center and ground; we play to PLAY!

I fear there is a risk of triviality in embracing this philosophy, yet I wonder what is worse: being trivial and loving it, or being deep and meaningful and important but in an inauthentic way? I value depth, for sure, and genuine play seems like a plastic playground slide down into that depth of being hidden in the wood chips below. Watch out for splinters!

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