In the summer of my 20th year, I went to New York City to study film making at NYU. I was living in the Bowery in a huge artist’s loft. I rented from artist's who had lived there for many years and had never locked their door. The only person, they said, who came in without an invitation was a homeless man on a bitter winter night, who quietly snuck into the kitchen, cooked a dozen eggs and ate them, washed his dishes, and then fell asleep with his head on the counter. When they found him in the morning he said, “Please call the police, so I can have a warm place to sleep tonight.”
There was honestly nothing in the loft worth stealing, except perhaps the wind chimes all across the ceiling made from found objects, that rang sweetly in the noisy street wind flowing east to west through the length of it. So that summer, I learned not to mind the unlocked door, even though at the time the streets in the East Village had become home to countless people struggling with mental instability, recently released from the deregulated hospitals under President Reagan. The man with Turrets syndrome who screamed profanity at me on Broadway several times rattled my confidence, but I stayed there for the whole summer learning that what I feared was not an enemy but was instead an expression of a very serious lack of love and compassion.
There are multiple ways in which our mind is like this too. If we lock our mind off to the world because we are afraid of it, our fear will grow, and we will see others as the enemy, and we will even see parts of ourselves as the enemy. This is where the war begins, why so many people feel that they need guns. Why on a subtle psychological level we feel we need to make ourselves better. We fear and hate the parts of ourselves that don’t live up to the unseen but immensely powerful social forces that tell us to keep our doors locked!
But what if there is no enemy? What if there is no-one to blame or shame? What if our thoughts and our deeds are like the wind blowing the chimes? Sometimes wildly, sometimes utterly still? Yet with flow through all windows and doors. Welcoming any visitor, as long as they are respectful of the space as a place for everyone.
The issue that we are dealing with in our time is that there are people who are so fearful that they are ripping the chimes from the ceiling, locking up the doors, and planning to detonate the world outside the room.
How do we help them to trust that they can open their doors again to being cared for? How do we approach the parts of ourselves that burn with self loathing, and send daggers out at the world for hurting us?
Excerpt from Beth's upcoming book: The Way of the Joyous Warrior.
This March 15th, 2019, my 13 yr. old son and I packed up our big Sun puppet, Love and Justice hands, and a banner that reads "Declare Climate Emergency Now" and with painful irony, drove our fossil fuel van to Boston with 6 students from Northampton high school. We went to join the Sunrise Youth Strike which was concurrently happening all over the world.
These young students and my son are without a doubt what I would call: Joyful Warriors. Arriving at City Hall in Cambridge in the bowels of a parking garage, I handed them my aging activist art, and they immediately took up the challenge of being big and unusual in a world where "normal" is constantly being emphasized. Yet what is normal about being a child having to protest to save their future?
With giggles we carefully maneuvered the giant face of the Sun puppet on a tall pole, into the elevator. "It's like a dream" I said. And I think we all wished that Climate Change was just a dream. Yet smiling and laughing we rose up to street level and popped out onto the sidewalk with our eye catching objects. Crossing the history filled Boston commons, the Declaration of Independence monument, the docents in costume giving history tours, leaning against the wind, we climbed the steps of City Hall and joined the throngs of children and teens, speaking truth to power.
My impromptu ensemble followed me into the crowd to the top of the stairs against the iron fence which separates the people from the halls of power. We turned and faced a crowd of beautiful, young, earnest and worried faces. Raising the Sun, hands and banner high we took our place in this profound moment of history. Our tableau was strong and beautiful, bringing the power of the puppet to the protest. Declaring with our art and our hearts that something big is happening here, bigger than life, and that nothing less than magic can turn this catastrophe around.
Young voices boomed out through megaphones, some cracking with the strain of all that they had to say. But the crowd loved them, listened, chanted, held their hand made posters high and you could feel the rising power. A collective power where difference no longer mattered. A new declaration emerged, not whitewashed by selective justice, but by a clarity of purpose that comes only when you face mortality head on. These children, few amongst the billions of people on earth are rising to address the collective mortality of life on earth with all the light of awakening that can be mustered. Their courage is astounding, but we have left them no choice. This may in fact be the first time in human history when children are having to shake humanity to it's senses.
They are doing the work of the Joyful Warrior~Becoming aware, listening into their intuition about what is right, and taking creative action.
Now we adults need to do the same thing. May it be that the children and teens can go back to the dreams of their future which are as long and as big as life itself.
Here are some things you can do:
Tell the EPA to stop denying Climate Change
Volunteer with 350.org
Learn everything you can about the Green New Deal:
Fund MuZen Theater's activist art actions!
One of the ways that you can get started on the path of the Mindful Creative is to make a space in your home where you feel cozy, safe, and can take in some beauty. I recommend an altar with a candle, some flowers, a bell, and cozy cushions and blankets. This is a place for settling into quiet listening. Imagine that you are encircled by a bubble of protection all around you. This is a place where your nervous system can relax. Here there is nothing to do except to relax and connect with your heart. Our body/mind needs to know that we will not put pressure on the path of healing. Just like the waves at the beach, we can't go forward until we have drawn back deeply into ourselves, curling inward and uniting with the giant body of support that is the universe, before we roll forward again into the particulars of life. Your breath is like this too -- inward and connecting, outward and releasing. In this natural rhythm your inner truth can find its outlet. What does your body want to tell you today? How can it's messages be released through sounds, lines on a page, splashes of color, a poem, or a photograph? Perhaps the answer is Nothing At All, or just a conscious acknowledgement that you have heard the voice of your Inner Being within the embrace of a peaceful, encircled, safe and beautiful place.
Mindfulness is at the core of my life and my work. What does that mean? For me it means that I don't want to miss a moment. I want to be as fully present as I possibly can be. I want to deeply take in the beauty of nature, even in those moments when I'm zooming down the highway and a sunset stuns me, or a hawk flies low across the road. It is actually on the highway that my mindful awareness snaps to attention as I grapple with the reality that my life could be over in a split second if something gets in the way of my 70 mile an hour box of metal.
I don't want to miss a moment, and I want others to be able to cherish their moments too. I want all of us to honor as much of this life as possible, even the hard stuff, at the same time I want to do this peacefully. Not rushing around trying to fit everything in, or only focusing on the fun, but going deeply into the moments into the light and the dark, into what is before us, sensing it, breathing it, having gratitude for having our lives at all!
How can we cherish our moments more deeply? From a therapeutic perspective our inability to be in a state of awe and gratitude comes directly from our conditioning, trauma, pain, and isolation. It is really, really hard to snap out of depression, anxiety, obsession, etc into gratitude, and often we seek help from things that not are not good for us, just to make it through.
Yet what brings people to therapy is an innate knowing that this is their one precious life and they want to be able to live it to the fullest. We feel: blocked, cutoff, frozen, terrified, anxious, helpless, blank, numb, crazy, confused, and in pain. Yet this is still our life. The only life we know of that we will have. Mindfulness is a profoundly helpful path back to the miracle, where gratitude comes easily, as do tears, as we quietly and courageously delve into the fact that we are breathing, that we will die, that we live in a boundless universe, that love is at the essence of it, and that this planet is really, really beautiful. Mindfulness is a practice that helps you to heal by helping you to shift your attention from reacting to experiences to just witnessing them as they are . Very simply it is the practice of stopping, focusing your attention on your breath, and letting the fullness of the moment become who you are: which is everything! We are not separate and yet we are, and that paradox eventually becomes the ground of being, where we are neither. We just are, and that is the miracle.
Mindfulness is a bell ringing, a beautiful bell, that reminds you of the intrinsic beauty and goodness that pervades all of life, even in the most difficult of moments. This bell calls you to attention, as if you are realizing that you are alive for the first time, and that everything around you is new, as if you've never seen it before, and you look deeply into the moment and what arises is love, love for your life, and compassion to yourself for those moments when you have forgotten the miracle. This compassion grows to all others. It becomes your foundation. Anger no longer needs to rise towards others because you see that they just don't get that this is a miracle. Our work then becomes how to create a world where the miracle is honored every where, all the time. Life is awesome. Realizing it happens right now, right here, in this moment.
You can contact me at 413-341-4140 for Mindfulness based Counseling Sessions.
Contemplations on Interdependence: LIFE FORCE July 2017
It is summertime and I am sensing with astonishment the beauty and abundance of life force all around me. There are so many forces seemingly coming from nowhere pushing through into the light. But where does this force come from? How is it in me? How is it in you?
My mind in winter drifts towards darkness, the days shortened and cold everywhere can lead me to my deepest fears. Mortality murmuring through ancestral memories of scarcity and starvation.
But our darkness is our compost, it grounds us in the light. It is food for the life force. The darkness is the clarifying force, the dense nutritive substance of feelings that call out injustice, cruelty and oppression. These feelings become our darkness because there is a layer of shame over our moments of hate, rage, jealousy, and judgement. We push down these feelings because our bodies have become the cage that was fashioned by the violence that came at us as children, or by the indifference, neglect and abandonment we experienced. We push our darkness down because we want to feel safe. Yet over time if it is not brought to the light of consciousness, and released through creative life force, it will make itself known as aberration, tumor, violence, paranoia, threat, anxiety and worst of all for our planet a numbness to the natural world that is shining with beauty all around us, and supports our every living moment.
Our spiritual and psychological evolution is deeply influenced by the environment we experienced when we come into this world. Our families and communities are the soil and sun and water into which our seed soul must grow or perish. We do not know that it could be any different, and we have no choice to plant ourselves elsewhere until we become adults and can walk away. And we as adults do have that choice. But where do we walk to?
As an adult we can walk outside to sit under a tree. The natural world can help immeasurably in making a new story for ourselves. The natural world does not blame us for having dark feelings. We can walk or sit in nature and no matter what we are feeling it will still be there, unless of course we act out our feelings on nature itself. And this is perhaps why our world is dying. People are acting out their dark rejected feelings on the earth itself. Our darkest feelings need to be seen as part of our being human, and witnessed within ourselves with care and compassion in safe environments. If we find ourselves acting out on others it is our responsibility to find ways of expression that do not harm others or ourselves.
Because our adult bodies are often a mask over our broken hearted child self, it can be hard for us to feel that we could walk outside and find a tree and sit, or yell in the back woods, or make a black painting, or write a poem about our grief and rage. Yet that child part of us is longing to live in wonder again, to cry freely when life is hard, and to seek the comfort of unconditional love when we are broken.
The good news is that we are surrounded by the loving presence of the earth itself at every moment, and deep within our unconscious mind we know that this is true. The rocks, the trees, the grass, the leaves, the flowers, the water, the air, the list is endless. This is our home and we are made up of all that is around us, indivisible and whole.
What if every human on earth could sit beneath a tree as the Buddha did, even for just a day? Their awareness might be able to witness the passing by of darker feelings and thoughts until an opening to the simple experience of being connected to the moment to moment reality of the tree would unfold. The unmoving trunk, the reaching leaves, the steady presence of life force around us as our world spins in the vast universe. Our darker feelings can be here without judgement as they dissolve in our minds as the miracle of life unfolds.
Perhaps this would set humanity on a course of inter-being that naturally brings deep peace and self-love. This is a kind of feeling that lasts as long as the wind blows and the river flows, and the stars pass by in our wondering eyes.
Finding Ground October 31st, 2016
What is it to feel grounded? It seems obvious. We are on the earth, and we live our lives on the surface of it. Very simply how we live on the ground is what helps us to feel more grounded or not.
We humans are ground animals at our very core. We do not know how to fly without the use of harnessed energies. In fact the experience of being in cars or airplanes is so far out of our genetic reality that it can very easily create feelings of unreality, disconnection, anxiousness, and even terror. The painful irony is that our society is currently dependent on inherently ungrounded experiences. And to make it worse this way of being is imperiling the biosphere and may lead to our collective extinction. Okay, Big breath here. Feel your feet. Let’s proceed.
At the most basic level being grounded might mean for some of us that we feel calmer, more connected to ourselves and others and to what is really happening around us. That sounds good doesn’t it?
Feeling grounded is to literally feel connected to the ground. We can achieve this connection by noticing where we are and to take in some aspect of the natural world. Even looking up at the sky, helps us to situate ourselves on the earth. From this awareness we can feel more calm and connected to the world around us. Sensing our whole body on the earth is a healing experience.
We often do not even know that we have become ungrounded. Traumatic experiences even on the most subtle level unground us. It is hard for us to know that we are safe to live on the earth after trauma. Our daily lives reiterate this by offering little time for deep reflection, rest and emotional support from others. We end up living in a reality bubble that is energetically pulling us up and away from the ground.
As an experiment take a moment to notice how it feels to be in your body when you say to yourself “I am safe”. The idea of being safe is inherently grounding. It implies that where you are physically is a safe place. This is an ancient need, and our ancestors and we ourselves need safety to relax. I truly hope that you are in a safe place as you read this, but if you are not, even then, you have the power to influence your mind and body by repeating these words and noticing that right beneath you no matter where you are on earth there is ground. Knowing that we have the earth beneath us is something for which we can all be deeply grateful and it opens up a profound awareness that this does not change. No matter what happens to us in our lives, we are still connected to all that is through our intimate relationship with the earth and the universe. We can rest in this awareness.
The great 20th-century Vedantin sage, Ramana Maharshi said that the Earth is in a constant state of dhyana (meditative absorption). The Buddha's earth-witness mudra (hand position) is a beautiful example of "embodied cognition" His posture and gesture embody unshakeable self-realization. He does not ask heavenly beings for assistance. Instead, without using any words, the Buddha calls on the Earth to bear witness. "John Stanley & David Loy" Eco-Dharma.com
When we take time to acknowledge the earth beneath us, we are grounding ourselves and touching into the oneness that exists for all beings. The earth will bear witness to the miracle of you in your perfect connection to everything in the universe..
Climate Dharma-Embodying Our Interconnectedness.
I have an achingly clear memory of being a child, around 7 years old, lying in bed and looking out my window. It was spring time and I became enamored of the pale green aura of our giant Maple Tree just outside my window. As I stared into the familiar branches, the realization of the seasons landed in my being. The seasons danced out before me, I could name them: winter and the bare branches framing meadows of snow, warm fires, presents and songs in the dark. The winds of March, The green shoots and exuberant birds of spring, the buzz of the crickets and shade and water in the deep green of summer and the melancholy falling of brilliant leaves, and then again the snow. A deep joy and excitement rose up in my child body as I sensed myself growing and changing within the embrace of this rhythm and return.
My relationship with nature has been this intimate ever since. I have run an organic market garden, moving with the daily call of the needs of each plant as they grew, harvested and died. I have spent hours designing landscapes full of flowers and watching as the birds and bees came to meet them. I have ridden warm ponies through the dark of the night meeting with friends around fires and sleeping on the ground under blankets. And I have lived through many winters in a yurt snuggled next to the wood stove as storms raged just outside my 2 inch thick walls.
The embrace of rhythm and return has soothed me day in and day out, until 1990 when I sensed a slight shift and heard about Global warming. The planetary climate, as all of us know is changing and changing fast. The quality of the heat of summer is far more intense, the humidity more gripping. The storms, the fires, the rains all are expressing extremes. Here in Western Massachusetts a drought has come to plague us. No snow, and little rain for almost a year now. Literally unprecedented in our climate history. I say these words knowing that anyone reading this already has their version of this knowledge in their being.
This knowledge touches a grief and a terror so deep and wide my throat chokes and my body shakes with the tidal wave of it. For me this Climate Change feels as though the mother planet is letting go of her embrace of rhythm and return and is saying I cannot hold you any longer, you must go back to the fiery elements of the stars. Perhaps you'll realize what you are doing soon enough or you will find your way back in a million years, but it is truly up to you now. She is saying: You must take all you know of me and make your own embrace, and fill it with conscious intention and love. For I have given myself unceasingly to you thus far, and you have squandered my gifts.
I believe humanities free will has never been more truly presented to us. What do we do?
I began meditating when my heart's grief became so heavy I could no longer stand. As more news came in globally about the destruction of our rain forests and the myriad creatures who live there, and our rich farm lands becoming malls and corn and soybean crops, and nuclear bombs proliferating, and the world fisheries collapsing and the oil tankers spilling into pristine waters, and the acid rains poisoning lakes and streams, a depression settled into me that stunted my will, drove me to addiction, and for a time destroyed my sense of life having meaning.
I tripped and fell to the ground, and it was grief and rage that spilled out. At the same time I began my studies in Buddhism and Body Centered Psychotherapy. With the brilliant guidance of my teachers I dropped through what we called "death layer" in order to find my life on the other side. Hours and days of grief and rage for the pains of my childhood interwoven with the agony of witnessing our world be severely abused flowed out from me. Out of this process a profound compassionate energy emerged. From stillness flowed my life. I was no longer in anguish trying to stop bad things from happening. I was instead finding a deep love for myself and all beings, and with that a guiding purpose to my life.
We humans have been striving. Striving to know everything and to own everything. We have even reached out beyond our biosphere in profoundly heroic attempts to know more about the universe. Yet what we have ultimately proven is our total vulnerability. This is the only habitable planet we know of and we are now fully responsible for its well-being. That is the truth and we cannot deny it. We have reached a moment in human history where our willful outward striving is pointing us strait towards extinction.
My journey through death layer brought me to the same conclusion. We are all deeply vulnerable and are part of a vast universe, Each one of our breaths in this lifetime meets the world with the deepest intimacy imaginable. We are inhaling the expression of all green living things, and our exhale feeds the leaves, the trunk, the root of all thriving greenery. It is only our eyes and curious minds that can sustain a relationship to the universe beyond our biosphere. We are green earthlings at the core of our being, and it will be our last collective breath that reminds us of this, if we continue to allow unconscious behavior to overtake the planet.
We can say that unconscious behavior is influenced by the limiting stories we tell ourselves, therefore blocking out the truth of the power of the present moment and our role in it. For instance, the dominant story of our time, and in the United States in particular, is that industry and the pursuit of things is the only path, and comfort, indulgence, and fanaticism are our nationalist rights. This story is created in a vain attempt to avoid death layer, and the ultimate conclusion of our vulnerability in the face of our mortality. We are kept from our grief with a kind of violent insistence on avoidance. In the face of this oppressive story we feel an inevitability about our having to swallow this bitter pill that is leading us to ultimate extinction. Being oppressed is nothing new to the human mind. As most of us have experienced, our inner voices can be profoundly harsh to varying degrees depending on our early conditioning, and so we may feel that we have no choice, because when we were children we did not have a choice.
But we do as adults, and this is vitally important for us to understand, no matter what the outcome of our civilization. In fact, this United States was founded by people who embodied this choice fulness and established with their moment to moment actions the basis for human rights that has empowered and transformed our world. But our rights are maintained by our actions, and our actions are dictated by what we tell ourselves, and what we tell ourselves is based on an inner dialogue that is occurring in our minds relentlessly until we stop and drop through our grief to stillness.
When we stop, even for a small amount of our busy day, to find the quiet rhythm of our breath, the bird song, the furious reach of our minds, and the quieting of it as we let go of “doing” we will begin to feel the presence of our love and broken heartedness emerging in the perfection of this moment. Our beautiful precious life is miraculous and this truth is at the core of our being. We can rest in the assurance of our basic goodness in these moments of quiet. No striving required. The unconscious voices that pressure, yell, criticize, manipulate, rage, and blame us or others for our powerlessness, are merely vestiges of stories not yet told and felt from our past.
When we sit and let pass the initial resistances and discomforts of not moving on our impulses, our stories emerge and we may find ourselves weeping as we sit there in the quiet, seemingly, doing nothing. Our understanding from the Buddha is that there is suffering in life, and that there is a way to be liberated from it. Yet like steps into the underworld we must descend down from our minds into our bodies and touch the earth with the salted water of our tears. We are feeling beings, and our world is literally dying right now. This is the time in human history when we must reach out to each other and say goodbye to many things, and many ways of being, both internally and externally, And in so doing we may find that what we are left with is love. A simple clear love to give each other and to give to the earth and her myriad inhabitants who are suffering.
The wind, the trees, the stones, the river, they do not judge us. They are just calling us back to the dream of this world. We are the sentient voice of the planet. And our role is to speak her truth for the sake of all beings. When we see something out of balance it is our responsibility to act and to bring it back into harmony. All of our ancestors at some point were a part of cultures that expressed their intimate gratitude filled dependence on the rhythm and return of their particular part of the world's gifts.
We find a hopeful story emerging from the actions of wise elders and conscious youth heralding in a new global experience based on renewable energy systems, permaculture and shared rights and commons for all living and inanimate things. In pockets all over our planet people are remaking the way humans live on earth based on their in-depth awareness of interdependence with the earth, the air, the fire and the water. "Powering down" from our dependence on fossil fuels will slow down our rat race, and reorient humans towards their local economies and ways of being that are more expressive of each of our individual talents, as farmers, artisans, craftsmen, healers, teachers, writers, designers, architects, builders, singers, dancers and more. Along with that reorientation will come the regrowth of forests and the healing of the oceans, water ways and soils. We have seen time and again that nature will quickly reestablish her diversity and balance when given a chance.
Our actions in this lifetime are more potent than I believe humans have ever experienced. Each one of us who has the ability and means to speak up and take actions to further this vision needs to do so. And for many that will mean dropping through an innermost grief that is so deep and intense that we may feel like we are dying. In fact we have created a whole culture to avoid it, Avoidance as we all know will only increase the intensity when we are finally forced to face what is true. But once we have we can begin to form a shared Declaration of Interdependence that accounts for the unified well being of our whole planetary system. When we take time to rest in our basic miraculous selves and our interwoven connection with all things, everyday, we will have the clarity of mind to choose with our actions the world we love and want to keep.
Beth Fairservis, MPC
I woke up this morning and asked myself, who do I want "to be" today? My first reflection was to be loving, my second was to just keep it together. My pile of to dos is two pages long, but at least for now they are on a piece of paper rather than spinning around in my head. But to truly ask myself who do I want "to be" today, I needed to touch into the places inside myself that are either lurking in shadows, or are desperately clawing for attention.
My meditation cushion calls me. I am grateful for it, at this point immeasurably. I sit. First, bowing to my ancestors, then to my teachers, then to myself, this self that has been with me for 51 years but who I am just beginning to know.
I have been many things in this life, dancer, photographer, horseback rider, actress, puppeteer, traveler, teacher, mother and wife, and now for the past ten years I have studied and explored within myself what it means to be a human from the inside out. This path has taken to me to the most simple and yet most profound action of my life. To Stop. To stop and sit on a daily basis and let go of even the processes of thinking, planning, musing, inventing, imagining, designing and ultimately controlling my life with my mind. I have discovered that my mind is tired and ready for this rest. When I sit and ring the bell, and light the candle, and take in and let out three deep breaths, I am letting my mind know that now is the time for rest, and it no longer has to work to keep me safe, mull over the terror of doing something wrong, obsess about old family issues, or plan the next meal. Now my mind can be in service to my heart and body. I ask it to notice this moment.
What is in this moment? My breath and the ocean like flow of its expression and my body and the myriad calls its making about how it feels to be still and suddenly get some attention. I say to my mind, let's listen. My heart soon starts to share and often unburdens a longing, a grief, or a joy, or elicits from me an immense sigh. Full of I don't know what, but then there is more space, and the sounds of the day break into my consciousness. The birds, the wind, the cars going by, the rustle of my sleeping child.
I feel awake, as if out of a dream, and my being is vibrating with the life that it is, that is right now, nowhere to go, nothing to do. Now here is the miracle, I feel love, My heart feels big and full in my chest. My body is vibrating with love. I am in awe of the sheer magnitude of this life that has been given to me. Then my sit is over. I ring the bell again, my mind gets back on line for business, but now my heart is in the lead. It may lead me to things harder and more complex than I have ever wanted to face, but it does not require of me anything more than full, relaxed, mindful attention. This is who I want "to be" today.