This particular Tonglen practice was inspired by the work of Joan Halifax. You can listen to this practice as a guided meditation or scroll down for a text version.
Tonglen is a Buddhist meditation practice of giving and receiving. It’s a practice that intimately connects our own suffering with the suffering of others, in service of keeping our hearts open. We cannot fully participate in the healing of others’ suffering while running from our own. We need to hold both.
2020 pretty much sucked for all of us. Any other year, I might have more openly talked about two really significant milestones for me—July 2020 was the 25th anniversary of my HIV diagnosis, and January 2, 2021, was the 30th anniversary of my sobriety date—but everything has felt so raw and overwhelming.
As I’ve been reflecting on my 30th anniversary of sobriety, I am soul-deep aware that neither of these anniversaries would have been possible without the loving care that I’ve received from the communities that hold me. My relationships have saved me—my relationship with myself and my relationships with chosen family.
One of the things that has gotten me through, particularly during the pandemic, has been being able to make things for people I love and care for as a form of prayer and a form of connection at a time when connection is extra hard to maintain. My shop has offered me a refuge and has also allowed me to offer refuge in the form of free shop space to a few other artisans who lost access to a shop due to the pandemic.
I doubt I am alone, during this election cycle, in being afraid, being exhausted, being exhausted of being afraid, and also having moments of anger.
When I think about the day after Election Day, I hope to feel relief. If things go the way I hope they will, my fear is that for those of us who feel relief, all of our anxiety and exhaustion will turn into self-righteousness and gloating — if, that is, we have the comfort and safety and ability to go back to living in a world that seems comfortable and safe.
Meanwhile, the inequality and violence that shaped this current election cycle won’t have changed, and the lives of those of us who have always born the brunt of that inequality and violence won’t have changed. If anything, this election cycle has stoked the fires of racism, sexism, classism, and other forms of inequality and violence. Continue reading “What Will We Do the Day After Election Day?”→
I don’t always know how to express where my calling to do transformational change work comes from. I don’t always know how to give voice to what motivates me to not only act in solidarity but keep showing up and even on some level pay a cost for showing up. What won’t allow me to be quiet, what won’t allow me to get quiet to get along.
But when I think about where my sense of solidarity comes from there is one particular moment from my life that I go back to in my consciousness, one moment I revisit in order to understand even a little bit what my black and brown friends and communities of color in general experience in the world, what #BlackLivesMatter is really about. If you have never encountered cold, impersonal hate, then I don’t think you can understand both the paralyzing fear that it creates, and how alone the system leaves you feeling—the profound sense of isolation that comes with meeting hate like that. I have encountered it, and it’s a moment in a lifetime of such moments that I will never forget.
That relationship involves monumental loss, and deep love. It is the space where heartbreak and resilience live. The very space that makes me me in so many ways.
Twenty years ago today I was a 28-year-old who was far too young and far too old at the same time. On July 15, 1995, I was sitting in the health department in St. John’s, Newfoundland, listening to a doctor I had never met coldly tell me that I was HIV+. This was a time just before effective medication. HIV was still a death sentence. I knew that, deep in my bones, because I had buried friends and acquaintances and would bury many more over the years to come. We were all too young and too old at the same time. Continue reading “My Complicated Relationship with Survival: Twenty Years with HIV”→
I was raised Roman Catholic at the tail end of an era of seeing priests as infallible, as inherently good. It was unthinkable to question a priest’s motives or moral authority even if my own survival depended on it.
Do I think that a majority of priests sexually abuse children? Heck no. I believe an overwhelming majority answer the call to the priesthood to do good work. A very small minority of priests actively hurt children, but—and this is a big but—the system protected that small minority in such profound ways that it forever altered the system for the worse until it became impossible to see any good. For the Catholic Church to harbor the insidious evil that it did and to do the damage that it did, it required good priests and non-clergy to ignore the un-ignorable over centuries. Continue reading “On Priests and Police: The Role of Good People in Ending Systemic Sickness”→
You can listen to an audio recording here (in my opinion, the audio recording is much better than the written word—I swear! We’re more charming in person).
We aren’t taught in this culture to be openhearted. There’s no lesson. And I came to openheartedness as central to my spiritual practice the hard way. Whether it was the violence I was growing up with, the shame and the struggle around being queer and being gender nonconforming, whether it was being 28 years old and being diagnosed with AIDS at a time before medication was available.
Every turn I came to in life there was a reason for me to armor up. There was a reason for me to not let anyone near me. Because the outside world was telling me that if I wanted to stay protected I needed to curl in a ball. The last thing I ever needed to do was leave myself vulnerable. But at the same time that the world was telling me that, there was always this soft, loving voice of the beloved telling me that that was not for me. That I was meant to be openhearted regardless of the information I was getting from the outside world. Continue reading “The Spiritual Practice of an Open Heart”→
So I upset a white woman today. A straight, white, able bodied, cisgender woman. I did this by saying her professions of being colorblind, or more accurately “I treat everyone equally; we are all the same under our skin,” were offensive.
Here’s what happens when you are a marginalized person immersed in communities largely populated by people with dominant identities. The upswell of support for this white woman was immediate and fierce. Her hurt feelings and bruised ego necessitated calls of “explain yourself!” directed at me. Continue reading “I upset a white woman today”→
Whenever I am asked if my boifriend and I are married, especially in LGBTQ space, I feel unwelcome pressure to define my relationship so that the asker of the question can translate my answer into dominant culture’s terms.
This is the same pressure I have felt around gender. All of the questions about anatomy and my experience can feel like an assessment of which pre-existing “knowable” box to put me in. This is especially true for my boifriend and our relationship to one another. His genderqueer prancy femme boi self cannot be neatly summed up in dominant culture’s language without being dulled in the translation.
What we are to each other does not play by the binary rules the language of marriage requires. How we love and live cannot neatly fit into the “degree of commitment hierarchy” that the State’s definition of marriage requires. Continue reading “Queering Family”→
On Thursday January 2nd I passed the milestone of being in recovery for half my life: 23 of my 46 years. I have now been sober three times longer than I drank. Along the way I have learned a great many things (often the hard way). Here is what is coming forward at the moment, but is by no means a complete list.
Nothing is linear: not healing, not harm, nothing. Shedding damage from trauma, including addiction, has not been a process of going from point A to point B. It has been an ever-meandering route that seems to invariably circle back upon itself (often accompanied by my sentiments of “Fuck, I thought I dealt with this already!”). In early recovery everything was new and often magical; hard, but it still felt like I was getting somewhere… Then it seemed like growth came more slowly or not at all. Over the years I have found that to be the way healing unfolds. I honestly don’t know if there is a destination. What I know is that I am at home in my skin more than I thought would ever be possible. I’m wary of seeing myself as a “work in progress.” I distrust the self-help gurus who push “self-improvement.” Healing for me has come from being curious about who is actually here rather than focusing on “what I could become.” Continue reading “What Being Sober for Exactly Half My Life has Taught Me”→