judgement day

I woke this morning to read about a 27 year old Sudanese woman, Meriam Ibrahim, who gave birth this week whilst shackled in jail. She has been granted a two year suspended sentence to nurse her newborn, after which time she will face 100 lashes with a whip and then death by hanging. As Sudanese expert, Eric Reeves states, the lashings in themselves can be a fatal punishment, ‘the very idea of lashing someone,’ he said in an interview with Sky News, ‘and then hanging them is beyond grotesque. There is no possible justification, other than the most extreme ideological fervour.’ Despite the fact that she was raised as a Christian, by a Christian mother and a Muslim father, she is being punished for marrying a Christian man. According to the Islamic regime, she is regarded as a Muslim and therefore marrying a Christian is considered to be an act of apostasy and adultery.

How is it that these archaic practices are still going on? And other than the blatantly abhorrent human rights issue – which deserves all the attention it is getting and more – why did I get so riled up about this case, today, here and now?

I understand that this is a very complicated and sensitive topic, and certainly one that I am graciously removed from, however, it brings to the fore this notion of judgement that seems to keep bubbling up in front of me lately. Unfortunately it often takes an extreme event, such as in Meriam’s case, for these wafting ideas to form a more malleable shape.

In my cushy, centrally-heated, coffee-cultured, iWorld, who am I to open my mouth about women’s issues in Sudan? Who the hell do I think I am, making comments about religious and cultural practices that surely I know very little about?

But I can’t help thinking, who are they to say that what she is doing is wrong? Who are they to make the rules? To deem that her actions are in line with a certain level of punishment? How do you scale actions against consequences? And who says who gets to create that scale – and why them? Why do the rest of us listen? On a base level, aren’t we all just humans – all made of the same stuff? Why do we place so much importance on power and hierarchy when it so often leads to misery?

Perhaps the more important question is: why do we feel so powerless?

E.E Cummings wrote, ‘To be nobody-but-yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody but yourself – means to fight the hardest battle which any human can fight – and never stop fighting.’

Being authentic, staying real, even in the face of judgement, is one of the most courageous battles we will ever fight.

While judgement seems to occupy a vast majority of our time, I would argue that when it comes to being judged by others, people aren’t necessarily as concerned about your actions as you might think. Rather, our stories about ourselves are really what we are seeing as reflected by their behaviours and decisions – we really are inherently that self-absorbed. I love when my girlfriends tell me they had a second helping of cake, for example. I feel stronger when I hear a story about social awkwardness. I’m completely ok when someone cancels on me because ‘something came up’ as being alone is often so much easier than putting myself out there.

So when we feel judged – who’s actually judging who? Does the judgement start or end with them or you? And is your reaction to the judgement a story you’ve created about yourself or about them?

Brene Brown talks about ‘numbing down’ as something we all do in reaction to feeling powerless. But the difference in how this manifests in each of us changes with our awareness of the when and why it occurs. We can learn to understand this by asking ourselves:

Does our (insert behaviour here: eg sex, eating, drinking, working) get in the way of our authenticity? Does it stop us from being emotionally honest and setting boundaries and feeling like we’re enough? Does it keep us from staying out of judgment and from feeling connected? Are we using it to hide or escape from the reality of our lives?

Authenticity is a collection of choices that we have to make every day. It’s about the choice to show up and be real. The choice to be honest. The choice to let ourselves be seen.
Authenticity is the daily practice of letting go of who we think we’re supposed to be and embracing who we are.
Authenticity demands Wholehearted living and loving – even when it’s hard, even when we’re wrestling with the shame and fear of not being good enough, and especially when the joy is so intense that we’re afraid to let ourselves feel it.

– Brene Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection

I don’t want to be afraid of love, I want to fall into that intense joy. And yet I am. And I don’t.

I don’t want to live my life backwards – trying to have more things, more money, to do more in order to feel happier. And yet I do.

I want to be myself first, to do what I need to do in order to have what I want. And yet the fear of rejection paralyses me.

Judgement – whether it starts or ends with you – is killing us all. We need to let it go. I need to let go…

She could never go back and make some of the details pretty. All she could do was move forward and make the whole beautiful.

So it’s time for me to dig deep. To get deliberate – to stand on my own sacred ground. To get inspired – to be brave so that others around me can be brave also. And to get going – if the goal is authenticity and they don’t like me, that’s ok, but if the goal is being liked and they don’t like me, then I’m in trouble.

And trouble only creates more trouble.

When two people meet and fall in love, there’s a sudden rush of magic. Magic is just naturally present then. We tend to feed on that gratuitous magic without striving to make any more. One day we wake up and find that the magic is gone. We hustle to get it back, but by then it’s usually too late, we’ve used it up. What we have to do is work like hell at making additional magic right from the start. It’s hard work, but if we can remember to do it, we greatly improve our chances of making love stay.

When we’re incomplete, we’re always searching for somebody to complete us. When, after a few years or a few months of a relationship, we find that we’re still unfulfilled, we blame our partners and take up with somebody more promising. This can go on and on – series polygamy – until we admit that while a partner can add sweet dimension to our lives, we, each of us, are responsible for our own fulfillment. Nobody else can provide it for us, and to believe otherwise is to delude ourselves dangerously and to program for eventual failure every relationship we enter.

― Tom Robbins, Still Life with Woodpecker

Albert Camus wrote that the only serious question is whether to kill yourself or not. Tom Robbins wrote that the only serious question is whether time has a beginning or an end. Camus clearly got up on the wrong side of the bed, and Robbins must have forgotten to set the alarm. There is only one serious question. And that question is: ‘Who knows how to make love stay?’

1. Tell love you are going to Junior’s Deli on Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn to pick up a cheesecake, and if loves stays, it can have half. It will stay.

2. Tell love you want a momento of it and obtain a lock of its hair. Burn the hair in a dime-store incense burner with yin/yang symbols on three sides. Face southwest. Talk fast over the burning hair in a convincingly exotic language. Remove the ashes of the burnt hair and use them to paint a moustache on your face. Find love. Tell it you are someone new. It will stay.

3. Wake love up in the middle of the night. Tell it the world is on fire. Dash to the bedroom window and pee out of it. Casually return to bed and assure love that everything is going to be all right. Fall asleep. Love will be there in the morning.

― Tom Robbins, Still Life with Woodpecker

rough and tumble

I’m out of my routine – and out of the country – this week and it seems to be messing with me on a number of levels. It’s kind of amazing how a change of scenery can be so profoundly affecting. I’m spending nine days in Dusseldorf for a presenting gig which, while there’s plenty of goodness around it, for some reason it very quickly became clear just how unintelligent and distracting the mind can be when change is in the air.
An actors job is to take on an ‘otherness’, which, after so much in depth focus on ‘self’ during my yoga teacher training, suddenly felt entirely alien to me.
‘You’re name is Diana and you are a brand manager at a consumer products company: GO!’
I’m who?
‘Tell me about your SKU’s and the HDR quality of that press: NOW!’
The S-K-what?’
‘Erin, why are you still holding the script?! You’re giving me a heart attack!’
Wait…’Erin’…what? Where are we?
‘Germany! Don’t you understand English?’
Hang on, was that Hebrew or…?
‘You’re on!!’
But I don’t know my lines?! Why are you looking at me like that?
‘Here drink this, you’ll be right.’
No! No more wine, I’ll lose my mind.

Truth is, my mind was very much present. It was me who was lost.

It had managed to convince me to retreat so far inside myself that I disappeared. Stress is probably it’s favourite game. And what’s more, it has all the strategies it needs so that no amount of breathing (or booze) will get me any closer to winning. Not only does it play on the immediate stressors – like learning lines or meeting new people – but it manages to dig it’s way into the more deeply rooted places of my being. Suddenly I start questioning who I am and why aren’t I talking? What’s with all the suits or are we all in costume now? Why can’t I write anything? Why would he be interested in me? Do I really have any friends? Why am I even here? Maybe all that self discovery was just a dream, a fantasy, after all.

I left the building entirely. And I was pretty sure I wasn’t coming back.

Welcome back to the real world, Erin.
Go back to sleep, back to black.

But then – without my asking, and without their knowing – those people turn up, just when you need them. You know the ones…They break down the fortress you – or rather, your mind – has cleverly built up, wrap a warm blanket around your heart, hold up a mirror and say, ‘I remember you. Now, enough of this – it’s time to come home.’

And goodness knows where they came from. Or how they found you. But somewhere in the distance a light glimmers. And breath rushes into your lungs….and you can write, and practice yoga, and laugh and walk through the world with honesty and acceptance.

It seems there’s actually no way of avoiding these things. As I am constantly reminded lately: wherever you go, there you are. And if you do lose yourself amongst the tumbling illusions of the mind, you can be sure someone or something will show up just when you need or want it, hurl a lifeline out into the abyss and pull you back to shore…

And so, in this new light, I took myself through a yoga practice this morning – and wondered why on earth I hadn’t thought of it earlier!? – and found myself writing over breakfast, and giggling all the way to work. So of course I would stumble across this whilst kicking my heels up between shows today. Just another reminder popping up to take me home…

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Source: The House of Yoga

Zenith

zenith
noun
noun: zenith; plural noun: zeniths
  1. 1.
    the time at which something is most powerful or successful.
    “in 1977, punk was at its zenith”
    synonyms: highest point, high point, crowning point, height, top, acme, peak, pinnacle, apex, apogee, vertex, tip, crown, crest, summit, climax, culmination, maximum, optimum, prime, meridian, flower; More

    informal high noon
    “the king was at the zenith of his power”
    antonyms: nadir, bottom
  2. 2.
    Astronomy
    the point in the sky or celestial sphere directly above an observer.
    • the highest point reached by a given celestial object.
      “the sun was well past the zenith”

Before I started my yoga teacher training, we were asked to respond to a series of questions in our application form (this may sound familiar…I’ve quoted others in a previous post). The section titled ‘YOU AS A HUMAN BEING’ was (unsurprisingly) probably the most thought provoking. These questions were about who we are as a whole, about how we present ourselves, how we interact with others and how we lead. ‘Being a yoga teacher is to be fully yourself and to have awareness of who you are’ they told us, before they launched this on us:

What are your strengths? What are the areas of your life where you feel like you are fully and powerfully expressing yourself?

Bloody hell, I thought. I hate this question. I’m going to sound like an absolute, DISempowered tosser. But off I went waxing lyrical with sound bites about ‘collaborating well with others’ and ‘captivating audiences on stage by inhabiting anothers’ vulnerabilities’ (but not my own, you might note) as though that gives me a free ticket to ‘understanding my students and their needs’. Blah, blah, blah. Tosser. Wanker. Vomit. Vomit. Shuuuuut uuup!

That was then…

And what is interesting now about this response is that while parts of it are absolutely valid and true, I realised – today, actually – that my meaning of ‘powerful’ and ‘strong’ is actually much simpler than that.

This morning, for example, I went through that internal anguish of debating whether or not to pick up the phone and cancel my work appointment. It’s not a big deal, but in old at making it one. Watch: I really need the money – Yeah but, I really need to rest – You shouldn’t let people down – But my body is about to fall apart – You’ll fuck up your relationships if you don’t – But I’ll fuck up the new ones in that audition if I do – Ok…Ha! They didn’t answer – Call again – No, it’s a sign – No, you’re being lazy – But my eyes are swimming through led – You shouldn’t have gotten behind on your blog – You haven’t learnt lines for next week – YOU – I – BUT – ARRGH!

I think it was around this point that my intuition stepped in and boxed my mind around the ears. It shot one surprised glare back before whimpering in retreat into its’ corner. We acutally inherently know what we – and our body – needs. We are empowered when we trust it and go with what it is telling us. The line between knowing and over-thinking is constantly shifting, going between the two, like the tide coming in to shore. It’s a given – a constant – a certainty. It’s allowing for both intuition and ego and trusting that it will balance itself out without you needing to resist it or to try too hard make anything happen one way or the other.

So once I’d managed to get my ego out of the way, rather than venturing out into the pouring rain, struggling through a day at work, postponing and thereby adding to the stress that was being brought on by my other commitments, I did exactly what my body asked.

My bliss, my power came from allowing myself to care for me in the moment. And that meant lying in, listening to the gentle rain patter on my window, tucked up with a purring furry one, drifting in and out of sleep when my body drew me down into it, reading and prepping for my audition when I had the mental energy. This was much closer to my truth today. Other days it looks very different, but today flowing in and out of little peaks and delights – carefully grinding my coffee beans and letting the aroma fill my senses; taking a moment to feel my heart skip and reverberate through my tired limbs upon receiving a sweet, simple message from a loved one; gazing into the gentle, purring eyes of a strangers cat, stretched carelessly across my body; registering the depth of connection to my work when I recognise my characters’ feelings in my own life; the moment an idea dawns in my mind and a blog post begins… – this is when I have reached my zenith.

When I am aligned with my truth, that is when I am most powerful.