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Friday, August 15, 2014

Ram Dass | Learning to Grieve

[Shared from Google Plus Ram Dass (Love Serve Remember Foundation)]

Over the years, in working with people who are grieving, I’ve encouraged them first of all to surrender to the experience of their pain. To counteract our natural tendency to turn away from pain, we open to it as fully as possible and allow our hearts to break. We must take enough time to remember our losses – be they friends or loved ones passed away, the death of...
Learning to Grieve
Posted July 9, 2014
It is important, as we get older, to learn how to grieve. Although this may sound self-evident, experience has taught me that it is not. In a culture that emphasizes stoicism and forward movement, in which time is deemed “of the essence,” and there is little toleration for slowness, inwardness, and melancholy, grieving – a healthy, necessary aspect of life – is too often overlooked. As we get older, of course, and losses mount, the need for conscious grieving becomes more pronounced. Only by learning how to grieve can we hope to leave the past behind and come into the present moment.
The older we get, the more we lose; this is the law of impermanence. We lose loved ones, cherished dreams, physical strength, work, and relationships. Often, it seems like loss upon loss. All these losses bring up enormous grief that we must be prepared to embrace completely, if we are to live with open hearts.
My dear friend Stephen Levine has recommended that we build temples specifically for the purpose of grieving, ritual sites where we can feel safe to pour out the sadness and loss that we feel. In the Jewish tradition of sitting shiva, and in the traditional Irish wake, we find such outlets for extended grieving, but these rituals are becoming rare in our culture and are not frequently practiced.
Over the years, in working with people who are grieving, I’ve encouraged them first of all to surrender to the experience of their pain. To counteract our natural tendency to turn away from pain, we open to it as fully as possible and allow our hearts to break. We must take enough time to remember our losses – be they friends or loved ones passed away, the death of long-held hopes or dreams, the loss of homes, careers, or countries, or health we may never get back again. Rather than close ourselves to grief, it helps to realize that we only grieve for what we love.
In allowing ourselves to grieve, we learn that the process is not cut and dried. It’s more like a spiral that brings us to a place of release, abates for a time, then continues on a deeper level. Often, when grieving, we think that it’s over, only to find ourselves swept away by another wave of intense feeling. For this reason, it’s important to be patient with the process, and not be in a hurry to put our grief behind us.
While the crisis stage of grief does pass in its own time - and each person’s grief has its own timetable - deep feelings don’t disappear completely. But ultimately you come to the truth of the adage that “love is stronger than death.” I once met with a girl whose boyfriend was killed in Central America. She was grieving and it was paralyzing her life. I characterized it for her this way. “Let’s say you’re in ‘wise-woman training.’” If she’s in wise-woman training, everything in her life must be grist for the mill. Her relationship with this man would become part of the wisdom in her. But first she had to see that her relationship with him is between Souls. They no longer have two incarnated bodies to share, so she had to find the Soul connection. Two Souls can access each other without an incarnation.
When my Guru died in 1973, I assumed that because of the important part he played in my life, and the love I felt for him, I would be inundated with grief. Surprisingly, I was not. In time, I came to realize why. He and I were so well established in Soul love that, in the years since he left his body, his palpable presence in my life has continued unabated.
Ram Dass

Postscript: Robin Williams, 1951-2014 by Anthony Lane

August 14, 2014
The snuffing out of a life, especially when the flame was still strong, is never less than a shock, and admirers of Robin Williams, who died on August 11th, will feel that they have been left in the dark. He had made no secret of his long wrestle with drugs and alcohol, nor, typically, had he hesitated to use that fight as a comic resource, beating himself up with his own jokes. To watch him in full spate, onstage or on a talk show, where he would shift and bounce in his seat like a young boy who wants to play outside, was to be nagged by a question, however naïve: Why in heaven’s name did this man, of all men, need extra stimulants? Wasn’t the simple fact of being Robin Williams, high on his own inventiveness, enough of a rush? What exhilarated us must have exhausted him, and no friends or fans, praying that he now rest in peace, would deny that the peace was hard earned.
Williams had the blessed knackwholly unfakeable, and envied, no doubt, by grander stars—of giving those fans the impression that they were his friends. There are funny guys who seem naturally sparing, even miserly, with their wit, waiting for the curtain to rise or the cameras to roll before they can bring themselves to uncork. Williams, by contrast, was helplessly generous, popping open and spraying his audience with riffs and raps as though it had been painful to bottle them up—as though he were thanking us for giving him the chance to release. I remember, with undiminished joy, putting on a video of Williams performing live at the Met, in 1986, and seeing this stocky figure, in a deafening shirt, skip and leap onto the cavernous stage, in the footsteps of ballet dancers—“Men wearing pants so tight you can tell what religion they are.” He admitted to nerves, in that august setting, yet it was the same nerves, plucked like strings, that were making his brand of verbal music, in all its profanity and zeal.
There was a side of Williams that most Americans, secure in their homeland, never got to witness except on tremulous video clips, grabbed from the fringes of a crowd. Not since Bob Hope, I would guess, has a star proved so indefatigable in his mission to amuse American servicemen and women, who tend to need little persuading that the world is, taken all in all, nuts. (According to U.S.O. estimates, he entertained more than eighty-nine thousand of them.) Williams, newly arrived at Kandahar Airfield, in Afghanistan, in 2007, pointed out the weirdness of the environment in which the troops existed: “There’s snow there, there’s a desert, and there’s a fucking hockey rink. I don’t need drugs.” If only. Like any sane person, he drew a clear distinction between government policy and the folks up at the sharp and messy end who have to put it into effect, and, to judge by the whoop level that greeted him in 2010, when he returned to Kandahar, military personnel bore him no grudge for having called their former Commander-in-Chief “a comedy piñata.” In truth, political invective was hardly his forte; what tickled him and ignited his gibes (this, again, is a very soldierly habit) was the prospect of the stiff and the stuck-up, especially when they were lofted into positions of power. Think of poor J. T. Walsh, as Sergeant Major Dickerson, in “Good Morning, Vietnam,” whom Williams addresses thus: “You’re in more dire need of a blow job than any white man in history.” (The killer there is “white.” Williams never shied away from color or creed, with their plethora of niceties and traps. He sprinted toward them.)
To be honest, though, is that a film to which one returns, with glee, in its entirety? Might it more often be cherished piecemeal, on YouTube, where you can follow Williams, the ultimate disk jockey, in his galloping turns at the mike? Not to speak ungratefully, let alone ill, of the dead, but one has to ask whether American film, as it unrolled through Williams’s career, offered either the shape or the scope for the play of his singular talents. Many leading directors—Barry Levinson, Gus Van Sant, Terry Gilliam, Christopher Nolan, Peter Weir—entrusted him with meaty roles, and such faith is hard to quibble with, just as the warmth with which his admirers clung to films like “Mrs. Doubtfire” and “Dead Poets Society” was lasting and unfeigned. (The climactic scene from the latter—students standing on their classroom desks in worshipful tribute to Williams’s character, their departing English teacher—has been acted out afresh, and posted online, since the news of his death.) Yet something about the emotional curve on which so many films rely, as it dips into distress and then rises toward resolution and redemption, feels altogether too easy and too organized for the crazy sine waves that Williams instinctively traced in body, brain, and tongue. How many personas does he adopt in “Mrs. Doubtfire”? Two: a kindly, harassed dad and a kindly, slightly less harassed Scottish nanny. Two! In the throes of an improv routine, he could race through two in ten seconds.
The essence of Williams, in short, was the enemy of plot. So was the essence of Groucho, and, when Williams picked up the Best Supporting Actor award, for “Good Will Hunting,” at the 1998 Oscars, nothing was more apt than the low-slung, questing, Grouchian lope with which he finally left the stage and walked off into the wings: Bad Boy Hunting. But Groucho and his kin were crammed into their films to bursting point, as if into the cabin of an ocean liner; anything more elegant would have insulted their capacity for chaos, and, harp solos aside, all plangency and reverie were banned. Conversely, there came a moment in almost every Williams film when his voice would sink low, toward gentleness, and that Mr. Punch face would crumple and crease into a soft smile; you find it not just in the sappy work, like “Patch Adams,” but also in more sober scenes—the park-bench talk, for instance, in “Good Will Hunting,” where Williams handed worldly wisdom to Matt Damon, like a bearded magus. Even as he reflected on the Sistine Chapel, however (“You’ve never actually stood there and looked up at that beautiful ceiling”), I found it impossible to suppress heretical thoughts, musing on what Williams the standup would have done with God, Adam, and their nearly touching fingers. The Pope would have made an entrance, too, you can bet on it. Indeed, it is hard to remember any of Williams’s more solemn roles—in “Awakenings,” or “What Dreams May Come”—that he would not, on a different day, before a live throng, have hastened to make sport of and whip into a routine.
To argue the case for frivolity, or the need to lampoon, is not always a cynical request. Might it not be the case that pathos—even, or especially, at its most sincere, tugged directly from the heart—is in fact a fairly common currency, whereas the gift bestowed on Williams, with his relentless coining of bright new characters and sounds, is the rarest of riches? We speak of cheap jokes, but not all tears are costly or precious, as an evening of talent shows will confirm, whereas the best jokes are priceless; that is why we hoard them, for years, and bequeath them to the next generation. Not that Williams was just a minter of gags. He could rattle off one-liners, to be sure, and many of them were stinging and smart, but what we treasured him for was the rattle itself—the jolting sensation that he alone, and sometimes not even he, knew exactly where his mind would send him next. How could Hollywood, home of the safe bet and the sure thing, be expected to cope? Was there ever a time when he was captured on film, yet set free?
Well, yes. But only once, for a whole movie. And Williams himself didn’t appear in it—not in the flesh, that is, although he was conjured up as his own avatar, with an immeasurable grin, and the flesh was bulbous and blue. I second everything that my colleague Ian Crouch wrote here about Disney’s “Aladdin,” and about Williams’s storming performance as the Genie. The aftermath was unsavory, with contractual wrangles over pay and marketing; “You realize when you work for Disney why the mouse has only four fingers: because he can’t pick up a check,” Williams later said. Yet the fact remains that, under the aegis of Disney, in a legend retold and re-polished for kids, he found his ideal form—his “Duck Soup.” We have grown so used to the smoothness of cartoons, and to their customized rendering of every expression and texture, that to revisit the jerks and spasms of “Aladdin” is a kind of relief. It leaves you with a blissful vision of animators having to strain and strive, not unlike their forerunners in the early, experimental days of the art, just to keep up with Williams. He is a human radio, spinning the dial in his own head and spewing out all the voices into which he happens to tune, and they follow his remorseless lead. “Aladdin” makes an unlikely memorial, you might say, for a star of his standing, but then the world according to Williams was an unlikely place, wholly deserving of his shtick—headlong, half desperate, heavy on the accents, and mentally elastic to the very brink of madness. It was terrible to learn that he had taken his own life; ours not to reason why. But it will be reassuring, in the days and years to come, to remind ourselves that he gave so much of that life, and all of his liveliness, to the serious cause of fun.

Anthony Lane has been a film critic for The New Yorker since 1993.

Stephanie Doty
Weary of Wonderland
August 15, 2014

I take to myself by Bill Johnston

I take to myself
my broken self:
my guilt, my peace,
my folly and joy,
my sickness, my health;
in laughter and agony,
hating and loving,
my fear and my birthing--
and I am made whole.

I take to myself
you, my neighbor,
cupping your life
within my hands:
your broken self
pure gift to me;
not burden, gift,
as mine to you--
and I am made whole.

I take to myself
you, broken Earth;
stripped and abused,
paved over and poisoned,
you mother so freely,
abundant in grace:
clasp in your mercy,
surprise into tears--
and I am made whole.

I take to myself
your broken self,
my dear, near God;
broken for broken,
for lost and for spent.
As fragmented love
and nectar of life,
you come, gentle God--
and I am made whole.
Stephanie Doty
Weary of Wonderland
August 15, 2014

Thomas Jackson, Asshole of the Day for August 15, 2014

by TeaPartyCat
Ferguson Police Chief spent the morning going over documents and video tape related to a nearby theft that Michael Brown was a suspect in. Robbery. Top suspect.
Then after all that, Chief Jackson said this afternoon:
“The initial contact between the officer and Mr. Brown was not related to the robbery,” Thomas Jackson, the police chief, said during a news conference Friday afternoon.
Rather, it stemmed from the fact that Brown and his friend were “walking down the street blocking traffic,” Jackson said.
So then Brown wasn’t shot because he was a suspect fleeing a petty crime— not that fleeing a theft is grounds for shooting— but for how he handled being stopped for jaywalking. Jaywalking.

So why did Chief Jackson spend all morning on the robbery details? By his own admission now, those details played NO ROLE in the shooting. NONE.
Hmmm. Here’s a few thoughts that I flagged on Twitter today, which I think get to the heart of it:
AdamSerwer     @AdamSerwer
Someone at the press conference just said "seems like you're only answering questions that demean the character of Mike Brown"

Shaun King @ShaunKing 
What I know is this: when an unarmed Black man/woman is killed by police or by another citizen, a period of character assassination begins.
So the robbery played no part, but Chief Jackson spent all morning smearing a man his officer killed over a jaywalking encounter. And that is why he is the Asshole of the Day.

It is Thomas Jackson’s first time as Asshole of the Day.

Full story: Washington Post.
Stephanie Doty
Weary of Wonderland
August 15, 2014

MRAPs | Seriously? | Blowback, indeed!

Think of it as a different kind of blowback. Even when you fight wars in countries thousands of miles distant, they still have an eerie way of making the long trip home.
Take the latest news from Bergen County, New Jersey, one of the richest counties in the country. Its sheriff’s department is getting two mine-resistant ambush-protected vehicles, or MRAPs -- 15 tons of protective equipment -- for a song from the Pentagon. And there’s nothing special in that. The Pentagon has handed out 600 of them for nothing since 2013, with plenty more to come. They’re surplus equipment, mostly from our recent wars, and perhaps they will indeed prove handy for a sheriff fretting about insurgent IEDs (roadside bombs) in New Jersey or elsewhere in the country. When it comes to the up-armoring and militarization of America’s police forces, this is completely run-of-the-mill stuff.
The only thing newsworthy in the Bergen story is that someone complained.  To be exact, Bergen County Executive Kathleen Donovan spoke up in opposition to the transfer of the equipment.  “I think,” she said, “we have lost our way if you start talking about military vehicles on the streets of Bergen County.”  And she bluntly criticized the decision to accept the MRAPs as the “absolute wrong thing to do in Bergen County to try to militarize our county.”  Her chief of staff offered a similar comment: “They are combat vehicles. Why do we need a combat vehicle on the streets of Bergen County?”
Sheriff Michael Saudino, on the other hand, insists that the MRAPs aren't “combat vehicles” at all.  Forget the fact that they were developed for and used in combat situations.  He suggests instead that one good reason for having them -- other than the fact that they are free (except for postage, gas, and upkeep) -- is essentially to keep up with the Joneses.  As he pointed out, the Bergen County police already have two MRAPs, and his department has none and, hey, self-respect matters!  (“Should our SWAT guys be any less protected than the county guys?” he asked in a debate with Donovan.)
striking recent report from the American Civil Liberties Union indicates that, as in Bergen County, policing is being militarized nationwide in all sorts of unsettling ways.  It is, more precisely, being SWATified (a word that doesn’t yet exist, but certainly should).  Matthew Harwood, senior writer and editor for the ACLU, as well as TomDispatch regular, offers a graphic look at just where policing in America is heading. Welcome to Kabul, USA. Tom

Stephanie Doty
Weary of Wonderland
August 15, 2014

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Pathways to Peace | Celebrate Peace Day 09.21.14

International Day of Peace
Scheduling for the upcoming year
On Sunday 21 September 2014, millions of people around the world will participate in activities, events, concerts and festivals to celebrate the International Day of Peace. At noon in every time zone, a moment of silence will be held, sending a Peace Wave around the world.

Established by the United Nations General Assembly in 1981, “Peace Day” is an opportunity for individuals, organizations and nations to create practical acts of peace on a shared date. Pathways To Peace, working with members of the UN, helped obtain historic levels of support for Peace Day. In 1984, PTP held the first major International Day of Peace celebration in San Francisco with major events including the Minute of Silence Moment of Peace, when business cash registers stopped, a TV station was silent, and global Peace Wave bringing the Day to everyone, everywhere. Media called it, “A silence heard around the world.”

Since its inception, Peace Day has marked our personal and planetary progress toward peace. Events range in scale from private gatherings to public concerts and forums where hundreds of thousands of people participate.

Anyone, anywhere can celebrate Peace Day. It can be as simple as lighting a candle at noon, sitting in silent meditation, or doing a good deed for someone you don’t know. Or it can involve getting your co-workers, organization, community or government engaged in a large event. You can also share thoughts, messages and pictures to commemorate Peace Day on social media.

When millions of people in all parts of the world come together for one day of peace, the impact is immense and does make a difference.

Peace Day is also a day of ceasefire—personal or political. Take the opportunity to make peace in your own relationships.

Stephanie Doty
Weary of Wonderland
August 14, 2014

Lost in a fog

 What is depression?
In its mildest form, depression can mean just being in low spirits. It doesn’t stop you leading your normal life, but makes everything harder to do and seem less worthwhile. At its most severe, major depression (clinical depression) can be life-threatening, because it can make you feel suicidal or simply give up the will to live. 
[Continued; to read entire article, go to the website.]
Robin Williams: the sadness of a clown that couldn’t be fixed
by Simon Jenkins  08.12.13
Williams, like many others, struggled with addiction and personal demons. Mental illness is a great leveller – but is still too little understood
Robin Williams backstage in Virginia in 2009.
'It seems inexplicable that a celebrity's addiction should be immune to personal success, 
the care of a loving family and all the therapies money could buy.' 
Photograph: Jay Paul/Getty Images
The sadness of the clown is an old showbusiness irony. The death of the clown is even sadder. But Robin Williams was no ordinary clown, he was a clown in the round, a master of the one-liner, of verbal riff, mimicry, disguise, facial distortion, fury and hilarity. He made them laugh and he made them cry. He had the gift of enhancing the lives of others, yet he could not handle one person’s life, his own. Only last month Williams was admitted back into a rehab centre in Minnesota.
Williams’ presumed suicide is receiving the same scrutiny as the recent deaths of other celebrity addicts such as Philip Seymour Hoffman and Peaches Geldof. Addictive substances appeared to be the way in which these well-known people coped with the pressure of life. In that, they are no different from thousands of non-celebrities subject to even greater pressure. Yet it seems inexplicable that their addiction should be immune to personal success, the care of a loving family and all the therapies money could buy.

Physical illness is something the medical profession understands. It knows what to do when the human body malfunctions and what not to do. Mental illness, if illness is the right word, seems lost in some dark age. Otherwise healthy people with every reason to be happy are found wrestling with private demons. Therapists wander the scene like surgeons on a medieval battlefield, at a loss for what to do.

Williams appeared to have recovered from cocaine addiction but not from alcohol. He had been in and out of rehabilitation. In a remarkably frank interview in the Guardian four years ago, he was eager to discuss his problems lucidly. He was a regular member of probably the most successful therapy in existence, Alcoholics Anonymous, with its emphasis on non-judgmental group support. There was no help that Williams and others like him could not and did not receive. It failed.

All illness is a great leveller, but none levels like mental illness. It remains the poor relation of medicine. Research is paltry. Therapies are halfhearted. Drugs are primitive. But addictive and depressive illness seems to probe deep into the relations between individuals and those around them. It is the crack in the window that can seem beyond mending. The sadness of the clown goes beyond irony. It is one of the great mysteries of life.

• In the UK, the Samaritans can be contacted on 08457 90 90 90. In the US, the National Suicide Prevention Hotline is 1-800-273-8255. In Australia, the crisis support service Lifeline is on 13 11 14

Stephanie Doty
Weary of Wonderland
August 14, 2014