Question; Question Everything

Via School of Visual Arts

Via School of Visual Arts

Day 17: A – Z Challenge:

“I define poetry as celebration and confrontation. When we witness something, are we responsible for what we witness? That’s an on-going existential question. Perhaps we are and perhaps there’s a kind of daring, a kind of necessary energetic questioning. Because often I say it’s not what we know, it’s what we can risk discovering.” ―Yusef Komunyakaa

Question Your Assumptions; Question Your Beliefs

All my life, I’ve lived the questions. For whatever reason, I’ve known questions were more important than answers.

I think it has to do with a sense of beginner’s mind. I never assume I know. Anything.

I question certainty.

Hitler was absolutely certain he was right. And he was absof***inglutely wrong. About everything.

So was Stalin. And British imperialism. And the hurly burly of the Salem witch trials. And the dropping of the atomic bomb.

And the list goes on.

Being certain you are right, being certain that there’s only one right answer/way/approach to anything, almost certainly means you are completely, astonishingly, gravely wrong.

So.

How can we keep our childlike wonder and our sense of possibility and our openness to the world? How can we not get mowed down by life?

Ask Questions.Wonder about Things. See What Makes Things Tick.

I love Pablo Neruda’s last volume of poetry, The Book of Questions.

In it, he asks questions; page after page of beautiful, arresting, surprising questions.

“Tell me, is the rose naked
or is that her only dress?

Why do trees conceal
the splendor of their roots?

Who hears the regrets
of the thieving automobile?

Is there anything in the world sadder
than a train standing in the rain?”

Pablo Neruda, The Book of Questions

He sees the world. He examines it with a microscopic eye. He wanders and wonders looking at everything. Everything.

We could all learn a thing or two from exercising that kind of attention to the big and little questions we’re faced with every day.

***

“Watch everything go. Don’t be afraid. This. This is how you find your way. You don’t notice the changes as they come. You just wake up, one bright morning — sky the color of robin’s eggs — and you realize that you are there. And you open the door and smell the restless air and say a prayer of profound thanks.” — Shavawn M. Berry, A Beginner’s Guide To Change. Live the Questions. Don’t be Afraid.

***

Why? Why not? What now? 

How can we wrestle with the status quo? How can we effectively question and dismantle abusive authority?

How can we not do that?

This world will unravel if we don’t start asking questions about where the money’s going, about the condition of the environment, about the food we eat, about the air we breathe. We must ask questions about militarism and fundamentalism and xenophobia. We must ask questions about misogyny and child abuse and inequality.

We must.

We must look at this life on this planet that supports life as a beautiful experiment in tolerance and cooperation and collaboration. All life on earth (not just human life) depends on us doing just that.

Why do the mountains sleep on their backs?

How do babies know they can play with their feet?

Where can I plant my soul and find respite?

How can I help?

What can I do?

Where can I share my gifts?

The planet will have the final say if we don’t start to ask difficult, pertinent, thoughtful, graceful questions.

© 2015  Shavawn M. Berry All rights reserved

Feel free to share this post with others, as long as you include the copyright information and keep the whole posting intact. If you like this piece please share it with others. You can like me on Facebook  or Twitter to see more of my writing and my spiritual journey on my website  at www.shavawnmberry.com.

Pick Up Your Pen & Change The World

Katie Orenstein via ihollaback.org

Katie Orenstein via ihollaback.org

Day 16 – A – Z Challenge

“Change writers hope that readers will join them in what Charles Johnson calls “an invitation to struggle.”  Whereas writers of propaganda encourage readers to accept certain answers, writers who want to transform their readers encourage the asking of questions.  Propaganda invites passive agreement; change writing invites original thought, openheartedness, and engagement.  Change writers trust that readers can handle multiple points of view, contradictions, unresolved questions, and nuance.  If, as André Gide wrote, “Tyranny is the absence of complexity,” then change writers are the founders of democracies. […] Socially conscious writers want authenticity and transparency to saturate every page of their work.  They strive to teach readers how to think, not what to think.  They connect readers to ideas and experiences that readers would not have on their own.  Always, this kind of writing coaxes readers to expand their frames of reference, or, as the Buddhists say, to put things in bigger containers.” —Mary Pipher, Ph.D., Writing to Change the World

Write. Have Your Say. Don’t Stop Until You Get Your Story Out.

“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”Maya Angelou, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

As you read this, I am heading back from New Mexico where I spent the day on Friday teaching creative writing to maximum security inmates there. In our workshop (I went with two undergraduates and my colleague) we encouraged our students to tell us a story. Whether through memoir, fiction, or poetry, the story we write about ourselves, our lives, is absolutely crucial. Our stories and the way we tell them are arbiters of ‘life’s coming attractions’ as Einstein once said.

I believe in the healing power of words.

I believe that they truly can ‘change the world’. We simply need to pick up our pens, and start writing.

“And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.” Sylvia Plath, The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath

How do we get out of our own way?

By getting started. By putting the pen on the page and writing without stopping for twenty minutes a day. By shutting down the monkey mind chatter and going deeper into the rivers of our unconscious mind. By opening a vein.

“You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you.”Ray Bradbury, Zen in the Art of Writing

So, as I head home, across hundreds of miles of open desert and the White Mountains, think about what’s been bothering you, what’s been making you ache. Consider taking a break and dawdling over your writing desk, pen in hand. See what emerges.

I will be thinking of you as I marvel over the particular brand of light that always astonishes me when I visit New Mexico. It’s as though the clouds are enlightened beings, floating on their backs, sure of their place in the whole universe of time and space. It’s as though the flora and fauna bow under them, and everything — absolutely everything — glows with luminosity.

In other words, it is a place of dreams and dreaming while waking.

“Why not just tell the truth?” —Raymond Carver

Why not find out what you know? Why not kick the ground beneath you and see what’s there.

© 2015  Shavawn M. Berry All rights reserved

Feel free to share this post with others, as long as you include the copyright information and keep the whole posting intact. If you like this piece please share it with others. You can like me on Facebook  or Twitter to see more of my writing and my spiritual journey on my website  at www.shavawnmberry.com.

Orion: That’s Where You’ll Be.

Stargazing via Pinterest

Stargazing via Pinterest

Day 15 – A – Z Challenge

We are Starlight; We are Golden.

“When it is dark enough, you can see the stars.”Ralph Waldo Emerson

Modern life tends to block our ability to recognize we are mere specks in a massive, endless universe. We are busy being busy. We are running to the point of exhaustion on the treadmill of life. We forget how connected we are to birds and trees and elephants and the tang of this rich, red earth. We believe in our little bubble world, unfettered and untouched by anything outside our own experience. Even though it is obvious there’s more than meets the eye.

Even though at the atomic and subatomic level, everything is a pulsing, radiating oneness.

Instead, we shrink the vastness that represents all that we are, into a thimble-sized container, and call it life.

But we’re so much more. So. Much. More.

And We’ve Got to Find Our Way Back to the Garden.

“The nitrogen in our DNA, the calcium in our teeth, the iron in our blood, the carbon in our apple pies were made in the interiors of collapsing stars. We are made of starstuff.”Carl Sagan, Cosmos

I love the notion that everything’s connected. That we are made of water and iron and carbon that has always existed and will always exist. It dovetails perfectly with the Buddhist belief (energy that has been created can never be destroyed) regarding the eternity of life. Life may change form, but it never goes away.

Life and Death and Life and Death.

I am thinking of all this because it is nearing time to let my oldest cat, go. He’s skinny and arthritic and suffering with irritable bowel syndrome. He’s thirsty and hungry constantly. He purrs incessantly if you even look at him.

He’s like an old guru who’s finally eaten up all that’s real, all that’s true about this journey.

I know it is time for him to cross the river of death.

Even so, I long to hit the reset button. A part of me rails at the mere thought of letting him go.

Why does he have to leave me now? Why can’t my precious boy stay with me just a little longer?

My lovely boy, Edgar - Photo by Shavawn M. Berry, All Rights Reserved.

My lovely boy, Edgar – Photo by Shavawn M. Berry, All Rights Reserved.

A Fool’s Bargain.

Of course, I know better. I know that keeping him much longer will be cruel.

He’s ready. His invisible suitcase containing all his memories of the wonderful life we shared for the past nine years, sits at the curb.

He’s just waiting for me.

I told my mom the other day that we’d talk about it as soon as the semester ends.

That’s two weeks from now.

My heart’s in my throat just thinking about it.

Soon, my beautiful boy will be visible in the night sky.

Soon, he’ll ride with Orion and start his stint as a night watchman. Soon, he’ll be watching over me.

© 2015  Shavawn M. Berry All rights reserved

Feel free to share this post with others, as long as you include the copyright information and keep the whole posting intact. If you like this piece please share it with others. You can like me on Facebook  or Twitter to see more of my writing and my spiritual journey on my website  at www.shavawnmberry.com.

Never, Never, Never Give Up

Phoenix Bird Wallpaper

Phoenix Bird Wallpaper

Day 14: A – Z Challenge

Rise, Phoenix. Rise.

“There is only one corner of the universe you can be certain of improving, and that’s your own self.”~ Aldous Huxley

One of the things that nearly 30 years of Buddhist practice has taught me is the value of resilience.

Keep trying. Start again. Rethink your approach. Ask questions. Remember — always — that every day is brand new.

And although there have been plenty of times when I fell to my knees and wept, as I prayed for solutions, I never gave up.

I never stopped. I never allowed my pity party to go on indefinitely.

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Via Lost Soul Quotes on Pinterest

Grateful for What Is and Whatever Will Be.

Life is a process-oriented journey. Traveling and immersing yourself in the experience is more important than arriving. Fully living is more important than whether we win or lose.

And I am the arbiter of that judgment. No one but me knows the growth I’ve experienced. No one else can gauge just how far I’ve come because I am the only person who knows where I started. Therefore, I don’t need to measure up to anyone’s yardstick but mine.

Looking back, with compassion.

As a result, as I age, I see myself with kinder, less critical eyes. I marvel at my pure moxie. I realize I deserve a trophy or a banner to hang over my bed that says:

“There. There. You Did Your Best, Dear One.”

Because I did.

I kept walking, I kept learning, I kept going.

And because I continue to question and learn and pray and move forward, I can encourage others to do the same. Even those who may standing on their last legs, weary and devastated.

We can always rise again, even if we drop. That’s what it means to ‘rise from the ashes.’ That’s what it means to have grit.

And we have it. I know we do.

No Matter What, Never Stop.

Never stop exploring. Never stop questioning. Never stop praying.

Never stop laughing, even when you feel like crying.

You are stronger than you think. You are braver than you think.

And you are deeply loved by your angels and guides and every other stripe of your weird tribe of like-minded souls.

You are loved by this wild universe more than you will ever possibly know.

Don’t forget.

© 2015  Shavawn M. Berry All rights reserved

Feel free to share this post with others, as long as you include the copyright information and keep the whole posting intact. If you like this piece please share it with others. You can like me on Facebook  or Twitter to see more of my writing and my spiritual journey on my website  at www.shavawnmberry.com.

Maiden, Mother, Crone: Women Changing The World.

Goddesses Dancing via Tumblr

Goddesses Dancing via Tumblr

Day 13: A – Z Challenge

Warning: This post suggests that women might have good ideas for fixing what ails us. That’s all. ‘Nuff said.

“The truth will set you free. But first, it will piss you off.” Gloria Steinem

Sisters are Doing It For Themselves.

I know a little something about women and women’s wisdom. Having twirled around the sun for more than five decades, I have learned a lot about the collective, feminine story simply because it is my story, too.

I believe in our wisdom. I believe in our discernment, our ability to self-reflect, our empathic nature, our reverence for life.

It is only with the heart that one can see rightly, what is essential is invisible to the eye. Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

If you think about it (at all) it’s no mystery. We give birth. We nurture children. We care for animals. We grow things, plant things, make things.

And saying that it might be time for women to take the wheel and run this world for a bit, is not implying that we hate men or we want to wear pants (although some of us think pants are quite comfortable). The last time women were in charge (about 3,000 years ago, in certain cultures) society was much more egalitarian, more equal and fair, less warring, and more reverent.

That’s a fact.

Men have had their turn running the world.

The survival of the fittest, winner takes all, get out my way, pull yourselves up by your bootstraps mentality is the result.

Fact.

The world’s a mess. It is a hot mess of pollution, ecocide, mass extinction, oil spills, over-fishing, factory farming, and political grandstanding. It is a gun-waving, war-ravaged mess.

I am not saying that the fault lies only with men. Not at all.

We’ve built this collective nightmare together; however, women (generally speaking) have not been in charge of what’s gone on.

Perhaps, it’s time that changed.

Repression of the Feminine via Clare Dakin

Repression of the Feminine via Pinterest

A woman is the full circle. Within her is the power to create, nurture and transform. — Diane Mariechild

Of course, I admit I do not know anything about what it’s like to be a man in this world. I can imagine it is pretty painful. Men aren’t supposed to feel anything. Except, perhaps, anger. That’s sanctioned by our society.

But, as a woman, I can never know what it is like to live in the skin of a man. Truly.

I acknowledge that men are from Mars and women are from, well, elsewhere. We are completely, radically, fundamentally different.

What pisses me off is to hear some men talk to women as though we have no more sentience than rocks.

As though we are a bit thick. As though we are a few cards short of a full deck.

Mansplaining.

What pisses me off is that fatherly, ‘I know best’ attitude that gets thousands of new laws on the books in state after state after state, attempting to control women’s bodies and rights. What pisses me off is the notion that my expertise and education garner significantly less pay than my peer colleagues with the same expertise and education, but an X chromosome.

I’ve written about what I think is going on — the huge changes that are afoot — and all the ways in which a cosmic shift is underway.

“It takes courage…to endure the sharp pains of self discovery rather than choose to take the dull pain of unconsciousness that would last the rest of our lives.”Marianne Williamson, A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of “A Course in Miracles”

When women read my work, those on the same wavelength ‘get it.’ They acknowledge my right to have my say. Some like it; some don’t — but if it’s not their worldview, they move along, no worse for the wear.

And lots of men ‘get it’ too.

However, some feel compelled to correct me, to explain why I am wrong. Why things are not changing. Why shifts are not happening. Why I am crying wolf in a big dark wood.

Why? Why must my worldview be wrong in order for theirs to be right? (I am fine with them holding that view; just not with them trying to stamp mine out, like it’s a fire that will spread.)

We all have gifts to bestow.

We all have wisdom to share. I am offering my hard won insight into the human condition.

I don’t speak for you anymore than you speak for me.

The whole point is, perhaps, let’s share what we know. 

Let’s really talk. Let’s hash out our fears, our recriminations, our wounds.

Let’s allow the conversation to take place. Let’s ‘let it rip’ collectively, so we can quit wounding each other and decimating the world around us.

Yes, women are changing the world.

And, yes, there are empathetic, good, cooperative, open-hearted men who are changing it, too.

Women don’t need to sit at the head of the table surrounded by only other women. We simply need to be allowed to pull up a chair and sit with the men who are already there. At the big table. Not the kiddie table. Not the card table in another room.

We have good ideas; we want to share them and work alongside you to implement them.

What if we hold the ideas that change everything? What if women turn out to be the ones you’ve been waiting for?

© 2015  Shavawn M. Berry All rights reserved

Feel free to share this post with others, as long as you include the copyright information and keep the whole posting intact. If you like this piece please share it with others. You can like me on Facebook  or Twitter to see more of my writing and my spiritual journey on my website  at www.shavawnmberry.com.

Losing Our Way; Finding Our Way

Via Tumblr

Via Tumblr

Day 12 – A – Z Challenge

A new beginning is born from a painful ending.

A terrible ending inherently contains a fresh start. Always.

The question is: can you see it?

“It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.” ― E.E. Cummings

Unless you are currently in cryogenic stasis in a lab in the middle of nowhere, you are likely feeling these big waves of change and loss hitting us.

We’re  in the middle of some of the most intense energy shifts we’re likely to experience this lifetime. (The last time this astrological energy was felt on earth was during the tumult and change of the 1960s. Before that, it bubbled up several times, including during the reign of Louis XIV. That should give you an idea of how these aspects might topple a power whose time has passed.) On an individual level, these changes are like little (or large) earthquakes in our personal lives. Everything’s splintering; it’s fracturing us in the places where we’re most worn down, weary. We’re past the point where we can maintain anything whose time has come to go.

And, if we’re honest, it’s all sort of terrifying.

This (humanity, large and in charge; war and strife; inequality; the subjugation of women, animals, nature and all its children) has been our collective story for a long time. Now, we are being forced to watch it dismantled and replaced with a new story, one we aren’t certain of, one we don’t recognize.

“Confront the dark parts of yourself, and work to banish them with illumination and forgiveness. Your willingness to wrestle with your demons will cause your angels to sing.” August Wilson

So, what do we do?

How do we learn to let go and wait here in the dark, wait to see what’s next? How do we allow ourselves to feel the terror of being lost, while at the same time, maintain the hope that light will return?

Have a little faith.

Have faith in your ability to shapeshift.

Have faith that whatever’s coming has been called forth by our collective guardians, our better angels.

Unless you are completely oblivious, you must acknowledge that the world as it is, isn’t working so well (for the vast majority).

A few folks — with all the perks and all the money and no ability to self-reflect — might think things are grand, but they aren’t the ones we should rely on for guidance.

About anything.

They seem to think of themselves as lottery winners, but their wealth and privilege won’t protect them much longer.

It is the common person who will instigate change.

This is bare bones, grassroots, open-hearted change. This is start small, permaculture, food cooperative change. This is sharing and bartering and gifting change.

Money won’t save this world. Good people will.

“Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.”Anaïs Nin

Let’s Get Lost.

Let’s redraw the map together. Let’s find our way out of this dark maze, together. Let’s see what a solution-oriented society builds. Let’s see what innovation and creativity can do. Let’s see what investing in people can do. Let’s see what environmental protection and sustainability and caring for the planet, can do. Let’s simplify and build lives of true purpose, relationship, and service, rather than simply collecting more and more and more stuff while the planet burns.

Let’s dance under the full moon. Let’s open our hearts and see what falls out.

Everywhere, let’s begin something wonderful.

© 2015  Shavawn M. Berry All rights reserved

Feel free to share this post with others, as long as you include the copyright information and keep the whole posting intact. If you like this piece please share it with others. You can like me on Facebook  or Twitter to see more of my writing and my spiritual journey on my website  at www.shavawnmberry.com.

Kindness. Only Kindness Matters.

randomkindness

Via Random Acts of Kindness

Day 11: A – Z Challenge

Kindness is what’s needed. Kindness is a balm.

I spent Saturday at a faculty conference in Flagstaff, Arizona. I’ve been to plenty of these conferences over the years; I thought I knew what I might expect from attending.

I was wrong.

Yesterday I found a community of committed, like-minded, passionate teachers in my home state.

I found a tribe of kind, true friends. We bonded over our shared experiences in the classroom, and over the regrettable tenuousness of our positions in higher education. It’s a battlefield right now. Students are spending more than ever on education and fewer and fewer of those dollars are actually being spent on classroom learning. (I don’t know what is done with them, but we sure don’t see them.)

“My religion is kindness.” — The Dalai Lama

One colleague came down to the table where our panel was (I spoke alongside other colleagues from throughout the state) and stood behind us, in solidarity, validating what we reported to the group as her ‘experience’ too.

At lunch, we round-tabled with teachers from across the state, sharing ideas and experiences, learning more about ‘best practices’ to help us move forward.

After the conference ended, we joined up with three other colleagues from a sister campus and had a boisterous dinner of Texas BBQ in downtown Flagstaff.

Later, as we drove out of town, the city lights faded and I marveled at the hundred million stars stretching out as far as I could see on both sides of the highway.

I thought, “This was a very good day.”

And it was.

kindness

Heart to Heart. One by One.

Most of what’s best about this life comes from connecting, one living being to another.

My heart cannot be changed by words, unless the intention behind those words is pure, kind, open.

I think sometimes we forget that there’s almost nothing better than holding someone’s hand.

My animals don’t have to be taught this. They come to the world as pure love, as a loving-kindness meditation, as a soft reminder: be kind, be true.

391e6597e2b83ee2e81ae8c705e9a4ff

Via Boards of Wisdom

Deliberate Acts of Kindness.

“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” ― Plato

There is so much that is unkind in this world. There is so much that stings and hurts.

However, it costs nothing to be kind.

A kind word. A kind action. A kind deed.

These things can change the whole day, the whole week, the whole world.

Drop by drop by drop —

So, the next time you’re feeling overwhelmed and overburdened and overworked and overdone, send a note of encouragement to someone else.

Take a lovely meal to someone who’s shut in.

Buy a coffee for the person in line behind you.

Fund a Kiva loan so a woman in Kenya can start her own business and pull her family out of poverty.

Write those thank you letters you’ve been meaning to.

Just. Do. It.

I guarantee you’ll feel better if you do.

And the world will be a little less dark, a little less scary, a little less bitter because of you.

© 2015  Shavawn M. Berry All rights reserved

Feel free to share this post with others, as long as you include the copyright information and keep the whole posting intact. If you like this piece please share it with others. You can like me on Facebook  or Twitter to see more of my writing and my spiritual journey on my website  at www.shavawnmberry.com.