At the heart of my work is the belief that the stories we tell, about ourselves and about others, matter. They carry weight, and they have real world consequences.
As Trump pulls out of the Paris Agreement, what we see is one story competing, with enormous globe-changing consequences, with another story.
Trump tells a story about America First. He tells a story in which there are winners and losers, a story in which it is possible to roll back the clock to the past, a story in which “success” is measured by accumulating physical things and by economic gain.
But nothing more clearly shows the limit of that story than the global, environmental facts that now face us. These facts tell a different story:
They tell the story of a global reality in which we are all in this together, in which we are inter-dependent and one community’s or one nation’s wellbeing cannot be isolated. They tell a story in which the future is already upon us, in which the icecaps are already melting and in which our own human consciousness is already waking up to the global realities. Similarly, these facts tell a story in which success can no longer be tied to extractive practices of more and more physical things, because we live in a world with finite physical resources.
This second story offers us a new way to measure success: not in hoarding more things for a few, but in recognizing the inherent value of all life and the ways in which we all depend on one another, the very large and the very small, down to the bees and plankton, without which we could not survive.
This moment is a challenge to us all: to take charge of the narrative.
After all, we live by narrative. Narrative arranges how we make sense of our lives and how we organize our days and our societies.
In some indigenous communities in the amazon, for example, it was and still is considered heroic to give everything away and to share with others. Some communities structure their lives around a story of God. Some around stories of seasonal change.
In all our actions and in all our lives, we are living within narratives that have as their center certain assumptions about what matters and how we shape our lives.
I have seen in my work with clients and in the field of narrative medicine that if we don’t listen to and tell aligned stories about ourselves, we may get sick and not be able to heal.
The same is true of the stories we tell about the earth: if we don’t tell the correct story about it, we will all be in trouble.
We each have the power to tell the story that we believe in, the story that rings true for us. And we each have the power to find the places—on the state level, the city level, the local level, in our homes and in our hearts—where that story resonates and can find traction.
After all, stories are amazingly dynamic and democratic; though an authority figure may try to control them, stories can’t be controlled from the top down. We each have power over our own story.
And each of our own stories involves our relationship to the earth and to one another. So when we do this work of coming into our own truth, we do it not only for ourselves, but also for our collective narrative, for our values, and for the earth.
In these weeks and months and years ahead, it is all the more important that we come into our power to speak our truth and bring about real narrative shifts. Because action follows narrative.
As always, please reach out to me with your thoughts, questions, observations!
And check out my upcoming programs. On Friday June 16th, I’ll be leading a three hour workshop at Grub Street “Writing With Courage” where we’ll look at strategies authors use to speak their truth, often despite pressures to do otherwise, and where you’ll have the opportunity to strengthen your own courage and voice as a writer.
And if you’d like a deeply nourishing weekend of yoga, writing and meditation, please consider joining me at the Copper Beech Institute for a full weekend retreat August 18-20.
On this difficult morning after the election, I want to reach out and send love.
I know many of us feel fear, grief, anger, disbelief.
I have felt very scared by the prospect of a Trump presidency—the kind of shaking in my bones fear of violence, mob rule, the overthrow of our civil society and the hard won progress we have made for minorities, women, the environment.
At the same time, this morning, I’m also flooded with a kind of love and clarity; the certainty that, to use Auden’s words from his poem September 1, 1939, “we must love one another.”
In the face of violence and hatred, we must show more love to our neighbors, to our families, to ourselves.
Now, when we are shaken, but when we are not necessarily in immediate danger, is the perfect time to practice love: we can remember to come into the now, to breathe, to look at this day that here in Cambridge is another perfect fall day. Find something beautiful and admire it. Appreciate a friend. Appreciate yourself; appreciate your body that can support you in this moment.
To appreciate these things is not spiritual avoidance. Instead it is spiritual nourishment; we are made stronger by connecting with the positive, because, after all, that is what we want to protect.
And we will need this nourishment: one thing that is clear about this election is that there is much work to do: We will need to come together in love and solidarity. We will need to raise our voices for what we believe in. We will need to come out of our own comfort zones and be the change we want to see in the world.
And we will need stamina to do this.
So I hope we can all give ourselves some time today and this week to connect with loved ones, to take breaks from the media and do some things that we love. I hope we can also give ourselves the freedom to feel our fear and anger and sadness and meet those feelings with gentleness. And as we’re doing this, we can commit to becoming more involved in the next weeks and months and years.
I’m going to be holding a pop-up meditation and writing workshop in the next weeks to respond to the election and to look together for what communal actions we can take.
For now, though, I want to send love. Because this is what I feel I need to receive at this moment. And I am sending these reminders that we can practice because I, too, need reminders; we can all send reminders to one another and be our beacons and supports.
This feels like a perfect time to practice metta. Metta is a prayer for protection happiness and ease, and I’ve added a prayer for radiance and expression. Metta starts with offering these conditions for oneself and then to one’s loved ones and gradually extends to the whole world. (Here, again is my metta meditation and accompanying writing prompts: http://www.nadiacolburn.com/welcome-and-meditation.html)
May we all be protected and safe
May we all be contented and pleased.
May all our physical bodies protect us with ease.
May all our lives unfold smoothly with ease.
May we all shine our lights, unobstructed, with ease.
with love and solidarity,
With a week to go before official election day, I've been doing what I can to remain active (I went to New Hampshire again this past weekend) and also trying to step back a bit and see the larger picture of what's happening.
I know many of us feel scared, angered and even overwhelmed by this election season. And very ready for it to be over.
It's really important to take breaks from the news and to do things we love, remembering all the very decent and very normal ways we can interact with one another.
And it's also important to continue to trust in and raise our voices for what we know is right.
So much of the work I do with clients and students, helping them trust and cultivate their voices, is work that I also try to do myself. My own journey has been one of integrating my own voice and vision, becoming clearer, more direct, more willing to put myself out there and more able, as a result (at least I hope), to be of service to others.
I want to share with you an article I wrote recently that ties together the abuse of women and the abuse of our earth. I argue that a mentality of ownership is a dangerous one and it's time that we put it behind us. Trump's run for presidency highlights the ways in which this dangerous mentality works. And while Clinton may (with any luck at all) be our first woman president, it's up to all of us to keep working for the future we want, by raising our voices for a future of respect instead of ownership, a future in which we'll stop building pipelines and keep fossil fuels in the ground.
I'd be honored if you read the article (I've pasted a link in below and also the article below that)
And please share my article and my course information with anyone you think may be interested.
with thanks, love and hope,
Read the original article here
FROM ABUSE TO RESPECT: RASING OUR VOICES THIS ELECTION
I work as a writing coach for women; whether my client is a beginner or a respected published writer, at a certain point she’ll come against a block.“What is this block,” I ask, and inevitably my client follows it back to a voice telling her that her ideas don’t really matter. “Where does that dismissive voice come from?” I ask, and the writer gets a far off look on her face. It comes from so many old sources that she stops writing, overwhelmed.
Trump’s campaign showcases some of these sources and the ways women have been treated for centuries. And it showcases not just a mentality about women, but also a mentality about money, power, our human relationships and our fundamental place on this Earth.
Trump’s campaign slogan, Make American Great Again, clearly looks back to the past. This was a past in which the dominant narrative was one of men, power and money—that is, men with power and money got to have a voice and tell the story. And if that is still sometimes (too often) the case today, there is also a new narrative that has been emerging that questions, resists and re-writes the old narrative and instead gives everyone a voice and gives everyone respect.
Trump is the candidate of the old narrative: we should vote for him because he’s a white man who is “really rich.” He’s built luxury buildings, top end hotels, golf clubs and resorts. It’s a campaign about power. And he makes it clear, too, that he thinks he can do whatever he wants with that power.
We’ve all heard him brag to Billy Bush about sexually assaulting women: “When you’re a star they let you do it….Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything.” Trump felt entitled to go into the dressing rooms when women were changing because he was the “owner of the pageant.”
Karena Virginia, the 13th woman to come forward accusing Trump of sexual assault put it simply: he treated me, she said, “as if I were an object.”
What Trump is doing in this election is putting on display a dangerous and outdated idea about ownership, and it’s worth paying even more attention to this because it affects not just women, but all of us. Indeed, this idea of ownership might just end our civilization if we don’t come together and do something about it. Simply put, we can no longer afford to treat other people like objects. And we can no longer afford to treat the earth as an object to be owned and endlessly to be extracted for our own enrichment.
Indeed, if Trump showcases the way of the past, climate change more than any other issue showcases what the future demands: that we treat the earth with respect; that we come together and not build walls; and that we collectively combat the urgent crisis of climate change and environmental devastation.
Once again, however, Trump is in the past: he professes not to believe in climate change; he wants more fracking, more coal production. And he wants to appoint a major climate change denier, Myron Ebell, who is in the pay of big oil companies, to head the EPA.
Asked about the environment, Trump said: “We’ll be fine with the environment. We can leave a little bit, but you can’t destroy businesses.”But business won’t survive without an ecosystem that supports life. We can’t just leave a little bit of the environment. We’ve already done that. A new study shows that the world is set to lose two-thirds of its wild animals by 2020.
20 years ago in China, Hillary Clinton bravely said, Women’s Rights are Human Rights. I think it’s time for us all now to say that Women’s Rights are Human Rights, and Human Rights are Earth Rights.
So how do we as women find our voices? First we must break down the centuries of ownership and the internalization of that history. That’s not easy, but more and more people are doing it. After my clients get over that far away look, they get a different look: they’re ready to dissolve internal and external walls of disrespect, and have their voices heard and work to approach the world differently.
And when that happens, we unleash an amazing other kind of power: not the power of money but the power of respect and belonging and truth and determination to speak up for what we know is right. As more and more women share their stories, we are also sharing a larger story about what it means to be human, and what it means to be member of this planet, the only planet that can support life.
This next week, I’m using my voice to talk with voters in swing states to make sure that we put candidates into office who act with respect for humans and for the Earth, who don’t think that money is an entitlement to to do whatever one wants.
I’m raising my voice to support the Sioux and their allies at Standing Rock who are doing the brave and necessary work for all of our future, trying to stop yet more degradation of our water, our land and our home.
I’m committing to continuing to work with urgency after the election to reduce our abuse of the planet and to stop our addiction to fossil fuel power.
And I’m continuing to help women find their voices. Because as more and more women, and more and more men, find their authentic voices, rooted in claiming our individual stories, and questioning much of what we’ve inherited from the past, more and more of us will come to a place not of ownership with respect for one another and for the Earth itself.
Here are a few things we can all do:
1) Consider trusting your voice as a form of activism.
2) Use your voices for what you believe in.
3) Get engaged in the political system.
4) Help save our environment and address climate change in every way you can—with your actions and with your voice, so that we as a society can take collective action.
5) Advocate for working together so that we can come into the future that we need and move away from a divisive, disrespectful past.
6) Take small steps. No one is going to make radical change alone. Everything we do, even if it’s a small gesture, matters.
7) Occasionally challenge yourself to go outside of your comfort zone, wherever that is, and do something on a bigger scale.
8) Share your story and your beliefs and encourage others to do the same.
It's another beautiful day in Cambridge. I woke early and meditated and did a home yoga practice.
Later, I looked at the news: In the wake of more shootings of unarmed black men, and a Presidential candidate—Trump— who says in response that "maybe" officers who "choke" in their job (i.e. murder people) should be doing something else, I've been thinking again about violence, our responses to violence, and about how important it is to stay centered, whole and engaged and working towards positive change.
This past weekend I went to New Hampshire to canvass for Hillary Clinton.
It was a good experience and eye opening.
We were supposed to be talking to Hillary supporters, but most of the people we talked to turned out to be undecided. They wanted change, and Trump, for that reason, seemed appealing.
It was a beautiful day like today: a blue sky and still quite warm for September. Many of the people we talked to were quite friendly. They were self respecting people who were happy to talk. They had their own opinions. They cared about their families, their neighbors. They wanted to live a good life. In many ways, it was a pleasant day.
But when I got home, I was exhausted.
I was tired not only because I had been on my feet for much of the day, but also because I was emotionally tired. I’ve seen images of the Trump rallies and know what violence and hatred Trump is unleashing. I’ve seen the way he manipulates the media with lies. I’ve heard his hate, and have read his platform, whose policies would make the world a more dangerous, unequal, environmentally devastated place.
I’m scared of what a Trump presidency would look like and what Trump would enable both home and abroad.
I also felt sad, because I know that good people can do bad things, and it seemed sad that from so much that is positive, we can create so much negativity.
But I also know that a good system can bring out the best in people, so while I came home feeling tired, I also committed to doing more and asking my friends to do more in these next few weeks.It really is up to us to take responsibility for the direction we want to see our country go and the message we want to send both at home and abroad, and this is such a pivotal moment!
That said, I also came home wondering both how I can step up my own engagement in the next eight weeks and how doing what I'm already doing can make a difference and be worthwhile in a world potentially on the brink of yet more violence and hatred and divisiveness.
I found myself asking the question that I've often asked: what is an appropriate response? What is enough? Am I living in sync with the requirements and challenges of our contemporary world? Am I doing the right work?
I've felt these questions acutely a few times before in times of big potential change (elections, the run up to the war, when global environmental decisions are about to be made).
But if I'm honest, to some extent I live with that question all the time: we know that there is the threat of violence all the time; we know that there is violence and injustice all the time; that dozens of species are going extinct every single day.
In the face of this, what can we do?
I sometimes worry that when I talk about these things, I'm just being a downer, farther depressing people who are already stressed out. And I don't want to play that role. I want to be a force of positivity and healing in the world. But deep down I also believe that our positivity and healing, for it to be real and effective, cannot come from denial, from turning away. Instead it comes from looking with wide open eyes at our whole world. True transformation comes from a state of awareness; from being able to find and act from our own balanced center even in that state of awareness and to choose to be open to sorrow and happiness, anger and wonder.
Finding a strong center and voice in a state of awareness is what I hope to do through my writing and spiritual practices, and it is what I help my students and clients do in their writing, their practices and their lives.
We need to learn to quiet, to calm down, to come out of a state of horror, to find our centers and our voices.
This is a life-long practice. It's never finished, and life will continue to throw curves so that it's a practice we need to return to again and again.
But when we do not do this, when we don't know how to come into a state of quiet or center, and when we suppress our voices, we lose ourselves.
And yet, these essential tools are ones that almost none of us have been taught. So perhaps it is no surprise that the world is so often out of balance, that voters can't really quite see what is in front of their own eyes, that messages of fear lead to acts of violence.
When I reflect in this way, it seems to me that the work I do, helping others stay find their own path to say centered and to speak from their true selves and visions is necessary work. It might not change the world overnight, but if each of us can be the change we want to see in the world, we will have a better world.
And while none of us alone can change the world, each of us can work to make ourselves as whole as possible, and give voice to our unique vision with conviction and clarity and even joy.
Please reach out to me if you'd like to get more engaged and want some guidance about how to do that. I'm happy to try to hook people up with volunteer opportunities, share my experiences, etc.
And please, also, reach out to me if you have other ideas about how to stay engaged and what else I can be doing--I think it's so important to build community and to work together.
After the Republican and Democratic conventions, which took a lot of airspace, I’m finding my thoughts about them are settling; it’s been a time for me to think about on my own political engagement, fears and hopes. I hope you enjoy some of my reflections about these topics below.
(notice that I'm not infecting this blog space with an image of the other presidential nominee)
Fight, Flight and Mindfulness in this Election Season
Nine years ago, at the start of the Obama/McCain election, Eric and I began the process of filing for permanent residency in Canada. After almost eight years of a Bush presidency, we wanted another option if McCain came into office. We’d been active in our demonstrations against the Iraq war; we were convinced that declaring an “axis of evil” was not a path to peace, but instead a path to more violence; we worried about a possible war with Iran; and we didn’t want to raise our children in a country at war. In the election season we spent many weekends in New Hampshire campaigning for Obama. The week Obama was elected president, our permanent residency papers arrived.
Now eight years later, our permanent residency has run out. Because we didn’t use it, we lost it. Today, I’m starting to hear people talk about moving if Trump becomes president. I can understand the sentiment, but eight years later, I’m in a different place in my life. And our kids are at a different place in theirs.
When I said offhandedly it’s too bad we let our permanent residency run out, Gabriel, our sixteen year old, looked at me askance: you can’t walk away, he said, you need to stay to support and defend what you believe in.
I was proud of him for his quick response to my offhand remark--proud of his sense of home, of belonging, of responsibility.
This fall, I’m going to be going to New Hampshire again to canvass for the democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, and I plan to do everything I can to keep Trump out of power.
But that’s not really what I want to write about here—though I do urge and encourage everyone reading this to step up this election season and do what you can to keep Trump out of power for peace at home and abroad; for the environment; for race issues; for the supreme court and for so many other reasons.
What I really want to reflect on is my own fight or flight instinct, and the alternative that mindfulness has taught me.
Eight years ago, I understood both fight and flight. I understood that there is a time for each and value in each. That is true. But somehow those alternatives were in a state of high duality, and very charged.
Mindfulness taught me not only to look outward to the danger, and to possible actions, but also to look inward to my mental and emotional responses to danger. And in doing so I realized that while I can stand up for what I believe in strongly and fight for my values, and while I can also flee or move to look for a better way of life and for new opportunities, I can also cultivate my own capacity for acceptance and for internal peace, whatever the external circumstances.
I don’t mean to suggest that I have arrived at a state of constant inner peace. Far from it. But I do believe that in looking for internal peace and equanimity and a sense of safety in our own lives, we must start with ourselves: fighting and fleeing is not going to be enough to feel at peace. And I also believe that finding peace and safety in our own lives will help create peace and safety in the world.
Sitting with my fight or flight reactions—my strong desire to stand up for peace and what I believe in; my strong desire to protect my children and myself—I realized that I am never only responding to the present moment. I am also responding to the times I felt scared and paralyzed as a child. I am responding to generations of anti-semitism, the fear of pogroms and repression, that my ancestors lived under. And I am responding to hundreds of years, thousands of years, of culture and responses and reactions.
But when I meditate, or just simply remember to come back to my breath, I cultivate a larger perspective. I can zoom way out and see the countless tragedies of history: the wars and injustices, the disasters that were not, despite people’s very best efforts, averted. Long before I was born, innocent children were needlessly killed and nothing I can do now can change that. And the world went on. Other children were born and smiled and laughed and experienced very great joy and accomplished beautiful things and loved well and fiercely and made the world a better place. And some of those children had children who died innocently. And some did not. This happened in the past. And it happens now in the present. And will happen, too, in the future.
For me, being mindful is coming into acceptance; it is coming into the present moment just as it is, and it is being here, now, with all the world’s largeness and smallness at once.
In this election, I will do what I can to spread love and understanding and to resist hate and violence. I will work for Hillary and continue to support a progressive agenda and vision of greater equality, greater sustainability. And I will try at the same time to cultivate peace and appreciation for the moments that we do have, for the chance to act in accordance with our beliefs—to work for change, though we never know what the future holds.
I know that there will be times of fighting and of fleeing again in my life—on the large or small scale. But I also believe that even as we fight and even as we flee looking for a better life, we can still hold some equanimity and stillness within us—or some memory of what it is like to know deep peace and know others who have known deep peace. This deep peace and belief in peacefulness can be another legacy that we carry within us, wherever we go, and whatever the future may hold.