Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Shameless: Festival of the Phoenix

Last saturday I had planned to have a day of meditation to end my focused week of Standing with Standing Rock. I didnt, and I almost feel bad about that, except I did it at the start of the week instead.

It's interesting, when you just make up your own new holiday season, you chart this little road map, and fill in the details as you go. So far, each week has been just what I needed, perhaps that's because I left it all pretty vaugue.

Any way, this week is shameless week. And I'm really late to write my introductory  blog about it. Yet another time I feel like I should probably shame myself for that. :(

But this week, named after a song by Tyler Glenn, is actually meant to be in the vein of shame resilience a la  Brene  Brown school of thought. For a shame resilient week, I'm sure struggling with beating myself up for dumb things that don't matter.

I was hoping to find a post that Elizabeth Gilbert  shared a few years back. That post changed my life, and lead me down  the road to Brene Brown. I learned from Brene we all feel shame, unless you are a sociopath, but there are some good tricks to counter it, and not get stuck in it.

I think this time of year can be heavy with shame of all sorts, for all the things we should do and feel, but dont.

At some point, we have to realize that we cannot and should not do everything, and that how you feel is valid and normal. A lot of people are struggling with everything you are too. It's ok.

The best gift you can give to the world is to be you, and sometimes to be you, you need to give yourself a break and some down time. Especially this time of the year. So please, skip a few things on your calendar  and take some early nights as needed.

Remember  you are loved, and love is the most important gift, and sometimes, you have to show yourself  some love and kindness first, before you can dole it out to others.

Happy Holidays,

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Finding Mandi- Festival of The Phoenix

"Now is the time when I let go of of my fears, inhibitions, sense of dread.  When I give up control and I  let you hold me with no resistance in my soul. This is the day when I throw it all away into the fire of the All Loving One. Now I have just what I need to be free, to feel who I really Am. Here is the place where I fall into grace and release into the sweetness of your love.  I surrender, I remember the Light and the Beauty that I am." - This is the Day, Jaya Lakshmi & Ananda

  The week of the Divine Self has come and gone, and its been a powerful week. I ended it last night with a Kirtan on Vashon Island.  I heard the above song, and felt it was the perfect words to describe my life's journey thus far, the way I have learned to love and embrace me. 

  The week started equally powerfully, as Monday I watched the latest episode of Supergirl, and saw in the story of Agent Alex Danvers, Supergirl's human sister, So much of my own story, in figuring out who I am, and what it means to be me. This weeks episode, Alex came out to her sister, and it was as real and scary as it was when I came out, all the times.  I saw there on the TV the ghost of my past, a 30 something woman facing down and owning a piece of her self she'd tried so hard to avoid for so long.

"I do know how it feels, to keep a part of yourself shut off, to keep it inside, and I know how lonely that can make you feel, but Alex, you are not alone."

  This week was about recognizing the wonderful bits within, the neglected parts of your self that make you beautiful and allow you to shine. In my life, just like Alex, I used to strive to be perfect, and I used to feel like a failure in dating, because it never worked for me. And then something changed, slowly over time that little piece of me that I had forced to remain in a silent dark place was finally given oxygen and the light of day.  The moment I allowed my heart to start to feel and truly  love, without fear, without shutting it off. 

 Those small, huge moments when the divine reached me and said "you are not broken, go be you, go love you, and go love who you love. Quite trying to fit in, to be perfect, to be someone you are not."  Those were the moments that changed my life, and made me whole.

 In the past weeks there has been a large rise in hate crimes, there has been a palpable fear of what the future will bring for LGBT people, and other minorities, for a good reason. and as I have waded through these times I have thought,  what shall I do for self preservation, Shall I go back into hiding who I am and who I love?  Lets be honest, its never been safe to be LGBT, its never been safe to be black, its never been safe to be a Muslim in America. For LGBT people this is why we had to come out in the first place, its nothing anyone WANTED to do, its something we had to do, because our very existence has often been a defiance of the culture and peoples we live among. But it has been a little safer, and kinder, and that was very nice to have. I still dream one day we will not have to come out, I dream one day I can walk down the street holding the hand of the person I love and not think for a moment if we are safe.  

 But, looking back on where I have come from, and who I have been able to become as soon as I became true to myself, I will not go back to that dark place, no matter the threat. I can only continue becoming more freely and openly me, because I have a light to shine for the world, I have something to give, I have important things to offer, and I can only offer them as my true full self. 

 I can give you a list of celebrities I deeply love, and I will :  Ellen DeGeneres, Megan Rapinoe, and Kate McKinnon... among others.  But particularly I love these three. They give me great courage on days that I have none, because they are themselves, they do not hide, they face adversity and people that wish to shut them up, and they keep just being themselves, JOYFULLY.  And I feel inspired to do the same when I see them doing this, when I see them standing up for others, when I see them not hiding who they are.   

And so, I know, whatever happens in coming days, whenever I get scared and want to do the same, I must find courage, and I must continue to be me and not hide, and hopefully that will give others the same hope, the same courage, that one day we can live in a world that is loving and kind enough to stand up for their neighbour when they are being harassed, pushed around and bullied, that one day we can live in a world where we all own our part in the  systems that oppress and other those who may be different and do not cower and slink away from discomfort.  A day when we stop minimizing ourselves for those who may disapprove of our existence. 

To anyone out there, feeling alone and scared, Just know you are not alone. Just know there always will be people willing to have your back. Just know you are worthy of love, you are worth existing, and thriving.      When your Midnight  comes, know that dawn is not distant.  Even in the darkest of times, there is light, there is joy, there is internal peace.  

 Its the little things that bring me the greatest joy, love and hope. Its all those little things, that will make all the difference for us all.            

  "Here is the place where I fall into grace and release into the sweetness of your love.  I surrender, I remember the Light and the Beauty that I am."

This coming week is Standing with Standing Rock  in the festival of the Phoenix. I have chosen this particularly because there are a lot of really bad things in our history that we overlook when it comes to how the Native, first peoples of this land are and were treated. Thanksgiving  shouldn't just be about gratitude for what we have, it should be about protecting what we have, and doing better than our ancestors in how we treat others. Tribalism in this country is alive and well, and if someone isn't a part of our tribe we all easily overlook  the horrendous things we inflict upon those "others"  I hope that we will be wiser, Those people are not just fighting for their clean drinking water, or their sacred grounds, and allowing those things to be tress passed against will only hurt us all in the end.  Please, as you eat your thanksgiving dinner this week, be mindful of the history of how white settlers treated native populations, be mindful of how we have treated this land, abusing it with ingratitude, taking it for granted. WE can do better, and we must.  Beyond that my words and experiences are insufficient  for what this week is. 

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Festival of The Phoenix:The Week of the Broken Shelf, The Week of the Divine Self

 Another week of the Festival of the Phoenix has come to an end. When I named these weeks, I was thinking mostly about my journey after the policy last year. I had no idea how this was all going to go down and how fitting the titles would be for the country and not just for me and a few of my friends who know what a broken shelf is.

 Wednesday I had named New Ash Wednesday.  Fitting post election day, as it was a day for looking at the ashes and destruction around you, and finding hope that we can rise again from the ashes, renewed and strengthened.

So what is a broken shelf?
A shelf  is a metaphorical place you put things you are uncomfortable with, you can't find answers to, or that are problems you just don't know how or don't want to face and deal with. A shelf breaks when the weight of the things upon it an no longer be ignored.   My religious shelf broke last year after the policy was leaked. It was the thing that made me face all the questions of my religion and spirituality that I had avoided all my life. It was followed by deep soul searching, questioning, looking for answers, and becoming comfortable with not knowing them all, going forward in life still searching and looking with a moral compass guiding me through the unknown.

 Americas shelf broke after the election this week.  Any time a shelf breaks things are messy and hard and there is tension, and its overwhelming and confusing, and often times frightening. But, it is often the beginning of a journey to a better place. First though, one must wade through the wreckage, and decide how to rebuild and move forward. As a nation, our shelf has definitely broken,  and the wreckage is still being evaluated. We have problems we can no longer ignore. Questions we have to ask ourselves about our identity.

 The shelf is broken, its not going to hold those problems any more. We have reached a point we have to deal with them, we cannot just continue to ignore them and hope they will go away.    Until we can do that we will continue to have a very big destructive mess.  There are some things I'm not sure we can fix, so this isn't going to be easy. But step 1 is acknowledging the problems and the broken shelf we can no longer put them on.   And that is what all the protests, hate crimes, and hoopla have been about this week- we have problems, we have no shelf to put them on.   Now we need Ideas, and empathy, and hearing each other, but we also still can't expect that in doing that the other side is just going to go back to being a problem on our shelf. The shelf is no more.

 And so we begin the second week of the Phoenix Festival.  Following the week of the Broken Shelf is the week of The Divine Self.  This week is about looking within ourselves, finding faith, hope, healing, finding the goodness inside and bringing that goodness to the world. It is about love and kindness, to you and your imperfections and then sharing that same kindness with the world.

 often, people that are very hard and judgmental of themselves are also very hard and judgmental of everyone else. If we are to listen, have empathy, rebuild, end the destruction, we must be kind to ourselves. we must also recognize our potential to do and be more than what we have been and what we have become. Then we must strive toward that divinity, toward the most universal human principle in spirituality- love one another.  You cannot love another more than you love your self, so after this really difficult week we have all been through,  lets take this week, lets center, lets breathe, lets do some self care, some community care, lets be kind, we all have the seed of divinity within us, even your enemies.      

"Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you " but also don't be a door step, your voice and your piece of our problem wont go just go away either so we need to hash this out.    lets show each other some kindness, lets treat each other as we wish to be treated, and lets treat ourselves as we wish someone would treat those in our lives we love most, and lets see what we can do to take care of each other.  And please please do not be dismissive of peoples fears. I promise you some of us have real threats to our ability to live, love, work and safely exist in the results of this election, and telling us we are making it up, doesn't make us feel any safer or better about how easy to ignore our safety and our lives often are. Your economic issues and your other worries and fears shouldn't be dismissed either. Right now our shelf is broken and everything is clearly not ok. its ok to say its not ok, Its ok to protest and make your voice heard. We can't keep pretending it is ok, but we can hope that eventually it will be ok. For reals. not pretendsies.

 May we all rise from the ashes of our lives more beautiful, strong, and wise than ever before. 

Saturday, November 5, 2016

The Festival of the Phoenix and The Burning of the Fifth

   Remember, remember the 5th of November.

That was a phrase that once reminded me it was Guy Fawkes day.  I don't come from a country that actually observes that, but I made my own observances since my brother told me about his experiences in New Zealand and after I saw V for Vendetta back in 2006.  Mostly, I just like bonfires and it sounded like fun.

Last year that all changed, and the Fifth of November became a day burned into my memory, and never again as Guy Fawkes day. For the past year its been Policy day. One year since the LDS church policy about same sex married couples, and children tied to these families was released. It was a day that rather symbolically burned my world to the ground, as well as that of many thousands of others.  I'm not here to rehash or relive that experience. Its  been a year of pain, and joy and growth. Its also been a year where some people died because of that.

 So as my calendar approached the 5th of November and the beginning of the Holiday season, I felt a deep dilemma arise within me. This day was going to come, no matter what I did.  It was significant, so I would need to mark it, to remember and observe it in some way.  I could no longer call it Guy Fawkes day, I could no longer celebrate that tradition.  I also didn't want to spend the rest of my life stuck in the pain of calling it "Policy day"  I wanted to find my own word for it, something that would reflect the joy of my journey, the pain of losing a piece of me and my community and culture, but the growth and gain moving forward, but also remember those that were harmed, and those that died, respectfully.  I could not come up with anything. so I reached out to friends. Some genius friend of mine  said  to call it Phoenix day, and it stuck.

 And then this concept of a Phoenix, burning,  dying  in a pile of ash, then growing from that rubble and rising again a new, whole and amazingly beautiful creature flashed into my head. This was not something for one day, this is a journey, and deserves a season.

 I also thought of last holiday season, how shattered and empty and no longer mine it was. All the old traditions I tried to observe felt hollow and distant, and someone elses.  I came up with the Christmas Socks last year trying to fill that void. You can't  just leave times like that empty.  So I decided, since the Christmas Socks last year helped me feel better about the Christmas season than I had even in years, maybe owning the whole season, not just a sock drive or the 5th of November, creating my own new traditions that meet my needs, that was a good way to find healing for this whole time of year.

And with that the Festival of the Phoenix was born.  Beginning on Nov. 5th with  The Burning of the Fifth, and going all the way to January 5th and The Day of the Rising of the Phoenix, I have calendared my own new holiday season, mixing in things like Christmas and Thanksgiving, but in ways that remain relevant and personally meaningful to me, and anyone wishing to join me in celebrating this season, in recognizing the beauty of the human journey, of our resilience in the face of having  everything in our lives seemingly burned to the ground yet rising above it again to live our lives fully and beautifully as creatures renewed.

 Tomorrow is the Burning of the Fifth, the first day of the Festival of the Phoenix.  There will be bonfires, to remind us of what was lost, what was destroyed, what became a pile of ash.  On the sixth there will be a day of remembrance for those that were lost.  And then as the months proceed there will be weeks I have designated for healing, for searching, and for showing love to human kind. When January fifth comes, I will rise and  go forward to a new year, and a new journey remembering the joy of becoming, the results of painful growing.        

Tomorrow, may November the Fifth  burn in your heart.  To my Queer Mormon community and affected allies, may you remember the pain, and retain hope, from the ashes will spring forth a new life.