Reprinted from Vox Populi…
A published essay…of a soci0-political nature…
Originally posted on Vox Populi:
After reading my recent post on Vox Populi (The End Times? October 5, 2014), an activist-friend asked me to write an essay about single-issue voting. Although I laughingly responded, “I don’t take requests,” upon further reflection, I feel compelled to share this vivid memory of why I believe single-issue voting is a danger to the socio-political fabric of our democracy. So in anticipation of the upcoming below-the-radar mid-term elections, here goes:
I vividly remember the day – no, the minute – I left the Catholic Church forever. I hadn’t planned on it being my last Mass; but, once this happened, I knew it was.
The final straw wasn’t the opulence or the rumored pedophilia. It wasn’t even the misogyny. It was the blatant disregard for the Sermon on the Mount.
My grandmother had been raised in a convent in Poland; my mother said the Rosary daily. I…
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As published on the Vox Populi site this week…
Originally posted on Vox Populi:
It wasn’t the wine that made me ask The Question; it was the conversation over dinner.
Since leaving my hometown close to 40 years ago, I rarely get to see these friends from high school. Yet we seem to be able to pick up right where we left off. Never a lull in the conversation, always a memory or an update to share.
We had just watched a beautiful sunset over Lake Ontario while eating a rather hedonistic dinner. And we talked.
About Ukraine. Israel/Palestine. Cops shooting kids; kids shooting cops. Iraq. Plane crashes. ISIS. Climate change. Afghanistan. Putin. Ebola.
Suddenly The Question popped out of my mouth: Do you think we’re in the End Times?
I’m not even sure I believe in the End Times. At least not in the biblical sense. But I did grow up with a healthy fear of Armageddon, warned by nuns…
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It’s hard not to notice that many in my yoga class are more limber or better balanced than I am. Some can bend at the waist and touch the floor with their palms, their knees only slightly bent. Others can stand on one leg seemingly forever. Not me.
“Don’t look around,” Mana intuitively instructs the class. “This isn’t a competition. Honor your own body and your unique abilities. You’re perfect just as you are. Don’t compare yourself to others.”
Don’t compare myself to others. Easy to say, hard to do in this ego-ravaged world. So the lesson keeps presenting itself to me. Prior to a cranial-sacral session with Mana, I tell her of a friend who is not conscientious about his health habits yet is seemingly healthier than I am. Where he definitely has the edge over me in healthful lifestyle is that he doesn’t worry. And that makes me wonder if my stress and anxiety are canceling out my good health habits.
I tell Mana that I want to be more like him, that I need to change. She immediately responds, “Don’t compare yourself to anyone else. Neither is better than the other. You’re just different.”
I nod, not fully embracing the again-repeated lesson. My blood pressure is high; his isn’t.
She continues, “Self-compassion is important. Otherwise, you can end up feeling guilty for who you are.”
Feeling guilty for who I am. When seen in that light, what a shame, and how debilitating, to carry such guilt around. Of course I could do better. But I don’t need to be like anyone else.
Later that night, I have an unexpected good cry. And then fall into a wonderful night’s sleep. Thanks to the wisdom of my 82 year old yogi.
Leaving my yoga class in the dark last winter, I was hesitant to proceed through the walkway to the parking lot with what looked like a homeless man walking his bicycle in 20 degree weather. I was relieved when a young woman fell in step behind me.
We were headed toward two sets of stairs, and the man continued to walk his bike toward them. When we reached the bottom of the first set, he hesitated.
“Do you want me to help you carry your bike up the stairs?” I asked.
He ignored me while easily picking up his bike and ascending the stairs. I felt embarrassed, mostly because the young woman was witness to my naïve offer that he blew off.
We climbed the stairs in silence, side by side. “That’s a lot of stairs,” I mumbled audibly to myself, primarily for self-redemption and justification.
When we reached the top of the stairs, he put his bike down and turned toward me. “Would you really have helped me?” he asked.
“Yes,” I responded. “I just got out of yoga class, and I’m feeling nice.”
What a stupid answer – no wonder he ignored that too! Feeling “nice?” Does that equate with taking pity? Does it suggest I’m not typically “nice?” Does it accentuate my bourgeois life style (attending yoga) versus his poverty (riding a bike over ice-lined streets)?
I headed toward my car; he just seemed to vanish. But he lingers in my consciousness as a lesson yet to be examined.
The following week, I read this story to my yoga class. Mana followed up with a phone call to say that the word for how I felt after yoga wasn’t “nice;” it was “spacious.” She told me I was feeling larger than myself after yoga, willing and able to give to another. I felt open, and that felt “nice.” She pointed out that my self-recrimination was undeserved; rather than focusing on my generous offer, I had criticized myself for the words I chose.
“You set something in motion,” she said. “That bicyclist had to process that someone offered to help him. And that someone was you! Feel good about that!”
Now that Mana is gone, I will have to listen harder for that voice of loving kindness. But I’ll still hear it.