The Chakras and Lent – Week 3

I am late this week in writing this blog. I am having a difficult time moving past the sacral chakra on an emotional level. I do feel like I have moved along habit wise. Nothing can be forced with these types of things, so this week I will write about how I feel with both the emotion and leaving the habit behind while I describe the next chakra to keep on track with the weeks of lent. 

Last week I described some qualities of the Svadhisthana chakra and ways in which it can be blocked. It is related to the water element. When open, it is easy to go with the flow and surrender to your true feelings. It is equated with sexuality, creativity, power of choice, and a sense of belonging and relation with others. I likened it to the second level of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

I am stuck here emotionally with all but the creativity aspect. For the past few weeks each morning and evening I sat to meditate. At first it was lovely. I quieted my mind quite easily. I envisioned a healthier life without alcohol in it. I saw myself never missing it and having control over my emotions. Then around the time my husband told me he doesn’t want to live with me any time soon and later he’d like to file for legal separation, I was unable to quiet my mind easily. Almost impossibly.

Since then I sit for a few minutes and cry. I do a round of mantra with my mala beads and try to stick with keeping focus on the mantra. But the term citta vritti from the Yoga Sutras comes to mind. I have thoughts that are cluttering. Static. It’s very difficult to get them to stop. Like waves during a storm. If you wait it out long enough the storm will pass and the water will be calm again. The only thing is I’m not waiting. I’m getting frustrated and getting up and moving about my day or reading to fall asleep. My days are full of work, exercise, eating extraordinarily well, and doing creative things. I’m drawing, knitting, and writing more than ever. Some emotion comes out through those, but the mind is not calm.

This morning while attempting to meditate but allowing thought to rise to the surface I was thinking about how I was putting off this blog. It occurred to me that I’m stuck in the qualities of last week’s chakra when it is blocked. I’m not taking my own advice by doing hip openers or anything that would help this. Then I thought of Maslow’s hierarchy and how relation with others and sense of belonging is an innate human need at lower levels of growth. I can’t move past my husband shifting so quickly from what he said daily was the happiest he has ever been to where we are now, and then my mind – my subconscious mind throws in images from my childhood where I felt my mother should have been protecting me during some of my darkest hours, but instead she sided with my father to keep peace. That is why I cry. I feel alone. I don’t feel like I’ve ever gotten the help I need in any serious way and no one anywhere has noticed or encouraged me to go get serious help. I’m missing that human connection and relation that I’m loved no matter what. I have no sense of belonging to anyone. I feel disposable. I know I would never let my children feel like they did something that was unforgivable. Love knows everything is forgiven. My parents did not give that to me.

Day 24 here. 27 days is the longest I have ever gone since 2018 within the past 11 years. I do have hope. I know that I will never drink again. But I have hope alone. Family and friends are helpful, but they have their own lives. There is no one in my life dedicated to me and helping me recover. I so desperately want to hug someone and to be hugged. During COVID at AA meetings and other rare places where I see humans it’s not something we do anymore. The sense of doing something do difficult alone and without solid human connection is a dam that is stopping the proverbial water from flowing freely. 

I do cry as I write this. This is the conclusion I came to while meditating this morning, that my sacral chakra is emotionally blocked. For lack of better words – I prayed to my higher power, in my case I asked the part of me (Atman) that is connected to the universal conscious how to handle this. I know the answers are always there when we look for them. I know I’m not really alone. 

Starting with the very next meditation, I am going to sit longer until the storm calms and the water stills where my mind stills. In the meanwhile while the storm surges I am going to use one of my favorite Louisa May Alcott quotes “I am not afraid of storms for I am learning how to sail my ship”. I’m going to focus on how I’m not all alone and all I need is within. 

Meanwhile I continued to move along in breaking the habit to drink. It did not get stuck with my emotions. I have a fire within me to kick the drink and to be awake and aware of anxiety when PTSD comes creeping around. Fire! So let’s talk about the solar plexis and the Manipura chakra.

The Manipura chakra is yellow. 

This is the painting of the Manipura Chakra I made in January this year.  

From Learn The Meaning Behind Each Chakra This chakra “directly affects your confidence. The ten petals of this symbol connect it to the ten Pranas in your body, or, for simplicity, types of air energy manipulation….The upside-down triangle in this symbol represents the energy of the lower three chakras being concentrated and energetically spreading up to the higher chakras. Think of it as an upside-down funnel of earth energy”.

It is known as the solar plexis chakra due to its location at ­­­­­­­above the belly button and below the heart. From Healthline(Science over the yogic principles) – “The solar plexus — also called the celiac plexus — is a complex system of radiating nerves and ganglia. It’s found in the pit of the stomach in front of the aorta. It’s part of the sympathetic nervous system”. 

Of the 5 elements (earth, water, fire, air and ether), this chakra is associated with hot qualities of fire. It is yellow like the sun. 

The fire within. The gut feeling. The Manipura chakra is the area where these qualities abide. If we go up Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, we would be in the place where self-esteem and confidence come into play. 

I feel very confident now about my ability to kick the drink and take control of my emotions. When I’m out and about at meetings or with others I do feel self-esteem and confidence in myself too. 

When the solar plexis chakra is balanced or open, we feel empowered in just the right ways. We walk through life assured of our abilities. We feel strong. However, when this area is imbalanced or blocked we may feel we are either under confident or over confident. We either lack energy, or have too much energy. 

On the journey of habit breaking, once there are a few weeks under the belt – the confidence that we could really really do it starts to shine! We do get that fire in the belly to make it work. We are not under or over-confident at this stage. We are really starting to be in the flow. For me personally, despite getting stuck emotionally – my habit breaking is moving along very smoothly. I do have a fire within to never drink again. To never let myself lose control of my emotions and self again. Ever. 

As the description of the symbol above states, the downward triangle along with the element of fire helps to lift up all those other things that are blocking the flow of whatever it is. In this instance it would be blocking the flow of change. We need that inner confidence and fire to really make that happen. 

Previously I explained how the koshas are like 5 sheaths that are layered in between our own individual light or soul and the outside world. The 3rd layer in is associated with the Manomaya kosha. It is the sheath of the mind. We moved from the first layer of skin/food where our physical body touches the outside world, to the second layer of prana or chi – that energy that connects us to the world. That same energy connects the world through us and to the mind. Hence the mind sheath. 

The mind sheath makes sense of the outside world through interpretation. The problem is that it can only make sense out of what it knows. 

The mind talks to us. The thoughts we have are the mind formulating interpretations of the outside world and using previous experience to determine a conclusion about every situation we encounter every moment of every day. All animals have this ability. It is what keeps us alive and safe. It alerts us to danger. 

It is a problem because what it knows will shape our thoughts, beliefs and patterns. If it doesn’t experience anything outside that realm, it will make assumptions that can be one sided. Dangers may not be real, it is only the perception. 

It is said to be why so many people experience stress in our modern world. The body can only handle so much information and make sense of it at once. With computers, phones, dinging alarms, media flashing, etc – there are a lot of moments in most people’s day where it is overwhelming. The fight or flight (gut feeling) of danger kicks in. For most people the human higher brain function jumps in to alert the interpretive part of mind that there is no real danger. But that stress and the adrenalin that started is still there coursing through our bodies as if a lion was just about to attack us. It is normal, but too much of it will shape the mind to create patterns and conclusions that do not fit the situation, and many people live in a constant state of stress.

The Manomaya layer of the mind is needed to keep us safe. It protects those lower chakras of basic needs, safety, security and reproduction. While the fire of the solar plexis will help pull up any blockages so energy can flow, if this chakra is blocked- all will stop with the mind layer at the level the animal brain scans for survival. It becomes more difficult to apply wisdom to situations and live in a healthier, stress free way. 

When I drink my thinking stops here. I am unable to connect with wisdom. My body feels impaired and my gut is scanning at a higher alert for danger to compensate for being impaired. Having PTSD and mixed-up signals to begin with, my gut may feel an emotion and interpret it in only one way. I get stuck there. I’ve had one too many mental episodes right at this point. 

This is where most habits get stuck. The lower parts of the brain that scan for safety take over in situations that are not a real danger. The mind gets stuck on one thing. If you are a shopaholic or a gambler, the mind is telling you that the anxiety will go away if you indulge in the habit. This applies to thoughts too. A situation may not at all be dangerous, but it feels like it. A presentation, seeing someone you don’t like, whatever it is, the mind becomes fixated. Without this chakra being clear and allowing for prana/chi to pass from the outside world past the mind, unwise decisions will likely be made. 

In the earlier blogs I described seed mantras as shortcut words to a lengthier explanations of an intention. Using Sanskrit as a vibrational language connects the energetic vibration of the sound of the intention to the universal energies, and aids in making this intention a reality by conditioning your brain to remember what you really want. 

The seed mantra for the Manipura chakra is RAM.

We can use RAM to clear the solar plexis chakra and the gut brain and to stay open to possibilities. We can chant this word with the intention to remember that all we see and feel is limited to our own experiences. If we quiet the chatter in the mind, we will be able to see past that. We need a bit of the fire element to kick start this because it isn’t where thoughts generally gravitate. It is at this point where we need the desire (fire) to take control and discern what we really need in a given moment. 

I wrote about how the Prana Vayus are the 5 ways in which energy moves throughout the body. Yoga poses assist in moving energy in particular ways. 

The prana vayu associated with the solar plexis chakra is called Samana. Samana moves in a circular direction to balance the two vayus associated with the lower chakras by of Prana that is directed up, and Apana that is directed down. 

The Yoga Sanctuary writes “Samana vayu helps us to take in what we need and release what we don’t in an even balance… It is responsible for the processing and assimilation of all that is taken in—food, emotions, perceptions, and breath. Samana is used to assimilate these energies so that they can be used optimally”. 

On an emotional level, as I wrote above, it’s a stopping point before making a decision. Taking in what is necessary and disregarding the rest. If that is not clear, decisions will be made based on the animal brain which doesn’t always necessarily discern what is really required at the moment. Stopping here and knowing this will help us to make decisions that best support our intentions for new habits as well. 

Yoga poses which aid the physical body in keeping this energy moving are

Sun Salutations, Warrior postures, core-strengthening postures like Navasana (boat pose), and Breath of Fire pranayama.

Little side story: In April of 2014 while gardening I injured my back. Usually the pain would go away within a day or two. This time the pain remained until December of 2015 when I finally went to physical therapy. I had been practicing yoga at that point for a few years, but I did not know how to engage my core to protect my body. 

Much to my surprise at the time, the physical therapy I was prescribed was yoga postures. The therapists showed me how to keep the core engaged while I performed the physical movements. Within less than two weeks the pain was gone and has never come back.

In week one’s video I walked through the core pose of Tadasana or Mountain pose. In that video I described what it is to “engage the core”. Today’s video is of Childs Pose or Balasana in Sanskrit. I chose this pose because it was the basis for many of my physical therapy movements where I went from resting to engagement. Next week I will cover Table pose where I truly learned core engagement during physical therapy. But for this week we will do Childs. It is a pose to help calm the mind, which is also very important to help open the Manipura chakra by tuning out the chatty mind. Additionally, this pose helps increase blood circulation which may help to even out the body’s energy through the Samana Vayu.  Lastly it is a good pose for stretching the hips and thighs. Before we move to the higher chakra’s, these stretches make sense in relation to continuing to open last week’s sacral chakra which is aided by hip openers.

So grab a mat & join me in this very short video.

Until next week.

Peace 

The Chakras and Lent – Week 1

The Chakras and Lent – Week 2

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https://esterinaanderson.com

On How it Takes a Village

Last Friday was my birthday. Before the invention of Facebook and smart phone, my family would always call. I would get a few cards in the mail from family, in-laws and old friends. It felt very special.

For the past 12 years-ish, it is an avalanche of birthday greetings on social media, text and messenger apps. The calls and cards are nearly gone. Times have shifted. It is very nice, but it does not feel as authentic. Quantity does not trump quality. 

Every handful of people takes some extra time to write a few lines about how happy they are for me, or how they see my pictures and it looks like I’m doing so well. It is kind of them to put in the effort to reach out and say something specific to me. However, I realized last week that they are only seeing the façade that social media unwittingly enforces.  

We’ve all fallen prey to believing what we see, forgetting that as humans we aren’t capturing painful moments with our cameras; or putting out the dirty laundry for the world to see. Social media platforms are full of the good times, the beautiful moments, platitudes of gratitude, showcasing political affiliations, hating on articles or something that happened to you, asking for prayers for a situation, etc.

But how many people are being truly real? How many people do you see wear their heart on their sleeves or share with the world how they are suffering with personal issues? Or tell the world their worries about their loved ones (outside of disease or death)? 

I find it ironic when I talk to people off of social media that I do not know too well; they will comment that I wouldn’t understand something they are telling me because I don’t have issues with my family, that my kids went to college, or that I have a healthy life. I question why they think this, but it’s obvious that they see my feed where it’s tulips and daisies. 

I’ve used my blog in the past to communicate more heart wrenching stories. Honest truths about things I suffer with and unpleasant things that have happened. Most who read it thank me for being open because it helps them to realize we are all alike and suffer similarly. Some others question how I can possibly put it all out there? I’ve even been accused of being too negative on my blogs.

Yikes. You can’t win. 

I don’t post or blog for anyone’s benefit. I don’t post to make people feel good or bad. I post and write from my heart about what I’m experiencing in that moment. Life’s moments are not all good. It’s just as normal to feel negative emotions as it is to feel positive ones. So why pretend we are always happy and that everything is great? 

I’m day 18 into sobriety.

On February 8th I had an alcohol induced mental breakdown and went a bit crackers. It has resulted situation I never thought I would be in. It damaged relationships and my self-esteem.

I’m getting the level of help I never wanted to ask for because I saw such things only for other people. I believed that only a failed, broken person needs intensive level of services. Where did those beliefs come from?

They came from my environment. From stigmas. From the false belief that something is wrong if you aren’t happy because look around at everyone else – they are blissfully happy. Even though I share the ways in which I’m not happy, most people still see the tulips and daisies.

Human connection is at an all time low. We have so many platforms and mechanisms to communicate, but they strip away authentic relations. It’s easier than ever to show the world only what you want the world to see. When everyone does that, everyone else thinks they are the only ones who suffer and feel more alone and ashamed than ever. 

We end up trying to live up to unrealistic expectations of what it means to live out a human experience. 

I don’t want to do that. 

I have quit drinking for good. I have PTSD and it affects the way I perceive situations. When I drink and my brain slows down all bodily reactions, it also slows down my rational mind to pick up the signals that what is happening around me is not what my body’s fight or flight auto response thinks it is. 

I need help. Help to stop drinking and help to process old trauma that comes up because it would like to leave and finds opportunities when I’m not paying attention (drinking) to burst out. 

I’m getting help. I’m not perfect. Not getting help sooner has done a lot of damage. Some damage cannot be undone. 

It takes a village for each individual to be the best version of themselves. If a village has no real connection and facades of perfection, the result is that the people in the village are going to feel damaged, alone, anxious and depressed. 

Being real is what makes life and relationships real. Without pain there is no opportunity for growth or change. Pain is part of life too. It’s real and no one amongst us doesn’t feel it. 

I am asking anyone reading this who sees me in real life to honor the fact that I am no longer drinking. I’m asking anyone reading to be real with me about your life or anything I’ve done and how it has affected you positively or negatively. 

I’m real. I’m imperfect, angry, sad, hurt and suffering from my past and an unhealthy way of dealing with it (alcohol). I’ve hurt others because of this and trying to make it not true about myself. But I’m also really loving, funny, kind, creative, brainy and friendly. 

I wrote a blog not too long ago about embracing your Shadow self. We all have one. So let’s all embrace our own and learn to live with it and forgive others for their shadow sides as we would like to be forgiven. https://esterinaanderson.com/2020/10/30/on-halloween-and-our-shadow-side/  

I’m asking to be a part of a real village, even if I have to create it myself 

Peace 

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Why BLM Matters So Much To Me

Over 90% of communication has nothing to do with the words that are spoken. Tone matters, but not as much as body language. Spoken words account for only 7% of how you interact with another person. 

Anyone who has owned a pet knows that you can tell a lot about what an animal is thinking, their mood, or their temperament without a single word.  They too know your mood at any given moment even though they do not understand a word of it. 

Words mean very little. The way you act and how society shaped you involuntarily speaks volumes. In fact it is so loud that often the words you say cannot be heard. 

I grew up in Brooklyn until I was 12. We lived in a predominately Italian and Hasidic Jewish neighborhood right on Coney Island Avenue. I’m the daughter of an Italian immigrant who came over in 1970 because his large family dragged him here at the age of 20. It wasn’t an easy life for my father’s family here in the United States. At that time immigrants no longer had the opportunities they did just a few decades earlier. All but my father and one of his brothers returned to Italy. My father’s reason for staying was that he met and fell in love with my mother.

My father grew up in a small town with an incredible work ethic and even stronger ambition. For his family this paid off immensely. But in the United States his work ethic and ambition went unnoticed and did little to get him ahead. He couldn’t get ahead and even learn English when he had to work so hard just to put food on the table to feed my two brothers, mom and I. 

His parents were of the traditional followed traditional, old-school Italian practices. The mother was barefoot at home taking care of the kids, while the breadwinner male provided for the family. The male raised his hands to his wife and kids when he felt he needed to in order to keep his family in line and teach them the value of putting up with crap life throws at you without bitching and complaining about all you don’t have.

Consequently, that is how I grew up. My Brooklyn neighborhood felt dangerous. There were creeps on the street everywhere. We often had various homeless people living on our front step. Our front door didn’t lock. We lived three stories up in a vacant building in a small apartment with only 3 small bedrooms where you had to walk through 2 in order to get to the 3rd. Privacy, my own things, or own room never even crossed my mind. 

I moved to Long Island in Middle School. A poor town in the middle of what seemed like nowhere compared to Brooklyn. My father knew a handful of Italian friends who moved there, so our very Italian traditions seemed normal. My mother dropped out of high school in 10th grade, was in love with my father and didn’t even want to tell her family about the dark side of living with my father. 

Growing up all I ever saw was my father working and never getting ahead, and my mother depressed at home all day in a ratty mumu.

No one helped me with my homework. No one asked how my day was or what I was learning. No one told me I was smart or pretty or really even hugged me. No one said I love you in our home. My father’s workday dominated how our evening would go. Children were an aside. You fed, bathed, and clothed them until they were 18; then they were on their own and expected to come back every Sunday night for football and dinner. 

Believe it or not I saw nothing wrong with this. I did want something more. I wanted healthcare and time off. I wanted to not depend on a man. I think everyone I know, knows my story. I joined the military, got skilled in a few trades, used the Montgomery GI Bill and then my own funds to get an MBA. I got married and had children young (19/21/23 respectively), worked 2 jobs for several years, and spent the first 10 years of my oldest’s life going to school in one form or another. 

I was proud of myself. Many people ooh and ahh and say they are proud of me for being “self-made”. White privilege didn’t benefit me. The first time I heard the term I was pissed because it seemed to disregard all I worked for. 

I was one of the happiest people I knew. Not to toot my own horn, but I was also one of the hardest working people I knew (if not the most). To say I put 110% into work, my kids and my family was to say the least. I was really happy this way. 

In 2007 after 12 years of marriage I learned about a secret my husband had been keeping that absolutely devasted me. We recovered and I was almost back to my old self, but the same issue came up again just 3 years later. This time the marriage did not last. 

Being a divorcee and remarrying someone of a different background and current societal class changed my life. I broke down. I liken it to Richard Rohr’s book called “Falling Upwards”. 

I broke down but I also became a better person. A more aware person. 

There were prominent issues from being in two different economic classes that came to a head many times where I felt myself and my children didn’t measure up to what my step-children’s lives were like back at their mothers house. The division between private school, spending a lot of money on opportunities to beef up a high school and later college education, and even what kind of school should be looked at created a large divide where myself and my children felt as if the things we strived for and were very happy with were what the lower class does.

My most enlightening moment was a few days after my current husband and I moved in with our 4 kids into an incredibly, too large for my liking house, down a beautiful cul-de-sac not far from my old reasonably sized house just a few miles away. In this area no one ever saw there neighbors so it was a welcome feeling when our neighbors right next door came out to meet us. They also had 4 kids around the same ages as ours. They were very nice until they realized we had two 11-year-olds that were not exactly the same age. We explained we were blended. It wasn’t the words they said – because the words were sweet and nice. It was the body language, the surprise and uppishness in their voices. I don’t think we ever spoke to them again.

It was at that VERY moment a flash of awareness came across my consciousness. I suddenly wanted to cry for all the black families moving to a white neighborhood or how an LGBT couple may feel buying a home in the suburbs. I became aware of the stigma of how mixed races try to explain how they are being looked at when going about their lives; or how someone who doesn’t speak English perfectly is treated. A divorcee is probably much lower on this totem pole, but it helped me to see and feel how society treats people that they feel are the non-traditional humans you see on TV. It’s why I relate to the line in the BLM rules about breaking down the notion of the traditional nuclear family.

Over the next few years before I started having clinical anxiety, I continued to get angrier and at the same time continued to climb the ranks at work. 

The contrast between my husband’s kids and family became almost unbearable. My step-kids were told constantly by their mother that my extended family is white trash and that their step-siblings were not as good as them because they went to public school. It morphed into me and my ex using my husband to put my kids through college, me using my husband for money and a host of really other rotten things. Everything I did was looked at through the lens of me being a monster. Obviously none of this was true, but because of my background and my non league education, I wasn’t one of them. 

I understand that after dozens and dozens of “digs”, it’s possible to get really angry in a situation that seems like it didn’t call for it. Similarly to how a black person might storm out of a room because of a comment no one understood could even be offensive.

One specific example is how private schools and fancy camps was one of the great divides of our blended family and one of the main reasons that created a rift between our children gelling into something new. After a lawsuit, a camp dispute that went on for months, when in the same evening the high school my children went to and then the camp my daughter was going to were put down by two separate people, I got what may have seem unrealistically angry by the second comment.

Black people have all kinds of digs in their day to day lives. Just walking into a store perhaps and seeing the elderly white woman behind the counter reach under to get closer to the panic button is a little dig that me as a white person we would never notice unless someone pointed it out to me. Perhaps I did that or something to the like too, but didn’t even notice I was discriminating or questioned why I was.

Take that example of the panic button as one part of a whole day of these digs that weren’t meant but are a part of how we accept society act it is. Then imagine a black person going out to participate in a peaceful riot to ty try to explain how what we can’t see is hurting them and in many ways holding them back (it goes far deeper than this, but it is too much to write about here).

Then imagine being in this peaceful demonstration and then getting called the “N” word and told to go back to the rubbish where you came from and off “my street”.

Can you see how the experiences this very normal black person had in their life and day may cause an otherwise very rational human being to riot and lose their mind? I’m not saying that it’s OK to riot or loot or loose your mind, but I’m saying I understand how it gets there.

I understand because it happened to me a few times. I can understand how not feeling heard and being forced to live in someone else’s perceived “better, more civilized” society would make the person who is in the perceived lesser category feel.

Riot is the voice of the unheard.

We aren’t listening.

I sincerely fear that an executive order from the president banning cultural sensitivity training and marking it as “un-American” and “divisive” is a horrific move in the wrong direction.

It leads to more “not listening” and more ignoring of what too many are trying to say. It ignores the fundamental built in narratives that if you work hard in America you can make it.

That is absolutely not true for everyone. Not everyone is granted the same opportunities due to where you are born, the color of your skin and even the gender you are attracted to.

I’m a democrat and I believe in hard work. I don’t think that conservatives hold the only claim on this. I don’t think anyone is looking for handouts, but I think they are looking for a fair chance. I know I’m smart, but without tutors, money, or even support; please don’t tell me I had the same opportunities as everyone else. And my skin is white! How can we expect for a moment that a black person in an impoverished neighborhood could compete with a good school, tutors, not having to work after school, being able to easily study because the heat and lights are on and their belly is full. Meanwhile they are being marginalized while going into a store, looking ratty when the family can only provide hand-me-downs and consequently have to waive the flag and say the pledge that there is justice for all.

How can you expect the average black kid growing up in a ghetto to possibly make it out of there through hard work and education when their school was so sub-par to one right outside the gates of the ghetto and then claim it’s socialism if we put more money toward schools? I think it’s quite Christian to take care of others and still a democracy.   

Citizens who don’t have access to healthcare cannot get help when they are sick or help with mental illness at any kind of age – let alone when you are young and can still “make it” in America. It’s not socialism to want to find a way to give people access to healthcare, the very thing that will keep them healthy and contributing to the society we hold them down in.  I never had healthcare growing up. Mostly because my father was an immigrant. Even thought he was here legally, he couldn’t get a job that provided for it. Not because he was stupid or lazy, but because he didn’t have the same inherent opportunities that are so invisible and part of what so many people think comes with life, that they can’t see them. 

Not stopping to think about what you were inherently born with and took for granted is privilege. There are all kinds of privileges like just being American, being male, or having money. And skin color. With white skin it’s very difficult to feel the sting of how society looks down on others with different skin color. Even if you don’t look down on darker skin colors, it doesn’t mean that it is not real. In fact it makes it harder to believe that it is.

There is nothing embarrassing or humiliating about learning you have privilege and that being blind to it creates an unjust society. In the same way there is nothing that should be embarrassing about being a male vs a female. Unless you are an enlightened male or were educated on the subtle societal ways males dominate our society, as a male you will not see it.

As someone with money and maybe even the luck that some risk you took to build yourself up panned out, doesn’t mean that someone else isn’t working really, really hard – perhaps even harder than you, but circumstances will never allow them to compete to get to where you are.

This is exactly how black people are being held down. I’m several steps (maybe generations) behind my husband. 43 points exactly in a privilege walk. How can anyone believe a black person isn’t behind me on this scale? I don’t need data and statistics to know they are. I know because I’m alive. I feel the 93% of non-spoken word communication I’ve been treated with and I see the 93% that black people are treated with. And guess what? It’s much worse.  

This is why it matters to me. It’s personal because as a woman and as someone who can mingle in a different social class, I have experienced how many privileged don’t know they are privileged and make judgements and comments about things that are downright just not true or just plain insulting to me.

Women are sexualized and marginalized. The upper class looks down on the lower class and believes their more expensive schools and activities are better than the middle class school and activities. They don’t realize that these types of activities is what keeps America unjust and that the privilege they creates opportunities for them that do not exist elsewhere.

Black people have historically been treated differently. Because they were they lived in lower class housing and neighborhoods. Because they had no money there are not generations of families with college degrees in competitive jobs, making even more money to put more kids in college.

The field is unlevel.

It’s unfair how society just looks the other way and then blames the lack of hard work on those who just cannot physically or mentally make it. 

I may not have understood this as a white woman who in many ways has been marginalized. It wasn’t until I was 40 years ago and immersed myself in some things where I realized what I took for granted – the good of being white, and the bad, such as the role I was playing being a women; were things that I was blind to and when along with because it was just such an integral part of society that I didn’t see it.

I learned from extreme measures. The book I referenced above “Falling Upwards” talks about how it often takes extreme measures and extreme discomfort to learn about seeing another side. It’s a blessing to fall because the world makes a lot more sense to me. I can understand and see the injustices all around me. It’s not a Christian, Hindu, Buddhist, Jewish or any religious type of teaching life. Unless you stop to think about it, what we teach in American schools and homes as “success” is actually greed and looking out for #1. It’s the complete opposite of love.

Now at this moment in history we are being told that trying to understand where someone with a different background of the already made American dream and line “With justice for All” is un-American and creates a divide.

Not acknowledging there is a divide and ignoring what the a very large majority of a country’s people are saying is a divide.

My father will now be 70 years old this year. He will never retire. He is an alcoholic with tons of medical issues and terrible senior healthcare. My mother died at the age of 49 from lung cancer. Yes, she smoked earlier in life; but please don’t tell me that treating her during her life for depression and helping her find a way out of an abusive home and the stress that it caused would have done nothing for her. If nothing else, her quality of life and subsequently that quality of life for my brothers and I would have made a world of difference. 

The social issues we face are real. It’s the single most divisive element in this election. But I don’t understand how anyone can be against helping other members of society be brought up to simple standards of living with dignity. There are cases of lazy people, but they are not most people. 

Most people, given fair opportunities will take it. But those opportunities have to be there and visible. Without them there is no hope. You can’t blame someone for not working 80 hours a week knowing it won’t ever get them out of the ghetto. There are some where it can, I agree. Some of those individuals take advantage of it, and others squander it. But I do know that for the majority (like my father) – no amount of hours would have made a difference. I’m not advocating for giving money to lazy people, I’m advocating for creating opportunities for lower socio-economic classes.

That is why living wages are important. 

Black people are in this category of the lower socio-economic rung more so than any other sector of our society. They are in these rungs because of the history of our country. You want them to wave a flag and be proud of living here? Not try to peacefully protest and explain this in some way? 

We can’t have a conversation about fixing anything if these issues and the whole BLM issue are not acknowledged. BLM came up now for a reason. It’s not just because of police brutality. Police brutality was what made people get up and onto the streets, but it’s not the only reason. Privilege is so entwined into our society that unless you are living on the fringes you cannot see it.

Not seeing white privilege at work or how the lack of attention to these social issues doesn’t mean they aren’t real. Telling your own story of the hard work you did or the hard work your parents/grandparents did does not make anyone else’ struggles today null and void. It seems to be a valid excuse to turn your head. Helping others doesn’t turn our country into a socialist country, it turns our citizens into evolved human beings who can look past themselves for the benefit of others, which will in turn truly be beneficial for the society and county at large. It can be an even more thriving democracy when all our citizens are working and healthy enough to contribute and be proud to be an American. Right now it thrives for only some but not all. It’s not Justice for All.

What you do, how you act, what you post, how you treat people is what people perceive when they are communicating with you. I’d go the mat to say that most people are not knowingly racist, sexist, arrogant or pretentious on purpose. Knowing that, know you might be one of those people and not know it either. But those who aren’t know – because it’s being communicated so loudly, they can’t hear what you are saying. Stop and think about what you really think, what you really feel and what you really support. Is it justice for all? Or is it keeping you and you only safe and sound? 

This may sound disjointed, but the point is that I know I couldn’t see this message only a few years ago. I would have said society is fair. But I now know it’s not. Until we all acknowledge that we aren’t equal, the inequity will continue to grow.

I don’t think we want to do that to ourselves, our neighbors, our children or our country. But it’s happening.

Please. Wake. Up.  

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10 Years Later

Love can be messy and unpredictable. Every couple has a story.

 

10 Years Ago 

Friday July 9, 2010

 

It’s a HOT day outside, but inside the building within the air conditioning I was quite cold most of the day. I wore a sweater over my red dress. It’s even hotter inside the car. The car was started a while ago so the air conditioning would cool it down. But without the movement of the car, it’s not cooling down very quickly.

 

I’m not in this car alone. It’s not even my car. I’m not supposed to be in this car. If my husband knew he’d be furious. If the guy in the car’s wife knew – she’d be equally as furious.

 

We just carried out a ton of boxes out to the car full of meeting materials to bring back to our main worksite on Monday after finishing a 3-day long meeting series that my group hosted. On the elevator ride down before exiting the frigid building, he said to me: “When Jack texted me today I told him I took the job. I’m going to announce it to everyone else Monday but I wanted you to know first“.

 

My heart SANK. Took the job? It was my worst fear. Since he hadn’t mentioned it for a few days I thought perhaps it may have been a dead issue. I suspected it, but secretly hoped my efforts could reverse it. If I were able to wave a magic wand I would have had things go back to the way they were before.

 

Also – for a quick moment I had no idea who “Jack” was. But not a microsecond later after the shock that he took the job, my heart started rapidly beating – nearly out of my chest. Jack… Jack my husband? Yes, who else? Jack texted him?

 

“WHAT? Jack texted you and said what???” (me)

 

“He asked if I was going to take the job” (him)

 

With the giant lump forming in my throat it was all I could muster to mutter “Congratulations”.

 

We walked quietly out to the parking lot and to his car to deposit the boxes before he asked if I’d like to come sit with him for a few minutes. Warning bells SCREAMED about what a terrible idea it was, but my heart bled over and instantly won. Without thinking I said yes.

 

Here we are… This could go well or not. I don’t even know which outcome is considered a well and which isn’t. I don’t even know what I hope. I’m confused. My head and heart are in two different places. We are sitting appropriately far apart. These precious minutes alone could be life changing before we have to scat and our absence is noticed. His hand is close to mine. He is in the drivers’s seat and his hand is resting on the center console, as is mine. Neither of us knows what to say.

Unknown

The silence is broken when one of us asks how the other has been. Suddenly a flood gate has opened. We are both expressing all kinds of emotion. Both of us are catching one another up as to how the last 6 weeks have been and what has transpired. How did his brother take the news that he backpedaled? How was his best friend in CA’s wedding? How are his kids and wife? Similar questions come my way. Everyone is fine. The brother was shocked and ticked. His best friend pulled him aside to ask if his heart wants what his head tells him is right, and asked when is he going to do something that makes him happy. I asked how he answered and exclaimed that my heart and head were just in a quandary about whether or not I should even get into the car.

 

The next few minutes are a blur. At some point he tells me he is confused too. Unknown-1At some point his fingers inch over to mine and touch the top of my hand. It’s so hot despite the cool air starting to blow through the car. We start to notice some people we know trickling out of the building and decide to drive to another part of the parking lot.

 

It was only for 6 weeks that we attempted to begin a relationship. And in 6 weeks I was already sick of doing things like this – driving to a different place, needing to hide or duck; or change the conversation when someone else came in the room. And now it’s been 6 weeks since he broke it off and both our spouses sighed their relief and put us both on constant watch. No text, email, social media post or call went unmonitored. The only place they couldn’t monitor was work, and his wife insisted he take a new job – soon. More than anything that was my worst fear. While my husband who was the most non-religious person prayed he took the offered job, I tried to undue his efforts with my own prayers. My husband never texted him before. This was a new level of desperation. I couldn’t help but wonder if he said yes to the new job simply due to the fear of the text.

 

So we pull to a new spot. We confess the feelings and confusion are still there. Now that he will not be working in the previous capacity he did, it does open a new door for us. Heck, if I ever want to see him again I have to continue some kind of relationship. I said something along the lines of what a great meeting we just pulled off because we were a great team. He said the only way we could be a team now would be on the home front. It was the crack in the door that perhaps he was looking for something more.

 

12 weeks ago things were simpler. I was attracted to him of course, but no conversations ever took place where a line was crossed. That line was traversed 12 weeks before. From that point there were a whirlwind of conversations and meet ups before and after work, and on weekends where we confessed how much we liked one another. Some dinners, some stolen romantic moments, and many, many emails. We began confessing how unhappy we were in our marriages and discussing what life together might be like, as difficult as it may be. We became a little less cautious and were caught when his wife came behind him late one night when he messaged me the words “Hi sexy”.

 

That’s all it took. She confronted him. He confessed he was thinking about leaving her. She posted something on one of my social media pages that I didn’t see until early the next morning. I took it down immediately, but not knowing who may have seen it – I confessed the same to my own husband. My pseudo lover broke it off with me after a few days of confusion and now 6 weeks has elapsed. What will become of us?

 

Do we pick up where we left off? Which was basically at ground zero… We hardly knew each other outside of work, which isn’t to say much. He wasn’t even at my job that long and heck – I reported to him!

But the strangest thing happened the moment I met him. It was a cold February day in 2008. I was sitting in my office with my oldest and coziest sweater I drug around everywhere encased around my body. My bare feet were curled under me, heels kicked off under my desk. I had my reading glasses on and my hair was clipped up in a messy bun. My then acting boss Lydia walked in with a man behind her. It was the first time I saw him in my life. And I don’t kid when I say that my world just kind of stopped.

 

It was less than a second, but in that second I felt like my world would fall apart and then all would be better than anything. I saw my then 13-marriage crumbling, tears of joy, tears of pain all around, literally structures of something I couldn’t see falling to pieces.

 

This took a second. It made my heart race and brought a fleeting moment of panic. Lydia had a call and walked away. He walked into my office and asked about my pictures. I snapped out of it my temporary flash of terror and answered. He was a complete stranger. Lydia came back in and apologized for having to walk away for a moment. She then introduced him as the person who was hired to be my new boss. She sang my praises and explained my position to him. They left so Lydia could take him around to meet others, and I went back to work with an uneasy feeling in the pit of my stomach.

 

He didn’t start work until September that year, but every time I even heard his name, I had a similar feeling of when I met him that one time. I experienced a brief moment of panic followed by a feeling of peace.

 

 

10 Years Later

Friday, July 10, 2020

 

More than 12 years later and now 10 years since that day in the car I realize that something in the universe showed me in lapsed time what my future would be.

 

Tonight I sit and knit, getting up occasionally to dance to some 80’s music alone or with the dog while Daren cooks us dinner. Every once in a while I feel like I need to pinch myself. Tonight was one of those nights. I told him so. He has those moments too and tells me when they happen. I happened to realize what day it is. I remember it because July 9 is one of my brother’s birthdays. I remember the day in the car well.

 

That day in the car was a turning point. We made the conscious decision to give “us” a shot. Both of our marriages were already over for completely different reasons than the “us” factor and from what each of the respective breakdowns were. Daren made the announcement at work that Monday that he was leaving. There wasn’t a person who wasn’t shocked. I played along with a very broken and very scared heart.

 

My head and heart were in such conflict. I followed my heart. Not everyone would agree with our decision. It’s not a story we enjoy sharing, but it is OUR story. And during the ‘pinch me’ moments we have on evenings like this I am confident that I would do it over again and again.

 

All relationships have their own story. Ours wasn’t easy, but nothing in life that is worth it is. Most decisions are difficult ones. The trick is to make them and know you did the best you could at the time.

 

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On Where to Go from Here

Seriously….

 

White men get it the least from the possible perspective of any kind of human that roams this planet.

 

Anyone who knows me or has been following my blogs knows that 2012 was a really transformational year for me. I won’t post my long story yet again, but a Franklin Covey class about the Steven Covey book “ 7 Habits” really transformed my thinking. I was just in a place in my life where it hit me at the perfect time. Then 4 years later I started Yoga Teacher training, and again I was hit with change. Change that this time I had to actually take steps to make. It caused anxiety to a point where I got a reasonable accommodation at work and was able to transform my whole life for the better. I couldn’t support the world as I knew it even unintentionally for a second longer.

 

Then in 2017 I took the CT state 50-hour mandated reporter training required to teach yoga at domestic violence shelters. Another training that rocked my world. My two greatest learning points were about white privilege and that I had PTSD.

 

I write this now because I’m not stupid. I have an MBA, but I didn’t know a thing about white privilege or that I had PTSD and was regularly triggered. How could I? It’s the same way a white man doesn’t understand and wouldn’t even comprehend until a woman told him about walking down the street with a key under the index finger – you know, just in case. Or how it feels when you are just going about your business and some man tells you to smile. Smile??? WTF. First of all, who walks around smiling? And secondly there is no good response to that. If I smile I am encouraging this stranger. If I don’t the stranger seems to just judge me as “Who does this bitch think she is?”

 

Most men that hear this are not those who tell women to smile and don’t get it. But I don’t know a woman who hasn’t heard that. Or “You look really nice today” (from someone you’ve never met). This is harassment because no matter what I do or say, I don’t feel comfortable – so how about um… you don’t say anything? I’m not going to feel better about myself because someone I don’t know tells me I look nice or to smile.

 

And why do I write this?

 

Because our world is dominated by white men for some reason. Most boss’ I have were white heterosexual men. Though I’ve had male boss’ that are not heterosexual or disabled, and they still might not get this blog. Most of the things I’ve had to put up with came from the perspective of a white man’s world. It’s not the norm and no one should put up with the insane perspective of “normal” any longer.

 

Perhaps I thought some things were normal. I grew up as the only female child in an immigrant Italian American household. Women were subpar. I didn’t believe it, but I was taught by my mother that it’s something women just put up with.

 

In a similar (thought NOOOOOooo comparison) way black people are taught about what is “normal” to put up with.

 

As I’m becoming older and more educated, I’m realizing how NOT normal it all is. How ‘un’ OK this is. It’s not OK that anyone male, female, black, white, red, yellow, gay, trans – whatever is not equal and should ‘put up with’ ANYTHING other than 100% respect for being a living being and having the privilege of life on earth with everyone else.

 

In the same way at 41 years old I suddenly learned and began to comprehend the term white privilege – it’s time for men, any non-minority and even women who don’t think for themselves to understand what they take for granted and are either purposefully or inadvertently supporting. I didn’t know. I also didn’t know how much sexual assault was prevalent until this training either. I took this in May 2017 when the budgets were just getting cut for such things and learned that they were using leftover funds for public awareness campaigns about these two things. #Me Too and the term white privilege came into play right around that time. It was the social justice funding that raised awareness and it needs to keep going. We need as a society to SUPPORT and not mock these things.

 

That is what these protests are trying to teach. I don’t support looting and shooting or any of that – but I CAN understand being FED the “EFF” up with so few understanding how poorly you’ve been treated. It’s not OK, but hate and wrong do not justify hate and wrong. Though – AGAIN, being a child abuse/domestic violence survivor – I understand (I really really really do) that at times the mind snaps and you are taken to a place where the only thing your body is doing is trying to survive something that may not even be real at the moment. I’ve been there. I’ve snapped… . I’ve dealt with the horrible consequences of it. But if the public is even more aware of how one could snap from being treated poorly due to these social justice issues (NOT to play down BLM at the moment) – perhaps folks like me wouldn’t snap and the public wouldn’t have to pay for the results of me being human and cracking under the pressure I’ve been put under. If I were black and experienced the same thing ON top of being black and what that must feel like every day… I can’t even tell you – I would have spun myself off the planet by now.

 

I know I can’t be the only person who understands this. I feel alive when I see similar stories and posts. But a piece of me dies inside EVERY time someone who is white, or male, or has never been raped or has never been abused in anyway replies in some way to tell me I’m crazy or that it’s BS. Once way back in the day when Facebook was new I wrote “I’m either an insane person living in a sane world, or a sane person living in an insane world”.

 

I didn’t have a platform or reason to point to why I felt like I did. But I know I felt like the world didn’t understand at the time. And I now know for sure that it’s the world that’s insane and not me. And even though I wrote that previous sentence and can erase it before I post it. I’m not going to. The humans in this world who were all born equal as the bible and all spiritual text tells us have been systematically trained to think in a certain way. And we can not only be systematically untrained, but we can then teach a new more loving and comprehensive norm to the younger generation – who will then do the same.

 

We have to invest in social issues. Invest in our youth. It’s the only way out of the mess we are in. We have to know at a cellular level that we are all equal. That we all want the same thing for ourselves and our kids and our pets no matter where we stand by the outer color of our skin, or genitals in our underwear, or political party that we check off at the DMV. We all want love and to be loved. It’s not a crime to understand that by accepting another viewpoint of getting there is a loving viewpoint and something those spiritual teachings we point to would want us to do. It’s ONLY by that example that the viewpoint of others who think there is only one way to get there would consider doing the same.

 

This blog might seem a bit all over the place – but the point is that we are not all equal right now. By acknowledging this FACT, changing the conditional way we’ve been taught to think, and by just letting go and accepting that as humans we all want the same things (and have an equal right to get them) BUT have learned by society different ways of getting there -we can make a difference.

 

Friends, we are in a strange time and have the ability to change history to make a difference. I want our kid’s kid’s kid’s…. to read about how in 2020 humans transformed rather than ‘effed’ up again. We have the power to do that! Are you in?

 

Please say you are… ❤

 

Because the light and humanity and all that is love in me, sees and honors the same you.

 

Namaste

 

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Despair at 3 months into this Pandemic

11:30am

I log off my work laptop and stare at my personal one. I’m unsure what to do. I start typing. I don’t know how this blog will turn out, but I do feel the need for catharsis.

 

The world seems to be going down in flames. Our country literally is.

 

Each morning I wake up and feel compelled to open one of many news apps before I even get out of bed. The last few days have been another round of evening lootings, protests and fires. I feel safe in my home in my little neighborhood, but I want to help – don’t know how and feel helpless, depressed and anxious most of the days as a result.

 

I take a few deep breaths and get up oh so very slowly. Since not having to physically go into the office the mornings have been so much less rushed. It’s a welcome change to feeling harried from trying to get out the door. But it came at a price of lives, justice and the perceived feeling of safety and peace. Maybe it’s a good thing to expose what wasn’t really there as a safety net.

 

COVID-19 seems to have split an already divided society. I literally unfriended quite a bit of friends and family members from social media after reading such a barrage of insulting things about stereotypes of people. Yes, perhaps it could be seen as funny; but in a time like this and with working in healthcare – it’s not something to joke about, question or start putting up hoax flags about. I felt it to be utterly disturbing.

 

The past week since George Floyd has been even more disturbing. My husband has taken to looking up how to be a good leader during these times. He is prefacing each meeting he hosts by saying that silence is it’s own terrible statement, and then provides meeting members a platform to voice what is on their mind. After almost every meeting whether I’m working or not, he has been coming over to me and talking about feeling the need to connect. It’s kind of what is missing from society – connection. Not just because of COVID, but because people have all seemed to put “others” in a box and through the power of the Internet and social media have been able to only view what they’d like to in their own “special” box. Instead of all this advanced communication bringing us closer and able to understand one other as a human race, it’s driven us apart.

 

The riots and looting are not too much of a surprise. I’m white but I cannot express how much I feel for my fellow human black souls. While I don’t agree with destruction of property, I empathize but never understand the overwhelming feeling of being silenced for so long. How can they NOT be angry about the injustices that are all around us? It’s not as if it went away with the abolition of slavery or the 60’s movement for civil rights. Has it gotten better? Yes. But we are far from any place that is really equal. How long should anyone stand by quietly and accept a crappy reality?

 

I never even heard of white privilege until I was mandated to attend a class in 2017 to be able to volunteer to teach yoga at domestic violence shelters. It came as a shock. Not because I am ignorant, but because it has never been brought up to me in any format. In a way I feel guilty that I never understood the societal safety and validation I feel. It makes me want to cry for others that don’t feel that. We are all just so human in the same way dogs are just dogs and they have different fur colors. What does it matter? And why did humans along the way somewhere decide that it did?

 

COVID has exposed so much of what is wrong. Back in early March I wrote a blog about how Social Justice is not Socialism. What is wrong with national healthcare? Was our system working? Did it ever? I was seeing too much of this meme on Facebook and thinking that my friends were losing their minds.

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Little did I know that a week or so later our entire system would be put to the test. It just exposed how much it wasn’t. And instead of coming together as humans to determine what seems to be a fact that it sucks that people can lose their jobs (hence healthcare) in a heartbeat, that our black communities were more at risk because of their access to dependable news/sources/jobs, and that the country was not exactly booming when after two weeks into a pandemic many individuals and families alike had any savings to count on – we as a country DIVIDED! I’m still scratching my head about how. I know we all agree it sucks, but how did we turn that into a division of beliefs and political ones at that yet again?

 

Then throw in Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd…

 

I’m sorry, at no time and ESPECIALLY during these times should any leader be promoting violence, egging on protestors for a valid international health initiative (masks) and scorning peaceful protests for justice. It’s disgusting and I’m embarrassed to be considered a human with equal rights to some of our leaders. Not all opinions should count if they are hurtful to anyone else. Leaders do not have the right to say or do hurtful things because of their position.

 

I want to help but I don’t know how. I’ve been wanting to. For today I’m going to just put my despair out there via this blog; and perhaps weed the garden before it rains. And think. Think about how little ol’ me can help my fellow humans, because the light in me sees and honors the light in each and every one of them. Namaste.

images

 

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Social Justice is not Socialism

As I sit for a six month mammogram follow-up, I’m just told that I also need an extra ultrasound today. On the long drive from Branford to Meriden this morning I saw so many ads for early detection of cancers. One that tugged at my heart a little more than the others is a new screening for Lung Cancer detection. It makes me a little sad because my mom my diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer very late and passed away at the age of 49.

But I had to ask myself, how sad can it make me? My mother never had health insurance, as I never did before growing up and taking a job that provided it. My mother would have not gotten an early detection screening. She never had a mammo. She never even went to the dentist and started wearing dentures when she was 38.

All these years later, healthcare in the U.S. is still something for people who have money or jobs that provide it for a reasonable cost. I feel lucky I can get a mammo, let alone all the follow-up tests and diagnostics.
Not everyone is so “lucky”. Capitalism and social justice are not mutually exclusive. Did I earn this right?
Social Justice is not the same thing as socialism.

This isn’t a socially just society. How can we walk past the homeless or drive through minority filled inner cities with poor public schools, run down stores and bars on the windows and say “these people didn’t earn their way”???

I get wanting to keep what you have earned. I really do.

I get that there are people who do not work very hard and feel they should have more than they do. 

I also get that many of us haven’t completely earned what we do have.
Have you ever done a privilege walk? If not I would suggest looking it up to see what it is. During a robust discussion brought up during a Hygge game a few weeks ago, my husband and brother/sister in-law pulled up one on google and did it together. My results were nearly 20 points behind the highest one in the room. For some reason it upset me. My ACE score is another that upsets me. I should be dead with my ACE number. But I’m not.

I’m in a good place now. I did work for it. And hard. And I still struggle. I get triggered. I’m on meds (partly because I have healthcare). But do I deserve what I have? Do people with early life privilege 20 points above mine deserve what they have? For me it’s an astounding NO to both.
The roads I traveled today, with the banners I saw for early detection screenings are not things I built or had anything to do with. I did not earn the car I drove here in, it’s borrowed money on a loan.

I didn’t create the military I joined at 18 which gave me the money, healthcare, structure and education I needed to be more successful. Those things were there for me, built by society.

Not everyone has these opportunities. If you can even call the military an opportunity. Too many young people I know wouldn’t even consider it, but again they’ve never even really had a shirt or video game they didn’t want. Too many have no idea what hard times are. And another too many have too much of an idea of what hard times are. That is not fair.
How many inner city kids can even read/write to the level it takes to pass the ASVAB to get into the military. How many can’t because they are nursing a sick parent at home or the only source of daycare for a younger sibling? How many are walking around with untreated trauma and don’t have the healthcare “privileges” to get treated?

Never mind the non-material things like love and encouragement. A trauma free household and neighborhood. Hope.

Do I deserve even the work I did to get to where I am more so than them? I don’t think so.

The only way to even the playing field is to realize the privilege you have been given and give some back so others can come up to the same level. Or the government can help do it through taxes. That is not socialism. It’s social justice.

I don’t want anyone cleaning my toilets or serving me coffee who can’t put food on their table, house their children or get a good night sleep. I don’t want them to feel less than me. We are equals. We all came onto this planet as humans and should be treated as such.

Will it cost me more money? Of course, but so what?

What is life if we aren’t going to lift up others?

When will we as a global society learn that there is little happiness in accumulating more than you need?
In my humble opinion if you really think that then you are a slave to money. And if you think you having money and prestige is more important than someone else eating…. I just can’t…

No freedom til we’re equal – Macklemore – Same Love

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It’s Through the Heart

It’s through the heart where our light comes from.

Our heart is in the middle, between our head and the ground.

It’s the connection between our body and mind.

It’s the way to the middle path.

Through the middle is where liberation lies.

Liberation is pure love.

 

This morning while practicing sadhana (a spiritual routine) I had an inspiring thought. While engaging the 3 bandhas during some breathwork, I thought about keeping my heart open and full of light. These three bandhas are energetic locks at the perineum, naval area, and throat area. The heart is automatically not locked. It’s open.

 

It’s Valentines Day so I thought a bit more about the heart as I moved through my practice and into meditation. Suddenly so many random ideas I’ve had, spoken about, and written about began bubbling to the surface.

 

What is the right thing to do? How can the heart lead us?

 

Society puts us on a confusing path by teaching us from a young age that there is good and bad. Our brain learns how to navigate this world through comparison and opposites. It would stand to reason, as many of us do, that good and bad are opposites. If they are opposites that means if you are not good, you must be bad. Growing up Catholic, I also took that to mean if I am not good, I am a sinner. Then guilt and shame rise up. A quick road to a slippery slope.

 

The first time I felt an absolute true spiritual connection through words, quotes and teachings was surprisingly in a two-day work seminar I took in March 2012. It was the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. The instructor went through a spiral notebook we all received as we learned about the habits working from the inside of ourselves outward. Never [to me] were such true words spoken. I felt connected with myself in a way I never had before. I realized I have paradigms, the inner power to change my thoughts, and can root to my true self so deeply that my values and morals will guide my decision making. I walked away from that training a different person.

 

Several weeks later I was on work trip in Maine. We were on a mandatory outside walking break. Since I didn’t read the memo, I was trotting around in my stilettos along a scenic mountainous path in Portland ME. Since the 7 Habits training I started to change my life. I was walking alongside a colleague who had also been at that training with me a few weeks back, so I asked her if she enjoyed it. She replied that she absolutely did! And not only did she enjoy it; she wasn’t sure why, but she and her husband started going to yoga on Saturday mornings since then. Additionally she is a physician, so the email list that generated from the class targeted her to learn more about the heart.

 

The heart, here it is again.

 

She was involved in a series of live online classes that focused on physical and spiritual heart health, and how to work with patients on things they connect to in order to motivate them toward better health. She explained to me that she’d never thought about it before, but the heart is the only thing in our body with an electrical impulse. Where does that electricity come from? It’s the link between our inner and outer worlds. Interesting right?

 

Electricity is light. Light comes from our heart from the netherworlds.

 

I’ve also been reading and re-reading Michael Singer’s “The Untethered Soul”. Chapter 6 is all about the heart. What it is. How our life ends when it stops. How when we keep it open, we experience life fully. Why we close it and how we can choose not to. It’s fascinating.

 

 

2 Corinthians 4:6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.

On a slightly different (yet related) tangent, several years ago I took a Yin Yoga Teacher training. At one point our instructor drew a Yin Yang on the white board and explained the dark and light side in a way I had never before considered.

 

Most of us have the understanding that the white side is Yang. Lots of energy. Pure light. The sun. Male. Loud. The dark side is Yin. Stillness. Darkness. The moon. Female. Quiet. Knowing this I’ve always considered one side good and one side bad. Yet it semi-bothered me that what I considered the “good” side or the Yin side, was the dark part of this circle.

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I copied the white board drawing with fascination. Yang represents the warrior. Yin the healer. We need both. But we cannot just be one or the other. The warrior will destroy everything in his sight if left alone. The healer will never move and be destroyed if left to her own devices. The balance is in the middle. We need to be activated with Yang power when needed. Getting lit by your inner fire in order to make change and do our work in the world (the visionary). But also knowing when to step back and be in the place of love, peace and acceptance of what is (the teacher). Balancing the Teacher and Visionary is the middle path. A little of both as needed. Not too much, not too little. Neither side being “good” or “bad”.

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The “right” path is through the middle. The “wrong” path would bring you around and around the circle. The true way is right in the middle in the path between both. In the Yin Yoga world it’s the Tao (the way).

 

 

The middle way. Buddha said that!

Unknown

 

How do we get to the middle? It’s up to us. We can do it with our own energetic light if we keep our heart open.

 

Why the heart?

 

Because it’s the middle. It’s the 4th chakra right down the middle.

 

Our brain, heart and gut all have neurons that are in constant communication to keep our autonomic functions running smoothly. We have 3 parts of ourselves that govern decisions and how to be in the world. In the physical body these parts reside in the upper, middle and lower parts respectively. We also have 3 levels of brain function. The reptilian brain, the limbic brain and the neocortex. The neural connection between the three is well developed. Our psychic apparatus consists of the id, ego and superego.

 

If we listened to our lower selves only where our gut, bowels and reproductive organs live; we would live in a world where it’s all about food, sex and waste. It’s the primitive side of us. The lower brain that all creatures with a brain on this planet have. It is the basis of evolution. To do what it takes to survive. The reptilian brain. It would be the id in our psychic apparatus. It would be the Yang in our Yin Yang.

 

If we listened only to our mind on the other side of the body, the part we consider in our heads we might get nothing done. For one it’s noisy in there. The mind never stops talking! It contradicts itself constantly. It’s all about learning, growth, creativity and is never happy just where it is. It seeks more. It’s calculating. Only humans have this part of the brain. It would be the superego or the neocortex. We take what we learned from others as right and wrong, and operate from there in a confused state of mind about what actually is right from wrong. This part seems to believe that loving one another, helping others, and giving is how to make the world a better place.  But using that alone, we would never be activated by the fire in the belly to get up and do something when we see the world in a state of injustice and disrepair.

 

The heart balances these two out. It’s the emotional center. The limbic system as mammals all have. The part of the brain that if left alone dwells in balance with nature and the cycles of life. Values and morals come from this part. This parr’s decisions are based on the greater good without taking more than needed. Animals do not hoard. They don’t kill if they aren’t going to eat. They live in and with nature as one.

 

Since we are human, we will always have the metaphorical devil and angel on our opposing shoulders. The mind and gut are both very loud and seem to have (no pun intended) “minds of their own”. Our bodies are built that way. Perhaps our heart, right there in the middle hearing both and having a subtle intelligence of its own, is where the answers to our inner and outer dilemmas reside. We just need to quiet the other two and listen.

 

I’ve tried to follow the advice in The Untethered Soul and purposefully keep my heart open. It’s hard! It’s a habit we all have to protect ourselves. But if we trusted our hearts to listen to our lower selves when we sense danger or our higher selves when we sense creative energy, we wouldn’t need to protect it. We would use the heart’s intelligence to put the other two to work when they are most needed.

 

The heart is special. It is the only part of us that generates it’s own electricity. I ask again, where does that electricity come from?

 

It comes from a place we cannot identify. A place that gives life. A place that the path we seek would lead to. In sadhana this morning while energetically holding the bandhas at the throat, gut and base; with my heart open I realized it’s the part of me that I want open and to be my guide through this world. I want to take care of it, love it, and listen to it.

 

It’s through the heart where our light comes from.

Our heart is in the middle, between our head and the ground.

It’s the connection between our body and mind.

It’s the way to the middle path.

Through the middle is where liberation lies.

Liberation is pure love without attachment.

Unknown

Namaste

 

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On Grace

I am inspired by a yoga teacher training today that I was part of. During a conversation about mantra, the topic of Grace came up. On my way home I listened to U2’s song “Grace” and couldn’t help but walk in the door to my computer and write.

 

The topic of Grace was only a small part of an amazing day and didn’t last long. But it did leave an impression on me. We were reading the book “Healing Mantras” by Thomas Ashley-Farrand and discussing the topic of karma. On page 39, someone read a paragraph that I have read before but never quite understood.

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One of my teachers that was leading that section stopped a bit to talk about a few things. The one of which that sticks out most is the equation of Effort + Grace = Results.

 

Hmmmm….. interesting.

 

One of my classmates asked her to repeat it so she could write it down.

 

Either before or after the equation, my teacher (Shelley) was talking about how escaping karma means leaving little to no ‘wake’. The same classmate asked her to define wake. Wake was meant in the context of how a boat makes a wake in the water.

Hmmm… Did it make sense? Yes, to me; but in some way I wasn’t sure and noted it was something to sort out mentally later.

 

Then another classmate shared how she understands what Grace is, but would struggle to define it. The question was left open to the floor. Lots of ideas circulated. As the group talked, U2’s song “Grace” played in my head. Particularly the part where Bono sings: “She travels outside of karma”.

 

That line is stimulating, and along the lines of the text in our book. I mentioned the U2 song. Then someone else mentioned the song “Amazing Grace” and precisely the line “How sweet the sound”. Earlier in the day we had an Ayurvedic lesson and looked at a chart of the journey of consciousness in conjunction with an extensive conversation about how the material world and the non-material trickle into our own selves. It’s the concept of prakriti and purusha mixed with some prana. But not to bore anyone to tears with this yogic speak, one of the basics that may or may not have been in that particular conversation but is scientifically proven is that we are all but a vibration. One of my teachers pointed that out.

How sweet the sound”.

 

That is deep but we took it a breath deeper to discuss that the old testament many of us are familiar with, is that one of the first lines is In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

 

A classmate makes a little sound of an exploding head. Yes, this is a head exploding part. But the Word was God. Sound over light as the classmate who brought it up expressed it. Vibration itself as possibly a higher vibration that light?

 

Wow, where did the question of “Grace” go? And what did it have to do with this conversation.

 

Another classmate took it down a few notches to say that her concept is of Grace is the following:

  • You have kids and they break something in your house. You yell.
  • You have kids and they break something in your house. You tell them you understand and it’s ok.

The latter is Grace.

 

Suddenly the Jesus analogy made sense. There is something you aren’t proud of, and someone else takes it on and forgives you. I said this during class. My other teacher said, yes – it’s as if they take the shame.

 

Great conversation, but we had to wrap it up and straighten up because a community mantra class about going to start soon. Mantra conversation to be continued at a further time.

 

Fast forward about two hours later and I’m driving home listening to music. I’m inspired and excited, but what I’m listening to is sort of dragging me down. I ask Siri to play U2’s song “Grace”. The earlier conversation started to take a lot more shape for me and inspired me to write.

 

I don’t think I can fully grasp the depth of this beautiful word, but I feel I’m “One Step Closer to Knowing” [me shamelessly stealing another song title from U2].

 

If I had to describe my understanding of Grace at this moment, I would explain that it’s a person’s ability to realize that we are just a piece of all consciousness experiencing itself through a pointed view of ourselves. Or in simpler terms, a soul watching events unfold. Nothing matters.

When you get this from a core/soul level you do realize that nothing matters in the end. If you take on the shame or sins of others and free them from their suffering, you can release it from yourself because you understand that what happens ultimately doesn’t matter. It’s the highest form of vibration. It’s the stillness between the good and bad.

We are here to learn and it is all welcome. Once you can take the hurt away from others, onto yourself and release it – you move past the karma cycle. It’s the famous Christ analogy I never understood nor could anyone in my Catholic upbringing explain it to me. I still don’t propose to know it, but I do feel I’m “One Step Closer to Knowing” 

Lyrics below with my thoughts in blue.

Namaste,

Esterina

Grace

U2

Grace
She takes the blame
She covers the shame
Removes the stain
It could be her name 

Christ analogy

Grace
It’s the name for a girl
It’s also a thought that
Changed the world

And when she walks on the street
You can hear the strings (sound/vibration)
Grace finds goodness
In everything 

Grace
She’s got the walk
Not on a ramp or on chalk
She’s got the time to talk

She travels outside
Of karma, karma
She travels outside
Of karma

Once you master this and do it, you understand how both good & bad are both part of the physical world and welcome. You can move past the circle of karma

When she goes to work
You can hear her strings the vibration again
Grace finds beauty
In everything

Everything is beautiful because it’s a part of life so it belongs

Grace
She carries a world on her hips
No champagne flute for her lips
No twirls or skips between her fingertips

She carries a pearl
In perfect condition
What once was hurt
What once was friction
What left a mark
No longer stings

Grace takes that shame without strings. Just removes it and leaves no wake. Not a good or bad wake. Just working through life and bringing things back into balance where everything is as it has always been – in perfect condition. 

Because Grace makes beauty
Out of ugly things

Grace finds beauty
In everything

Grace finds goodness in everything

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You are the MOST important person on your gift list

  • You are the most important person to worry about. Give your time and attention to yourself first.
  • Giving to others is the greatest gift you can give yourself.
  • Giving to those who are not in gratitude is a waste of the world’s resources – including your own unique gifts and energy.

 

When I was in elementary school and learned to write; then later in life when I learned how to facilitate meetings I learned: 1) Tell them what you are going to tell them. 2) Tell them. 3) Tell them what you told them.

 

There is a body of literature about whether or not mention what you don’t want in your life. I mostly agree that we shouldn’t picture what we would like to avoid, but in the case of this blog, I’m going to stick with how the Yamas and Niyamas are explained. In yogic traditions, the Yamas and Niyamas are what govern ethical parameters. The yamas start out with the don’ts.

 

 

You are the most important person to worry about. Give your time and attention to yourself first.

 

This doesn’t mean buy yourself presents. This is not a justification to be selfish. This is no reason not to keep promises, let others down, ignore how you’ve hurt people, or be mean. I can go on.

 

What this means is akin to your car not running if you do not put gas in it. Take care of yourself. Get enough sleep. Fuel up on nourishment that makes you your best. Nourishment not just in the way of food, but of things that fill your heart – like spending time with friends or loved ones, being in nature, taking a bath, meditating or praying.

 

The specifics are different for each of us. It’s not monetary. Items outside of ourselves can never provide lasting inner joy the way taking care of ourselves can. What fills your heart and soul? Do that. Make sure you are filled so you can fill others.

 

Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare ~Audre Lorde

 

 

Giving to others is the greatest gift you can give yourself.

 

Giving to others can be the most selfish form of feeling good. This is a way in which its ok to be selfish, because you are spreading your gifts, your love and the things that were given to you. There is oodles and oodles of evidence, both scientific and purely experience-based confirming that giving is selfish and feels far better that expecting or receiving anything from anyone. This is non-debatable. If you disagree you likely did not give properly from your heart at any point.

 

This doesn’t mean birthday and holiday presents. It’s not the obligatory presence at some party or event for a relative you don’t know. It’s giving because you know someone needs or wants something and you do it from the heart.

 

A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle ~James Keller.

 

 

Giving to those who are not in gratitude is a waste of the world’s resources – including your own unique gifts and energy.

 

Whether or not you are Christian most of us can agree that a very enlightened man who we know today as Jesus Christ walked the earth and made a lasting impact on future generations.

 

Jesus did not give to the rich. He didn’t even associate with the well-to-do or spread his knowledge to them. Why? Well the obvious is that they didn’t need anything material from him, but why did he spend most of his time preaching amongst the poor?

 

Perhaps because he was able to discern that it would not be appreciated or accepted by people of means and he used his limited energy on those who could understand the messages about taking care of one another. He didn’t bother to waste his own unique gifts and words on those not in gratitude to receive his gifts.

 

I’ve learned this the hard way. I’ve spent way too much time trying to give and please family members, old friends, extended family, in-law family, teachers, bosses… you name it; on individuals who in no way recognized, cared for or were in gratitude for efforts that I did not have to make. It was draining. I felt used. But to be honest it wasn’t anything they asked for – it was only me trying to make people I cared about happy.

 

There is a difference between thanks and gratitude. It is wasted if it’s not received with pleasure. Thank you is just consciousness of the benefit received, perhaps a fleeting excitement. Gratitude is deep appreciation and the willingness to want to do something in return either for the giver or the world, knowing that we shouldn’t expect anything, and when we do it’s a gift to be shared. It’s almost a way of life.

 

Don’t drain yourself. Give to those who appreciate and will be in gratitude. Live in gratitude yourself so you can recognize it. Again – so much literature about how even being in gratitude can make you happy. Evidence and experienced based literature.

 

Gratitude is the fairest blossom which springs from the soul.” – Henry Ward Beecher

 

 

  • You are the most important person to worry about. Give your time and attention to yourself first.
  • Giving to others is the greatest gift you can give yourself.
  • Giving to those who are not in gratitude is a waste of the world’s resources – including your own unique gifts and energy.

 

And this is why you are the MOST important person on your gift list.

 

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