Listening to a cooking show on NPR this morning, there was an interview with a man who has a restaurant in Houston, TX called Underbelly Hospitality. I didn’t hear the very beginning of the interview, but the gist was that the owner/chef has a great interest in foods of every kind, from many different countries, and has spent a great deal of time with other chefs/restauranteurs in the area getting to know the in’s and out’s of their particular kinds of food, including Vietnamese and others. What struck me most powerfully is that he is a man who practices what I call “mutual empowerment”. At his restaurant, there was a time when the check for meals was accompanied by a list of other restaurants in the area where people could go, inviting them to explore how these foods tasted in various places. His goal was, and is, to share all the wonderful resources in his city and to cultivate his close relationships with other chefs in the city.
I’ve written before about the power dynamics of “power-over” and those of “mutual empowerment.” In the “power-over” model, there are only two positions: who’s on top and who’s on the bottom, who has power and who is over-powered. We see this kind of power relationship in many countries in the world right now, including the United States. In the “power-over” model, only a relatively few people are granted the privilege to have power over a vast majority of people. Many are left out…Read More “767th Week: Practicing Mutual Empowerment”
As I write this practice, current violent events that have caused immense distress and suffering continue to fill the news and Internet. Working through my own responses got me to thinking about what I might offer as this week’s practice that might be both supportive and useful.
Whenever I am in the presence of suffering and challenges that I can’t directly change, I inevitably turn to my heart space for support, comfort, and as a way to actively and mindfully process my sense of outrage, helplessness, or despair that may arise. And, inevitably and thankfully, my heart space is able to process and manage these difficult feelings in a way that always surprises and eases me. It may be because I feel like I’m doing something, or it may be—as the HeartMath Institute’s research has shown—that a coherent heart eases the amygdala and reduces activation.Read More “761st Week: Holding Space for Ourselves and All Our Kin (Which is Everyone)”
As I begin to put together the year-long offerings of audio meditations on my website, I’ve been thinking about the focus for the coming year. Lately, I’ve had a deepening awareness of the importance of experiencing all the other life on this beautiful planet as “earth-kin”. We are all related, all children of the same mother planet, and many of us humans have been taught that we are somehow superior or “more evolved” than our other earth-kin.
I recently read a book, “Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are?”, by Frans de Waal, that addresses this humancentric bias. De Waal offers many examples of how our research on other earth-kin has tended to orient to human assumptions and human ways of doing things. One of my favorite examples had to do with making a mark on an elephant’s face or head and then having this earth-kin look in a mirror to see if he or she recognized themselves. They didn’t and someone realized that the problem wasn’t that elephants can’t recognize themselves but rather that the mirrors weren’t elephant sized. Once large enough mirrors were provided, the elephants immediately recognized that something was on their face and responded appropriately.
Another example had to do with research on gibbons, where researchers decided that they weren’t as intelligent as other primates because they couldn’t do a particular task that required them to use their hands in a certain way. A young researcher noticed that the task was oriented to human hands and not to the way that gibbons use theirs. When the experiment was retooled to reflect gibbon digits and manipulation, not surprisingly they performed as well as any other primate.
It can be both surprising and startling to know that slime mold does very well solving the challenge of a maze, better and faster than some other kinds of earth-kin. It can also be surprising to know that some species chose to evolve toward more complexity while others chose to evolve into less complexity, each and all having their own style of measurable intelligence. Here’s a link to a quick video about slime mold moving through a maze and also creating a complex network of connections that match the design of the Tokyo rail system. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HyzT5b0tNtkRead More “822nd Week: Honoring Our Earth-Kin”
I ended last week’s practice with a suggestion to come back to the present moment and to this current breath as a way to manage some of the stress of this time in our collective lives.
One of the practices that I used to teach in the Somatic Experiencing® trainings was to invite people to notice how they “add fuel to the bonfires of activation”. Many of us have grown up in cultures that don’t focus on tracking how we allow our thinking to drag us hither and yon, an experience that generates enormous amounts of suffering. In this time of the coronavirus pandemic, it’s more important than ever to be able to notice when we increase our suffering by allowing our fear-generated thoughts to dominate our attention and experience.
One of the practices that can be difficult but is powerfully important is to hold the intention to come back to the present moment, to the breath you’re taking right now, and to focus awareness on this breath, on this moment. In terms of self-talk, one of the things that’s helpful to say while doing this practice is something along the lines of, “In this moment, right here and right now, I’m okay enough.”Read More “782nd Week: This Breath, This Moment”