Probably Screwed

Sometimes I have no words.

My life is a really REALLY good life. Right now I have a very well-paying job. My husband makes even more money than I do. I own a lovely, modern, and spacious home in a safe and clean neighborhood. I have all the friends I need – and a few I don’t. And my family makes it very clear that I’m loved. There’s generally so little that I could complain about that, within the context of “the big picture,” complaining about the things I could complain about seems ridiculous.

Still, there are many days when death seems very desirable. Now, before anyone freaks out and calls a suicide intervention on my behalf, I want to be as clear as I possibly can that suicide is NOT what I’m talking about – at all.

For many people, death is scary. It’s something to be postponed in all circumstances and at all costs – except, usually, the cost of a gym membership or the cost of time needed to make healthy choices about food and lifestyle habits. We lazy Americans don’t like those costs. But for me, for probably many reasons, death doesn’t scare. For me, death will be peace and stillness. A supremely serene rest that will take me back to our common Source until it’s time to once again be and do.

My life is apparently busier than I can 100% successfully manage. “So what? That’s everybody,” you might say. But anyone who knows me will confirm that I am not like everybody. I am, though, like a great number of people who are very much bothered by this area of unsuccess. I’m a list maker. I’m a list-checker-offer. I consider things and then I decide on them and then  I act on them. Always always ALWAYS something to do. I don’t multitask anymore, though – since learning that it’s not a real thing anyway. It’s not even on my resume anymore. Ha ha.

But as productive or successful or …. happy as my life actually is – and truly it’s more than plenty of all those things – for a mind like my own much energy is (frankly) wasted on always seeing what lies ahead and finding the best possible way to navigate that. I can check 50 things off my list during a day, but the last thing I couldn’t manage to get to will be what stands out. Surely, dear reader, you understand that over time that kind of thing wears on a person. The despicable Dr. Phill once advised his audience to finish what they start – stating that so much of our problems these days come from our tendency to not finish things as we should. So, they hover over us and are added to each time we start stuff and don’t finish. Even little things, like reading books. Never in 800 years will I tell anyone to take that man’s advice, but in this one area he’s surely on to something.

Each day, as enjoyable as almost each day really is, I wake up wide-eyed and ready to go, and then hit the ground running. (I think my step-mom does the very same thing and this is just one of a hundred ways I’m increasingly convinced she and I are actually blood-related) There’s almost no choice. If I hit the ground walking, the day will slip entirely through my fingers with zero accomplished and too much rests on my shoulders and hovers above my head for that to be acceptable. My hope is that I’m efficient enough to get ahead in some areas and thereby carve out some space for walking.

All that running, though, is why I’m not scared of death and even look forward to it. Retirement or old age doesn’t even appeal to me as a time of slowing down. Frankly, old age and retirement just strike me as a time in life when you’re probably going to have too little money and also a body that is at least as much burden as it is a blessing – interestingly, in our current culture many of us have too little money because of our bodies! The trend in my life is that when school and work and religion aren’t tugging at me, then a family member is dying or I’m battling kidney stones or trying to sell a home or the cat’s pissing on carpet. Life has no quams about putting more on my plate. None what-so-ever. And before anyone pipes up with “God never gives us more than we can handle” or “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” please allow me to say STUFF IT. I don’t feel flattered or strong by what “god has given me” and sometimes what doesn’t kill you leaves you maimed and a little weak. I’ve heard that there’s no rest for the weary and also have heard that there’s no rest for the wicked. Many days I’m weary and every day I’m quite wicked so …. I’m probably screwed.

So, yeah. Death. Desirable. I know this whole post is probably sounding awfully macabre or melancholy. It’s not intended to. I’m just tired and ready for …. a vacation? Where death is concerned, though, I can tell you I won’t need Jesus. Or Heaven and angels. Frankly, if I see any of that then I’ll refuse it all right then and there before turning and heading some other celestial direction. Until then, I guess my best options include yoga, meditation, and letting things go when necessary.

Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namah | (and for pete’s sake) Aum SHANTI

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Fifty Shades of Psychology

A few weeks ago I finished reading Fifty Shades of Grey. I feel like it took me too long to get through, but I don’t often read fiction and the time I can dedicate to that kind of leisure activity sometimes is scarce.

I started reading the book after it was suggested by a Facebook friend. Historically, suggested reading leaves me frustrated and let down. A book about five love languages comes to mind. The vast majority of all books ever suggested to me have been books I finished and absolutely hated. Usually, good reading just finds its way to me.

Fifty Shades of Grey is …. well, a grey area for me.

The writing is very clearly by a female author – you could guess this probably without even knowing the author’s name. In discussing the writing style with a female coworker (who has not read the book, and likely won’t – she’s also not seen the movie.) she said that much of the writing I was choking on was typical of female writers. I recall that, for the bulk of the book, one of the main characters, Anastasia, was found to be blushing at every turn – like, about 5 times per page – apparently immensely bashful. And the other main character, Mr. Christian Grey, while not bashful at all, is almost always described – in practically every scene – in the same way. The color and condition of his hair, his eyes, and the way those stupid grey sweatpants “fall” on his hips. That was very tiring and made me wonder why a billionaire had such a limited wardrobe. I found myself quite often skipping entire sections, multiple paragraphs at a time just to avoid the superfluous descriptions.

Some people focus on the fact that this book (and the ones that followed) technically counts as smut. And I suppose it does. It’s true that there are a number of parts in this first book that count as such. But, in my opinion, for a book centering not only around a sexual relationship but specifically around a BDSM sexual relationship, the writing is rather… innocent. I feel it’s likely not nearly as graphic as it could be.

Quite honestly, some of the scenes in the book are enough to get anyone hot and bothered but what really kept me reading was the psychology involved. Even the raciest scenes from the book really aren’t terribly stellar – save for the mental part of it all. She’s the younger of the two, not quite a college graduate when the book begins, and ridiculously inexperienced – It’s only a couple weeks prior to college graduation and the only male she’d ever kissed prior to all this was her dad. Grey, on the other hand, is older (although not by much), completely independent, successful, very rich, and not naïve in any form whatsoever. His sexual life appears to have begin while he was in his mid/late teens.

Many times I wanted to smack the author. I would finish reading a section or a chapter and find myself thinking, “Really? REALLY?” and wonder how in the world anything like this could ever become the money-making phenomenon it is. Three books to start out, then a movie, and now a fourth book (which has already had drama of its own, being stolen and whatnot). Ridiculous.

Still the back and forth between the two, while sometimes absolutely lame, really gets one thinking about human interactions. Or it did me, anyway. I think in lots of ways and on lots of levels all of us are playing these “Dom” and “Sub” roles. It goes far deeper than just who holds the riding crop and who squeals in pain (delight?).

Interestingly, the Sub in all of this is the one with the true control. The Dom is perhaps recognized as the active force in the relationship and its interactions. And truly, the Dom is that. But the Submissive is the one with the real and total power. It apparently takes a very strong, determined, and dedicated entity to fulfill successfully the receptive role in Nature / Life, and I think this is paralleled in true spirituality.

In Sahaj Marg we speak of “becoming” instead of “experiences.” A lot of the work abhyasis do is to remain open and permissive of the “will” of our evolution and integration. This is not unlike the way Anastasia has to be open to the will of her Dom – open to the various things he has planned and the path on which he intends to direct her for very specific purposes, including his idea of punishments. (In the book her habits of rolling her eyes and biting her bottom lip are almost always getting her into trouble.) And yet, as open as she must remain for the exchange to work, she remains absolutely 100% in control. The book makes this clear more than once, and it’s no less true in spirituality. Our gurus are often referenced as “master” and in many stories they behave quite a bit like strict Doms – their punishments and lessons often seeming enigmatic or harsh at the time. But just as in this book, our gurus / masters can’t have the intended effect without our permission and complete willingness.

In Sahaj Marg we reference our “Masters.” Here is an interesting blend of what could be considered the Dom / Sub. The masters of our lineage guide us in ways that are often beyond our understanding and comfort – and there are accounts of this relationship even being somewhat harsh. Additionally, each Sahaj Marg master has emphasized that no work can be done on or through the abhyasi without the devotee’s full participation, namely willingness and permission.

It’s not about forcing anything or pain for the sake of pain or amusement. It’s a true and deep example of how “no pain no gain” is in many instances very valid. Our spiritual evolution requires active participation: our submission (permission) and willingness. Without these no Guru, no Guide… no Master can serve the higher purpose and our growth is incredibly unlikely.

When I first came to Sahaj Marg, I struggled with the gurus being called masters. Seemed cultish to me. But I find it very fitting. These individuals are truly masters. Like Christian Grey who came to BDSM far ahead of Anastasia, our gurus mastered the path that we’re following now and are the ultimate insofar as capable guides are concerned. And, like Anastasia we’re the submissive / permissive and retain the entirety of control and responsibility.

Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha | Aum Shanti

Turn About

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A quick Internet search on the matter will find any number of relatively recent news instances of businesses and business owners facing a lot of self-inflicted hell for mistakenly believing it’s appropriate for them to pick and choose who they serve, in their public businesses, based solely on religious views.

Most recently, because of a ruling by the Supreme Court, county clerks are resisting their obligation to serve the public by refusing to issue marriage licenses to two people of the same gender. To some, it might be arguable that a business owned by a private citizen should operate under whatever that citizen / business owner understands to be morally correct. Truly it’s not arguable. In short, there’s nothing inherently moral or immoral about baking a cake (period!) for a paying customer. If you’re selling something to the public then anyone who is a member of the public and can pay you for what you offer shouldn’t be refused – so long as they aren’t being disruptive to business or other customers, etc… And in the instance of employees of public / government institutions, this shouldn’t even be on the table for discussion. The government is a non-religious entity and is funded by everyone who pays taxes and so if you have employment in that sector, it is literally your job to serve the entire public, within the confines of your job description – as mandated by your boss, the government. The clerks refusing to issue marriage licenses to gays because it goes against his / her personal religious convictions are off their damned rockers thinking they have any legit ground to stand on while they behave so delinquently and with so much insubordination.

All that aside, I think I’m experiencing what might could be the flip side of this dumb mess.

One of my brothers currently lives in the fucked up state of Kansas. He and his family will be changing this situation soon enough, but before that happens he and the fam’ will be coming to Indiana for a week-long vacation. During their visit, as part of a request from my mom, we’re all getting together for family photos – something we’ve not formally done in quite some time.

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I was talking to my mom recently on the phone and she was pretty thrilled at having located a photographer for our photos. It seemed especially novel to my mom because the photographer she has her eye on is a high school senior – a recent graduate, I believe. I now forget how she said she found this young lady (if she even told me), but she gave me the gal’s “business” Facebook page and told me to check her out.

Of course I did that – and the girl seems as talented as any photographer I’ve seen. So… here’s where things start getting uncomfortable, though. While I did start off on her “business” page, it was quite easy from there to access her personal page, the settings to which are not very private at all. So, out of natural curiosity, I clicked my way onto her personal Facebook page and started to electronically wander around. There were three things I recall noticing immediately, and I’ll share them in the order they came to my mind…

1) She’s gorgeous.

2) All of the most recent posts to her timeline were of a very “Christian” nature and specifically related to the recent Supreme Court decision.

3) She has a boyfriend who is just about as gorgeous as she is.

Obviously, #2 weighed quite heavily on me and has since caused some thoughts and questions to come into my head. She’s so young (I well remember being her age) – is this going to mean acceptance of me and my husband or rejection? She’s so Christian – is this going to mean acceptance of me and my husband or rejection? And due to her youth and Christian faith, even if she doesn’t throw a fit about me and my husband (and I seriously doubt she will) will there be that usual, awkward, judgment-y vibe coming from her? Will she rush through or half-ass the photos taken of me and my husband? If Christians don’t want to bake a cake for me and my husband and are willing to risk going out of business to “take a stand” for their beliefs, will she feel convicted enough in her “heart of hearts” to refuse what we’ll be asking of her professional self?

There were other questions that came to mind also and I can admit that one of my first knee-jerk reactions was the thought that I should call my mom up and strongly request that she find a different photographer. If Christians don’t want to bake a cake for gays (sell to, do business with, etc…), then why should gays (me!) at all want to give our money to them in the first place? For about a day I was uncomfortable and grew very unsettled. A number of times I really and truly came close to calling my mom to discuss this.

I think the truth of the matter is that our session with her will almost certainly come and go without hitch – and may even be fun. But part of that truth is knowing that she’s a young (likely naive) Christian person from a very small town – there’s about as much reason for concern as there is reason to not worry at all.

When all the hubbub is cycling through the media, there are always people saying, “If they hate you, just don’t give them your money.” And there are just as many people who, on a regular basis, find one reason or another for boycotting a place or product. For example, my husband and I never eat at Chik-Fil-A and we never shop at Wal-Mart. Ever. We don’t like the way one treats its employees and the other is a Christian terrorist organization that actively funds anti-gay efforts. That much makes sense.

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But this situation somehow feels different. I know without even asking her that nowhere in my mom’s brain is the idea that she should even consider this young photographer’s religious background. After all, we’re not hiring her to be a priestess or nun or … anything religious. So her religion doesn’t factor in – AT ALL. In my mom’s brain and heart, you treat people the way you want to be treated and everything usually works out. And she’s right – usually.

But I’m almost 35 years old and for 34.75 of those years I’ve been – quite literally – a second class citizen. There have been a number of times when people actually took effort to make sure I understood this. Do you know what that feels like, dear reader? If you’ve never been kicked out of a church for being gay, been denied the right to marry, felt your safety threatened, worried about whether you came off as “too gay” in a job interview, or been hissed at (by a human!) just because you were walking through your neighborhood, then you may not know what I mean. And even with the Supreme Court in my back pocket, I can still be discriminated against and harassed in many areas of normal life and I can still be fired from my job – just for being me.

That kind of life can really leave a taste in one’s mouth and when one consistently experiences the same or similar taste from one kind of food, it quickly becomes tough not to develop an aversion to that food. Makes sense, right?

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I’m not going to ask my mom to find a different photographer because our selection of the right professional for our need shouldn’t in any way be based on that individual’s personal and private religious choices – in the same way that the decision to sell a cake to someone shouldn’t at all be influenced by the sexual orientation of the buyers.

Some would have you believe that turn about is fair play. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander, right? I think often what’s good for the goose is, indeed, good for the gander – but never out of spite. It isn’t my place to decide… Karma takes care of that for me. If Christians want to jeopardize their own livelihood because of misguided and mistaken religious conviction, then they will certainly have the chance to sleep in the bed which they’ve made. My family, though? We just want a good, talented photographer.

Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha | Aum Shanti

Ist Verschwund’n

A few days ago I was having a text conversation with my sister. We laughed about a few things together. As the oldest of the children produced by my parents, I think I take a special delight in knowing when any of my actions or words have brought laughter or a smile to any of my siblings’ faces.

Near the end of our conversation she said to me that I’ve lost my mind. She might be right – some days, in some ways, I feel like I’ve misplaced every single marble that ever was in my possession.

But what if a person hasn’t lost his mind so much as willingly given it?

Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha | Aum Shanti

The State of America Part II!

Mutant A Day

You are probably asking yourself, “Did I miss Part 1?”. Nay you did not! It’s HERENow that you’re back from reading some Miss America Chavez goodness, I say to you all Happy Fourth of July!

rainbow flag sliderMutant A Day has so many things to be thankful for on this day when celebrating independence and everything that should, would and now does come with it, including the ongoing battle for equality across the states for all people.

In short, We gettin’ married y’all! And not just “gay married”, but SCOTUS ruled, for real, totally legal in all the states for same-sex couples, married. Marriage is marriage for all! For those of you who have followed Mutant A Day over the years, and listened to the podcast as well, you know that this blog/cast is gay owned and operated by soon-to-be husbands Aaron M. and Rueben [that’s me]. We are…

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Imam Ali declared the Successor of Prophet Muhammad in Sunni Hadith Literature

I like to follow the Islamic world from a distance. As a prominent branch of the Abrahamic tree or Earth’s man-made religions, I think the distance I maintain is a healthy one. But still, truth can surely be found there and posts like this one are interesting to me because they seem to help highlight why this branch has grown in the way it has.

Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha | Aum Shanti

Ismaili Gnosis (Ismailism)

Imam ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib (d. 661) was the first cousin of the Prophet Muhammad with whom he shared the same paternal grandfather, the son-in-law of the Prophet as the husband of his only surviving daughter, and the most important personality in early Islam after the Prophet himself. As noted in Sunni Muslim historical chronicles, when Imam ‘Ali was just ten years old, the Prophet Muhammad invited his close family to Islam and asked them:

Which of you, then, will help me in this, and be my brother, mine executor and my successor amongst you?’ All remained silent, except for the youthful ʿAlī who spoke up: ‘O Prophet of God, I will be thy helper in this.’ The Prophet then placed his hand on ʿAlī’s neck and said, ‘This is my brother, mine executor and my successor amongst you. Hearken unto him and obey him.’

(Ibn Ishaq, Sirat…

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