This Past Week: Quickening comes in threes

This past Tuesday Oct 10, while at work, we were told at the end of our daily meeting, that two of our supervisors had resigned, effective in two weeks. I was hired into this job I love doing, into the world of interpreting and translating in a hospital, by one of them.  I had not met the second supervisor until earlier this year, but she is also a sweet soul. I wondered if this the was equivalent somehow to two quickenings in terms of this piece.
Fast forward. As they were telling us at the meeting that they would both be leaving a wave of numbness rushed to protect me from feeling pain or anything else, and to hold me propped up as if from within. At first, for some seconds I thought that only one person would be  leaving. But, the heart that had been momentarily wrapped in the numbness, knew better. I stayed there watching the racing thoughts go through me like needles burning their way out… watching as small tears wanted to pour, and the pressure settled on my throat and upper chest. I stayed with it… I told my supervisor that I didn’t have to like the fact that she was leaving. She asked me if I could at least accept it. And that was easy to answer. It was a simple yes, simply because I want her to be happy, whole, with a sense of moving forward. I just sense that for her, staying is not the option that would allow her to be satisfied. The week kept moving…
On Thursday Oct 12, my paycheck for two weeks came for around 700 low-dollars, and one of my childhood friends called me to tell me that she is really ill. On that phone call, she also thanked me for the long friendship we’ve shared. In essence, she said goodbye to me.
I am not sure why, but my friends call shifted something in me. It was a knife parting, cutting through, a veil. I wanted to be near my friend but I could not. We live in different countries, and I could not afford the trip. In the midst of the sadness and fears I was experiencing, I understood, with the clarity of freshwater that lets you see deep within a lake or pond, that I want and need to be able to at least care for myself, undergo surgery, or treatments, or make a trip if it were needed to be by a friend’s side.
So, I decided to grow up: I would/will go back into teaching if necessary so that I can have a steady check and be covered by insurance, regardless of the fact that I would still much rather stay working as an interpreter/translator. I also decided to grow up and speak truth, be genuine with the director of my department. I would let her know directly that I wanted to help her rebuild, create something new, and I would tell her about what I bring to the table (without tooting my own horn, just my truth). And then, I would ask her if I should wait or if I should shift gears completely in order to teach again. I am happy to say that this conversation took place.
As a Dominican I grew up believing that hard things seem to always come in threes. So as soon as my phone conversation with my friend ended on Thursday, I wondered what the third thing would be in this triad. And for a while I thought it would have to be the low paycheck I received and the discomfort of being again in that place where money is an issue. But either I was wrong, or there are two triads going on for me at this moment. The latter does not seem likely, though it is not impossible either. The triads are usually signaled by 3 events or experiences that shatter parts of ego-monkey-brain, break my heart or do both.
BOTH. On Friday 13th another friend had invited me to a talk, and I decided to go. The friend that invited me was there, and I am thankful because it makes it easier for me to have the anchor of someone known. Childish. And yes, judgmental  but that is Monkey-Brain raising its head. I am shy and awkward in social and/or new situations.
In the midst of the awkwardness I was feeling, my eyes caught something that again called forth the protective wave of numb. And, I remember how I started telling myself in that instant that I had not seen anything, that I was inventing things. However, I also willed myself to look over and over again, in order to see. I was not prepared for what I saw. And I was thankful for being able to access the wave of numbness that allowed me to momentarily remain in place. In dissociating myself from pain, at least a part of me can remain and do what I need or want to do, and even enjoy it.
The space where the talk took place had a simple huge decorative cage, very similar to the huge cages (almost floor to ceiling) one of my friends has for the 15 to 20 odd birds she keeps indoors, inside the house. I remember staring at the structure when the first presenter began to talk, and wondering what it was. But since I could not conceive of a bird cage in that space, it did not register as such.  I could not see it, very much like the natives in the Americas could not see the conquerors’ ships in the horizon for they had no conceptual formation, no words in which to wrap said ships. I kept listening to the speaker, and letting my eyes move between her face, the flowers, the lights in the room, and the people in the room. And then her part of the presentation ended and we moved to another area where the next speaker had set her space.
I had a chance to sit close to my friend aware of the wave or wrap of numbness that still enveloped me. The wave describes what it feels like to be in the active process of becoming numb. The wrap describes what it is like to be aware of what’s going on around me and within me. It allows me to think what is numb and not feel it. It is as if the thoughts and my interacting with what is around me cover the pain/fear/sadness/joy, or whatever I could be feeling full force. And then, I saw it! I actually looked at the cage and recognized it for what it was. I saw it and for an instant I was mystified by my previous inability to see it from the other side.
As I felt bombarded from without by repetitions of what had originally disturbed me, and from within by the thoughts that poorly masked my feelings, I was at least able to stay with the parts of me that remained present and aware. What I had seen was simply tenderness. That’s all. It was a tenderness that I perhaps wanted for myself but seeing it, admitting that I wanted it, and feeling envy was too much to grok. So I stepped out mentally. Well, a part of me stepped out.
I am aware that I called forth the wave that became the wrap that allowed me to step out. I am grateful for that ability. And I am sad. I am sad not because of what I saw, since I also remember the sense of feeling joy that someone could feel that tenderness, and that it was reciprocated. I am sad, not because I faced the death of seeing the tenderness as “not for me”, “not mine”; nor because I saw envy rearing its ugly head again in my life. After all, envy is just klesha, and it’ll go back to where it originated.
These were small hues of the larger sense of sadness I felt/feel and the anger aimed at myself for knowing that for years I have carried and held myself captive in a personal cage of sorts. I sustained the cage(s) in which I have hidden most of my life. The sadness and the anger is due to understanding that from within my cage I forbade myself 1) to feel, 2) to show what I was truly or completely feeling to anybody, and 3) from trying to share feelings, or felt-thoughts verbally except with very few people. The sadness is that I never allowed for depth to truly touch me.
Looking Within. Since I became a Buddhist, dismantling what keeps me from truly loving and/or accepting myself and any-and-all others on my path has been my guide, and my path itself. I believe it is necessary to look at my cocoon, where I close up or call forth the wave/wrap of numbness and in so doing move towards expressing my true-feeling heart.
I am content in the knowledge that I see a difference in me since I started on this path. That I see growth, regardless of how small that growth feels or is. My karma and kleshas burn when I look into their seeming darkness. And because of this, I may choose to not be near the tenderness that so hurt me recently because I am not part of it, or because I cannot give it. And I may also choose to be gentle enough to not completely isolate from others or wall myself off, and to at least speak-write about my path instead of simply continue to feed a cocoon that would separate me from being present to my life.
Growth and Karma: In writing I can allow myself to feel the yucks of envy, sadness and anger, and thus the wrap that numbs is not as tight, and I can process parts of this week quite soon after the triggering events. However, I am not blind. This tendency to wall myself off, and to ward off touch from people I love is ancient. In my family of origin, in this lifespan, two messages were clearly seared between my ears: The first one was, I am hurting him/you for your own good, because I love you. And the second one was, you should not open your heart, nor love your friends or others outside of the family so easily, because they will hurt you. I honestly do not know how to not buy into these false messages because their roots run deep, and I am susceptible and easily caught in their web. So I lay down my shield, my walls, again and again, little by little. And I pray that I can learn to feel tenderness without fear and anger, and that I can learn to bestow it and accept it without recoiling.
With this piece I have briefly opened the eyes of my heart and its wings. And while I truly do not know where this will take me, I know that I am grateful for the teaching(s) that allow me to see the gem within my heart, and to those that teach me, though I don’t always like the lessons as I am learning them.  Burning heart. Sad heart. Common denominator: Heart.  May this writing be of benefit to others on their paths.


When thinking “thank you” brings out tears
Water washes away the sand…
Water washes away the dirt…
Waves stir the stars, sky above us and the wind…
Earth shakes, again shattering this heart…
Earth shakes
Earth shatters
Earth burns…
Air cools the fire from within
Air moves ashes and the dust
Rain clouds-thunderstorms now begin…
Written on Tuesday October 10, 2017

The edge: looking at some of the _isms that inform the creation of ‘me’…

The ground for writing this entry, is the soft-inquisitive and tender heart that yearns for understanding. But there is an edge brought by the tenderness and the discomfort I feel/felt. I believe there is potential for growth and finding lightness and joy in exploring this edge. I pray for clarity and courage. The beginning of the path, is simply to write the piece and to be with it, with the understanding that this piece began to write itself through me when I decided to go to my center this past Sunday. The path is to feel the tender heart and to see where it leads in its search for a life guided by compassion.
I was both positively touched and also somewhat bothered by the talk/meeting I attended. The topic was Difficult Conversations, and it is part of the move to bring in and work with social injustices, and issues pertaining the inclusion and exclusion of people we consider “the other” as we set out to manifest Enlightened Society. Enlightened society is, or rather happens, first and foremost as an encounter between two people, in dialogue, and in the felt presence that occurs in the space-between. This entry is indirectly a result of my own personal search and the sense that something deep within snapped some months ago, allowing certain voices that I thought were long silenced to the surface of my mind-heart, and asking to be heard/seen primarily by myself. So, not everything is completely articulated, since I suspect there are things that may not have surfaced. And I apologize for that.
Breathe. I also feel the need to add the following note to perhaps better situate this entry. I left Academia, before entering the last stages of my doctorate in education. In my last year of graduate school, right at that moment when I was  thinking about my dissertation and and who I would want in my committee, and while straddling between two departments (Education and Anthropology), the grant that funded the education degree in which I was involved, was cut. I would have needed to pay the rest from my own pocket. So, at that time, I tried to figure out ways for me to complete my degree. And in the time period of searching for ways to do this, two events or stories/narratives informed and helped galvanize my decision to leave the program, at least for the time being. (I witnessed a friend’s dissertation defense which was very disheartening and I also witnessed the faculty egging us, the students to “grill” a prospective professor while presenting a lecture, which was part of her interview process). I searched for a job, found one, and for years, I had put aside the kinds of academic oriented literature that would speak about heart, solidarity, equality, teacher identity, teacher-student relationships, institutional powers, color and race in the school system, consent, age and aging, gender, sexualities, rights within education, feminism, voice and voicelessness, liberation theology, to name a few, because I felt that the American academic world I had witnessed served mostly to strip this literature of its power to 1. guide decisions to be made from the heart, and to 2. inform our decisions of how to be in order to better explore our humanity, and what it means to be human beings in the context of education, and the world at large.
Fast forward. Around perhaps two years ago, perhaps more, a group was created in our Shambhala center to explore issues of diversity, inequality, identities, and other issues around which we tend to segregate/isolate/exclude other humans, and/or ourselves at times inadvertently.  I participated in the meetings, because I was, and I still am, interested in the dialogue (Paulo Freire’s notion) that can foster deep understanding, and the depth that can stop me/us in our tracks toward further cocooning and aggression. But I remember only  one particular phone conversation as having the potential for that depth to arise. This is to say that most of the meetings left me feeling deflated, sad. And for what it’s worth, I am grateful for that one phone conversation. Time passed. 
Fast forward again. Last Sunday. Another iteration of the diversity group held a meeting, at what seems an auspicious time: the current American presidency scares me; I feel a palpable threat of nuclear war (North Korea); there have been multiple natural disasters; and, the lids that had been imposed by means of conceptual political-correctness are now falling or breaking allowing fears and resentments previously hidden in the hearts of people of the worlds in which I/we live to surface. So, I went to the meeting. I believe that the work of the group at my center as well as the Sakyong’s initiative to do this work throughout Shambhala is necessary. So it is in light of this, that I wonder why I left that space on Sunday with a feeling of same-ol’. Why did it feel like a repeat of previous meetings? Am I that self-obsessed and cynical? Is my heart so closed that if it’s not my way I will not play? At least I have heart enough to wonder. Keep going.
Sanity. The very small part of me that understands about the Basic Goodness of myself and others, says: “No. Your heart is not that closed. Just the fact that you are willing to “look” is an indication that it is not.” If I listen to this, I can then take my edge, my discomfort as an invitation to explore (albeit shaking with fear of what I might encounter) the depths of my feelings in writing, without the safety net of another human being within an encounter, or dialogue. Breathe. I don’t want to offend my friends / my teachers, especially those who are brave beyond measure and have begun their own search and put the diversity group together. With that pre-apology I will attempt to further articulate what bothered me, in the hopes that I can contribute something of value, or at the very least, clarity. Breathe.
Today. I surprised myself by going online this morning and spontaneously searching for “bell hooks and whiteness”.  I surprised myself even further by reading a full article on a website:   It’s been years since I had willingly and spontaneously delved into reading critical thinking and theory. It felt good.
I confess that I was saddened by the contents of the article; I was moved; I was interested; it lent me space and clarity. Within it, I found two embedded quotes that just grabbed me directly, one from author bell hooks, and the other by Foucault. These quotes, wrapped within the thoughts of the writer/creator of the website lent further clarity and fire to my own thought process and feelings regarding our meeting. Here are the quotes as they were embedded in the article on the mentioned website:
          ...”next to testing rituals, next to the testimony of witnesses, and the learned methods of observation and demonstration, the confession became on of the West’s most highly valued techniques for producing truth. We have since become a singularly confessing society. The confession has spread its effects far and wide. It plays a part in justice, medicine, education, family relationships, and love relations, in the most ordinary affairs of everyday life, and in the most solemn rites: one confesses one’s crimes, one’s sins, one’s thoughts and desires, one’s illnesses and troubles; one goes about telling, with the greatest precision, what is most difficult to tell.” (Foucault: 1990, p.59)
          ‘As I write, I try to remember when the word racism ceased to be the term which best expressed for me exploitation of black people and other people of color in this society and when I began to understand that the most useful term was white supremacy’. (hooks, 1989, p.112)
I was struck by the notion of confession in Foucault’s quote and how it applies to our groups’ meeting. I was struck because, I have frequently felt that the power of confession is constantly abused in the west, having become almost a part of speech. Confession of wrong-doings and/or restatements regarding systemic privileges when devoid of 1. regret/remorse, 2. vulnerability, 3. the vow to not repeat the aggression/transgression being confessed or, 4. the time-space in which to feel the heart from where the confession arose, has the potential to become yet another cover/lid/bandaid. In confessing, we  have somehow gotten used to uttering words decrying our privileges or our mistakes in a voice that mostly reflects discursive thought, i.e. sheer surface mental energy. And I fear this. And on the other side of confession, the listener too often jumps to put the speaker or person confessing in the Shambhala cradle of loving-kindness too soon, before s/he has had the time to feel and share the heart behind her/his words and in so doing, perhaps reach the space where resolve can come forth.  I can only guess at the reasons why we do this as listeners in the context of racial/ethnic/sexual-gender related conversations. I can only guess at the reasons why we feel we have to cradle the person confessing before s/he “has reached heart”. And my guess is that we do this in part because we are afraid of our own discomfort, and because perhaps we might habitually fear retaliation, especially if the speaker represents the most empowered group.
With bell hooks’ quote, I had what I can only describe as a gestalt-moment. In that moment her quote was rendered as follows in my mind-heart:
I try to remember when any or most _ism(s) ceased to be the term which best expressed for me exploitation of  __people in __society and when I began to understand that the most useful term was unquestioned supremacy’.
Breathe. I was and am grateful for this brief and relative easy access to clarity. This time I did not have to struggle for years to find out what bothered me and touched me. Instead, this tiny bit of clarity arose, albeit tainted by the fear of worrying about whether or not I might hurt or offend people dear to me. But there is greater good, I think, in just saying this and then letting it be.
Fears. I fear the degree to which there seems to be an unquestioned supremacy, a lack of willingness to even begin to contemplate that we all embody parts of this supremacy (Paulo Freire’s Oppressor and Oppressed), and that we all speak within the framework of an unquestioned discourse of supremacy. I fear the degree to which said discourse has the power to deafen and blind us to the reality of exploitation and oppression of people within our schools and many other institutions that we hold dear. I fear looking at what the term exploitation means to me, because most of the people I know (myself included) have remained within said institutions and watched our hearts wither as we participate in the silence that harms. I fear the darkness I feel in my throat as I write these words, and I fear that I will lose the lightness or felt sense of basic goodness which guided to start this piece in the first place.
I fear that as a group we might not be able to reach depth. I fear that the needs of our moderators to keep the group contained within the framework of oneness, sameness, or equalities while exploring the ignorance of our long held and unquestioned assumptions, will preclude the possibility of reaching depth; that we will end perpetuating, by our not exploring, further __isms as we reify them, or as they become taken and reified by individuals or smaller groups as attempt to reclaim their sanity and identities.
Fearlessness. I believe that as Buddhists I/we need to engage in the exploration of our human tendency to seek comfort by solidifying or reifying identity related concepts. It seems to me, that any reification, any concept reified in the name of name of reclaiming our sanity, any solidified perpetuation of a habit will amount to nothing more than that, i.e. another temporary reification that will necessarily create the exclusion of others, which to me is the same as creating “the other“.
The fruition of this piece is hopefully clarity, understanding and reflection that bridges the gap between the edge of my discomfort and the possibility of remaining present to further these very much needed conversations. I am not advocating further silence, or stopping this exploration. What I would like to experience in the context of meetings such as this, is a sense of deepening (emphasis on the _ing active, progressive, developmental, ongoing quality of the word). It seems to me that true inclusiveness can only happen in the willing heart, in the heartfelt moments cushioned between the space that exists within polarized tensions or expressions of tensions, and within time suspended, the fourth moment, the now. The teachings ask us to look at anything and everything that happens in life, so that we learn to open our hearts over and over. The teachings asks us to look deeply. Always. But depth is relative to each heart. I hope I have not offended anybody.
May this entry contribute to clarity. May it be of benefit. May I be pulled by the proverbial pony-tail into learning and opening my own heart.

The Kitten

At a stoplight on my way to the bank this past Friday I saw a man with a handwritten cardboard sign. It said something to the effect of being in need, anything helped, and loose change accepted. I remembered I had some change, so I rolled down my window. He approached. He looked at my ear cuff and said, "that is beautiful, bad ass .." I apologized for the fact that I was giving loose change, he smiled. Time seemed to be somehow suspended…

–That’s what my sign says!–he said.

And then he said something like: –I’ll tell you what my sign doesn’t say… He started telling me how a guy had come in his earlier in the week, rolled down his window, yelled at him and then threw a kitten that clawed for dear life at his chest. I blurted: –Why??? Has the world gone mad? What would make anyone throw a kitten? The beggar, said: –I don’t know, and I surely did not need a kitten; that’s not what my sign says… He said that the kitten’s claws dug through his shirt. I asked him what he did with the cat, and he said that he contacted a shelter, a home. And then I asked him: –What’s next, a baby? Someone might just throw out a baby… And his reply was: Don’t go there…

The light changed. We touched knuckles (fist bump), and I drove off touched inside and thanking the universe for this moment of sharing.

Has the world gone mad?

I find that as of late, I feel very frequently called to wake up and be in the moment. I feel constantly called as if by invisible forces to lower my guard, to notice when or if it is going up, and to relax in order to soften it’s grip. If I relax and soften, I can respond (not create answers) but truly respond and meet my world. As of late too, I have noticed "quickenings", i.e. my coming across conversation topics, places, people that I would not have engaged in the past, talking with people who I fear or resent. The call is to wake up and to shed my constructs and my fears. Any and all activities of this world, any and all moments when we can touch and be touched, be awake, are the voice of the Guru, Dharma.

But the moment must be naked and accepted as it is. And I must be just as naked-open to be in the moment without the need to hide. Practicing being in the moment and not hiding seems to be relevant. I am thankful for the teachings that sing themselves into being right in front of me in the strangest of places, and through the lips of a beggar, a trainer, or a co-worker. And I pray for the ability to listen and understand, so that Dharma may increase, and perhaps bring us closer together in depth, and heart-felt understanding as humans. May all beings find a way to work and touch their beauty and depth. May all beings find the discipline to keep coming back to depth. There is no growth possible without looking into the human mirror. May we have the bravery to look and truly see our own reflection.

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To Shibata Sensei

[Note: I wrote this poem, if one could call it a poem, in 2013 during retreat. Shibata Sensei, paid our group a visit. He was in his 90s. 20th in the line of bow makers to the Emperor of Japan. He spoke to us, and I was touched by the strength, warmth and light that shone forth from him. He told us then that “deep in your heart, you have the quality of never giving up…”]

Withering petals

on a dying lotus

its roots now in the sky

frail the hands that once were strong

frail the skin that once was supple

but the heart still flutters

like the wings of a butterfly.



Friday August 2, 2013

Delayed response to a friend in pain…

(Started Friday September 9th) I woke up today with the sense of having to sit at the page to write and wondering if memories just bubble up and if there is a difference between that bubbling and "discursive rehashing". The answer arose, almost automatically to say that there is a difference. The memories just bubble, innocently, and they may have a purpose, i.e. to serve and/or inform the present. "Discursive rehashing" would be more akin to allowing myself to be completely taken by the content or storyline forgetting to be in the here-now; or it would also be more akin to when I am purposefully attempting to retrieve a piece of information, as when I am in a test. But this is not a test, and the memories that bubbled arose at different times this past week. What seems interesting is that while these memories arose at different moments, I had an immediate sense each time that they were linked, and that they served a purpose. How they were linked, and the purpose also arose spontaneously in my mind. So, to continue honoring the renewal of writing as a way to extend myself to others, I write this in a delayed response to a friend.

First memory. At age 19, I ended a relationship with a man who had chosen to go to college in a different province, and who would return to visit the capital city where I lived every two or three weeks. He was extremely jealous, and this made him frequently lash out verbally to belittle my friends, classmates, and relatives, i.e. basically anyone with whom I related. He frequently flaunted how he and his choices were somehow superior to everyone else’s and thus his visits were punctuated by his need to put down what I did with my friends, or what my friends did while he was not around. I grew somewhat afraid of him. But mostly, I was afraid of how I felt and how I acted when I was around him. So one day, I did it. I do not remember the reasons I gave him for wanting to break up. But I do remember that my friends were concerned for me, and and they worried about what he would do, but I did it anyway. I ended our relationship because I had to.

The phone call. After we broke up, he phoned me during one of his visits because he wanted us to talk. And I remember the ensuing suicide threat. During the call he said that he would kill himself because of me… Today, I am sure there was more to that call because I remember crying, and hiding my sobs from my family because like any overt display of emotion it could prompt adverse reactions. I remember telling him that I would not be looking over his shoulder and, that I would not go to his house; that I hoped he would not attempt to take his own life. But when the conversation ended, I was shaking with fear mixed with guilt feelings and doubt: Would he actually do it? Did I make him do it? Is it my fault? Waves of pain…

I think it was through his younger brother that I found out that his family had found him on the floor, unconscious, with his mouth full of pills. Sad. Intense.

Second memory. Fast forward in time. My marriage became very strained when my ex-husband and I decided to become Peace Corps Volunteers. But we loved each other deeply, and we tried, as best we could and knew how, to make things work both during and after service.

Upon our return to the US, we continued our lives as best we could, and our main priority became my exhusband’s going back to school to finish his degree and later, his work. He wanted to to go Washington DC to continue working with environmental development. I believed that his heart would be broken and disillusioned by having to look at American politics from within, but I could not follow him to DC. I did not want to be at the center of American government and politics. And then, an auspicious coincidence, a call from a childhood friend that lived in Florida. My friend could offer me work, and he also needed my help. So, my ex-husband and I decided that I would go to FL while he’d go to DC, at least for a while. And the split between us deepened. I felt lucky to have found a friend from childhood and the cultural comfort this brought me. But I also felt abandoned (maybe a cultural pull), not cared for: How can you let me go? How can your plans and dreams take continuous precedence? Why was it so easy for you to not ask me to stay, to not try to create an alternative where we could both be together and you could follow his dream? Where is "us as a couple" and "me as your wife"?

We talked every day. We wrote letters. He did what he did and I worked as a teacher and helped my friend. But also, I lived for the first time in many years in an environment surrounded by Latinamericans. I danced, I worked, I sang. I was "adopted" into a Venezuelan family: a mother and her daughter. I fell in love briefly. I lived integrating everything that was happening, fully alive.

After perhaps a year and a half of living there, my ex-husband and I decided to get together again. He needed to return to grad school, and we wanted to keep trying to work things out between us. But it seems that the wedge between us was too big. I did not know at the time how to re-open my heart. And I felt once again brushed aside. My ex-husband asked me to go out, to go dancing, and to the movies with other friends/people/men, while he stayed home… And while I was happy to be with someone that was not aggressively jealous, I also felt somewhat "tossed aside" and my previous questions reasserted themselves: How can you let me go? Why won’t you fight for me/us? How can you push me to go spend time with others? How can your plans and dreams take continuous precedence? Where is "us as a couple" and "me as your wife"? In the midst of this, I fell in love with someone else. In so doing, I betrayed my husband and us. No need for details. I was sad. And I was angry. The anger masked the layers and subsequent waves of pain and the remorse I felt, not for falling in love, but, for having caused pain to someone dear.

Waves and layers… I have spent many years after these events searching for myself in the context of relationships. And while I can say that I truly loved the men I have been fortunate to live with afterwards, I lived my life still operating from a posture of emotional shielding and punishment. I could not allow myself to entrust anybody with my deepest feelings because all training in my family of origin had prepared me for a life of shaming, emotional shielding and hiding behind masks. And I also would not allow myself to truly be happy (punishment), because I had never truly believed that I was worthy of warmth and happiness, of being cherished or having someone to cherish. I had betrayed others, therefore I had no right… Something like that…

Humility humbleness NOT denigrating nor self-punishing…but seeing the hidden lessons…

Space. I have been on my own, without a lover or companion since 2011. And I have only recently begun to explore in my heart-mind the possibilities of what it would mean to be in a relationship. Many questions arise fueled by the very old habit of feeling that I don’t deserve to feel joy. Monkey-Brain tortures me with many reasons for my not deserving: because I am too old; because I have not learned to fit in this culture; because I do not really know what it means to actually feel love for anybody or what it means to be a fully embodied human. Or simply because I have hurt others, and for that I should atone. However, I understand the Buddhist teachings and my teachers as saying that any and all aspects of being alive are indeed the ultimate Guru. And, because of this understanding I need to look within, and continue opening my heart in as much as I can, to any and all aspects of being alive. I am grateful for the teachings that allow me, and require me to continue looking and re-framing in order to serve.

Re-framing/ Re-casting: So, I continue to wake up, slowly, thought by thought, and in the space between thoughts, and with the touch of old friends and new ones. I am writing because the seemingly unrelated events/examples/memories that arose in response to my friend’s pain, are indeed linked. They are linked through karma-non-linear-time. I linked them with the thread of the felt-sense of having betrayed others; and with the thread of my not being able to give something that society, or a Christian-informed lifestyle mandated as my duty at the time the events actually took place. But, from the mud comes a very tiny and clear lotus: clarity.

And thanks to the pain I witnessed, today I feel humbled, not humiliated or in need of punishment. I feel humbleness, and the warmth that it can bring. And with that, I also feel better able to express at least onto the space of this e-page what I could not articulate before.

Dear friend in pain, If I could, I would wind time backwards and hold you. I want you to know that without being in your skin, I understand somewhat what you are going through. I know that when we/I hurt others (or believe we have done so) in our attempt to honor our deepest-felt heart or beliefs,
that when we/I leave others behind as we walk away from situations that do not serve our growth anymore,
that when we/I hurt others because we do not give them a say or choice in our decision,
or when we/I leave because if we/I stayed it would be at the cost of causing more harm to all involved,
there is no escape: we/I will feel pain, the aftermath, i.e. waves of regret for having caused pain, and waves of doubts of many sorts. So please hold yourself with true maitri (skt) and compassion in the knowledge that causing pain was not the intention.

Sad Clarity: I am touched by the humility/humbleness I felt after allowing the memories to sift from underneath and connect. I feel not better, nor worse than other people, just deeply human. And from this understanding, of knowing that I have been betrayed by others in the past and that I have also betrayed or broken other people’s hearts, I can safely tell you now that it is possible to live with an honest-open heart, and that it is possible to love, and to begin opening the doors to communicating from a sense of wholeness in spite of any fears and hesitations we may feel. Fear will never go away, but we can soar through it if we don’t solidify our discomfort by pushing it away, or attempting to make it change into something other than what it is (doing so would be aggression towards ourselves).

We are human. Embodied in this case of karma-ridden flesh and mind, we can learn to hold ourselves within an open and dignified heart. Basic goodness-emptiness is the soft and tender spot that remains when we allow ourselves to feel-it-all. It is the spot of health and wholeness. And it never dissipates, it is always there for us to access when we allow ourselves to be touched by any and all things. Sometimes, the lessons are "grokked" immediately. At others, they come slowly, as if they were being milked. I pray this writing contributes to lightening someone’s pain. May all beings be happy.

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Heart and Wings

(Note: Many separate and sad events touched me last week. But two different stories, from different friends touched and opened my heart. So, this was a mix of raw…)

Tuesday-I held her in my heart


my thoughts busy being scared

space was needed

my eyes blinded seeing her so pale

my hands fanning, drying, cooling 

memories of past beloved dead ones

my nostrils flaring with her scents


to give her what was truly needed 

I reached with voice and eyes and ears

but she was hurting

and I was witness 

and since I could not embrace her

I just laid aside my tears


I held her with my heart


I’d be sand, if sand were needed

I’d be flame or water,

song or thought


she touched memories long forgotten,

memories buried deep within 

so I sat with them in my body

silently weeping,

wishing to be held…

but I’d been “witness”,

and without arms to hold me I remained:

grateful, alive

and softened because as I held her,

in my heart, my wings were open wide…


Wednesday-I held him in my heart


space was all that I could give 

knowing that I’d been both betrayer and betrayed 

images that were not his attempting to replay

as I fought to block that he was hurting 

as I fought to not fight against his pain


because I was “witness”

able to give my thoughts, my words,

my eyes, and ears

and waves of presence

from this heart willing to ever slightly reach beyond its fear


he touched more memories long forgotten, 

again my heart afraid to feel

so I stood back within my body

raw yet open and awake,

colors-sounds my mind reflecting,

and without arms to hold me I remained:

alive-and present

ever tender

on call to be and give and fill the need:

a smile, a tear

the sand or wind…

or ice and rock forever still


And while I sense that he’s still hurting

within the pain remains the healing

so I hold him with my heart

as I begin to hold my own

and I flow grateful and alive  

with this heart that dares to witness

through earth and rain, and flames and wind

with wings wide open,

to this life, and all its richness. 




Friday August 25, 2017 Concón. In the Dominican Republic, where I grew up, we eat concón. It is the rice that gets stuck to the sides of the pot where it is being cooked. It is slightly burned and full of the flavors of whatever we have added. We think of this as something delicious (though, honestly, I never liked it. Perhaps it’s time to try it again…). And in order to obtain it, we use a spoon, or something of the sort, to scrape it from the pot. Some parts of the concón  are harder to peel off the pot, some parts are more burned onto the walls. Some part of it may not come off at all, we may not be able to eat them, and in those cases all we can do is soak the pot in soapy water so that the stuck rice softens to be washed. Some parts may need further scraping with that spoon. The image of that spoon being used to peel concón just came up as I was about to write this piece.
My search (I hope) is not ever about reinventing a new conceptualized me, a new set of concepts to create a wall around myself, so that I only allow the people that accept those new concepts in my circle. That would be recreating polarities between me and you, me and the less-holy other. My search is somewhat, but not only, about widening the circle of experiences and concepts I accept about myself; the search is about diminishing or reducing the circle of things that I hide under layers of shaming and embarrassment. That act of widening my understanding of relationships  friendship, sexuality and ways of being sexual, the plurality of gender identities, each gender identifier, intellectuality, culture basis for thought patterns and behavior, religious upbringings, is an act of willingly looking within in order to come across my own limitations and definers. I believe that within this decision to see through my self sustained limitations lies the possibility of widening the circle of people and situations that I can face without cowering in fear. But this is not necessarily easy to do. It is like my own personal concón.
I do not know why, but many things are happening around me, in my world(s), that are pushing me to direct my attention to areas that I had long neglected, thinking that I was “done” with them. I guess that when I am wrong, I am wrong. There is no rush, but I do have a sense of “urgency”. I know that if I do not continue, the blanket of my conceptual “comfort zone” will most probably reassert itself. That is the nature of habits. And on the other hand, I also know that the pushing is non other than ego-monkey-brain trying to take over so that it feels in charge and safe. If anything, THAT is the saving grace: that I can see monkey-brain’s attempts to not be scared. The fact that it is scared and attempting to control means that I am on the right path, that what I am doing is timely. But, and it is a big BUT, I need to bring gentleness into how I am going about this personal search, and about dealing with Monkey-brain, and I also need to bring a sense of true compassion-openness, not guilt feelings nor pitying ego from a sense of snug-superiority. The circle of what I can take in before setting off all sorts of internal alarms is widening, and so is my sense of “this feels right” (emphasis on feels).
As it is with the beginning of any personal or not personal (re)search, there can be a maelstrom of information. In this case, the maelstrom is compounded by the fact that I have chosen to look at beliefs and feelings held mostly at an unconscious level, and, when not hidden in my unconscious, kept at bay by a very tight web of should and shouldn’ts. Breathe. I cannot pretend anymore that I believe in the possibility of an enlightened society of any kind if I continue hiding from myself. I need to look at the concón of beliefs and frozen prejudices that I hold, in order access the vulnerability or fierce-open-space-compassion from where any wisdom may arise. Space. I am suspended by wings in seemingly liquid space, flowing-floating on the dot of not knowing where this will take me. All I know, is that I get to eat the pieces of concón that serve to welcome others into my circle, and that I get to drop the rest. No more war, just open shakiness.
Smile on my lips: my concón as well as my frozen beliefs and prejudices are not solid at all. Wings. And a constant request for guidance on the path.

Memories and Unfoldings

Written on Friday August 11, 2017. Preamble. As a child, I loved to play in the bath tub in my home in the Dominican Republic. I have memories of drawing little soap-foam-bubble faces on the tiles, and then talking to them. The faces were the American president, and I was usually asking them questions about the “red phone” and telling them that it would not be good to press “the button”. In my child’s mind, I was conscious that the US president and the Russian president could blow the planet and create another “Hiroshima and Nagasaki” type incident with the their known aftermath of radiation, and toll on planetary life. As a sci-fi kid, I believed an event on Earth could contaminate space, and thus reach other planets. So I role played talking to the soapy-president-on-the-tiles, because I believed that he could see reason, i.e. I believed that he was capable of understanding and willing to rule from a place of understanding and clarity. As a child I believed that he (and all humans) could and would understand, if I talked to him/them, and I also believed that anyone would (after understanding) want to choose to do the right thing for humanity, for the Earth, and really, for the universe.

It’s been interesting to discover that the child-Rita is still alive in my heart. This child believes in the human potential to understand, and to choose to do what is right. However, this child-like heart is now tempered by the sadness of knowing that THAT president was a soapy-figure-on-the-tiles, and that while the countries in conflict at that time are not the same as the players in conflict today, many of the presidents in the world, our Earth, as it exists today, still have the means to blow us to pieces.  The sadness is that my soapy-president-on-the-tiles listened, and would/could understand (and he wanted to), but I am not so sure about the willingness to listen of our world-leaders today, and this includes my own. Sad.

From the perspective of this child-like sci-fi heart, I feel the weight of the thoughts that say that as a humanity we have lost our ways.  I have begun to remember how much I am affected by the leadership of presidents and governments from all over the world. The world has somehow seemingly gotten smaller and the fears I had as a child again weigh heavy in my mind: I see the likelihood for mass destruction increasing, and like it was when I was a child, my only tools are words, and the education/taming of my own mind-heart. I feel that I do not have much to offer, but what I have, I offer.

Talking. I started reading fantasy and watching sci-fi on TV very early. As early as age 4. I still do. And today, while at work, after receiving online news about North Korea’s threat to deploy nuclear weaponry near Guam, and of the American president’s response to that threat, I was caught in a felt-wave of fear-anger-laden thoughts that were mine and mine alone. Then I answered a phone call from one of my supervisors. We talked deeply for more than an hour about things that are at the core of how I currently feel about not having guaranteed work-hours or insurance; about how I do not feel as part of the team because I am a  PRN interpreter, called and present when needed, but invisible when not. My plight of wanting to have full-time status and medical insurance seemed extremely tiny in comparison to the newfound clarity of remembering that nuclear weapons have never vanished and that as they are tested, we, humans pollute not only our own air and water, but all systems around us.

However, regardless of how tiny my plight is or isn’t in light of the potential damages done at a planetary or a grander scale, one thing seems to remain true. Today I was able to talk calmly and truthfully to my supervisor with my heart in my throat, and with tears swelling in my eyes. I spoke my mind-heart as it was at that moment, and because of this, it was genuine. I talked with her with the same truthfulness I spoke to my  soapy-president-on-the-tiles when I was little. The sad-beauty of the conversation was that neither of us shut down. We both touched each other’s heart. And I feel clean, and clear. And I am grateful for that encounter, for the possibility of going beyond my fears and opening, and for that seeming-other human brave enough to do the same and open that space. I have not encountered many people in a supervisory capacity in this country with the bravery of a true friend. I pray that our friendship extends and that she has benefited from the encounter as much as I did, for this is “enlightened society at its best”. Sad truth: I crave this depth.

[Saturday August 12, 2017. Recent recognition of the darkness(es) or of things I had labeled as such and believed them to be so as a child-protecting-itself from what s/he intuitively s/he cannot handle– without again pushing it/them away nor craving it/them is/was key: This key can now be looked at with the understanding that all that it once hid is already integrated and that it all is as it should be. From the mud, the lotus.]

Communicating. The following mini-event also took place yesterday, before I read the online news about Korea and before I talked with my supervisor on the phone. In the context of being the coordinator for a project. My tendency is to deal or navigate projects by asking questions and clarifying my understanding, throughout the duration of any project. I depart from a stance of open-curiosity, which all too easily turns into anger and feeling deflated (and I see this as my problem, not anyone else’s), when I feel that my understanding of my role and my particular way of understanding said role is not respected. I have over the years trained myself to not react by sending flurries of emails or text messages. Instead, I pull back and craft what I want to say, attempting to address with as much clarity as I can muster in my writing in English. I do so because in the crafting I manage to temper or tone down what ego-monkey brain comes up with initially. I also craft the message by re-reading the communication I am reacting to, making sure that I am responding exactly to my concern which usually boils down to something like the following: I am coordinating this project. This has been established. I have already initiated the conversations that I needed to initiate with the project leads, and I have told you who plugged me into my current role, that I have done so. Ah, but you did not receive my message to you on time, so you went ahead and contacted the leads to ask the same questions. Why did you not ask me instead if I had taken the step already? So I notice the communication flurry of emails and I become confused, and truth be said, a little annoyed since I do not like confusion with my morning coffee. So I craft a response, and I send it. Your response comes back with an apology and an offer of completing part of the task that I had already told you I knew how I was going to complete, ignoring the other part of the task and the fact that I took the time to tell you. So, I go back to my own emails, not just confused but doubting myself: Did I not say this clearly? How poor was my pre-caffeine-writing-in-English this morning?

And I sense my frustration swelling, and then the SNAP into place: “No. You do not get to torture me today (talking to monkey-brain). Everything I thought I had told her is there in what I wrote. If she wants to complete that part of the task herself, so be it. All I have left to do now is thank her for her help, and further clarify that I will be completing the other part of the task.”

Looking back. Looking back is useful because if we don’t use it as attempts to reify the past, it can shed light and let us see how far we’ve come, and where we need to look next. I have recently become aware of my tendencies to hide and not play at all, or to overwhelm and dominate the games or life situations where I was afraid. These tendencies hid in the darkness of not even denial, for denial acknowledges the presence of that which is being denied. These tendencies hid instead in the darkness of submissive-little-ms.sunshine who would pretend to do what others wanted while totally withholding warmth, and human empathy/contact. Instead, this time I could feel the tendencies swelling and getting ready to lash out, and I was ok with feeling annoyance, confusion, fears, shame, all the thoughts, together with the sadness I also felt because you could not bring yourself to ask me questions directly and felt that you had to do things yourself. Oh well.

I pray that I can bring the fruit of this newfound clarity, the clarity that happens when certain things SNAP into place, and the clarity of what happens when hidden things SNAP into the open and allow themselves to be looked at, to guide me in my attempts to communicate in order to conjugate “enlightened society” as if it were a verb. I am grateful to the teachings that allow and encourage me to look at the SNAPS of this mind-heart and at what is below the cracks. And I am grateful to the people who participate or appear for the dream of this life to unfold.





Walking on a sunlit corridor…

August 2, 2017

Yesterday I arrived at the hospital where I had a shift after having been at the clinics fulfilling an interpreting encounter. 

I came out of the parking lot and crossed the glass enclosed bridge that leads into a corridor also enclosed by glass. As I got to the corridor, a man. He greeted me good morning and I greeted him back. I looked at him. He was beaming a smile that pulled a smile from within me to light my face. I asked him: How are you? And he responded something like: “Every day I wake up alive, is a day that I know I am blessed by God. I know this.” 

He was still beaming, and I was still smiling. We parted ways. He headed to the reception desk, and I headed to where I regularly sit when I’m assigned to work here. 

Through this encounter and the smiles and words we exchanged I felt blessed, and touched by a sense of sheer presence. And now, I still feel gratitude for the encounter and exchange, and for the teachings that helped me see and experience them as teachings. 

May all being experience teachings and encounters that ever so gently touch their heart and draw a smile upon their lips.