All things connected……

I have noticed that my energy this last month has not been outward in my writing/sharing. I have been digesting and unwinding threads in my research about human trafficking and labor/sexual slavery (as I am about to work with 2 organizations in Nepal/India focused on these issues).

I suppose I am not surprised that as I research more I find how everything is connected. That all paths lead back to the core questions about:
~the roles we play out as humans
~whether or not we choose to question our conditioning no matter how ‘status quo’ it looks
~what happens when we are disconnected from our core sense of self love

My intention is to breathe into a practice of non-judgement and to look at these injustices through the lens of these essential questions. I don’t see how it is possible to separate any of it…..
How can we isolate human trafficking and forced sex labor as problems unto themselves. The issues are always complicated when it is about money and control/power. The threads of this go way back into history and in every geographic location. It is undeniably linked to prostitution, pornography, the sex industry, socio-economics, gender inequalities……it goes on and on.
Even the impressions I have personally had about strip clubs or prostitution (as becoming increasingly about an empowered choice more often than not) are being pretty much blown out of the water. All of it has been based on assumptions or misguided information that is far from accurate and simply convenient ‘smoke screens’.

Again, I am not here to judge….that is not my desire or my style.
I want to understand even though it is incredibly uncomfortable most days as I continue to learn more.

As I read and research about the rise and development of the sex industry here in the United States along with:
~the increase of violence in pornography in the last few years
~the rapid growth of internet pedophile sites/clubs in the United States (coinciding with the accessibility of the internet)
~ what is unraveling and being learned about the priests within the Catholic Church
~ American companies outsourcing to developing countries to run their pay per view live sex channels and the increase in violence and use of children for American clientele.
~ Perceptions men and young boys have about women in relation to violence and sex cultivated by exposure to pornography
~ The ‘why’s and ‘how’s of men choosing to pay for sex (with women and children) and what they expect and desire

……I realize all of this and more is shaping this territory of human trafficking and forced labor.

We have all allowed for this ‘settling in’ to an accepted sense of ‘norm’ when it comes to living our lives. We see every day (as the presidential race heats up) more prominent topics debated around the nature of religion, marriage and the Occupy Wall Street movement…..
So many judgements being cast and assumptions based on historical ‘values’ and ‘norms’…….
but how do we truly come to know ourselves and live in this diverse world together if we simply perpetuate old standards and imbalances?
How do we create common ground when each of us, to some degree, buys the ‘norms’ without question?

This includes our perceptions around:
~ ideas of success and competitive drive towards this ideal
~the gender roles we each accept and perform without question that shape the world we live in (in comfortable and disempowering ways)
~the inherited conditioning that shapes our choices and personality
~sex and our own sexuality

I understand to some degree our inclination towards this…….
…..if something is the accepted ‘norm’ why on earth would we question it?
That would seem like undue work wouldn’t it?
So I suppose that it is exactly this that I am pondering……that it comes down to each of us questioning our/the ‘norm’ and our comfort zone. To enact this ‘undue’ examination because it is perhaps the core of how atrocities such as human trafficking, slave labor and sex labor can be dissolved.
(Just look at something as recent as slavery and the Civil Rights Movement in our American history alone to get an idea of how this plays out)

What I speak of is a challenge on many levels for myself as well.
I have never had a direct issue with pornography or prostitution…..it has fallen into a category of ‘to each their own’ (to be honest I had not perviously put much thought into it). And I have no puritan ideals about sex to impose on anyone…..I believe in ‘let your freak flag fly’ as long as you are not harming someone else and not labeling, judging or imposing on one another.
And I am ALSO seeing how inherent the proliferation of pornography and prostitution is in the problems of sexual abuse with children, violence against women, sexism, pedophilia, forced sex labor and on and on…..
It was much simpler when I generally thought of these as separate issues….and yet the more I learn the more intertwined it all reveals itself to be. And the more I realize every choice we make can underlie these societal conditionings around gender subservience and sexual dynamics (what it means to be a ‘man’, a ‘woman’ and how we repress or express our perceived sexual drive).

They say (and I agree) that you can pass laws and legislation but the only true way to eliminate this epidemic (of trafficking and forced sex labor) is to decrease demand.
How can we do that?

What is it in our humanity that perpetuates the instinct to exploit those we see as weaker or vulnerable?
How do we continually act out injustices on others to have power, control and financial gain?
What is it about our sexuality and gender roles that feeds such a demand for the sex industry to exist?
Why do we allow and make room for anything that does harm and makes any person or group ‘less than’ and abused?
I am not judging people for what they do….instead I am trying to understand what drives us to want those things that directly or indirectly harms another person. In my opinion, condemning people for these choices does little to understand the ‘why’…..it just allows us to point fingers.
There are ways in which each of us perpetuates less than nourishing stereotypes and prejudiced ideas about what it means to be a woman, a man or simply a ‘successful’ human being.
How can we each create awareness and responsibility for the subtleties of our own thoughts and perceptions as a form of revolution?
Or at the least….a slow unwinding of prevailing inequalities……

Thanks for riding this with me…..
take care of yourself and one another….
Jacqueline

ps
feel free to check out:
resonanceofhumans.wordpress.org
to learn more about the work I am doing and human trafficking.

What would da Vinci do?

It’s early morning and the sky is lighting up……
I feel sparked by several recent interactions……always my curiosity weaving…..

I went to a craft fair yesterday and there was an artist whose work I thought was really good. In talking she had said she found inspiration in Leonardo da Vinci’s work and then continued to make sure I understood that she was in no way comparing her work to his. I said ‘why not compare and why wouldn’t you and Leonardo both be equally good…yet different?’. (This concept is sometimes confusing for people as we are all wired towards status and prestige….the evaluation and criteria for what makes someone or something of ‘worth’.) I went on to simply say that ‘Yes, I appreciate and honor his work/talent but why would we create a hierarchy that put him so high above? Why would her talents not be viewed as on par with his?” I thanked her for her work and said I appreciate her talent as I would da Vinci….even with their unique differences.
She then told me that this was the nicest thing she had heard all day…..
…….which is cool and all…..but why isn’t this what we are already telling ourselves each day?

I am so curious about these compartments we create and levels…..these systems of status or hierarchy. We implement them in many forms….even in something as simple as cooking a meal or having a conversation and it usually involves some layers of criticism, comparisons and self deprecation.
In the realms of celebrity and prestige (within any craft or field) it is challenging to not keep them separate from us and elevated…..to compare ourselves and yet not feel we can be ‘equal’. (This is not to say we can’t have people we look to for inspiration and for whom we offer our respect for their perceived talents and work)
But why not consider ourselves equal? What harm does this create? What happens if we let go of status while maintaining reverence?

For me this extends into all human interaction……a co-worker, yoga teacher, friend, family member…..how do I appreciate their talents or qualities in things such as cooking, socializing, family, finances, physical appearance etc etc…….and not elevate them (or myself). How do I cultivate a new status quo inside myself that is equality? ….we are different yet equal……

Whether it is an artist that is considered a ‘master’…..a well known writer, teacher or chef……or simply day to day interactions and activities……how are we maintaining this practice of comparison or judgement that the end result is a ‘pecking order’? And why?
Seriously, I am asking you ‘why’? What are the reasons or answers you find?

I am an advocate of celebrating individual talents and efforts….so this is not a bid to make everyone monochromatic.
‘Equal’ is not a lessening….
…….it is the real possibility to embrace what lies underneath all our conditioning.

Try this:
During the course of the next few days discover situations where perhaps you might not perceive yourself (or someone else) as equal…..even the small, fleeting moments……and allow yourself to invite a sense of equality. Try to let got of any sense of ‘greater than, lesser than’ and just feel a balance of status, value or ‘worth’ between you and this other person. (This might be in a focused field such as artwork or fitness activities…..or it could be general qualities like generosity or kindness.) Just work with your perceptions or visualizations and see what you notice. Try not to force anything or judge what unfolds…..simply witness.
(You could also observe where you see this happening in the media, entertainment or in your own social circles. Again, just notice it and see if you can play with your perceptions and be curious about some of our ‘accepted’ patterns of thought and status.)

You never know what you might discover…….

Thanks so much for reading……..
Jacqueline

equality

The act of putting someone (anyone) on a pedestal, elevating them above yourself or others, disregards the essence of ‘being love’. Anytime we do this we maintain the system of ‘greater than/lesser than’ in which there must be some who are above and others who are below. And how do we decide who is above and below in this social policy that is reminiscent of the caste system? Are we not continuously positioning ourselves on this scale through our actions, thoughts and perceptions? Do we not subscribe to it when we say something as benign as “I know I should just be happy because there are people worse off than me….” We comfort ourselves by reminding ourselves we are not at the bottom. We ‘mean well’ but it still feeds this system and allows it to continue.
But who does it serve?
The truth is we are all equal in essence and yet unique. We are all equal and also have our own challenges and our own strengths.
What would it take to behold your own radiance simply for breathing….no exceptions.

When you cultivate a space for authentically dwelling here….in the reality of your beingradiance whether or not you have moments of ‘falling short’ or rising up……you have found your own personal expression of ‘enlightenment’. A space without praise or criticism, judgement through comparison or greater than lesser than mentality. If you can embrace this space then all paths for honoring others as unique and equal are free from attachments, limiting stories or comparisons.
Who has defined enlightenment and doesn’t its potential and unfolding exist in each of us? Expanding and contracting from within……not a carrot dangling outside of us we are trying to grasp.

We have been taught from birth to be ‘better than’…… to compare, judge and certainly not believe that we are all equal.

I remember speaking with someone and sharing that I don’t believe that anyone is better than another and they had an example to offer. They said ‘what about a brain surgeon and an unemployed alcoholic that watches TV all day?’ My reply is still the same……it is not conditional. If we start making subjective exceptions I think it becomes a fast slippery slope as far as who gets to decide the ‘greaters’ and the ‘lessers’. And depending on the judges….each of us at one time or other might end up on a less favored ‘end’. We get to have our opinions and ideas but it all changes when we try to make our opinions right. Why would we be so attached to being ‘right’ when it comes to this?

I certainly don’t have all the answers and I don’t believe there are ‘answers’ for everything. But I believe we are all equal and yet different and it is from this place that I can love not only myself unconditionally…. but every single person. Sometimes it takes effort to remind myself but I arrive there none the less.

Try saying this statement out loud…….
‘everyone is truly equal, no one person is better than another’.
Sit with it and take it in……
How does it feel?
What thoughts and feelings arise?

All each of us can do is notice what arises. Notice what you are attached to as right and how you feel about it. Be a loving witness to this ever unfolding of you.

Our competitive nature (part 1)

competitive
1 having or displaying a strong desire to be more successful than others
2 as good as or better than others of a comparable nature

compete
1 strive to gain or win something by defeating or establishing superiority over others who are trying to do the same

I was in a yoga class today and the teacher reminded everyone to only go as deep in the pose as worked for our own body and not based on what others were doing…..to be ‘where we are’ with our own practice. This is a simple reminder and in many ways an obvious one…..but one we often bypass. I thought about the posture I was in and how even in small ways I am striving towards a ‘goal’. Pausing, I asked myself where that goal had come from……meaning was it from my own lived experience/ barometer or from an outside concept served up through comparison.

This all starts to get a little curious because the lines of ‘me’ and the lines of everything else are blurry at times. And in many ways that makes sense because we are in a constant relationship of reciprocal influence. As a society we have a continuous flow of shared ideas, styles, standards and beliefs. We are truly affected by everything that we ‘take in’ on conscious and unconscious levels and have been since our inception.
So, even something as benign as a yoga pose and how I relate to it is affected by so many external concepts of ‘good’ and ‘success’. (I know I have written before about the nature of thought, judgement and the relative nature of success…… and considering the prevalence of these things in our world and how they shape us, I will most likely continue to explore them.)

I often contemplate how I would relate to myself and the world if I was on a deserted island (extreme exercise but helps to show contrast). An island where the influences are radically different. If all I had to go on was my own personal experience, acquired knowledge and intuition. Where would ‘judgement’ be? What would ‘success’ look like? Time and time again my honest answer is it would be a much more gentle and much less critical way of living and ‘being’. A way that is much more based on the inner sensation than an outer comparison.
Now, I am a supporter of growth and striving that comes with moving towards a goal. What a beautiful thing we as humans can envision and ‘achieve’. But it seems with that comes the shadow side of our competitive nature with ourselves and others. And along with that comes the inevitable judgements and fueled sense of opposition.
How can we on a daily basis be curious about our own conditioned patterns of comparison, judgement, criticism and concepts of success? Whether it is in a yoga class, cooking a meal for someone, in our ‘art’ work, in our relationships or even how we spend our ‘free’ time….how do we take responsibility for ourselves? I think it asks us to develop our sense of personal awareness and notice the moments these thoughts or beliefs are influencing our actions and how we feel about ourselves and others. And in those moments of awareness we can pause and perhaps choose something that is less based on competition and more on what truly serves us.

It is absolutely possible to unwind the conditioning. Like anything it takes practice. And once you begin to unwind it you start to see how much of a ‘hold’ it has had on you and how much energy it takes from each of us. Why not try something different from the way we have learned and that which seems to create so much feeling of ‘less than’ or lacking…..so much competition that doesn’t serve us.
Check out part 2 for a simple exercise.
Thanks for reading……


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