Saturday, May 12, 2007

Hierarchy of Sexuality

I found this at The Art of Intimacy.

Dr. Lana Holstein and Dr. David Taylor offer a seven stage model of sexuality that I find kind of interesting.
  1. Biology: the physical and chemical functioning of our bodies.
  2. Sensuality: the energy of pleasure that flows through our bodies because of our ability to feel.
  3. Desire: what most of us have come to think of as sexy and sexual -- it is the mating dance, the hey, check me out!
  4. Heart: the energy of committed love and devotion. The way we celebrate I am yours; you are mine, with many tokens and rituals -- weddings, anniversaries, Valentines.
  5. Intimacy: the energy of truth and trust. Think of staying up all night with a new lover, just talking and getting to know each other.
  6. Aesthetics: not about superficial beauty, but rather inner beauty, a quality of the soul.
  7. Ecstatics: the energy of the sacred contributing to our sexuality -- that deep place where we lose our ego boundaries and dissolve in oneness with our beloved.

I think they are approaching an integral model based on this short clip. But I'm not sure if they see this as a developmental model. And of course, we would have to add an eighth stage in which one has access to all of the first seven by choice and at the same time.

You can see more about their product at their website.

Steven Wright

I found this video of Steven Wright on Letterman. He's one of my favorite comics, and I could use a little laughter these days.


Via: VideoSift

Friday, May 11, 2007

Quotes on Fear

I found these over at Personal Development with The Positivity Blog. Here are a few of my favorites -- I really like the Frank Herbert quote the best.

Fears are educated into us, and can, if we wish, be educated out.
Karl Augustus Menninger

I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
Only I will remain.
Frank Herbert

Fear: False Evidence Appearing Real.

Fear is only as deep as the mind allows.
Japanese Proverb

Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. The fearful are caught as often as the bold.
Helen Keller

If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself, but to your estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment.
Marcus Aurelius

You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing which you think you cannot do.
Eleanor Roosevelt

The enemy is fear. We think it is hate; but, it is fear.

If you’d like to read more about fear and overcoming it have a look at 5 Life-Changing Keys to Overcoming Your Fear and How to Move Beyond Being a Self-Help Junkie for some practical pointers and advice.

Forgetfulness - Billy Collins Animated Poetry

Collins isn't one of my favorite poets, but this is cool.

Daily Dharma: Spiritual Practice

Today's Daily Dharma from Tricycle:

Spiritual Practice

Spiritual practice is difficult in the beginning. You wonder how on earth you can ever do it. But as you get used to it, the practice gradually becomes easier. Do not be too stubborn or push yourself too hard. If you practice in accord with your individual capacity, little by little you will find more pleasure and joy in it. As you gain inner strength, your positive actions will gain in profundity and scope.

~ The Dalai Lama, A Flash of Lightning in the Dark of Night

From Everyday Mind, a Tricycle book edited by Jean Smith

From my experience, the key point in this quote is not pushing too hard. If we become attached to outcomes in our spiritual practice, we are missing the point. It's not about the destination, as they say, it's about the journey.

Eddie Izzard -- On Computers [NSFW]

More fun from Eddie . . . .

Via: VideoSift

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Raven, Enigmatic Pagan Symbol

I found this at Suite 101 -- it might give some insight into my fascination with Raven. I tend to identify more with the indigenous views on Raven -- the Europeans had a definite bias against any black bird.

Raven, Enigmatic Pagan Symbol
Feathered Kin: Symbol of Magick, Creation, Healing and Protection

To Shamanic people of many cultures, Raven was, for the most part, beneficial. To the superstitious and some of orthodox religions, the bird was an ill omen.

Raven the Bird

Raven is a member of the corvid family as are crows, magpies, blue jays and others. They are intelligent animals. Two wild ravens helped a captive one escape by digging a hole from outside of its cage while the one inside dug from there. They can be taught to talk. Ravens are playful and have learned to use tools. They employ stones and other hard objects to crack nuts.

Ravens, scavengers, are found globally. Zoologists have found they are more beneficial than destructive to the environment. The only difference between a raven and a crow is the size. The former is the larger one.

Old World Pagan Raven Symbolism and Superstitions

Bran is the Celtic word for Raven, ubran is the Welsh name. Raven symbolizes protection, initiation and healing. It brings in deep healing and signifies the death of one thing to bring in the birth of another. Raven’s other attributes are eloquence, change in consciousness, wisdom, messages from spirit and something unexpected, but beneficial would happen soon. Raven was believed to be not totally trustworthy, so Celts were careful in working with it.

In the Germanic-Norse tradition, Waelceasig, Raven, was connected to death. Slain warriors were deemed to be feeders of Raven.

People in Cornwall believed that a raven cawing above a house meant good fortune was coming. Sailors believed that killing a raven was to bring ill fortune. Scottish hunters believed Raven’s raucous calls meant a successful hunt.

Ravens live in the Tower of London. The English believe that if they leave the tower, disaster will fall upon the country. They left the tower before the bombings began in England during World War II. The birds were reintroduced to the tower after the war ended and have been kept there since then and have a Ravenmaster who cares for them. Their wings are clipped so they cannot fly away.

In the Middle Ages, it was believed that to hear Raven’s caw was an omen of death. Sightings of the turnfalkens, ravens, and hearing their calls was a death omen to the Hapsburgs, the ruling family of the Austro/Hungarian Empire. Christians of that era believed that evil priests became ravens when they died.

Native American Raven Beliefs

AmerIndians associated Raven with magick, a powerful medicine or power that gives courage to enter the void, the Great Mystery where Great Spirit resides. When Raven appears, there will be a positive change in consciousness. Raven guards ritual magick and healing.

Raven brought light into the darkness of the world and transformed and created part of Maka, Mother Earth. He named plants and taught animals.

Raven is the hallmark of shape-shifting. Raven could see all and find things that are hidden.

Some tribes believe that Raven is Trickster like Coyote and Crow. Raven is teacher out outwits himself, being fooled by his shenanigans.

Raven, in accordance with Celtic symbolism, is believed to be a sign that something special, but unexpected will happen.

The Encyclopedia of Life

Very cool . . .

MSNBC/Newsweek looks at The Encyclopedia of Life
Now the Encyclopedia of Life will endeavor to document online every one of the world’s 1.8 million named species—each getting its own dedicated Web page. “This is one of those great things that will help everyone,” says Cristián Samper, the acting secretary of the Smithsonian Institution. “It’s one of those fun projects for humanity.”

A well-endowed one at that. The Encyclopedia of Life—a collaboration of the Smithsonian, Harvard University, Chicago’s Field Museum, the Marine Biological Laboratory at Woods Hole, Mass., the Biodiversity Heritage Library and the Missouri Botantical Garden—has already received $12.5 million in grants from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, and has been promised more than an additional $10 million. And like Wikipedia, the centralized database of every known living thing will be free and open source when it goes live early next year (in the meantime, the EOL site, which launched this week, comprises four sample pages and an inspirational video).

Samper, a biologist by training and the director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History since 2003, spoke with NEWSWEEK’s Brian Braiker about his vision for the Encyclopedia of Life.
Read the rest.

Daily Dharma: Crossing the River

Today's Daily Dharma from Tricycle:

Crossing the River

When we study Buddhism, we learn about the view and the meditation as supports for encouraging us to let go of ego and just be with things as they are.... These supports are often likened to a raft. You need the raft to cross the river, to get to the other side; when you get over there, you leave the raft behind. That’s an interesting image, but in experience it’s more like the raft gives out on you in the middle of the river and you never really get to solid ground.

~ Pema Chödrön, Start Where You Are

From Everyday Mind, a Tricycle book edited by Jean Smith

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Daily Dharma: Opening From Heart

Today's Daily Dharma from Tricycle comes at a very good time -- this is a good message for me to hear.

Opening From Heart

Right now, and in every now-moment, you are either closing or opening. You are either stressfully waiting for something--more money, security, affection--or you are living from your deep heart, opening as the entire moment, and giving what you most deeply desire to give, without waiting. If you are waiting for anything in order to live and love without holding back, then you suffer. Every moment is the most important moment of your life. No future time is better than now to let down your guard and love. Everything you do right now ripples outward and affects everyone. Your posture can shine your heart or transmit anxiety. Your breath can radiate love or muddy the room in depression. Your glance can awaken joy. Your words can inspire freedom. Your every act can open hearts and minds. Opening from heart to all, you live as a gift to all. In every moment, you are either opening or closing. Right now, you are choosing to open and give fully or you are waiting. How does your choice feel?

~ David Deida, from 365 Nirvana, Here and Now by Josh Baran

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Gratitude 5/8/07

I tend to go about my life feeling isolated and alone. But when it matters, I have an incredible network of friends in both meat-space and virtual-space. I have been truly floored by the support I have received in the past five days -- from friends, clients, fellow bloggers, and complete strangers. I even received a personal email from an important person at the Integral Spirituality Center -- and to be honest, I had no idea my blog was being read by anyone there.

I just want to express my gratitude for everyone who reads this blog -- those who comment and those who don't. This thing would be nothing without its readers. I am truly grateful.


Depression as Possession

It's been nearly ten years since I have experienced the kind of depression I have felt since everything came down Thursday night. I'm not talking about sadness or angst, or even despair. I'm talking curled up in fetal position with a bottle in one hand and a cigarette in the other kind of depression [this is a metaphor -- I'm not actually doing this]. I would have tried to sleep through it, but sleep seems to be something my body and mind have forgotten how to do.

It occurred to me at some point in the last few days (perhaps during the short period of clarity I felt Saturday night and Sunday morning), that being depressed like this feels an awful lot like some kind of possession. I didn't even recognize the person I have been the past few days as me -- I didn't even look like me in the mirror.

Through a strange alchemy of hormones and neurotransmitters, my mind and body had been hijacked by this thing we call depression. It feels almost literally like being possessed by a spirit of darkness.

One of the nice things about prolonged sleep deprivation is that it can produce altered states (and I get a lot of reading done). I feel pretty clear right now (but I could be delusional as well -- so flip a coin), as though I am seeing clearly for the first time in days.

I can see the depression I have been experiencing as a kind of possession by a subpersonality. I've never looked at depression in this way before, or seen anyone else look at it this way either.

None of this negates the neuro-chemical component, or the emotional component. And I would certainly hesitate to suggest that this can be applied to the clinically depressed. But for people who are dealing with situational depression, as I have been, I think there might be some value in approaching the problem from the perspective of subpersonalities.

One of the foundations of subpersonality theory is that subs develop most often as a self-protective measure. They arise to protect a young and fragile psyche from intense physical or emotional experiences. When seen from this angle, depression serves the same purpose.

Intense situational depression isn't feeling sad or hurt, it's feeling almost nothing. Along with the numbness comes despair that it will ever be any different, lethargy and avoidance of responsibilities, either prolonged sleep or sleeplessness, and a desire for escape by any means available. This may be one way that some psyches learn to cope with intense feelings -- the pain is experienced as so intense that some part of the psyche takes over and shuts everything down.

But for those of us who have been in therapy and have learned to access an observer self, or have learned to do so through meditation, or have found access to the core self through "parts" or subpersonality work, we can experience short periods of disidentification from the depressed state. Anyone can be taught this ability, especially in therapy, where it might be crucial to gain some objective perspective.

Simply experiencing this disidentification presents the very real possibility that situational depression is a form of subpersonality. Some researches have suggested (and I'll find more evidence on this in a later post) that different parts or subs have completely different postures, attitudes and beliefs -- it makes sense they would also have slightly different neuro-chemical states.

Obviously, I'm just speculating here (although from a solid foundation). But seeing my recent depression as a subpersonality allows me to look at what it needs and how it is trying to serve me. Instead of feeling a victim of the hormones and other chemicals in my body, I simply see them as a symptom of the larger issue -- that I was possessed by a depressed subpersonality, one that I will name, for now, The Darkness (I've never been good at naming things).

[NOTE: If you are reading this and are seriously depressed, please seek help. Treatment works.]

Live - I Alone

An alternate live version . . .


Sunday, May 06, 2007

Pearl Jam -- Black

A different version . . . from when Eddie actually knew the words.

NIN - Something I Can Never Have

This doesn't count as a post.

Loss, Subpersonalities, and the Core Self

[Yeah, yeah, I said I was going to take some time away from blogging, and I am -- I won't return to full-time blogging for a while -- but I wanted to share this experience.]

Each of my three primary subpersonalities [Apollo (the little professor), Cyman (the cynical young man), and Sophia (the wise emotional one)] developed in one way or another as a result of facing loss and fear. When I experience loss in my life, each of these subs thinks it knows best how to deal with it and get me through it.

For the last 48 hours or so, these subs have been at war, each one trying to dictate how I navigate this challenging period in my life.

Apollo wants to think it all better, argue with logic for how things should be, and avoid allowing emotions to cloud the situation.

Cyman thinks it's all fucked and I should just accept that I will never have anything good in my life. His approach is to avoid the pain by any means possible, usually in self-destructive ways.

Sophia wants me to dive into the pain and let it work itself out. She doesn't care if I am unable to function in my daily life as long as I don't ignore how I am feeling.

None of these approaches can work on its own -- they may have been appropriate responses at one point in my life (given who I was then and the tools available to me) -- but they are no longer healthy ways to deal with loss and pain.

Each of the three major schools of subpersonality work (Psychosynthesis, Voice Dialogue, and Internal Family Systems) suggest that we are not just a collection of subs. Within the swirling voices of our subs, there is a core self or authentic self that can manage the voices. This deeper self is who we really are beneath all the voices.

In Psychosynthesis, this core self is called the Higher Self. In Voice Dialogue, they talk about an aware ego that is not attached to any one subpersonality but has access to higher awareness, a kind of observer self. In Internal Family Systems this function is referred to as the Self. In Ken Wilber's integral model, this function is named the anterior self (the I/I of awareness).

One of the primary goals of subpersonality therapy is to help the person identify and gain access to this core self. In doing so, the client can learn over time to disidentify with subpersonalities and intense emotional states in order to gain some much needed perspective.

I've been working with this process on and off for more than six years. Each time I go through something challenging, it becomes easier to find access to that core self.

Last night, as I was sitting outside enjoying the cool night air, my core self spontaneously emerged. From the vantage point of higher awareness, I could see all of my subs fighting for control. And I could see that no matter how much pain I am feeling, I will survive this challenging time.

But I was also able to see that the happiness of the woman I love is crucial to my own happiness. I could see that it would not serve me well to let Apollo try to logic her into agreeing that she should stay with me. She would end up resenting me at some point. I saw that I have to allow her to choose her own path -- and to hope that she will not let fear dictate the decision. If she does, there is nothing I can do about it. I have to trust that she knows what will make her happy.

Most importantly, I was able to see how blessed I have been to have her in my life these last months. I still hope there are many months and years to come, but if not, then I will cherish this time and move forward with my life, a better person for having known her.

This morning I am still operating from this space. At the same time, I am allowing myself to hurt and feel sad that this relationship may be over. Disidentifying with pain does not mean it goes away, it simply alters the experience from one of "I am hurting" to one of "I feel sad, but I am not my sadness."

One last note. Subpersonalities aren't all bad -- they have positive qualities that we can access when we operate from the core self. This post comes from Apollo's love of systems and making sense of things, but also from Sophia's need to extend compassion to myself and to the woman I love. When we can step back from our subs and see them as tools and not as who we are, we can use the gifts each one offers to navigate challenging times.

I'm going to spend the rest of today reading Pema Chodron and meditating on equanimity.