The tree of life

As I stood beneath this massive tree, a beautiful download of information was received and it went something like this:

Humanity is like this tree. We all stem from the same root. We all grow and are nourished by and through this tree.

All of us start out in the lower branches– gaining mass and strength that assists the tree in becoming sturdy and viable. Smaller branches grow from the main ones and expand in new directions, gaining new perspectives and light that nourish and replenish the tree.

The branches on any side of the tree can only see what they see. However, the knowledge and insights from all other branches is readily available to them. All branches need the same air, light, water, and soil to survive. If one branch perishes, the entire tree is at risk.

Each leaf on this tree is like a human being. Some are green, some are brown, some are yellow. You are a leaf. Each person you know is a leaf. Clustered in branches, some new, some old, each leaf is part of the tree, but also individual and unique.

Although the leaves (humans) on the lower branches cannot see what the leaves on the higher branches are doing, they are enriched by the fresh light and air, nonetheless. The leaves (humans) on the higher branches are there due to the strength and nourishment from the lower branches and the tree itself.

Without new branches, new leaves, and new growth, the tree cannot remain viable or regenerate. Without light, the tree can actually perish. To fear light and growth is to fear life itself.”

“Grief is our refusal to live small”

When a parent is given a life-limiting diagnosis for a child, when the child is 6, you begin to grieve that day. We hope. We pray. We fight. We live. But death is always ‘there’, as it is for every single one of us.

Grief is a uniquely creative process. While it is certainly experienced in the mind, it is not confined to the mind. Relative to how it looks, it may be helpful for people to know that it does not always look like we think it should.

My daughter Serena was 1 of 410 people who died from cystic fibrosis in 2018. That year, the median age of death was 30.8 years. At the time of her diagnosis in 2006, Serena’s predicted survival was early 20’s. Nearly 20% of the deaths in 2018 occurred before age 20. Serena was 19.

In the aftermath of my daughter’s death, it was the writings of Francis Weller that informed and illuminated for me not only the acute and profound grief I was experiencing, but the grief I had been actively living since 2006.

“Grief is subversive, undermining the quiet agreement to behave and be in control of our emotions. It is an act of protest that declares our refusal to live numb and small. There is something feral about grief, something essentially outside the ordained and sanctioned behaviors of our culture. Because of that, grief is necessary to the vitality of the soul. Contrary to our fears, grief is suffused with life-force…. It is not a state of deadness or emotional flatness. Grief is alive, wild, untamed and cannot be domesticated. It resists the demands to remain passive and still. We move in jangled, unsettled, and riotous ways when grief takes hold of us. It is truly an emotion that rises from the soul.”

Francis Weller

Like a twelve-year, low-grade fever, the force of grief would simply not allow me, or us, to wallow in self-pity, deadness, or darkness. And yes, my daughter Serena was grieving this entire time, too; grieving her mortality; grieving her father; grieving her sister and me; grieving a life interrupted; grieving for everyone she knew and loved. My daughter Serena refused to live small.

How could I confine her and her spirit? I could not. Life has its own agenda and it was showing us how to live it. Despite the judgements and ridicule of some, we followed each and every internal nudging– we moved in “jangled, unsettled, and riotous ways” because that is what grief does to a person who knows they are dying — and to a mother who refused to let go, until letting go was the only sane and responsible thing to do.

If you allow this life force to direct you, this is what grief actually looks like: leaving a job, starting a small business, severing relationships, changing households, moving to another part of the country, learning mindfulness, going back to school, overcoming life-long anxiety, practicing gratitude, writing books and poems your friends think are stupid, learning new hobbies, following your curiosity, turning over stones, learning new skills, pushing your own boundaries because you know, deep, deep down, you better get ready and have the endurance for what’s coming our way. My daughter Serena refused to live small. Literally. She and we, lived ‘as if’ we were not really dying. And of course we were, and of course we were not. Death is not the end of life, but it’s continuation.

In truth, grief is not something to explain, or analyze, but to live and witness without judgement. This is entirely your choice, and you can certainly bail out at any time, but if you’re lucky enough to grieve with a friend or family member, your only function is to respectfully stand-by, quietly observe, and hold a living-vigil for this broken-open human being. That’s it. They don’t need to be restored, rescued, or glued back together– they are literally regenerating, right before our very eyes.

Next time you see someone on social media, or in your social circle doing something that rubs you in a manner that causes you to wonder “who the f**k does he/she think they are”, the answer very well may be “someone who is grieving out loud.” Even if that is not the real reason, it may begin to replace out knee-jerk reaction to mock and ridicule that which we do not understand.

From the outside, it may appear as if they’ve somehow lost touch with reality, are seeking attention, or are desperately ‘searching’ for something — but nothing could be further from the truth. Grief is unconcerned with consensus reality. A person who understands that they are actively grieving (actively living) is more perceptive, aware, and sensitive than they can ever express.

Accordingly, they don’t need judgements or insensitive inquiries. They don’t need your shaming. They don’t need you to rewrite their stories. Unless they initiate it, they don’t need you to problem-solve. They just need your kindness and non-judgmental presence. Grief is a process of the heart; one that if allowed, deeply informs the mind, and transforms every single person brave enough to receive it, from the inside-out.

Excerpted from Within These Words, Selected Essays & Poems,
Mayra Porrata, ©2021, SEE, LLC.

True Independence

Today, as we celebrate our independence from the oppressive rule of the English Empire, I’m reflecting on the ways we have re-created “oppressive rule” for ourselves and our collective lives.

As many of us know by now, the fundamental source of this is our own psychological fear. When merged with others who are also operating from this software of sorts, we create unwise policy that impacts and threatens the lives, rights, freedoms, and liberties of millions.

It’s a curious thing we do as human beings– this re-creation of sorts. Like a car with a single headlight, we follow our one-sided vision into darkness….and then defend our darkness (our fear) as if it were the only truth– but it is not. We have another headlight, my friends! (and a little light inside, too!)

To be free from darkness and from our own psychological enslavement, we must turn on our other headlight. If you’re so inclined, from this day forward, vow to grace everything you see with your wholeness and the vision of your internal light.

To see clearly is true freedom. To understand the source of all insidious domination, individually and collectively, is true independence.

Photo by Brady Knoll on Pexels.com

Freedom from fear

Isn’t this the greatest freedom? The one that most policy, law, corporate marketing, and personal strategy aim to relieve for each of us; “to be free from the threat of “x” (fill in the blank).

As I work through my own layers of fear and see the conditions they created, it is abundantly clear that operating from fear is not only unwise, but unproductive. That being said, how could any of us actually ever be “free from fear” when the world appears to be fueled by it– literally.

Becoming psychologically and emotionally free, is inner-work each of us must undertake. And it is doable indeed. There are thousands of books (old and new), and teachers (old and new) that can guide you back to the temple of your own understanding. There is no hack, short-cut, or magic pill for this. Fundamentally, while teachers and books can and do help, you are your own best teacher and guide for this transformational journey.

Remember this: fear is a construct (a thought/an idea) and also a vibration which generates emotional states and a whole chain of chemical, electrical, and biological reactions in our bodies. To be truly free, we must each dissolve all the ways we are not. Many people are addicted to these chemicals and to the rush of energy they provide. But just like any addiction, the energy rush is only temporary.

Fear is not something that randomly ‘happens to you’– but something you choose to live and experience. Fear occurs in the absence of knowing any other conceivable way– and therein lies the doorway. Each and every time we step away from our own knowing– from our own inner temple of truth, we will experience fear. Accordingly, living from the integrity of our center, from our soul-knowing, not only dissolves fear, but provides all the necessary energy and creative power to fuel your days.

“Keep the poop in the loop”

Over the weekend, I watched a lovely and illuminating documentary on Netflix, Kiss the Ground. It highlighted well-known data on climate change, as well as some of the noble workers (aka regenerative ranchers and farmers) who are “walking the talk” and modeling, for each of us, what it takes to address our collective disconnection from our planet, from nature, and essentially from ourselves.

Because I work at the intersection of community health education and personal regeneration, I’m always looking up and downstream for the ways that individuals and groups are talking about complex topics.

Although I think and feel very deeply on human matters, I delight in simple messaging– and I literally laughed out loud when I heard “keep the poop in the loop”— and while I know that those who work at the macro-level of environmental health know exactly what this means, I wondered if we had ever pondered the micro or individual application; of how we can “take our shit” (our emotional baggage, our nonsense, our anger, etc.) and transmute it into rich, fertile soil for our lives– like collectively. I think we are ‘here’– well, I am definitely at this juncture in my life.

And so, after I watched this, my mind immediately flashed back to 2 key memories:

Kent State University professor/researcher Chris Blackwood stating (and educating me!) that “soil is life!”; and Thich Nhat Hanh’s beautiful reminder: “no mud, no lotus”

I don’t know if “emotional composting” is a thing, but clearly, it is yet another pathway to earth and human regeneration; emotionally healthy people make kind and loving decisions. To regenerate ourselves, by consciously NOT walking away from our “waste” (emotional and otherwise) and really looking deeply at it all, is the “heartbreak” that so many of us sense is the necessary catalyst for personal and global transformation.

To this end, I’m working on a couple of books and workbooks — that are helping me connect dots I had not fully connected, and to help me make the most loving, and therefore powerful, decisions going forward. Over the weekend, I also re-released Until it happens to you— a tiny biographical poetry collection that spans 20+ years of my life…..all to model personal regeneration and “keeping poop in the loop” (and yes, I’m laughing out loud right now!) — If that’s too gross or offensive, remember this message instead: no mud, no lotus.

How will you spend your time?

I read a neat quote on Twitter the other day: “Knowledge isn’t free, you have to pay attention.”

Knowledge and information are abundant and everywhere! Yes, in books (one of my favorite places to look!), but also in your backyard, in the sky, at work, even on your Facebook or Twitter feed.

When I went to the hospital to deliver my second daughter Camille, there was a painted mural on the wall with the following words:

“Everyone and everything around you is your teacher.”

For some reason, that quote hit me right in the heart and from that day on, I began to notice everyone and everything this way…..the way I used to during my childhood when I lived in Puerto Rico and spent my days on the beach, gazing at the tides, playing with anything and everything that came my way.

In many respects, planet Earth is like a school; a living classroom, if you will. If you’re aware enough to know that ‘you are here’, and that you are here for some reason, you’re more likely to “pay attention” to what comes your way.

Just like ‘regular school’, however, there are those who do not enjoy this school. They are angry. They may be afraid, and so, they attack what they view as threats: they undermine teachers; they shame fellow students; and they ridicule what they don’t understand. They would rather blow up the damn school!

In fact, they don’t see it as a school at all, but as a place to conquer and overpower– which means that whoever is in their way must be ‘set-straight’, shamed, or destroyed.

This is one key observation that Gary Zukav and many others see as a difference between the human beings who are ‘multi-sensory’, and those who are not (yet). To note, most human beings have five ‘factory installed’ physical senses (sight, touch, sound, smell, taste). But there are millions of individuals who perceive beyond these five.

These are not things that can be proven or explained with mere words– they are known, by the individual, because they are directly accessed. And, this access is open and available to anyone who is willing to do the inner-work to locate this inner-access for themselves.

Millions of human beings are evolving on Earth right now. Our own planet is evolving too. To be mindful that change is hard, painful, and messy, is essential right now.

When people become frightened they either retreat or become angry and may lash out in the ‘playground’ of life, just like the bully at school. All human beings experience fear by the way — that is ‘factory installed’, too. However, we don’t have to act from that emotion.

Given this, the question for each of us, because all human beings are undergoing this journey/transformation/transition, is this: knowing this, how will YOU spend your time?

Arguing with bullies? Shaming ‘teachers’? Kicking the school secretary in the shin?

OR

Following your curiosity? Learning from everyone and everything? Thanking everything on your path?

On planet Earth, YOU are in a body, in time. YOU are what time is doing with itself, right now. How do you wish to spend your time?

Focusing your mind on this simple question will direct, uncover, and yield a wealth of information — the same knowledge that so many sages, philosophers, poets, and teachers throughout human history have already pointed us towards– all we have to do is pay attention.

Converting energy

Like most scientific-minded and curious people, I’ve had a life-long fascination with energy. Throughout my life, I’ve read, studied, and questioned the mysteries of it all; from how energy is converted and transmuted into new forms of matter, to how we can harness it (ala Tesla, 3-6-9).

For me, one of the most provocative quotes about energy came by way of Jesuit priest, scientist, and philosopher Pierre Teilhard de Jardin. The quote was this:

Someday, after mastering the winds, the waves, the tides and gravity, we shall harness for God the energies of love, and then, for a second time in the history of the world, man will have discovered fire.

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

In recent years, and as communities face a number of converging crises, I’ve explored how, personally and collectively, we could harness energy to meet our working and living needs in a manner that doesn’t generate greed or exclusion, but greater ‘power’ and wealth for all.

Cracking this code for myself has been a life-long journey through struggle and suffering. I’ve written about this before, but before my father passed away in 2014 he made me promise that I would re-focus my work and writing on adults and work on love.Sure, Dad“– Thinking to myself “whatever the heck that means.”

For 50+ years, I’ve been led on a path to a singularity of sorts– the thing that would explain to me all the “whys” of my life and all the seeming failures of my journey. If you’re reading these words, perhaps you are on this journey, too.

If you’re brave enough to go into the whirlpool or the abyss, pick your metaphor, the abyss will inform you. My life-long question, spoken without words, was asked and the answer was given (although because I’m a little dense, it had to be given, analyzed seventeen times, verified, given again until it “took” in my heart).

For now, I can conclusively recommend to anyone reading this to “trust yourself”. I also offer this nugget of wisdom from a recent meditation and trust that it will serve to inspire and illuminate your own journey of personal discovery.

Fear is the fossil-fuel of humanity.
Love is the energy of the future.

Mayra Porrata

Bring your soul to work day

Back in my corporate days, we had a day each year when we would “bring our daughter” to work. In recent years this was extended to bring “our daughters and sons to work day.” As the essay title implies, I offer that the time has come to do something of substance– something that actually matters.

For many years, I struggled to put words together to describe the sad and incomprehensible things I witnessed during those years. Despite the economic and emotional scraping and bruising I sustained, and that is an inevitable part of being in environments that are not aligned with our highest-selves, I also see that I was meant to be there and to witness what I witnessed first-hand. Because that is the only way to truly know– first-hand. Not from a book, or hearsay, or speculation. But to have lived and suffered it all the way to your bones.

While on the one-hand, my career in the financial services sector was productive and generally stellar, on the other, it became increasingly clear that the higher I went, the more terrible I felt about myself and my work. Today, I sense that part of the reason was this: rising up the corporate ladder required me to progressively leave my soul behind.

You either “get with this program”, or you don’t. For those of us who are sensitive enough to have walked away from those settings, we did so because we sensed that if we didn’t, it would have literally eaten us alive from the inside-out. Like a cancer. It will kill you. It doesn’t care about you. It doesn’t care about anyone or anything but itself.

While it is only one of the unique aspects of that which makes you, “you”, your soul is your highest intelligence. If you’re not bringing your soul to work (or to your home office, the coffee shop, the grocery store, or anywhere you go to on a regular basis), you’re not doing your best work. Period. Overtime, when you don’t do your best work, your heart will show you the symptoms; stress, anxiety, heart disease, extra weight, and the list of inflammatory conditions of “unspecified origin” go on. Health insurance will not save you. Your employer will not save you. Only you can correct this ailment.

Collectively, as a society, we have created institutions and corporations that are literally ‘gutting people and communities out’ from the inside-out. And we, collectively, are seeing the collapse of these same entities and the frantic attempts to bolster them– with AI (artificial intelligence), with bail-outs, with shame, with more predatory industries, with policy and laws that withhold basic liberties and human necessities….and all for what? We all know the answer.

I was telling a colleague recently that the internal pull to go “off-grid” is a calling from our souls. It doesn’t matter if you lean conservative or liberal— anyone who has a longing for the “basics”; to protect their families, to grow their own food, and to consciously elect to disconnect from the numerous ways that corporations and corrupt institutions have infiltrated our lives, that is to go “off-grid.” Alaska or Idaho may feel safer, I get it. But what if we just brought our souls to work instead– would we have to even move?

Revising history

When I was in middle school, I had a classmate who delighted in bullying me. One day, this boy pointed his finger and in front of a handful of friends and other students, shouted “fake, fake, fake” to my face.

Having arrived in the US just a year prior to this incident, I couldn’t begin to understand the rationale or reason, nor the self-superiority or hatred, that would compel a 12-year-old boy to call a classmate “a fake.”

At the time, I was thoroughly stunned. I didn’t say anything or call him something back. I just stood there, utterly embarrassed and in disbelief. I remember coming home that afternoon, searching for my Spanish-English dictionary, and frantically looking up the meaning of the word “fake” (n) fraude, trampa, embustero. I vaguely understood what those words even meant in Spanish, let alone in English, but I knew they weren’t good.

Through that exchange I was shown that in order to be accepted by those in power, I had to ‘get in line’ and be just like them. To this day, this encounter serves as a poignant reminder of the undercurrent of intolerance and the ethnocentric arrogance that ‘white makes right’.

How could anyone call someone they barely knew something that undermines their personhood and character, and that ridicules them in front of others? What kind of person does this?

As I look back upon that exchange, I see something different; the sheer ignorance, fear, and rudeness of this young man. Viewed from the lens of emotional intelligence and wholeness, I also see that he was the actual impostor or fraud; the one who was not behaving from the integrity and fullness of his humanity, but from the wounded part of his personality and the distorted perception that it generated. In psychological terms, he was projecting his ignorance and anger on me.

The bully calling an easy target a “fake”, or worse, is a story as old as humans, yet it’s important to point out that this type of emotional abuse is not okay– not ever. Today, we know that anytime a person responds with anger or aggression, there is an important unmet need. Sadly, for many males in our society, that need is attention, affection, and love.

No one can do the inner-work for these adults and dig them out from the delusion of their one-sided, myopic lenses, or force them to see or read the other side of the dictionary, or the history of civilizations, or institutions, or of humanity itself. But perhaps, we can help.

Spiritual solidarity is a form of restorative justice. It is for the marginalized and for the aggressor, for the bully and the victim, for the sinner and the saint. Spiritual solidarity is for anyone who’s unwilling to be complicit in the misapplication of their ignorance and fear, and who wishes to ensure that the shadow aspects of our shared human story do not repeat themselves again.

Excerpted from Spiritual Solidarity, Mayra Porrata, 2021, ©SEE, LLC

Stating the obvious…(to myself)

Words and language are my livelihood. I write words, play with words, make up new words, string them in new ways, expand their meaning, fuse them….and then, there are times when even I get sick of words.

Sometimes words feel too loud, too much, too heavy, too wordy! Yet words are a basic unit of exchange and a simple currency we trade with others; “thank you” and “I love you” are music to our ears, right?

Words connect us to people, places, and things. My Spanish words connect me with my Spanish culture and family. My English words connect me with my Ohio friends.

As a long-time meditator and noticer, I’m also aware of languages that have no words: the language of beauty, the language of love, the language of touch, the language of sound, the language of light, and the language of silence– of “isness”– where no words are necessary.

Just noticing this helps me– it helps me appreciate the importance and value of words, as well as the importance and value of the space between the words, and of silence itself.

When I get “too wordy” it is because I’m trying really (really) hard to understand something. Paradoxically, if we’re willing to go behind the words themselves, we usually find what we were attempting to understand and convey all along.