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.

Spiritual Solidarity: Chapter 1

Currents

In everyone’s life, there are countless experiences that can revolt, confound, or mesmerize.  As such, it’s easy to get lost in the characters, stories, and the metaphors themselves. That has certainly been true for me. I call these “the currents” of our lives; the high-tides, the low-tides, the deep waters, the rip-tides, the near-drownings, and even the still waters all leave an important imprint upon us.  

Another way to describe “currents” is simply the flow of your life; where we’re taken and how we float through it all.

Before we gain full emotional awareness or maturity, it’s very difficult to understand the reason or meaning for anyone or anything ‘happening to you’. What I do know is that it is generally for “good reason” and that reason is not for my drowning, but for my soul’s journey. My mom had an expression I often heard growing up: “Dios aprieta pero no ahoga” 

When we embrace the notion that things are ‘happening for us’ instead of ‘to us’, something inside us begins to shift. Naturally, habitual judgement is suspended and replaced with a deeper curiosity and question: ‘why?’ Throughout my life, I’ve visited this place many times and each time, when I follow the ‘why’ all the way back to its root, I am humbled to my knees.

As I look back on the key events, or currents that either confounded or liberated me, I see 4 general themes or categories for understanding the relevance of people and events to my spiritual journey; 

  • Supportive (the people or experiences modeled loving-kindness)
  • Antagonistic (the people or experiences provided contrast/pain)
  • Benign (the people or experience was redirecting my path)  
  • Awakener (the people or experience was a life-changer)

So, up to this point, if my life were ‘a play’, it could be told in 4 main acts. Think about your own life for a moment; the setting/location, the characters, the plots and plot-twists, the heart-breaks, the lessons and resolutions– and the punchline; what can be humbly and lovingly distilled from the seeming anguish of it all up to this point? 

The main ‘acts’ that informed my soul’s journey can then be further broken down into a number of ‘scenes’ or time-bound and/or specific points of experience that involved people, places, or experiences. Yours may be longer or shorter, have totally different categories or descriptors, so I offer this as just one example for how you/we can conceptualize our individual life experiences:  

ACT 1 

  • My parents (supportive)
  • My early years (supportive)
  • Our relocation (antagonistic-awakener)

ACT 2

  • Colonialism, Culture, and Confusion (antagonistic-awakener)
  • My formal education  (supportive-benign)
  • My conventional career (supportive-benign)
  • My conventional marriage (antagonistic-awakener)

ACT 3

  • Becoming a mother and going back to school (benign-awakener)
  • Becoming a caregiver and embracing community (benign-awakener)
  • My daughter’s passing (antagonistic-awakener)

ACT 4

  • Embracing my vocation (supportive-awakener)
  • Living coherently (supportive-awakener)

What follows is a brief synopsis of each of the ‘scenes’ from my life and the way they helped shape me and my understanding of our shared humanity.  

My parents

My life-story begins with my parents, Mari Fernandez and Santiago Porrata, both first generation Spaniards. I believe that our parents or parental figures are our first soul teachers on Earth. Whether to provide contrast or be supportive way-showers, our family of origin sets the stage for our human adventure. 

By the time my parents became parents, they had already stepped away from both the dogmatic and cultural programming of the Church. Because of this, my sister and I were raised with a unique world-view and understanding of life. I was raised to know about the many languages of God (religions of the world) from my Dad who was an ardent student of comparative religion. From my mom, I learned that being good or bad had nothing to do with education, skin color, politics, or beliefs, but with someone’s heart. For me, my parents are and will always be two of my best friends and two incredible souls who sincerely encouraged my spiritual formation through their own lived example. 

My father’s encouragement of my intellectual and critical thinking abilities, coupled with my mother’s nurturing of my heart and spiritual life, truly conspired to help me see that I was more than just ‘one thing’. Throughout their own lives, my parents modeled for me that to be fully-human meant to embrace change, grief, imperfection, and seeming ‘failures’ as an integral and even welcomed aspect of my life and life journey.    

My early years

My early life was as close to a living paradise as one can imagine. As a young girl, most of my time was spent outdoors and fully aware of the rhythms of nature. Although I had many friends, my favorite time was time spent alone by the sea observing everything the tides brought in and out of my shore; from the countless shades of blue my beautiful ocean displayed, to the diverse creatures that co-inhabited my living playground, I was deeply attuned to the interconnectedness of life from a very early age.

Aside from nature, my extended family (my Godmother, aunts, uncles, and cousins in particular) was instrumental to my spiritual formation and oriented me to the critical importance of family/community in times of joy and especially in times of crisis.    

Our relocation  

On November 3, 1976, my family relocated from the north shores of Puerto Rico to Munroe Falls, Ohio. As a Spanish-speaking 11 year-old, being thrust into a new climate, culture, and  language was severely jarring and disorienting. My first two winters in Ohio, the winters of 1976 and 1977, provided an introduction and orientation so traumatizing, it would take me nearly 30 years to understand and integrate the wisdom imbued in these early life-lessons. 

In contrast to the first 11 years of my life, my teenage years were painful and agonizing. Not having a strong command of the English language, I turned to writing as an outlet for connection and expression. My first friends from the island wrote to me almost weekly for a period of 2 years. The hundreds of letters I received were kept in a drawer and served as a testament of enduring friendship during a time when I felt deeply alone and isolated.

Then, in the summer of 1979, my three ‘new best friends’ were involved in a car accident as they were leaving my house.  That accident would not only bond us, but the gifts and the lessons from that incident would circle back many decades later. 

Colonialism, Culture, and Confusion (my teens and early 20’s)

Although I was born an American citizen, I have never, nor do I today identify as such. However, because so much of the success of acclimating to a new culture required going along, I did just that– well, just enough of it. 

In truth, I have always been a step off, or perhaps beating to the beat of my own little drum, with my head somewhere in outer space (in full disclosure, I’m an Aquarian!), and knowing, deep within, that the way I was being taught, was not always ‘truth’, nor good, nor beautiful! Still, quite true to my Spanish upbringing, I was infinitely polite.

During my early career I was often praised and rewarded for my ideas and ‘innovative thinking and problem-solving.’ It always confounded me that others didn’t see what I saw. I would often cite my upbringing as the reason for this: “island people see things differently because we know what it’s like to be vulnerable and connected, simultaneously!”

From an early age, I knew things I couldn’t explain. There was a layer of ‘knowing’ and knowledge — information I often couldn’t fully decipher or express because I had no words for it.  Sometimes, this put me at odds with others and so to compensate for this, I would negate my own intuition and voice. This is something we all do– we relegate our own knowing and needs to the back seat of life.

Still, my soul and life itself had other plans for me and true to my inherent nature, I followed every beautiful lead. Try as we might, we cannot escape our essential nature, our true selves.      

My formal education

For many years, I struggled to figure out what I wanted to do. As early as age five, I knew I wanted to ‘teach peace’, but there was no job like that in 1983, the year I graduated high school. Also, my childhood dreams of becoming an astronaut and a nun had already been thwarted by the realities of motion sickness and my unique fashion flair. 

For me, being both creative-spiritual and technical-intellectual, felt like a hardship I didn’t want or need. I just wanted to fit neatly and easily into a simple career box. My short-term goal was to move out west to become a graphic designer and wandering gypsy. My dad insisted I should study law or medicine. Instead,  I settled for a degree in business administration with concentrations in marketing and communication.

My conventional career

Although I’ve excelled in most professional environments, I always felt like an outsider and the odd person in every job and team I’ve ever been in…and they would probably say the same about me! 

From 1986 to 1998, I worked in retail operations and in banking, and then with a Fortune 50 company as a corporate trainer and project manager in operations, education, communications, and marketing. By age 30, I had worked in a number of high profile, multi-million dollar projects. I was earning a great salary and being groomed to become a future leader of this “great American company.” The only problem, however, was that I was terribly unfulfilled and unhappy.    

My conventional marriage

I met the father of my girls in January of 1995. We were married from 1996 to 2011. The marriage was difficult and painful. Its ending even more so. 

Through this relationship and the contrast it provided, I came to fully understand the true meaning of marriage and partnership. The most profound piece (and peace) for me was that I became a mother during this time.

Becoming a mother and going back to school

I left my corporate job when I was 4 months pregnant with my first daughter, Serena, and began graduate studies in community counseling that same year (1998). I was 33 years old. My second daughter (Camille) was born in 2002. Leaving a promising corporate career and going back to school was one of those things that made no sense to others, but I was honoring my Inner-guidance and a calling so deep within me, that I had no other choice. It felt as if my life depended on it.   

By far, becoming a mother is the single-most important and sacred thing I have ever or will ever do in this life. I could write an entire book on motherhood because it bears our attention and re-attunement as a society.  Homemaking, a term I once arrogantly and violently opposed because societal programming was pulling me otherwise, became my own life-saving practice and grace.

In the spring of 2006, in my second to last semester of graduate school, my daughter Serena was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis. She was 7 years-old. Although it had not been detected at birth due to newborn screening not being in effect in the state of Ohio at the time, she carried two of the most common and lethal mutations for this condition. In that moment, our family was given a ‘life-shortening’ diagnosis and sentence of sorts– one that would alter our course and change all our lives.

Being a single-mother and caregiver

By 2015, I was the custodial guardian of the girls. As my daughter Serena’s condition required, our lives consisted of frequent and prolonged hospital stays at Akron Children’s Hospital. From 2011 until 2018, the girls and I were ‘frequent flyers’, always with our hospital suitcases ready to go any time. 

During the 8 years that I was a single-mother and caregiver, and especially during the last 3 years of Serena’s life, I came to realize the importance and life-saving grace of community. Without community, we can easily wither. There are literally hundreds of people who intimately touched our lives all those years. I am humbled to my knees every time I think of all that was given to us— transportation, counsel, comfort, house-sitting, care, food — love in all its beautiful forms arrived with such regularity, I was transformed in the process — like gentle waves carving out hardened rock, I was literally reshaped by the loving-kindness of those who took care of us, our home, and pets. 

All those years spent in the hospital informed me in profound ways, too. I learned a great deal about chronic illness, the health insurance industry, our medical system and medicine in general as it is practiced today. Finally, becoming a single-mother and full-time caregiver illuminated the economic hardships that are so common for the nearly 40 million caregivers and many others in our country, too.  

My daughter’s passing

My daughter Serena passed away from complications of cystic fibrosis in 2018. She was 19 years-old. The particular flavor of grief experienced by parents who lose a child is unlike any other. It is all-engulfing, vast, and deep. My story with her is its own beautiful life-book; one not solely expressed in words, but in deeds. Suffice to say, Serena is and will always be one of my greatest teachers in this life.      

Embracing my vocation

Regardless of the setting or domain, fundamentally, I’ve always been a noticer and a writer. Although my writing can be clunky or clumsy, it is through my willingness to honor this calling, that the quality of my own writing and life has improved.

Although it’s not always obvious, if we take the time to gently look back, we can often see the connecting thread that runs through and weaves the tapestry of our lives and therefore, our vocational biography.  

It is my deepest sense that encouraging others to look through their lives with their own ‘magnifying glass of awareness’, can lessen their confusion and suffering. That is the basic reason for this book. Spiritual solidarity is not a belief, but the awareness and appreciation that until we look inside, we will continue to build and co-create the proverbial Tower of Babel.  

Living coherently

Living coherently is a practice– it is play! It is not about achievement, perfection, or what anyone deems as ‘success’. Only you can define success for yourself; only you, your soul, knows what that is.  

For me, this current work is an applied extension of this understanding and aligns with my own desire to grow and regenerate. Regeneration is not about more degrees, or books, or skills for success. Regeneration is an inside job.

As more of us choose to live from the ‘inside-out’, we naturally become kinder and patient. Because we are in-tune and in harmony with ourselves, our judgements and ‘othering’ naturally seizes. We’re no longer interested in debating ideas or being right. As we continue to mature, we naturally long to be with others who match our own harmony and frequency. Our daily-bread is given to us as we give, create, and co-create. Our work is an extension of our hearts.

Each of us comes to Earth with a purpose and even subtly, part of you already knows what that is. How can you really know what yours is? My gentle suggestion to anyone is that you tune into that which has been prescribed for you, not by cultural programming, but inscribed in your heart and Higher-mind, and revealed through the awareness of what you most cherish and love. Follow that. That is your calling. That is your soul calling you.

Spiritual Solidarity: Chapter 2 – Context

Spiritual Solidarity; a real-life story, book, and invitation

While in the midst of a number of writing and publishing projects, this title, Spiritual Solidarity, and the chapters and pages that will follow, simply brought themselves together. I sense the reason for this is because I’ve consistently placed other work ahead of it and my spirit finally said “enough– it’s time!” It is.

My general strategy will be to publish a chapter or section every week (or so)- both in print (here and at The Flourishing Way) and in audio (via Sound Cloud). Eventually, after editing and refining, I will publish it as both a print and audio book.

I hope my words and voice inspire you to reflect on your own life and work, and awaken in you the recognition of how ‘perfect’ (even through the very hard parts) each of our journeys is for each of us!

Thank you for reading and listening along!
Mayra

SPIRITUAL SOLIDARITY - Mayra Porrata - 5/5/2021

Introduction

When I was 7 years old, my paternal grandmother read me a story from the bible-- the one about the Tower of Babel. As she read the passage, one that she and I would re-read many more times, I recall feeling a sense of sadness and quiet desperation at the notion that these human beings were incapable of understanding one another. As a young child, I couldn’t fathom how that was even possible. I couldn’t fathom not understanding if someone was in pain or confused. I also couldn’t understand why people were at war-- why they were miserable and poor. Life, as told through that simple story, made absolutely no sense to me. 
  
Four years later, I would find myself in a foreign land speaking a language that was not my own. I would also find myself experiencing the excruciating struggle to express myself and to be understood. It was a frustration unlike any other I ever felt, but one that I often related to that bible story-- where everyone is talking, but no one can tell that you’re in pain or confused, because they too were stunned and mesmerized by their own pain.     

By age 12, the only safe or sane place to express myself was through journaling and writing. In my own form of Spanglish, a fusion of Puerto Rican Spanish and English, I wrote letters and poems, stories and accounts of my life as a young woman. It was in the pages of these journals, that I could easily discern the human being who had to play a role in society, from the one that was the witness to this vulnerable and misunderstood human. I called her the ‘real me.’

Still, knowing that there was a ‘soul’ there, did not shield me from feeling immense anger and utter frustration. Despite my beautiful and almost idyllic upbringing, I was angry at life for taking me away from ‘there’ and for being forced to contend with such harsh and inhospitable conditions as our move from the north shores of Puerto Rico to Stow, Ohio presented. This anger, my anger, was something I didn’t understand and would take many decades to fully decipher.

Many of us, especially women are not supposed to be ‘angry’. Nice girls are certainly not supposed to express anger. In the mid 70’s we were generally socialized to be accepting and go with the flow and the leadership of men-- our fathers, grandfathers, uncles, bosses, the President, the priest, etc. Lucky for me, I had early child-hood influences from a number of loving and powerful women including my mother, grandmothers, my incredible God-mother, my aunts, my older cousins, and a number of nuns and teachers who modeled what I now call spiritual solidarity; the deep, abiding awareness that life on Earth entailed more than what was visible to the naked eye, and that there was indeed a secret language; one that had no words,  but was visibly expressed through tender acts and loving kindness. 
Spiritual Solidarity, Mayra Porrata, Introduction
Copyright 2021 SEE, LLC & Mayra Porrata, LLC
All rights reserved.

READ CHAPTER 1 – The language that has no words

Reprise: re-reading, writing, and ruminating

This brief essay, originally published in December of 2019, still resonates and speaks even louder to me today. May it comfort all who read it with the knowledge and awareness that our present challenges are merely a preparation for better times ahead. Mayra

Much like millions of others, my 2019 was hallmarked by a number of dramatic shifts leaving abundant space for contemplating the deeper meaning of it all. Something is different this year, though, and I think it’s definitely me.

Before I was fully aware, my life was rather mechanistic and duty-bound. I was operating from a fear-based mentality; our default human software. Not all, but many of the decisions I made up until now were based on “the fear I wanted to avoid” versus “what lit me up like a Christmas tree”.

In this last decade in particular, because so many of my/our greatest fears have actually come true (e.g. mass economic instability, job losses, chronic illnesses, suffering) there’s millions of people world-wide who have been forced to operate from their higher faculties (e.g. heart-intelligence/wisdom, intuition, perception, will, reason, and imagination), and this is actually a good thing. Although it is excruciatingly painful to be broken-open by life, it is actually a gift, too. It’s like getting a software upgrade, just when you thought you were about to die.

The greatest riddle and paradox of our shared humanity is the ability to transcend the binary (“right-and-wrong”) and fault-finding stance to embrace the fact that it is merely a step, or stage in our evolving consciousness. However, to be able to see this does require a quantum leap in our understanding, and thankfully, it is one that is attainable for each and every one of us!

The changes afoot may seem weird, “crazy”, or radical, but fundamentally they are not; they are about the essence of what it means to be a human being and about the world we wish to co-create, inhabit, and love.