30 Years – Recovering from mental illness.

Actually, that is “recovering from having been labeled mentally ill”.

Back in my early 20’s, I got deeply involved in something called “Reevaluation Counseling” – a peer-counseling movement with a big emphasis on “emotional discharge”, big physical/emotional release of feelings in deep crying and sobbing, screaming, pounding, etc.  I reclaimed my ability to feel and release my feelings. Supported by a kind “co-counselor” who would hold my hand or hold me in their arms or just look at me with love and confidence, I would actually weep, wail, moan – none of it in any way theatrical, just the genuine release of old pain that I finally had the courage to face, feel and release.  It didn’t always all get released in one session: the really tough stuff I might have to return to several times, but over time – or sometimes actually in just one session – things did get released and I felt lots, lots better. Freer, stronger, more self-confident. I trusted myself more. I believed in myself. I felt confident in myself.

Over the next 20 years, life was not always easy.  I lost a job – actually a couple of jobs. I went through a divorce.  I had to come home to a house where my son no longer lived. Then his mom and I moved hundreds of miles apart – and my son went with her.  There were lots of things to cry about – but fortunately I could cry. I could actually cry by myself – and feel better from doing so. I know that doesn’t always work for everybody,  But especially I could do this with wonderful, supportive, loving, affectionate co-counselors. It kept me going. Even with all the onslaughts, I felt like I was getting stronger – that my life was in some meaningful ways getting better. 

Then, in my 40’s, I contracted mental illness.  I know that’s not quite how it works, but in a real way that’s how it has always felt.  It was like coming down with cancer. There was my life before mental illness – and a very, very different life after mental illness.

I lost my belief that feelings were something that I could – with enough support and determination and courage – move through and keep moving.  This was different: this was a disease. These were not healthy and completely releasable feelings – these were “symptoms”. No longer was it true that “I know myself best and – with enough support and tears – I will not just fix this problem, but I will get my life back on track and keep growing.”  In co-counseling, the word was that I will keep “Re-emerging”. I had always believed in this. I had experienced myself as definitely and confidently “re-emerging.” I was sure there was no limit to how far I could take this.

Then I was stamped with a diagnosis.  I had “clinical depression” – which meant that I could no longer just release my feelings.  I couldn’t even rightly understand them – the doctors knew all this much better than I did. No more co-counselors – I needed the help of trained professionals.  “Healing” was, unfortunately, not part of the equation. This is something you never will actually be able to heal from. You can cope. You can manage. You trust your doctor.  You stay in “treatment”.  

You hold out the desperate hope that If you find the right doctor you might eventually find the Holy Grail – a medication that actually makes you better.  Oh, it won’t actually really make you better – nothing can do that. But it might do more than make you feel a little better – the most I ever got. It might make you almost “feel like your old self again”.  Certainly, in various therapy and support groups, I did hear people say that Lamictal or something else had done that for them. And God knows there were TV commercials with beautiful actors who now were leading happy and even beautiful lives. 

“This disease will be with me forever.  I must always stay in treatment. I must always trust my doctors.  I must always take these stupid, poisonous drugs – for the rest of my life.  The best I can really hope for is to be compliant, to maybe not go back in the hospital, to somehow slide through this lifetime without killing myself.”  They turned me into a fucking zombie.

Oh, the drugs,.. My initial deal with the devil went like this: I was trained as a psychologist in the 70’s.  Between that professional psychological training and my immersion in peer counseling, I really believed that everything was psychology – that everything had plasticity, could change.  

Then a smart and kindly man psychologist, when he could not “get me through” my sex abuse memories, convinced me that I also had “clinical depression”.  He had me see his psychiatric associate, who – in addition to being definitely brilliant – was young and beautiful and exotic and wore very tight, very short black skirts that I will never forget.  When she looked me deep in the eyes and – in truly a very compassionate way – said, “Dr. Dan was right. You do have clinical depression. It is a biochemical condition, probably hereditary. You will have it forever.  We will work together to try to find the right medications for you. They may not make you all better, but your pain should be less and you should be able to function. You will have to keep taking your meds, probably for the rest of your life.”

I drank the Kool Aid.  I looked back deep in her eyes and basically pleaded.  “I will do anything to have this pain be less. I will accept whatever diagnosis you give me and wear it as a badge of honor.  Just give me your drugs.”

About twenty years later, a kind friend convinced me that the reason I had for so long been unable to shed even one tear was my meds.  I went to my current psychiatrist – who I liked, respected and trusted – and put the question to him. He was gratifyingly honest in his reply: “Yes, it’s probably the meds.  They take the drastic excesses off your mania and depression, but they also tend to flatten everything else. You have to decide if the trade-off – to reduce your pain – is one you are willing to make.”  For him, clearly, the trade-off would be worth it. This was why he continued to do that work. He believed in this – it was his religion.

He didn’t come right out and say, “Yes, you really need to make the trade-off”, but I heard that from him.  I decided to take the soul-killing drugs in hopes that they would make my pain bearable – that I would not do the unthinkable, fuck up everybody else by killing myself.    

I am so, so blessed that – in my current “woke up” state – the healing process is miraculously fast and efficient.  From my “Integrity moment” on June 26, I started – with some help from my friend Doug DeCarlo, who had been reading about the process of “spiritual emergence” in Stanislav Grof’s book The Stormy Search for Self – to try on the idea that I had never actually had a mental illness, but that my process of spiritual emergence – the true Self pushing through all the hard layers of personality – never got enough support by anyone who understood what I was going through.  Without the positive vision and the guidance I needed, I started to unravel – and getting a mental health diagnosis and being put on potent drugs sealed the deal. I was no longer “emerging” – I was sick.  

By last Saturday, I had gotten so strong and clear and sure that I was never mentally ill – that my grief and rage around the 30 years that “they took from me” finally clicked in.  I was so angry and feeling so much pain that – even with all the miracles I have had around me lately – I felt daunted about could I ever get through this one.  

In about a week, I see my newish psychiatrist.  She is smart and thoughtful, personally hip and obviously, reassuringly carries some values and lifestyle connections with me.  She knows about and is open to some new treatments I also am interested in. Bless her heart, she has been willing to help me try to get off the drugs – even as she told me it might not work, that I might end up deciding that i really needed them.  

And, as far as I can tell, she is still about 80% imprisoned in the same psychiatric model in which she was professionally brainwashed for so many years – and which pays her bills.  She has never in any way questioned my “bipolar disorder” diagnosis and has for a year never hesitated to keep writing me prescriptions for potent combinations of psychiatric drugs – three different ones at a time.  

In the middle of my grief and rage on Saturday night, my image was that I would spend most of the 30 minutes in this next psychiatry appointment standing – not passively sitting – raging at her about “what you people did to me!”  I would maybe preface it by saying, “You only carry responsibility for the last year of 30 years. You are in many ways better than the rest. But you are the psychiatrist in the room right now – and you are still part of the problem.  So now you get to hear this.” And I would rage at her.

That was my image Saturday night.  Then I went to church at my beloved Jubilee on Sunday.  Jess Powers, a traveling singer-songwriter who was in town for the weekend – to see her friend, our minister Amy Steinberg, herself an amazing musician – offered a song about self-forgiveness. 

While overtly the theme of the song was self-forgiveness, I took her words and beautiful music directly to where I needed it – to forgiving the psychiatrists.  I cried very hard through the whole song – not in pain, but from relief and release. Tears of forgiveness: “Oh my God – I’m letting go of all that hatred, all that rage!  What an unbelievable miracle!!”

jess powers
Jess Power: this brilliant, beautiful 20-something woman gave me four minutes of her amazing vision, helped this 73 year old man heal from 30 years of psychiatric torture…more years than she has been alive. She was clear with us at her concert that she is not totally unscathed by the pain of the world – that she has wandered, has also suffered emotionally.  But she was the perfect person to give me this gorgeous gift.

About four minutes after Jess started singing, she was done – and I, also, was basically done.  The anger was 90% finished (there still is a little bit popping up – in my therapy session yesterday, in my writing about all this, etc.).  I can see that I still am carrying a lot of grief about the “thirty lost years”. I think I will probably save some of that for my psychiatrist to hear and see next week.  She doesn’t necessarily need to receive my rage, but I think that she really does need to be confronted with my grief. Even if I know that I am going to heal from all of this – maybe already am healed – I want her to remember the sight of me grieving my “30 lost years”.  What I really would wish for is for my psychiatrist friend – every time she is about to give someone a psychiatric label, every time she is going to write a prescription – would think of me and at least pause a moment to think…to remember the awesome power in her hands to help or to harm.

I know that, in this here and now, I am healed and whole.  I may never completely understand why that experience of 30 years wandering in the mental illness desert was just the right experience for me in this lifetime – any more than I will ever completely understand the meaning and value of being raped by my uncle for four years of my childhood.  But I already have glimpses with each of these parts of my life around how they have made me deeper, more compassionate, more real, more humble and more loving.

And I have been given the unbelievable gift of “waking up”. And, at 73, I still have potentially many wonderful years ahead of me.

“You’re not me!”

That’s the good news.

Don’t try to be me – I’m already taken.

Even Majo, who actually is Majo, clearly has his hands full trying to keep up with being Majo.  Do you think that you – who are not actually Majo – are going to have any better luck trying to be Majo?!

laughing with Pancho outside Trade and Lore
I’m a professional – don’t try this at home.

Be radically and ruthlessly and recklessly and ridiculously who you are.

Don’t know yet who that is?  Welcome, totally, to the club.  That particular process of discovery is exactly what this wild ride is all about – what this blog is about, what my book Radical Integrity is all about, what our Thursday night gatherings are all about.

I can be fun and even inspiring to hang out with: I’m big and wild and reckless and unpredictable and crazy and risky and dangerous and playful and fun and sweet and affectionate and warm – and so fucking funny! So if you want to also go to some of those places in yourself, come play with me!  But don’t expect that I’m going to teach you how to go to those places.  I can’t – you will only be disappointed, and maybe then disappointed with me.

You have to learn your own paths to go inside yourself.  You have the whole Garden already within you, waiting for you to savor its delights.  It’s your Garden, not Majo’s or anybody else’s.  You just need to find the door, so you can open the door and walk in.  Majo can offer things that will increase the likelihood that you will find the door – often through exploring your capacity for sex and power, because those are his major subjects.  (They weren’t even offered when I was in college or grad school.  If they had been offered, I might not have been ready – back then – to take them, even as an audit.)

If you are to be a warrior of self-expression, you need to become impervious to disapproval.  You need to just not give a shit.  For most of us, this is very hard work – or alternatively, when we let it be this, totally fun play.  Brene Brown says that the personal quality that correlates most strongly to “open-heartedness” is “solid boundaries”.  To the extent that you know how to protect yourself – to keep the transgressor away – then you can relax and then open your heart.

You need to have available to you as much as possible of the whole spectrum of aggressive responses – to use them when you need them.  I know I may be taking this to an extreme when I challenge strangers on the street to fight me: “What are you going to do about it, motherfucker?!”  I actually fucking said this to a strange guy the other day, who was giving me shit for bumping his truck with my car door.  I’m taking it seriously that I need to learn about this whole dimension.  I haven’t had to back any of this up yet with an actual fist fight, but trust me – I am so, so ready.

But you don’t need to explore all the outer limits of the aggressive, boundary-setting dimension.  What I do suggest is that everyone should have in their hip pocket what I call the “nuclear option”.  20 years ago, I used to teach this to nice white middle-class suburbanites at the local community college – and totally got away with it.  If even one student had ever complained about it, I would definitely have been history in that “college extension” program – but nobody ever did.

If someone has got you backed into a corner and is threatening to take away your integrity…if you know that in this moment it is crucial that you not back down, but you don’t have anything clever or biting or less totally aggressive to say, you need to be ready and willing and able to plant your feet, inhabit your whole body, take a deep breath and ferociously hit them with a good, solid “Fuck you!” You need to hurl it directly into their fucking face.  If your good boy or good girl patterns – or any other kind of persona or “niceness” or self-consciousness or bullshit beliefs that this is not a “kind” thing to say – as long as any of this bullshit prevents you from being ready to powerfully protect yourself, you will always be vulnerable.  And there will be limits to how willing and able you are to open your heart – limits that don’t need to be there.

Come play with me.  Let’s yell “Fuck you” at each other.  My son learned to do that with me at age 18 – and it changed everything between us, opened everything up, allowed us to be fully peers, brought so much freedom and joy into our relationship.  It was, I absolutely know, part of how he became the amazing guy he is now.

Want another tool for the preservation of your true, beautiful self? One that doesn’t go quite as far as the nuclear option but is very, very powerful – and musically wonderful to boot?  Check out Amy Steinberg’s song “Confidence”on her album “Must Be the Moon”.  It came to me on Pandora at 4 a.m. on Monday, immediately after I had read an email from a “friend”, where she had really slimed me for saying something she considered “unkind”.  (I think the irony of this was probably lost on her.) 

pensive
Amy Steinberg – don’t fuck with her. 

I decided that the best way to rally my wounded spirit was to dance.  I put on my headset, dialed up my Pandora app to Amy’s “Must Be the Moon” album I had been listening to the day before – and the first song it was cued up was “Confidence”, which starts with the line, “People will try to pull you down…”  The song is an anthem of self-protection – but really much more than self-protection.  Pride in who you are, self-love…tending the garden that is one’s self. 

 

Becoming a sexual hero

This is not a path of transcendence.  We are not walking the high road.  We are learning how to protect ourselves from “light-chasers” – people who are so identified with being “conscious”.  This word has been so corrupted – in the common Asheville parlance, it truly does not mean fully conscious, it means that I identify with “high consciousness”.  Which a lot of the time means that I do not fully live in my body.  The body is really, truly still not seen as a friend, as our human home.  Especially, “light-chasers” do not experience the full power of the body for sexuality and power – which are not “higher powers”, but simply huge sources of human power.

fungi 2
We can learn a lot about sexual power from mushrooms – including “magic mushrooms”.  If you can – or are in any way drawn to it – see or watch the movie “Fantastic Fungi”.

This is a path of full embodiment.  We want to be as totally human as we possibly can.  Sex and power are two amazing gifts that we are reclaiming for ourselves.  Sex and power get a bad rap because they are so horribly misused in our society – used in manipulative or self-oriented or oppressive ways.  This is really only possible because we still have so many taboos around them – because we do not bring our sexual and aggressive power out into the light, to be embraced by all of our society, to be a garden tended by all of us.

Try this experiment (or get a kick out of imagining what it would be like to try it): put something like the next paragraph into a “life resume” that you hand out as an extra whenever you hand out your work resume.  Or post it on Facebook.

“I am a sexual hero.  I adore being a sexual being.  I am constantly thrilled by the power of my own sexuality.  A am 100% committed to exploring the full range of this power.  I am devoted to sexual pleasure.  The extraordinarily human faculty of physical pleasure linked to full human connection – really seeing and recognizing the other, totally feeling our connection with them – is one of the faculties that most keep us alive on the planet.  I will not manipulate others or try to get anything from them or use them for my sexual pleasure.

“When I fully love my own sexuality, sex comes to me.  I radiate it so richly that others are magnetically drawn to me.  They say ‘Oh, you seem so fully at home in your body – I want to be with you.’  And then I get to decide if this is anything I want – or, more likely, how I want to experience it with this person.  Maybe, with this person, the form of connection that is being called forth is to look in each other’s eyes, or to share a sweet hug or hold hands or to give a shoulder rub or back rub – but not a fully sexual adventure.  It’s all an exploration.  If I am open to a full explosion of sexuality, I can be open also to a very minimal little touch – which may, in that moment, carry with it the charge of total connection with all of life. fungi 3

“When others are physically close to me, when they hug me, when they are in my arms, they get what they need.  If what they really want or need is the comforting connection of human touch, more a personal connection than a physical one – simply coming home – that is what they get from me.  If what they are really needing is sensuality – is to feel the pleasure of being in a human body – then that is what tends to happen for them when they are physically connected to me.  If a crucial need for them right now is to tend to their sexuality, then that energy tends to come alive for them around me – because I am available for that, also.  Because I am getting more and more at home with the whole range of touch, of physical human connection.”

Yeah!  That’s the ticket!  Say that to your friends.  Put it in your phone and read it out at social gatherings – maybe Thanksgiving.  Even if it is not an actual conversation-starter, it will at least be a memorable moment.

About a year ago, I had a woman “light-chaser” friend accuse me of hugging her wrongly – that I touched her in some questionable areas and held on to the touch a little too long.  I knew there was something way off in this charge – I especially know that I am really a master at releasing the touch at the instant my hug-partner is even getting ready to want to let go, maybe even before they are yet conscious that they want to do this.

But I was still in the thrall of her “high-consciousness” and it had not really occurred to me that she could be so totally off-base in matters like this – that she might be so inclined to project shit around sexuality.  So I was not adequately prepared to protect myself from her and I reeled a little.  I took it personal. It felt sad, like a loss.  I knew there had been nothing wrong in the way I touched her, but I also knew that now there would be all this self-consciousness between us in the area of touch, that the naturalness of it would likely go away.

It would all have been so much easier and sweeter if she had known how to fully take responsibility for her own experience – for the reactions of her own body.  She might then have said something like “Sometimes when I touch you, I experience things that are mysterious, confusing, powerful. I get uncomfortable.  It feels at least potentially out of control – I don’t know where it might go.”fungi 4

This would have given me a chance to say something like “Lots of people feel lots of physical and emotional reactions when they touch me because everything is on the table with me.  I’m basically available for it all – so with me touch can go wherever you need it to go.  What you can know for sure is that I will not manipulate you, will not try to get anything from you, will not try to take our physical connection in some direction that I may want but may not be right for you.  I’m just here – fully available.  You come to me.”

As long as sexuality remains so in shadow in our society, as long as we still project so much garbage on it, then – when you do not hide that you are fully, deeply, creatively sexual – some people will project on you the full range of their disapproval, their personal confusion around sex.

So feel free – as long as you want or need this – to keep your powerful exploration of this deep part of yourself on the QT.  It can be your little secret.  I myself will say it openly for all of us, because I have been asked to teach about it.  To the extent that you are ever called to also teach in this area – even in a moment-to-moment or case by case basis – then you can also come out of the closet that you are doing your homework, are becoming a fully sexual being.

If you want to really stir the pot, you can sweetly – or in a very hot, fully embodied way – say something like “I am a volcano of sexual energy.”  Or you can just plant your feet, take a deep breath, feel your whole body and just think this thought to yourself – and feel happy, feel excited, feel content.  Be the cat that swallowed the canary.

The Merry Pranksters Family weekly gathering – Thursdays, 6:30-8 p.m.

in front of bpa
Diana and Merry Prankster John Clabaugh (and canine Prankster Panchita)

Every Thursday – 6:30-8:00 p.m., optional 30 minutes before and after.

fungi 5
Fungi – mushrooms – have it really going on about how to be fully alive.  Come, let’s make like mushrooms together!

Trust that we won’t always just be having verbal conversations.  Sometimes we will practice hugging or other kinds of touch that should not freak anybody out.  Sometimes just with our eyes.  Pretty much every week we will dance, i.e. move some part(s) of your body any way they want to move.

I’m Majo and I will be facilitating this weekly gathering.  The story of how I got here is told in my “Waking up” blog.  You will see there that the style of my “waking up” is not what we usually picture as “spiritual”.

The title of the book I am working on is Reclaiming the Body: Sex and Power in a New Age.  These two areas – in which I have never in my life had any particular expertise – are now my turf.  I have been assigned them by Spirit – to learn everything I possibly can about them, to explore the whole spectrum…and now to teach about them.

I think you will find the blog and these weekly community gatherings provocative, fresh, eye-opening and body-opening.  

The gathering itself – 6:30-8 – is all you are required to attend.  But I very enthusiastically encourage you to be here for the “optional” 30 minutes before and after – you may find that half-hour the most powerful, fun, educational, fulfilling part of the evening.

6-6:30 p.m. – optional

  • experiment with hugs – physically settle in to the space
  • touch base, catch up – verbally/emotionally/socially settle in to the space
  • get used to and enjoy the beautiful penthouse room
  • savor the balconies and the 13th floor views of the city and the mountains to the west

6:30 – gathering starts right on time.
penthouse door is closed for five minutes or more

Below is one format for the gathering.  Particular evenings may be very different than this.  Maybe we will have a little workshop: do interpersonal experiments all evening.  Maybe we will have a big dance party (no, not maybe – count on it).

  • Dance – 15 minutes
    • “Ecstatic dancing” – free form improv
    • do just that which your body wants to do – any kind of movement
    • no way to do it wrong.
  • Silence – five minutes or more
    • go into your highest state of consciousness (if you’ve got one :)) — or
    • just let yourself be quiet
    • breathe
    • settle into your chair
    • just be present – be, it’s very freeing
    • go to your inner garden (Majo will each week suggest possibilities for this)
    • if you really need to, allow yourself to jot notes.
  • Majo talks
    • about whatever Spirit is wanting me to say
    • I  thought about putting a topic out in advance, but actually
    • I am not going to have any advance topic or prepared notes
      • I will find out what I am going to say when I hear the words coming out of my mouth.
  • Q&A – dialogue – spiritual conversation
    • I’m hesitating to put time frames on the talk or the Q&A – it’s unpredictable.
    • the dialogue will usually be longer – or much longer – than the talk
    • I will always end the dialogue by 7:50, so you can leave by 8
  • 7:55 – wrap up
    • tips for goodbyes
    • tips for hugs
  • 8 – Gathering ends
  • 8-8:30 – optional
    • optional goodbyes
    • optional hugs.
fungi 6
Want a spiritual experience?  See or watch the movie Fantastic Fungi.

Questions about what you have read here?

  • Put them in a Reply after this post
    • this is the best option for dialogue – others may have the same question you have
      • or discover that they have it when they hear you say it
  • Or contact me – see info below.

Love offering basis

In the beautiful Roof Garden penthouse of the Battery Park Apartments
1 Battle Square, directly out the north entrance to the Grove Arcade
parking on the street (no meter fees after 6 p.m.), Rankin and Wall St. lots
– if no parking spots in these places, don’t just keep crawling around looking.  If you don’t have mobility issues, you can park behind the Visitor Center on Montford – a pleasant 10″ walk.
Front door to the building is always locked.  We will have a greeter just inside the door to let you in from 5:55-6:25.  Before or after that time, you can try to act not-shifty and ask some resident to let you in.  Often they will.  But it’s easier to just get here on time.

laughing with Pancho outside Trade and Lore
My first title for this wonderful weekly event was “Satsang on Embodiment with Majo”!  Whew – wow!  That’s deep! Oh, Lord – the ego dies hard.  It’s to laugh! (See the little dog on my lap.)

 

Forgiving 30 years of heartache in two days

How do you forgive the rage you got in touch with in the last two days – over 30 years of heartache – through a four-minute song about forgiving yourself?  I dunno, I can’t figure it out – ask Jesse Powers, tonight (Sunday, 11/10) at the Jubilee Mystic Cafe (7-9 p.m. at 46 Wall St.), or at her web sitejess powers

Over the last four months, I have discovered that the “bipolar disorder” psychiatric label that got pinned on me in my early 40’s was actually a tragic mistake.  Stanislav Grof in his landmark transpersonal psychology book The Stormy Search for Self describes how a “spiritual emergency” – a powerful and difficult and potentially wonderful psychological event – can be misdiagnosed as a psychiatric breakdown.  The person can be given a psychiatric diagnosis and put on powerful psychiatric drugs that can keep them snowed for a very long time – potentially the rest of their lives.

I will be forever grateful that this psychiatric bondage, for me, lasted only 30 years – and that I “woke up” at age 72.  This journey is described in my new blog “Waking up“.  I have some potentially wonderful years left – a reprieve that many people never get.

In the last two days, I finally got in touch with the grief and loss and rage I feel over the 30 years that the psychiatric profession “took away from me”.  (I know that I will, over time, come to at least believe –  if not understand why or how – this path has been just right for me. But hey, right now it’s all pretty new and raw.)  This morning this pain seemed so deep and potent that – even in my current context where everything seems to heal fast – I feared it would be a long, long time before I could forgive this great harm.

This forgiveness happened in about four minutes at Jubilee this morning, through a song by Jess Powers about self-forgiveness – it wasn’t even about the forgiveness of others, but that was the healing I needed this morning.

Catch Jess tonight at the Jubilee Mystic Cafe (46 Wall St., 7-9).  The wonderful person and very deep poet Aimee Morrison opens the show.  If you can’t make the show tonight, you can find Jess online.

Stanislav Grof’s ideas are practiced and taught in Asheville at the Center for Spiritual Emergence.

Reclaiming the body: sex and aggression for a new age.

We as a society – and as people of conscience and kindness – are reeling from the exposures of predatory and violent sexuality, and from the hatred of the other that are rampant in our society and are cascading down from the top levels of power, starting with a toxic, evil president – a creature of hatred, rage, competition and isolation, power-lust and revenge.

This blog and this path are about integrity – about radical truth-telling, about reclaiming wholeness.  We can’t move forward to greater love, connection and healthy assertiveness without first naming the elephant in the room – the toxic processes that are riddling our common life and giving a very bad name to the essentially healthy and life-affirming faculties of sex and aggression.

How can we move towards the beautiful properties of sexuality when we have a president who gropes and sneers at and humiliates women – and who despises and violates the rights of citizens whose sexuality is different than his own?  We are also reeling from the totally right and necessary and way-overdue exposures of the sexual abuse and predation of the young and the female by the rich and powerful – TV and movie and even opera personalities, politicians at all levels and even priests.

Never have we more needed to celebrate the life-giving power of healthy sex.  At a time when so much is pulling us apart, healthy sexuality is a magic elixir that magnetically draws us back to each other. The infinite language of touch can heal each of us – and heal our relationships with each other.  From a luscious hug to a tender stroke of the brow to getting totally lost in the hilarity and sexual energy of laughing together to a tender or riotous or explosive romp in bed (or on the floor or in the shower or on the dining room table or in the woods or on the beach or in the back seat of a car), we all have at our disposal so much untapped potential for sexual healing…sexual fun and hilarity…sexual power and yes healthy sexual aggression…so much untapped potential for sexual love – genuine, human, even spiritual love that is fueled by the power of sexual energy.  

How can we reclaim the power of healthy aggression when our president stokes the hate of his followers and incites their violence towards those who are different: Latino, gay and transgender, Islamic, children (when they are brown or black).  How do we not hate and fear all manner of power when political power is used to oppress those who are different and female?

Never before have we so much in our country needed to tap our righteous anger, our ruthless boundary-setting against the aggressor and oppressor.  We need to pull out the stops to get in their fucking way – to say “You shall not pass!”  We need to slay our passivity, doubt, helplessness, hopelessness and cynicism as we take the reins of political power back into our own hands.  We need to be both visionary and boots on the ground.

If we are held back by shyness, unassertiveness, niceness or even the new tyranny of “kindness” (if you act out of righteous anger you get accused of being “harsh” or “unkind”), we will never rise to this moment in history’s desperate need for powerful action.

The gifted and visionary teacher and social scientist Brene Brown quotes her research as demonstrating that the personal quality that is most associated with emotional health and happiness is open-heartedness.

And the personal quality that correlates with open-heartedness is healthy boundaries.

We cannot do an adequate job of protecting our personal and social boundaries without some level of aggression – and the more responsible freedom and expressiveness and power we have in the domain of aggression, the more powerful a force we can be for freedom and the protection of the weak and innocent.

The more effectively we use our capacity of aggression to protect our boundaries – the more we know that we are ready and willing and able to keep ourselves and our people safe – the more then we are able and ready and willing to open our hearts.  And sexual energy has amazing untapped power to open our hearts and to bring us, as a species, back together.

3 prongs for this blog

  1. “Waking up” (“spiritual emergence”) is the true goal of human life.

    “We are here to overcome the illusion of our separation.” (Thich Nhat Hanh)This “waking up” process can – and usually does – happen very gradually over time.  Sometimes – and more often now than in the past – it happens very suddenly, with a seismic shift, the dramatic emergence of a “new person”. 
    Phoenix 1

    That happened for me on June 26, 2019.  After writing blogs on dogs, grocery stores, poetry, bipolar disorder and social action (links below), I have come to the writing of this blog.  See the “Who he was” page, below.

    When this process is unfolding with just a reasonable amount of wear and tear on the persona – the socialized self – Stanislav Grof calls this “spiritual emergence”.  When it is happening especially fast or violently – or with not enough personal/social/societal help (so common in a society like ours, with so little spiritual anchoring or understanding) – the person can get into trouble, can start to not look so good, can have trouble functioning in daily life.  Grof calls this a “spiritual emergency”.

    Because there are so few shamans around – or spiritual “leaders” with any real understanding of the process of spiritual emergence – people who are in “spiritual emergency” frequently end up in the E.R., with psychiatrists who tend to “treat” them with a psychiatric label.  This process of labeling can stigmatize them and confuse them about who they really are – maybe for their whole lives.  And the doctors whose hands they are in typically compound this damage by giving the person powerful drugs that make it impossible for the spiritual emergence process to ever resolve itself..

  2. My own “waking up” process has its own particular focus. 

    This focus is most succinctly put in the working title for the book I am writing:Reclaiming the Body: Sex and Aggression for a New Age.

     

  3. Partly because this focus is so divergent from prevailing notions of what comprises “spirituality”, inevitably the impact of this blog – and my work in the world – is to cut through spiritual pretensions.Many who claim to be spiritual teachers or to have “higher consciousness” advocate “transcendence” of sex and aggression.  They may even brand these natural  and fundamental elements of human life as “bad” or “sinful” or “unconscious”.  Transcendent paths – the “high road” to spirituality – may be valid paths, but they are not my path…not the path described in this blog.

    If you believe or sense – maybe for the first time, as you read about this path – that there might be something in it for you to reclaim your body – including your own capacity for sex and/or aggression – then this blog can be valuable to you.  If you even just find yourself curious enough to want to read what is going on here, then by all means read on.

I’ll shoot the motherfucker!

If someone is about to kill my child – even my now 45-year-old child – and I have a gun, I will shoot the motherfucker dead. Without hesitation: in a heartbeat, without doubt, without regret, without guilt. No trauma, no nightmares.

Now, having established for myself that I’m capable of this level of violence – that, if in my estimation the situation calls for it, I am willing to kill another human being – then what else am I willing to do if the situation calls for it? I think this is a pretty good bit of research for us to undertake. Where are my gaps? My blind spots?  What could I not bring myself to do?

I have actually been undertaking this research with a vengeance over the last few months. Now that I have become a new person who doesn’t have a lot of the hesitations – the self-consciousness, the reservations, the need for approval that I used to have – just what am I willing to do? So I have been experimenting: from being not-nice to someone in a Facebook exchange to threatening physical violence out on the street. So far I have not had to back up that particular stretch with an actual fistfight, but I have been oh, so ready. I have been like aching for it.

In one situation, I screamed a guy off a street corner when he was menacing my friend Diana. She was scared after the fact that this bigger guy would’ve come over and beat me up.  I told her that in that very special state I was in, there is absolutely no question in my mind that this 73-year-old guy would have taken him.

So you may be clear that – be you male or female – you are not really ready for a fistfight on the street.  But I heartily recommend that you notice yourself in various conflict situations and check out what you think you are capable of.

This story goes right up to the margin of how far I have recently taken aggression in these various experiments of mine.

In my early 20s, when I first started my personal growth journey, I realized pretty quickly that I had over-all been really too nice a guy – that if I was to have any personal freedom in this world I had to expand my range of personally acceptable behaviors. But, after 50 years of pushing the envelope towards being less nice, I was until four months ago still almost universally regarded as being a nice guy.

Not so much now. There is a widening network of people who now would not be so quick to describe me as a nice guy – even if they would also say that I am capable of many nice behaviors. Some of them really like the changes I’m going through. Some of them are fascinated – maybe even approving, but a little wary. My friend Harry said “I don’t mind you getting angry at people – I just don’t want you to do it with me.” And then two hours later I did. Get angry at him. Yelled loudly at him – threw my baseball cap in the bushes. And he didn’t like it – and he handled it.

When my friend Joe said to me “I don’t think you’re really very different now”, I told him the story I attached above. After hearing the story, he said that apparently I had become someone he no longer recognized – and that he wasn’t sure that he any longer wanted to be my friend.

The other day on the phone I was talking with my friend Louis, who I’ve known for about 35 years. We had not talked for about six months – pretty much our usual frequency.  (When I go back to my hometown Chicago, we always get together.) Louis seemed to be doing a very good job of listening to me as I was describing the changes I was going through and seemed very approving of it. Then, however, I challenged him directly about something he said. 

“Why, every time we talk, do you once again tell me that I really need to make it over to Cades Cove?  It’s pretty clear to both of us by now – maybe four years into this pattern – that I am not going to do it any time soon. Why do you keep doing this?  What’s up?”

“I just think you really would enjoy it.”

“No, that’s not all it is.  Every time you bring it up, you lay this trip on me that I really ‘should’ do it.  I’m tired of you ‘shoulding’ on me.”

He said “I think I like the old you better”. 

Earning the disapproval of a 35 year friend obviously is a price to be paid, but if the trade-off is to trade up to a bigger life, a fuller life, a more vibrant life – a life where you trust that you are being used by something bigger than you, that is teaching you how to be in the world – I’ll take that deal any day of the week.

What are you going to do about it?

 I had pulled into the Petco parking lot into a spot that was slightly too narrow for my car. When I opened my driver side door, I lightly tapped the side panel of the pick-up truck next to me. Out of the cab came a voice that I couldn’t identify as young or old big or small yelling 

“What the hell you doing to my truck?”

I said “What did I do – wake you up?”

In the past, this would have been, for me, an amazingly insolent way to move the encounter. 

The still faceless voice yelled again “Did you hurt my truck?”

I said “There’s a 6-inch gash in the side.” 

The guy kind of jumped out of the truck then and presented himself a scrawny old man like me. I don’t remember breathing a sigh of relief. Certainly I knew in that moment that if it came to this I would take him, but I tend in these situations to assume these days that I could take anybody – and I mostly think I’m right. When I get righteously angry there is a pretty amazing force working behind me.  (Read my post “Hanta yo!“)

But in this case I wasn’t really angry.  Nor was I scared. I was really kind of amused at myself. I was aware that I was fucking with this guy. 

He yelled kind of in my face “Don’t you know how to open a car door?” 

I didn’t have a clever or amusing response for this, just knew that I was not about to give an inch –  so I stood right in his face and yelled,

“Fuck you!”

Now this is pretty frontal, but I actually did manage, a moment later, to take it still further. 

I forget what insult he then hurled, but my response was to ask, in the most absolutely demeaning, disrespectful fashion I could manage,

“What are you gonna do about it, motherfucker?” 

I had absolutely thrown down the gauntlet in a male-male confrontation. I might as well have said “Let’s settle this right here.” That would be about the only statement that would make it even more clear that I was ready to fight him.  

My goal was to break his will, to humiliate him, to finish him off – to make him regret that he had messed with me.  But even more than this, my goal was to see if I could do this, if I was capable, if I was willing. This was a throwaway, a nothing. I had used this guy for practice. He had signed up for it by starting with me, by fucking with me – not knowing what he was dealing with. It was all part of my education: my training, my learning to be at home with my own aggression.

He backed off like I knew he would.  He started to get back in his truck and said,

“I’m gonna call the police.”  I said,

“And tell them I used a bad word? I don’t think they come out for that.”

He grumbled and finished getting in his truck without a rejoinder.

I felt totally great. This whole thing had been huge fun for me. 

This Majo guy who has never been in a fight in his life is absolutely ready for one. Everything I know about Energy, about Force causes me to think I would do pretty good. I have done some karate and tae kwon do, not enough to be dangerous by any means but enough to know some things about the manipulation of energy – of force. When I think about having a fight with another guy, I often will involuntarily emit a kiai or “power shout”  with so much force that it makes me jump back. I think these shouts would probably throw an opponent well off his game.

And I’m clear that should my positive estimation of my forcefulness be over-exaggerated and I get end up getting beat up, that – for a guy who’s never been in a fight – would be only slightly less cool than to actually do the beating up.

 Now I know that I am capable of this response if it ever is actually needed. I’m ready and willing and able to back down some random motherfucker who is dangerous to me or others.  I am totally convinced that in this particular situation size and age would not have made a difference to me – nor will it in any future situation.

Hanta yo!

Maybe 50 years ago, I read a book called Hanta Yo, a piece of historical fiction about Native Americans. In the story the chief of the tribe was grooming his son to eventually be the chief himself. But it was not totally working. This young man had not yet found within himself the life force to truly be a leader: the courage was not quite there, the resolve, the determination, the ferocity necessary for the job.

One day this young man was riding on his own about a mile from the camp when he saw ten enemy raiders riding hard towards the camp. He hesitated only for moments before he charged the ten  braves as fast as he could – screaming as he rode across the plain  “Hanta yo!  Hanta yo!” which means “Get out of the way!!”

The enemy raiders were totally perplexed. What ever did this solo brave think he was going to do against the ten of them? What did he know that they didn’t know? Either he was totally crazy and thus capable of inflicting great harm before being taken down – or he had some force behind him that they had no way of understanding. They fled.

The young man never quite understood what had clicked in him in that moment, but understanding was not important, did not make any difference. He was changed: he was a new man. He never went back.

I read that book probably 50 years ago, but that image of the young man on fire knowing that there was no way to stop him, has always stuck with me. It is as vivid for me now as it was then and I know now why it has stuck.

I have, over the last four months had many many of my own personal “Hanta yo!” experiences.