I ask of you, dear readers, to assume with me a pose of some discomfort; to resist the natural impulse to move away from that which is uncomfortable and attempt to rest and stay present for what such an act may stir up within you. I promise a a payoff of sorts at the end here.
I must confess, I am not one to watch or read the news. I scan headlines, look through the online new feeds and stay somewhat abreast of current events but in all honesty my approach is a bit like an ostrich with her head in the sand. I tend to get overly emotional and then wallow in the overwhelm of "What can I do?" or "What should I do?" So my defense is one of avoidance.
Why I chose yesterday to read the news article about an Afghan woman being murdered by her husband and mother-in-law is a bit of a mystery. But reading it was like removing the one brick that had been holding up the wall guarding me from overwhelm. Why was this woman murdered? Because she had given birth to another daughter.
I was then reminded of the documentary It's A Girl! set for release sometime in 2012. I posted the link to the trailer a few months ago when I first learned about the film from artist Soraya Nulliah who has written some powerful pieces and interviews on her blog specifically addressing the issue of gendercide in India. (Soraya's two-part interview with gender activist Rita Banerji is must-reading for anyone wishing to understand the complexities of this issue. It should go without saying we all need to be informed.)
I watched the trailer again, my shock and dismay as fresh as it was with the first viewing. In December 2011 ABC News aired a piece by reporter Elizabeth Vargas about the situation in India and I was recalling the chilling interview with a mother - a physician - whose husband (also a physician) threatened and tortured her in an attempt to force her to abort the twin girls she was carrying.
Here are the statistics: according to the UN, 200 million girls are "missing" meaning aborted, murdered or abandoned by their families. The problem isn't confided to India and China, although they are two of the worst offenders (combined, the two countries eliminate more girls than those born in the U.S. each year); Pakistan, Taiwan, and South Korea are other countries contributing to the above staggering figure. It is estimated that 9 million more females are demographically missing than the total number of people believed to have been killed in all of the conflicts and wars of the 20th century.
Let that last statistic sink in ...
Are you feeling as overwhelmed, frustrated, angry and helpless as I am?
Not knowing what to do with such intense feelings, I decided to post the link for the It's a Girl! trailer on Facebook. I know, what was I thinking? But I was feeling outrage and I wanted to ignite some kind of fire if only for discussion and support. There were a few comments but not what I craved. I then posted a photo of Cowgirl and within minutes a flood of people took note.
I wallowed in disgust for awhile. Then I delved into guilt over my behavior: how I squander my attention and resources on what feels like frivolous matters in the face of such horror and injustice. I mean, earlier in the day I was pondering a pair of earrings from Etsy and cutting out magazine pictures for a dream board collage. I know, this is harsh and unproductive thinking but there I was. (Consumerism may be the opiate of the masses ... but I digress ...)
Two things emerged as I sat with all the discomfort of my heart, head and feelings: first that my frustration with others not responding to my outrage merely points up the fact that I too find it necessary to turn my head away from matters too overwhelming to grasp let alone take on. I know I've see similar posts and not knowing what to say or do, move on. I prefer placing my attention upon that which is positive and uplifting. Who wants to dwell upon pain and suffering, right?
I also realized my initial instinct - to guard myself against emotional overwhelm - is a healthy one. I recently received some "medicine' from Seal which involved swimming through my emotions and not becoming trapped or entangled in them. My response may be an emotional one, but action must come from careful thought, proper understanding and clarity. Change will result when the two - fire of emotional energy and fluidity of thinking and understanding - unite.
Besides the obvious distress of this reality is my personal connection with China and India. China's history and practice of favoring boys over girls is part of our family story. I struggle with my feelings for on the one hand, I am eternally grateful to that country and its people for allowing us the privilege of adopting one of their daughters. Yes, she may have been devalued, but there is no mistake that the Chinese people love children and they view Cowgirl as one of their own. I do know that many are unaware of the practices that result in the death or abandonment of female infants. (The book Messages from an Unknown Chinese Mother by the reporter Xinran is excellent account of the various pressures and situations that lead to child abandonment in China.)
But my heart aches knowing one day my girl will want to know why her birth parents did not keep her. We know no details of their story, so we can only make informed guesses as to their situation. That being abandoned was probably the greatest gift and act of bravery possible to her birth mother is a truth that sits like a stone upon my heart.
And then there is India and my lifelong love of the culture and the teachings from its rich spiritual heritage. I turn to my yoga practice for solace and direction uneasy in understanding how to completely trust the teachings. (Although I suppose this dilemma is nothing new to any spiritual aspirant; as one teacher wisely told me "The teacher may be fallible but the teachings are never wrong." At least the teachings at their core and not the interpretations and manipulations of those teachings to serve another agenda.)
Exhausted by it all, I did drag myself to my yoga mat. As I lay down, I remembered that each time I practice I do so accepting myself as I am in that moment. That means moving and stretching within the confines and limitations of the body I inhabit. There is not some mythical right pose I am aiming to achieve; I am working instead to experience the pose as fully as possible as I am right now. So I eased myself into a forward bend - head nowhere near my legs - and accepted this is what I can do. And I surrendered.
What can I do right now? I can continue to inform myself. I can continue to share information with others. I can more mindfully use my resources - disposable income and time - to support causes I believe in. My practice teaches me to go within and reconnect with the source of strength that is always available to me. That strength is not rigid or hard, but soft, fluid, moving, adaptable. That source is feminine power that moves through creativity and love and emotion to bring about change.
I am becoming more mindful about turning away from what is difficult to hold. I know I can rest in uncomfortable positions for a long time and find comfort, softness and ease and in doing so, discover my abilities are always greater than I initially realized.
I do believe our actions cause ripples to move out and impact others; that peacefulness, compassion and justice begin in our homes and in our relationships with those around us. And with ourselves. For I must take care to honor and value myself as a daughter, as a woman and pass this attitude onto my girl.
are you still with me? small reward i suppose,
but here is how i chose to find comfort amid
the turmoil of my day yesterday ...
test film for The Impossible Project
Seeking more advice, I turned to that wise man who knew a bit about the discrepancies between Spiritual truths and human practices:
As far as you can, hold your confidence.
Do not allow your confusion to squander
This call which is loosening
Your roots in false ground,
That you might come free
From all you have outgrown.
What is being transfigured here is your mind,
And it is difficult and slow to become new.
The more faithfully you can endure here,
The more refined your heart will become
For your arrival in the new dawn.
- John O'Donohue from For the Interim Time
I will be seeking that new dawn with all the passion and energy I can muster. I would love some company on that journey.