Wednesday, February 1, 2012

abiding in discomfort

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.


  1. Lis, I love you. I love the heart in you that experiences that overwhelm. I love the spirit in you that rages against the injustices you find in the world. I love that you ask the hard questions and that you go within for answers. I love Cowgirl. I love your photographs. I love that John O'Donahue is as much a blessing to you as he is to me. I love that we're so totally on the same wavelength that it's scary sometimes.

    And this:

    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.

    I love this.

    And I'm sending you peace in the struggle and comfort in the storm.

  2. Loving you in all the sensitive and strong places you are revealing to this grateful world, Lis.

    And it made me think of a song by the Be Good Tanyas, "Broken Telephone":
    "It's a hard world it's a cold world
    i could never say what I mean
    I went looking in all the wrong places
    There's nothing wrong with you"

  3. tears tears tears
    i turned away from that post of yours deliberately guarding my tender heart but i have often felt that turning away leads to denying the truth of what is the hideous nature of life is cowardly... and yet by building up the beauty, the power of love in myself and my family i am counteracting the balance in some small way, i am allowing the truth of the goodness of our world to prevail... i am called to spread love - as are you my friend - i am called to honour the Goddess for if she flourishes then the devaluing of women will fade, i am called to my truth... i am paralysed by what seems insurmountable and i am called to act in my own community to combat some of the horror that lives just down the road from priviledged little me... i try to hold the tension between being open to this and self flagellation, being aware and being overwhelmed, taking action and feeling paralysed...
    you have company on your journey my friend (if you will have me that is!)

  4. Lisa.. you are truly a sister of the heart. I think Facebook in general can be overwhelming, I would not be surprised if people scan their news feeds so quickly they may not have even registered what you posted. These issues are hard to hold, especially to those of us that are very sensitive, I honor that you were able to sit with the discomfort and thank you for bringing it to the foreground again today. This particular issue has outraged me for many many years, I donate and I post links but I am not sure what else to do. I think the least I can do is hold them in my heart, those lost girls..Please let me know if there are other ways to help.


  5. here with you, loving you, holding and sheltering you, my warrior-queen.

    i too find it hard to face these horrible things -- even as i type this there is a knot of rage and grief in my throat.

    don't even get me started on the whole Facebook thing. it makes me weep for the state of the human race. seriously, the whole fucking thing enrages me....

    oops...that was a little start...:(


    okay...there is a need. a tremendous need. we all have boat-loads of love and talent...all we need to do is apply it somehow...

    (i'm at work...sneaky-sneak...i'll write more later)


    ps. wot Effy said.

  6. Tears and goose bumps, I think you might have nudged a few carefully and tightly placed bricks of others sweet Lis, shedding light is always a brilliant start.

    Hug your daughters all, both biological and spiritual, and keep that flame burning that so many of us are so lucky to have, that was fiercely fought for by our mother's and their mother's, and remember not to take it for granted or become unvigilant, so many other sisters are still on the battle field and need all the support we can muster.


  7. What a fantastic post.....discomfort.....anger.....overwhelmed.....I am sitting with it all....what will I do with all of this? I do not know what I'm going to do with it yet...but I will have to DO something.....I thank you for writing this...for pouring your heart out here....sending you much love.

  8. I am so grateful for you and your writing. I did respond and I sent the video to 50 friends via email all who responded.
    When you have a careful plan I am one who will join with you. Much love.

  9. I don't have any words for this yet, but I wanted you to know I'm here and deeply moved.

  10. i, too, do not know what to say but i feel your words stirring up something inside me. i want to know more. i want to help. thank you for being brave and inviting us to stand with you in this discomfort so that we can shine a collective bright light on a corner that has been ignored.

  11. Dear Lis-I feel your pain + rage .As time goes on...there is more rage than ever. We must speak out about these matter how painful and difficult. I applaud you for your courage and deep heart.All the conflicts of emotion...I am going to e-mail you. xxx

  12. so grateful you pushed through your own discomfort and frustration and wrote this. So much goodness here in your fire. I'm guilty of avoiding the news- too much pain. Thank you for stirring up some conviction in me- I love what you said, "Change will result when the two - fire of emotional energy and fluidity of thinking and understanding - unite."....will be holding on to that for awhile now.

    xo, laura emily

  13. Lis - I am with you - feeling all the pain of this wide world - but you my friend are a gift to women and girls everywhere - you share your heart - your talents your craft with this wild world and we so need all your special TLC. Thank you - Cowgirl is a lucky sweetie - she has a fabulous mom! :) xoxo

  14. One of my recent posts was entitled "Gender Imbalance" and I talked about female feticide IN CANADA, yes, right here in North America. It is happening here too. The medical society is asking to have the practice of informing pregnant parents as to the gender of their fetus at 20 week ultrasounds out-lawed. In many immigrant communities in our country, there is a marked gender imbalance as pregnant mothers choose to have abortions at 20 weeks and try again for a male fetus. Your post was well-balanced and informative, and really expressed your deep feelings perfectly.

  15. When I posted about the Girl Effect a few months ago, I barely got a scratch on FB or my blog. But I am not sure that is necessarily a gage of people's passion or indicative of their response to these issues. Somedays it is so overwhelming: I sob for women, for the wild creatures, for the earth, and the Ocean. And I look at my life, and think, "What have I done to help?" I feel small, very very small.
    A quote by feminist bell hooks that has stuck with me over the last 20 years because it seems applicable far too often: What do we as women do with our rage?
    Om shanti shanti shanti-

  16. Dearest Lis,
    I'm not sure how I missed your post on Facebook and yet saw the photo of Cowgirl... intential blindness or just careless skimming? Watching it now, so many moments of just utter heart breaking shock. The numbers... the numbers just kill me.

    I deal with the same feeling of overwhelm you describe in my work in animal rescue. A different, but also heart breaking world. Hardly a day goes by when we don't get a call from someone who doesn't want their animal anymore. Can we take it? Do we have room for him/her? Can we save them all? There are days when I can barely stand to listen to the voicemails. In fact, after the heartache of this summer, I had to step away from it all. My heart couldn't bear it.

    Thank you for sharing this world with me, no matter how painful. A crisis I truly did not know the extent of, but needed to.

    Love to you, love to Cowgirl, love to everyone you touch with your words and actions.

    ~Brandi Marie

  17. oh lis, it may take me a bit to muster up the strength to watch that. but i do understand. i too feel the world heavily - and the direction (it seems) of humanity within it. somedays i am able to better compartmentalize and move through - or find an outlet to release the negativity surrounding that anxiety, worry, frustration, guilt, helplessness. other days, i simply cannot get out from under the weight. gratitude is my tool for grounding. and even on those hard days, i am writing a list and rolling my eyes...but something shifts every so subtly just the same. perhaps it merely realigns my thinking, or my heart, or my course, or what i wish to offer while i am here. but it shifts and it is then the weight doesn't feel so crushing. but oh, my friend, i so understand. xx

  18. ~i read your words when you posted this and had to leave before replying...i was not in the right space or frame of mind to late i am here but wanted you know i honor you for writing this...for allowing us to feel your hear and read your words...i am much the same in regards to not watching the news or reading the deeply saddens me by most that is written for us to read...and yes it is easier just to turn away...close our mind off from such...i do it also in protective mode for my littles...i do not want them to sit and worry about all the terrible things that are constantly occuring in the world in which we live...i figure they will have plenty of time to be exposed to such when they get older...

    the way in which "things" are presented when least expecting always leaves us with the un explanable...sometimes i feel though it is in those moments we have come across something or chosen to do something out of the ordinary...a moment that leaves me wondering is the universe speaking to us...guiding us to a place we are suppose to be...whether it be good or bad...there is a reason we must go through moments...ones that make us reach deep down and decide where we stand or where we want to be in the matter...

    i have known about these events occuring for much time...growing up, majority of my friends came from a different culture than i was able to learn and hear stories that caused much pain in my life...always kept me wanting to do something...always feeling the world was so evil...feeling left with why are people not stopping these things from happening...but as time would go by...slowly i would forget the bad i had heard and move on...

    you acted on your feeling and should not feel bad for were taken by your spirit and you brought light to many on what is still occuring to this day...every little bit of attention may bring forth a are human my friend...

    "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."

    powerful words...a reminder to not become wait till we can respond with understanding and clarity...not only for this situation that has arose but i think WE all could go about our days in this manner and be a bit more wise with our actions...thank you for sharing these my friend have grown just by sharing...i feel it as you moved through this post...thank you for being you...thank you for allowing us to go through this with you...sorry for the lengthy bit here...wishing you a wonderful day well and always much love light and blessings~

  19. This outrageous world breaks my heart on a regular basis. So good to know I'm not alone, as my heart gets bigger and bigger:) Thank you for sharing you!

  20. I loved that you used Facebook to share your anger & dispair over this situation. I left a quick comment at the time & have watched the video you posted several times. I can not get past the section of the video featuring a mother casually talking about having killed seven or eight baby daughters while waiting for the arrival of a son. She had such a pleasant almost proud look on her face and every time I saw it I cried. I just can't grasp such disregard for life in general & lack of compassion for a tiny living being. I couldn't imagine killing unwanted animals with my bare hands let alone a living breathing child, my own child. It seems so evil to me. Yet my logical brain knows that woman probably is a perfectly nice person. She's simply a product of her culture and society. It hurts deeply when I think of how women in general are devalued throughout most of the world. It's something I feel passionately about and yet I have no idea what I can do to make a difference. And so like many others I do nothing. And I feel ashamed about it. :(

  21. I am very late in commenting and will go to Facebook to view this. I read news stories and it is so amazingly disgusting, you think the world cannot get any sicker, and it does, or more likely I guess we are just seeing what was always there. I was watching a documentary a few days ago, and speaker said," Look I know anything you can do would seem to you like a drop in the ocean, but you mustnt forget that the ocean is made of drops" I found that moving, and will strive to view this tragedy and many others in the same way. That I will do what I can in my tiny way, and know that in some way there will be a difference if ever so slight. So lovely to be reinforced by you Lis, as my journey is young, and I am humbled daily by the many beautiful, wise women to share this path with.

  22. Dear Lis,

    Thank you for leading me to this post.

    I noticed how my mind took in the first paragraphs only so far. I had to come back and re-read it a number of times. It's as if the intial shock it me, then an inner kind of mechanism took over to block the shock from going further within me.

    The O'Donahue poem is so fitting here.

    I feel as if I am walking a tight rope between the pain and horror of the situation and my own awareness of the love I experience in my life, the goodness of my life and the safety my own daughters and grandchildren know. It can be crazy making if I let it. And, this same tight rope is important to hold as we do whatever it is we are called to do to bring love, more love, to this world. Holding both, side by side, helps me to find that balance that keeps me on the rope, keeps me from falling over too far either way.

    This quote from the I Ching seems fitting here:

    "“It is only when we have the courage to face things exactly as they are without any self-deception or illusion that a light will develop out of events by which the path to success may be recognized.”

    While success may be the wrong word, I feel a light can develop that can guide us in a way that is in line with the intelligence of life.

    FOr now, this is all I have.

    Your words and images are beautiful. How you weave these pieces together makes it rich on so many levels.

    I'm so honored to meet you and to, now, begin to know you through your writing.

    With great love and respect,


  23. Thanks for your bravery in sharing this with others, Lis. And all the other comments. I am heartened by the good and true hearts here, who are courageously facing what is within as we do our best to deal with what is out in the world.

    I'll echo the words of all here, as I, too, can feel my heart breaking for the violence, fear and ignorance still moving in the world. We all have quite a task, to care for ourselves, self-forgiveness and compassion starts at home. Then to extend what we can in the way of compassion and forgiveness to others, without condoning or adding to the violence. The more challenging action, to seek, find and act from wisdom and love.

    I appreciate those drawn here as lights in the world. Thank you Lis, for approaching this topic showing the importance, the necessity of confront our own inner demons and children too, so that we can act with right effort.

    Thank you, all,