Yesterday, I said to my friend John, “Happy New Year!” He replied deadpan, “Okay.”
I wished another friend a Happy New Year. “We’ll see about that,” she said.
And then another friend. “Is it, though?” It’s a common sentiment in this time of unprecedented dark uncertainty. I get the point.
I can’t tell my patients “It’s going to be ok.” It’s too dismissive, and frankly, I just don’t know that it’s true. On the contrary, at this point I’m willing to give a pass to a significantly wider range of coping mechanisms. (For me, that involves exercising less, writing more- and the mystically-medicating power of Leah Remini’s Scientology reality show.)
These are scary times: when possible, be mindful of how fear is functioning in your daily life. Fear can be very useful; in the ancient Chinese texts, fear is considered a great virtue of the Kidneys, and essential in engendering perseverance and wisdom. But fear can also paralyze. It can write stories; it can fixate on suffering. So mind your dread; you are going to have to learn to self-modulate how much fear you digest. And if you need to take a breath and pull yourself back from scary projections of the future, do it. Do not bury your head in the sand; this is self-care, and self-care is an obligation to yourself and each other. Your health and strength and clarity are necessary if you are to be the boat that helps anyone else to shore.
It has never been more important that you align with the life impulse that made you: the relentless explosion of infinite beauty, love, goodness and truth that cares nothing for the story of what happened, and is entirely untouched by what you may have read on The Huffington Post this morning.
It will never be more important to understand that what you really are was not made here on Earth, in this time or this timeline, and that no part of your original nature can be damaged by laws of man.
You are energy of the cosmos, a comet in the sky, a herald of the galaxy itself, dragged down to Earth to learn a very specific karmically-mandated curriculum. To forget this, even for a moment, is to self-identify with the trauma, and keeps you infatuated with pain, living in the past, and skeptical of the great potential before you.
Please don’t forget that your life is nothing less than the universe’s inquiry into existence itself. The grace and hope that guides you everyday this year is the very same gravity that hung the moon in the sky.
Happy New Year- or not, whatever,
This election has broken my brain. I feel like I am definitely dumber than I was a year ago.
The election’s endless toxicity—and my dark, insatiable participation in it—has deadened my ability to retain information and differentiate between what is useful and what is simply “word dump” that I use for emotional cutting in the middle of the night. Facts are now a jumble of subjective realities and spokesperson walkbacks that create a sort of low grade ringing in my ears that makes me rub my temples like I’m a stock photography model for “headache.” I saw a movie about dying from cancer rather than watch one of the debates because it seemed less stressful. I can’t remember who said what or when or why. My bandwidth is all used up. It’s like when you talk shit about your roommate after years of contention, but you can’t remember the specifics anymore and all you can really say is, “Well….she knows what she did.”
Fortunately, there is a document that tells me more than enough of what I need to know. On July 11, the Republican Party released its official platform, a 60-page statement of its beliefs and policy proposals, vetted and approved at the party’s convention in Cleveland. So much has transpired since its publishing (including my brain turning to monkey meat) that it seems appropriate in these final days to return to its very clear ideas:
Make Christianity the national religion: “We support the public display of the Ten Commandments as a reflection of our history and our country’s Judeo-Christian heritage and further affirm the rights of religious students to engage in voluntary prayer at public school events and to have equal access to school facilities.”
Build a border wall to keep immigrants out: “Our highest priority, therefore, must be to secure our borders and all ports of entry and to enforce our immigration laws. That is why we support building a wall along our southern border and protecting all ports of entry. The border wall must cover the entirety of the southern border and must be sufficient to stop both vehicular and pedestrian traffic.”
Pass an pro-life constitutional amendment: “We assert the sanctity of human life and affirm that the unborn child has a fundamental right to life which cannot be infringed. We support a human life amendment to the Constitution and legislation to make clear that the Fourteenth Amendment’s protections apply to children before birth.”
Require bible study in public schools: “A good understanding of the Bible being indispensable for the development of an educated citizenry, we encourage state legislatures to offer the Bible in a literature curriculum as an elective in America’s high schools.”
Repeal Obamacare: “Any honest agenda for improving healthcare must start with repeal of the dishonestly named Affordable Care Act of 2010: Obamacare.”
Loosen gun controls nationwide: “We support firearm reciprocity legislation to recognize the right of law-abiding Americans to carry firearms to protect themselves and their families in all 50 states. We oppose ill-conceived laws that would restrict magazine capacity or ban the sale of the most popular and common modern rifle.” *Please note this was issued less than one month after 49 people died at the shooting at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando.
Appoint anti-choice Supreme Court justices: “Only a Republican president will appoint judges who respect the rule of law expressed within the Constitution and Declaration of Independence, including the inalienable right to life and the laws of nature and nature’s God, as did the late Justice Antonin Scalia.”
Support traditional marriage but no other families: “Children raised in a two-parent household tend to be physically and emotionally healthier, more likely to do well in school, less likely to use drugs and alcohol, engage in crime or become pregnant outside of marriage. We oppose policies and laws that create a financial incentive for or encourage cohabitation.”
Restore the death penalty: “The constitutionality of the death penalty is firmly settled by its explicit mention in the Fifth Amendment. With the murder rate soaring in our great cities, we condemn the Supreme Court’s erosion of the right of the people to enact capital punishment in their states.”
Replace sex education with abstinence-only approaches: “We renew our call for replacing “family planning” programs for teens with sexual risk avoidance education that sets abstinence until marriage as the responsible and respected standard of behavior.
Legalize anti-LGBT discrimination: “We endorse the First Amendment Defense Act, Republican legislation in the House and Senate which will bar government discrimination against individuals and businesses for acting on the belief that marriage is the union of one man and one woman.”
Allow states to shut down abortion Clinics: “We condemn the Supreme Court’s activist decision in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt striking down commonsense Texas laws providing for basic health and safety standards in abortion clinics.”
Make English the official U.S. language: “We both encourage the preservation of heritage tongues and support English as the nation’s official language, a unifying force essential for the advancement of immigrant communities and our nation as a whole.”
This is only some of a proudly archaic platform that also includes barring military women from combat, describes coal as a “clean” energy source, and declares pornography as a “public health crisis.” These are not veiled values. Nothing here is up for reinterpretation. This is word-for-word what they drafted, debated and released. This is how they would carve the future. This is their radically regressive heart.
This vision is too close to coming to pass. If you consider yourself remotely progressive or liberal, you should be offended by both the content of this agenda and the crassness of the party promoting it as it continues to panders for power. Not only should you reject it, you should be outraged with a fire that no amount of media densensitization can dampen. “Abstinence-only sex education”? “Bible study is mandatory”? It flies in the face of everything I’ve ever learned in even the most elementary textbooks about America and the notion of liberty and justice for all.
We must do everything we can to combat these values from becoming the status quo. And while you may be disgruntled by our two-party electoral system, any attempt to dismantle it will require years of organization, perseverance, and activism, not a last minute Hail Mary for a third-party candidate who has lost almost every election they have ever participated in.
To stomp your feet because you feel personally unmoved by or suspicious of the Democratic candidate, you are definitively pledging allegiance to this extremist and retrograde “future” for America. You are no friend to any of the people it persecutes. There is no confusion or grey area in this. To abstain from voting, or to vote for any other candidate besides the Democratic candidate, you endorse the Republican Party’s vision for America. And fortunately for my poor squished-up mind, I can refer to its principles and values which the G.O.P. has so kindly laid out.
These words, when spoken freely, without a waver in the voice or a blink of the eye, suggest we have arrived at a place of healing. They imply that we now understand how every trauma we have suffered in our lives has played its role in bringing us back to ourselves. These words can only be spoken sincerely when we have fully grasped that life has damaged no part of our original nature, and, despite our tribulations, we have returned home to remember who we are, why we are here, and what we are supposed to be doing about it.
-Lonny Jarrett, Acupuncturist and Author of Nourishing Destiny
Yes, this is what meditation is like FOR EVERYONE. Not just you. You don’t suck at meditation. You’re not doing it wrong. It’s not impossible for you. Every single person who has ever attempted to meditate, meditates just like this, just like you, all the time.
Do it anyway.
The goal of meditating is NOT short-term, momentary “zen” bliss no thoughts, quiet mind. The goal is the long-term retraining of the mind towards understand that all reactivity is optional and every thought (good, bad, stressful, pleasurable) is just transitional energy moving around the brain.
Like most progressive feminists, I celebrated this moment during the congressional testimony of Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards last week, when the particularly smug House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, produced an entirely slanted, politicized graph which he claimed he manufactured based on Planned Parenthood’s actual number of abortions. Ms. Richards recognized that the graph had actually been doctored by Americans United for Life, an anti-abortion group, and called him on it- which both effectively shut down his entire interrogation as well as pulled back the curtain on his affiliations- with a simple, steely “Check your source.”
As cathartic as that moment was, the most chilling and pivotal part of the clip for me actually happens earlier on, when Chaffetz is grilling Richards on why Planned Parenthood hasn’t administered a single mammogram this year. Through his badgering her and cutting her off, she finally manages to incredulously educate him that no medical providers have the technology to perform mammograms: only radiologists can do that, and all women must go to radiologists for that cancer screening. Even her.
This to me was the REAL curtain being pulled back: that the guy leading the congressional investigation on PP doesn’t feel he should educate himself as to how a basic mammogram works is a Big. Fucking. Problem. This is elementary stuff: it’s Healthcare 101! Mammograms don’t happen at doctors’ offices. Chaffetz didn’t know, his arrogance and condescension belying his ignorance of women’s health. And why should he? He would never have to have one. It’s not about him. To him, a breast exam is a hypothetical inconvenience, a talking point, someone else’s problem.
It was clear to me in that moment that this is what the debate of Planned Parenthood is about: how little men understand about or are interested in women’s bodies and health.
As a man, I sympathize. Our relationship to our bodies is very simple. The closest I- and any man really- have to any sensation in my lower abdomen is gas. The menstrual cycle is so far outside a man’s understanding of his own anatomy that it borders on science fiction.
As a male acupuncturist, I’ve had a specific exposure to female health that forced me to narrow the gap in my working knowledge of a woman’s body. I sat through gynecology classes in acupuncture school both enraptured and horrified. I’d pass a note to my lady classmates: “Can you feel…ovulation? Like…inside?”
Most pretended not to see it and I don’t blame them one bit.
The education I received was mind-blowing, mostly in emphasizing that the female body is an amazing complex system, that requires a lot more nourishing and management than the relatively-simple “Ford Explorer” male body. Women’s health is complex. Polycystic ovarian syndrome, pelvic inflammatory disease, fibroids and endometriosis are real conditions, very common and require a specific arm of healthcare to manage. Fertility, child bearing and child birthing are so intricate they actually necessitate a consortium of legitimate healthcare providers that a man would never seek out, let alone identify.
Women get urinary tract infections- a lot! Some women get them every single time they have sex, whereas most men have no real grasp of them. Birth control hormone replacement is a giant fucking can of worms we couldn’t possibly wrap our heads around- I’ve had patients who were put on the pill in their teens for cramps try to go off of it in their 30s, and the hormone shock was so intense they thought they were suicidal.
Just menstruation alone is demented: a week of intense, systemic blood stagnation, followed by 5 days of bleeding, followed by a week of anemia, to be repeated for 40 years, is not something a man can sympathize with.
It requires empathy. That’s the problem. If I was bloated and my pants were unreasonably tight for a week of the month, I would barely leave the house.
That is what this debate is: can men empathize? Do they even want to? Can men be interested and compassionate to problems that don’t specifically affect them or see the universe in a way that doesn’t relate to them? Will these men altruistically make the space in this conversation for things they don’t know, may never understand, and maybe makes them corporeally uncomfortable? Can they be interested enough in the female body to lift the lens on policy that tells them male health is the default?
To give women’s healthcare the respect and autonomy it needs requires legislators to get over their childish conviction that everything is about them, and recognize that there are whole worlds and sciences and industries that exist outside of male necessity. It requires politicians to engage policy as more than just a self-gratifying hall of mirrors.
It is very telling to me that when the conservative politicians debate over the “approved” medical procedures Planned Parenthood should perform –as opposed to the totally legal yet controversial abortions- it is always “cancer screenings” or “STD testing,” i.e. diseases that men can wrap their heads around because they are diseases that could actually happen to a man. They are never talking about vaginal infection checks, pelvic exams, thyroid screenings or abnormal bleeding exams: they think cancer is the worst thing that can happen to a woman because it aligns with their own limited fears for their own health.
As far as I’m concerned, every time one of these jackass politicians mentions “cancer screenings” instead of osteoporosis, yeast infection, or vaginitis testing, he is demonstrating what he doesn’t know about female health. He is talking about men and pretending it’s about women. He is talking about himself, and masquerading it as compassion. (Also, keep in mind that both male-only cancers – prostate and testicular- miraculously and somewhat suspiciously have a 99% survival rate.)
This is the same narrow-mindedness that produced the original witch hunts in 14th century Europe: the vilification of female health and the restriction of medicine to the lower class. Much of what was considered “magic” at the time, we would now simply call “gynecology.” This isn’t new. Women have always had these concerns. ALL women’s bodies require a bit of extra care that can never and will never affect men. It’s ok. It’s not because women are the weaker sex, or dirty, or sluts: it’s simply because a woman’s body is complicated in ways that a man’s is not.
I’m not a political person; and I’m probably mostly only compassionate in ways that I hope people are watching and secretly giving me credit for, so I have no real leg to stand on. But I am interested in other things and other perspectives than just my own experience, and that is my hope in writing this post.
I would not presume to imagine what Rep. Jason Chaffetz wants of his life or this world but I would ask of him exactly what I am asking of you: Be interested. Be curious. Make space in your life for a bit of magnanimous fascination. Be willing and wanting to learn about the very things that exclude you or preclude you. Open yourself to the possibility that the infinite height and infinite depth of the human experience could be more compelling than infatuation with your own existence. Inquire with altruism. Engage in a world outside of your self-identification: the very fabric of society depends on it.
Curiosity has its own reason for existing. And women must have their magic.
I found this email I had sent to a patient of mine several years ago. She is a young woman, with a lot of responsibilities for a young person and a slight addiction to the stress of her life (as I surely did in my 20s), who was having a lot of seemingly unrelated health issues for which she was beating herself up and hating her body. It is so important to me that my patients know that their bodies haven’t betrayed them or abandoned them: health is not a punishment; rather, it is an opportunity to learn how best to electrify the pursuit of living.
These “health hiccups” are actually wonderful lessons for you, as priceless as anything else you’ve picked up over the years. They are here to show you your body’s limitations, and that is a true wealth of information if you can choose to see it that way. You perceive these limitations as “weaknesses” or “failures” ONLY because you are deranged- and because you are viewing your perceptual world through the lens of responsibility you feel for others and through the weight of your own ambition. But the other way of looking at these limitations is to show you the real strength of your body and just how far you can push it before it pushes back. The TRUTH is, you pushed it quite far (way further than I ever could have) and it responded amazingly for a while. And now you know where your line is (though you will continue to move that line for the rest of your life) and knowing that limit will serve you so well in the future (which you cant see just yet because you are still in the middle of trauma.)
Most adults wont get that lesson or that bit of self-awareness until well into their 30s at the earliest. Im still getting it. Most men not til their 40s (and when it happens we call it “Baby’s First Cardiac Event.”) ALL DISEASE is a conversation between your body and your brain. It’s your body’s way of saying “Hey, what ya doing there, buddy?” or “Maybe we shouldn’t be doing that?” You are getting that conversation and that lesson younger than most (because in this lifetime, you have been blessed with the tricky gift of learning things early.) Having a “high tolerance to stress” is foolish. Its like having a “high tolerance to fire” and keeping your hand in a flame and allowing yourself to be burned. Id rather know exactly how much heat I can handle before I burn myself down. You found you’re wall and that is fucking rad.
In the context of your life, you will see all of these cumulative diseases as a turning point for when you started to understand your body in a way you never did as a child. And as an opportunity to treat your body better.
Remember all growth is painful. ALL GROWTH IS PAINFUL. Also remember, all advice is more for the giver than the receiver so this email is more for me than it is for you.
Love love love,
The very first chapter opens with Mr. Lear calling his mother to tell her that he has been chosen as one of the very first inductees to the Academy of Television Arts & Science’s Hall of Fame in 1983, amongst a very small group that included Edward R. Murrow, William S. Paley and Lucille Ball:
“My mother didn’t miss a beat. ‘Listen,’ she said, ‘if that’s what they want to do, who am I to say?’
In all the years since, I have rarely spoken publicly without sharing that story.”
By Yumi Sakagawa