My Sisters, My Family

by Marie Kenfak

Closeup photo of the printed word, 'focus,' on a dictionary page, magnified through the lens of thin-black-rimmed reading glasses and highlighted with a green marker.

We are miles apart, yet so close
We are so different, yet so connected
We have felt so isolated, now we have a family
We set up a zoom meeting
We exchange greetings and news
Then each of us does her thing
I wash my dishes, water my plants
Make a pizza for one child, some pancakes for another
I write this piece, I edit my self help workbook
I would have postponed some tasks, then I would have felt bad about procrastinating
I would have felt stressed, then would have convinced myself to not be hard on myself
Then, I would have wondered how I would organise my days for better efficiency
My friends, my sisters, my new-found family, my online buddies, are there with me and for me in a way that feels so good and so empowering
They are a blessing and I love them dearly

It's not easy to have a community. Yet, we have created an online community. We connect with each other multiple times per week, all across the world.

We are not alone. We can do mundane tasks, across the world from each other, with Zoom running, to keep each other company and to help each other find motivation and focus.

We have gotten into the habit of having a weekend session that is open for people to log on, do their own thing, and thrive in each other's presence.

No matter what we call it—body doubling or chosen family—it works!

Thoughts About the Social Experience of Living

by Becky Lewis

Abstract colors and shapes representing diversity

I think the toughest thing for me to survive has been something I share in common with refugees, migrants, immigrants, and survivors of domestic violence: I have had to juggle multiple sets of “social norms,” simultaneously, and the consequences for “messing up” have sometimes been dire, severe, and unforgiving.

It has been very confusing, even after accounting for my neurodivergent trait of not understanding some social cues because I no longer carefully copy the behavior of the people around me. I made this comment on Facebook, recently:

“I agree. Entire systems and generations of systems discriminate. People say, 'You can’t expect the whole world to change, just for you.'' I say, 'That’s actually not what I’m after. I want you, as individuals, to do the same mundane opening of your social circle that you already do to make room for each other. I want a voice and a seat at the table. There is nothing objective about the way you are already doing it—keeping your circle tightly closed and being selectively friendly and welcoming. Everyone does that. I’m tired of it. Open the circle.'”

The ultimate defiance is to finally make it out of the swamp and, instead of going on with your life in relief and gratitude, with your strong legs from walking through the swamp, to instead turn around and reach for others. To go back into the swamp and sit down with them for periods of time, if necessary, while they struggle, if they do not yet know how to reach for your hand. To not be the only one who escapes.

Intentional Performance of Particles

by Jane Engleman

Either a microscopic photo or a drawing of particles and waves behaving in ways that make it difficult to determine which they are

It seems that particles are waves that cause movement in other particles and waves. I don’t know. Just seems we splash.

Everything in the particle is in the wave it is, particularly in physical dance and physical poetry. Everything that we do is contained in the dance, in the activated muscle, the bone and the integration of the sensory neurons, within the context of arterial systems and the Vegas nerve. Maybe particles move the way the Father becomes the Son and the Holy Ghost, the way that ice melts to waters that become steam. The way gifting moves from stillness to energy.

I am definitely not a dancer, performance in the art sense, in the dance sense. So why is meditation and Medicine Dance so important to me? For 25 years I was lost in self-care, studying origins without ever being here inside my own body. I was taught, without feeling, that I could heal.

My life became activated by noticing how dendrites take in information, nurture it for a minute in a neuron cell, and send it on along through an axion to the body. Cognition is not brainwork, it is bodywork. Feeling is both pain and emotion, simply the response of our bodies to our genetics and environment. Conscious movement changes the thought-emotions that lead to action.

And it feels so good to dance, easy or wild, disabled or athlete, to silence, to coaching and to poetry and music. It feels good to perform. Waves are particles. Sometimes the particles are moving together and sometimes particles are moving against each other. Moving back and forth, in and out in circles, and as momentary still points gathering fire. Medicine dance physically informs my wellness, my poetry, my communication, my activism.

I work with Pro Peers Entry Network that facilitates the difference between surviving and thriving. Everything in a tree is in the seed. Medicine Dance prepares the ground, friending nature, optimizing the physical environment for everything that I do as a poet, as a writer and as a graphic designer, with the dream of advocacy for trauma survivors in Los Angeles.

Medicine Dance breathes me. Gives permission, space and balance. We are both energy and particle, paddling or floating. I am accidental, intentional waves. We exist, breath, love.

Thoughts About Human Attachment

by Becky Lewis

elephants demonstrating attachment behaviors

In my own generation, scientific research is starting to catch up with something that has always caused agony for orphans and adoptees, even if they could not articulate it. Humility and grief are my responses. I wish I had understood the experiences of others around me as I grew up. I wish I could have made a difference for them.

We, as adults who forget what it was like to be infants, are learning about the ways that our biological drive for human attachment impacts us.

Nicolae Cousescu, dictator in Romania for decades, had many orphanages, in which the orphans, including infants, received very little or no human interaction.

Bottles of formula were propped up for infants to drink from when they were hungry. The problem was that for an infant to even figure out what to do in response to its own drive and feelings of hunger, another human has to invest time, presence, emotion, mirroring, protection, and value in them so that they will know what to do.

And even if the infant did somehow drink some formula and stumbled onto the connection that it changed its hunger feelings when it drank it, why would the infant WANT to drink, with no humans who care enough to even be present?

Even if the infant just regularly drank formula, like a robot, without wanting to or not wanting to, the infant will die without human attachment. This has to do with many other mechanisms that run throughout the nature of being human, like octopus tentacles.

When Nicolae Cousescu was overthrown and executed by firing squad in 1989, outsiders were called in and found the children and infants in orphanages. They found the dead infants and children, and the records of many more dead. They observed the behavior and developmental stuntedness of those who did manage to survive. I recently read an article in which a man in his 30s, who survived one of those orphanages, was interviewed. I will not trivialize his words and his life by trying to summarize them.

The below website was created in response to an attempt by some to look back and paint the Cousescu years as a "golden age" for Romania. The assertion by the website is that Romania and Romanians need to hold themselves accountable about the atrocities that occurred during Cousescu's dictatorship.

What atrocities do we allow to occur around us, right now, today, in the United States? What atrocities could not endure without us keeping our heads down, doing our work, and not asking questions?

Even though the above is a very crude, nuts-and-bolts attempt at explaining "attachment," it is crucial information. When humans lack secure attachment, at the very least, we consciously or unconsciously believe that we are not allowed to need things and that we are at the mercy of other people to decide whether or not to meet our needs.

We have to go ahead and learn the mundane nuts and bolts of meeting our own needs. We have to learn that we are allowed to do so, and that we are definitely worth the investment in our self-care. One large trigger and mechanism for learning these things is grief.

I honestly believe that these people, struggling to survive, are primed for learning an intensity and richness of life, through grief, healing, and connection with others... that those of us who never lacked for attachment, nor for other things, will never fully understand.

YOU are your best investment. YOU, and those who can see you accurately, are all you have.

The Poetry of Pianos and Windmills

by Jane Engleman

Fractal made of curving ridges that give the impression of waves or a landscape

I want to write a lot, so I want to write many little booklets. But I have to begin with the music of poetry. And that, like most of my emails, is going to take us around through the rabbit hole to the can of worms. Sometimes our frequencies wriggle like worms or ramen or Jackson Pollock. But in about sixteen pages, I’d like you to notice the protein in the fractals.

Because, Baby, there is a beautiful music in poetry. We write it down easy on staffs, but the orchestration is complex. And stunning. Spoken word, like good medicine and good nutrition, is healing and empowering. And it can kill people—like pharmaceuticals as a business, or sweet and salty snacks for cash.

I started out in college as a piano major, and then dropped it and dropped out, grateful now—I don’t know how I would have carted a Steinway Grand around to about five different mental hospitals, a board and care, and dozens and dozens of bus benches with no shade and often no buses. Poetry is cheap and easy, it requires nothing but your life, your soul and your relationships. It takes bad credit.

But I carry that grand piano in my head most minutes. I’m always testing, testing, testing Concert A. I love E Major and the sevenths. Pianos are like windmills. They require little maintenance or energy mostly, as long as there is a paid farmer mechanic or a master tuner. These instruments work, like poets, on natural vibration, like the larynx and the diaphragm that cradle-rocks the solar plexi. Any old biddy can play the piano if you stick with two notes with plenty of years of rest between. Anybody can make a windmill sing with plenty of water and plenty of wind. And anybody can dance a talk, if only with fingers or eyelids or handprints in ash on a rock.

Pianos and windmills are gentle. They’re run by a goddess out there. They’re strung. They sing. They laugh. They’re real. They raise up life from secret sacred roots and sources. They get disgruntled in a storm, and they let you know from the get-go when they are really mad. The madder, the richer.

My piano is a fiction; I can’t play keyboards except to improv with vagabonds at Union Station, the Norris Cancer Center, the Calvin Abode with Medicine Dance, or at the UU Church of LA. The audience has to agree to cacophonous chaos or I might get shot. The Rach is all in a pot in my head. But I love about paper what Miles Davis once said about his trumpet, “Sometimes I can get it to talk.”

Events in life bring us to our knees until we’re ready to listen to the beauty in them. We have been given riches of mineral springs and steel strings of mechanical instruments. My poetry is my piano and my windmill. Every syllable is a beat; every breath of wind is a pull on the springs beneath the mountain.

Poetry is that, low-maintenance energy—power, if cared for. I am so eager, like a little kid with a sticky note of a chord progression on an upright Kawai in the shack of the clubhouse, to show you.

Very Loudly

by Becky Lewis

Photo of a green field of a single tall, grain-like crop, with one, narrow, dirt footpath cutting straight through it toward the background. A grain silo and trees are in the distant background.

I’d like to say something, very loudly:

If you struggle to use technological devices and software, it does not mean you are “stupid.”

It means you are left-out of a clique; excluded and left-behind by a human culture.

These days, there are options for learning that are somewhat independent of the clique and the culture.

But once you learn, will you repeat the cliquey behavior of the people who were perfectly content to leave you behind?

Originally posted by Rebecca Lewis on LinkedIn

“Hope is like a road in the country; there was never a road, but when many people walk on it, the road comes into existence.”
—Lin Yutang 1895-1976