Truth in a Time of Lies

 

I keep thinking I want to bring back this blog then chickening out because I kinda hate the internet. Sorry. Let me just dip my toe in and see if I can ease back into this…

Here is something I’ve been thinking about lately.

Truth. Duh. We are all thinking about truth, I hope.

When powerful people attempt to make you doubt all previously known sources of truth (i.e. discrediting the media and scientists), it becomes increasingly essential for each of us to be in touch with our own sense of Truth.

Sometimes Truth is very subtle or nuanced. Sometimes Truth is a kind of knowing that’s hard to verbally communicate. Each of us lives a different story and has a different perspective on Truth.

Yet, real Truth runs far deeper and extends far beyond the perceived differences between us. Truth is true no matter what. Truth is not subjective. Truth remains true whether you believe it or not. And truth remains true even when it is hidden.

How can we hold up Truth in a time when powerful people fear nothing more than Truth and wish to tear it down at every turn?

Meditate on Truth. Seek Truth in every moment, every experience, every emotion, every fact, every disagreement. Seek Truth in your own cognitive dissonance.

We are all fighting different battles, and that is how it should be. There are many battles to fight, and all of them are worthy.

Keep your eyes on Truth, and aim to align yourself with it — in action and in word, and even in your soul. Align your heart with Truth. Live Truth so you forget how to lie, how to be anything other than your true self.

Do not adopt someone else’s morals just because he sounds convincing. Use your own power of reasoning, and test what you must to distinguish the Truth. Discard all that is false, even in emotion. Look for truth in your happiness. And if you are brave, look also in your sadness. Look always to Truth, and urge your neighbor to look to her Truth. If her path doesn’t look like yours, still praise her on her way up the mountain.

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Why I Don’t Want Your Compliment

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I look different than I used to. People comment on it. It’s weird.

People I barely know say I’ve been “slimming down” and ask if I’ve been working out. Um. I teach yoga for a living and skate 3-6 hours a week (way less than many of my league mates). I’ve had a general increase in activity in the past few months because business is good and derby is great, but I don’t feel inclined to explain this to people. The subtext of their intended compliment is, “Although we’re practically strangers, I’ve noticed some changes in your body because I consider it my job and/or right to critique the bodies of others, and I want you to know that I approve/disapprove/have concerns.” In other words, it’s presumptuous as fuck.

I try not to give weight-based compliments because human beings are beautiful by definition and attaching a person’s worth to their weight is shitty. But I will say stuff like, “Wow, you look amazing!” Or I might even say, “You look like you’ve been taking good care of yourself,” which I hear some people take to mean “you look fat,” but I actually mean it literally. I try to praise any positive changes in a person, and maybe it’s equally presumptuous of me. But everyone likes getting compliments, so if someone seems like they’re happy, less stressed out, or really following their passion in life — or if they’re just really well dressed and rocking it, I like to tell them.

But when it comes to weight/body-related commentary, I prefer to keep my mouth shut and think other people should, too. For one thing, asking about a person’s weight is both rude and pointless. 1: It’s none of your business. 2: The number means mind-blowingly little for most people. 3: If the person’s weight is a threat to their health and you’re not their doctor, they probably don’t need or want your advice.

I get it, though. Humans like to give and receive compliments. It’s an evolved social bonding system, and our egos love it. But I could really do without comments on my body from pretty much anyone ever. Because really, I’m not doing this for you.

And that’s all I have to say about that.

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my definition of confidence

Young Woman from the Boni Yaou Family, Djougou, Benin photograph by Alfred Weidinger

One of the most powerful things you can have as an individual is the understanding that absolutely no one can invalidate you or make you less of a human being. No matter what name anyone calls you, you are good. No matter how anyone mistreats you or fails you, you deserve goodness. No matter what challenges you face or shortcomings you may have, you are worthy of love. When you know that, you will not let anyone mistreat you. You will not believe the bullshit they heap on you. Their words and actions may sting, but you will have dignity. And instead of internalizing their evil, you will look the cowards in the eye and see their pain, and you will respond with love. For them and for yourself.

 That’s confidence.

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The Initiation and the Work

Witches by Hans Baldung. Woodcut, 1508

At Betty’s apartment, she told us all we are priestesses. “Yes, that. That’s what I want to be,” said a voice inside me. A priestess. Not a saint or a martyr. A powerful woman, not a victim of circumstance. That’s what the tattoo on my belly means. I’ve had it since I was 18 — the triple moon symbolizing the goddess, the divine feminine principle, shakti. We are priestesses not for any religion or god but for truth as we see it and know it with our hearts. With that first tattoo, I was claiming my body as my own, no matter what — mine to mark, and mine to wear. It was the first permanent decoration for my temple, and the first step toward the priestess taking up residence. I awakened the wise woman within me, with her roots that reach back to all the wise women who went before. And even though I was young and lost, she was with me.

It was that same wise woman I sensed that afternoon last year surrounded by the faces of so many radiant, orgasmic women including our teachers and initiators, Betty and Carlin. She was older, her voice had grown stronger, and she was smiling directly at me through the women in the circle. We entered as seekers, and we left as priestesses, and now I want to know how to spread the word.

I believe the world needs more shakti right now. We need more women who are powerful and confident.We need women who own their sexuality, who refuse to be victims, who speak their truth and honor their bodies. We need to give our daughters every opportunity we give our sons. We need lovers who do not fear us, who are not mystified when we bleed, who want nothing more than to praise our bodies with kisses. We need to be loved, and it starts with loving ourselves.

I used to think Betty’s message was all about the orgasm, and I’ll tell ya that is a truly wonderful thing, but at the end of the day, whether you’re practicing self-love or playing with a friend, it’s not about how many times you came, it’s about how much fun you had. Did you love, or were you afraid? Was it a celebration or a sacrifice? Did you revel in every amazing moment or did you beat yourself up with thoughts self-loathing and undeservingness? It’s easy to apply these questions not just to sex but to an entire approach to life.

It’s been nearly a year since my first workshop at Betty’s apartment. The message of self-love, self-acceptance, and self-pleasure has found its way into my whole mindset. Now I’m looking for how I can bring that message back out into the world — how do I embody those principles in my life and my work? And is teaching Bodysex Workshops the right next step for me? I don’t like to think of myself as the “radical self love” type with all the cutesy trappings of the blogosphere, but I do believe that teaching women to love and accept themselves will change the world.

Unsurprisingly, being able to speak the lessons I’ve learned requires me to integrate them on a whole new level, so I find myself facing a lot of work. Doesn’t that just always seem to be the case? I wonder if there will ever come a time when I don’t feel like I have a whole damn lot to learn.

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Pornographic, Offensive, or Just a Naked Body?

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Last week, when I posted this article on Facebook, a couple of my guy friends expressed their discomfort with the art work I used. Several of my girlfriends defended the image. There was a debate about whether Facebook’s terms of service explicitly forbade all nudity or just pornography and whether this piece of art crossed the line into being pornography. You can read all the comments here.

As I pondered how to respond, I scrolled around clicking “like” on my friends’ clever witticisms and taking personality quizzes (I’m Bjork, according to Buzzfeed). And then I stumbled across a photo of a man I’ve never met naked in a bathtub eating a burrito.

Now… let’s talk about what’s pornographic and what’s offensive. The idea of pornography is that it’s intended to be used as masturbatory material. That is the supposed difference between porn and art. Of course, it’s also possible that a piece of fine art could arouse the viewer, and maybe the artist even created it with that intention. In those cases, the quality of the work is often what determines the difference. If the artist is good enough, the sexy painting ends up in a museum. If not, it goes in a closet.

For something to be offensive, on the other hand, is more serious. I’m not offended by things I simply disagree with, though. I am offended by sexism, racism, homophobia, and other forms of hate. Hate is the only thing I find truly offensive. Everything else is usually a matter of taste.

If you label something offensive just because you don’t agree with it, what you’re engaging in is not morality, it’s censorship. You are not “protecting the children” by shielding their eyes from a perfectly healthy image of a woman looking at her body in a mirror. Our society largely invalidates brilliant art work because we’re uncomfortable with the fact that it turns us on, or might turn someone on, or maybe just reminds us a little too much of sex.

To be clear, the picture I posted was of a woman looking at her vulva with a mirror. As my friend Krista said, “our necks don’t bend enough to see all the good stuff.” The woman is learning about her body and admiring it. She is smiling into the mirror. She loves herself. I don’t find anything offensive about that idea or the picture, and in fact the whole damn thing makes me happy.

As for the guy in the bath tub photo, that I didn’t want to see. I’ll admit I’ve posted a dorky selfie or two, but what the hell man? Actually, the photo was taken and posted by bathtub guy’s friend (who is my friend, hence me seeing the photo). I can’t quite imagine the circumstances that lead to this photo being taken, but I’m sure it was hilarious for the two of them. However, if any of my friends posted something that unflattering of me on the internet, we wouldn’t be friends anymore. But I’m still not offended by the photo. Furthermore, I doubt anyone will complain to my friend about the picture because we know him and his weird sense of humor. Everyone will roll their eyes and laugh about it. Facebook will not take down the post. It’s just a naked guy in a bathtub eating a burrito.

What’s wrong with that?

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