Tag Archives: how we do what we do

building the empathy muscle

graffiti from Jerusalem: black spray-painted words, "We NEED Peace"Good morning, you and you and you. How is the morning singing where you are? Here it’s the Amtrak whistling through Jack London Square, the rush of cars moving toward rush hour, my neighbor warming up their motorcycle, the long build of the teakettle’s steady hum as it comes to a boil. Just a few birds; the feeder’s empty, and so they’re shunning me until I get them more seed.

I’m resting in the comingle of this song this morning, letting it wash over me. Last night’s Write Whole workshop left me both full and emptied out; we wrote about fear (visit the link to hear Joy Harjo performing the poem we used as a prompt), and we wrote about apologizing for things that weren’t our fault. The writing was vivid, layered, complicated, strong, and the stories were painful and gorgeous and necessary. I carry these stories with me; they live in the space I occupy, they live along the skin of my forearms, they live in the cilia just inside my ears. I learn from these stories; I stretch and open; I ache and celebrate. Every one of us in the room during these writes, we have the opportunity to stretch, to experience another someone’s story. Continue reading

Story. Voice. Witness.

graffiti of a woman in a hood looking out into the world, about to speak (photo by antwerpenR on Flickr)Good morning! It’s quiet out this morning, though my neighbors are already up and going, which has the puppy awake and alert. The chillier morning air has me all bundled up in sweats, with the hood of my sweatshirt gathered up over my head and cinched tight,  and friend-blessed socks covering my toes. In spite of waning sick and some morning panic, it’s a good morning so far. Are there complicated songs welcoming you into this day? What do they sound like?

I have been thinking for the last week or so, as I move towards actually devoting myself to the work I believe in, about re-articulating what exactly that work is. What are these workshops for? What’s the point of this writing practice?

Continue reading

Ego and stubbornness and sweat

street art of giraffesIt’s freezing outside the windows this morning, and not much more than that in here at my computer. I’ve got my hat on, though, and we’re moving forward.


Morning pages in the notebook today.  Let’s be honest that so many of my struggles are my own stubbornness and ego. The process is everything to me.

There’s so much weight put on process — should the ends have anything to do with the means? How much can I write about this today, without writing about interpersonal struggle, how much it hurts when two people who love each other are trying to get someplace but each wants the process to look different. Process is everything to me — as is praxis: the intermingling of theory and practice, how one has to feed the other. For me, it’s not just what gets done, but how it gets done. This can cause struggles when I’m working with someone else who wants to get to exactly the same place, but wants to go a very different route — shouldn’t it not matter, as long as we get there? I think it does matter.

I remember being worried about going to the police about my stepfather, who was an ostensibly successful therapist — what if he had been really, truly helping people, other kids, even as he’d been controlling and abusing his family?  Maybe he really was doing good work. In my heart, of course, I believed differently: if you’re sexually abusing your stepchildren, you shouldn’t be counseling others who’ve experienced sexual abuse: your judgement and presence is going to be clouded (to say the very very very least).

Should behavior in one arena of life necessarily have any impact on behavior in another arena?

I’m paying close attention to my practices/praxes right now, to how I’m doing what I do. Practice includes communication and planning and vision as much as action. It includes not just the goals but what’s happening around the goals.
Some theory-in-action will be happening on Saturday, at Writing the Flood! Also, I’ll be leading an all-day erotic writing workshop in Sacramento in January: Reclaiming the Erotic Story on Jan 29. Contact John Crandall to register!
A prompt for today, taken from some of what we did at the Body Empathy workshop last month. Write in response to the phrases: This is what his/her/hir body loves (or what my body loves, or what your body loves) and/or This is what his/her/hir body doesn’t love.

Begin with whichever sentence most resonates for you now, and give yourself 10 or 15 minutes to follow your writing wherever it seems to want you to go.

Here’s my response to this prompt:

(Sometimes what she would love is not worrying about her body anymore)

There’s this thick spiraling, an opening up,
when what she so often would appreciate
is the filling, the stuffing, that’s a closing down.
Sometimes, visualizing is just the same
as doing, and when I’m on the page, my body
is free to imagine something
completely different

This is what my body loves:
the kind of sweat that almost pulses, it’s
so heavy, stinky, wrought full of funk
at first, elimination phase, and then
wham, without a sound, doused so free
and my pores opened, every layer of skin slick —
wrapping the space between fingers, behind
ears, under knees, at the back of the
neck, anointing, really, I mean sluicing
something off that’s not just dirt but
old assumptions, hesitations, fears, worry,
how does it all push out in the sweat?
The sweat has to come with movement —
still sweat worries her, feels too sticky,
like not the right amount of work–
sweat that layers her movements is
too infrequent but just right. I’m talking
about the sweat that pushes up and drips
during dancing, that pours like fluid
bond exchange when the body reaches for a
body, when this body reaches for that
one because we’re just not done yet,
I meant the sweat that darkens the pits of my
tshirt when I’m digging the spade into
the ground — I mean the way enormous
crying can feel like sweat, can feel like a
relinquishing of toxins — I guess I’m just looking
for a way to filter out the stains he left
in me and how to have my body remain
free-standing and whole. Sweat, in my
world, equals exercise + music — the wet is
the product, the release and the prize. It’s
how this body knows it’s hand a
good time. Without sweat, everything else is
in question. How do you celebrate what
everyone else is trying to fight off —
I know my body talks to me through those
fevers of damp and musk and I am
trying to learn the languages she
speaks, the languages of aches and pleasures,
of glands and tensions, of belly burbles
and digestive foibles, and this particular body’s
liquors and flavors. I want to know her textures
and bumps, where
she pushes out and where she curves in –
I want to know what makes her sweat,
and I want to feed her that experience

til she can breathe again.

Thank you for the tender ways you attend to your body (even when it feels like its not enough)  — thank you for your words.