So the good news is my weekend at Kripalu with Stephen Cope & Sharon Salzberg rocked. Stockbridge, Mass. this time of year at the top of a mountain is kind of breathtaking - all burnt orange and yellow trees surrounding a glistening lake that mists up at times and looks like a magic dragon may emerge any moment…That kinda thing.
Cope and Salzberg are refreshingly no bullshit people with yoga and meditation practices, so the idea of loving kindness coming from them does not sound like a bad commercial, but instead a rigorous heart opening process that has nothing to do with being rolled or laying down your principles. Salzberg, in case like me you didn't know, was born in the Bronx. She now lives in NYC and is the least sentimental person you'll ever want to meet, while still being a staunch advocate for 'metta meditation.' We learned that metta doesn't actually mean loving kindness but instead friendliness, so it's a way of making friends with the world essentially. As I write it, it all sounds a little hooey, and when I first came upon this concept, it kinda made me ill, but in practice, it's quite powerful.
More about this once I calm down about horrendous foreign policy debate I just watched in which there was No difference between the Republican and Democrat so they were just posturing for position. Obama is of course smarter and all that, but the reason I for one cannot work for him this year is that he's made it OK for the U.S. to overtly assassinate "our enemy," in this case of course Osama bin Laden.
I know I'm in a minority of like 3 or something but I for one don't think it was a good idea to assassinate bin Laden. If we believe any of the bullshit we profess in this country about human rights and yadeyada, then we should have captured him and brought him to trial. But that would be messy and might bring out things we'd rather avoid like the fact - oh say - that we created bin Laden in the first place when he was useful to us, etc.
I was in NYC on 9/11 so please, no, don't send in cards and letters telling me I don't know what happened here. I do know what happened here. I smelled burning flesh, plastic and metal for weeks on end, saw missing people photos everywhere, handed cookies to firemen. You name it. Knew people who died. The works. It was horrendous but I thought then and feel now that adding to that level of violence would do nothing and in fact would make matters worse, which it did and has.
Let's review: Pakistan for instance. Can you seriously say we have made that a better place or a worse place? What about all the people who have died from 'drones' - Drones, as in planes that fly without people in them and drop bombs. Planes that come from oh say Nevada and kill people - actual people - people like you and me - in say Pakistan, like a lot. A lot of people. Some of these people may be so-called 'enemies' whatever the fuck that means, but most of them, I'm willing to bet you lots and lots of money, are just 'normal people' (i.e., like you and me: care about their kids, want a nice life, etc…all that shit). Living in NYC on 9/11/01, we got a first hand look at what that's like. One moment, it's a beautiful sunny day, next moment, massive destruction and thousands of people dead. Poof, like that. Out of Fucking Nowhere. (I should note here that many people who lived in NYC that day did not want to see more violence and in fact marched against more violence a couple weeks after all this happened, while the site was still burning. I challenge you to find another city with people who would do that.)
I could go on. It's like shooting fish in a barrel, but I won't, because the list of the worst abuses of U.S. military power is longer than Proust's Remembrance of Things Past (ironic because of course we remember nothing - so convenient our collective amnesia that we protest over and over again is 'innocence' rather than the willful ignorance that it is - so like when 9/11 happens, we can say: why on earth did those horrible people do that to us? As if we did nothing at all to bring it on. Seriously? Take a look at history, kids).
I will vote for Obama because of healthcare reform and my (and many others') need of it. I also see no viable alternative. I voted for Nader for many election cycles beginning in 1996, because Clinton ditched the social safety need so he could get re-elected, and I realized all he had accomplished was finishing Reagan's agenda. I voted for Obama in 2008 because I wanted to see us move away from racism in the U.S. I knew he'd be the pragmatic president he has been. I did not believe he was the second coming, so I'm not disappointed. However, I cannot condone assassination, keeping Gitmo open and the ongoing death of civil liberties under the excuse of "needing to be secure." Therefore, I cannot make phone calls like I did in 2008 (from London to Ohio, Indiana, etc.) or advocate for Obama to my more purist left-wing friends. I can only nod in agreement and explain the reason for my vote.
I also believe that Romney winning could signal the end of Roe v. Wade and make life harder for many people who are not rich.
But as for foreign policy, there isn't even a tiny shaft of light between them other than maybe military spending and that's all bluster anyway. If it's fictional dollars you're pushing around, you can say anything.
Loving kindness then…where does that fit in? This way: respect for all people involved even when I violently disagree with them. Realizing that even if I so disagree those people do believe in what they are saying and doing. At the same time, compassion for myself and my own point of view and fighting for it all the way. It's not about laying down and dying. It's about staying clear on my own intentions, am I trying to gain points? Just prove I'm right? Or is there a principle at stake larger than my ego?
As Gandhi said, if you aren't fighting because you are afraid to fight, you should fight. Non-violence is not for pacifists, it is for warriors. You need a lot of faith and courage to act non-violently, because there's a good chance you will get hurt or even die, which is of course true. I don't know if I'm up to it. It remains an aspiration for me.
Speaking of warriors, I am now reading Stephen Cope's newest book The Great Work of Your Life, which is his riff on the Bhagavad Gita as it relates to how we make our way through life. It's worth a read. Will write more about it when I've finished the book but his first book Yoga and the Quest for the True Self had a profound effect on my life and also ended up in my PhD thesis in regard to his take on the witness. He's that kind of smart, but also astonishingly compassionate and down to earth. Just trust me on this one people. Read his stuff. My stepfather Tom gave me his first book and at the time I almost hurled it across the room. So not into yoga or those who did yoga was I. In fact I thought people who did yoga were full of all kinds of shit. His book, from the perspective of a skeptical Western psychoanalyst finding his way to Kripalu and his experience with others who had done the same shifted my prejudices. I now am yet another person who swears by yoga (in addition to my years of meditation), not only as a way to move my body but all the other paths as well (meditation, karma, etc…)
I can't believe I found a positive way to end this blog post but I did. I will stay there for now. The debates were just too depressing to even think about.
Welcome to my blog..
"We struggle with dream figures and our blows fall on living faces." Maurice Merleau-Ponty
When I started this blog in 2011, I was in a time of transition in my life between many identities - that of Artistic Director of a company (Apocryphal Theatre) to independent writer/director/artist/teacher and also between family identity, as I discover a new family that my grandfather's name change at the request of his boss in WWII hid from view - a huge Hungarian-Slovak contingent I met in 2011. Please note in light of this the irony of the name of my recently-disbanded theatre company. This particular transition probably began in the one month period (Dec. 9, 2009-Jan. 7, 2010) in which I received a PhD, my 20 year old cat died on my father's birthday and then my father, who I barely knew, died too. I was with him when he died and nothing has been the same since. This blog is tracing the more conscious elements of this journey and attempt to fill in the blanks. I'm also writing a book about my grandmothers that features too. I'd be delighted if you joined me. (Please note if you are joining mid-route, that I assume knowledge of earlier posts in later posts, so it may be better to start at the beginning for the all singing, all dancing fun-fair ride.) In October 2011, I moved back NYC after living in London for 8 years and separated from my now ex-husband, which means unless you want your life upended entirely don't start a blog called Somewhere in Transition. In November 2011, I adopted a rescue cat named Ugo. He is lovely. As of January 2012, I began teaching an acting class at Hunter College, which is where one of my grandmothers received a scholarship to study acting, but her parents would not let her go. All things come round…I began to think it may be time to stop thinking of my life in transition when in June 2012 my stepfather Tom suddenly died. Now back in the U.S. for a bit, I notice, too, my writing is more overtly political, no longer concerned about being an expat opining about a country not my own. I moved to my own apartment in August 2012 and am a very happy resident of Inwood on the top tip of Manhattan where the skunks and the egrets roam in the last old growth forest on the island.
I am now transitioning into being married again with a new surname (Barclay-Morton). John is transitioning from Canada to NYC and as of June 2014 has a green card. So transition continues, but now from sad to happy, from loss to love...from a sense of alienation to a sense of being at home in the world.
As of September 2013 I started teaching writing (composition and rhetoric) as an adjunct professor at Fordham University, which I have discovered I love with an almost irrational passion. While felt blessed for the opportunity, after four years of this, the lack of pay combined with heavy work load stopped working, so have transferred this teaching passion to private workshops in my own apartment and working with writers one on one, which I adore. I will die a happy person if I never have to grade an assignment ever again.
I worked full time on the book thanks to a successful crowd-funding campaign in May 2014 and completed it at two residencies at Vermont Studio Center and Wisdom House in summer 2015. I have done some revisions and am shopping it around to agents and publishers now, along with a new book recently completed.
I am now working full-time as a freelance writer, writing workshop leader, coach, and editor. Contact me if you are interested in any of these services.
Not sure when transition ends, if it ever does. As the saying goes, the only difference between a sad ending and a happy ending is where you stop rolling the film.
For professional information, publications, etc., go to my linked in profile and website for Barclay Morton Editorial & Design. My Twitter account is @wilhelminapitfa. You can find me on Facebook under my full name Julia Lee Barclay-Morton. More about my grandmothers' book: The Amazing True Imaginary Autobiography of Dick & Jani
Recently, I started a website Our Grandmothers, Our Selves, which has stories about many people's grandmothers. Please check it out. I will be blogging there, too, now. You can also contact me through that site.