returning to life: combining activism and spirituality to heal

I have felt dead inside for several months. Depression, grief, anger, fear. So many emotions coming up while processing and healing from violent sexual assault.

But in the last weeks I have felt reborn. A combination of circumstances, the dawning of springtime, the support of my loved ones, and hard personal work has landed me in a much better place. I can’t predict the future, or know that it will all be alright, but I am able to see a warmth returning to my present moment. A hopeful, reassuring warmth that maybe healing is possible. 

I find myself incredibly grateful that I am alive. I find myself noticing movement in my body that feels good and refreshing, not only the pain. I am suddenly able to experience joy, and really feel it. After months of feeling either numb or miserable, joy is delicious.

I know this isn’t the end of the struggle. Perhaps it will be a short break. But I also know that there were times during the winter that the hopelessness felt endless. I didn’t know if it would transform. And yet, like everything, indeed it has.

As a survivor who chose to tell the story of my assault to the public, and who knows that this process was (for me–every individual is different) a very crucial part of my healing, I would like to share a quote from a friend and incredibly inspirational hero, Wagatwe Wanjuki, from an interview on MSNBC“I really hope that survivors of all identities of color, queer, low-income, with disabilities, trans, gender nonconforming, from community college, in relationships, etc. – will find it easier have their stories heard.” – Wagatwe Wanjuki.

I stand humbled by my privilege and committed to working towards a world where this hope articulated by Wagatwe becomes increasingly possible.

In addition to the activism work I did in speaking out (again, something that is a choice some survivors make, but not something to be pushed on any survivor–healing is all about choice) I also have had to step away from the public, and even from other people, in order to heal. It can be lonely, but this inward time has also felt very necessary for me. Having a spiritual life has always been extremely important to me, and though I am exploring my Jewish roots, a politically painful, challenging, but also rewarding task, I also do not feel grounded in a specific religion, but rather, pulled to words, rituals, and practices that move my spirit.

Recently I have discovered a beautiful song by Sikh musician Snatam Kaur called “Servant of Peace” that includes a beautiful recitation of the Saint Francis of Assisi Prayer “Make Me An Instrument.” The words sung in her heavenly voice have been guiding and consoling.

“Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace;
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love;
for it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.”

-St. Francis of Assisi, 13th Century

It is with deep gratitude for the activists, artists, and seekers who have come before me that I feel able to connect with the universe in a new and rejuvenated life.

© 2015 Lena Sclove

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depression, freedom, and the peaceful revolution

What if we were free and the system collapsed but there was not chaos or war because we were free in ourselves and the revolution came slowly, gently like a dance, and what if we were free?

This morning I woke up depressed and hopeless and was identifying with those emotions. And then I had a second of clarity and discovered I was obsessively trying to figure out why I was feeling so depressed. I was racking my brain for reasons, for something that was terribly wrong. But nothing was working so my anxiety was getting higher and higher. When I noticed this, I felt a separation occur in my mind. I felt the physical feeling of being depressed and I felt the chaotic stirring of my brain trying to make sense of the senseless. When this separation occurred the melancholy did not disappear, but a wave of relief did wash over me. And for a moment, I did feel free.

An unexpectedly light-hearted afternoon with a dear friend made me feel caffeinated. Jazzed up. A feeling of possibilities.

Many times this week I have wanted to skip town. I have wanted to escape because the work of healing the mind and the body is treacherous and a voice in my head suggests if I ran away from it all, I could reinvent myself. But I am reinventing myself. It’s just more painful than I could have ever predicted. I know my demons and ghosts would follow me on the bus or train or plane. But isn’t it wonderful to daydream, sometimes, about starting completely over? About a clean slate?

I am finding freedom in hopelessness. I have no idea what I am doing right now except healing. It gets very tiresome. It gets boring. It is my work. Though I often feel I don’t deserve the title, I still strive to be a freedom fighter in the most radical sense of the term. I am in the movement. I am in the peaceful revolution. But I am in my turtle shell for now, allowing my presence to be all that I can offer. Desperately needing that to be enough. What if I let go? What if I release my plans, and my need to succeed and my need to be somebody and my desperate need to be a good person all the time? What if in that separation between my depression and the monkey-mind brain nonsense trying to make sense of the depression—or between a traumatic event and the desperate attempt to find a way that I could have avoided it—what if in those slight chasms a world of freedom is opening. Beyond education and career and success and failure, maybe there is something bigger. Maybe I have been tied in an invisible net for long enough and as it becomes visible I realize I not longer need it. It is no longer protecting me. Perhaps it is time to give myself permission to be free.

© 2015 Lena Sclove

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poem of the brain

How cruel to be this aware all the time. That siren. That strange glance. This unexpected sunset.

I think this poem has already been written. A thousand poets have said it in a thousand different ways in a thousand different languages over a thousand years.

This beautiful agony of being awake.

was rumi a slow walker?

“The world is filled with people like Shams of Tabriz but where are the men like Rumi to see the truth in them?”Fundamentals of Rumi’s Thought by Sefik Can, page 67.

I think I must pass many wise people when I go throughout my day. Wise with a capital “W”. Wise about the ice on the pond and the gunshots and the meditation pillow and the swastikas and all the police who are not in prison.

I think I must pass many wise people, and yet we all walk so fast these days. How can I even have time to begin to see the truth in them?

poem for the february sun

It is 4pm in Western Massachusetts in February and

the sun is shining

and it is 33 degrees outside.

Let me repeat that.

It is 33 degrees outside.

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Let me clarify in case you are confused.

I am used to relief

at over-zero.

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Don’t get me wrong.

There is still a lot of snow.

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But after so many

blizzards

and below-zero days

and grey skies

relief flows like water

pulled by gravity.

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I have not been able to motivate myself

to walk out my door

into the cold

and yet

when I pushed myself

to do so today

I felt I was breathing for the first time.

Oh what a joy

to watch my feet disappear

in the snow

to hear icicles dripping

and to think maybe there are green buds in me

about to burst through

just as there are in the earth

unseen but present and ready.

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inspired by the art garden

Last night I was able to attend a glorious event called Paradise [not yet] Lost at The Art Garden, a community arts space in Shelburne Falls, MA. The invitation to the event read: “You are invited to participate in Paradise [not yet] Lost, a community exhibit about environmental issues, climate change, and the places we love and want to take care of.”

The exhibit included stunning works of visual work including paintings, collages, ceramic work, and mixed-media pieces. At 7pm performances began, and these included storytelling, recitations of poetry, musical sing-a-long, and an incredible interactive piece involved levitating ping-pong balls (with the use of hair-driers and many helping hands) that each said positive qualities such as “balance”, “intention,” and “love.”

I was inspired beyond belief, and the feeling still lingers twenty-four hours later. All the visual and performance work touched on the beauty of the natural world, the activism people are doing to care for the world, the love and belonging people feel to the places they live, and the investment in building community around these issues.

Everyone was invited to write an intention for engaging with nature and in a creative, social, and preserving way. We wrote our intentions on leaves and taped the leaves onto a card-board tree that was built in a corner of the room.

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Especially amidst the isolation, loneliness, and quiet of winter, I could not have asked for a more wonderful way to spend an evening with humans, feeling grateful for humans and for the beautiful world we live in, despite the challenges we face. So much gratitude to Jane Beatrice Wegscheider, artist director of The Art Garden, the many staff there, and all the artists who participated last night. My creative juices are flowing. My appreciation for nature has been rekindled. Thank you!

my last day working at the bookstore

I will miss the peace of being surrounded by books and feeling that all the words in the world are holding me.
I will not miss being made to feel stupid because I made a small mistake.
I will miss intellectual and literary conversations with strangers I will never see again.
I will not miss customers harrassing me and asking me out and making me feel uncomfortable at work.
I will miss the wonderful people who work in the bookstore and in the building and who have become friends and backup teams and silly gooses and who work hard at what they do.

Every job has it’s ups and downs. When you decide it’s time to move on to the next part of your journey, it’s a mixed bag. I feel nostalgic already for the parts of bookstore life that I love. I feel excited for what lies ahead. Change is always happening, but sometimes the change feels big, and the change begs to be honored and marked. I am honoring and marking this change, grateful for all that I have learned and the experience I have gained, and eager to see what is next. Is “I’m standing at the crossroads” cliche. Absolutely. Is it true right now? Absolutely.

Sincerely,
grateful and humbled and proud and ready

escape: “the dirty life” by kristin kimball, reflections part 3 of 3

In my final reflection post about The Dirty Life: On Farming, Food, and Love by Kristin Kimball I find myself eager to discuss Kimball’s contemplation on the escape of horses, and the larger concept of escape in general.

“I’ve had more than one opportunity to wonder…what it feels like to be a horse running away. I know there is fear, but I also think there’s a certain joy, or if not joy then exhilaration, abandon. The broke horse is always poised between his instincts and his training, and running is giving in to the instinct.” 

Commitment is scary, be it in the context of a relationship or a job or a lifestyle or, in the case of The Dirty Life, all three at once. There is a power to nesting and rooting and grounding. Today you can read Kristin Kimball’s blog about Essex Farm and see the amazing work that is being done there as a result of committing to finding stability amidst the chaos of running a farm.

However, I am also interested in this concept of abandon and exhilaration. The tension between instincts and training. After spending so many years trying to be “good” and “do the right thing” and “not get in trouble” I often feel that my instincts are more trustworthy than my training. And I wonder if following my instincts, and abandoning my “training” (in the broad sense of that word) I can experience joy and exhilaration, and from that place, discover my own version of grounding and rooting myself into a life that feels meaningful. I think society has things mixed up and backwards most of the time, and this passage makes me ponder if escape can be what brings us home.