What if, instead of being afraid of even talking about death, we saw our lives in some ways as preparation for it.What if we were taught to ponder it and reflect on it and talk about it and enter it and rehearse it and try it on?What if, rather than being cast out and defined by some terminal category, you were identified as someone in the middle of a transformation that could deepen your soul, open your heart, and all the while-even if and particularly when you were dying-you would be supported by and be part of a community?
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To love women, to love our vaginas, to know them and touch them and be familiar with who we are and what we need. To satisfy ourselves, to teach our lovers to satisfy us, to be present in our vaginas, to speak of them out loud, to speak of their hunger and pain and loneliness and humor, to make them visible so they cannot be ravaged in the dark without great consequence, so that our center, our point, our motor, our dream, is no longer detached, mutilated, numb, broken, invisible, or ashamed.
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I think when people begin to tell their stories, everything changes, because not only are you legitimized in the telling of your story and are you found, literally, like you matter, you exist in the telling of your story, but when you hear your story be told, you suddenly exist in community and with others.
Wouldn't it be incredible if everyone could be purged, somehow, of the projected not-them badness that they internalized and perhaps have acted out because their souls have been so damaged? Wouldn't it be incredible if everyone could find the joy that comes with committing to our own goodness? Perhaps we would stop dividing ourselves into malignancies of various forms.
So much of life, it seems to me, is the framing and naming of things. I had been so busy creating a future of love that I never identified the life I was living as the life of love, because up until then I had never felt entitled enough or free enough or, honestly, brave enough to embrace my own narrative. Ironically, I had gone ahead and created the life I secretly must have wanted, but it had to be covert and off the record. Chemo was burning away the wrapper and suddenly I was in my version of life. Thus began the ecstasy - the joy, the pure joy of a spiritual pirate who finds the secret treasure.
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The heart is capable of sacrifice. So is the vagina. The heart is able to forgive and repair. It can change it's shape to let us in. It can expand to let us out. So can the vagina. It can ache for us and stretch for us, die for us and bleed and bleed us into this difficult, wondrous world. So can the vagina. I was there in the room. I remeber.
What if, instead of being afraid of even talking about death, we saw our lives in some ways as preparation for it. What if we were taught to ponder it and reflect on it and talk about it and enter it and rehearse it and try it on?What if, rather than being cast out and defined by some terminal category, you were identified as someone in the middle of a transformation that could deepen your soul, open your heart, and all the while-even if and particularly when you were dying-you would be supported by and be part of a community?
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I was always reaching for love, but it turns out love doesn't involve reaching. I was always dreaming of the big love, the ultimate love, the love that would sweep me off my feet or 'break open the hard shell of my lesser self' (Daisaku Ikeda). The love that would bring on my surrender. The love that would inspire me to give everything. As I lay there, it occurred to me that while I had been dreaming of this big love, this ultimate love, I had, without realizing it, been giving and receiving love for most of my life. As with the trees that were right in front of me, I had been unable to value what sustained me, fed me, and gave me pleasure. And as with the trees, I was so busy waiting for and imagining and reaching and dreaming and preparing for this huge big love that I had totally missed the beauty and perfection of the soft-boiled eggs and Bolivian quinoa.
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Cherish your solitude. Take trains by yourself to places you have never been. Sleep out alone under the stars. Learn how to drive a stick shift. Go so far away that you stop being afraid of not coming back. Say no when you don't want to do something. Say yes if your instincts are strong, even if everyone around you disagrees. Decide whether you want to be liked or admired. Decide if fitting in is more important than finding out what you're doing here. Believe in kissing.
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An activist is someone who cannot help but fight for something. That person is not usually motivated by a need for power or money or fame, but in fact is driven slightly mad by some injustice, some cruelty, some unfairness, so much so that he or she is compelled by some internal moral engine to act to make it better.
The world has done that already - possessed the Congo and pillaged her and dominated her and robbed her of agency and occupation. Love is something else, something rising and contagious and surprising. It isn't aware of itself. It isn't keeping track. It isn't something you sign for. It's endless and generous and enveloping. It's in the drums, in the voices, in the bodies of the wounded made suddenly whole, by the music, by each other, dancing.
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If you just look at the fact that a woman was central in twittering the Cairo revolution, and women were central to the Tunisian uprising. Women are at the center of everything right now and moving everything forward. And I do think in the next year or two, we are going to see such a woman spring, such a rising.
I really do think how we frame things determines so much of our experience, and I've been talking to a lot of oncologists, like, why don't we call them transformation suites and give people transformation juice and have guides that support people when they're going through chemo so you could actually burn away what needs to be burned away, as opposed to this dread, terror, horror, which is a very different experience.
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I am not saying people shouldn't be held accountable for terrible acts. But holding people in prisons does not necessarily make them responsible or accountable. It makes them bad. It makes them evil. It puts an end to any process of transformation. It hardens them spiritually and psychologically.
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What I believe is that we have this extraordinary spirit inside ourselves, which for me is our Buddha nature. I believe we are in the process of opening and getting closer and closer to our Buddha nature and stripping away all that is covering it. I don't think I'm going to end up meeting this one being up there or out there.
For me, so much of my life has been this attempt to find my way back into my body. I tried various forms, from promiscuity, to eating disorders, to performance art. And I think it wasn't until I got cancer, where I was suddenly being pricked and ported and chemoed and operated on, that I suddenly just became body. I was just a body. And it was in that, in that finally landing in myself that I really discovered the world in my body.
Dancing insists we take up space, and though it has no set direction, we go there together. Dance is dangerous, joyous, sexual, holy, disruptive, and contagious and it breaks the rules. It can happen anywhere, at anytime, with anyone and everyone, and it's free. Dance joins us and pushes us to go further and that is why it's at the center of ONE BILLION RISING.
I think there are so many children being brought up in some form of violence, be it violence of poverty or sexism or racism or homophobia or transphobia. That violence takes a life to transform or overcome. I don't think people should be spending their lives dealing with that. I think people should be thriving, playing, creating, evolving.
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I think so much of my early life, even though I grew up White and middle class, I was completely shattered by the horrifically violent atmosphere I grew up in. I am a consequence of violence. That opened a door to many realities that I would not have experienced had I not survived what I did.
What I would argue is that real spirituality is the ability to keep encountering two opposite thoughts at the same time and still maintain some kind of morality and perspective in the world. It is not the elimination of one side of the equation or the elimination of what you don't like; it is the investigation of everything.
It [the memoir "In The Body of the World"] wrote me. I joke about it, but this book was so unusual. It just started to come out. I really feel like it came straight from my body. I think it was both an expression of what I had gone through, but also it just felt like everything had come together in my body and it needed to tell that story.
I am worried about this word, this notion - security. I see this word, hear this word, feel this word everywhere. Security check. Security watch. Security clearance. Why has all this focus on security made me feel so much more insecure? ... Why are we suddenly a nation and a people who strive for security above all else?
I think to be honest, that being is inside. I meet that being in so many people that I meet everywhere in the world and when I do meet that being, in other people, what I want to ask is "How do we keep opening ourselves so that we can become as vulnerable and as willing to live in the deepest complexity and ambiguity and truth that we can?"
I think for me, happiness is crucial, but I think we think that happiness comes from amassing goods and getting things and being loved and being successful, when in fact my experience of happiness comes when you give everything away, when you serve people, when you're watching something you do make somebody happy - that's when happiness happens.
My dream is that people will find a way back home, into their bodies, to connect with the earth, to connect with each other, to connect with the poor, to connect with the broken, to connect with the needy, to connect with people calling out all around us, to connect with the beauty, poetry, the wildness.