Brand New or Broken: A Call to Mindfulness

I have the great privilege of living across the street from a locally-owned bike shop.  It is called Rock ‘n Road. Now most people wouldn’t think this would really be the selling point of a great apartment, but it remains truly one of my favorite features.

When was the last time you rode a new bike, or took a new bike for a test ride?  I think I could spend close to eternity watching people test ride bikes.  There is this fabulous child-like quality about the experience.  Almost as if they are on a bike for the first time, and it is all so new and special for them.  And they are riding with such attention to detail, such focus and mindfulness. Little do they know that they will rarely ride the bike that way again, except for maybe if they think something is wrong with the bike.

Why do we do that?  Be it our bicycles, ourselves, our relationships, we often only give such undivided, mindful attention to something when it is brand new or broken. The experience of awe and wonder though is always available to us.

I am reminded of that wonder each time I see one of these cyclists, test out a new bike.  Don’t get me wrong, they are often wearing a sorta ridiculous helmet and many times dressed still in work clothes and don’t seem appropriately attired for their, I can only assume to be spontaneous, bike outing.  Even as I chuckle to myself at their awkwardness, I feel myself soften towards my own ill-preparedness for life. We aren’t always perfectly equipped or prepared for our situations, but when handled with attention, mindfulness, and a little curiosity, life comes alive.

Go test drive a bike today, or at least wonder past a bike shop and observe others, you’ll be glad you did!

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Valuing Women First, Reducing Abortion Second

Watching all the coverage of the anti-abortion protesters gathering at Notre Dame before the President’s commencement address I can feel the anger in me rising.
 
It is not that I am pro-abortion, or disagree with the freedom of speech and the right to protest, and yet I can feel myself getting a little crazy!
 
Abortion is undoubtedly a very emotional issue, and I suspect this is because we wrap a number of other issues and deep seeded feelings up in this debate.  Investigating my opinions on abortion reveals less interest in the medical procedure of abortion, and more interest in the issues it symbolizes. It seems much hurt and devaluing of women has come from both my religion and my country.
 
Men beware, it might just be easier to agree to give women a choice, rather than open the space for this much larger debate…
 
Has Christianity Left Women Behind?
 
Watching the protesters at Notre Dame placing the signs on their graduation cap of a cross with two baby feet on either side, enraged me.  This symbol reminded me of the way I have felt disenfranchised from traditional Christianity. 
 
Apparently God is male, first fail for women.  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit… I count three whole parts there, couldn’t we have gotten even 33% representation in the trinity? It sure makes it harder to be God-like when you are born the wrong gender to begin with. The one main female role model in the church is both a virgin and a mother (a very hard standard for most modern women to live up to). And let us not forget in Catholicism as well as some conservative protestant traditions women just aren’t equipped (read smart enough) to teach men.
 
And it is not only what we aren’t.  It is the incredibly small box of expectation of what we are. In many traditional Christian settings women are seen to be primarily baby factories. Somehow the issue of abortion seems to imply that the Church doesn’t trust women’s ability to choose whether they want to fulfill that role, as if that decision was pre-determined for us when our eggs were formed.
 
A Country Where All Men are Created Equal
 
I appreciate that abortion is legal in this country, but the way this debate is often framed rips away at the equality women feel.
Women are so often portrayed as the monsters in the abortion debate when so many factors lead to the situation of an unwanted pregnancy with at least one factor that is always present, a man!
 
Another factor rarely discussed is the lack of health insurance for women. Did you know that less than half of American women can get health insurance through work?  Keeping that in mind did you know that a 22 year old woman can be charged 1 1/2 times the premium of a 22 year old man in the individual insurance market. Yes, that is because it is expensive for the insurance company if that woman gets pregnant.
 
So until America decides to value the health of a woman and offer fair and equal health care for all women, I have very little patience for your debate as to whether women should have a choice to have an abortion or not. Without first the basic respect for a woman’s health, this issue can quickly make women feel like property rather than people.
 
Working for Solutions
 
Let me be clear, I am not saying that pro-lifers hold these views that I have articulated anger me so. I am trying to convey why this issue is such a hot button issue for me.  I believe there is much that needs to be done to bring feminism to Christianity and equality to America.  I would love to spend more energy on these issues, less on fighting about the fetus, and together from a place of high value and regard for women I believe we could work very effectively to decrease unwanted pregnancies.   

MI Policy Summit: Seeing Opportunity in Crisis

Blogging for you from the Michigan Policy Summit and having a wonderful time. My inner wonk is rejoicing and loving the progressive policies and concepts being discussed, many more blogs to come!
 
After a very thoughtful, intellectual, and clearly articulated Keynote Address by Dean Baker on Economic Policy, I thought it couldn’t get any better. He spoke to us about the problems we face and the challenges to come, but also the great possibilities that present themselves in this time of economic crisis. The symbolism of listening to these ideas in the city of Detroit, of all places, is outstanding.
 
And then for a brief few moments I was taken out of my head, and felt my heart open so wide, as Grace Lee Boggs was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award.  
 
The very woman who on Bill Moyers Journal spoke these words, 

“The struggle we’re dealing with these days, which, I think, is part of what the 60s represented, is how do we define our humanity?” 

At 91, Grace Lee Boggs has been a part of almost every major movement in the United States in the last 75 years, including: Labor, Civil Rights, Black Power, Women’s Rights and Environmental Justice.  (Bill Moyers Journal)
 
Grace’s eloquent words also spoke to the opportunities we have, not just as a country but the opportunity for humanity to transform and to create a new meaning for what is means to be human. Grace hopes that we don’t just work for a higher standard of living, but for a higher quality of life for all people, greater connections and embrace of humanity.
 
Grace spoke of the opportunity to grow our souls.  She spoke of soul as a verb, a way of acting in the world, not a substance within oneself.
 
How is the economic downturn and the crises you are facing helping to grow your soul?
 
Grace wrote in her recent article for the Michigan Citizen, 

“Healing our society will require the patient work not primarily of judges but of artists, ministers, gardeners, workers, families, women, communities. It will require the creation of new forms of Governance, Work and Education that are much more participatory and democratic than those collapsing all around us. It will require enlarging our vision, decolonizing our imaginations.” 

Grace is calling on all of us to act, not just for sake of Detroit, or Michigan, or America, but for sake of humanity.  I get the impression no one says “no” to Grace.

Doing Good by Doing Well… A New Generation’s Take on Capitalism

I have been known to be a bit critical of my generation.  Born in 1981, depending on how you cut it I belong to either gen x or gen y often called the millennial generation. 

My people, this generation, have been called lazy and narcissistic or at the very least self-absorbed with our twitter and facebook obsessions thinking that everyone in the world cares what we are doing at all times.  There are procedures and manuals all over the business sector in how to deal with us as employees, apparently we aren’t the easiest to work with, bucking hierarchical structures, and assuming everyone wants our opinions on well… everything.  And as a group we did not stand up to authority in the manner our boomer parents did, allowing Bush to take us to war without so much as creating a protest sign.
 
But for once, I don’t want to knock my generation, I want to applaud it!  Sure I believe there are many ways, good and bad, that we are different than generations before us, but one thing I think is clear we are creative and innovative, and I believe we are indeed changing the world.
 
Millennials take on Business and Philanthropy
Some of the most exciting things in the business world are coming from this millennial generation.  Take for example Toms Shoes.  For every pair of shoes they sell Toms donates a pair of shoes to a child or person in need.  Toms is just one of the MANY businesses using the power of capitalism, to do good in the world.

 
What I love about the success of Toms Shoes mission is obvious. I am so happy that they have found a way to fulfill their mission of ensuring more children and people around the world have shoes.  This is certainly doing good!  What I think is hallmark of the unique approach popping up in so many settings is the way they are choosing to use capitalism and American consumption to be the catalyst for tremendous good in the world. What I think is unique to this mindset is the ability to taking two seemingly contradictory mindsets capitalism (consumption) and philanthropy (compassion) and showing the way they can in fact work together.

I have such hope and some plans :) on ways millennials and their mindset will continue transforming not only business, but politics, and many other sectors.  By 2012, millennials will be the largest voting block in America.  And if this generation has shown us anything they will not just make an impact in the traditional sense with their vote, they will no doubt change the system and hopefully the power structure… let the revolution begin! 

Rising from the Ashes

From Broken Open, by Elizabeth Lesser…

“I am fascinated by what it takes to stay awake in difficult times. I marvel at what we do in times of transition — how we resist, and how we surrender; how we stay stuck, and how we grow. Since my first major broken-open experience — my divorce — I have been an observer and a confidante of others as they engage with the forces of their own suffering. I have made note of how fiasco and failure visit each one of us, as if they were written into the job description of being human. I have seen people crumble in times of trouble, lose their spirit, and never fully recover, I have seen others protect themselves fiercely from any kind of change, until they are living a half lie, safe yet stunted. 

“But I have also seen another way to deal with a fearful change or a painful loss. I call this other way the Phoenix Process — named for the mythical phoenix bird who remains awake through the fires of change, rises from the ashes of death, and is reborn into this most vibrant and enlightened self. . . 

“I’ve tried both ways: I have gone back to sleep in order to resist the forces of change. And I have stayed awake and been broken open.”

This quote is from the introduction to Elizabeth Lesser’s phenomenal work, Broken Open.  It has been a meaningful piece for me, since I read it a number of years ago. Today, these words took on a whole new meaning.

Last night the yoga studio where I teach had an awful fire. One of the massage rooms was completely destroyed and the devastation was palpable.  This is a picture as we cleaned today.
 
As the day went on, more and more people arrived to help, each bringing their own unique style of love and support. Together we cleaned and trashed and literally walked through soot and ash, and then in the most mundane moment I saw them right before me my own phoenix examples.
 
These women, so strong and so brave, were right there, picking themselves up and rising from the ash. They were deeply engaged in the moment and I believe through their laughter they realized they would fly again.  It was so beautiful.
 
These women were nothing short of inspiring. I knew they did not recognize their own strength, we never seem to notice it in times of crisis, do we?  It is just there, an inner determination and instinct, it is the will to walk through the fire yet again.
 
I ache for the loss at our studio… carrying out the beautiful posters of amazing asanas that lined the hall, cleaning the soot off absolutely everything!, scooping up the charred keepsakes and trinkets that had once held such meaning.
 
And yet, I find myself so comforted by the phoenix process.  The symbolism of the phoenix that we so often evoke in our classes has new meaning for me. 
 
Yes the destruction is great, but the rising up and rebirth is so much greater.
Namaste  

Twitter: History, How-To and Help!


Ok, Allison your friendly twit here to help you out with a little twitter history, how-to, and some helpful tips!  You’ll be tweeting in no time! (Follow me on twitter @allisonrockey)

Confession:  I was a full-blown twitter skeptic.  My initial response was not just turning my nose up, it was full on disgust. I thought it seemed like the most narcissistic Web 2.0 creation yet!  You want me to periodically answer the question, “what are you doing?” throughout the day, as if anyone would care what I am doing in my mundane life…
 
So being a narcissist at heart I tried it!
 
To my shock, my twitter addiction came not from having a platform to talk (though I do love that) but it was what I was learning from others.  Great websites, the latest news, all just a click away.  In so many ways it was as if I had internet elves combing the vast internet for the simple treasures and bringing them back for me!
 
Quick History
In a nutshell, Twitter at its beginning was used primarily as a way for people to send text messages to all of their friends to let them know what they were up to.  By sending a text message from their cell phone, all of their twitter followers would be updated with a text message being send to their cell phones.  This is still possible but fewer people use it this way and more use it now on the computer. 
 
Twitter Song
You’re No One if You’re Not on Twitter
by Ben Walker (@ihatemornings)

 
Twitter Benefits
By following news organizations, journalists, politicians, and your savvy friends you will be the first to know EVERYTHING!

Did you know that the L.A. earthquake was being tweeted (discussed on twitter) 15 minutes before the Associated Press reported there was an earthquake!  I rarely see anything on the nightly news that I did not already read on twitter that day.
 

Getting Started: Twitter how-to
Simply go to Twitter.com and set up an account.  It is free, easy and only takes a few minutes. 
 
Be sure to keep your account public, unless you have a REALLY good reason to have your account set to private, it pretty much defeats most of the purpose and makes it more difficult for people to follow you.
 
Be sure to write a brief bio, it gives people a reason to follow you and a bit of credibility. 
Following vs Followers…
Following are the people’s updates you are receiving, your followers are receiving your updates (which are most generally called tweets).  Twitter can search your address book to show you which of your friends are on twitter, and will now suggest some people to follow.  A great way to find interesting people to follow is when you find someone you enjoy their tweets, simply click on who they are following and pick some interesting ones to follow. 
 
There are two ways to communicate with others on twitter.  The public reply, which will show up in your tweet stream, and the direct message which is private and can almost be thought of as a direct email between two people that no one else can see.  You can send public replies to anyone. You must both be following each other to sending a direct message.
 
Perfecting the tweet
What makes a good twitter user?  Why should anyone follow you?  Here are some quick tips:
1) Be concise (you only have 140 characters to get your point across) 
2) Be relevant
3) Be clever
4) Cater to a niche, you are an expert on something, so tell us about!
5) Pass on other interesting tweets by re-tweeting their posts, but be sure to add your own spin.
6) Be current! People want to know what you are doing now, so write in the present tense, watching a beautiful sunset is more interesting that watched a beautiful sunset 30 minutes ago.
7) Twitter is not a one-way street, engage, reply to others, and make connections.
8) When you do a public reply, add extra details so we know what you are talking about even if we did not see what you are replying to.
Twitter terms and symbols
  • @username will show up alot!  This is when people are sending a public reply to others.
  • RT @username: This is when someone likes a tweet from some else and they want to share it with their followers by retweeting it.  Nice way to give credit to those you follow and share the interesting tidbits.
  • Following the people whose updates you are receiving
  • Followers the people who are receiving your updates
  • Twitterverse: The sphere of twitter, also called twitterville.
  • Tweet an update.
  • Twirt nickname for flirting on twitter :)
  • #topprog– You will notice on twitter people using a # followed by some letters. This is a hashtag. These are a quick way to have a searchable comment for others on the same topic. One example while the tv show Top Chef was on, people watching it would comment and include #topchef then you could easily see comments by people you are not following but were also watching the show. #topprog is for progressive topics, there are many hashtags and are user generated.
I hope this helps!  Find me on twitter and I happy to show you around.
Happy tweeting all! 

5 Reasons why Mainstream Media is killing Progressive Religion and what you can do to help!

What does American religion look like to you?  Does it look like Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, Rick Warren, and James Dobson?


What does American religion act like to you? Is it the political power of the religious right, the vandalism of anti-abortion protesters, and the legal battles of angry homophobic people?

What does American religion sound like to you? Is it arguments such as the Bible is literally true, my faith is the only true faith and the rest of you are not just wrong, but so wrong you will spend eternity in hell?

If you answered yes to these questions, if that is what religion looks like to you, I ask you to take a deep breathe and hear me out!

Did you know most American Religious people are nothing like what has been described above?  Did you know that only 33% of Americans believe the Bible is the Word of God and literally word for word true.  Did you know that only 27% of Americans believe there is only one true way to interpret their religion?  Did you know that a staggering 70% of Americans believe that many religions can lead to eternal life? Statistics can be found at the Pew Research Center here)

ahhhhhhhhhhh to me that is a breath of fresh air!


So why do we have such a distorted view of American Religion and Religious people? I believe the mainstream media is at least in part to blame for shaping public opinion in this way, and here are my 5 reasons…

1) Check out this story today by MSNBC. “Great Sex Sermon Causes Stir in Rural Town”

If you read this article, and THIS makes MSNBC, no wonder you have a backwards view of religious folks. This is not stirring, this is not interesting, and it most certainly is not NEWS!  

My favorite line of the article being this…  “The controversy is a bit ironic considering the church’s overall point is about as straight-laced as they come: That God intends for sex to be enjoyed solely within a heterosexual marriage, and that anything else — adultery, pornography, homosexuality, even “sexual arousal” outside of marriage — is sin.”

Check out our recent sermon on sex, VERY different!


2) Same-sex Marriage Debate

Through all of the coverage of Prop. 8, the media tried to have a “balanced” perspective. Their idea of balance? One gay-rights advocate vs. one “Christian.”  


3) Despite selling millions and millions of books, when was the last time you saw a progressive religious person interviewed on a major news network?


4) Religion is only factored into a news story when there is no other reasoning, when logic is lost. It is the default dummy defense, making religion seem like an irrational motivator. Why do you want to keep to happy gay people from marrying (because the Bible says), why do you want to disregard science not allowing Evolution to be taught in schools and teach Creationism instead (because the Bible says), why do object from stopping the spread of AIDS through the use of condoms (because the Pope says)… dear God!  When the ideas of people seem to only be impacted by their faith when there is no reason, no wonder religion seems irrational!

I have ample reasons why I believe the LGBT community deserves equal rights, why evolution should be taught in schools, and why we need to employ intelligent action to fight the spread of disease.  These reasons are not separate from my religious beliefs, they are very compatible and come from the same place inside of me. 


5) Sensationalism wins!  And unfortunately crazy sells!


Together, can’t we stop the spread of crazy?  We have groups working on this, but here are ways you can help! 

1) Support your local progressive religious communities, there are progressive Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, yoga communities all over this country.  Support the work they are doing, and champion their voice. I work at one of them, here in Michigan check us out C3/CCC.

2) Write editorials to your local paper. Get the dialogue started in your community and make your voice known.

3) Support national groups such as The Center for Progressive Christianity, The Interfaith Alliance, and great public radio programming like Speaking of Faith.  The work these organizations are doing can have a tremendous impact.

4) Speak up! Don’t be afraid to share with others that your progressive social views, care of the earth, human rights, etc are strengthened by your religious beliefs. Let’s change the dialogue one at a time.

5) Share other ideas on this blog or email me!