The Pope vs. The Donald

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Why, oh, how did it come to be that the deranged Muppet that is Donald J. Trump is an actual contender for President of the United States?

I have a good friend who has spent the past three years in the Peace Corps, in a bleak post-Soviet country. She has been following the news here at home with flabbergasted dismay. Joking, but not, she has said that this development almost makes her not want to come back now that her term is up.

It’s not so much that Trump is running, but that he has found such a hearty following amongst our countrymen. I mean, honestly, no one thinks he is really going to go the distance. But what he is selling (master businessman that he is) is hate and fear and, God help us, a lot of us want to buy it.

How did it happen? One word: immigration.

The Donald has based his platform on an issue that plays to Americans’ lowest common denominator of xenophobia and knee-jerk defensiveness.  Trump the capitalist maven knows that “hot button marketing” is an actual thing —in other words: appeal to people’s basest fears in order to make them buy what you’re selling. Sadly, this technique has proven effective in the marketplace. (Does the presidential election = the marketplace? This is a question for another day.)

But obviously Trump’s cries have struck a nerve:

Build a wall! Ship ‘em out! Don’t let the “rapists”  come in and take our jobs and use up our services and destroy our country.

It’s not just here, either. The refugee crises abroad that are wrenching our hearts stem from the same sentiment: NIMBY. We don’t want ‘em. Send ‘em back.

This is all very far from the ideals of openness and pluralism that founded our fine nation. What happened to “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free?”  As even schoolchildren know, America is a country of immigrants. Trump himself is a child of immigrants (and don’t even ask about the national status of his numerous wives…)

The Pope gets it: “We, the people of this continent, are not fearful of foreigners, because most of us were once foreigners.

As our growing nation struggled throughout history with these questions, different approaches emerged. John F. Kennedy wrote a whole book about it.

Ronald Reagan had this to say:

“I’ve spoken of the shining city all my political life, but I don’t know if I ever quite communicated what I saw when I said it. But in my mind it was a tall proud city built on rocks stronger than oceans, wind-swept, God-blessed, and teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace, a city with free ports that hummed with commerce and creativity, and if there had to be city walls, the walls had doors and the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here. That’s how I saw it and see it still…”

Maybe Trump doesn’t believe a word of what he’s saying and it’s all just a (successful) marketing ploy. Even if so, it is unfortunate that his invective is getting so much airtime.

Now the Pope has come and gone, and he says: “Harsh and divisive language does not befit the tongue of a pastor, it has no place in his heart. Although it may momentarily seem to win the day, only the enduring allure of goodness and love remain truly convincing.” Amen.

Thank Heaven, the Pope’s is a voice of sanity, humanity and acceptance of the current global reality that evidently a bunch of Americans just can’t grasp. This is the new normal. Ideas, currency, germs, etc. are obviously not constrained by national borders anymore. Neither are bodies–if ever they were.

I don’t know what the answer is, but I do know that it must come from a place of: 1) acceptance; 2) triumph over fear; 3) international co-operation; 4) morality and compassion. Pope Francis is adding these to the conversation when he says things like: “Humanity has the ability to work together in building our common home.

Now, more than ever, it is clear that we indeed have one (global) home, no matter where we were born, have lived, or are moving.

May words like the Pope’s drown out the shrill exclamations of hostility and fear that have found such willing ears. And may our country rise in this strange new landscape like that beacon of tolerance and hope that it was founded to be.

That, Mr. Trump, might even “make America great again.”

The Influenza Cleanse

A few years ago I was really into juice cleanses.  It has been a while since I have felt motivated to do one, although I do still enjoy drinking vegetable juice (but not the buying, transporting, and prepping of all that produce, not to mention cleaning the juicer) . . .

Today is the first day I am upright and taking nourishment after two days spent completely horizontal.  I got the flu!  This almost never happens, and it caught me by surprise.  I was so, so sick.  I could barely move.  I couldn’t think about food, beyond a few sips of homemade chicken broth.  My aching bones sent me into the detox bath (Epsom salts and baking soda) at least every few hours–my only departure from bed.  Actually, a lot of my symptoms were familiar from some of the cleanses I have done . . .

Now that I am back in the land of the living, I feel quite renewed.  My skin is clearer, my eyes brighter, even my vision is better.  All of the sludge of the holiday season (damn you, pimiento cheese!) has been burned away by fever and washed clean by herbal teas and an involuntary fast.  It was even a sort of emotional cleanse:  I had been a little down in the dumps the last couple of months . . . Well.  There is nothing like a few episodes of struggling for breath to give you an appreciation for life.

And you know what is interesting about this one?  There was no feeling of deprivation.  It was completely organic.  And, coming out of this flu, I find I am craving simple foods and gentle drinks (buh-bye espresso; hello green tea), whereas when I would finish the forced juice cleanses I would always be dying for a cheeseburger and a chocolate chip cookie and an espresso shake at the end . . .

There is so much talk these days of “detox”.  Even lil’ old Savannah has a juice bar  now!  Lord, if we were to believe the hype we might all despair at being hopelessly riddled with “toxins”—in perpetual need of desperate measures like juice fasts and colonics and heaven knows what else.

I think I was pretty toxic come January 1st.  And guess what:  my body knew exactly what to do.  When it was the furthest thing from my conscious mind, she demanded a “cleanse”—deep rest, fasting, fever, expelling mucous (hello goopy cough!).  I heeded her imperative completely.  Not because I thought it was a good idea, but because she did.

Hmm . . . maybe, just maybe, this miraculous physical being of mine is a self-correcting organism.  Maybe I don’t need to beat her into submission, cleanse her of her uncleanliness, or any of that.  Just take good care, and know that when I haven’t been, she will let me know.  She will tell me exactly what is needed.  And I will listen.

Cheers to good health in the new year,

And Namaste,

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Be the Light

Whole Foods Market just opened in Savannah, right around the time we moved here last summer.

Last night I dreamed I was shopping in some dream-time Whole Foods.  In my dream the store was a big glass box, surrounded by a huge parking lot (not all that different from our day-time WFM.)  Inside I was shopping, along with other people like me, for baked brie and satsumas, avocadoes, pork loin, Prosecco and chocolate truffles.

Outside, on the other side of the four walls of glass (dream WFM), indigent people were camping in the parking lot.  They were not trying to get in. They were just there.  One of them lay sick on the blacktop.  Others were huddled amidst the Christmas tree display under the eaves.  These were people on the edge of subsistence.  No baked brie for them.  Shopping in my dream I felt ill, knowing they were out there, seeing them out there.  But I continued to shop.  I checked out, with the bright-faced, Christmas-bedecked cashier (likely a graduate from the local elite art school).  Walked blindly past the parking lot people to my fancy little car.

Well.  This morning I happened to need a few things from Whole Foods shortly after they opened at 8am.  Holiday madness in full swing, the store was pretty busy, even that early.  When it came time to check out, only one register was open, plus the Express lane.  In the Regular lane was a lady with a towering shopping cart, so I opted for the Express (I think I had less than 15 items).  Only one person was in front of me:  quick.

As I stood there, a gentleman joined the line behind me, tailed by some seemingly managerial Whole Foods employee.  The man was older, black, rather disheveled.  Not the usual clientele.  The manager was speaking rapidly to the man (I couldn’t make out what he was saying), then I heard the older customer loudly proclaim, “I GOT money to pay!”  The man had assembled a modest plate from the hot-food breakfast buffet—his sole purchase–some scrambled eggs, a biscuit, some potatoes . . .

The manager bustled away (presumably in search of higher authority), and it was just me and breakfast man in line.

When my turn came, the checker began scanning my items:  spinach-artichoke dip, dark chocolate, organic toothpaste, Roquefort cheese, hydroponic lettuce . . .

After twenty seconds or so of this, I turned to the man behind me and asked, “Can I buy your breakfast?”

Clutching his five-dollar bill, he gaped at me with surprisingly pale blue (cataracted?) eyes:  “You would do that for me?”

Of course.  Done.  A no-brainer. (The cost of his breakfast was $3.47.)

He was effusive:  “Merry Christmas!”  “God is good!”  “I love you!” “Have a blessed day!”

I do not recount this story just to show y’all what a great good person I am.  I know we all find and act on these little opportunities often.

It just was a pretty interesting confluence—what with my dream the very night before, with Savannah’s many different worlds bumping up against each other, with Christmas . . .

Once again I am struck by the simple ends my spirit seeks—as I have said here before, mostly I just want to be kind—and, in contrast,  the elaborate trappings of a 21-st century “spiritual path”:  expensive outfits, impressive gymnastics, exotic retreats, starvation diets that cost hundreds of dollars . . .

Just be kind.  That was the take-home today.  When faced with a choice to be kind or be blind, be kind.

Now is the time.  Christmas time, all the time.  The world is in darkness.

Be the light.

We are the ones we have been waiting for.

Merry Christmas.

And Namaste,

yogelisa-2

Are You Getting Too Big For Your Britches?

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Bazinga!  This will not be about how yoga makes you lose weight, because I don’t believe it necessarily does (see last week’s post on yoga as adaptogen).

I have had more meat on my bones than ever before since I started practicing yoga.  Maybe that’s the yoga; maybe it’s just because I am over 40 and you know what They Say about that.  Dunno.  Anyway, what I am really thinking about this week is comments like:

“Who does she think she is?”  . . . “He’s gotten too big for his britches!” . . .

What makes people say things like this?

When someone thinks just a little too much of herself, it makes the rest of us uncomfortable.  It’s like we are all working under some unspoken compact that we will not change too much or rock the boat.  We will stay small for (our own and) others’ comfort.

Comments like the above act as a sort of cattle prod we (unconsciously?) bust out to keep the herd in line.

Now, I am not saying that nobody ever gets out of line or acts truly arrogant.  They (we) do sometimes.  I am just saying that if we could get a little big for our own britches once in a while, with the understanding and the hope that others, too, might free themselves from the boxes in which they are hiding from their greatness, that might be a good thing.

Why am I writing about this on my yoga blog?  Well, yoga is all about transformation.  When we begin the journey, we really have no idea where it might take us.

But it WILL, almost certainly, take us out of our own comfort zone.  It will show us we can do things we never imagined we could.  And as we stretch (ha!) beyond these confines, we will have to develop a new concept of self.  An expanded concept, which allows for the possibility that we can be, do, and (yes, even) have more than we previously thought possible.  More than other people have come to expect for and of us.

So, have you gotten too big for your britches?  Good.  Get yourself a new pair of britches.