Category Archives: Mental Health

Self-Compassion, A Bridge To Understanding, by Andrea W. Doray

 

President’s Corner:

Self-Compassion, A Bridge To Understanding

by Andrea W. Doray

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn December 2016, the Dalai Lama spoke during the Emory-Tibet Symposium of Scholars and Scientists at the Drepung Monastic University in India. According to Atlanta-based Emory University, “the ultimate goal of the symposium is to build a bridge between two complementary systems of knowledge.”

In an interview with CNN, the Dalai Lama was asked about what was happening in the United States at that time. His Holiness said that although he considers America the “leading nation of the free world,” he also acknowledged that the U.S. is a democracy where the “power is divided.”

Indeed, America is a country that mirrors societies around the world: divided – rather than shared – in which many people are angry, many other people are angry at the people getting angry, and civility seems to be a veneer stretched too thin on both sides to conceal the contempt and derision below.

His Holiness offered some advice for finding equilibrium in these times: self-compassion. As opposed to self-esteem or self-respect, self-compassion is defined by some scholars as open to and touched by our own troubles, worries, or fears, and yet not avoiding them or disconnecting from them. An important piece of self-compassion is to be nonjudgmental about what is causing us pain.

In our divided world, people are beyond judgmental with each other … vitriolic in name-calling, shaming, senses of entitlement. Some people are so certain of their own beliefs that anyone who stands for an opposing viewpoint becomes a target of scorn and hate. The divisions are sharp, wide, deep. No wonder so many of us feel a bit battered, bruised.

Each of us does face our own battles, every day. And this means that everyone else we meet or interact with is also fighting some sort of battle, that may or may not have anything to do with political divisions. Personally, I’m not sure which needs to come first, though – compassion for self or compassion for others, in which we are touched by someone else’s suffering, we are aware of their pain, and we are not judging them. Clearly, neither is easy.

Is it possible for us to “build a bridge between two complementary systems of knowledge?” Can we practice compassion, including self-compassion, for better understanding of the other sides of the divide?

For my part, starting this weekend – oh, mercy, starting right now! – I’m going to practice self-compassion. If it’s good for the Dalai Lama, it is definitely good for me.

Andrea W. Doray is an award-winning journalist, author, poet, and essayist in Denver, CO, and is a columnist for The Denver Post through their Colorado Voices panel. Her weekly opinion column, Alchemy, which appears in Colorado Community Media newspapers, has received a first-place award from the Colorado Press Association.Learn more about Andrea and her work here.

 

Copyright © 2017 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.

Loving Through The Truth, By Lyla June Johnston

Winslow Homer - The Rapids, Hudson River, AdirondacksLoving Through The Truth

By Lyla June Johnston

It took a lot of strength and courage to admit that what was happening to me was abuse. It was hard for me for two reasons 1) I thought that only weak and dumb girls get abused. I didn’t want to admit I was abused because I thought it made me less of a person. And 2) I didn’t want to hate them. And it was easier to love them if I found a way to rationalize/normalize what they were doing to me.

Well it turns out that the dark actually targets strong and smart girls. It doesn’t want them to succeed in bringing the light they were born to bring. Rape can fool the woman into thinking she is not sacred. And if she thinks she is not sacred she can begin to think that she is not worthy of carrying the medicine of the Creator to the people. And if she thinks that she is not worthy of carrying the medicine of the Creator to the people, then she stops bringing that light to the world. This is what happened to me.

I did bring good things to the people but when I did it felt more like I was “making up” for the bad person I was. It didn’t feel like I was simply being the beloved and beautiful medicine woman that I was. That we all are.

Instead, I felt like an imposter when I would try and help the world. How could a “tainted” woman advocate for purity? When I did advocate for love and healing, soon after I would intentionally do crass things just to show to everyone that I wasn’t trying to “be something I’m not”. I felt more like shameful, outside ally of the pure. Not a true part of the pure. I didn’t think I deserved to be a part of that marching band. The dark won this way for many years. I shut the valve and the medicine could only trickle, if that. Luckily this was only temporary. One day someone came along to remind me who I was.

They taught me that just because I was sexually, emotionally and physically abused it did not mean I was “less than.” I realized I was not a weak and feeble “victim,” but a wounded veteran who had come home from a great battle. The battle of being woman in the 21st century. Indeed, it is hard to be woman within a system that routinely works to destroy their self image. It did not mean I was weak, it meant I was taken advantage of before I was old enough to understand the battle.

Once I realized that being abused doesn’t mean you are a bad person, I could admit that what was happening to me was abuse. It was still hard and took a lot of courage but now I am able to say, “that was really wrong and it happened to me.” This process of realization took several years and is still ongoing. The good news is I no longer feel compelled to be around people who make me feel bad. The reason I felt compelled to be around these kinds of people is a whole ‘nother story…

So number 1 was taken care of. I now understood that I was still respectable and even beautiful despite the fact I had been abused. But number 2 had yet to be resolved: I didn’t want to hate the other person. For this reason I would shy away from admitting that what they did was wrong because it was hard to love them in the face of that truth. Once I could fully see that what happened was wrong, I could feel the urge to hate start to make its way in. Hatred and bitterness are such uncomfortable feelings and I knew I was not designed to house them within me. I also knew I could not help the world when I was in that state.

Number 2 was resolved through an exquisite process some people call “forgiveness.” Forgiveness does not mean that what they did to me was okay. And it does not even mean that I would ever have to go within a 50 mile radius of these people ever again! It was something that happened within me. It was something that happened for ME. Not for them. It returned me to my natural state. And it went like this:

I stood in the middle of a river. The beautiful water was flowing all around me. This is literally what I did, not a metaphor. As I stood there, I thought of all the ways I was manipulated and coerced. I thought of all the ways I was exploited and taken advantage of. I saw in my mind’s eye the face of the very people who picked me up while I was too drunk to see and took me for their own. And I said, “Even though you have tried to mine my body for your own personal gratification, I still hope that you are healed and that you live a happy life and that you are reconnected with Creator in a good way. Creator may you please bless and help and heal this person, your child.”

And with that, I kid you not, an IMMENSE amount of palpable weight was released from my being. It flew out of me and into the river and into the trees and into the soil and out into the sky. Far, far away. I was free. I had released. I was my self again, not my hatred.

There’s much more to the story than that. But it was these two things, realizing it was not my fault/I was not a bad person and choosing to love these people with all my heart (from a safe distance). With those two things I was able to admit that abuse is abuse, not love. It was not easy but it wasn’t impossible at all. It was and is incredibly liberating and helped me get to a safe place.

About Lyla June Johnston, Writing for Peace Young Adviser

Lyla June Johnston, Writing fr Peace Young AdviserLyla Johnston is a 24 year-old poet, musician, anthropologist and human being, from Taos, New Mexico. Her passion for peace unfolds both outside of herself through community organizing and within herself through continual prayers to forgive and love a wounded world.

After studying Human Ecology at Stanford University, Lyla founded Regeneration Festival, an annual celebration and honoring of children and young adults worldwide. She plans on attending Harvard Business School to obtain the platform she needs to disarm the private sector and repurpose the capitalist infrastructure for healing and social change. Her ancestors are Diné and Cheyenne and it is from this ancestral worldview that she derives her visions for helping to create a culture of peace and generosity. Learn more about her work here.

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DoveTales Call for Submissions

DoveTales, a publication of Writing for PeaceDoveTales, An International Journal of the Arts, is accepting submissions for our 2015 “Nature” edition. Read our guidelines and submit here.

 

Enter Our 2015 Young Writers Contest 

2013 Writing for Peace Young Writers ContestHelp spread the word! Go to www.writingforpeace.org to meet our previous winners and learn about our prestigious panel of judges: Antonya Nelson, fiction; Stephen Kuusisto, poetry; and Steve Almond, nonfiction. Read the full guidelines here.

 

Your Library Isn’t Complete Without DoveTales!

2014 DoveTales, "Contrast" EditionThe 2014 DoveTales, “Contrast” Edition is now available for purchase. The “Contrast” edition includes the beautiful black and white photography from Writing for Peace Artist-in-Residence, Paula Dawn Lietz, as well as the 2013 Young Writers Contest winners, and the following contributors:

Jordi Alonso, Cassandra Arnold, Maggie Bàra, Henry Braun, Lorraine Caputo, William Cass, Lorraine Currelley, Colin Dodds, John Garmon, Diane Giardi, Mark Goad, Veronica Golos, Sam Hamill, Dawnell Harrison, D. Iasevoli, Ed.D, Allan M. Jalon, Shelley Kahn, Richard Krawiec, Paula Dawn Lietz, Cory Lockhart, Shannon K. Lockhart, Veronica Marshall, Sandra McGarry, Iwona Partyka, Sy Roth, Andrew Sacks, Carol Smallwood, Julia Stein, Samantha Peters Terrell, Bänoo Zan

 

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Jordan Dalton, 2013 Fiction, First Place“Since writing my entry for Writing for Peace, I’ve come to realize that my work really can make a difference in the world. Words have the power to spread awareness, hope, and inspiration to people who would have otherwise despaired. We all have the ability to create, and create in the name of beauty and change. I can only hope one day to spend my life doing just that.”

Copyright © 2014 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.

 

VENDOR, By Maxfield Harding

New York City

VENDOR

(an excerpt)

CASUALTY: Crazy and Homeless in New York City – A Memoir

By Maxfield Harding

 

I laughed at my cleverness at escaping life. It was a cold late afternoon in early December on my corner at Fifty-Fourth Street and Fifth Avenue in New York City. I stood behind my small vendor’s cart of dried fruits and shelled nuts. I had been standing at the cart since nine o’clock that morning. Blanched cashew nuts had been the hot item with the few people that came up to my cart that day.

I could look up through the tall windows in the fortress of a building to my left to see well-dressed men seated in large cushioned chairs, smoking their cigars and reading their newspapers and talking about their business deals, I imagined. I laughed loudly and pulled my black knit cap over my eyes, effectively shutting out the world around me and completely convinced now that no one could any longer see me either. I stood there smiling in what I hoped was oblivion. I was very tired.

Soon it was six o’clock in the evening. The rush hour had passed. Office workers had become pedestrians and then commuters and the street had emptied quickly. I began pushing my cart of dried fruits and nuts toward the west of midtown. A half hour later I was almost at the cart owner’s garage in a section of the city called Hell’s Kitchen. I had found three twenty dollar bills in the street about a hundred yards from the garage gate and was so elated I became slightly giddy. I hadn’t made much money that day.

I pushed my cart up the ramp and into the holding area where my fellow vendors and I waited to get the tubs of fruit and nuts weighed, and to work out our day’s pay. It was somehow always lower than what we hoped for.

I took out the three twenties and began to slowly shred them and toss the bits to the floor. A young woman near me screamed and told me to stop but I didn’t. The rest of the vendors scrambled to pick up the pieces while I laughed.

The young woman came up to me, her nose almost touching mine and said, “You need to talk to someone, buddy. You’re in a bad way.” I laughed, knowing she was totally wrong.

“You’re the weird one,” the owner said to me in the sing-song way he and his fellow countrymen from India had. “I’m glad that wasn’t my money you destroyed.” He was seated at a desk with a scale on an elevated platform off to the side of the room. “You won’t last long here,” he said.

I laughed again and walked into the back of the garage to use the bathroom. I sat and put my face into the palms of my hands in defeat and waited as long as I possibly could to just before the urge to scream became too much. I walked out of the bathroom and the garage was empty of people save the owner at his desk on the platform. I stood before him. I said nothing. I could not think of the words to speak.

“What are you doing here, Max? Everyone’s already gone for the night,” the owner said to me.

I didn’t respond.

“Go have some dinner, Max. Unless you are filled up already from eating your own profits.”

Again I did not respond. The owner got off his platform and stood in front of me and looked directly into my eyes. “Okay,” he said. “Just this one time.” He walked out the door leaving the lights on and lowered the heavy steel gates that protected his investment and, for this night, me.

It was cold that night, but thank God for us street vendors there was no snow on the ground. There was little heat in the owner’s garage either. I huddled under his desk near the faulty steam radiator and tried as best I could to sleep. I laughed at myself in disbelief and wonderment: in my mind I was losing the sense of feeling “cool” selling dried fruits and roasted nuts on the moneyed streets of New York City. I had chosen this path rather than having what was then called a “straight job,” climbing the corporate ladder, making a lot of money. But I also knew that night that I could have used a few more ten dollar bills in my pocket and wondered why I had shredded those twenties a few hours ago.

Downward mobility had become my attitude of nobility which I had adopted since I graduated from Brown University fifteen years before. Certainly scrambling for a few dollars a day was supposed to be more entertaining and honest to me than sitting behind a desk, or so I had thought. I had made my choice and it seemed there was no turning back now. I was out of the economic mainstream and out of a place to live and sleep and had not much money with which to eat.

Maxfield Harding, Guest WriterAbout Maxfield Harding, Writing for Peace Guest Writer, and Author of “From CASUALTY: Crazy and Homeless in New York City – A Memoir”

Max Harding arrived at Brown University as an “A” student. His descent began then in rebelliousness and a journey he hoped would bring him a life as an author. Inexplicably, he eventually found himself homeless and mentally ill on the streets of New York City at the age of thirty-five.

Maxfield Harding, Author of From CASUALTY: Crazy and Homeless in New York City – A MemoirMax was unable to fathom what was happening to his brain and the images and sounds of the world all about him. He roamed the city in full psychosis from small homeless shelters and down-and-out residential hotels to the large Camp La Guardia for homeless men north of the city. He was soon removed from that facility and sent back to New York to be put in handcuffs and eventually consigned to Bellevue Mental Hospital, more of a threat to himself than anyone else. He had given up all hope of dealing with the voices and strange powers that brought him to fully expect his execution at the hands of the doctors and nurses at Bellevue.

Casualty, by Maxfield Harding, on Amazon.comFrom the hospital bed from which he awoke the first morning at Bellevue he was eventually able to rise up with psychiatric medication and therapy and the great and generous help of his social worker. He gained entrance into a psychiatric apartment program and then onto work again in mainstream American society. Many of the programs and aid which Max received are no longer available today or are in very short supply. Close to half of the adult victims of over six hundred thousand homeless in America today are mentally ill and have outrageously become our most disposable citizens. Most disturbing are the returning military veterans with more psychic than physical wounds languishing in agony within this substratum of American society. The terrible actions of a few rare mentally afflicted individuals gunning down dozens of innocent people, many of them children, call out for greater and better treatment of the mentally ill in our society.

After thirty-five years of productive work, Max now lives in subsidized housing in Bronx, New York.

Max’s story comes to us through Writing for Peace Adviser, Lorraine Currelley. Lorraine shared this account of their meeting:

Maxfield Harding Group Circle SPARC“I was a 2014 S.P.A.R.C. Seniors Partnering with the Arts Citywide recipient. It was a citywide competition and my proposal for a program won. I taught poetry and creative writing.

“Max joined my workshop and attended twice weekly. Max was an experienced writer, but I don’t believe he was ever published. His short stories and the work he produced in workshop was phenomenal.

Maxfield Harding SPARC 2 I encouraged each student to publish. As an end of workshop project we published a book, On The Write Path. Max informed me he was writing a book and it was near completion. The book CASUALTY and the rest is history. It’s available as an ebook and within a week or two will be available in hard copy.”

You can purchase a copy at Amazon.com here.

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Check Out the Latest Recommended Reading From Writing for Peace Adviser Dr. Margaret Flowers:

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Stay abreast of Climate Change and human rights activism, and learn where you can make a difference.

DoveTales Call for Submissions

DoveTales, a publication of Writing for PeaceDoveTales, a publication of Writing for PeaceWriting for Peace is now accepting submissions for our 2015 “Nature” edition of DoveTales, An International Journal of the Arts. Read our guidelines and submit here.

Enter Our 2015 Young Writers Contest 

2013 Writing for Peace Young Writers ContestCheck out our 2015 Young Writers Contest! Writing for Peace has received entries from young writers with a passion for peace from 24 countries. Go to www.writingforpeace.org to meet our previous winners and learn about our wonderful panel of judges: Antonya Nelson, fiction; Stephen Kuusisto, poetry; and Steve Almond, nonfiction. Read the full guidelines here.

Support Writing for Peace; Purchase Our Latest Edition Of DoveTales

2014 DoveTales, "Contrast" EditionThe 2014 DoveTales, “Contrast” Edition is now available for purchase. The issue is themed “contrast” and includes the beautiful black and white photography of Writing for Peace Artist-in-Residence Paula Dawn Lietz, as well as the 2013 Young Writers Contest winners, and the following contributors:

Jordi Alonso, Cassandra Arnold, Maggie Bàra, Henry Braun, Lorraine Caputo, William Cass, Lorraine Currelley, Colin Dodds, John Garmon, Diane Giardi, Mark Goad, Veronica Golos, Sam Hamill, Dawnell Harrison, D. Iasevoli, Ed.D, Allan M. Jalon, Shelley Kahn, Richard Krawiec, Paula Dawn Lietz, Cory Lockhart, Shannon K. Lockhart, Veronica Marshall, Sandra McGarry, Iwona Partyka, Sy Roth, Andrew Sacks, Carol Smallwood, Julia Stein, Samantha Peters Terrell, Bänoo Zan

Copyright © 2014 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.