After The Bomb: The Joy

I keep a list of ways to turn poison into medicine. When I get caught between this and that, I need little reminders of what brings sustainable joy. Thought I’d share a few. I call it a Mycelium mindset. Or a network mindset. Growing down rather than up. To find my place amongst the whole of things.

1. Start a squirrel village in your backyard. Or a bird town. Get the kind of squirrel food that has walnuts and peanuts. Not much corn. They don’t like corn as much as the advertisers would have us believe.
2. Get yourself a set of prayers. You can write them yourself. They can be Rumi poems or old Goddess prayers. Visualize something eternal. Trees are good portals. Picture trees drawing you in and through. Do these when you first wake up. And when you go to bed. Preferably on your knees. Do it religiously. Say thank you. I goofed up in these places. Help.
3. Do what you do to carve out internal space. When the mind barbarians come, focus on discovery. Find anything interesting inside, the way your mind automatically contracts or the way there seems to be a glow that naturally arises in the forehead. Make it a journey. Make it the vacation you planned to take. Do this often. Do this right in the middle of not knowing what to do. Get a mantra. It can be as easy as let go let go let go. The mind can fly on these wings, out of this often difficult place
4. Write something. Turn your ache into a spiritual treatise or a bad poem. You can paint too. Or look at Monet drawings or Leonard Cohen. Tell yourself it’s not that difficult. You are an artist.
5. Oh, and read. Read things that transport. Old Gaelic mythology or Jane Hirschfeld’s 10 Windows. Read heavy philosophy like Peter Kingsley and ponder. Argue with the book. Lose the argument. Win the argument. Come out with a new way of thinking.
6. Go to an old Cathedral or synagogue especially when the doors are open and there is not a sermon. Listen to a sermon of silence. See what you hear. One thing, anything is good. Keep a notebook that you are very proud of. It can be digital but paper is nice. Try to not lose the notebook. Write down your nuggets.
7. Tell self pity and complaint where to go-into the art. Let them know that they are welcome to flow, provided they transform into something you view as beautiful. They will argue. And they will try to instill doubt. Tell them there is a new sheriff in town and this sheriff is an artist.
8. Watch little or no TV or tik tok. You’re a guardian of your mind now. Those bearers of bad news need not darken your doorstep. Notice who it is that wants to sneak in the “me time”. It’s usually the me that wants to cause you suffering.
9. That being said, every now and again watch “My 600 pound life”. Watch the process of triumph. Watch the mechanics of defeat. Watch the way that homeostasis and stagnation are maintained. How there needs to be people who feed what is damaging. Don’t eat the crap; mental or physical.
10. Write a list of anyone who ever helped you at any time. From your sixth grade teacher who listened to you to the woman at the supermarket who helped you pick up oranges when they fell from your arms. Feel that feeling. Secure it so that you have an antidote to the feeling that this is a loveless world. Attune your eye to the love.
11. Take a silent vow to be one who offers what was offered to you. You don’t need all this heartbreak jamming up your arteries. Let the wind at your back in the form of love flow through you. It’s the only thing strong enough to break up the congestion. Feeding others is always a good way. There’s a great idea that there are life forms who delight in eating what you no longer want, to them it is nectar. Send it to them.
12. Listen to carefully curated but great podcasts. Robert Thurman is a good one. Bayo Akomolafe is mind expanding. Martin Shaw is a wonderful journey into mythology. But find what lights you up and see even a pinhole of light of inspiration. Get out of the mind ghetto where you see the same thoughts hanging out every single day.
13. Tell duty it can take a break. Don’t hold it together for a while. Whenever you hear the black boot of obligation and feel the ensuing constriction, ask, “what is my desire?”. Not for a cookie or a nap. Those are fine but not sustainable. See yourself from your death bed and ask what made you happy then do that.
14. Find like minded people who are building something, anything beneficial. Maybe it’s a barn. Or a band for people in convalescent homes. Political movements are good but be careful, they can be Petri dishes for piss off. Make sure there is no point to prove, only help being offered. What do you love in this world and want to see more of? Be one who offers that.
15. Zip your lip. Practice restraint of public pen and tongue. Perhaps everyone needs to hear your views but let them marinate and mature into art. Don’t be part of the bombardment that litters the shared mind space of the world.
16. Apologize to someone from your past. If the Big one isn’t talking to you, do the small one. Mom’s and Dad’s are often good but not for everyone. Don’t make them bear the burden of your apology though. Offer it perhaps with regret, but not guilt. You can do it through an action too, by becoming who you weren’t when you made the mistake. Do this often and feel the tightness in the heart relaxing
17. When that person is simply “wrong” or “an idiot” ask, “When have I done something like this”. Imagine that the world is a hall of mirrors and you are seeing aspects of yourself everywhere. Be nice to yourself. Even if you are located in another body.
18. Forgive everyone. Just do it. Don’t wait for them to change, to “get it”, to crawl to your doorstep with a thousand apologies. Don’t punish yourself with resentment anymore. If you can’t even imagine, start small. Maybe read A Return to love by MaryAnn Williamson. Or Elizabeth Brown Taylor. An Alter in the World is good. If you have issues with Christian words, find a similar book in your own tradition or just read it through the words.
19. Experiment something counter to your beliefs and treat it like you are “one of”. If you are Republican, go to a Democratic group, and vice verse. Build the bridge in yourself. What do you automatically dismiss? If you had to spend the rest of your life with these people, what would be of value. Loosen the grip of your positions. Watch Van Jones going to visit Trump voters or the process of restorative justice between a woman and the man who killed her son. It’s okay to cry.
20. If you are strong and centered in yourself, and only then, fight the good fight. This means the fight devoid of any anger or hostility. Fight for the animals that grow up in cages and the humans too. But purify first. If you get a “hit” when you do it, don’t do it.
21. Find a way to be nice to the other “sex” be it male, female, trans, other. See their side, their difficulties, their value. Find a really noble version, one that defies your unidentified ideas about that sex. If you think women are crazy, find a sane one. If you think men are dogs, look at a noble expression of that quality. If you growl at the trans-movement, look at how it might be of benefit. How it might open your own expression to not be a rigid version of your own sexuality. If you can get to a silent thank you, that is always good. But not hating is a good start.
22. Apples are nice. Fuji especially. That is if you like apples. But eat some fruit. Even if you are Keto. Go wild. Taste the sunshine.
23. Write out everything it took to get you here: that you come from your mother’s womb, what labor was like for her, the clothes you are wearing, what went into making them, the cow that gave it’s life for your shoes, the people who grew and transported your food. Write tons of these. Get to the cloud that was once part of a river that was once part of the ocean that brought rain to water the garden where your apple grew. You get to ingest that cloud. It’s inside of you.
24. Watch a really skillful comedian. Ricky Gervais has a heartwarming series. Michael Jr. is good and uplifting. Michelle Wolf is funny and lovable. Watch comedians from the 70’s. Watch Robin Williams. If it makes you laugh without a gotcha that is best.
25. Consider a guide or a teacher. Someone who embodies inspiration. Someone who lives in solutions. You can crowd source this too. But use them well. Agree to see for yourself what is true, but take in the inspiration like light through the window.
26. Grow your imagination quotient. Get an image you like, it may be a deity or a saint. Something you love. Look at it and recreate it in your mind. Re-create every detail. See if you can get it to the point that it comes alive, where it feels as real as a person in front of you. See if you can develop a sympathy with this energy, like a good friend that walks with you. Try on the idea that this life is a dream. Stop a few times a day and say “this is a dream” and imagine yourself walking around inside your own dreamscape.
27. Get some pretty paper. Better yet look online at how to make some. Write some old school thank you’s. Maybe 5. Pick a moment that shines through the darkness. Capture that moment. Describe it. Describe how you felt inside. The way that someone’s thoughtfulness played out in your life.
28. Commit to a zoom class, preferably once a week. Give it your all. Show up with your screen on. There are really great classes on art and writing Jungian concepts or Tibetan Buddhism. Grow your range and your depths. Or do it on YouTube but really do it. Lama Lena has a great series on dream yoga. Dream yoga is great.
29. Ask a friend in need if they want to talk. Listen without identification. Offer a few bad jokes if there is space for it. In fact, keep a little file of funny things so that they are accessible when they will provide a good salve. I like corny Buddhist like “when you teach a wolf to meditate it becomes aware wolf”. You should shake your head at how ridiculous your jokes are.
30. Name the trees in your neighborhood. I try to use gender neutral names like Terry just in case. Go on walks and call them by their name. After a while, see if something develops. Hint:it does.
31. In the moments of seizure when the mind scrambles for what to do, when it grasps at prayer and pleas, let it rest. Every now ad again listen to Rest In Natural Peace by Sogyal Rimpoche.
32. Drop the rock; the thing you took on to comfort or survive, the thing that was once a solution that has become a problem. The thing that both suffocates and tells you you can’t live without it. Drop the formulas. Be kind. Thank it whatever it was: extra food, the partner who you knew wasn’t the right one, the attitude of defense. Maybe light some incense and gather some flowers. Write all the benefits you got. Honor it, and send the newfound freedom back as a way to thank it.
33. Old friends are good. Friends who look at you the same now as they did 10 or 15 years ago. They help orient to something that endures.
34. Try working on some koans. They help the mind discover that two opposing views can live inside the same space and eventually with enough ambient wrestling find a beautiful new third reality that includes both. But goes beyond. John Tarrant’s book Bring Me The Rhinoceros is a fun way to explore.
35. Vow to be positionally homeless. They say the female dieties known as Daikinis can’t land because they are vast space itself. Become the vast space. Don’t apply your own ball and chain of beliefs. This doesn’t mean don’t have a stance. Do, but keep it flexible, open to change. Read as many opposing viewpoints as you do supporting. If you get offended, know that is the language of the ego at work. Or, if you feel like you have to prove a point. Whenever you can, come back to, “it’s just us chickens here”. As Mary Oliver says, save the only life you can, your own. And if you have some extra, use it to help, not to preach.
36. Check out altered mind things like cool new light shows in big cities or Terence McKenna podcasts. Maybe an ayahuasca documentary. Something that reminds you that there is more than the world of appearances.
37. Ask someone who is stuck in the dumps for help with something small that they can win at. Even will you hand me the pepper.. Then acknowledge appreciation. Hook into the human biology that never forgets that we are here to help each other and this is the way out.
38. Let yourself admit it; where you are embarrassingly self cherishing under the radar, where you want other people to notice you but won’t do it overtly, where you draw the attention of others but either don’t offer substance in return or act like you didn’t do it. Or worse, blame then for their attention. Treat all attention as a gift. Sometimes misguided or clumsy, but a response. Be the person who trains others how to respond with grace.
39. Make someone or several people your reason for greatness, your muse. You don’t have to tell them. No one has to know. But imagine that you are handing them your art, your creation, your good works. If you get in a fight and they stop inspiring you, choose someone else. It could be a great teacher or a political leader. I wrote a whole book for a political leader I like so if he ever ran for president, it might be helpful in the background.
40. Take embarrassment as the path because lord knows, there’s a lot of it in the opening of the mind. Disillusionment too. It’s the nature of freeing oneself from illusion. Sometimes just say “okay this is embarrassing”. Let the cheeks flush and the pride quake. It passes. And in its place comes wisdom.
41. Practice critical wisdom rather than critical thinking. Critical wisdom is thinking plus compassion. And it requires you to roll up your sleeves, not just spend your life as a paralegal building a defense for how wrong life is.
42. If you have your feet on the ground, perhaps try loving the difficult to love; the friend who withdraws and nips at you before they do. Or the co-worker who always tops you and has to be right , so critical of everything you do. The grandiose and the self-righteous know it alls. Love the friend that always whines and poo poos any offers out of hell.
43. Take a page from the way seer manifesto and consider that everything that is wrong with you is actually what is right with you, that the glib diagnoses are often meant to keep the poppies all at the same level, not because we’ve lifted each other up but because we cut each other down to right size.
44. Try some peanut butter with your apple. The kind you grind in the store.
45. Sneak “I love you’s” into the world to the ones you love and aren’t interested in receiving it; plant daffodils in their name, or donate time at the SPCA in their name. You can imagine their face in everyone you meet, but be careful you don’t kiss the cashier wearing your loved one’s mask. Take the bunched up love and spread it out like seeds that germinate and grow into a whole field of wildflowers. Okay so it might not be the one big oak tree you thought you would spend your life with. But the world becomes an altar to the love.
46. (I just shared this with a woman who inspired me, having gone though the fire and coming out softer) They say that hard boiled eggs are the only meat that gets harder when cooked. Don’t be the hard boiled egg. Let the fire make you tender.
47. Tell people when they move you. Let yourself be moved. Like Hafiz says, “Admit something: Everyone you see, you say to them, “Love me.” Of course you do not do this out loud; Otherwise, Someone would call the cops. Still though, think about this, This great pull in us To connect. Why not become the one Who lives with a full moon in each eye That is always saying, With that sweet moon Language, What every other eye in this world Is dying to Hear.

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