Reclaiming Power

The international swell of sexual harassment and abuse allegations has the potential to be a revolution. Although it is primarily women who are coming forward, people of all genders are bravely telling their stories. The revolution is wake-up-call for people in power—primarily men because they are the gatekeepers of that power— to stop equating how fuckable a person is with their innate qualities as a human being. Although it’s hard to imagine a society of any kind where the powerful behave benevolently, it shouldn’t be so hard to imagine one where the powerful behave justly.

But for that to happen, we all need to acknowledge our relationship to power. There is no doubt but that for many people, their power is forcibly taken away. In situations of harassment, intimidation, and rape, there is no consent and these situations need to be publicly aired and taken to court.

However, for every person who has told a story of sexual harassment or intimidation there are those who have consciously wielded their sexuality to get a job, a part in a movie, an article published, a review, etc. Should those lucky people also come forward—without fear of judgement or reproach—to at least acknowledge that this power play happened and it worked for them? This is a Capitalist society, after all—and the message that gets hammered into us is that there is nothing wrong with perceiving a game and then playing it until you get what you want. I personally did not choose this path but I also can’t begrudge those who did.

Of course, the game is rigged. Which means that for every person who submitted to the power play and advanced in their career, there are hundreds who tried and failed to get the part. These people now have to bear the shame of playing the game willfully and consciously, but in the end, getting nothing. Those people also need support because rejection, bitterness, and envy are horrible energies to carry around. Trump’s election played into these energies; they make people cruel, un-compassionate, and shut-down as human beings.

Then there are those who, like me, saw that the game was rigged and tried really hard to live on the outside of it. But even that is complicated. Looking back on my youth, I was always suspicious of women who flaunted their sexuality because I had been raised to believe that expressions of female sexual desire were expressions of a false personae—dressing the part to appease men in power but never able to achieve that power in themselves. This viewpoint was supported by women friends in various fields of work who would talk scornfully about how so-and-so had gotten that job, or that publicity; that publication, or that part.

But the disdain I felt for “those women” really meant that I was disdaining myself; I had suppressed my own femininity and sexuality because I was afraid that if I expressed it, I too would become one of the hated false women. This suppression affected my relationships, and it affected my career. I was so fearful of being scrutinized by men in power and so in horror of what I perceived them to want from me — that I put up a shield every time I walked into a room.

Looking back I can see many opportunities missed because of this.

In my 40s—well, let’s just say it was the return of the repressed, or in my case, the return of the false woman. (I unpack this idea in my unpublished book “Killing the False Woman Keeps the Live One From Breathing,” and I talk about it on the Commonplace Podcast.) She came out with a vengeance in ways that, looking back, were self-destructive and destructive within my relationships.

Now 50, I have a new found confidence in the balance between my intelligence, my sexuality, and my femininity and finally feel balanced and in “my power.” But I do wonder about my youth—all those years where I rejected my femininity and demonized my sexuality—where would I be now had I felt able to express it?

I read an article in the Times saying that some men are reacting by hunkering back into their old-boy networks—canceling Christmas parties and being cautious about what they say to women. But for them to do this is to entirely miss the point.

The point is that this is a revolution in which power itself is being questioned and yes, it’s a reaction to Trump and the white male supremacy that he has unleashed. For this reason, Men in power who consider themselves enlightened seriously need to walk through the world and evaluate people not as fuckable or not fuckable, but as human beings. Gender is not the only issue—rather, I think it’s about how people in power abuse the sexual expression of others for their own gratification; and how people who want that power behave in relation to it.

Thanks for reading! Stay human! Expand in love.


 

 

Inauguration Incantation

You have hurt me
I store this in my armbone
You have hurt me
I store this in my chestbone
You have hurt me
I store this in my neckbone
You have hurt me
I store this in my marrow bones.
I have hurt you
you store this in your heartbone
I have hurt you
you store this in your belly bone
I have hurt you
you store this in your mind bone
I  have hurt you
you store this in your source bone
in your being bone
at the base of your neckbone
in your reptile mind bone
You have hurt my mind
my love organ
You have hurt my brain
my eye organ
You have hurt my throat
my voice organ
You have hurt my cells
my breathing organ
You have hurt my womb
my heart organ

And I hound you
Hound your bombing missiles
Hound your tax cuts
Hound your poison policies
Hound your 100 word vocabulary
Hound your arctic drills
Hound your dead sea creatures
Hound your highest-bidder family planning
Hound your oil addiction
Hound your white hooded support network
Hound your domestic terrorism white house
Hound your hybrid vegetables
Hound your censoring of human love
Hound your elimination lullaby

But I am not at war with you.
My war
is with your avarice
my war
is with your hate
my war
is with your wrath

and your wrath will not pull me down

because your wrath is not my sun

your wrath is a black hole in your eye

your wrath pulls bile into itself and

my sun is warm
beauty, diversity, poetry, and love.

My sun is love.

It is one among millions of suns,

all sourced from the same light.

holdpaperhands red candle chant, shout, screamsounds rage into red candle burns rage into red candle burns brighterhotterforceangerfuels now firepapers tininto burn out papers burn down lightwhite candle replace the rage with (peace self-esteem calm security) newemotionsenergy fill you up write feelhealing sourcestrength

-Kristin Prevallet
From Solidarity Texts: Radiant Re-Sisters edited by Laynie Browne
https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B1rs1mKiAeL4NFlybzBUWUVSNEk/view

Three Reasons to Jumpstart your New Year’s Resolutions Now

Have you ever made the conscious decision to change something about your life or health, and then said to yourself: “I’ll do that AFTER I get through this stressful time in my life.”

Only to find that stress never really passes – or if it does, you no longer feel the same urgency or commitment to make the change?

Until, as poet John Ashbery writes in the poem “Varient”

“the whole thing overflows like a silver
Wedding cake or Christmas tree, in a cascade of tears.”

Here are three good reasons to cascade the change you want to make in your life not into tears, but into a path that has already begun to form, one day at a time, starting now.

1. New Year’s Resolutions Don’t Work…

…unless, of course, you have a steel resolve and the unflinching willpower to maintain your initial burst of enthusiasm. What does work is to set realistic goals and take small steps on a daily basis towards those making those goals a reality. So if you start now, by the time the new year rolls around you’ll be on the right track.

2. Laying down the seeds to get yourself started might not be as hard as you think.

For example, if weight loss is your goal, what if you made the commitment now to eat 1/2 your usual portion, savoring every bite? If you’re trying to stop smoking, how about spending this week smoking 1/3 fewer cigarettes, becoming more aware of your cravings, and drinking a glass of water each time you feel a craving coming on?

Whatever your goal may be, chunk it down to what is possible and commit to that. It will be easier to achieve.

3. Stress may stifle your desire to make changes, but procrastination buries it alive.

A new year is a reminder of how time flies – Tempus fugit. Whatever it is that you’ve been meaning to can drag your energy down, making it a lot harder to commit to larger changes. So find six hours between now and the New Year to do what you need to do to get that “to do” list in motion.

If it’s something big – like writing a dissertation or starting a new business – then separate the forest into trees, and the trees into branches. Make the job smaller, and once you’ve got it started keep taking small steps until you’re on a roll.

Happy new year – every day, starting now.

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If you’d like some guidance, there are two ways that I can be of help to you.

If you’re in the New York area, join me for a Resolution Retreat Feb 3-4.
Click here for more info

Or, you can call me for a free, 30 minute resolution exploration phone call.
Click here for more info

Past Lives Future Time

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Often when I tell people that I lead retreats to explore past lives, the reaction wavers between amusement and bewilderment. Especially now with so much that is disruptive and harmful happening in the political sphere, it might seem counter-intuitive to spend an afternoon trancing-out into the stories and metaphors that seemingly lay beneath the surface of your consciousness.

But have you ever had the experience of focusing so intently on a problem that all the energy you put into thinking just makes it worse? Or, a situation in which the more you try try to deal with it head on, you are lead you into a hall of mirrors that splinters into a debilitating anxiety and its ripple effect of insomnia?

And so you decide to give it a rest and go to the movies. And you find that getting lost in the narrative of the movie helps you to release emotions that you didn’t know were there. As you follow the characters through the plot, you are able to disconnect from what had been ailing you.

Perhaps, when the movie is over, you cry or feel that weird feeling that you are in a movie, feeling those same feelings. Then, somehow, when you return to deal with your problem, you have a new insight or approach that seems to lift the heaviness out of the situation.

Sometimes disassociating can be a marvelous thing.

And you’ve got more movies than Netflix streaming inside your mind right now — and believe it or not, they’re better than Hollywood when it comes to helping you to get insight into difficult areas of your life. And if you need to heal, spending some time with those movies can actually allow your body to relax and do what it needs to do to bring your body and mind into alignment.

What are the metaphors that open up the rich imaginative doors to the movies within the movies of our lives? Traditionally one imagines being on a boat in a gentle river surrounded by a blue mist; doorways are of course important, as are portals and tunnels.

To me it doesn’t matter if these moves are “real.” Was I actually a young boy who my family had written off/forgotten about? Did I watch from high up in a tree as my family was slaughtered by settlers, not one of them ever wondering what happened to me?

It was in the unfolding of this story that I suddenly felt better about something specific happening in my life—and if this story was my unconscious mind’s way of releasing what needed to be released so that I could move forward, I’d say that’s pretty amazing. Whether it actually happened or not is irrelevant.

The narrative of past life regression allows for unconscious searching. It is like following sign-posts leading somewhere, even if you are not sure where it is that you’ll end up. It’s reader participation–you are making your own narrative, like draping cloth between two poles. The tapestry that unfolds–the quality of the stitching, the colors, the texture–all that all comes from you. And somehow, it means something to you.

Perhaps as you reveal these narratives to yourself you’ll stumble on a story that you can then unfold into your writing or art. A character might emerge and grab ahold of you, prompting you with the energy to write into/around his/her story.

Perhaps it will be more like fragments or pieces of memory that will be revealed.

Or a feeling — unsettled, or settling.

Sometimes if you don’t like the movie that’s playing right now, you need to check out a different theater. Get a different perspective, and make changes from there.

So whatever you are facing in your life—whether it be terror in the political sphere or debilitating stress or illness in your personal sphere—take a break from it. Gather your resources, heal your body, and trust that you have within you the narratives to be strong and survive.

Time Sculpting

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Time Flies. (Sculpture by Daniel Arsh)

When my baby daughter was born, I remember being quite intent on trying to figure out how I was going to maintain my writing practice (I had a few projects still on the burner).

Pre-baby, my relationship to time was one of relative control (luxurious chunks of 6 hours on weekend mornings; 2-3 hours during a typical teaching day). I sought out other mothers who were also artists, and I tried to emulate them: some wrote into the night (I fell asleep just thinking about doing that.) Some got up early in the morning, a couple hours before the baby (I tried that a few times, but I always fell asleep at my desk.)

At some point it occurred to me that trying to “find” time was simply not working. Time simply wasn’t to be found. If it was hiding, it was doing a really good job of it. Plus, with so much of my time focused on the baby, I had no energy to play hide and seek with an invisible entity. The game made me crabby and irritable.

And so, I figured out how to relax into the flow of time as dictated by the baby. She had a schedule, and I followed her into it. What I found was time—not a lot of it, but there were some increments:  30 minutes here, 45 minutes there. On occasion, an hour.

Something interesting happened: instead of getting angry or resisting the baby because she “stole” my time (as if time was no longer “mine” ) I became hyper-focused in the short bits of time that I did have. And I found that I could get a lot more work done in 30 minutes than I used to get done in 2 hours.

Doing this had a several positive outcomes: Firstly, I became a much more present mother. When I was with the baby, I was with the baby. Secondly, because those short bursts of time when I could work felt so good, a track was maintained for my writing practice.

When she went to school and I suddenly had more time, I realized something that time-gurus (yes, they exist) had figured out: the human brain works best in short increments. My baby taught me how to do “time-boxing”—and as I continue to practice it, I find that I have more time, and I am able to be much more productive.

“Time-boxing” is an interesting metaphor–does it mean putting time in box, or boxing it into submission?  I prefer to think of the practice as sculpting. In this way, time becomes material—and hence an art project in and of itself.
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If you are a writer or artist and feel that your relationship with time is not what you want it to be, come to my 3-hour workshop at the Millay Colony’s NYC site on November 12, 10-1pm.

I will present you with guru time-management strategies that have worked for me, and that work for many of my clients who used to struggle with procrastination.

I will also guide you with visualizations and techniques from hypnotherapy that will allow you to unconsciously transform your relationship to time.

And through the combination of conscious (time management) and unconscious (emotional blocks, areas of unproductive resistance) you might just leave the workshop feeling hopeful that your art or writing practice remains alive and well—even if, for the moment, it feels trapped in time.

Register here:
Time Sculpting: A Workshop for Parent Artists
November 12, 10am to 1:30pm
The Millay Colony, East Village Annex

On Mystics and Anxiety: looking for cures only makes it worse

What, really, is anxiety and were does it come from? What makes it vanish in a moment, only to come back, seemingly out of the blue, with the force of a tidal wave?

There are many answers to this question depending on who you ask. Kierkegaard says that it is unfocused fear. Modern psychology says it is an “exaggerated expectation of negative outcomes in an unknown situation, accompanied by physical symptoms.”

You know the feeling, and it sucks.

In a recent writing class, I asked students to write about what anxiety means to them and it’s clear that the condition of it is permeable, like a consciousness:

  • Anxiety means being so far into the future in my head that I am predicting things but without any particular skills of divination.
  • It’s being driven crazy with dread. What if this happens, what if that happens.
  • Our cultural way of organizing time is anxiety incarnate. There’s never enough of it.
  • It’s not being in control, and not having any hope that I will ever be in control.
  • It’s not being able to connect the dots that make what is looming in the future known.
  • Heart palpitations, racing thoughts, sweaty palms: a feeling that the human body just can’t contain all the mental and physical pressure.
  • A literal brick wall plopped on the highway; a barbed wire fence strung across a garden, killing any meaningful arrangements.

Given that anxiety is a permanent human state, why do we spend so much time and effort trying to get rid of it, as if that is even possible? After all, it’s not as if the condition of uncertainty that most of us are dealing with in our daily lives is suddenly going to be magically fixed. We might be able to take a pill that will temporarily alleviate the horrible biochemistry that anxiety triggers, but there is very little peace and calm in the larger culture.

Not enough money, not enough time; feelings of lost potential, lost control; health problems and painful symptoms; the list goes on and on. And political candidates make ridiculous promises that they can fix all of these problems. But these problems become exaggerated when the standard we are comparing ourselves to is based on outdated concepts such as “security” and “perfect health.”

At this point, insecurity is the status quo and illness is a political critique. Neither one are mere complaints that can be “fixed” with a catch-all cure. In this this extremely confrontational and anxiety-ridden political climate, exaggerated expectations of negative outcomes are the cultural norm.

“Without cultural support, healing doesn’t last,” Dr. Mario Martinez observes, while cautioning us to be wary of attempting to heal ourselves within a culture that is itself so broken, and so sick.

The cure for anxiety? Stop looking for one within the dominant culture that is pretending that there is some “America” that we can “return” to where everything can be fixed. There is no El Dorado and looking for it will only produce more anxiety. In other words, anxiety is exaggerated by thinking that there is a singular concept/solution to world problems.

So what should we do? My personal solution is to implement what philosophers like Jonathan Lear suggest: collectively, let’s address the anxiety of living in the midst of these very fast paced and changing times by actually getting together and creating meaningful experiences. One thing the culture does provide are amazing and creative people who are actively building community within local places–from book clubs to yoga studies, public rituals to public art. There are many ways to find connection.

And as you do that, you can imagine that you are dissipating your anxiety into the larger collective sense of it. It’s not “your” anxiety — it’s everyones and you can release into the certainty that everyone is trying to balance on ground that is constantly shifting. This the way that tribal cultures, grounded on ideas of a collective consciousness, understood the function of dreaming.

“The path of the mystic is the path of chaos,” Martinez continues. In order to heal and survive,  we need to take out the part of the equation that points towards there even being such a thing as the concept of solid ground.

So go ahead. Call yourself a mystic and join the community—after all, if you’re feeling anxious, you’re already one anyway.

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While you’re focusing on the bigger picture, here are a few things you can do now to begin rethinking your relationship to anxiety:

https://trancepoetics.com/2013/12/12/anxiety-relief-now-duck-soup/

 

 

A Burning Is Not A Letting Go

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Installation by Suzanne Levine

Part of my passion for studying the unconscious mind in all of its various manifestations has involved many ponderous nights thinking and reading about memory.

I’ve finally put some of these musings into a collaboration with photographer Suzanne Levine, which is on display as part of the Drawing On Language show currently on display (through June 23) at the Municipal Building Gallery in Hastings-on-Hudson, NY (curated by the Hastings Art Commission.)

I wrote an essay about our collaboration, published in the wonderful magazine of art & politics, Guernica. (Click photo for the link to the essay.)

Thanks for checking it out!

Warmly,

Kristin