Fractal Rain

IMG_0158
Woke to rain.
In San Diego, rain is rare enough to feel slightly magical. Like a full moon. Or a meteor shower.
Although this year has been a rainy one. Last week, my landlord asked how the river in the backyard has been flowing. I realized that I had not been down there to check it out, yet.
So this morning, I made myself a thermos of coffee, put on my rain slicker, and headed out into the rain.
The river was FLOWING and beautiful.
The recent rains had made the canyon explode in green. Big, lush nasturtium leaves blanketed the river bank.
I set a plastic chair by the creek, poured myself a cup of pre-sweetened coffee, and set my ipod to “Cat Stevens.”
My mind bounced from gorgeous detail to gorgeous detail.
Vibrant green leaf.
Budding lemon blossom.
Dark gnarled root.
Swirling current heading, always, towards the sea.
I watched the tiny – mist-like raindrops fall and collect on the Nasturtium leaves.
Each drop too small to see, but gradually collecting into reflective crystal globes. The droplets forming and then dropping with random, gorgeous, perfection.
The drops would fall from the leaf to the ground – where it would presumably provide water to the very plant that just collected it. Or maybe it would evaporate, and fall again, elsewhere. Some way or another rejoining the stream and the eternal seaward cycle.
I sat there with a stream of water rushing by right to left.
Countless tiny droplets fell from above.
Thousands of roots around me pulled water from the damp soil up their stems.
I sat motionless as nature’s cycles swirled all around me.
I had the feeling of being microscopic. Everything around me – every molecule and atom – moving in perfect cycles. Connected in a massive cosmic dance. Interconnected and perfectly balanced.
Once again, I return to Awe.
Thank you, Universe… for the miracles in every moment.

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More photos from the day

"Temple of Hope" Benefit

*I will be giving the opening blessing and co-hosting this event!*

“Temple of Hope- a benefit for Haiti & Partners in Health”

Sunday February 28, 2010
2pm to 6pm

Bardot @ Avalon
1735 Vine St. Hollywood, CA 90028

$20 or $15 w/donation of a non-perishable food item or new personal care item.

Music by: Slick Dada of Dada Radio & Whoop T Whoop Ent.
Dance performances by:
Princess Farhana, Devilla, Jenna, IrinaXara,
Mardhavi Rodrigo, Sophie Olsen,
Debbie & Marco, & The Hart Pulse Dance Co.

Full Bar 21+

Raffle Prize Drawing & Silent Auctions featuring items donated by:
The Bellydance Superstars, Lucent Dossier Vaudeville Cirque, Artist Ashleigh Sumner,
Lululemon Athletica, Corium 21 Organic Skin Care, & Alexandria II Bookstore

Net proceeds from admissions, raffle prize drawing, & silent auction to be donated
to Partners in Health. (pih.org)
Food and personal care items to be donated to the LA Food Bank.
(lafightshunger.org)

“Temple of Hope” Benefit

*I will be giving the opening blessing and co-hosting this event!*

“Temple of Hope- a benefit for Haiti & Partners in Health”

Sunday February 28, 2010
2pm to 6pm

Bardot @ Avalon
1735 Vine St. Hollywood, CA 90028

$20 or $15 w/donation of a non-perishable food item or new personal care item.

Music by: Slick Dada of Dada Radio & Whoop T Whoop Ent.
Dance performances by:
Princess Farhana, Devilla, Jenna, IrinaXara,
Mardhavi Rodrigo, Sophie Olsen,
Debbie & Marco, & The Hart Pulse Dance Co.

Full Bar 21+

Raffle Prize Drawing & Silent Auctions featuring items donated by:
The Bellydance Superstars, Lucent Dossier Vaudeville Cirque, Artist Ashleigh Sumner,
Lululemon Athletica, Corium 21 Organic Skin Care, & Alexandria II Bookstore

Net proceeds from admissions, raffle prize drawing, & silent auction to be donated
to Partners in Health. (pih.org)
Food and personal care items to be donated to the LA Food Bank.
(lafightshunger.org)

"Groundhog Day & The Power of Now"

power of groundhog

I love anything that Bill Murray is in. Stripes, Ghostbusters, Meatballs, Scrooged, etc. He is one of those rare comedic actors who can make me start smiling just with a facial expression.
Last night “Groundhog Day” was playing on Bravo. So, of course, I watched. I’m not sure why it is so much more compelling to watch movies when they are playing live on TV. I’ll often watch a film on TV – with commercials – even when I own the DVD somewhere in my collection. I think it has something to do with the collective viewing experience. Even though we are in different physical locations, there is a crowd of people all watching at the same time. It is like a communal theatre experience – without the sticky floor.
In any case, I watched Groundhog Day last night along with 1000’s of strangers. The neat thing about that movie is that you can miss the beginning and not get too lost – since the movie consists of the same day happening over and over again.
If you have not seen it, Netflix it, immediately. The premise is that a grumpy weatherman named Phil finds himself living the same day over and over again. Every morning he wakes up at 6am on Groundhog Day. No matter what happens during the day, when he goes to sleep, he wakes up at 6am and it is the beginning of Groundhog Day. Again.
It’s an awesome premise that gives a stage for Murray’s antics. But it is also a perfect scenario to illustrate some deep spiritual ideas. As I re-watched the film last night, I saw a beautiful new depth to it.
** ALERT: SPOILERS BELOW **

At the start of the movie, Murray’s character is unhappy, selfish, and inconsiderate.
Despite the fact that his worldview makes him miserable, he believes he knows best.
Phil is the Everyman of the modern world: Ego absorbed and suffering – but with no willingness to change. In essence being unhappy because he is too stubborn to accept that he may not have it all figured out. He would rather be right about how lame everything is than be happy.
The beginning of the movie paints the picture of this person: Miserable on the inside and miserable to be around. He is stuck in a lame small town and everything seems to be an obstacle – even though he has no clear destination.
Things get interesting when he wakes up the next morning, and it is Groundhog Day, once again. He goes through the day, everyone and everything says and acts exactly as the day before. Much Bill Murray silliness ensues.
Once the shock dies down, Murray’s character starts to think of ways he can take advantage of the situation. Since he knows he will wake up tomorrow in the same place/day, he starts to learn about people so that he can manipulate them. He learns where a pretty girl goes to high school so that he can manufacture a disarming ice breaker (and eventually sleep with her.)
This is the Ego steering it’s way through the world. He acts selfishly to get what he wants – often at the expense of others. This is the “dog-eat-dog” mentality that we fall into so often. We step on others to get what we want, never realizing that the rewards we gain rarely make us happy.
He symbolizes the stage of awareness of trying to change the world to fit our image of happiness. He imagines that he would be happy if he could get the girl, so he sets on changing the circumstances of the world to get what his Ego mind wants. Of course, since he gets an infinite number of do-overs, he is pretty successful.
The movie shows him altering his seduction script with each failed attempt. At one point she yells at him and rather than respond to her, he makes a mental note to himself, “No fudge and no whit e chocolate. Got it.”
He goes through round after round of this day, each time getting closer to crafting it perfectly. Or at least perfectly crafted according to his Plan.
And yet, he never reaches the happy scenario he strives for.
Just like in real life, the Ego often has no idea what will actually make us happy – even if we think we do. The problem is that the Ego, by it’s nature, acts from a selfish place. Even if it gets what it wants, it is operating from a place lacking love and peace. It is like the businessman who does what it takes to get the promotion, get the house and car, does everything according to plan and then realizes, “My God, what have I done?” I have achieved my image of Happiness – and yet I am not happy!
Phil falls deep into the Victim role.
He feels powerless and becomes depressed. He is trapped on the wheel of suffering.
For the Ego mind, and all it’s plans, the fact that tomorrow never comes is the worst possible nightmare. Nothing matters and nothing will change.
Finally, he decides to kill himself. Repeatedly.
He crashes his car, electrocutes himself, and jumps off a building. Each time he wakes up at 6am on Groundhog Day.
This is the symbolic killing off of his ego. Stripping away all his desires.
Until finally he says, “I’ve killed myself so many times, I don’t even exist any more.”
He says this like it is a bad thing, but it is only from this place of non-existent ego that his transformation takes place.
In essence, he surrenders.
He no longer tries to manipulate things for his own good. Instead he begins to speak honestly from the heart without an agenda.
He introduces several hobbies to his life: Taking piano lessons and learning ice sculpting. These create entertaining plot points, but they symbolize the daily practice and discipline of a spiritual path.
We also see him demonstrate a non-attachment to material goods. He has learned all-too-vividly that “you can’t take it with you.” We see him be incredibly generous at every opportunity.
Without any hope for a future, his life/day becomes about what is the best way he can contribute in this moment.
In fact, generosity and giving become his sole purpose. He makes the daily practice about helping people. Since he knows everything that happens on this day perfectly, he walks around town and is available to help when each obstacle (that he knows is coming) arises. He changes a tire, applies the Heimlich maneuver, and catches a kid who falls from a tree. This becomes his daily practice.
His demeanor finally becomes calm as he surrenders to this infinite Now. Of course, for the character – the Now that Eckard Tolle talks about has become quite literal.
Without the legacy of his past story, he is free to be anyone.
Without the expectations of the future, he is free to do anything.
After much trial and error, he finally embraces a “Love more, fear less. Float more, steer less” mentality.
He surrenders to the Now. He follows Love. He is free of Fear.
From this place, Joy and Love flow effortlessly into his life.
His evolution is complete and the “curse” is finally lifted when he says, “Whatever happens tomorrow, I am happy Now.”
Within the confines of a single day, in a small town, we witness a life-long spiritual path play out. From Selfishness, to Dispair, to loss of Ego. We witness the wheel of suffering and see the importance of a daily practice, selflessness, and service. Finally, he Surrenders fully to the Now and finds Joy.
From this place, it makes no difference how many more weeks of winter the groundhog predicts. Every Now moment is perfect.
It makes me wonder how many comedies of my youth can be appreciated from a spiritual level? Maybe we should try some Pauley Shore movies next??? Maybe not.
-John
Feb 23, 2010

“Groundhog Day & The Power of Now”

power of groundhog

I love anything that Bill Murray is in. Stripes, Ghostbusters, Meatballs, Scrooged, etc. He is one of those rare comedic actors who can make me start smiling just with a facial expression.
Last night “Groundhog Day” was playing on Bravo. So, of course, I watched. I’m not sure why it is so much more compelling to watch movies when they are playing live on TV. I’ll often watch a film on TV – with commercials – even when I own the DVD somewhere in my collection. I think it has something to do with the collective viewing experience. Even though we are in different physical locations, there is a crowd of people all watching at the same time. It is like a communal theatre experience – without the sticky floor.
In any case, I watched Groundhog Day last night along with 1000’s of strangers. The neat thing about that movie is that you can miss the beginning and not get too lost – since the movie consists of the same day happening over and over again.
If you have not seen it, Netflix it, immediately. The premise is that a grumpy weatherman named Phil finds himself living the same day over and over again. Every morning he wakes up at 6am on Groundhog Day. No matter what happens during the day, when he goes to sleep, he wakes up at 6am and it is the beginning of Groundhog Day. Again.
It’s an awesome premise that gives a stage for Murray’s antics. But it is also a perfect scenario to illustrate some deep spiritual ideas. As I re-watched the film last night, I saw a beautiful new depth to it.
** ALERT: SPOILERS BELOW **

At the start of the movie, Murray’s character is unhappy, selfish, and inconsiderate.
Despite the fact that his worldview makes him miserable, he believes he knows best.
Phil is the Everyman of the modern world: Ego absorbed and suffering – but with no willingness to change. In essence being unhappy because he is too stubborn to accept that he may not have it all figured out. He would rather be right about how lame everything is than be happy.
The beginning of the movie paints the picture of this person: Miserable on the inside and miserable to be around. He is stuck in a lame small town and everything seems to be an obstacle – even though he has no clear destination.
Things get interesting when he wakes up the next morning, and it is Groundhog Day, once again. He goes through the day, everyone and everything says and acts exactly as the day before. Much Bill Murray silliness ensues.
Once the shock dies down, Murray’s character starts to think of ways he can take advantage of the situation. Since he knows he will wake up tomorrow in the same place/day, he starts to learn about people so that he can manipulate them. He learns where a pretty girl goes to high school so that he can manufacture a disarming ice breaker (and eventually sleep with her.)
This is the Ego steering it’s way through the world. He acts selfishly to get what he wants – often at the expense of others. This is the “dog-eat-dog” mentality that we fall into so often. We step on others to get what we want, never realizing that the rewards we gain rarely make us happy.
He symbolizes the stage of awareness of trying to change the world to fit our image of happiness. He imagines that he would be happy if he could get the girl, so he sets on changing the circumstances of the world to get what his Ego mind wants. Of course, since he gets an infinite number of do-overs, he is pretty successful.
The movie shows him altering his seduction script with each failed attempt. At one point she yells at him and rather than respond to her, he makes a mental note to himself, “No fudge and no whit e chocolate. Got it.”
He goes through round after round of this day, each time getting closer to crafting it perfectly. Or at least perfectly crafted according to his Plan.
And yet, he never reaches the happy scenario he strives for.
Just like in real life, the Ego often has no idea what will actually make us happy – even if we think we do. The problem is that the Ego, by it’s nature, acts from a selfish place. Even if it gets what it wants, it is operating from a place lacking love and peace. It is like the businessman who does what it takes to get the promotion, get the house and car, does everything according to plan and then realizes, “My God, what have I done?” I have achieved my image of Happiness – and yet I am not happy!
Phil falls deep into the Victim role.
He feels powerless and becomes depressed. He is trapped on the wheel of suffering.
For the Ego mind, and all it’s plans, the fact that tomorrow never comes is the worst possible nightmare. Nothing matters and nothing will change.
Finally, he decides to kill himself. Repeatedly.
He crashes his car, electrocutes himself, and jumps off a building. Each time he wakes up at 6am on Groundhog Day.
This is the symbolic killing off of his ego. Stripping away all his desires.
Until finally he says, “I’ve killed myself so many times, I don’t even exist any more.”
He says this like it is a bad thing, but it is only from this place of non-existent ego that his transformation takes place.
In essence, he surrenders.
He no longer tries to manipulate things for his own good. Instead he begins to speak honestly from the heart without an agenda.
He introduces several hobbies to his life: Taking piano lessons and learning ice sculpting. These create entertaining plot points, but they symbolize the daily practice and discipline of a spiritual path.
We also see him demonstrate a non-attachment to material goods. He has learned all-too-vividly that “you can’t take it with you.” We see him be incredibly generous at every opportunity.
Without any hope for a future, his life/day becomes about what is the best way he can contribute in this moment.
In fact, generosity and giving become his sole purpose. He makes the daily practice about helping people. Since he knows everything that happens on this day perfectly, he walks around town and is available to help when each obstacle (that he knows is coming) arises. He changes a tire, applies the Heimlich maneuver, and catches a kid who falls from a tree. This becomes his daily practice.
His demeanor finally becomes calm as he surrenders to this infinite Now. Of course, for the character – the Now that Eckard Tolle talks about has become quite literal.
Without the legacy of his past story, he is free to be anyone.
Without the expectations of the future, he is free to do anything.
After much trial and error, he finally embraces a “Love more, fear less. Float more, steer less” mentality.
He surrenders to the Now. He follows Love. He is free of Fear.
From this place, Joy and Love flow effortlessly into his life.
His evolution is complete and the “curse” is finally lifted when he says, “Whatever happens tomorrow, I am happy Now.”
Within the confines of a single day, in a small town, we witness a life-long spiritual path play out. From Selfishness, to Dispair, to loss of Ego. We witness the wheel of suffering and see the importance of a daily practice, selflessness, and service. Finally, he Surrenders fully to the Now and finds Joy.
From this place, it makes no difference how many more weeks of winter the groundhog predicts. Every Now moment is perfect.
It makes me wonder how many comedies of my youth can be appreciated from a spiritual level? Maybe we should try some Pauley Shore movies next??? Maybe not.
-John
Feb 23, 2010

"Turtlenecks and Fake Tans"

hig school

“It is better to live your own destiny imperfectly than to live an imitation of somebody else’s life with perfection.” ~The Bhagavad Gita

Trying to be something that you are not is infinitely more stressful than allowing yourself to be what you are.
In many ways it is the difference between floating and steering.

I can remember years and years of awkward struggles. Trying to be cool. Trying to be liked. Trying to look how I should or react in the right way.
Living like that is no fun. It is like constantly being on stage and trying to impress the audience.
Something interesting happens when you try to be something you are not – and fail. Yes, It feels terrible. It is embarrassing. For a young adult, this can be the most painful judgment imaginable.
But the interesting part is that in that situation, we are not being judged for what we are – we are being judged for failing to be something that we are not.
There were kids at my school who embraced their individuality. They dressed how they wanted, acted how they wanted and decided they wanted no part in the reindeer games of the cool kids.
But I was not strong enough to be one of those kids. I probably even mocked them.
I wanted to be cool. Every clothing purchase was 20% “How do I like it?” And 80% “Will people like it? “ Often it was an even more fearful question, “Will this get me teased?”
This went way beyond clothing. I can remember evaluating a girl’s attractiveness based on her social standing.
I can remember deciding that I hated a band because that was general attitude about them at my school.
I look back at that time and wonder who I was? I was living defensively. I was living in fear that my act would be compromised and people would realize that the person who had infiltrated the cool clique was a fraud.
Insanity.
I lived in stress and fear so that I could be someone that I was not. And the reward? Acceptance by other people living charades. Or more accurately: non-ridicule.
When I was in Jr. high, my complexion did its puberty thing like most the other kids. I would obsess about every blemish. I would go into a sort of trance in front of the mirror – picking and popping everything I could find.
My mildly poor complexion was made quite awful due to my picking. My skin tone would take on a splotchy pink every time I would go on a picking rampage. Which is to say my skin was generally a splotchy pink.
I used “skin-tone” Clearasil on the larger red marks I created.
Eventually I reached a tipping point and decided that wearing women’s makeup would be less humiliating that walking around in my splotchy skin.
And so I began wearing foundation and/or powder to even out my skin and hide the effects of my facial picking.
This was an incredibly terrifying time for me. My charade had never been so transparent. I was wearing the evidence right there on my face – and I lived in constant fear of someone noticing.
I would surely be labeled a “fag.” (Which would have been a fate worse than death.)
About this same time I also became obsessed by how skinny my neck was compared to my massive ears. Luckily, I came up with a solution: Wear a turtle neck. Wearing a turtle neck hid my skinnyness and minimized how much my ears stuck out. Problem solved!
Looking back I am shocked at my insanity. I wore a winter turtle neck (alone or with a shirt over it) EVERY DAY. As the days got warmer, I would wear turtle necks with shorts and try not to overheat.
But the turtle necks compounded another one of my worries: What if my face makeup got on the turtle neck?! Oh what a tangled web we weave, when we first start to deceive…
I lived in fear of the discovery, but it never happened.
A year later, I discovered (and became obsessed with) fake tanning cream.
The fake tan would tint my pink blotches and made me feel much better about my skin.
Until one day a friend asked publically, “Dude, why is your skin so orange!?”
I remember the moment vividly. It felt like I was shot in the chest. I was terrified. I was petrified. My heart felt like it jumped into my throat and I could feel my face flush. I eeked out, “I don’t know,”and scuttled off before anyone else could investigate his statement.
I may have even gone home. I know that I thought my world had collapsed. The worst possible thing I could imagine had happened.
Someone discovered that I was not the person I had been pretending to be.
I eased up on the tan crème, softened the orange with some pressed powder makeup, and prepared for social Armageddon. But as is often the case with adolescence, I misjudged how much people cared or paid attention to me. My friend didn’t mention it again and neither did anyone else.
Still, I lived in fear of the other shoe dropping. I avoided pool parties and took extra care to ensure my turtle necks would not be stained around the collar.
About this time I saw my friend Scott demonstrate a type of courage I had never seen before. During some mean-natured ribbing, he resisted the instinct to defend himself or fight back.
Instead he said, “Wow, it really hurts my feelings when you say things like that.”
BAM!
This was a revolution.
It stunned the aggressor and stopped the teasing. Suddenly the crowd’s perception was that the aggressor was being a jerk.
Scott has decided not to play the game. He refused to maintain the charade. Instead he stood strongly in his truth and confessed his weakness.
But in claiming it as his own, he was not made weaker at all. On the contrary, he gained power. Suddenly the attacks were deflected.
This demonstration changed everything for me and set into motion a quest towards introspective honestly that continues today.
Soon after, someone did notice my odd skin tone. But I didn’t panic. Instead I replied what I had practiced in my mind. “Yes, I use fake tanning lotion.”
They was a minor joke at my expense, but it had no power to it. Standing in truth, there was no weapon to use against me. By claiming the rock as my own, I left only tiny pebbles to throw at me.
If I am pretending to be tan, but I am not – then when my lie is discovered, I am ashamed. I have failed. I have been caught.
But if I simply am what I am, then what power does discovery hold? Sure they can still tease me for this truth, but it holds a fraction of the impact.
There is a line in “The Course in Miracles” that reads, “In my defenselessness, my safety lies.”
Sometimes I imagine the lion Aslan surrendering to the evil forces of Narnia. Or Jesus carrying his cross. They refused to fight back and in doing so became infinitely more powerful.
Years later, when I discovered the web and global self publishing, I returned to this idea. The internet became a digital confessional for me.
The more I would reveal about supposed “weakness,” the more support I felt from readers. The more vulnerable I allowed myself to be, the more powerful I became.
People sometimes commended my bravery, but they misunderstood the grand equation. I was not showing my weakness to the enemy – I was removing the weapon from their arsenal. Once I have told you that I am insecure about my complexion, it is no longer a rock you can throw at me. “Queer Nation” understood this.
But the real epiphany has much more to do with the internal awareness than any outside attacks. If you are trying to play a role, then you are set up to fail.
If I am trying to be cool, and then someone decides that I am not, it hurts. This pain is deeper than the ridicule, itself. It hurts because I have tried to steer a situation and create a perception – but I have failed.
Contrast this with standing in your truth and being ridiculed for that. You may prefer to be liked, but really, what does that have to do with you? If you are being who you are, then how people respond is none of your business. If you act from truth you CANNOT fail. Truth is truth. Does a mountain fail because it doesn’t have enough trees? Only a crazy person would think that. And it is the same type of childish perspective that would judge a person for their truth.
When we sit in our truth with confidence, judgment cannot touch us. Because the judgment – by definition – comes from a place much lower than truth. It comes from weakness. And by choosing not to defend against it, it remains outside of our world entirely.
If someone hands you a gift and you do not accept, then the gift remains in their possession. The same is true with insults and judgment. It does not have to be a part of your world at all.

In my defenselessness, my safety lies.

In contrast to what we might think, a person who does not defend can be infinitely powerful. Look at leaders like MLK Jr. or Gandhi. They transcended their physical power because they surrendered to ultimate vulnerability. You can beat my body. You can imprison me. But you cannot deny me my truth. From this defenseless truth, the frailest of beings can change the world.

More importantly, we can free our minds.
-John
feb 18, 2010

“Turtlenecks and Fake Tans”

hig school

“It is better to live your own destiny imperfectly than to live an imitation of somebody else’s life with perfection.” ~The Bhagavad Gita

Trying to be something that you are not is infinitely more stressful than allowing yourself to be what you are.
In many ways it is the difference between floating and steering.

I can remember years and years of awkward struggles. Trying to be cool. Trying to be liked. Trying to look how I should or react in the right way.
Living like that is no fun. It is like constantly being on stage and trying to impress the audience.
Something interesting happens when you try to be something you are not – and fail. Yes, It feels terrible. It is embarrassing. For a young adult, this can be the most painful judgment imaginable.
But the interesting part is that in that situation, we are not being judged for what we are – we are being judged for failing to be something that we are not.
There were kids at my school who embraced their individuality. They dressed how they wanted, acted how they wanted and decided they wanted no part in the reindeer games of the cool kids.
But I was not strong enough to be one of those kids. I probably even mocked them.
I wanted to be cool. Every clothing purchase was 20% “How do I like it?” And 80% “Will people like it? “ Often it was an even more fearful question, “Will this get me teased?”
This went way beyond clothing. I can remember evaluating a girl’s attractiveness based on her social standing.
I can remember deciding that I hated a band because that was general attitude about them at my school.
I look back at that time and wonder who I was? I was living defensively. I was living in fear that my act would be compromised and people would realize that the person who had infiltrated the cool clique was a fraud.
Insanity.
I lived in stress and fear so that I could be someone that I was not. And the reward? Acceptance by other people living charades. Or more accurately: non-ridicule.
When I was in Jr. high, my complexion did its puberty thing like most the other kids. I would obsess about every blemish. I would go into a sort of trance in front of the mirror – picking and popping everything I could find.
My mildly poor complexion was made quite awful due to my picking. My skin tone would take on a splotchy pink every time I would go on a picking rampage. Which is to say my skin was generally a splotchy pink.
I used “skin-tone” Clearasil on the larger red marks I created.
Eventually I reached a tipping point and decided that wearing women’s makeup would be less humiliating that walking around in my splotchy skin.
And so I began wearing foundation and/or powder to even out my skin and hide the effects of my facial picking.
This was an incredibly terrifying time for me. My charade had never been so transparent. I was wearing the evidence right there on my face – and I lived in constant fear of someone noticing.
I would surely be labeled a “fag.” (Which would have been a fate worse than death.)
About this same time I also became obsessed by how skinny my neck was compared to my massive ears. Luckily, I came up with a solution: Wear a turtle neck. Wearing a turtle neck hid my skinnyness and minimized how much my ears stuck out. Problem solved!
Looking back I am shocked at my insanity. I wore a winter turtle neck (alone or with a shirt over it) EVERY DAY. As the days got warmer, I would wear turtle necks with shorts and try not to overheat.
But the turtle necks compounded another one of my worries: What if my face makeup got on the turtle neck?! Oh what a tangled web we weave, when we first start to deceive…
I lived in fear of the discovery, but it never happened.
A year later, I discovered (and became obsessed with) fake tanning cream.
The fake tan would tint my pink blotches and made me feel much better about my skin.
Until one day a friend asked publically, “Dude, why is your skin so orange!?”
I remember the moment vividly. It felt like I was shot in the chest. I was terrified. I was petrified. My heart felt like it jumped into my throat and I could feel my face flush. I eeked out, “I don’t know,”and scuttled off before anyone else could investigate his statement.
I may have even gone home. I know that I thought my world had collapsed. The worst possible thing I could imagine had happened.
Someone discovered that I was not the person I had been pretending to be.
I eased up on the tan crème, softened the orange with some pressed powder makeup, and prepared for social Armageddon. But as is often the case with adolescence, I misjudged how much people cared or paid attention to me. My friend didn’t mention it again and neither did anyone else.
Still, I lived in fear of the other shoe dropping. I avoided pool parties and took extra care to ensure my turtle necks would not be stained around the collar.
About this time I saw my friend Scott demonstrate a type of courage I had never seen before. During some mean-natured ribbing, he resisted the instinct to defend himself or fight back.
Instead he said, “Wow, it really hurts my feelings when you say things like that.”
BAM!
This was a revolution.
It stunned the aggressor and stopped the teasing. Suddenly the crowd’s perception was that the aggressor was being a jerk.
Scott has decided not to play the game. He refused to maintain the charade. Instead he stood strongly in his truth and confessed his weakness.
But in claiming it as his own, he was not made weaker at all. On the contrary, he gained power. Suddenly the attacks were deflected.
This demonstration changed everything for me and set into motion a quest towards introspective honestly that continues today.
Soon after, someone did notice my odd skin tone. But I didn’t panic. Instead I replied what I had practiced in my mind. “Yes, I use fake tanning lotion.”
They was a minor joke at my expense, but it had no power to it. Standing in truth, there was no weapon to use against me. By claiming the rock as my own, I left only tiny pebbles to throw at me.
If I am pretending to be tan, but I am not – then when my lie is discovered, I am ashamed. I have failed. I have been caught.
But if I simply am what I am, then what power does discovery hold? Sure they can still tease me for this truth, but it holds a fraction of the impact.
There is a line in “The Course in Miracles” that reads, “In my defenselessness, my safety lies.”
Sometimes I imagine the lion Aslan surrendering to the evil forces of Narnia. Or Jesus carrying his cross. They refused to fight back and in doing so became infinitely more powerful.
Years later, when I discovered the web and global self publishing, I returned to this idea. The internet became a digital confessional for me.
The more I would reveal about supposed “weakness,” the more support I felt from readers. The more vulnerable I allowed myself to be, the more powerful I became.
People sometimes commended my bravery, but they misunderstood the grand equation. I was not showing my weakness to the enemy – I was removing the weapon from their arsenal. Once I have told you that I am insecure about my complexion, it is no longer a rock you can throw at me. “Queer Nation” understood this.
But the real epiphany has much more to do with the internal awareness than any outside attacks. If you are trying to play a role, then you are set up to fail.
If I am trying to be cool, and then someone decides that I am not, it hurts. This pain is deeper than the ridicule, itself. It hurts because I have tried to steer a situation and create a perception – but I have failed.
Contrast this with standing in your truth and being ridiculed for that. You may prefer to be liked, but really, what does that have to do with you? If you are being who you are, then how people respond is none of your business. If you act from truth you CANNOT fail. Truth is truth. Does a mountain fail because it doesn’t have enough trees? Only a crazy person would think that. And it is the same type of childish perspective that would judge a person for their truth.
When we sit in our truth with confidence, judgment cannot touch us. Because the judgment – by definition – comes from a place much lower than truth. It comes from weakness. And by choosing not to defend against it, it remains outside of our world entirely.
If someone hands you a gift and you do not accept, then the gift remains in their possession. The same is true with insults and judgment. It does not have to be a part of your world at all.

In my defenselessness, my safety lies.

In contrast to what we might think, a person who does not defend can be infinitely powerful. Look at leaders like MLK Jr. or Gandhi. They transcended their physical power because they surrendered to ultimate vulnerability. You can beat my body. You can imprison me. But you cannot deny me my truth. From this defenseless truth, the frailest of beings can change the world.

More importantly, we can free our minds.
-John
feb 18, 2010