鄭 YiLing

re: James Baldwin, truth,(Chinese) medicine, harmony, heartbreak, illness, death

preface: Started writing in the time between western and Lunar New Year.  I’ve been dawdling on finishing this on-going piece because JM’s brilliance is something I hope I can respond adequately to, though certainly cannot approach.  Let’s try this!

We begin with…

JM’s post:

YiLing’s response:

JM’s response/the query:

YiLing’s response:

Connecting the first two texts:

It’s pretty screwy that the most known english translation of Chinese Medicine texts is from an appropriating ass white man Ted.  Leave my ancestors alone and go heal your own ancestral ways by your own ancestral ways.  (Thanks Anjali Nath for this specific understanding.)  Baldwin offers this framework of truth, a realm, a “web of ambiguity, paradox, this hunger, danger, darkness.”  In this, the human being’s freedom and fulfillment, neither which can legislated or charted…these dynamics which cannot be circumscribed, not even to the grand generalization of a noble “Humanity” (which Baldwin quickly points out to be a quick tyrant in and of itself).  Nor is the truth of the human being merely a member of a group, society or data set for science.  This is a mystery which is the novelist’s job to reveal, but, per my reading, to keep from fragmenting into aspects.

Perhaps what first caught my attention of the connection between texts was this word, “web.”  I posted a photo from “The Web That Has No Weaver: Understanding Chinese Medicine” by Ted Kaptchuk.  I’ve been reading this per my friend Ethan’s recommendation, who’s a martial artist of Taiwanese descent, born in Jersey and now is in acupuncturist school.  It’s been helping me articulate these philosophies and instincts in English, though I often still run into insufficiencies.

What is Baldwin pointing to in this?  A mysterious truth that is uncompromisingly complex, yet what we must seek to read and the writer seeks to reveal.  To understand this without defaulting to laziness of mind/spirit and resorting to violent simplification and degradation of imagination and seeing…

As Baldwin writes from within visceral degradation, in the u.s. empire, in an empire that does not acknowledge it’s violent and degrading foundation, in a degradation that uses “society, group, science” to justify colonial theft and condemn Baldwin in his true aristocracy…

“The Negro boys and girls who are facing mobs today come out of a long line of improbable aristocrats–the only genuine aristocrats this country has produced. I say ‘this country’ because their frame of reference was totally American. They were hewing out of the mountain of white supremacy the stone of their individuality.” (from The Fire Next Time)

…he writes from the wisdom of two complexities.  The complexity of being caught in empire and the complexity that is within himself as a human being and boundless…that the truth of himself, of all human beings, is caught in a complexity that requires revelation and movement to distinguish (but not dissect!) and “free us of ourselves.”  He writes from an embodied truth, that which counters everything society throws at him as a queer Black man, a person of color, an uncle, a writer, an artist, a person who loves freedom.

Perhaps this is why I was drawn to responding with a valuable perspective from Chinese medicine, which has long brought a methodology and philosophy that has somatically stayed integrated (in my experience learning from monks and teachers and family in Taiwan) with spirit/energy/body/environment.  It has been developed over millenia of study, each with certain variation, but that continuity offers a depth and breadth of study that is a treasure of understanding the cosmos within one’s being.


To JM’s counter:

Indeed, this Chinese medicine is our culture, a study that has interwoven and shaped our language and interactions with land and each other, governance and history.  It draws me because it’s a way of looking into what is ancient and seeing those truths refracted in what is “new.” And it is also assistant the responsibility, the task I have to understand myself, group, society.  As Antonio Gramsci says, history has left in us an infinity of traces.  The task is to compile an inventory of the traces left in us.  To try to understand…to transform from an unitarian identity into an identity that includes the other without suppressing the differences.  This, Gramsci says, is the great goal.

On a violent use of pre-existing/original harmony

It’s interesting, Weishin just pointed out on my post about “chopsticks unity” on FB the dangers of harmony.  Indeed, the overemphasis (which I don’t see in the text I offered) may be used in other contexts to emphasize “pre-existing/original harmony.”

This is certainly a subtle, vicious, violent…an elegant domination, and domination all the same.  I’ve seen this at temples, in families, in people I’ve treated internally, in my own processes as I move through traumas.  We say heartbreak is the beginning of all illnesses and small fractures, those hairline fractures that are easy to avoid accountability for (e.g. for microaggressions, for denial, for gaslighting, for delaying support).

For example, a friend of mine is dealing with a (possibly terminally) ill parent.  Having lost a parent already, and with strained relationships with her sibling, her remaining parent is trying to take this opportunity of illness to enforce the “you and your sibling are the only one left.  You must stick together.  You’re all you ever have now!”  Then the parent’s new wife tries to blame my friend for being the one who caused her father’s illness for staying away from his abusive dynamic.

In this “web” of lies and darkness, the enforcement of returning to original harmony disregards the original trauma, the turning away from truth, which is the remaining parent’s responsibility.  Furthermore, what the parent is enforcing is his own meaning vs. the truth which stands and emits, resonates and relates in unity with the truth of each other person.  Meaning is often confused for truth.  

Still there are importance in understanding meaning, what has been “enforced” or forcibly lived out, even if it is not the truth.  I think from my body work practice, that it’s vital to understand how someone has been straining herself (through stretching, questions about lifestyle and such)…the corporeal, psychological, ecological and moral strain, in order to support her in re-centering in her truth.  If something is not resonating, out of syncronity/unity, we must know what is shattering.  The human being has an incredible instinct for healing, though often submerged, especially under domination which thwarts the genius of “original” instincts.  But these can all be reset, rebalanced.  We must ask as we support someone in their healing, why do you need to hold onto something?  to feel alive?  so that means you experience death most of the time.

Ethan’s response:

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I hope something in here warrants a good continual inquiry.  Thanks to JM for the question!  I’ll continue my studies with this expanded awareness and curiousity.

 

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Reflections from Standing Rock

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Reflection Questions from Buddhist Peace Fellowship Contingent

 

How has the prayerful resistance work of the water protectors influenced your vision of spiritually-informed organizing? What do you think Standing Rock has to offer to those of us feeling tired or overwhelmed about racism, policing, and climate change? 

In the beginning of organizing, an elder I lived with warned me to find another way to organize or risk burnout. “We always thought the revolution was around the corner and died every day waiting, fighting. Then we woke up 15 years later, burned out in our bodies, bank accounts, communities, relationships. You have got to find another way.” She was 38 at the time and just left an ED position in the South Bronx, working with her community of queer poor Boricua mujeres. In my time organizing in NYC and Texas, it often was an experience of fire, inner and outer and each injustice fed another.

What I saw in Standing Rock was a way to come from a non anthropomorphic wholeness to address each arising dynamic with generosity and healing. It was a wisdom, ancient and new. For anyone that was invited, we were invited into our hearts, and the heartbeat of the camp via prayer. The reminder to return to prayer (not panic! During a camp conflagration) in all moments kept us united to our ancestors, our descendants, our communities, the breathing land and water. This is 同心協力,一心一意。the strength of shared mind/heart, the united will of one mind/heart. It made palpable a way to face the depths of poison and motivation within and in wholeness of our adversaries and adversities.

What are your main takeaways? How are you inspired to “bring it home”?

I’m contemplating transmission of Dharma deeply, with my root in Taiwan and the seeding of Dharma in turtle island and the existing Dharma here on turtle island. Many questions and actions through contemplative writing.

Is it possible that the Dharma fails to flourish and grow like a strong banyan tree, protecting the marginalized and serving as a spiritual resort for the elites, because it is embedded/rooted in the psychic layer of settler colonialism called USA?  What is lacking that there is a missing rigorous engagement with the realities of suffering? What would open up if there were ceremonies to acknowledge and heal this?

How could we educate our Buddhist communities about the necessity of reciprocity and decolonization as a way to prepare to ground of being for Dharma?

Has Buddhism in the west ever been transmitted to decolonized places? And what tools are the most useful in Buddhist practices to support decolonization?

What are the ways that Buddhism has benefited from the entitlement of religions following Christian hegemony? What are ways that decolonized Dharma humbly recognizes the dharma and universal truths and indigenous wisdom and cosmologies that have populated these lands?

At Oceti Sakowin, observing the violence of spiritual appropriation, the rerouting of spiritual energies towards white self soothing, I saw more deeply into the suffering behind cheap appropriation of Dharma. That there was a wish for liberation and an illusion of self and source. Which in turn fed the cycle of violence that turned everything and everyone else into resources. Unfortunately, the unsolved suffering just aggravates the practice of taking taking taking and gross entitlement. We can come to the path through the recognition of suffering, yet without the proper foundation and grounding, even the benefits of the path are consumed.  Decolonization is the Dharma practice of cultivating right view and undoing the fetters that bind us to wrong paths and dynamics.

I’m examining my own arrogance and inherited ideas that bypass the complexities by saying Buddhism is the answer, versus a supporting pillar in the spiritualities that enrich the land and people of the west.

Working to publish “decolonizing Dharma” in Buddhadharma, as a follow up to Funie’s article…and in reflection of my responsibility as an inheritor and defender and student of dharma.

Who are 3 people or groups you met at Standing Rock that you’d like other BPF folks to know about? What about them left an impression on you?

Robert–Blue Coat.  Author of “Indian Wars since 1492”.  I met Robert on one of the last days at camp, when the blizzard had coated the grounds with snow and ice. His posture was so steady and he didn’t need to step with trepidation so when this was his home, it made sense. His somatic wisdom emanated and we talked about sharing tea and writer’s fellowship.  Since a lot of my time was dedicated to medic bodywork, and I spent time wondering how to center indigenous somatic practices, meeting him was the beginning of that answer. He knew how to move and walk in the inclement climate, and perhaps that knowledge of how to sit, stand, lie down and walk could be taught to visitors.

Quetzala -Decolonization facilitator and educator. Quetzala’s vision and motivation for those classes and sharing their knowledge impressed me deeply. In the circle Lakota style facilitation space, I’ve never seen someone simultaneously teaching and open to learning and being called in all at once, which humility and fluidity. Their warmth and extension of friendship to so many folks was inspiring and a practice to bring home.

Medic Bus-B.A. was the indigenous elder from Hawaii, via Arizona. Also a veteran who served as a trauma medic, he came to camp ready to host and set up a warming station for folks needing care on the southwest side of camp. I remember his commitment, affability and availability at all hours, as well as care for the caretakers (allopathic doctors Joanna and Alex from Portland), and the blend of security and medic work. Every doctor/medics commitment to be ready to pour their health into the work was humbling and created such a strong bond of trust.

A-AAPI mental health resources

Here’s a list of methods I’ve observed friends, acquaintances, myself utilize in Asia and the United States.

Especially in these times, suffering and pain are extremely ordinary.  The stigma for recognizing and working with mental health and illness sucks.

Not all are mental health specific, as health is not fragmentable.  We here will use mental health as a starting point to look.  I have observed that political engagement (there’s a real element of political pain that drives great work and I’m glad the therapeutic industry is connecting the dots and talking politics) , working in teams, leadership, spiritual training, community organizing, exercise, love/lust…anything that requires connection requires us to get responsible with our pain.  To heal, let the wound breath. And when you do let it out, let it out in safe, intentional spaces to process. Do your best not to emotionally hemorrhage all over and seek forgiveness when you do.

1. my mind/suffering/liberation is part of

2. our mind/suffering/liberation is part of

3. absolute mind/suffering/liberation.

It’s impossible to be perfect, especially as we have subconscious/conscious/superconscious levels of mind, and our habitual reactions of aversion/craving are lifetimes deep.  So how do we cultivate the energy of compassion (not simply cognitive/emotional empathy), wisdom and mindfulness?

Goal and process of healing: cultivate compassionate awareness for yourself, others, animals, plants, earth.  Energetically, emotionally, physically, communally, non-verbally, spiritually, mentally, politically.  

 

New York City, NY: 

Houston, TX:

Howard County, MD:

United States:

Hong Kong:

  • Seems like churches and feminists circles are the sites of healthier healing. And lots of herbal soup stores.

Taiwan:

  • Fembooks bookstore in Taipei, Ketagalan Boulevard protests, many temples, churches.  LesLoveBoat has a queer Iching and tarot service that functions as a confessional/secular/queer safe space for a society that still has mental illness as a major taboo.

Global:

  • Write in a diary daily.
  • Make something with your hands.  What did your ancestors do?  We’re losing our bodies’ tactile and kinesthetic wisdom by not using.
  • Eat something healthy.  Do non-analysis things.
  • Write letters to people you’re working through tough communications with. Don’t hurry to send them. Confrontation, celebration, all require contemplation.
    • A nun once taught me that a healthy conversation requires 3 conditions and to hold your tongue until these conditions are present:
      • Is this space safe for all involved?
      • Is the other party ready to listen?
      • Do you know what you intend to communicate?
  • Eat compassionately. Tend towards vegetarian. How our food was processed/killed/ended its life affects the consumer. We are creatures y’all. Use your discretion, be mindful that you’re connected to all sentient beings.
  • Travel.  Go home–wherever that may be. And with bullshit immigration laws and xenophobia preventing this healing practice, fight for all people and animals to move as needed.
  • Meditation Practice: Sattiphana Sutta on the 4 Foundations of Mindfulness and a funny F*CK THAT! Guided Meditation.
  • Temple/Mosque/Church: some folks find a faith practice helps root them in a community and calming routine.
  • Exercise: tennis, push ups, weight lifting, yoga, marathons, P90x, jump rope, tai-chi, qi-gong…translate that potential energy into kinetic energy.
  • Chill in nature and hang with animals.
  • Talk to your friends. But they aren’t your therapists. Especially women and people of color, queer folks…especially Black women. Ask if it’s ok because they said so after an explicit agreement…pay them (in cash or something useful) if you’re going to treat them like a therapist. Keep that relationship balanced.
  • Talk to your family, blood/chosen, whichever is healthiest.
  • Routine technology, political and social media sabbaths. Unplug. Then unplug your mind.
  • Vipassana Retreats: secular, free lodging and food, 10 days.
  • Co-Dependents Anonymous: especially when you’re low on funds/access, these groups can be quite beneficial as listening spaces without judgement.
  • Landmark Education: starts with the Forum which is $$$. It’s a breakthrough course that offers gestalt training to examine your living and paradigms in new ways for new actions. Communication courses are top notch.
  • Lush Cosmetics: Fresh handmade cosmetics that’s got human rights, animal rights and environmental causes as it’s company goal and a slight anti-capitalist tendency. Feel good, smell good, do good (as much as a company can).

 

Media (mostly in english–sourcing for non-english sites):

 

 

 

3 am calls

Last night I was woken up to 2 calls that my father’s been vomiting up coffee ground like substance non stop.  It’s been 4 days since we sat together and he was mumbling about bicycles and cursing out mom’s mom “that old woman person”.

What is that feeling of navigating his dying in a home that barely cares for his body?  Slowly the nurses move, unswerved from slow meanderings down hotel like hallways.  Telling me they don’t understand him well because he’s not a native English speaker.  No, what is clear about his unclarity is his dementia, his blood being coughed up.  The lack of doctors, trained medical professionals who can observe his chart and his symptoms…and they’re trying to put this on his English?  It’s an overwhelming feeling that still in the end, they pin incoherence on his accent over his actual illness and their lack of comprehension.

Or when sending him to the hospital at 3am, musing out loud he should go to hospice.  The strong adherence to protocol and personal opinions…

Incoherence.

When did care and attention to a person’s dignity get so expensive?

Citizens of Color : Lili

The unstoppable Lili of La Luna, Berryville, AR tells her stories of how La Luna came to be, moving from Guatemala to LA to AR, staying strong in the face of bad aunties/domestic violence/gringos/fools who try to shut down her business/Tyson’s chicken/death of loved ones…and refinding love across borders and standing on her own. “Fuck you! Be free!”

Citizens of Color : Adrienne

“I’ve had incredible models around me of truth tellers.  And some of them were people who did their truth telling through writing or other forms of art.”

Talking in a box in a box in a box! The incredible and delightful Adrienne Perry tells her story of coming to writing in Houston from Cheyenne, WY and Paris, France…Weaving together superfund sites (shout out to T.E.J.A.S.) Buddhism, birth work and writing as a spiritual practice, literary ancestors and birthing books, trauma of/and land and violent monolingualism, romanticism/travel/silence as a necessary part of living and practice. And…an urgent benediction to the young writer of any age.