Wednesday, November 25, 2020

UnTrumping Our Country

 I have finally settle into some feeling of confidence that we will not have an unending rule of Trump. I have stopped the 4 years of breath holding, as I watched the march towards the "signs of fascism" check list playing out in my country of birth.   See previous post written 4 years ago when Trump won: for the actual list from historians on the steps towards fascism.  

So as we emerge into a new ruler of Corporate America or Empire in Decline 2020, I am clear on some important agenda items clearly revealed by the last 4 year debacle.  These are agenda items for if we ever want to reclaim a democracy, for if we don't want to live in Oligarchy.

1) Serious Election Reform: It means passing absolute protections for voters right to vote.  This would include figuring out the least tamperproof way of voting and making it the standard for our country (to hell with every county having a different way of doing it and different technology and some poor counties having inadequate machines).  It means making registration be automatic with getting a drivers license (as hugely freed the Black vote in GA) and an easy way for people who don't drive to also register.  It means passing national protections for physically safe voting during an election.   In other words that it is guaranteed on the Federal level so no state court can ever again block a governor for ordering changes to accomodate protecting people's health during a pandemic or other health threat.  Also perhaps by determining a national standard for how we vote it will take care of this but assuring that access to polling places cannot be restricted to make voting burdensome and that options are always available to people who work on voting day.   Working should never be an obstacle to voting.

2) Overturn Citizen's United - or election finance reform.   This will also need to be accomplished from a national bill.  We need to outlaw dark money, and the best way to get the influence of money out of politics is just to set a ceiling for total amount of campaign advertising any candidate can spend.  It will level the playing field and bring those of us who were harassed by hateful ads full of lies and endless robocalls some peace.   Maybe then candidates would have to campaign on the strength of their message!

3) Police reform nationwide - we are tired of the murder of BIPOC people in our streets by the police.  This must stop.  This cannot be regulated, jurisdiction by jurisdiction, or state by state.  Just like the passage of the civil rights bill reformed Jim Crow obstructions to voting (till over thrown by a biased Supreme Court) this problem of police violence must be solved on a national level.  All of the standardly understood reforms like: de-escalation training for police, anti-bias training, body cams, no choke holds, etc. etc must be passed on a national level.  In addition we must start seperating out on a national level the jobs that really belong to social workers - like responding to mentally ill citizens or wellness checks and start removing those jobs from police jobs and shift the funding.   We also must demilitarize the police.  There is no reason, never was, and never should be a reason for our police departments to be the "used equipment" sale ground of the military.   Military level weapons should be banned from police departments!  What might you say does this have to do with fascism?  The increased militarization of police and use of them to control civilian populations is part of every facisist state.

4) Assure the Teaching of Science in our public schools - between climate change and the pandemic it is clear that a scarily high percentage of Americans don't really understand how science comes to its outcomes or believe in science.   It is time this changes.  It will only really change if we teach it in our schools.

5) Protect a Free Press and its role in a democracy.  Between the effects of more and more people getting news online and more and more papers dying and less actual reporters in the world a free press is at risk and it is actually considered one of the cornerstones of democracy.   It has also been under attack for 4 years by Trump which is typical under fascism that press becomes centralized, controlled and delegitimized.   So I am going to stop treating press as service to choose or not choose and treat it as a cause to support because I believe in it.  So I am going to buy actual online subscriptions as "donations".   But beyond that it is very clear that anti-trust law will have to be applied to the consolidation of media which has brought us things like Fox news.  We may also need some laws that clarify the line between opinion and the reporting of facts and return us to an era when the "editorial page" or the anchor opinion piece were distinct and the line was not blurred.  The marriage between Fox news and the President more closely mirrored a propaganda channel or state sponsored news then a free press.

6)  Decriminalizing the PIBOC community - It is time to end the disproportionate prosecution and longer sentencing of people of color.  It is a long haul to a complete redo of our justice system.  However, some good first steps would be mandatory anti-racism/anti-bias training for all prosecutors, defense attorneys and judges.  We also need to move to a restorative justice model for all non-violent crimes. There is a long list of what needs to be done in this arena

7) Defining the 25th Amendment.   While there are many things I do not agree with Nancy Pelosi about, I do agree that the 25th Amendment if not clear enough.  Even before Trump it left a lot of grey areas about what to do if a President was simply under anthesia for a brief procedure, or was temporarily disabled by heavy drugs, or temporary medical symptoms.   It sort of relies on the person holding the office to use good judgement before being disabled and to act in good faith.   However, as we have seen under Trump if a presidents mental health deteriorates they maybe the last person to admit it.  Thus we need a procedure which has been agreed to years before it is needed and which both parties recognize could be relief for a country from a bad situation.   It needs to be spelled out very clearly!  Given that we now know 6 presidents were deeply disabled/ill/dying at the end of their terms (and a few wives were secretly running the country) we just really need this reform.

8) Election disclosure reform.   Before the 2016 election it had been "tradition" for a long time that the Presidential candidates released both their tax returns for a number of years and also their annual medical exam results.   I think it is fair for the voters to know if someone who is going to rule this country is playing fair, paying their share, and is healthy enough to lead.  Once again Trump proved these traditions are only as good as someone operating in good faith.  I believe that once not shielded, we will learn of the depth of both his health problems and the depth of debt he was in that would have made him ineligible for national security clearance, if not elected, because of the risk of blackmail or influence peddling.   This should never happen to our country again and can be prevented by passing a bill requiring these two disclosures of Presidential candidates.

9)  Ethics reform - rather than counting on meaningless promises to "drain the swamp" followed by just the opposite - lets make it law that someone who has been a lobbyist cannot be hired onto a cabinet post of head of a dept for at least 4 years after serving as a lobbyist.   (This may also help some people not take lobbying position at the end of an administration if they hope in another 4 years to serve another President).  Let's also in that same bill make nepotism illegal.  No hiring of family members into white house positions or cabinet positions.

10) The End of the Electoral College!  This one is so past due!  Given that 2 of the 5 times that a President has gotten into office without winning the popular vote have happened in the last 20 years.  It beyond clear that this structure was put into place by a land owning aristocratic founding fathers who did not fully trust the popular vote, and attempted to have a way to "correct" it through privileged electoral college voters "if needed".   All this had really done is leave a way to manipulate away from the will of the people.   Previously people have argued that some populist nut case could get it in if there was no electoral college.  Quite the opposite, given that the electoral college, not the popular vote gave it to Trump in 2016, there is literally NO justification for this elitist institution.  This will be hard to correct thru a constitutional amendment, as nothing is easy to do that way.  But if a few more states pass the interstate compact against the electoral college it will be done!  If you live in a state that has not passed it yet...please do this work! 

11) End Gerrymandering - As some have become painfully aware in the past 4 years - how one party has kept itself in power especially in state houses but also in the House is by creating districts that are so absurdly drawn that they look like paint splats on a map.  It should be federal law that a bi-partisan commission draws the map, and it stops being the work of the party in control assuring that it remains in power.   The same new legislation should protect the Census gathering which sets us up for the redrawing of districts.   Protections should be put in place to prevent the politizing of basic data collection.

12) Restrictions on Pardons - Again the founding fathers imagined that whoever would be elected President would be a fair and honorable person.  They never would have imagined the cronism and deceit of pardoning colleagues who are charged with committing crimes on behalf of the sitting administration.   Since that has happened under the most corrupt Presidents (Nixon and Trump) let's place a limit on Presidential pardons.   Presidents should be restricted from pardoning anyone who is charged with committing a crime in service of the current administration.

13) Protection of whistle blowers - It is critical to accountability within a democracy  that whistleblowers can bring to the attention of the public and the press wrong doings that are happening within the government without fear of loss of life, career or reputation.   The active firing and punishment of whistleblowers has a chilling silencing effect that breeds loyalty to authoritarian leaders and a climate of fear rather than openness in government service.  Although we have a national whistleblower law apparently it again needs to be actually made law that whistleblowers cannot be fired.  I hope the incoming President will restore the title and retirement benefits of everyone who was wrongfully fired.

14) Protection of civil servants- this country has always had civil servant positions in DC that were bipartisan.   People were career civil servants and served under each administration of either party, faithfully carrying out administrative duties.   Under Trump various employment protections were removed so they could be fired at will - again making the workings of government hinge on loyalty rather than faithful duty.   This was particularly troubling when applied to immigration judges so they became vulnerable to being fired for a decision that the Administration did not like - jeopardizing the notion of a free and seperate judiciary.  I hope the incoming administration will restore the protections for civil servants and immigration judges and also reemploy any who were removed for opposing the lawless behavior of the previous occupants of the White House.  This is part of why Hitler had so much power is because all levels of government were loyal to him and operated in the fear of being perceived as not loyal.

15)  The end to enemies and racial targeting - the hallmark of fascism is the identifying and targeting of enemies.  In Nazi Germany it was Jews - as well as LBGQT folks, and radicals.   In Trumps America it has been Muslims and Mexicans and Black people.   It is time for this 4 year reign of hate and terrorism to end!  We have a lot of children and parents to reunite, and a lot of restitution to be paid for the trauma's that have been induced.  Clearly we will need to work hard on the teaching of tolerance and anti-racism.   We need to correctly identify right wing hate groups and white supremist groups as national terrorist groups.   I look forward to the day where when they march in a state capitol that the President speaks out condemning the behavior and when attempts to kidnap a governor is met with support from the national level and is followed by aggressive prosecution of actions like this that simply bring fear and unrest to our communities.  I look forward to when peaceful protestors are not treated as threats and violent protests are stopped.

16) No National Service - we MAY have stopped just short of instituting a Nazi like Hitler's Youth.  For the last two years the Trump administration has been positioning in reaction to a lawsuit that rightfully pointed out that drafting only men is sex discrimination, to make a youth service corp for all young people between the ages of 18 and 24 to serve two years.  Some would serve in the military and some in civilian service such as building the hated wall.  It would be better to end compulsory service for either gender and move toward the ending of our endless wars.  Militarism is another sign post of fascism, nationalism, and empire.  Our military is $100 billion dollars more in 2020 than it was in 2016.  Let's cut the bloated military budget.

17) The end to rampant sexism...and isms.   It will be such a relief to not have a President who is charged with 16 sexual assaults on women and who constantly displays blatant disrespect and misogyny.  (President Biden is also charged with sexually inappropriate behavior).  But it is nice to have a cabinet that is not an old boys club.   It will be nice to not have sexism, racism, able-bodiedism, classism and homophobia and Xenophobia modeled by the most visible position in the nation to our children.   Facicism uses the control of women as one of the ways to control a population.  By stacking the Supreme Court to overthrow Roe Vs Wade, despite the vast majority of Americans supporting it...we were well on the way to returning to a state imposed control over female bodies.   We will have to work hard in the next few years to counter the stacking of the courts and for the passage of the ERA so we can end the legal ability to suppress women.

18) The end of censorship - a classic tool of fascism used to control the expression of ideas.   No more will government websites forbid the use of terms related to climate change, or dismiss or silence climate scientists who work for the federal government or scientists or doctors attempting to tell the truth about the virus even if it is inconvenient to the occupants of public office whose policies maybe flawed.  It maybe necessary to pass laws prohibiting the censorship of government employees.

19) National neighbors - fascist countries/Imperialist nations terrorize other countries.   We have been doing so for decades.   But it would be nice to go back to keeping our treaties, not insulting other leaders at every turn with culturally inappropriate behavior, and being in some way participants in global efforts to work on global problems.

I am under no illusion that President Biden is some sort of saint; he is neo-liberal.   I do not expect all these things to be done.   I do expect some of them to be done.  Some of this will depend upon what happens in the Georgian Senate racism and if Congress is able to act with some unity.  But mainly I name these things because this is OUR work to do if we want a democracy.

Sunday, October 11, 2020

Living in the God Space

It is very tumultuous times in the US.  We are facing the most important election in our history.  One that will determine if we stop being a democracy and become an oligarchy instead.  It is very unclear what will happen, and this is happening in the midst of a global pandemic uncontrolled in the US due to lack of leadership.

I feel like I have been distracted from my professional life as a psychotherapist, distracted from my clients.  So today in Meeting I was praying for my clients.  For me what this meant was to hold each of them one by one in my attention and imagine them whole.  There were some clear themes that emerged of what seemed need to be and feel whole:  To know that one is loveable and loved, to be able to lay down the injuries of that past to come fully into the present, to be able to self sooth and come into the peace of our universe, to be able to set boundaries so no harm comes and to be able to not have to try to hard, to relax into the universe as it is.

This made me think of quote (misattributed to Nelson Mandela but actually from Marianne Williamson) that has long been on my bulletin board:

"You're a child of God.  Your playing small doesn't serve the world.  There's nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insurece.around you.  We were born to manifest the gory of God that is with us; it's in everyone.  As we let our Light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.  As we are liberated from our fear, our presence automatically liberates others."

That quote for me is about living into the bigness of who are as a Child of God.  Who we really are before and after injury.

Recently when Trump was admitted to the hospital for Covid, I noticed a wonderful space opened up for me.  It is was not the space created by rejoicing in his illness or potential death, but it was a space in which I was able to imagine for the first time in a long time my country not controlled or diminished or manipulated by him.  It was a space where he is no longer President and no longer can create havoc.  There was much relief and peace and possibility in that space. What I quickly came to realize was that whether he left the hospital, alive or dead, that it was I who was in charge of that space. It was a space I could choose to stay in and or to dwell with, or I could in fear return to a universe controlled by Trump.

This makes me think of the words in the Peace Testimony: "We utterly deny outward strife and tumult.  We live in the Life and Power that takes away the occasion for all wars".   Think of that it is a space, an energy that is not war, the opposite of war, a place without outward strife and tumult.   And we live into that space.  It too is a choice as one could live in the space where there is war and tumult.

I am not talking here about some Pollyanna world where we close our eyes and do not see or feel war, or Trump, or the injuries my clients have suffered.  I am simply saying that in the God space there is another set of possibilities.  Ones with more wholeness, more peace, more possibilities for growth, healing and justice.

Saturday, September 26, 2020

To Elder

 Quakers have this funny practice called Eldering.  Even the name of it is antiquated.  It comes from a time when someone very respected was called an Elder.  However, from early on in Quakerism because of the value on equalatrism it was recognized that young people and women could be elders.  (Rather unheard to in the 1600s).  This was because it was a mark of being mature in the Spirit.   The person was a spiritual elder, someone who lived a grounded, spirit inspired life.  They understood Quaker practice and the underlying beliefs that went with Quaker practice.

There were many roles that Elders played.  They sat on the facing bench and held the Meeting in the Light, thereby deepening the worship.  They acted as anchors and mentors for Friends engaging in new ministry.  They often would accompany a Friend who was in traveling ministry to help them stay true to their Light and not overshoot their leading. They would speak with and nurture those who were newly giving ministry in Friends Meeting, encouraging the development of faithful ministry.

But the practice of eldering is something slightly different.  It was/is the modern day equivalent of "calling in" ( the opposite of calling someone out which is often with anger and criticism.)  It was to speak to someone who was seen to be morally straying, or lost, or beyond their light, or behaving inappropriately and to lovingly call them back into the Light.  A powerful example of this was when John Woolman would travel and meet with Quakers who were owning slaves and he would speak to them or the moral wrong they were doing TO THEIR OWN SOUL, and plead with them to sell their slaves.   This is not to say that he did not believe in abolition or have great concern for the well being of the slaves.  But since he saw slavery as a sin, he reasoned that to own a slave was a sin that corrupted and damaged the soul of the slave owner just as much as the enslaved person.

That was the power of eldering but it also got its self a bad name in the middle years of Quakerism when it became a sort of rigid litmus test of moral conformity with people being "written out of Meeting" by Meeting elders for such sins as singing, dancing, wearing lace or marrying outside of the faith.  The over correction for this was Friends largely have turned their back on this practice.  I regard this as too bad because from my point of view we are sadly lacking true eldering in modern Meetings.  We both lack Friends who are really grounded in Quaker practice, we lack mentoring for younger friends in everything from clerking to giving faith ministry....but most importantly we lack a real accountability when things go estray.

Friends to a large degree have drifted into an American Liberalism - a desire to be open and accepting to everyone - to a point that often surrenders having an actual defined set of beliefs or boundaries.  While Friends drift towards a more codified set of testimonies, calling them "SPICES", we oddly do not stand up for these truths that we have found.   If Friends exhibit conspicuous and unsustainable possessions we do not even lovingly discuss Simplicity with them.   When male Friends exhibit learned male privilege in our gatherings, we either sigh and turn away or attack with a Feminist critique, but we do not lovingly labor with them over how and why to change that behavior.  It is rare that anyone talks about how us pacifists are all paying for war. We accept many behaviors in our committees and our business meeting which are frankly secular behaviors from our work places that are not part of Quaker Faith and Practice.  (see also previous post on eldering and conflict:

"Quakers behaving badly" is a phrase that brings a slight chuckle and smile to most long time Friends faces.  Yes we know about Friends being behaving badly -we have seen it many times.   This ranges from Friends who speak too often and too long.  Friends who "mansplain" Quakerism (and other subjects) to the rest of us.  Friends who rant and lecture about politics to the rest of us.  Friends who talk about the news in Meeting for worship and who have never given a spirit filled message in their life. (Is this NPR or is this God?)  Alignating young people and people of color with unconscious ageism and or racism.   Letting fear about changing from "the way we have always done it" get in the way of considering what new Light might show us.   Over editing minutes, hung up on Grammar rather than finding what Spirit is trying to say through us.  Being attached to forms over the purpose they were intended to serve. Friends who have tantrums in business or committee meetings, who we silently allow to do this to everyone else. Refusing to talk about critical issues because we are uncomfortable with conflict and have forgotten that Light is available on all subjects.    Unable to identify what we believe because we are practicing acceptance of all to the point where there is no Spiritual Center.  I could go on, and feel free to add some of your own in comments below.

But the bottom line is we will continue to have Friends who are behaving badly until we again have Elders who can lovingly share Quaker practice and belief with those Friends behaving badly and loving show them another, Quakerly set of possibilities.

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Covid is still teaching

When the pandemic first started I felt fairly clear about its connection to spirit - it seemed it had come to teach us to slow down, to connect again to the earth - and so with that I felt a certain peace about it.  (See past 6 posts).  But as the pandemic continues on, and on, and on, and on with no apparent end in sight, I like so many grow weary.   I am sad that we cannot learn better and prevent so many deaths.  I grieve for all the people who have lost loved ones, and how have lost jobs.  I'm saddened for the young people who graduate without graduations, or cannot start schools or careers or even hold a marriage ceremony.

As I start to notice that it is about impossible to start anything or even complete anything for that matter, I begin to puzzle at Spirits intention for the length of this?  Have we not slowed down enough?   My daughter wrote an amazing poem about the 6 feet of distance, and the 6 degrees of separation and the ways in which these two things teach us that we are all intricately connected to each other.

As I complained to a Friend about the endless of this experience she replied: apparently we are not done learning.  And I realized she is right.  If we are suppose to learn that everyone on the planet is intimately connected to all other lives - tethered in a web of life to which we all depend and to which we all impact....then we have not yet learned it.   The masks are not to protect ourselves but to protect others and yet we cannot yet embrace that we have a sacred responsibility to each other to protect each other.  Some people are still working on the chapter of believing that science is truth - still struggling how to know that this experience is true.  But for the vast majority that believe it true we still have yet to learn how to honor our connection to each other.

So I guess we shall be held neither moving forward or backwards till we can learn that we are all connected.

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Spirit Message for the Pandemic

I have previously on a different blog written about a prayer practice I have of offering up a question in prayer and then opening various spiritually meaningful books and receiving their answer.   A while back I did this asking God:  What would you have me know about this pandemic?  The answers below speak to me of viewing the pandemic as a spiritual event, of examining how we live in the world, understanding the dying which is happening more now, as part of a cycle of life and death that is part of the human experience, how to face our own potential mortality and that of those we love.

Below are the messages I received:
From the Book Emmanuel II: "As you learn to perceive with an open heart, what seems to be taking place on the physical plane of your world, it becomes time to speak.  What? Anything your heart tells you.  To whom?  Anyone who will listen.  The moment you speak from love and not from fear, you assume the mantle of leadership..your responsibility is to hear your own hear.  this is a schoolroom for learning how to love what appears to be absolutely unloveable."

From Thomas Kelly in a Testament of Devotion  There is an experience of the Eternal breaking into time, which transforms all life into a miracle of faith and action.  Unspeakable, profound, and full of glory as an inward experience, it is the root of concern for all creation, the true ground of social endeavor. This inward Life and the the outward concern are truly one whole and were it possible, ought to be described simultaneously.

The Prophet by Kilbran  The section of Freedom
"You shall be free indeed when your days are not without a care or your nights without a want and a grief, but rather when these things girdle your life and yet you rise above them naked and unbound.

The Book of Emmanuel I: the door that unlocks the soul into incarnation can fufill many purposes; teaching others ass well as self.  When a life is designed to serve both ends then the cause and the call are magnificent.  At those times, the higher wisdom can say "And this is necessary now". ....Can a soul learn from a type of fear so pervasive that there is no space for understanding?  The soul can learn.  Perhaps the human being cannot.

Wayne Dyer The Power of Intention:
With self as a focal point, you sustain the illusion that you are your body, which is a completely seperate entity from all others.  This sense of separateness leads you to compete rather than cooperate.  Ultimately its a "no-match" with Spirit, and becomes a huge obstacle to your connection to the power of Source. 

Michael Singer The Untethered Soul.
This is how negative cycles happen.  You actually take a piece of your stuff, which is nothing but deeply seated disturbance from your past, and you implant it in the heart of those around you. ...This is how people ruin relationships and destroy their lives.   Do you doubt that a single blockage getting hit in your heart could case a fall that lasts a lifetime?  I has been known to happen...when a block gets hit, its a good thing.  It's time to open up internally and release the block energy.

If you fall along the way, just get up and forget it.  Use the lessons to strengthen your resolve.  Let go right then.  Do not rationalize, blame, or try to figure it out.  Don't do anything.  Just let go immediately, and allow the energy to go back to the highest center of consciousness it can achieve.

Friday, May 8, 2020

I sent you a warning....

Have you heard the joke about the man who is in a flood and he is on the roof of his house and he prays for God to save him?  First a log goes by, then a boat, then a helicopter.  Each time he says no he is waiting for God to save him.  When he finally drowns he angrily confronts God and God says to him:  “What did you want?  I sent you a log, a boat and a helicopter and you turned them all down!

I feel in this pandemic situation that God is saying; “Well I have been trying to warn you.”
In 2011 I sent a draught so severe to the Southwest that the Churches prayed for rain as the cattle died.

I sent you innumerable hurricane’s: Sandy, Katrina, Harvey, and Dorian...over 410 billion in damage. I sent Mathew to destroy Haiti and Maria to destroy Puerto Rico…and all you did was turn your gaze away.

I sent you record flooding last year devastating your breadbasket

Last year I sent 6,782 separate fires to California alone burning over 2 Trillion dollars worth of homes.

And when that did not get your attention, I burned a whole continent of Australia, over 100 billions worth.

But still you said:  “Too bad for those people”.
So now I have sent you Corona – a problem so global that no one can ignore it, so deadly that no one can minimize it.  I have brought you to a halt, I have joined you at the hip….and now do I have your attention?

I, Lynn, need to be clear, I do not believe in an Old Testament God who is vengeful and all powerful and goes around smiting people.  I believe in a Mother Earth, a Universe that is intelligent and an eco-system of which humans are but one player in an intricately and yes divinely woven interdependent and quite perfect system.  But due to a reductionist error in both how our brains process and in how the great theologies of the world have worked, we have seen ourselves as separate from and above or in charge of nature, and it has lead to catastrophically bad choices.
For that reason I want to learn the lessons Corona is trying to teach us.

The first one, just incredible gratitude for all that I am so privileged to have: my health, still a job, food to eat, and a roof over my head that I own that will be mine even after other hard times go by.

I want to learn to slow down and be still and hear what the earth is telling us, that it is sick, very, very sick and needing our help.  Global emissions are already down 5%
I want to notice the way it tells us all our fates are linked as one.
I want to notice God’s cry to care for the least of these among us in this time of suffering.

I want to take up the demand for a jubilee year – for the forgiveness of all debt, to let us start from square zero to rebuild, not for some amongst us to start from square negative 10.

I want out of the destruction before us to rise up like the phoenix to build a new society, one based upon justice and humanity out of the rubble of the disaster we have wrought with policies that have made it worse.

Saturday, April 11, 2020

Who Am I?

Who am I? is an exercise in the Alternatives to Violence Project three day workshops on non-violence.  In the exercise, on 10 tiny slips of paper one lists all of the "identities" that one identifies with.   Eg: Mother, therapist, Quaker, woman, activist, etc.    Then one places them in order of importance with least important on the bottom.  Then you are invited to turn the pile over taking the least important one and "throw it away" - feeling into what it would be like to no longer have that identity.  Then you throw away the next one, sensing into that.....and so it continues.  The instructor manual warns to leave people with 3 identities and only suggest they could release the final 3 if it felt right to do that.

This is an exercise I did dozens and dozens of times in my time as an AVP facilitator.  As the pandemic swept in bringing the ban on travel to and from Europe, and stay in place recommendations and then events cancelled ranging at first from long distance travel and conferences to events over 100, and eventually....EVERYTHING, I found myself in a life size game of Who am I.
First releasing my vacation trip, then the conference for 180 people I had planned for months for the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day, then a workshop to be given in Portland, and then Friends General Conference and the workshop I was to give there.  Later even more painfully I would surrender the local Earthday parade: Procession of the Species, and FolkLife - a Memorial Day weekend of fun I have attended every year for 32 years without fail.

I was sort of surprised how easily the identities/expectations fell, although some were harder than others.  But there was simply a feeling of falling into a new world, an alternative reality in which none of those things existed and where nothing involving human contact existed.  In the liminal space which I had entered where everything and anything (both bad, unexpected and even good in a new way) seemed possible - these old identifies seemed almost irrelevant.

Since then I have listened to a number of people who have service identities who have been unable to serve in their accustomed ways because of stay at home orders, talk about how hard it feels to not be able to help, but even more strange how lost they feel without that role (identity).  As it so happens I believe that it is deep in our DNA in response to crisis to help others - this after all from our first tribal time was how we survived.  And it is the thing I most detest about this crisis - that its very nature forces us to go against the instinct to help.   However, when serving other people goes from being an impulse to an identity - one which one is profoundly uncomfortable with, than perhaps something else is actually happening.  Many people are also having to release the identify of "busy" which for many is also a defining identity and find new experiences of how to be connected to other people - both the ones under their roof and the ones they cannot see in person.   We are being forced to find other ways of both entertaining and exercising ourselves - ways more simple and perhaps basic to original human existence.

Some people talk about when things go back to normal.   I hope they don't; I hope we will learn some things from this gigantic game of Who Am I.   As was always the case with Who Am I there is the opportunity as you throw away external identities to find, or notice again, ones own more core spiritual identify and to discover the eternal nature of the soul that is always with us underneath the external wrapping.   To know more deeply who we really are.