Why I Do Cloth Diapers

My 81 year old Filipino Grandma hangs crinkly and yellowed zip lock bags and latex gloves to drip dry in the garage. She rescues every empty yogurt and takeout container from the recycling bin for indefinite reuse. She only uses napkins, straws, and condiments acquired from fast food places. She yells at us when we try to throw away stale bread saying: “NAKO! If you throw food away you won’t be BLESSED!”

My grandma thinks that I’m too cheap.

Why?

I use cloth diapers.

My grandma sees me washing diapers in the garage and asks me why I’m so cheap. I know that when my Grandma was raising my mom disposable diapers were not yet invented. So she must have used cloth diapers. I ask Grandma and she says that she hired someone to wash the cloth diapers for her.

Grandma tells me, “Last time I visited the Philippines I asked about that one who used to wash the diapers. I learned she already died. I asked your mom if she remembered her. She said she did not.”

Grandma then stares at me ominously, frowning. Maybe washing cloth diapers will lead me to a similar fate.

I started using cloth diapers after deciding to live with more mindfulness. My favorite mindfulness writer, Thich Nhat Hahn does not say, “Stop using disposable diapers” but instead says to use them with mindfulness. When you throw one away, think, “I am throwing a diaper away.”

So I tried that. I found that saying, “I am throwing a diaper away” every time you change the baby, minimum 5x a day or so, and it starts to eat at you. Not hard, but rather like a gentle nibbling on the conscience.

“I am throwing a diaper away” (Guilty feeling).

“But I NEED them.” (Guilty feeling).

“I’m busy. And Alisa is already 2 and Amira is 8 months old so it’s not worth starting cloth diapers now. It’s too late.” (Guilty feeling).

Next change. “I am throwing a diaper away” (Guilty feeling).

“I’m busy! I don’t care! I’m sleep deprived. I don’t care about the environment. I’ll stomp through a field of kittens if it would make my like easier.” (Guilty feeling, times 100).

Next change. “I am throwing a diaper away” (Guilty feeling).

This thought pattern would repeat over and over again with each changing.

I learned that when I tried to battle negative energy, like guilt, with more negative energy, anger, the feelings would just get worse and worse. It was exhausting. With the practice of mindfulness one does not fight his or her feelings but instead has to decide to really feel emotions and then work on transforming them.

Next change. “I am throwing a diaper away” (Guilty feeling).

I inhaled and exhaled and focused on the guilty feeling.

I said to myself, “I know I have a bad feeling and it is guilt.”

Inhaled and exhaled and sat with the guilty feeling.

I thought, “I cradle my bad feelings. I cradle my guilt. I cradle my guilt and forgive myself for my unskillfulness in the past. I did not know better and was trying to alleviate my own suffering. Please forgive me and help me to be more skillful in the future.” I felt better.

Then I bought cloth diapers. I put them on both my kids. Alisa, my oldest, was 50% potty-trained at the time and she went to 100% potty trained 2 days. This included nights, naps and going out. My youngest, Amira was 8 months old.

After making the switch, I save so much money and I’m not constantly taking stinky diaper trash out and filling the whole trash with diapers. Most of the time, I hand wash them and hang them up to dry in the sun. But if I’m too busy I use the washing machine and dryer. And if I’m really, really busy I use disposable diapers but with awareness. I think that some cloth diapering, any cloth diapering is better than nothing. Even if you save even one diaper that is 250-500 years you are saving the planet from a disposable diaper sitting in a landfill.

I never thought I would use cloth diapers. Now there is no more bad feeling and instead I can feel good about saving the planet and myself some hard-earned money. When I change, wash, and dry them I do it with awareness and then every action becomes a source of healing to me.

 

 

 

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The Music Festival

My sister Jane went to a music festival and did not like it. It was hot. There were porta potties. People were smoking. She says, “The people there were not into the music. They asked the audience to sing along and they didn’t except me and my friend. And then people turned around and gave us dirty looks.”

I said, “Well Thich Nhat Hanh would say to focus on things that you do like. For example, the beautiful weather.”

“It was too hot.”

“The beautiful sky then. The music. Your friends.”

“I wish I were somewhere where people are different.”

“But then you would miss what is real and all the good things in front of you. What you are thinking is only a fantasy.”

When I feel down about things in my life I try to remember what Thich Nhat Hanh said:  “You have more than enough conditions right now to be happy.”  We do not have to wait until we die to go to heaven we can have heaven right here on earth. We just have to notice the good things that we do have that are all around us.

 

W.W.J.D

W.W.J.D. or “What Would Jesus Do?” is a popular Christian phrase. It seems so simple but trying to apply it in real life can be really hard. Would Jesus watch Titanic or Friends or read Harry Potter? Finding the answer takes some deep looking.

Let’s try to apply W.W.J.D to watching the show Friends. Should I watch Friends? Should I let my teen watch Friends?

Let’s look at Friends.  It’s funny! It shows this great group of friends.  It’s a secular show so the friends do not go to church but sometimes there are still good moral lessons like the time Phoebe somehow got credited $5000 in her bank account and she decided be honest and tell the bank. When the friends lie to each other, like when Monica starts hanging out with Julie, Ross’ new girlfriends, and lies to Rachael so not to hurt her feelings, they always end up feeling bad and telling the truth in the end.

Although it has some moral lessons, the show is still risqué by Christian standards. Sometimes the friends drink alcohol and have premarital sex.  Premarital sex-big no-no. Casual sex is a bigger no-no.

The Bible sometimes refers to light as truth. Finding the truth takes thinking. It takes awareness, mindfulness and time. The light is a muscle that takes work and maturity to develop.  Should a teen watch Friends? I say sure. But the best way for a teen or anyone to watch Friends is with mindfulness. The ideal situation would been for the teen to watch Friends with their parents. Afterwards talk about issues in the episode such as premarital sex or casual sex and really talk without judgement.  Questions like, “What happens in casual sex when one person get emotionally attached and the other does not want to make a commitment?” There is an episode where Chandler sleeps with Janice and Chandler wants a commitment and Janice does not. Chandler gets really sad. Some people may believe that casual sex is just fine if it’s between two consenting adults who use protection and are up-front to each other about their intentions. But, as we can see in this episode, casual sex always runs the risk of things getting messy emotionally.

Also point out the fact that this show is fiction and does not mean “everyone is doing it” in regards to sex in general.  Watching the show with mindfulness and talking with your teen would be a much richer and valuable learning experience than simply banning a teen from watching non-Christian shows.

We also have to protect ourselves by avoiding images-violent, sexual or otherwise.  Sometimes it’s not worth it to look at a bad violent or sexual movie-if one does not find it entertaining anyway why watch it? It’s just a waste of time and energy. Watching violent or sexual images that serve no purpose will just disturb our peace later on. I would rather save my energy and time for truly excellent books, movies, and T.V shows.

If we isolate ourselves from non-Christian people and things we miss out on some positive people and experiences. My opinion: Friends and Titanic were excellent productions and Harry Potter was an excellent book series. A lot of effort and care were put into their productions. Even though one may not agree with some of the actions of the characters if we view excellent books, movies, and T.V shows with mindfulness and awareness we can guard our minds and build our understanding of the world and other people.

In the Bible, Matthew says that Christians should be a light on a hill. To actually build our light and understanding we cannot completely isolate ourselves from the rest of the world or worse-pretend we are isolating ourselves and then watch a certain movie, T.V show, or read certain books in secret. Honesty is part of that light too.

The light of God is everything good.  It is love, kindness, awareness, mindfulness, honestly and truth. We can ask ourselves what Jesus would do when faced with a certain movie, T.V show, book, website, or conversation. Asking this can help us know when to pass something up and when to view or partake with mindfulness. And afterwards, we can talk to one another about it with kindness and the intent to help. That is an art which will take a lifetime of practice. Doing these things will build the light in each one of us.

 

 

 

Say Yes

In yoga, the teacher was saying about how we need to “say yes” to yoga and really do our best not just go through the motions and have that “at least I’m here, what else do you want?” attitude. He said say yes to yoga and say yes to everything today.

But we can’t say yes to everything, it’s impossible! For example, if we say yes to sleep that means we have to say no to phone, T.V, computer, work etc. I think the key is not just saying yes to everything but saying yes or no with strength and commitment.

Say yes to sleep and really say yes: drink hot milk, chamomile tea, pray, meditate, take a warm bath, and go to bed early. And really say no to everything else: turn off T.V/computer a few hours before bedtime, silence phone and say goodnight.

It seems to me, life is so much more that “at least I’m here.”  To go beyond, put power behind actions.

Should I Throw Away All My Makeup?

“I’m going to throw my makeup away.” This is me calling my best friend, Ly, on the phone.

“What do you mean?”

“I am literally going to throw every piece of makeup into the trash. Why do we feel the need to wear makeup anyway? It’s anti-feminist.”

“What! What about your Urban Decay Pallets?”

“Yes.  Even the Urban Decay Pallets. Especially the Urban Decay Pallets.” My voice is curiously even and calm. I am a cold-blooded, determined super-woman.

“What about the Mac?  The Mac! Allison! Are you there?” Ly’s voice is getting more and more panic-stricken. I start to feel my resolve waver.

“Oh right. The Mac.” I pause and look down at the rainbow of Mac eyeshadows in their individual disks spread out like little candies. “I’ll call you back.”

“Don’t hang up! Why are you doing this?”

“I danno…I’m trying to clean. I read this book…”

“Oh, you and your books again. Promise me you won’t throw anything away until you call me back. At least save the Mac….. and the Urban Decay.”

“Fine, fine. Ok bye.”  Ly lets me hang up the phone.  Gone is my super-woman resolve. It’s as if she just talked me down from jumping off a cliff.

In front of me is my entire makeup collection.  Every last lipstick and lonely single-serving sample has been fished out of drawers, purses, medicine cabinets, coat pockets, and glove compartments. It’s all here.

How did I get here? I read Marie Kondo’s The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up. It’s a housecleaning book about getting rid of massive amounts of stuff.  Kondo says that after doing the method herself her house is spotless all the time and she lives like a true minimalist. To decide if you should keep an object, hold it in your hands. If you feel a spark of joy, keep it, if not, discard it.  Kondo has minimalized to the point that she does not even own pants.

I was cleaning my bedroom and had gotten to dealing with my makeup.

First the easy stuff: I threw out some free samples of nearly-empty lip-glosses. I trashed some cheap eyeshadows that were not any good anyway. I chucked some brownish lipsticks that were majorly unflattering. All cuticle pushers, the toe separators, the lash brush and some brushes that are missing most of the bristle also go into the trash. Easy. Now I’m left with just the good stuff. I’m about to start organizing the rest when suddenly this overwhelming feeling takes over my body. My inner voice screams, “I don’t want any of this!”

What? How can I be thinking this?  I holding a purple Mac eyeshadow in my hands.  This is my favorite eyeshadow called “lilac ice.” I’ve worn it so many times this is my third time repurchasing this exact shade.  I try to read what I am feeling. What do I feel? Anxiety.

I think, “I should wear eyeshadow more. I should look up YouTube makeup tutorials and get good at it. I should wake up earlier in the morning to put makeup on before work on a daily basis.” So much to do! So much anxiety! How do I get rid of this anxiety? Should I throw Lilac Ice into the trash? But it’s my favorite!

How did I get here?

In junior high and high school, I looked at the other girls with envy. They got to wear glitter eyeshadow, black lipstick or paint their nails blue while my parents wouldn’t let me get away with anything more than cherry ChapsStick. It seemed that everyone got to wear makeup except me. Other than a 99-cent Wet and Wild brown lipstick that Ly and I shared in 6th grade, I wore zero makeup in junior high and high school.

I started wearing makeup at the riper age of 19. I went out of state to college got a job at Hooters. At Hooters, makeup is a requirement. The male manager explained how he wanted us to look: “Light blush, rosy, sun-kissed cheeks.”  The Hooters girl is the All-American, girl-next door. I immediately went to Victoria’s secret to get a makeup lesson.

The clerk explained, “This is how you shade. You don’t want to look like you got punched in the eye!” The lady was so nice and fun. I felt like I was going through a womanly rite-of-passage.

At first, putting on my Hooters Girl face took me 30 minutes. One slip of the fingers and I would accidentally smear something.  I had not yet mastered the subtle art of dabbing away mistakes with an oil-soaked make-up remover pad and Q-tips. More often than not, I would have to scrub everything off and reapply from scratch.

Day after day, swipe after swipe and muscle memory built up. After a month or so, I got to the point where I could apply in foundation, blush, concealer, several shades of eyeshadow and mascara in about 5 minutes flat. I could probably do it in the dark if need be. Muscle memory gave my hand a mind of its own.

With makeup I could make my eyes look huge and my skin flawless. My face became a piece of art.  Some people may think that Hooters Girls are hired for their appearance and not for their brains.  But creating that appearance takes a lot of brain power! At the time I liked to think of myself as an artist with my body being a walking and talking piece of art.

Eventually I left Hooters and became a nurse. My nurse face had to be kicked down a couple notches from my Hooter Girl face.  I would wake up 10 minutes earlier to apply powder, liquid concealer under the eyes, blush, and lipstick. Somedays days I would add eyeshadow and eyeliner. I had to cut out using mascara because it made my eyes bloodshot by the end of a 12 hour shift. Some days it was so bad that I have to use a syringe full of saline as an eyedropper to rinse my eyes.

We often hear the advice, “Just be yourself!” This is easier said than done. What if we don’t know who we are? What if we don’t know how to be? Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hahn phrases this “Just be yourself” advice in a more helpful way. In his book, Zen Keys, he states that the goal of spiritual practice is to “see into one’s true nature.” So to determine if one should do a certain action, like wear makeup, consider if that action allows you to better see your true nature.

Does putting on makeup allow me to better see my own nature or does it do the opposite? Looking at my face with makeup, I know that it is not my true face.  Instead, it’s an image of what I have seen on T.V, magazines, movies, and the internet of what beauty should be.  So, what is beauty? Is it colored eyelids, rosy cheeks and big eyes?  With that look I am trying to say to the world that I am young, fresh, and beautiful. I am trying to be those things on the inside so isn’t it okay to say that on the outside with makeup?

Let’s take a deeper look. What are the real elements of that look? I know that sometimes makeup means red eyes and saline syringes after a 12 hour shift. Makeup is money and time spent shopping. It is loss of sleep waking up early to apply makeup. It’s skin issues such as acne and blackheads from wearing makeup for hours on an everyday basis.  It’s having to buy facials, masks, pores strips, washes and creams to remedy those skin issues and the time and money for those things. It is makeup stinging the eyes when you sweat and not wanting to touch your own eyes and face. Is pushing your husband away with irritation when he wants to kiss you and mess up your lipstick. It is sometimes feeling insecure and ugly without makeup. It’s the sense that when I’m wearing makeup and someone looks at me they are not really seeing me. Maybe sometimes I want to hide behind a makeup mask.  Maybe sometimes I want to be the prettiest girl in the room. Maybe sometimes I want people to feel jealous.  Facing the truth can be ugly sometimes.

Facing the truth about makeup-the ugliness, the sadness, the grease, the grit- I put Lilac Ice and my remaining makeup in a shoebox. I consider throwing everything away but something is still holding me back. I put the shoebox on a high shelf in my closet and try not to think about it for now.

Weeks pass. I let my makeup-less face show to the world. Slowly the sense of guilt, obligation, and apology fades away. Someday I feel like my natural freshness and beauty are shining through. Other days I feel tired and older. I think about the shoe box. Maybe if I throw it away it will make me feel better about myself. Maybe I will feel free.

One day I take the box down and hold the makeup in my hands to see if they will spark joy or anxiety.  Thoughts come into my mind.

Makeup is also that kind lady who helped me at Victoria’s Secret.  It’s Ly and I trying on brown wet-and wild lipstick in 6th grade, giggling and thinking we were so cool. It’s putting makeup on for my wedding day.

Attachment to the body and thinking it is our true self is one of the errors of being human and one of the goals of spiritual practice. In any case, the physical body-with or without makeup- is not really our true self.

Fast forward to now. I put makeup on maybe once a month when I want to dress up and go out with friends or my husband for a fancy meal.

If you put makeup on with joy and love- love for yourself, love for others, love for the world- and you do it with mindfulness and kindness to your physical body and emotions then, in that case, you are also putting makeup on your soul. So I kept my makeup.  For my soul.

 

 

 

Butts: It’s Tradition!

“When we pray we bend over. If a guy was standing in front of me and bent over to pray what would I see? Butt. Ugh. I’m not at all interested in seeing some guy’s butt. But if a guy was standing behind me, he’d probably be very interested.” This is my sister-in-law, Zenita, explaining to me why they separate men and woman at the mosque.

So that is the reason: the butts. Good to know. Until this conversation, that explanation had never crossed my mind. At mosques, I had observed that women were seated in the balcony or if the mosque had only one story (like at my husband’s mosque, which is small) women sit in the back. When I observed these seating arrangement, I thought, “Women were being treated like second-class citizens for just being women. Why should the men always get the best seats in the house?”  I assumed it was plain old sexism.  Zenita’s explanation, while still sexist, at least has a reason behind it. According to Zenita, this practice is based on the belief that women have more mental self-control and won’t get as distracted as the men. Distracted, you know, by all the butts.

Muslims pray with kneeling and bending on a prayer rug (thus the butts). But Muslims are not the only ones; there are many spiritual practices in which people touch the earth in order to connect the Higher Power. Christians and Catholics kneel on a kneeler or the floor for a special prayers. Buddhists and Hindus kneel and bow as they pray. Jewish people kneel and bow down with their faces touching a mat or towel for the special holiday, Yom Kippur. Other spiritual practices, like yoga and meditation, are also done touching the earth or mat. So, every major religion-butts everywhere.

I’m a Christian so that makes me a kneeler. I find kneeling in a room full of people kind of embarrassing but I suspect that is partially the point. You are supposed to be focusing on God, not care if others are looking at you (which they probably aren’t anyway). Your focus should rise above any inhibitions or embarrassment.

I also do yoga, so that means I’m also a bender. I admit during yoga, if there is that rare male in the class, I try to place my mat far away from him and defiantly not in front of him. Like Zenita, I too am thinking, “I don’t want some guy to see my butt!” Imagine a female trying to focus on downward dog or forward bend knowing that there are male eyes right behind her. Plus, he’ll probably be sweaty and smelly after a few rounds and I’d rather not be close to any manly b.o. I know this is my own immaturity and if a male was looking at my butt it would be because of his own immaturity and ideally we should rise above our inner giggling schoolgirl/boy and just grow up and be adults. Yeah, yeah, I know.

If there was no other choice and I had to put my mat by a male in yoga class of course I would never do more then maybe sneak a sideways glance at him. I wouldn’t be giggling, pointing, making kissy noises or reach over and try to pinch his rear end. Such behavior and the teacher would ask me to leave. They would probably recommend I seek counseling, and later put my picture up with the caption- “Sexual Predator! Banned from Class.” If I was a male they would especially do all the above actions.

Back in the day (like 700 A.D), many men were more brutish and uncivilized than men are today and may have acted similar to the bad yoga behavior listed above or worse.  At the mosque, women started complaining that they were being harassed. Separating the genders may have been the most practical way at that time to protect the women.

Today, many Muslim women are debating the practice of separating men and women. Is it still necessary? This debate is outlined in the news article, “Islam in America: When two women decided to pray with men.” (Dawn, Oct 18, 2014). The article covers Rahat Khan, a Muslim woman who is part of a campaign to demand equal rights for women inside the mosque. She refutes the interpretation of the Quran in its rule of separating men and women during prayer. The Quran states, “Men should stand in front during prayer and females should stand at the back, while children are in between.” That seems pretty straight forward to me but I guess since it says should instead of must then there is room for debate. Khan states that it is unfair that men get the prime spots in the mosque while women have to go to the balcony, back of the room, or even the basement.  After all, if men decide to leer at women or have impure thoughts during prayer it is not the women’s fault.

I doubt this practice is actually necessary in America today. For the most part, men have progressed from acting like hoodlums and I would hope they would be able to act like mature adults during prayer. If people have their own mat to set boundary lines around their personal space, like in yoga, I don’t see where there would be a problem. The only ones who may have issues would be very immature teenage boys or adult men who know that they have difficulties focusing around members of the opposite sex.  Teenage boys will probably do better praying by their dad, mom or grandmother rather than by a young female.  Adult men who struggle with focusing with females present should just set their rugs down by other men or by the wall. Doing this, the people with the issues would be the ones who are inconvenienced and not the women.

However, there are some mosques that are so small, like the one here in Louisville, Kentucky, that my husband and in-laws attend, that they do not have the space for everyone to spread out their mats and have their own personal bubble. During holidays especially, things can get really cramped as people try to go through all the motions and movements of the prayer while being part of a crowd.  While this situation is already uncomfortable in regards to personal space, it would be even more uncomfortable if males and females were mixed. What if you were to (gasp!) accidently touch someone’s butt? But even in crowded situations, why do women have to be the ones who get the back, balcony, or basement?  After all, even those who may argue that the Quran says women are in the back so we put them in the back no matter what, tell me, where is the basis for putting women in the balcony or basement? After all, technically the balcony is not “the back” but “above,” and the basement would be “below.”  Since the Quran did not specify who should go above or below these spots are up for grabs by either gender. Sometimes, balconies are in the front of the mosque so men who strongly believe that they should sit in the front could technically sit in those balconies.

Or people can just relax about the literal translation. Again, it states, “Men should stand in front during prayer and females should stand at the back, while children are in between.”  These days we don’t let all the children be in the middle where they can play around with each other unattended to disturb everyone. It’s easier for people to just have their kid next to them.  If we can relax about that how about we relax about the front and back part and separate the genders side-by-side instead? This side-by-side gender separation is done by Jewish people and certain Christian denominations. Muslims do this too, in some instances.  Sometimes, Muslims need to rent spaces for larger events and the rented space happens to be in a shoebox-shaped with the long way parallel to the horizon.  In this setting, if they were to separate by front and back there would not be enough space for the back part so they put a divider in the middle to separate the genders.  This is only when they must rent a larger space for whatever reason.  When mosques are built from scratch they do not typically put men and women side-by-side.

Another option would be to rotate the prime spots out on a week-by-week basis. Women can sit in the front this week or have the main space while men have the back, basement, or balcony. The following week they can switch.

Why am I making this such a big deal? There was another society in which certain citizens were told to sit in the back or in the balcony. This was the American South during segregation and it was black people who were treated like second class citizens. People may insist that the balcony or the back is not so bad, during American segregation they used the term “separate but equal,” but the equal part was never really true.  Side-by-side in the same room or rotating the prime spots on a week-by-week basis would be a better way to do separate but equal. In American society where women have strived to have equal rights in all areas of their lives-home, marriage, society, the workplace- their place of worship can be another crucial step.

That afternoon with Zenita, after she tells me about the butt issue I suggest that Muslims should use kneelers and benches like Christians and Catholics so that the butts stay hidden. She offers me a tight-lipped, frosty smile and says, “Yeah, maybe you can put that in the suggestion box.” She is right, though. It would not work. Yoga would not be yoga if we used benches and kneelers. Meditation, Buddhist, Hindu, and Jewish prayer would also not be the same. You would lose the tradition and the connection to the earth. Tradition counts for a lot.  Also, the practice of separating men and women is a tradition. Though some may find it distasteful, the practice of seating women in the lesser spots- the back, basement, or balcony-it is a tradition none the less.

When you say “But it’s tradition!” in religion that counts for more than saying “but it’s tradition!” in the workplace, school, or at home. In religion, progress is often slow since tradition carries so much weight. But shifts do occur. Christianly came about when Jesus said that many of the people Jews were being too caught up in rituals and traditions and we should instead refocus on God and love for the poor and one another. Later (16th century) during the Protestant Reformation, Christians separated from the Catholic Church for the same reasons-too much tradition with not enough focus on God. At these points in history, some people stayed with the traditional practices and others choose to do something different. There comes points in history where we must look at tradition and see if something needs to shift.

Female rights follow a similar pattern. Similar to religion, where the goal is to love God and one another in the best possible way, the goal of male and female interaction is also love. In my opinion, I think that the best way for men to love the women in their lives is not to put them on a pedestal and say, “Here is where I want you to sit. You will be safe up here.” No.  Because “up here” in this instance is not really up here-it is in the basement, in the balcony, or in the back. It seems to me, a better way is to take her down and face her eye-to-eye. This is not just a wife, mother, or female body, this is another spiritual being.  Maybe her soul is calling her to be in the front where she can better hear, and see and pray. Maybe she even wants to talk about religion or be a religious leader but she can’t because she does not have the same rights.

When females have rights they gain strength. As women joined the workforce they gained their own money, skills, and confidence so that they were able to stand on their own two feet and no longer had to financially depend on the men in their lives. The term “sexual harassment” and “equal opportunity employer” did not exist prior to 1960 and now women are able to raise their voice if they encounter lewd behaviors or sexual discrimination at work and have legal avenues available if necessary. The answer was not just keeping women protected at home but to give woman rights so they could fight their battles. Gaining the ability to stand did not cause women to just walk away from their husbands and children, as critics of the Women’s Liberation Movement feared they would.  Women became better wives and mothers with relationships based on choice and respect rather than dependence. At the same time they made the workplace a better place with their own unique contributions and ideas.

If women were given equality in religious institutions imagine the spiritual strength they could gain and how they could then use that strength to contribute to their place of worship. Female power in religion has thus far remained untapped, at least in all the major religions.

Today, some Christian denominations have female ministers and leaders but this is relatively rare and some people continue to criticize female leaders just for the fact that they are female. From time to time, the minister at my church says comments like women do not have the gift of speaking in front of the church. Those comments always got under my skin and I would take them in silence. Next time, I will write a nice letter to the minister and say something like, “Great service, thanks! Just wanted to let you know, maybe women do have the gift of speaking in the front of the church. I’m a pretty good public speaker so you guys don’t know what you’re missing.”

In the mosque, most women at this point are not even asking to speak in the front, some women just want to be in the front.

It seems to me that men and women are trying to move toward the same goal. We practice religion for connection to God. Though this connection we gain peace and guidance on how to life our lives in a good way that is more loving toward one another.  If the tradition of a religion is doing the opposite by showing less love toward a group by putting that group of people lower than the rest, it is worth taking a closer look at that tradition.

Women can start by talking to each other, talking with their husbands and family members, or writing about their views. In doing these things we can all start to move forward to the place where we need to be. To a place where men and women are truly equal in every area of their lives. Women can talk about all the ifs, ands, buts and butts that are holding them back.

Let it Go

Reaching for our toes in yoga class, the teacher says, “Try to let go and reach further. Just let go!” In life too, she says, we should also try to just let things go.

My instructor says she was mad about something that happened a few days ago between her and her husband. She tells us, “I’m just going to let it go. There is no point in staying angry just to make him suffer!”  We laugh.

But sometimes letting go it not easy! We can tell ourselves, “Just let go!” till we are blue in the face but sometimes we just can’t do it.  After class, I go talk to the instructor. I say that in my marriage when I can’t let something go, I find it helpful to write my husband a letter. She asks smiling, “But do you ever send the letter?”  I say, yes. Maybe I don’t give him the first draft-I look it over and cross out and change some things so that the letter is loving and nice but still expresses what I am hurt about.

I got the letter idea from Thich Nhat Hahn’s book The Art of Communication. He calls these letters “Peace Treaties.” The basic form is: “Dear___, I love you but yesterday you did/said___ and now I am suffering. Please help me not suffer. Love, __”.    Also, Hahn says that in writing the letter to try not to blame or shame the other person and use loving speech.

When I first started writing these letters my husband would say, halfway joking, “Great, hate mail!” He looked at me kind of funny and was probably thinking, “Why are we writing letters, can’t we just talk?”  Yes, we can talk. But sometimes I want to write a letter! Writing a letter helps me slow down so I can say everything I need to say in the way I want to say it. Also, the other person can read and absorb the words at his or her own pace.  Sometimes we talk about it afterward and sometimes my husband writes me a letter back.

“Don’t go to bed angry” is common marriage advice. Maybe it comes from the Bible since the Bible says not to let the sun set if you are still angry or hurt. Thich Nhat Hahn says do not be angry longer than 24 hours. I think this 24-hour rule is good advice. It seems to me, if you let bad feelings sit there, it can create a kind of poison. Poison that can make you feel bad when you are cooking, at work, and just going about your day. It can even be there when you kiss your spouse.  Who wants to give/receive a poisonous kiss anyway? The only way to really ‘let it go’ is to neutralize the poison with loving communication.

Sometimes we want to toughen up and pretend something does not bother us. I know if I am hurt and angry about something 24 hours later then I really need to say something about it. This toughness, when we say, “I’m not hurt!” when we really are hurt is really just our pride talking. In true love, we have to put this pride aside and open up our heart to the other person.

Instead of saying, “Just let it go!” we can instead say, “Just write a love letter!” If it bothers you enough to write it down it is worth talking about. Loving communication is always worth the effort. One might worry about getting into an argument and making the situation worse but if you stand firm in really trying to communicate with mindfulness, deep listening, and love you will always move the relationship in a positive direction. These type of love letters are true love letters. Because you know what? True love takes work. Like reaching for your toes in yoga, we sometimes have to reach in relationships beyond our pride and comfort zone. In the moment, reaching feels good and bad at the same time, but mostly it feels good and makes you keep feeling good the rest of the day. The reach is what will make your love grow.