a cork board


Unlearning to Learn Again

Learning-By-Unlearning

Recently I’ve been going through some things that have me digging through the past. I`m trying to unlearn things that were taught to me throughout life, things that I have found I may not agree with any longer. As a 35yo father of two, it has taken me a long time to begin the process of finding my true self and my own thoughts. It has me going farther than I’ve ever gone into the past, determining why I believe certain ideas and where some of my self-destructive behavior comes from. It’s been a painful and enlightening process and I am still traveling on the road to get there. I know, too, that once I get to where I need to be, the journey will continue in some capacity.

I recently started rereading The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz for the third time. The first two times I read it, things did not resonate or stick. But now there is a better understanding of the concepts because I’m in a place where I can receive things more. I’m in a place where they make more sense to me and I feel more that I can relate them to myself on a deeper level. I’m in the part right now where he’s talking about how everyone has their own Book of Law and set of agreements along with how our domestication shapes us for life. To attempt to briefly sum it up…as children we cannot think for ourselves, so it is our parents who domesticate us as they teach us about the world around us and how we relate to it. They teach us right from wrong, they teach us what to believe in. In time, we form agreements within ourselves about the world around us. Agreements to understand how certain things work and how we feel about the world around us. These agreements are the foundation for who we will become. As we grow, these agreements become so ingrained within us that we no longer need to be domesticated, we auto-domesticate ourselves with the same beliefs. These ingrained agreements form our Book of Law, things that are and will be and cannot be broken. We each have our own set of agreements and our own set of laws, and they drive our passions, beliefs and ideas….they  make us who we are, for a time. As we grow into our own skin, we begin to see the world differently. We begin to question why things are the way they are. If we have a strong will, we buck against our tired agreements to form new ones (we rewrite the Book of Law). If we do not have the courage or will, we remain docile and adherent to the old agreements.

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When we get older, these old agreements can prevent us from seeing who we truly are. They can act as a cloud of smoke standing between us and a mirror, preventing us from seeing our true self. We can only see through the veil if influence. But what happens when the smoke begins to clear between us and the mirror? What happens when we begin to question that which we were taught? How do we cope with the idea of original thought, with the concept that you may believe differently? For me, I denied it for a long time. I was afraid of being myself, I was afraid of being different from my family and those around me. But the fact is, I have always been inherently different. I’ve plodded along happily all these years, content with living behind a cloud of smoke, never truly understanding myself or my belief system.

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Because we all have our own Book of Law, our own set of agreements, we can all look at the same situation and walk away with entirely different outlooks on the subject. This is the cause of conflict within ourselves and others. If someone expresses an opinion opposed to ours, something that goes against our own agreements, then we begin to defend our agreements and ourselves. We feel as if we ourselves are being attacked. We can argue with that person endlessly, but we are driven by our own set of agreements and laws. It is difficult to see past them. Even so, if we begin to think something that goes against our own agreements, we ourselves feel attacked by ourselves…giving birth to an internal struggle. What is true and what is false? The newfound knowledge gained through experience, or the old ideas ingrained into your mind as a child by the world around you? The struggle goes on, until we surrender ourselves to something greater. Until we open our minds to the possibilities of new truth.

I watched Birth of a Nation last year, the story of Nat Turner. Nat Turner was a slave in the 1800’s who learned to read and began reading the bible. He would preach to his fellow slaves that he lived with, which brought peace to their broken hearts. It gave them hope and salvation in the face of a horrible situation. Local slave masters and plantation owners saw this as a way to pacify their disobedient slaves. So they took him on a plantation tour to preach, and preach he did. He spread love, he gave them hope. He lit a fire that started a revolution and rebellion. He did a great thing using a powerful tool…hope and love.

Now, this is where it gets hazy for me. I did not see it that way at all initially. Because of my agreements and domestication, I saw this story through a completely different prism. I saw the slave owners as using a Christian-based faith to remove the slaves’ belief system and replacing it with that of a white God.  I saw it as brainwashing. I saw them using their faith as a means to pacify and tame the slaves. I saw them as mentally enslaving them even further. Which would make the entire thing a farce and a lie. But the hope they felt was real, that was not a lie. What I was failing to see, is that it doesn’t matter which book you follow or what name you have for God. Faith is something that we feel inside and cannot be quantified. What matters is that faith gives us faith to believe, that it speaks to us somewhere on the inside and gives us courage. Those people were broken and lost, they’d been caught in a cycle of generations of slaves and saw no way out…no hope. A word of gospel, a word of God, changed that. A word lit the flame afire. It was the same flame that lit menorahs in concentration camps. The same flame that lit diyas in darkness. The same flame that lit candles in the church and in homes. That flame represents faith, it doesn’t matter whom we pray to, just that we have faith.

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This may seem like common sense or easy to say, but because of my past agreements I struggled to see it this way. I have spent most of my life with the idea that we can place ownership over faith and culture. This is the white man’s religion, that is the Indian man’s culture, this is the black man’s culture, that is the Native man’s belief. Maybe the world is caught up in the ownership battle over faith and culture too. But I know that I have been caught up in it. And I’m finally ready to break free from that shortsightedness. It is very difficult to look at oneself and acknowledge that you are wrong, it is even more difficult to open oneself to learn new truths. But that is exactly what I am doing…unlearning to learn again.

I recently posted something online that embodied that same shortsightedness of cultural ownership and faith-based identity. I painted in broad strokes and unintentionally cast insults at people for what they believe in. This is not something I want to embody or represent, I want to operate from a place of love. I will defend what needs defending and stand for what needs to be stood for. But I will not continue to perpetuate and believe in agreements that are counter-intuitive to my own beliefs that come from inside. What I posted hurt someone whom I love and care dearly about. I cannot undo that, but I am sorry for it. I was wrong and I was short-sighted. I will continue to be open to myself and to others.

Unlearn so that we may clear a path for new knowledge.

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Woodworking
AMpWed, 17 May 2017 10:33:24 +000033Wednesday 1, 2010, 10:33 am
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , ,

I’ve been working on woodworking as a craft that I would like to do as a means of work for a few years now. I took it up as a hobby, to be able to make things around the house. There’s a feeling that never goes away when you use a piece of furniture that you made with your own hands. I found that I had a natural passion for it, and I wasn’t that bad either. The most important thing is that I have always been willing to learn.

I can remember buying a desk in a box with my family when I was 13. I remember unboxing all of the pieces and pulling out the instructions. I’m sure my brother can attest to the fact that I loved doing it. I loved getting the pieces together and building something. My father used to have a book shelf that he built himself, the thing was massive and had many levels. I remember the pride in his voice and I would find myself looking at it sometimes, admiring the work and the process.

I have a number of various pieces of furniture around the house that I’ve built and many more that are going to be completed soon. I’ve taken my perfectionism and applied to this/these process/es. I’ve learned a lot over the years and have lots more to learn. But one thing I know for certain is that what I’ve built will last. I recently had a friend with twin girls ask me about building twin dressers for the girls. I took pause and questioned if I was able to, if it was outside of my scope. It was the biggest project I’d ever thought about undertaking and I was letting my insecurities tell me I couldn’t do it. But I’m very happy to say that I got them built from a pile of lumber, sanded, stained and they are in use right now. I’ll be posting pictures of them on my other blog (onpaperdesign.wordpress.com) soon.

The main reason I’m posting this update is because I want to show everyone what I can do and to say….if you want some custom wooden furniture made, then please, contact me. If it’s outside of my scope, I will tell you that. If not, I will put my care and attention and sweat into making a finished product you can be proud to show to your friends and family. A piece of furniture that can take the bumps and bruises of life and be passed on years down the line. I come from a place where I believe in having furniture that will last, that can be passed on and last for a long time. We purchased a dresser from a certain Swedish furniture store, we went with their “higher-end” line. Five years later and the drawers won’t close and it’s rendered nearly useless. That shouldn’t happen. I do everything I can when building my dressers, and any other furniture, to ensure it won’t.



a bird struggling to fly
AMpThu, 10 Nov 2016 00:51:49 +000051Thursday 1, 2010, 12:51 am
Filed under: poems, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

I was driving into work one morning in May of 2010 (I can’t remember exactly). I was on the highway, sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic as it rained mightily. I was by myself in the car. I was stopped on a bridge crossing over the Credit River in Mississauga, ON. The winds were kicking strong gusts. I saw a bird, to my right, trying to fly over the bridge. It was flying low, probably less than 10ft above the vehicles, and it was having an incredibly hard time. For every bit of progress made, it was pushed back even farther. But it kept pushing. It kept pushing. Until it finally made it across. That bird and its struggle stayed with me. I got to work and immediately wrote this. I can always relate to this.

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a bird struggling to fly

 

a bird struggling to fly

he knows how to

but he forgets sometimes

 

his wings flap. they push

they pull with intention

 

but all for naught

the wind is too strong today

blowing away from his destination

 

his neck bows and protrudes

gyrating like a sound wave

forcing his body into

an awkward vertical angle

 

his webbed feet

are like two stop signs

spread open and flat

against the wind

 

his body is

wrapped in desperation

his wings never fully

spread outward today

 

his neck is on a chopping block

as the wind and the rain

act as an invisible force

holding him back

 

a bird struggling to fly

that is me up there

I know how to

but I forget sometimes

 

and I stop myself

time and time again

putting my neck on the line

spreading my arms thin

panting for air

 

but for me there is no wind

there is neither rain

only my own devices

 

my stop sign hands

my awkward posturing

 

and I flap and I flap

and I push and I push

myself down myself down

but I will fly I will fly

 

one of these days

when I unlearn

how to hurt myself

 

that’s why when I see

a bird struggling to fly

across six lanes

of rush hour traffic

 

I see myself

crossing my own path

…yet again



Writing Prompt
AMpFri, 05 Aug 2016 11:52:10 +000052Friday 1, 2010, 11:52 am
Filed under: poems, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , ,

My friend Cathy Charlie Petch will post writing prompts to keep the creative juices flowing. I occasionally participate. I should more often, and I’m working on writing more.

Yesterday she posted a Puscifer song that I could not resist. Here is the song and my unedited work inspired from it.

I hold something in my hand.

It drifts. It disassembles. Falls apart.

Turns to dust before my eyes.

 

I hold onto things too tightly.

Grip them to the chest.

Though I know better,

I hold on tight.

 

The way children hold onto stuffed animals.

The way they squeeze the necks of pets.

Out of pure adoration and love.

Without realizing they are choking the life

out of the very thing they love.

 I’ve never out grown this in a way.

Grip tightly, slip through your fingers.

 

Leave me something beautiful in your wake.

Leave me a memory to behold.

To cherish and fathom.

 

I hold the breath of the universe in my lungs.

It is both invigorating and suffocating.

On the inside and outside.

 

I believe that there is more to life

than punching clocks and watching shows.

More meaning than watching

moving pictures on a screen.

More than books even.

 

Ingesting other people’s art and imagination

is a beautiful experience.

But what of the light

Reflecting in fractals through the atmosphere?

What of the oxygen entering our lungs.

The trees dancing in the sky.

The way our pores raise

when something grazes against

the deepest corners of our spirit.

The way our skin tightens

when we feel something

that cannot be quantified

by numbers or words or paper.

 

The impossible task of

capturing human experience.

As artists, we try to capture the impossible.

I keep a journal of these experiences

logged in my chest.

I close my eyes sometimes

and try to relive them.

 

The touch of her lips

on the side of my neck.

The first time my son wrapped

his tiny fingers around my index finger.

When my daughter stared

into my eyes for the first time.

The moment when you embrace

a loved one after a prolonged absence.

 

The way nature speaks to the soul.

I try to put words to the impossible.

To hold onto these fleeting moments.

So I press my fingertips

into the palms of my hands

in the hope that it will stay.

 

But it slips. It fades.

What remains is an imprint inside of me.

Never lost, always present.

Altered and existing in a different light.

The way it was always intended.



What Poetry Means To Me
PMpSat, 23 Jul 2016 12:26:41 +000026Saturday 1, 2010, 12:26 pm
Filed under: the ether, the mirror, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , ,

YogiWSMenu

A few years ago I was doing some solo grocery shopping at Fresh Co. I was in a hurry, in the zone wearing track pants and trying to grab some orange juice get home quickly. A lady walking with her daughter saw me and slowed down. She paused, half-tilted her head and grinned. She said “you’re a poet right?” I hadn’t performed in a couple of years and had all-but-forgotten about that part of my life. I said “yes, yes I am.” She said she saw me feature at Guelph Poetry Slam in November of the previous year (that was even almost 2yrs removed from performing) and loved my work. She said she bought both of my books and keeps them in her car. It left me feeling perplexed and very good. Wow, my words touched someone.

Last week I was at Starbucks ordering the closest I can get to fancy there, a Grande Americano. The cashier asked my name “Yogi, Y-O-G-I”. She paused, looked up and said “do you do spoken word?” I said “I used to.” Turns out, she used to manage a bar/restaurant where I used to perform at a lot in 2012. She knew my work pretty well. She asked me why I’d stopped. Truth be told, I put it down to focus on being a present father with my little ones. She paused again, “you were good, I remember. You should do it again.” I showed her my journal in hand and said I was working on it. It left me feeling confused. I actually said I used to. WTF? When did that happen?

Something happened in the years I stopped performing. I went through a few years of writer’s block. But I’ve gotten past that. In the last year I’ve been writing a lot, lot more. I’m not finishing anything, but I’m writing nonetheless. Good ideas, good wordplay. I’m getting back in the groove. I was in a really good place in 2012 when I stopped. I felt more comfortable on stage than I ever had before. I was churning out more new, quality poems. My stage voice had found legs to stands on and wings to fly with. But I wanted to be present and accounted for during bath time, story time, good night kisses and late night snuggles. I wanted to be there for it all and I didn’t wanna miss a thing. Spoken word/Poetry slam have been around for a while, it’ll be fine without me. It’ll welcome me back when I’m ready too.

What happened in the meantime was cynicism. It was skepticism. I began to wonder if words can ever really have an impact. Why bother? What legacy do these poems and performances really have? What are we really leaving behind? I still sit and wonder about it. You stand up for 3 minutes and 10 seconds, speak your truth and bare your soul and make some noise for a round of applause, some pats on the back, some much-needed personal release and that’s about it. It began to feel like it was just spinning wheels, like an exercise for the ego. Are we really awakening minds, or are we just another passing phase? Does what you say stick with someone when they wake up in the morning? I’ve been questioning the purpose and reason behind this spoken word thing for a while now and it began to make me jaded.

But then the universe had me cross paths with someone like I did that day at Starbucks or Fresh Co. Someone reminds me, hey your work really inspired me. I occasionally bump into a person who heard me speak my truth 4-6 years ago, and I’m still with them. My words uplifted them then and stayed with them. So I start to think that maybe there is some resonance. Maybe there is some staying power. Maybe there is something more to it than ego and glory and punchlines. Performing/Sharing poetry isn’t about immediate change. It’s about planting seeds. It’s about creating a spark. We may never see the tree take root or see the inferno blaze across the horizon, but it’s there. It’s a lot like karma, it takes time but it happens without fail.

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Poetry, for me, has always been very personal. I never excelled at tackling “issue poetry” unless I was able to relate myself into it. Standing on that stage, just you and the microphone. Just your voice and the audience. Just your gut and their ear drums. There’s something magical about that. The butterflies. The feeling that you’re going to fall…but then you take flight. I’ve gone to a couple of poetry slams in the last couple of months on account of my wife encouraging me. She gives me gentle little pushes into it and I’m taking her queue little by little. I don’t want to make a team and compete on a national stage, but I want my voice out there again. Because I finally realized, after all this time, that I have something to say…and it’s worth hearing.

 

 



Begin (A Poem)
AMpThu, 02 Jun 2016 11:52:27 +000052Thursday 1, 2010, 11:52 am
Filed under: poems, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , ,

Begin

 

Smile

Arise with the sun

Or just before

5am upliftment

Darkness settled in sky

Potential resting on branches

Coasting through the air

Pulsing through arteries

 

Twist the spine

Roll the hips

Turn face over

Across the pillow

Atop the sheets

Visit resplendence resting

 

Peacefully tranquil

Quietly dreaming

Eyelids twitching in rapid movement

Neck gently pulsing

Awake next to unparalleled beauty

 

I admire her

Basking in the dim of dawn

Pale light cascading

From cheek to lip

From eyelid to jawline

Breath giving life

She is a sight to behold

 

I am blessed

To share these moments

Before the day

Before the busy

 

She awakes

With a gentle smile

Cheeks swell

Eyelids creek open

Greeting as if it was me

Holding her presence

In her dream state

As if I was always there

 

A simple good morning

A simple I love you

And we kiss

The birds stop singing

The sun comes up

There is purity in the air

 

Palms resting upon faces

Breaths in synchronicity

The day is ready to begin

I am uplifted by her presence

She is arisen by mine

 

We give life

We live love

We are thankful

For another day

Bathed in blessings

 

Birds sing their songs again

The sheets release me

Sleep welcomes her again

The day begins

…again.

 

 

 

 

 



Playing By The Rules
PMpTue, 29 Mar 2016 14:49:59 +000049Tuesday 1, 2010, 2:49 pm
Filed under: the ether, the mirror, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , ,

There comes a time in your life when you get overlooked for someone else. It could be a promotion, an award or a simple pat on the back. It doesn’t matter what it is, as long as it’s recognition of some kind. It shouldn’t matter…but it does. We crave recognition. It validates our existence, it lets us know that we’re doing the right thing. I say we shouldn’t care, because it’s a lot like giving a pet a treat to reinforce good behavior (i.e. here’s a biscuit for your good behavior, now do it again!). I say we shouldn’t care because it doesn’t matter one tiny bit they way our actions are perceived by others. Only the results matter. But human nature is such a thing that we constantly seek validation from the rest of the world.

When it happens to me, I get infuriated. I get angry at the people who overlooked me AND the people who I was overlooked for. I’ve always operated on the belief that good, hard work yields good, honest results. Plain and simple. You work hard and plug away day in and day out and one day, if you’re lucky, then the boss-lady may call your number and give you a cookie for your efforts. But in the relentless culture of the office, playing the game is more important than hard work can ever be. What is the game you ask? The game is about appearances. It’s about facades and thinly-veiled agendas. It’s about social manipulation, being self-serving at every opportunity and looking out for number 1. And I’m not willing to play the game. I’ve never been cut from that cloth to be dishonest and manipulate things for my own benefit.

The more I sit here and ruminate onbring overlooked yet again, the more I fester with anger and bitterness. The more I begin to think about the old sayings of, no pain no gain or with no risk there’s no reward. I’m realizing that I’m sitting here comfortably in a job that doesn’t fulfill me, plugging away day in and day out expecting to get rewarded when I’m not playing by the rules of the game. I don’t like over-laughing to fit in. I don’t like being social when I don’t feel like it. I don’t like soliciting compliments. I don’t like complimenting the boss on her hair, shoes, jacket if I don’t feel like it. I’ve operated under the false pretenes that work and production alone represents youir place within an organization. But it doesn’t, and I can’t fault the system for that. I’ve chosen to be part of this system. This system requires a real “go-getter” attitude, a “team player” and someone overflowing with confidence, swagger and pizazz. It’s listed plain as day on the job requirements. Neither of those things are overly me.

Instead of being grumpy and unsatisfied I need to realize that I cannot change the game, I don’t want to change the game. I cannot change the rules. And I will definitely never win unless I’m willing to play by the rules. Well, bah-humbug, I ain’t playing by a damn thing. I need to actually put myself out there and stop running from my potential. I need to stop procrastinating and do more. I’m sick of feeling like I’m being overlooked because the person doing the overlooking is me. I’m the one who chooses to stay within the confines of this mindset. I’m the one who refuses to simply open the gate and enter a world with a different set of rules. Often times we get so caught up in what’s in front of us without ever realizing that we have the ability and power to simply walk away, turn around and just say fuck you and move on with our lives onto something better. I’m sick of it. So I’m trying to view this dogged day to day a bit differently. As a means to an end, because the moment I start to believe that it’s something more or that I can be something more within the confines of these rules, then my goose is cooked. Upward and onward folks. New rules, new game….slowly but surely.