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Posts Tagged ‘self-realization’

From the Mind of a Radical Humanist–[aka. April Rose Schneider]

Greetings from the Far Reaches, where the men are macho, and the sheep are nervous. I am April Rose-Trans author, activist, iconoclast and agent provocateur. And I’m proud to be here as a contributor to the premier issue of Proud Times but with a caveat: I’m a fly in the ointment…a dissonant note in an otherwise beautiful chorus…and a pimple on the ass of the conformist society. In otherwords, I am a troublemaker. If I had a rabble I’d be quick to rouse them. So be forewarned: I detest political correctness in all of its pervasively shallow, dogmatic, debilitating urges to qualify, quantify and otherwise restrict the full expression of our human-ness. If diversity is the color of the rainbow, political correctness is color of mud.

Rather than promote a personal identity, I eshew the concept of the fixed persona, much of which is purely the result of unconscious, involuntary cultural conditioning. This sort of calculated obtuseness invariably places me at odds with so many others who walk the Trans path where the movement from one extreme of the male-female paradigm to the ‘opposite’ end is de- rigueur for so many Trans folk. But for reasons unknown, and in consideration of the possiblity that my mom dropped me on my head as a baby, I got the whole thing backwards.

Over the course of my plus sixty years on the planet as aTrans person, my perspective has moved from polar extreme to the center. Picture that ubiquitous symbol for Yin Yang which, to most people, represents the male/female duality. See that tiny little black line that separates the black and the white? That’s where I live-The Abyss, the Void…the place of pure undifferentiated spirit.

Thus in search of an all inclusive description of my perspective, I call myself a Radical Humanist, a label that serves two very important functions. First, it assigns me to the only group identity that describes the entirety of my existence. Secondly it draws a distinct line between me and organized religion which I consider the enemy of human potential. One can only imagine the immense contribution of human potential lost to the historically documented, violent repression of diversity by organized religion everywhere.

Every human being born, past and present, represents a brilliant spark of divine life. Our personalities or identity combine predetermined gentic influences with a powerful, relentless program of sociological imperatives that shape our identity and the course of our lives in myriad mysterious ways. This refers to a paradigm traditionally known as Nature versus Nurture, though more precisely we are Nature bullied, subdued and re-formed by Nurture. And the main tool of oppression is so basic, so effectively built in to our social conditioning that we rarely consider its creative power. I call this tool is ‘agreement’.

Through our agreements to the conditions of our survival, we become, perform, behave, and are rewarded for ‘appropriate behavior’. Here is the genesis of the virus that corrupts the human spirit. Profoundly influenced by the superficial nature of perception, consciousness is easily seduced into dualistic thinking by language which creates a false duality. Words set up a dichotomy which implies the existence of the absolute: black and white, good and bad, hot and cold and of course the first and foremost of these….man and woman.

Concepts outside of this duality-like homosexuality or Transsexualism-receive far less agreement. Thus this imposed dream of dualism presented me, as a young trans person with a linguistic, performative conundrum which could not be resolved in a social context. Without the words to describe myself, I wandered alone in a fearful, neurotic limbo, the pain of which would only be lessened with drugs and alcohol.

As a human with basic education, I know what defines male and female -the presence of specific genitalia. But as a Trans Woman, I have no idea how to define man or woman. No absolute exists which clearly defines the the two groups despite the linguistic persistence of the concepts. Now comes my personal medicine, and my power as a self identified Two Spirits person : Having traveled from one polar extreme to the other, I now stand with one foot on yin and one on yang and peer into the void and see a vision Ifeel compelled to share with you.

We are one spirit…one being manifesting as beautiful, diverse wildflowers in the field of life. The same beautiful sun shines down upon us all. Our bodies, our language and the distance between us may lend credence to the illusion of separation so often exploited by politics and religion,but this is the BIG LIE that perpetuates our loneliness and isolation. The truth, and the path to our salvation lies in the realization that we are one race of human beings sharing one planet.

What empowers you empowers me. That which imprisons you imprisons me. That which diminishes you, and what lifts you up does the same to me. The universal binding force that has the power to save us, all of us, is love. Without love, we die. How we love, whom we love, the clothes we wear to invite love stand incidental to what the heart requires.

Love is the medicine that will heal a fractured world, so here is your prescription: Love yourself completely, without judgment, without reservation…without condemnation. And if you persist this love will flow outward from your heart-erasing superficial boundaries and healing the fractures between us. And you will begin to see what I already know. I am you. You are me.

WE ARE ONE

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Two Spirits

By

April Rose Schneider

Greetings to all human beings and their ancestors and to all sentient beings who honor their connection to Mother Earth.     My name is Rosie and I am a Two-Spirits healer.   I come to you now with an open heart and a passionate desire to share the vision and wisdom of two spirit medicine.   The medicine of my tribe is powerful because it symbolizes balance and harmony.    But more than that, the power of my medicine provides the context for the re-unification of the duality of opposites. In simpler terms, mine is the medicine of non-duality.    These words fulfill my responsibility to share my spiritual journey with the receptive hearts and minds of those who need to hear them.   For readers unfamiliar with the subject, I offer a brief description of two-spirited consciousness, followed by a short history of that tradition.  In the end, I will weave them together in a cosmic mandala for your meditation.

The expression “Two Spirits” refers to the manifestation of masculine and feminine energy in one individual.    It is a relatively new way of describing a tradition that has existed in indigenous cultures around the world prior to the development of western civilization.  In order to understand this tradition, this different way of viewing gender, we must first be clear on the distinction between sex and gender.     A popular saying describes the difference as follows: Sex is between the legs, gender is between the ears.   In other words, gender is not about sexual preference, rather it is the expression of our unique sexuality.

The expression of two-spirits in one individual is, more accurately, one’s spiritual expression of two polar aspects known as yin and yang.    The ancient symbolism of yin and yang, together referred to as the Tao, symbolizes the fundamental principle by which the Great Spirit animates and informs every thing that exists on this material plane.      At its most elementary level, yin and yang describe a balanced energetic relationship where yin is the passive principal and yang is the active principal.   Because yin defines yang, and yang defines yin, these opposing principles hold equal value in an idealized state of balance.    Relativity, interdependence and harmony provide form. From this original concept of the duality of opposites springs all other artificial concepts of division.

BRIDGING YIN YANG

I was born into the body of a male baby in 1951.      By the age of five, I became aware of a subtle disturbance in my energy field.     Within five years of this realization my young personality floundered in the turbulent waters of a gender identity process gone horribly awry.     A feeling of non-ordinary reality, accompanied by a growing sense of detachment, infused my daily existence.    I became depressed and withdrawn.

Over a period of years revelation came to me in dreams, where my spirit showed me the reason for my discomfort.   Each night as I lay in bed, I closed my eyes to find my spirit inhabiting the physical form of a happy little girl.  I didn’t know, or care at all how this transformation occurred. I was happy for a brief moment of peace.   As natural as a falcon taking wing, I accepted this dreaming aspect of my personality as an integral part of my being

Eventually, I found creative ways to stay home alone and express my other-gendered nature with the help of my mother’s wardrobe.   But these occasional interludes created another dichotomy: my joyful affinity for feminine expression would cause me great pain upon discovery.   Though I knew little of the ways of the world that lay beyond the safe confines of the post World War II, working class, cookie cutter neighborhood of my youth, I did intuit one of society’s essential, unspoken principals with profound clarity: good little boys did not live for stolen moments of cross-dressed glory.

In the American middle class of the1950’s, the world was divided into two kinds of gendered people: men and women. Any hint of cross-gendered behavior invited violence and humiliation. L found proof in the daily newspapers of America and felt the violent undercurrents of misogynism.    The realization that I could be the target of such hatred frightened me at the deepest level of my awareness.   From the very beginning of my conscious awareness I was caught in a moral dilemma of immense proportion.     In the place of healthy childhood development, my ravaged young personality resembled a rudderless ship being sucked into a maelstrom of sexual energies that I could feel but not articulate.     I intuited that some cosmic mix-up had occurred between my mind and body, yet I had no words to describe the sense of disassociation that I experienced on a daily basis.

Beginning in early adolescence and throughout the most crucial period of personality development, neurosis and self-loathing poisoned my spirit at every step on the path to adulthood. Contradictions that would not yield to logic confronted me at every turn, on every level of my being.  I had “awakened” in this present incarnation with extreme dissonance of mind and body that I dare not reveal on penalty of death.   While my spirit whispered an awareness of my two spirited nature in one ear, the societal voice of sexist bigotry screamed shame and fear into the other ear.  Imprisoned by fate in this physical form that I could not accept or change, I suffered in isolation for many years.

My sense of abandonment became a prison/fort where I became angry, suspicious, and withdrawn.  Despite a natural tendency as a child was to seek reliefthrough the wisdom of my parents, I knew intuitively that they weren’t emotionally stable enough to deal with these feelings that I could not describe.     Even more injurious to my tender young ego was my conviction that to speak my truth would expose my young spirit to the violence of a world locked in delusion.

By the age 15, a huge gaping chasm developed between the carefully constructed, socially acceptable male image that I exhibited and the overpowering impulse of my secret feminine self.   I was paralyzed by an irreconcilable contradiction.  Caught between the maxim that “Jesus loved me, because the Bible told me so” and the knowledge that if anyone discovered my deep, dark secret I would be burned at the stake, I teetered on the brink of madness with little hope for resolution.

I trusted absolutely no one including parents and friends, aunts and uncles, teachers or preachers.    Artifice contaminated all of my relationships save the one I had with myself.    A deep sense of dread prevented me from even thinking about communicating this delicate issue to anyone.     As a result of my universal mistrust-cum- paranoia, I found myself utterly alone, holding onto suicidal ideation as an antidote to the pain.

A few months after I graduated from high school, my life fell apart.    The flimsy masculine image I had employed as a disguise began to deteriorate. Without a high school audience to appreciate my impersonation of a young man, I was an actress without a part.  Severely depressed, I retreated into my own world–a sheltered, sacred world of intense intellectual exploration into the mechanism of human consciousness…

In 1969, scant information was available on the subject of transgenderism, the psychological model of people with a non-conforming gender identity.   Psychiatry, from the male dominant perspective, continued to treat gender identity as a sort of minor psychosis.  For hundreds of years, institutionalization was the treatment of choice for people who were not comfortable in their assigned gender.  I struggled to maintain my male disguise while searching for a right path to understanding.

Despite my baptism as a good Lutheran boy, and a lifetime of half-hearted supplication, my prayers went unanswered. This dubious god of the pious masses had abandoned me. Two spirited people were not mentioned in the Bible, or any other religious text.  Logically then, I abandoned the notion of this cruel God, whose biblical omission continues to cause untold suffering and needless death.     By the time I had reached my early twenties, as an antidote to the spiritual toxicity of right-wing fundamentalist religion, I embarked on a life long study of the ancient belief systems of indigenous peoples.

 

THE OLD BECOMES THE NEW

I began my education with Native American tribes who perceived the energetic relationship of humans to their environment in a profound way that, as a result of genocide, may be lost to us forever. From the documentation of explorers and anthropologists, I found that indigenous cultures around the world valued the manifestations of the spirit so infinite in its diversity.  The Great Spirit’s creative authority was not questioned in matters of divine expression.  The Native Americans accepted all expressions of the Great Spirit as containing a wisdom nature that provided essential balance in every aspect of their environment.

One-hundred fifty years before I was born, the dreams of my youth would have been a sign from the Great Spirit that I was meant to be a two-spirited medicine person in Native American culture.   An apocryphal story of one North American tribe points to this sort of implicit acceptance of the will of the Great Spirit regarding gender:  According to oral history, a young boy or girl who showed the slightest indication of cross gendered behavior was placed in a grass hut with one male toy and one female toy. The hut was then set on fire. If the child’s gendered choice was ‘opposite’ their natal sex, the Great Spirit had spoken in affirmation of the child’s dual gender/nature thereby placing them in high esteem in the tribal society.

Each tribe had a name for these special people: The Lakota referred to them as Winkte [would-be woman].   The Navaho called them “nadleeh“[one who changes time and again].    In the Crow tribe, they were named “bade”, and the Zuni called them “ilhamana”.     Though the names of the Two-Spirit people varied greatly from tribe to tribe,   the trans-national similarities of their two-spirit traditions were remarkable considering the territorial nature of tribal life.\

Native Americans in general recognized the two-spirit folk as divinely imbued with a special insight regarding human nature.    Based on this gift of the spirit, tribes conferred much honor on them in terms of their position and responsibility to the tribe.    The spiritual gifts of their dual nature promoted them to positions of reverence in the role of hunters, story tellers, shamans, warriors, medicine persons, informal marriage counselors, and leaders of naming ceremonies.

Male born two-spirits were considered especially valuable in the sense that they performed the duties of a woman with the strength of a man.    Many woman born two-spirits were fierce warriors, respected by their fellow male warriors for their high level of skill in horse riding and counting coup.   Indigenous society did not judge, chastise, ridicule or kill the two spirited person as did white society.   They celebrated the gifts of diversity.

This indigenous appreciation for the necessity of balance through the interplay of yin and yang came to a sad end with the genocide of the North American Indian. With the arrival of the Spanish conquistadores and zealous Jesuit missionaries, the two spirited tradition of the North American Indians was destroyed by the violence of enforced acculturation.

History now provides us with a tragic account of the many sordid ways that Spanish Conquistadors, driven by a belief  system that married  white supremacy with pseudo-pious religious imperialism, began a murderous, systematic war of cultural attrition against the “brown skinned” cultures of the North American continent.When the Spanish explorer Cabeza de Vaca landed in Florida in the year 1530 and discovered the Timicuan Indians who lived there, notations in his diary indicated that he had witnessed “soft Native American males dressing and working as women’.

The Timicuan were a small elegant, artistic tribe located in northern Florida.  Far from the violence of the northern and western tribes, they had little reason for weapons and no shame about these soft males whom de Vaca referred to as berdache– from the Persian “bardaj,” a derogatory term   The proud conquistador celebrates while two-spirited people are thrown into a pit, mauled by wild dogs and suffer a slow painful death.   Beginning in the 1880’s, as proper American society moved across the Great Plains and into the mountains and deserts of the west, people encountered more of these “odd savages” and became determined to recreate Indian society in the image of Euro-American culture. Native Americans were taken away from their homes, their villages, their tribes, and families and acculturated into white society en masse.  Dressed and shorn in fashion of white culture, they were often imprisoned where they were beaten like animals for the slightest indication that they might not wholeheartedly embrace the ways of their captors.

The intentional destruction of Native American culture and the subsequent violent imposition of European Neo-Victorian values signaled the beginning of the end ofthe two-spirit tradition on the North American continent.    By the early 1900’s, their proud tradition was little more than a footnote in a rare historical text.Ironically, while religion succeeded in destroying the two-spirited tradition in indigenous North America, the essence of two spirited wisdom persists despite its detractors.   I am living proof.   From my earliest memories, I have known myself as a human being with a male spirit alongside an equally prominent feminine spirit. Long before I had heard of the term two spirits, I experienced it as a psychological context of my existence.

AWAKENING FROM THE DREAM OF THE WORLD

As I delved further into the anthropology of pagan/indigenous spiritual belief, I began to draw strength from the images of proud two-spirited people–celebrated for their diversity, wisdom, bravery, courage, and spiritual power in indigenous tribes across the globe.   I found numerous examples, both mythological and historical, of people with androgynous character. In these colorful pan-cultural narratives, I read of both men and women who were transformed into members of the opposite sex, either permanently or temporarily, for the sake of punishment or education.  From their legacy, I found liberation from the applied stigma of an intolerant, judgmental society

This new perspective empowered me with the knowledge of my inherent spiritual strength, but with validation came responsibility.   No longer was it possible to play the victim. I made the conscious decision to recreate my self image based on a model of the the two spirited elders who had gone before me.   My warrior’s spirit, suppressed for so many years by internalized shame and bigotry, found inspiration in the knowledge that peoplelike me were validated in ancient history.    I embraced this new manifestation of the spirit and resolved to let it guide me in my search for enlightenment  Buddhists call it maya; the Toltec call it the Dream of the Planet. The Dream of the planet is the collective conditioning that creates duality where none actually exists. Maya is the conditioning that justifies war and poverty, abuse and oppression, judgment and punishment, right and wrong, and murder for the sake of ideology.   Regardless of the name, the process that no humans can avoid is the non-critical internalization of information as directed by the intention of the Dream world we enter.   As I assimilated this unified theory of consciousness, my life began to make sense.

 

In his book of profound wisdom, “The Four Agreements”, Don Miguel Ruiz makes the point succinctly,“Humans are dreaming all the time.   Before we were born the humans before us created a big outside dream we will call society’s dream or the dream of the planet dreams which together create a dream of family, a dream of community a dream of city, a dream of country and finally a dream of the whole humanity The dream of the planet includes all of society’s rules, its beliefs, its laws, its religions, its different cultures and ways to be, its government, schools, social events and holidays.” At the crux of the process is our agreement to the terms of our survival. With the capacity to dream from the moment of birth, our attention is contingent upon our need to survive.

Thus, when you are lying in your crib at the age of two, cold and hungry, without the benefit of personal boundaries, you will agree to any ordered condition of your specific environment in order to continue living.  At the moment a parent or guardian, who orders or allows the conditions of our little world, enters our sacred space and infects it with negative energy, we internalize those conditions. The absorbent yin nature of infantile consciousness provides the ideal context for the establishment of layered patterns of dysfunction.    This patterning describes the process of random input that determines personality. As this initial layer becomes fixed in time, self awareness is built on an endless loop of a conditioned patterning and reactive emotion.

With no discrimination possible upon our entrance into the Dream, our attention is hooked by the intention of a world committed to sustaining this conditioning.   This process of indoctrination begins to shape our young personality.   All of our values, institutions, familial obligations, and sense of self are creations of the collective dream state.  By our agreement to this persistent imposition of conditions, we project a reality in which we become our own judge, jury and executioner. Our words become the weapons of the indiscriminate process by which we spread the toxin of judgment and endless suffering.

Our investment in this illusion of consciousness perpetuates our sense of isolation and separation from the whole.  This process, from a psycho/societal view, referred to as identity politics, is the antithesis of a cohesive peaceful society.   Identity politics divides and subdivides human beings into an infinite number of categories based on superficial characteristics.   This elevation of ego by insidious, subliminal propaganda causes great suffering by creating a false hierarchy of values that celebrates neurosis, negates our humanity and establishes a context for oppression.

Invigorated by this new, liberating model of conscious development, I began to review my personal involvement in the Dream to gain a more rational perspective on my two-spirited condition. In a life changing epiphany, ancient wisdom pierced my heart like a lightning bolt –illuminating the darkness of a life lived in the shadows.   The raging river of caustic rhetorical hate and judgment, that had infected my consciousness for so long, was transformed into a harmless trickle that merged with the Tao of knowing.

FINDING THE REAL ME

Like so many indigenous two spirited folks before me, I had entered the world with a Dream of my own.   I am one of the fortunate ones–chosen by the Great Spirit to manifest this noble Two Spirits tradition in a society that manifested lethal sexism.    The simple act of being born with equal parts masculine and feminine renders me a social pariah. In a world so heavily invested in the duality, I represent a threat to the power structure– doomed to a life lived in the shadow of mainstream society, or any society at all.

Throughout many years of suffering, I wandered blindly in the darkness of my own illusion.   I have survived the perilous conflict between the world Dream and my own  personal dream by deconstructing my sexist conditioning through the lens of my essential humanity.    Through the warrior’s act of intention, I have recreated my “self” based on the gift of Two-Spirited medicine that guides me on this personal journey of transcendence.    Personality, based on illusory thought–produced by a shared corrupt ego state–burdens me no more. The Dream of the world has lost its steely grip. My spirit shall not yield to the deception.

My life as a two spirited person today is full and rich because I honor myself in my Two Spirits tradition.    No longer am I afflicted by the illusion of the duality.    Within me, yin and yang are one, undivided–undifferentiated. I am neither this nor that. I represent the unification of the first binary–the primary subdivision that occurs at the moment of birth at the whim of a stranger in white. I reject this arbitrary distinction based on a cursory inspection of my genitalia. I am a human being and that is enough.  Endless subdivisions of identification only enhance my separation from other humans.

All sentient beings enter this material plane with the essence of their luminous character momentarily intact. Our consciousness is tabula rasa–a blank slate upon which is written the disparate elements of our future personality. Within minutes of our birth, we are assigned a gender based on our genitalia.   At the precise moment of this declaration, the infant is set on one of two very different paths whose parameters determine flux and flow of its life.    By the time we reach first year’s end, we are baptized by delusion.    The Dream clouds our vision, separating us from the source of our essential brilliance. And we forget.

We forget that before we internalized the identity that causes us to feel the immense pain of separation and isolation we were united as light beings in an energetic dimension of non-duality. We forget because human consciousness produces a false ego-based concept of gendered duality that is perpetually reinforced through violence and other forms of coercion.  Before we know what or who we are, sexism becomes the engine of social control. By the dominance/submission agreement into which men and women enter, this dream of sexism creates and perpetuates the suicidal imbalance of power and ensures our future disharmony.

While the dream of sexism continues to inflict pain much of man’s violence toward women cannot be understood in a rational sense.  Perhaps this murder by misogyny is man’s way of killing the feminine within himself in an effort to reinforce his self image of manhood.   Regardless of the motive, the prevalence of misogyny is the best evidence of our nihilistic tendencies.   While the Dream of sexism is too powerful to confront directly, its negative consequences are too destructive to ignore.  Until we as a global society are willing to confront this shadow side of our collective unconsciousness, we wobble on the brink of self destruction

We live in a very potent, extremely perilous time.  With the passing of each decade the world, precariously out of balance on the fulcrum of time, slides inexorably into the darkness. With the aid of industrialization and technology, we are losing our humanness under the immense burden of our artificially inflated egos.   What we refer to as culture is a euphemism intended to disguise the totality of our conditioned violence  that includes man’s violence against man, against women and against Gaia.  We are ‘civilized’ animals who have forgotten what is sacred.

The mysterious, awesome spirit of life, that animates and gives meaning to everything, ironically empowers the mechanism of its own demise.    Unbalanced, unbridled ego imbues the individual with the necessary rationale to commit the senseless destruction of life for the sake of ideology.    These are discomforting truths, yet we have no choice but to confront them while we still have our collective human will.    As conscious beings, we must take responsibility for our behavior, or perish in our apathy.    No longer is it practical to externalize authority.  No god will save us-none but the one we find within us.

A WARRIOR’S STANCE

A spiritual warrior must use all of their intention to pierce the veil of illusion that defines our lives, reinforces our sense of separateness, and perpetuates our suffering.  For as long as we are dominated by egocentric politics, a fatal imbalance of yin and yang threatens us with extinction.    A return to balance requires a commitment to a fearless, non-judgmental exploration of the self from earliest memory.    Most of the agreements that we have made since our first moments of life must be broken.    Our numerous defense mechanisms, all of our deepest darkest fears, all grasping, and all of our attachments must be reviewed in the context of the Dream.     Only when these subconscious negative obstructions melt away will we find the light within ourselves.

If we are serious about becoming a spiritual warrior for the benefit of ourselves and the collective, we must first focus on the healing nature of unconditional self-love.     This can only happen when we break with the subconscious, self limiting agreements of our past.  Believe that you deserve love, and with time the many layers of accumulated toxic patterns lose their evil power. Your commitment to begin your own healing with the power of love is the most important agreement one can make, for logic dictates that one can not give away something one does not possess. Begin now. Make a vow to love everything about yourself everyday.    Demonstrate self-love in every moment with every act.

Personal freedom requires a firm commitment to renounce the oppressive conditioning that leads us into the darkness of despair . I ask that you join me now and everyday as I renew the vows that produce beneficial karma.      For the benefit of all sentient beings; I take a vow of non-violence in my words and deeds. I vow to practice compassion toward myself that I may then extend it to others, I pledge to be ever mindful of the rotten fruits of desire, and I will do whatever I must to transcend the illusion of personal identity. Towards that end, I vow to polish the mirrored lens of my spirit that I might reflect the sun’s perfect light that shines in you.

The Divine Light in Me Honors the Divine Light within You.

NAMASTE

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