“This is the hard part about being intensive: that people have told us all our lives that we’re dangerous. And mostly, I will tell you that we are not. That we just need to find the right structures. But the size of our emotional experience means that sometimes we can push ourselves over the edge.”

Grief is enormous. And there is a lot to grieve. And, as intensives, our ways of expressing grief are often unwelcome (at best) in an expansive culture. How do we honor the intensity of our grief, and process it. And also- how do we remember that we can do that, and so much else, in a community? How do we let others take up our burdens so that we can grieve and rest? And how do we take up those burdens for others? As usual, we will look for answers in community, in relationship, and in the earth. And let’s also talk about how to keep our grief from harming us, physically. Because there is a shade of truth in phrases like ‘my stomach is tied up into knots.” And that truth can be very painful indeed.

Relevant Links:

About the Tank Man from Tiananmen Square: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tank_Man

Leela’s Substack! And the new poem: https://leelasinha.substack.com/p/fire-to-earth?utm_source=profile&utm_medium=reader2

The Conspirituality Podcast discusses Project 2025: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/187-project-2025-an-authoritarian-conspiracy/id1515827446?i=1000640530495

Transcript and notes:


Recorded 26 February 2024.


Hey, everyone, thanks for tuning in.

So the challenge, apparently, is that the world goes on. And here we are.

This week my plan is to talk about the specific kinds of tasks you can assign to intensives and expansives. And then I open the news. And then I decide we need to talk about grief. I write a poem that starts out about grief, and ends up about what we can do about it as intensives.

Because that's what we know: is that as intensives, we have a job to do. We have a responsibility. We have things we gotta thing. So I wrote us a poem, a celebration, a rallying cry, a call to action. And I put it on my new Substack. With an audio, which I may release here at some point.

But right now, what I want to do is actually talk about intensive grief. Because it is so big, as I say in the poem, that it will push your stomach up through a hole in your diaphragm. I know this from personal experience.

There's a hole in your diaphragm that the esophagus has to pass through. And if you cry hard enough, your stomach will force itself up through that hole. It will literally contort our bodies, because that is how big our feelings are. And yes- to any expansives who happen to be listening- it is somewhat terrifying. To us to.

But what do we do with these massive feelings, and especially these days, grief. It's so big. It's so big. Certainly, as a leader, as a supervisor, we need to be aware of it in our people. Because it is also contorting their bodies. And the show simply cannot always go on.

The United States government is doing some absolutely terrible, reprehensible things. The situation in Palestine is undeniably genocide. We have a problem. We have a problem because the will of the people is not being enacted by our government.

But in these moments of grief, we can't think clearly enough to plan the way that we want to. If it simply feels like an emergency, usually we can. And usually we're great in a crisis. And this is a crisis. And here we go.

But also we are intensive go-intensive stop. So we get into that flow state and we work for a while. And then we have to take a break. We cannot continue to push indefinitely. And that is what some of the political forces in this country are counting on. They are counting on the intensives burning out from trying to run constantly.

So the first thing we need to do is be in community so that we know that we can rest while somebody else does the thing. And I mean, both the general thing and the specific thing that you personally have put yourself in charge of. Somebody else needs to pick it up.

It's that choir thing where if the note is held for 12, or 15 measures, the whole choir isn't singing all 12 or 15 measures. People sing to the end of their breath. And they drop out and they come back in so softly. And then they build and somebody else drops out. And that way, the note sounds consistent, because the instrument is the whole choir, not the individuals.

That's really weird for us, we're used to being the only individuals who get it, for one thing; and the only individuals who act, for another thing. And even if we are there's more than just you.

It might feel like it's just you, depending on who you surround yourself with. But I promise you, you are not the only person who recognizes the severity of the situation. You're not the only person who knows something has to be done. You're not the only person trying to do it. You are not the only person also burning yourself out and also trying to get some rest. You're not the only person.

There are hundreds and thousands of people out here. And some of them are intensives and some of them aren't.

The situation is incredibly grave. And it's not just the one political situation, there are like three genocides happening in the world. That sentence should never exist. But there are. There are like three genocides happening in the world. And in addition to those, there is a climate crisis, and a social crisis, and a political crisis here in the United States. And that's just here.

And we're all pushing uphill against a very large political mechanism that for some reason is not responding to us. Probably capitalism. Probably some other things. Definitely project 2025. If you haven't looked into Project 2025, please do. And the fact that those things even exist is a huge source of grief for me personally. And I think for a lot of us, the fact that I am safer fifteen years ago, than I am now, is a tremendous source of loss and grief for me.

The number of deaths in my immediate, you know, awareness circle, in the last two weeks is overwhelming. Just by itself. So what do we do with the grief? Well, first of all, we try not to cry so hard that it causes our bodies physical injury, because we can. And it's better if we don't.

Cry, go ahead and cry. But if it gets to the point where you feel like you're turning inside out, you may need to find a place to scream. That's honestly my best advice is find a place to scream, find a heavy bag to hit, find some safe, hard physical work to do. Because it's, it's more than our bodies can hold. And our bodies will show the effects. And we don't need any more things to deal with than we already have.

So if you can, protect your body from the intensity of holding it in.

Screaming into a pillow is often very effective. I know it's cliche, but it works. Writing, journaling, scribbling with crayons. Getting some cheap paint brushes and smooshing paint all over everything. If your temptation is to self harm, I get it. Consider something like permanent markers. It makes a mark on your body.

Consider something like taking a really cold shower. Not for so long that you get hypothermia.

Because we can drive ourselves to the physical and emotional edges. And that's dangerous. It's dangerous to us.

So we have to find ways to do that, that satisfies our need to be big in our expressions, and also- and also protects us.

This is the hard part about being intensive is that people have told us all our lives that we're dangerous. And mostly, I will tell you that we are not. That we just need to find the right structures. But the size of our emotional experience means that sometimes we can push ourselves over the edge.

I think I've said this on this podcast before. There was a long, several-year period where I considered whether my role in the world was to be that guy in Tiananmen Square. That image is burned into my head. That column of tanks and that one man standing in front of them. Not because I think I would survive such an encounter. I absolutely would not. But because it drew a lot of world attention at the time.

And yet- and yet people are immolating themselves in front of embassies. And it's barely hitting the news cycle, which tells us something about our news cycle. I learned about the most recent one from The Times of India, and a friend. That is not where I should be getting that news. And then what?

We get news like that, and then what? We find out that we've crossed the one-and-a-half-degree centigrade temperature increase for the planet. And then what? What do we do with that physical-- before we figure out what to do for the world, what the next steps are- what do we do with that physical expression in our own bodies?

We each tend to be either highly dissociated or extremely embodied. As usual, there's generally not much middle ground. And if you are one of the highly embodied people, what that means is that every feeling that you have goes through your body in a way that you're aware of it. And if you pay attention to it when it's happening, you'll notice shimmering and trembling and clenching and moving and roiling.

And all of these old fashioned physical words, that sound like making stew or butchering something in the field. They're intense and visceral. Because of course they are. Because it's us. And if you're highly dissociated, you may think most of that's not happening. But it might still be happening. You just aren't tuned into it.

And in both cases, because of the way that the culture is about intensives and intensiveness, we're probably trying to keep it quiet.

Way back several lifetimes ago, I was doing my chaplaincy internship in a hospital on the south south south side of Chicago, the- in the south suburbs. Like one hundred-and-something-something-Street. And I was doing, like a whole hospital shift, an emergency shift. And they paged me down to the emergency room. And I arrived to find an entire family, mourning, in the lobby.

They had just lost their matriarch, she had died. And the whole family was screaming and bent over on the floor, sobbing. And the nurses said to me- the nurses said to me, "they're disturbing the other patients, make them be quiet." Ma'am, I'm a chaplain. I'm not a magician, and I would never want these people to be quiet. They are properly processing and experiencing their grief.

Eventually, they found them a family room, which is usually the space that you put people in to give them bad news. So that they could have a little more privacy. But the nurses who wanted them to be quiet were white, and the family was black. And I don't think that's- I don't think that's an accident.

That family was right to be doing that, to be honoring their grief in that way. Right there, when it happened, when they were feeling it. Not hold it in until you get home. Home was like 30 minutes away. That's not how grief works.

Grief doesn't like take a ticket and sit down and wait for its turn. Grief is right here right now, all the time now. Especially now. All the time now. And we have to honor it. And and we live in an expansive-driven society.

We live in a society where the rules and the expectations are absolutely expansive. And white and colonialist. And when we don't meet those expectations, the consequences can be significant. If you go in the street and scream long enough, I guarantee somebody will call the cops on you. Even if just to get you to stop blocking traffic. We don't tolerate the inconvenience of humanity well at all.

So the question is, how do we honor this grief in a way that allows us to honor our grief and not stuff it down, and not have it turn into literal physiological damage? How do we not give ourselves, you know, nodules on our vocal cords and hiatal hernias doing this? How do we make space for ourselves in a society that doesn't want to make space for us? Which is of course, pretty much always the question for intensives.

It's like the world we live in is keyed into expansives and we need to be intensives in the middle of it. And we need to be intensives, not just pretend to be expansives. And so how are we going to do that?

So like I said, screaming into a pillow. Going out to the woods. You'd be surprised, perhaps, at how loud surf is. If you live near a coast and you can go to the ocean, you can sing really loudly into the surf before someone will hear you. You can stomp all you want on the beach and the only people who will notice are the clams.

If the water is warm enough- and please don't go in the water if it's not warm enough, hypothermia is really dangerous. If the water is warm enough, you can go in, even if it's chilly. You can push on the ocean as hard as you want. And she'll push back. But you'll still be able to move through her.

You can get yourself out of the water and take a nap on the sand and let the crashing of the surf hold you. Just make sure you're high enough above the tide line.

We live on a planet that is bigger than us. And that planet is made for this work. That planet holds us in our intensiveness, in our grief. It knows who we are. We know it intimately, cellularly. And we are perpetually encouraged by our culture to disconnect from it. But that is not correct.

The dominant culture perpetually encourages us to disconnect from it. Iif we have a subculture that does not encourage that, we are incredibly lucky. And that is absolutely the guiding light to follow.

Dance is another thing that you can do. Move like it feels. Breathing is another thing you can use that we don't often teach each other to use. Breathe deeply, breathe fast. Make sure you're somewhere that, if you fall over because you've breathed too much, it'll be a soft landing.

Rage and fury with the way that you move. Make music. Pound drums. Allow the world to be the big thing that it is. Allow it to hold you. Allow it to bring us together into that space, into that space of expression. Which is the first thing. Because we have to get it out before we can integrate it. Before we can do something about it. Before we can wake up and look at it and be aware of it. Truly be with it and the grief of the world.

Thanks for tuning in. Talk soon.