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Thursday, March 1, 2018


“A man of knowledge lives by acting, not by thinking about acting, nor by thinking about what he will think when he has finished acting.  A man of knowledge chooses a path of heart and follows it; and then he looks and rejoices and laughs; and then he sees, and knows.”  Don Juan Matteus

I was perusing a spiritual journal I subscribed to for over ten years.  It was something that I used to read devotedly, daily, like a bible. Then, things changed.  I changed. The journal didn’t have the impact on me that it used to have.

While reviewing my myriad journals before releasing them to charity, an advice column entitled “Flexing Your Spiritual Muscle” caught my eye.  A woman wrote in saying that her yoga class had been dismissed with the teacher’s missive to “flex your spiritual muscle.”  The reader thought Teach was joking, then did a double-take when the teacher specified a term for it, so she wrote in to the column, “Do we really have a spiritual muscle?”

The columnist answered, “Yes, if you view body/mind/spirit as one.” 

Okay, I’m with her there.  All of our systems, energetic, biological, psychological and spiritual, work in concert. If one aspect is off, it affects all others.  Heck, if you have a paper cut, it can mess up your day.  

I was shocked when the advice columnist responded that the yoga teacher was probably referring to the psoas muscle, and spent the rest of the piece discussing the meaning and import of that particular muscle.  The psoas may be an important muscle, but is it spiritual?  If the body is spirit made manifest, (which I believe) aren’t all body parts spiritual, from your nose to your toes?

For my money, if the woman who wrote in regarding her yoga class had used some spiritual “muscle” in the first place she would have simply asked the yoga teacher what she meant by her statement.  How hard is that?  

It’s empowering to examine your own mind/body connection.  Everything generates from the mind when you accept responsibility for your life.   You are an energetic transmitter and receiver based on your thoughts, feelings and beliefs.  Your body reflects what the command center dictates. “I’m stressed, I’m worried, I’m afraid of germs, cancer, aging, death” vs. “I feel great! I’m so happy.  I’m at peace, I’m relaxed, and I feel good about myself and my choices.”  Your body hears you.  And it responds to the stress levels, or peace, that you orchestrate for your self.  Despite the fact of outside circumstances, you’re the conductor when it comes to how you deal with them.  Will you react graciously or maniacally?

Your spiritual “muscle” is not the psoas.  It’s your will.  Your mind.  Your awareness.  And your ability to take right action based on your knowing, or even based on your lack of knowing (such as with the yoga student’s confusion).

I’m aware of the psoas only because my chiropractor, Dr. Zev Roizer (who is a genius) once stuck his fingers deep into my abdomen above my pelvis, producing excruciating pain that zipped through my body like lightning. 

“What the hell was that?!” I exclaimed. It certainly wasn’t a bone, though, as a “network chiropractor” (essentially an energy worker, which is why I love him) he incorporates the musculature and energetic systems into the skeletal alignments.   

Dr. Zev explained that he was pressing on my psoas, which was tight.  When he released it and completed the rest of the profoundly relaxing (except for the psoas incident) treatment, I was a new woman.  He has what I call “The Vulcan Touch.”  When I lie face down and he touches my neck, I become completely tranquil, to the point of feeling out of body at times. 

If you’re stressed, you hold tension in your muscles, which then puts sustained pressure on your skeletal system, creating imbalance.  Everything is connected, or as one gym friend of mine joked (a very funny gal who was learning anatomy so she could teach dance to kids) “The hip bone is connected to the thigh bone, and the thigh bone is connected to the pussy bone!” because she was so overwhelmed with memorizing details pertaining to human anatomy. 

It’s obvious to me that exercising your spiritual “muscle” means having backbone, some chutzpah to do what’s important for you.  Not only having integrity but taking action instead of just giving lip service to your ideals.  Living in integrity means matching your words to your deeds.  In other words, follow through on what you say, no matter how small, and be somebody people can count on.  Say what you mean.  Namby-pamby people say one thing and do another, and that’s another way of describing a liar.  

What of “spiritual” people who talk a good talk and pray or meditate, but don’t do anything?  Prayer, meditation, and raising your vibration are all very powerful practices.  But being able to set clear personal boundaries, communicate directly, and take positive action is imperative. Your head may be in the clouds, but your feet must be firmly on the ground.  You’re entitled to change your mind about things, but clearly communicate that fact to others depending on you.   How many people think nothing of telling “white” lies?  There’s nothing innocent about an untruth.  Lies muddy your energetic field.

A terrific example of integrity and spiritual muscle is Desmond Doss in the movie Hacksaw Ridge.  Based on the true story of a very religious medic who enlisted during WWII, he was brutally hazed by those who looked down on him for refusing to touch a weapon. He was finally allowed onto the front lines after two years of extreme abuse and a court-martial, but he was determined to serve his country and help his fallen comrades.

His accomplishments blew everyone away, including his tormentors. Despite the horrific violence, I was so taken by this film that I saw it twice.  I was fortunate to hear both the screenwriter and director Mel Gibson speak after the film in a Q&A.  The screenwriter was asked to sum up the movie in one word.  I thought to myself “faith,” but he answered “principle,” and I realized that was the stronger answer.  Desmond stayed true to his principles by exercising spiritual muscle. 

Mel Gibson was asked what the film was about and he answered, “It’s a love story.  The love of God expressed through the love of man.  Agape.”  I liked that.  Despite being devoted to his fiancée, a nurse back home, Desmond broke his back to save the lives of the very men who had beaten and humiliated him in training.  He put his faith on the front lines, and performed superhuman feats of bravery. 

You don’t have to be perfect (what’s the definition of that, anyway?) but you do have to do something if you claim to “be on the path”  (you can’t just wear a “Spiritual Gangsta” tee-shirt). I take care of business.  No procrastinating.  Being insightful, I’ll often offer a behavioral suggestion or a shift in perspective to people I know grappling with issues.  

As you probably know yourself from trying to help people, they often respond with excuses, like “yeah, but…” then launch into a defense of their chosen paths of pain. I’ve gotten upset watching things go south for folk I care about. Being honest (and hoping to help) I’ve spoken my mind regarding the situations.   But they inevitably carry on with the same choices.

How about “spiritual” or religious hypocrites?  I knew a religious gal who attended church regularly with her boyfriend (not her husband, who’s not religious) and I was amazed by the story of a small town preacher who had an affair with a married congregant then killed her husband so he could be with her (from the Netflix docu-series Murderous Affairs).  In preparation for the murder (which the victim’s wife was in on) the young preacher wrote a letter to his mistress, “We have to be strong and do what the Lord wants.”  Huh?  

Then there’s the personal growth teacher I used to revere.  His adult child was banished when she accused him of sexual abuse in her childhood, something I never would have believed years ago when I was still following his teachings. While an accusation is not proof, I’ve become aware of other things regarding the man that lead me to believe her story is plausible.

Having spiritual backbone means not always being nice or compliant to appear “loving.”  That’s people pleasing and stems from insecurity (fear) not love.  One uses discernment to decide one’s course of action.  Being “nice” to others is most certainly not more important than being true to your needs.  Please your self first, and let your choices pertaining to others come from a place of well-being.  Show others what it’s like to have real self-esteem and to truly have your heart in it when you do want to help.  Giving from the heart vs. giving from obligation are two totally different animals.

I know “gentle souls” (read “passive, and/or fearful”) who meditate and pray but don’t speak up or set boundaries in their lives. Their finances are a mess. Their health is off. Their families are dysfunctional.   If there is one aspect in your life that’s off and your refuse to address it, it taints all other facets, like an infection that turns to gangrene.  You can’t pray it away without also taking action.  The outside always reflects the inside.

People deny their issues because they feel the problems reflect poorly on them.  They want to keep up appearances, maintain their reputation. They would never admit this to anyone, least of all themselves.  They simply default to the numbing drug of denial and delusion, shrugging off serious problems as less serious issues, or rationalizing them as something else altogether, particularly something they have no control over.  As a result of the subterfuge, nothing gets fixed.   

We have control over everything. No, you don’t control the weather and what other people do.  But you do color, shape and conjure the details of your personal life by virtue of what you think, choose to believe and feel.  If you are a fearful person, you attract the very things you fear.  If you are a relaxed, confident person, you attract circumstances and people that reflect your positive state of being.  Your thoughts, feelings and beliefs, are solely under your jurisdiction.  There are no accidents. Contemplate that thought, and empower yourself .

Thinking happier thoughts, thoughts that make you feel good, is a start, and so is processing and understanding your unhappier thoughts so you can dispense with them. When you start doing this work, the mist will begin to clear.  Your life will work better as you release thoughts that drag you down and embrace thoughts that feel better, empowering thoughts that align with what you want, not what you're running from.  You must then take action based on empowered thoughts, feelings and beliefs, using your spiritual muscle to build the life that you want.   There’s a feedback loop between what you think, feel, and do.  Lasso your rope around sunny skies and white clouds.  You don't have to sit in a puddle on the ground in the rain without an umbrella. Take care of your self. Engineer your well-being.

Facing your fears is always healthier than crippling yourself with delusion.  Nipping something in the bud saves you years of allowing your life to fall into disrepair and decay.  That being said, if a dismal detour is the choice that you, friends or family make, respect that decision.  Sometimes lessons can only be learned the hard way.  But lessons can be learned without misery.  We make life easier or harder with the direction we set our rudder.   

Speaking the truth clearly has its consequences, whether the issue is political,  financial, or personal.  But I want to be known for who I really am, and I want to know others for who they really are, too.  No masks, games, posers or liars.

A slippery slope existed for me in the past regarding other people’s problems. Pointing out that they were driving over a cliff seemed the friendly thing to do at the time.  Now I know it’s not.  People choose their cliffs.  Heck, people carve them before toppling over.  Since I’m not so much into cliff-hangers these days, I’m spending less time with people who like to do things the hard way.   

At first it was really hard to watch friends opening their veins and bleeding out.  I was incredulous about things I witnessed.  Their mess, their abyss, got bigger and bigger.  Not only didn’t I want to watch my friends go down a black hole, I worried about my role in their free-fall.  Would I be expected to help pick up the pieces of their shattered lives?  When people around me make outrageously disempowering choices, what should I do?

Considering that people always do what they want no matter what I say (the nerve of them!) maintaining illusions, delusions, and dysfunction, I’m developing a new spiritual muscle: learning to shut up. 

Whereas I used to offer advice in the past, nowadays, if someone’s life is a mess, I pull back from the disaster zone.  There’s nothing you can do to make others fix their problems, and it’s not healthy or useful to stay around dysfunction.   I’ve also learned that when you choose to see others as empowered, instead of pitiful, your vision offers them strength (if they will receive it) to step up to the plate and do what needs to be done.  If they see themselves as victims, they’re done for.   If folk genuinely want clarity by exploring their distress with me, I’m happy to help, but I know far too many people who only play the blame game and don’t accept responsibility for their part in creating the mayhem in their lives.

When it comes to issues in my own life, I know to ask questions, set boundaries, and speak up.  I utilize my spine, my psoas, and my mouth.  Positive thinking without positive action is nothing.  If your house is on fire you call 911.  You don’t read the bible.

Backing off remains a big, big lesson for me.  Whereas speaking the truth was the daring and bold thing to do for me in the past (when I was still finding my voice) now that I’ve found it, keeping not only silent, but emotionally detached when it comes to other people’s drama represents a new learning for me.  My mother always said, “The duty of another is full of danger.”  Now I know what she meant.   

It’s easier now for me to detach.  Getting worked up over stuff I can’t change changes nothing, but shifting my attitude and my behavior does.   I can create calm amid chaos.  I can walk away from the disaster zone. When I do, I free my self with an energetic shift.   I create space for things to go better.  For me, at least.   You can’t save the world.  But being a healthy, happy individual adds positive energy to the planet.  When you think of all the ongoing mayhem, contemplate the power of being a force for good simply by living a happy life.  

Flexing my spiritual muscle now includes a “live and let live” attitude.  Dysfunction without desire for insight doesn’t feel good to be around.   Nor does my anger, despair or frustration when I hold judgments about others’ choices if I hold a ringside seat.  

As soon as I step back, I can regard them more dispassionately, and compassionately. But I’m not responsible for their pain or their problems.  I can love from a distance while trusting that they will attend to their life as I attend to mine.  What a great relief to know you’re only responsible to run your own game.   You may think this outlook is selfish, but having tried to pry people out of emotional quicksand when it became clear they were choosing to stay put, I call it lifesaving.

People come to truth in their own time.  And sometimes not at all.   At any rate, it’s up to you to decide when it’s important to advocate for yourself or others, be it the environment, animals, or your own family.  But don’t be Atlas.  Carrying the weight of the world is his job.   The individuals with the problems are the only ones who can do anything about their situations.  Keep your eyes on the road and stop rubbernecking. 

Someone once suggested that I was advocating “tough love” because I felt that setting firm boundaries with his troubled friend was the answer to his problem.  On the contrary, I think that continually giving in to someone else’s dysfunction (which he was doing) and cleaning up others' messes is the real “tough love,” for it teaches the troubled person to have no accountability, and creates a social invalid. To live in this world without knowing how to function in this world is not a healthy outcome.

“Give a man a fish and he eats for a day.  Teach a man to fish and he eats for a lifetime.”  The eagle pushes her eaglet out of the nest so that the baby becomes a powerful, self-sufficient predator.  Allow the baby to stay in the nest, and it eventually becomes prey, not the powerful creature she was intended to be.

Dog “whisperer” Cesar Millan understands “spiritual muscle.” Problem dogs simply reflect their owner’s issues, be they anxiety, anger, or passivity.  Calm assertive energy is what dog owners must exhibit for their dogs to reflect calm submissive energy.  How many people do you know who exhibit calm assertive energy and establish boundaries, rules and limitations at home, socially, and on the job?

Whether you have a dog or not, consistently exhibiting calm assertive behavior is exercising spiritual muscle.  It means setting boundaries, and not feeling sorry for others, which reinforces their problems.  When you see others as sad, sorry, pathetic, you bolster a weak vision of them.  When you see them as capable, you empower them. 

As I come increasingly into my own power, my insight is queen, my knowing is king.  That’s why I’m not reading my old inspirational journals anymore.  I turn within for guidance, through solitude and meditation.  I’m “reading” myself, like a cup of tea leaves.   

Flex your spiritual muscle and encourage others to do the same by your shining example.  

© 2018 Valerie Gilbert All Rights Reserved

Valerie is the author of RAVING VIOLET, MEMORIES, DREAMS AND DEFLECTIONS, and SWAMI SOUP.  The books are available in print, e-book, and audio, narrated by the author.  BRILLIANCE BREWING, Valerie's latest book, releases AUGUST 12TH!  

Valerie leads psychic development/guided meditation/past life regression/personal growth workshops in New York City, and privately.  A healer, psychic, medium, and channel, you may book private sessions through her website.

For more information on Valerie's full line-up:

Sunday, October 29, 2017


These are times of great chaos.  Have you noticed?  We are in the throes of entropy. It is not the end of the world, but the end of the world as we know it.   2012 was the turning point.  The old guard is dying.  The new guard, people who respect the planet, themselves and each other, is growing in awareness, numbers and power.  The new power is over self, it is not about dominance over others.  It is about mastery. It is the end of an era, the dark ages, or Kali Yuga, according to the Hindus, represented by a 26,000 year cycle.

I don’t need to point out the madness in the news, the government created mass-hysteria relating to “terrorism” (the deep state is master and initiator of that game) world war III, you name it.  There are plenty of Chicken Littles buying all this crap hook line and sinker.  Prudent folk stay centered and remain the voice of reason.  And hold the line for peace.  But the chaotic energy is clear to see all around in peoples' discordant behavior in New York City, and the world.  

I observe the good, the bad and the ugly while endeavoring to maintain my center.  It's really a form of abdominal strength.  How do you maintain your balance?  Even when I do not hold a peaceful core, I never act out in discord.  I mull over the incidents and try to make sense of them all.  And to laugh, whenever possible.

My building has a newly refurbished rooftop deck of which many residents are quite proud.  I’m not as impressed with it as the others, but I checked out what all the fuss was about, especially when I heard a family of birds was living up there and causing a ruckus.  They had babies, and were dive-bombing the residents to protect their young.  

I learned of this from one of the residents who had helped to decorate the roof.  He said, “I pay to live here! They don’t!”  Oh lord.  Entitlement.  Exactly what has ruined so much of our environment.  No respect for Mother Nature and the right of other species to even exist, let alone thrive. 

I was un-amused by his comment. My sentiments lay with the birds. 

I went upstairs to behold a hand-written warning:

“Watch out!  There is a family of birds living on the roof.  These birds are NOT NICE!  They have been known to attack people.  Be careful!”  

Not nice?  I could say that about half the population in my apartment building.   Surly, impatient, cell-phone obsessed folk.  Too bad it wasn't a killer rabbit up there. 

Wildlife services was called to have the bird’s nest removed.  While sad, I was relieved by the fact that they were not being forcibly removed by some animal hating person in my building, and that my friend, another animal loving person, and I were not attacked by the birds when we were alone on the roof one balmy summer night.  I figured the people that the birds attacked deserved it.  I asked the building management if they knew where the birds were being relocated to.  She didn’t know, only that wildlife services was coming in a few days.   

I found out that when the wildlife team arrived, the whole family of birds was dead.  An obvious case of murder, most likely poisoning.  This saddened me greatly.  And pissed me off.  Everyone knew the birds were being relocated.  They couldn't wait a few more days? But some thug, and I’m thinking it’s more likely someone who lives here than works here, had to kill a small mother and her babies?  These weren’t eagles or crows.  Apparently the birds hadn’t paid their rent.  Animals don’t pay to live anywhere.  Except with their lives.  Shameful. 

“That’s it?”  said a very skinny (okay, anorexic) woman in her 50s who not only goes to my gym, but is there all the time, while she primped at the mirror and I roughly dried my hair.  I assumed she was referring to my abbreviated beauty regime. While many gals weigh themselves, dress up and paint their faces while still at the gym, I steam, shower, dry off and get out.  I take class daily at my gym.  This gal not only takes classes daily, but she’s on the machines before and after classes.  I have seen her morning and night on the same day. As I mentioned, she’s anorexic. She always spreads out an array of diet beverages on the vanity counter of our gym while she’s coiffing, like a bartender doing her hair.

I responded to her vague “That’s it?” with a simple,  “I keep it simple.”  She asked me the same question again weeks later while I was drying my hair. Huh? What’s she getting at?  Is she insinuating that I should groom more thoroughly?  I said, “just a little more drying!” What did she want me to do, use a crimping iron and do a skin peel? 

“No,” she elucidated. “I mean, that’s it for the gym?”  Now, I think going to class seven days a week is pretty darn good, and I do it because it feels terrific to be vigorously active again after many years of being totally sedentary.  My body is reveling in its liberation, like a dog let out to run.  Did she want me to extol her for being perpetually in motion? Was she parading her anorexic zeal, or insulting me by suggesting that I could benefit from some of the same? 

I have no answer. 

“One of these motherfuckahs is gonna have to get up! My ankle hurts!”  An obvious lie from the boisterous ruffian. A group of teenaged girls (okay, a gang) stormed my crowded bus like a tornado, a sound and energy burst of anger, volume and offense.  One of them started lighting matches.  Another shouted out the window and slammed another group of teenaged girls on the street, calling them “ugly bitches”.   Frankly, the girls on the street were a better looking crowd than the gang on the bus.  The girls on the sidewalk made "What?  WHATEVER," faces, but took the high road and ignored the taunts. This group of (six? eight?) girls surrounded me.  They made noise enough for ten. 

If you looked at them the wrong way, they yelled at you.  People were getting off the bus left right and center in disgust and fear.  I was cornered by two of them, a big girl right next to me who had turned her back to me, but whose fleshy bottom was right up in my air space.  Seated on her lap was the tiny girl lighting matches, who jumped off the bus when the driver made an announcement about taking the bus out of service until they stopped, then jumped back on again like a merry go round through another door before the bus pulled out.

A tough looking Latino had gotten on the bus when I did.  While in tight shape, he was quite diminutive in both height and weight.  He was wearing a wife beater, and had two tear tattoos dripping from his left eye.  I knew they signified either how many people he’d killed or how many times he’d been in jail.  Something on that order. He seemed pretty edgy (on drugs?) was talking to himself, and sat directly behind me.  Even he got off the bus after the girls appropriated the local real estate.  Those girls could have eaten him alive in seconds like piranhas. 

I was staying as calm as possible, wanting to protect my space, my person, and my small dog, who was in my lap.  I saw a strong young man get up to leave, one who had actually sacrificed his seat to the girl who claimed her ankle hurt (Why he did that I don’t know. Maybe just to get away from them.).  When I saw him get up I felt the internal nudge, “go now.”  It was a stop before mine, but I liked his energy and wanted to join him.  If I could get past the human hurdle to my left.  What if tough girl wouldn’t let me out?  She was particularly nasty, and these wildcats were all gunning for fights. 

I said, “excuse me.”  She looked at me out of the corner of her eye and glowered.  She talked to the girl on her lap who looked and said, “You’re getting out?”  I nodded.  I gently touched my hand to the shoulder of the girl next to me.  She exploded.  “Don’t you touch me! You don’t know me!”  I didn’t respond, just continued on my way up and out.  The little one who’d lit the matches had a soft spot for my pup. “Don’t mess with her, she has a dog!”  The little one said, “God Bless You” and blew me a kiss.  This was suspect, perhaps taunting and teasing, but I decided to play along with her.

I repeated her words, and her gesture.  I looked at all of her friends.  The big one next to me, who was quite beautiful, really, but full of hatred, continued to glower at me.  I said goodbye to them.  The little one said, “God bless you” again, then blew me two kisses this time.   It’s possible she was just messing with me and was about to shout out “nah ha!”  I smiled, turned and left.  

When I got off the bus with my dog, both of us unscathed, I sighed a breath of relief. The tension on the long, packed bus was palpable.  These girls had polluted an entire vehicle with their rowdy and belligerent behavior.  As I walked up the street, claiming my peace of mind again, the bus driver honked and waved the peace sign at me as he zoomed by.  This was a huge bus and I was all the way in the back.  How did he know who I was?  Even with a surveillance camera, he was busy zipping through traffic while keeping a scant ear and eye on the gaggle of horrific hooligans.  I was touched by his acknowledgement.  I smiled, peace-signed and waved back at him.  A compadre.  

My gym supplies deodorant spray, hair gel, hair spray and moisturizer in the ladies locker room.  The generic containers are identical.  Some of the products look the same, but you can tell the liquid deodorant (which has a spray pump) from the hair gel (which has a pump dispenser).  The moisturizer is white, so that’s easy. Since the deodorant doesn’t spray but drips (it’s not a great atomizer) I’ve taken to squirting some in my hand first, then applying it to my armpit before rinsing my hands.  I noticed on a couple of days that the spray was thicker than usual, and figured that the dispenser was clogged.  Since it seemed like I was the only one using it anyway, it was probably clogged from lack of use.   One day my eyes casually fixed on what the deodorant dispenser read:  HAIRSPRAY.  I’d been putting hairspray on my armpits.  

In my defense, both the deodorant and hairspray liquids are yellow.  In all fairness, my gym’s hairspray seemed to work about as well as the deodorant.

I’m not the first to do this.  Divine (drag queen Glenn Milstead, star of John Waters’ many films, including the masterpiece “Hairspray” (aptly named, given my current topic, rather, confession) used hairspray liberally all over his body, including his face.

Divine was rather overweight.  It was part of her “charm” and general fabulousness.  I read an interview where she said she would open the refrigerator door at night and just pull up a chair to chow down.  This reminded me of a high school pal who amusingly confessed that she had “raped the refrigerator” the previous night. 

Because of Divine’s excess weight and over the top makeup, she sweated profusely.  In order to prevent a downpour while performing, she used hairspray on her face and body to “set” her skin.  I don’t know if it worked, but it wouldn’t be the first unhealthy thing Divine did to her body.  

In related news, I received a sample of organic plantain beeswax.  It was golden, creamy and seemed perfect to me (since it didn’t come with instructions) to use as a rich under-eye cream.  When I looked into purchasing the full sized product I discovered it was an herbal chest rub for coughs.  I’d been putting cough syrup on my eyes.  Went right along with the hairspray in my pits. 

Also at the gym, I continue to assess (for current viability) my workout pants from my previous bout of regular exercising years ago .  I have a tendency to wear things to the bitter end. 

Today’s pair seemed to be holding up, unlike the pair I tried on yesterday that went immediately into the giveaway bag.  I went to the gym.  At one point during sculpt class I noticed that my inner right thigh seemed to be sagging.  Rather, the pants were, since my right thigh is solid.  As is my left.  Had the pants lost their elasticity? 

As class progressed, I observed with mortification that there was a distinct “lump” toward the back of my inner thigh.  Something was stuck up there.  Was it a sock?

Now, I’m in the front row, right by the mirror.  There’s nothing I can do up here without everybody seeing.  Do I leave the class?  Nah, I bend over, swiftly reach up my right pants leg and in one deft move pull out something silky and black.  Jesus Christ, underwear?  This is totally embarrassing.  I shove it quickly in my bag, which was right by me.  Eventually I discern that this is a small black headband that was hanging on the doorknob I hung the pants on last night.

I don’t have my head up my ass, but I do have a headband up my pants. 

I was in one of my building’s elevators which was dressed up for “Halloween” as a service elevator since one of our three elevators will be out of service until they update all of them, original since 1960.  This upgrade will take at least eight months.  Residents get testy since they have to wait longer to exit the building, and the elevator cars are more crowded when they do (eventually) arrive, especially with all the strollers, baby carriages, packages and luggage carts.  But most people understand.  That’s just how it is.  I was in our front elevator (which was still dressed up as the service elevator with padded walls for garbage removal, move outs, repairs, etc., even though our regular service elevator was now back in service).  A tiny Latino man wearing a bright blue bike helmet was descending with me after delivering food from a diner.  We had a brief, pleasant exchange initiated by me because I am generally pleasant, especially to the class of people that are still treated like untouchables in this country.  I look them in the eye and say hello.  I acknowledge their existence as human beings, not just “the help.”

A surly white lady (she is constantly complaining about anything and everything) enters the elevator and immediately starts in on him. “You know you’re supposed to take the service elevator! This is the only elevator we have!  Poor downtrodden woman.  What little “respectability” she has left in this elevator padded to do garbage duty had been taken from her by the presence of a diminutive man delivering food.  She wasn’t much taller than he, and weighed about four times as much.  From what I know about her (the doormen talk) all she does all day is order things online.  And bitch.  Loudly. She receives massive numbers of packages.  Her life, in fact, is dependent upon delivery people.  She returns almost as many things as she buys, being perpetually displeased with everything.

She bore down on the poor fellow the whole ride down, excoriating him relentlessly. My stomach was churning with anger at her, but what to say?

I don’t generally “let it rip.” What could I say that would be of use, that wouldn’t just initiate an ugly scream-fest?  The door opened. He exited, she walked out next, and I followed last. 

“JESUS CHRIST!” I exclaimed loudly, inches behind her head.  I was furious.   She ignored my comment and proceeded to yell at the doorman, repeating her tirade regarding proper service elevator usage by “the help.”  The doorman replied, “the service elevator is being used.”  He was pleasant as could be.  What could he say, or do?  The poor delivery guy stood there frozen.  I stood by his side, energetically protecting him.  I could not believe the scene that was unfolding.  It was ugly on all counts. 

I put my hand on his shoulder, and said, “go.”  I remained pissed about the incident for quite a while.  “Why, I oughta….”  Oughta what?  I’m not afraid of her, I’m contemptuous of her, but getting in a screaming match with a horrid person is not the answer either.  I’m just waiting to see her again to see what will come out of my mouth if she steps out of line, even an “Oh, just shut up!” might suffice.  I felt more than a little like those rowdy girls on the bus spoiling for a fight when thinking about her. 

Since I endeavor at all times to take the high road (even in volatile situations, where I’m emotionally involved) I tried to process, and understand, my anger.  I was indignant on behalf of the delivery guy.  All the good work I’d done to be a mensch was thrown out the window with her witchery.  Maybe she and I just provided great examples of the spectrum of human behavior.

To help me process my anger I used a practice involving the phrase “I am the Word,” meaning, I am the Word of God.  “I am Word through…that fucking bitch.”  You may not understand the sentiment, but it was just what the doctor ordered.  I acknowledged what the human aspect of me thought and felt.   But I also invoked the aspect of me that is divine, and knows that she, in her essence, is divine, while acknowledging the scum on the surface of her pond.  In time, I was able to calm down and begin to view her more neutrally, as a desperately unhappy person who delights in taking her misery out on others.  

How do you process a scene like that?  If it’s your drama, it’s one thing.  If it’s someone else’s, do you get involved?  I got involved by invoking the name of our Lord Jesus Christ (I’m not a Christian, so I mean that in a tongue and cheek kind of way, but I do like J.C.).  I stood around protectively by the side of the poor beleaguered guy, a witness to what was unfolding.  Hopefully he’ll remember that I was nice, swore at her (sort of) and stuck around. 

The doorman, a young black fellow, was also very nice.  He could have yelled at the delivery guy and pretended to play along with Massa.  But he can’t stand her, either.  She’s got filthy energy.  Frankly, she should be taking the service elevator, with the trash, down the chute with the bad eggs like Veruca Salt in “Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory.”  That thought made me very happy.

“I am Word through my anger at her.  I am Word through my anger.  I am Word through that nasty woman and her nasty temper.  I am Word through my temper.”  As I continued to do this throughout the afternoon, I continued to calm down, and could view her more dispassionately.

I had smiled at her once.  She glowered at me in response.  I haven’t wasted a smile on her since.    Being nice to horrible people just pisses them off.

The bottom line is that hating her will neither help her, nor me.  If there is, in the future, something more useful that I can vocalize in response to her rants other than the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, I’ll be happy to.

I will explain again that my take on spirituality is not in denying the human aspect, either hers, or mine. I acknowledge that this woman is virulently negative (some “spiritual” people would make excuses for her, and I never do for people like that). And I admit that I was furious with her for being such a pig to another human being who was quietly exiting the building, all 90 pounds of him, just trying to make a living.  However she became such a miserable excuse for a human, no matter how “sad” her story, it remains an explanation only.  It is no excuse for taking out her misery on others and perpetuating the cycle of violence and abuse.

I was a witness, a participant of sorts.  And the righteous indignation was all mine.  What do you do when you witness an injustice?  Some people take a knee at football games.  I like those people.  Some people sign petitions.  I’m one of those people.  Some people speak up.  Others intervene, where there is the potential for their getting hurt. There are many ways to react to things we wish were different.  Getting angry tells you something is wrong.  Something needs changing.  There is action to be taken.  Staying angry creates problems of its own.

A beautiful Shetland sheepdog and her young mistress walked ahead of me on the street.  Well behaved, the Sheltie walked behind her mistress, and was not pulling on her leash.  I think all Shelties are beautiful, but this dog was particularly lovely.  A truly graceful creature.

I complimented the owner on her dog.  She told me the dog was a rescue who had been devocalized by the previous owners. I couldn’t hear her too well (Second Avenue traffic) but I think she mentioned “a couple of litters” which would indicate that her dog had been a breeder in a puppy mill.  So, a sad past for the poor dog who was nine years old.  The gal had had her for four years.  De-vocalizing, the cutting of the vocal cords so a dog can never bark again, is an abhorrent practice (unless performed on, say, ill-behaved harpies in the elevator).  

I must have made a face when she told me of her dog’s sad past.  “Don’t worry.  She’s spoiled rotten now.” The dog looked confident, comfortable and happy.  Loving and lavishing is not the same as spoiling.  The only thing that would indicate “spoiled” in human or animal is bad behavior.  Like the bipedal rubbish in my elevator.

I asked the gal what her dog’s name was.  “Visa.”  I was confused, and said, “What?” She repeated, “Visa.  We didn’t want to change it.”  I said, “To what, Passport?”

My elevator doors opened a few days ago and I prepared to smile at whoever came out, when that same grumpy woman who unleashed her fury at the delivery man exited the elevator, looked coldly at me, and even more coldly down at my small dog (we too, should have been using the service elevator, and she let me know that with her disapproving glare) before she passed by us.  

I was filled with righteous indignation all over again.  Who the hell is she?  I fumed, contemplating what I might say if she crosses the line just one more time with me.  Since nothing I wanted to say was even remotely civilized, and could possibly get me in trouble, I finally concluded that the best possible thing I could do if she makes trouble for me again is to quote Monty Python and the Holy Grail.  If she irritates me, I will shrilly exclaim, “NI!!!! Ni! Ni!” just like the Knights who say Ni! To which, truly, there is no response. 

Not being an actionable (or rational) statement, it will not get me in trouble.  It will, however, likely bewilder the harridan, and satisfy me to no end. 

Recently, a woman approached my dog and I in a bucolic setting on a beautiful day.  We were sitting on the grass, enjoying the breeze.  A middle-aged woman with long hair approached me.  I figured she needed directions.  In a very thick Spanish accent, quite difficult to understand, I thought she said, “Did you see the man with the pigeons?” What was she referring to, a man feeding pigeons?  This was a very serene area with very few people, and I had not seen such a man.  “No, we just got here.”  I hoped she would go away, as I could not help her.  But she continued on, struggling in the most unclear English to express herself, “blah blah blah, accent accent accent.” Since I was still struggling to understand her and wondering how long she would hover over me, I said, “uh huh” and looked back to my phone in an attempt to get rid of her. She seemed needy and weird. 

As she walked away my brain grasped her last three words, “No Dogs Here!”

This is clearly my karma, having people confront me about my slightly illegal activities (my dog on the wrong lawn, in the wrong elevator) when he is doing nothing more than resting his six tiny pounds on the grass.  I was angry again that this woman was trying to make trouble for me, when we were making none for anyone.  She went out of her way to disturb us in our glen.  But, in retrospect, considering the confrontations from ugly people I’ve had in the past, her pathetic attempt to tell me off in “pigeon English” and, my response, a blasé “uh huh,” was not only benign, it was perfect given my non-confrontational agenda.

I will not deny that I get angry and seethe when others interfere with my peaceful life (I’m most certainly not telling others what to do).  But given the fact that I’m human, I take pride in the fact that I use restraint in what I say and do, my discipline being the antidote to people using fists, foul mouths, and semiautomatic rifles. 

Enough is enough, Filthy Kinnigghitts.

© 2017 Valerie Gilbert, All Rights Reserved.

Valerie is the author of RAVING VIOLET, MEMORIES, DREAMS AND DEFLECTIONS, and SWAMI SOUP.  The books are available in print, e-book, and audio, narrated by the author.  BRILLIANCE BREWING, Valerie's latest book, releases AUGUST 12TH!  

Valerie leads psychic development/guided meditation/past life regression/personal growth workshops in New York City, and privately.  A healer, psychic, medium, and channel, you may book private sessions through her website.

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