Archive for October, 2009

Pulling out all the stops on walking

October 27, 2009

Just when you thought it was safe to walk again …

The Charm Marm gives the sweet girlies in her charge another walking tutorial on page 20 of the Christian Charm Manual. The lesson titled “As I Walk Through Life” includes several thoughts to bear in mind while putting one foot in front of the other, including the following warning:

A girl will never be charming – no matter how harmoniously her muscles are coordinated – if she is out of harmony with her Creator, out of harmony with family and friends, demanding her way above theirs.

We then see a list of scripture verses to support various walking imperatives: ” God wants me … to walk circumspectly, to walk in the Spirit, to walk worthy of the Lord” – and then my favorite – “to walk in the fear of the Lord.”

Yes, chickadees – that’s how the Charm Marm does it. The simple act of walking becomes a quagmire of literal and metaphorical spiritual missteps. (And what is fundamentalism if not a mishmash of literal and metaphorical?)

The upshot: Again, we mustn’t assert our will above the wishes others. Again, the slightest stumble may mean we aren’t worthy. And again, we must live, walk, breathe and brush our hair in fear.

Part of the problem here of instructing young girls to make no demands and to live in fear – often, the fear of not being worthy – is that they develop no sense at their core of their right to fully occupy their space, to have a personality, to have desires, to have a say in what happens to them. We’re instructed in countless sermons and Bible lessons to “die to self” and to not “let the world squeeze us into its mold” (renegade, non-King James translation on that last one). But how can we give away a self that doesn’t even exist? How can we tamp down something that has no shape? The sweet girlies in Christian charm school are subtly persuaded that we have nothing to offer at all – to ourselves or to the world – that is truly our own.

Undo the Charm Marm

You can’t swing your arms properly while walking if you don’t have a backbone. The ultimate trickery is that we’re taught that the backbone itself is the act of giving ourselves away – we’re taught that we’re nothing on our own, that only with help from outside ourselves can we muster a loving attitude to “walk in the Spirit.”

It’s time for sweet girlies everywhere to know that their backbone is their very own inimitable self, complete with desires and talents. Sometimes demanding your own way is the best possible action you can take. Your way is valuable. For that matter, you’re serving others most effectively when you know what you have to offer and what your metaphorical fingerprint looks like. (Hint: It may look like a fingerprint, but it feels like a backbone.)

Consider these your walking papers.


Original sin takes one on the chin

October 12, 2009
Shambhala warrior philosophy

Train like an ancient warrior.

Today’s charm school break is sponsored by ancient Tibetan warriors.

In Shambhala: Sacred Path of the Warrior, the Buddhist teacher Chogyam Trungpa writes about the Tibetan concept of Shambhala and the importance of understanding your own basic goodness, so that you can in turn create peace and harmony in the world.

“When you experience the goodness of being alive,” Trungpa teaches, “you can respect who and what you are … Because we appreciate the world, we take better care of it and our fellow humans.”

There’s a basic assumption in his teachings that’s at the other end of the spectrum from that other religious concept of original sin. The Charm Marm loves reminding all the sweet chickadees in her class about original sin. The idea lurks on many pages of the Christian Charm Manual, including admonishments that the girls are members of the weaker sex, valuable only when pleasing others.

Instead, Trungpa keys into something much deeper. “When we feel that our lives are genuine and good,” he writes, “we do not have to deceive ourselves or other people. We can see our shortcomings without feeling guilty or inadequate, and at the same time, we can see our potential for extending goodness to others. We can tell the truth straightforwardly and be absolutely open, but steadfast at the same time.”

Trungpa emphasizes that this outlook provides the ground for helping yourself and others. He goes on in the book to teach more traits of the warrior, but a steady sense of one’s own goodness is at the core. He mentions a sudden whiff of fresh air or the clean feeling after a shower and says, “It is worthwhile to recognize and take advantage of these moments, because they are revealing basic nonaggression and freshness in our lives – basic goodness.”

Perhaps the Charm Marm would like to take a bubble bath now.