I Asked Atheists How They Find Meaning In A Purposeless Universe ~ Tom Chivers

If there’s no afterlife or reason for the universe, how do you make your life matter? Warning: The last answer may break your heart.

Rebecca Hendin / BuzzFeed / ThinkStock

Jerry Coyne, evolutionary biologist and author of Faith vs Fact: Why Science and Religion Are Incompatible

“The way I find meaning is the way that most people find meaning, even religious ones, which is to get pleasure and significance from your job, from your loved ones, from your avocation, art, literature, music. People like me don’t worry about what it’s all about in a cosmic sense, because we know it isn’t about anything. It’s what we make of this transitory existence that matters.

“If you’re an atheist and an evolutionary biologist, what you think is, I’m lucky to have these 80-odd years: How can I make the most of my existence here? Being an atheist means coming to grips with reality. And the reality is twofold. We’re going to die as individuals, and the whole of humanity, unless we find a way to colonise other planets, is going to go extinct. So there’s lots of things that we have to deal with that we don’t like. We just come to grips with the reality. Life is the result of natural selection, and death is the result of natural selection. We are evolved in such a way that death is almost inevitable. So you just deal with it.

“It says in the Bible that, ‘When I was a child I played with childish things, and when I became a man I put away those childish things.’ And one of those childish things is the superstition that there’s a higher purpose. Christopher Hitchens said it’s time to move beyond the mewling childhood of our species and deal with reality as it is, and that’s what we have to do.”

Rebecca Hendin / BuzzFeed

Susan Blackmore, psychologist:

“If I get a what’s-it-all-for sort of feeling, then I say to myself, What’s the point of it all? There isn’t any point. And somehow, for me – I know it’s not true for other people – that is really comforting. It slows me down. It reminds me that I didn’t ask to be born here, I’ll be gone, and I won’t know what’ll happen, I’ll just be gone, so get on with it. I find that comforting, to say to myself that there is no point, I live in a pointless universe. Here I am, for better or worse, get on with it.

“I was thinking about this yesterday. I was gardening, out there pulling up brambles, and I thought, Why do I do this? And the answer is, because I’m smiling, I’m enjoying it, and actually I love it. It’s because of the cycles of life. I was thinking, What’s the point of growing these beans again, because they’ll just die, and then next year I’ll do the same thing again. But isn’t that a great pleasure in life, that that’s how it is? The beans come and go, and you eat them and they die, and you do the work, and you see it come and go. Today is the due date for my first grandchild, and I think similarly about that. The cycles of birth and death. Here I am in the autumn of my life, I suppose – I’m 64 – and I’m just going through the same cycles that everyone goes through, and it gives me a sense of connection with other people. God, that sounds a bit poncey.

“The pointlessness of life is not a thing to be overcome. It’s something to be celebrated now, because that’s all there is.”

Simon Coldham, “father, husband, and son”:

“Life is a series of experiences, and the journey, rather than the end game, is what I live for. I know where it ends; that’s inevitable, so why not just make it a fun journey? I am surrounded by friends and family, and having a positive effect on them makes me happy, while giving my kids the opportunity, skills, and empathy to enjoy their lives gives me an immediate sense of purpose on a daily basis. I can’t stop the inevitable so I’ll just enjoy what life I have got, while I’ve got it. I won’t, after all, be around to regret that it was all for nothing. “

Rebecca Hendin / BuzzFeed

Dr Adam Rutherford, geneticist and broadcaster:

“To assume there is meaning to the universe is to misunderstand our cosmic insignificance. It’s just self-centred and arrogant to think that there might be something that might bestow its secrets upon us if we look hard enough. The universe is indifferent to our existence. But we’re not merely slaves to our genes. 

“A meaningless universe does not mean we live our lives without purpose. I’m an atheist (inasmuch as that word means I don’t see evidence or the need for supernature), but I try to live my life replete with purpose. Be kind; learn and discover as much as you can; share that knowledge; relieve suffering when you can; have tonnes of fun. That’s why it’s not pointless. We have the power to create life, and to show those lives wonder. Surely that’s enough? It is for me.”

Rebecca Hendin / BuzzFeed

Gia Milinovich, writer and broadcaster:

“Several years ago I worked on a film called Sunshine which was written by Alex Garland. He wrote the film as an exploration of the inevitable, eventual end. Every day Alex and I would have long, involved discussions about ‘the end of time’. One thing he said stuck with me: ‘Our problem is that, in an entirely meaningless universe, our lives are entirely meaningful.’ 

“There is meaning in the universe. My children mean something to me. My husband means something to me. The roses blooming in my garden mean something to me. So, there is meaning in the universe, but it is localised: It perhaps only exists here on Earth.

“When you start to think in universal time spans, your perception of humanity must necessarily change. Differences of opinion seem pathetic. National borders become ridiculous. The only thing that starts to be important to me is material reality and understanding how it operates and how matter itself came into being in the first place.

“Accepting that not only will I die, but so will everyone I know and everyone I don’t know – and humanity, and the universe itself – brought me a very deep and profound peace. I don’t have to run away from the fear of oblivion. I am not afraid. I celebrate reality. I don’t have to pretend that there will be some magic deus ex machina in the third act of my life which will make it all OK and give me a happy ending. It is enough that I exist, that I am here now, albeit briefly, with all of you. And it’s an amazing, astonishing, remarkable, totally mind-blowing fucking miracle.”

Robyn Vinter, journalist:

“I try not to ache my brain too much about how vast the universe is and what life’s all about. I think it’s OK not to spend time wondering what the point of human existence is. All I know is we’re here and we might as well not have a horrible time, if we can help it. I do feel that life is ultimately pointless, but I honestly don’t care. I’m just squeezing as much happiness out of it as I can, for me and the people around me.”

Rebecca Hendin / BuzzFeed

Kat Arney, biologist and science writer:

“I was raised in the Church of England. As a teenager, I ‘found Jesus’ and joined the evangelical movement, probably because I desperately wanted to feel part of a group, and also loved playing in the church band. I finally had my reverse Damascene moment as a post-doctoral researcher, desperately unhappy with my scientific career, relationship, and pretty much everything else, and can clearly remember the sudden realisation: I had one life, and I had to make the best of it. There was no heaven or hell, no magic man in the sky, and I was the sole captain of my ship.

“It was an incredibly liberating moment, and made me realise that the true meaning of life is what I make with the people around me – my family, friends, colleagues, and strangers. People tell religious fairy stories to create meaning, but I’d rather face up to what all the evidence suggests is the scientific truth – all we really have is our own humanity. So let’s be gentle to each other and share the joy of simply being alive, here and now. Let’s give it our best shot.”

Dr Buddhini Samarasinghe, molecular biologist:

“I think there are two things about living in a godless universe that scare some people. First, there is no one watching over them, benevolently guiding their lives. Second, because there is no life after death, it all feels rather bleak. 

“Instead of scaring me, I find these two things incredibly liberating. It means that I am free to do as I want; my choices are truly mine. Furthermore, I feel determined to make the most of the years I have left on this planet, and not squander it. The life I live now is not a dress rehearsal for something greater afterwards; it empowers me to focus on the here and now. That is how I find meaning and purpose in what might seem a meaningless and purposeless existence; by concentrating on what I can do, and the differences I can make in the lives of those around me, in the short time that we have.”

Rebecca Hendin / BuzzFeed

Dr Pete Etchells, lecturer and science writer:

“Whenever I get involved in conversations about the meaning of life, and where everything’s headed, I can’t help but feel that there’s an underlying assumption that because these are ‘big’ questions, they necessarily need big answers. There aren’t any, though. We’re not here for a universal purpose, and there is no grand plan, no matter how tempting it is to believe it. 

“But that’s absolutely fine, because it means that if there aren’t any big answers, the little ones are all the more important. So every day, I take my dog for a walk in the field near my house. Sometimes I get to see a pretty sunset, but usually it’s either bucketing down and I get soaked, or cold, or the field is full of mud and bugs and dog turds, and it’s a pain to navigate through. Whatever the situation, though, my dog has the most ridiculous fun ever, and being a part of that little moment of joy is what it’s all about. So be nice to the people and things around you – it doesn’t cost anything, and generally makes the world a nicer place to live in. Focus on the little answers.”

Alom Shaha, physics teacher and author of The Young Atheist’s Handbook:

“Yes, of course I know that life is ultimately without meaning or purpose, but the trick is not to wake up every morning and feel that way. Cognitive dissonance? Embrace it. Create a sense of meaning and purpose by doing something useful with your life (I teach), being creative – I don’t mean that in a poncey hipster way, I mean make a curry, build some bookshelves, write a poem. 

“And most importantly, find people you like and love and spend lots of time with them. I regularly have people over for dinner, throw parties for no other reason than I just want to spend time surrounded by the people I love. And if you’re really stuck, eat rice and dal. Physically filling yourself with the food you love really does fill the emptiness you may feel inside.”

Rebecca Hendin / BuzzFeed

Richard Smyth, writer:

“It’s honestly never bothered me. I suppose that’s because my definitions of ‘meaning’ and ‘purpose’ are pretty thoroughly rooted in the world I know. I know what happiness is, and love, and fulfilment and all that; these things exist (intermittently) in my short earthly life, and it’s from these things I derive my ideas of what a meaningful, purposeful existence is.

“I am, like anyone, staggered when I consider my tininess in the multi-dimensional scheme of things, but – and I know this sounds a bit silly – I don’t really take it personally. Meaning has to be subjective; atheism actually makes it easier to live with this, as who is better placed than me to judge the meaningfulness of my work, or my relationship, or my piece of buttered toast?”

Tracy King, writer and producer:

“The notion of an eternal afterlife, particularly one based on a meritocracy, is for me the opposite of purpose and meaning. If I’m going to heaven or hell because of my trivial actions (depending on which religion you choose) on earth, then I don’t really have much choice about what I do, which somewhat minimises my free will and personal autonomy. I can’t find any purpose in that. Life is not a rehearsal or test for something else, and it’s anathema to ‘doing your best’ to treat it as such.

“I don’t pursue purpose or meaning or even happiness, because I suspect those things, like religion, lead to complacency. If the bath is the perfect temperature, why would you ever get out? Instead, I actively try and push myself to achieve things that contribute to society in a positive way (for my particular skillset, that’s science animation), that give me a sense of a job well done and a benchmark to improve on. Social achievements that have a small chance of outlasting me, but if not, it doesn’t matter. I won’t know about the world forgetting me, ‘cause I’ll be dead.”

Rebecca Hendin / BuzzFeed

Dan Griliopoulos, games journalist:

“There’s no inherent meaning in life, but that doesn’t mean that it’s meaningless. First off, you’re raised, deliberately or accidentally, with an array of beliefs, values and prejudices by family, school, and society, that mesh or clash with the things you biologically like – that is, nature and nurture shape your preferences. So there’s already things that you value, more get put on you fairly quickly, and you get to spend your life exploring their precedence, their acceptability to society and its laws, and whether you really like them or not. 

“So, what I’m saying is that value is inherent to us all, which provides a grounding to meaning. I’m not saying that such a meaning is justified, but if you’re smart, lucky and/or ruthless it might be internally coherent by the time you hit adulthood, which is more than most off-the-shelf meaning systems out there (whether that’s philosophies, health systems, or religions). Meaning is a human thing – to go looking for it in the alien, unconscious universe is nonsense on stilts.”

Andrew Copson, chief executive of the British Humanist Association:

“People ask how you can find any meaning in life when you know that one day you’ll be dead and in due course nothing of you will survive at all – not even people’s memories. This question has never made sense to me. When I’m reading a good book, or eating a good meal, or taking a scenic walk, or enjoying an evening with friends, or having sex, I don’t spend the whole time thinking, Oh no! This book won’t last forever; this food will be gone soon; my walk will stop; my evening will end! I enjoy the experiences. Although it’s stretched out over a (hopefully) much longer time, that’s the same way I think about life. We are here, we are alive. We can either choose to end that, or to embrace it and to live for as long as we can, as fully and richly as possible.

“Obviously this means that we all have different meanings in our lives, things that give us pleasure and purpose. The most meaningful experiences in my life have been relationships with people – friends and family, colleagues and classmates. I love connecting with other people and finding out more about them. I enjoy the novels and histories that I read for the same reason and I like to feel connected to the people who have gone before us. I hope that the work I do in different areas of my life will make the world a better place for people now and in the future, and I feel connected to those future people too, all as part of a bigger human story.”

Rebecca Hendin / BuzzFeed

Stephen Knight, host of the Godless Spellchecker podcast:

“When we reject the imagined supernatural meaning from our existence, what we’re left with is far from a consolation prize. Sure, it’ll be messy at times, sometimes joyous, sometimes miserable, but it’s all we’ll ever know. And it’s ours. We invent comforting lies to distract us from one simple truth: Oblivion looms. So, what are you going to do about it? 

“I choose to live, laugh, love, travel, create, help others, and learn. And I’m going to do as much of this as I can manage, because the clock is ticking. We create our own meaning, and there’s more than enough to be had. Seize it where you can.”

Jennifer Michael Hecht, author of Doubt:

“I spent many years of my life sad about there being no divine meaning, but having learned the history of doubt and unbelief, and thought it over for the next decade and a half, that issue isn’t on the table for me, in that way, any more. What I believe now is that we think we have a meaning problem because we recently got out of a relationship with a character named God, whose given traits included being the source of human meaning. 

“Most people through history have not believed in an afterlife: We have records of the first time the ideas of an afterlife appeared in our culture and others, which means that people before lived without an afterlife. You don’t hear them calling death an abyss. The horror we have about there being no afterlife is entirely local to people from a culture that used to believe that everyone went on living after death, and these are an absurd anomaly.

“If I ask myself ‘What is life for?’ I have to answer: ‘Wrong question.’ You don’t ask how your foot knows to push the blood in your toes back up to your heart. It happens, but your foot doesn’t know how it knows to do it. Life isn’t for anything, but it does matter. We are a witness to the universe. We are the witnesses to each other. We believe each other into being. We generate things and people that matter to us and to others. Human life is such a bizarre, endlessly complex riot of emotions and processes; it is amazing to be one.”

Rebecca Hendin / BuzzFeed

Michael Marshall of Merseyside Skeptics:

“Often people of faith assume that because atheists don’t believe in a master plan or an afterlife we have no purpose in life, but I couldn’t disagree more. I find the fact that there is no external force in charge of us all makes the life we do have much more interesting. We get to derive our meaning, and create our own purpose, and that makes it a much richer experience than playing out pre-written scripts for the amusement of an omniscient almighty. That we all just get one life to live means we don’t have the safety net of a do-over, and it makes the time that we do have more meaningful to me. 

“It also means that because there is no ‘right’ answer to life, there are far fewer wrong answers – if you’re doing something you love, and you aren’t harming other people, you’re basically on the right track. I find compassion in atheism: It makes me want to help people, because the idea that I stood by and watched someone’s one shot at life go badly in a way I could have prevented makes me enormously sad. It’s also why I reject the idea that atheism leads to a selfish mentality; it leads me to the feeling that we all have the same vanishingly short time to enjoy, so it’s incumbent on us all to try to make society work for everyone. 

“It’s true that in a century or two my existence will be forgotten, but I find it comforting to know that everything we stress over will be lost in the merest blip of cosmological time. The universe doesn’t care about my mortgage; our obscurity and irrelevance can be a blessing as well as a burden.”

Martin Dixon, photographer:

“The idea of some higher meaning to life is so ingrained in our culture that I think we approach this from the wrong angle. I don’t believe there is any great meaning or purpose to life, but rather than see this as a lack of something, why not look at what’s actually there? I find meaning in my relationships with friends; I find meaning in music, literature, art, and what they reveal of the minds, lives, and values of the people who created them. I find meaning in the ever-increasing understanding forged by scientists and philosophers. I find meaning in the actions of others, how people choose to interact with the world.

“All this sounds like I spend my time extracting meaning from things, but I mostly spend my time eating things, wandering about, doing things I need to do, and being entertained/annoyed by cats. 

“Things don’t happen for a reason. The world exists in the moment for its own sake and we just happen to be able to observe, experience, and reflect on it. What matters is how you live day to day.”

Rebecca Hendin / BuzzFeed

Jan Doig:

“Three years and nine months ago I would have declared myself agnostic. Then my husband died without warning at the age of 47. My life fell to pieces. This is no exaggeration. As the terrible days passed in a fog the same question kept forming. Why? Why him? Why us? I was told by well-meaning friends that it was part of God’s plan and we would simply never know what that was. Or from friends with a looser definition of religion, that the Universe had something to teach me. I had lessons to learn. 

“These thoughts caused me great fear, anger, and confusion. What sort of God, even if he had a plan for me, would separate a fine, kind, gentle man from his children? Why would God or the Universe look down and pick on our little family for special treatment? Why a good man with not a bad bone in his body who had never raised a hand to anyone? My best friend for 29 years. Any lesson the Universe had to teach me I would have learned willingly. He didn’t have to die!

“I thought about it a lot. I was raised Catholic so guilt ran through me like writing through a stick of rock. Had I been a bad wife? Was he waiting for me? There were days when, if I had been certain of a belief in an afterlife, I might have gone to join him. It was a desperate time. I needed evidence and there simply wasn’t any. I just had to have faith and believe. 

“One day as I was sitting on his memorial bench in the local park I suddenly thought, What if no one is to blame? Not God. Not me. Not the Universe. What if he’s gone and that’s all there is to it? No plan. Just dreadful circumstances. A minor disturbance in his heart led to a more serious and ultimately deadly arrhythmia, and that killed him in a matter of moments. It is a purely scientific view of it. I may seem cold or callous but I found comfort in that. I cried and cried and cried, but that made logical sense to me and brought me great peace. 

“My heart and head still miss my husband every day. I treasure everything he gave me and I love him as much today as the day he died. But I can remember him happily without wondering what we had done to deserve this dreadful separation. 

“So I declare myself atheist (and humanist by extension) and my friends shake their heads. I stay on the straight and narrow without the guiding hand of a creator or any book of instructions. 

“I’m not a religious or a spiritual person. (For some reason many of my female friends are shocked by this admission!) I don’t believe in God or the Universe. I don’t believe in angels, the power of prayer, spirits, ghosts, or an afterlife. The list goes on and on. I think there is a scientific meaning for everything, even if we don’t understand it yet. I find meaning in everyday things and I choose to carry on. 

“The sun comes up and I have a chance to be kind to anyone who crosses my path because I can. I make that choice for myself and nobody has to tell me to do it. I am right with myself. I try my best to do my best, and if I fail, I try again tomorrow. I support myself in my own journey through life. I draw my own conclusions.

“I find joy in the people I love. I love and I am loved. I find peace in the places I visit. Cry when I listen to music I love and find almost childlike joy in many things. This world is brilliant and full of fascinating things. I have to think carefully for myself. I don’t have to believe what I’m told. I must ask questions and I try and use logic and reason to answer them. I believe that every human life carries equal worth. I struggle with how difficult the world can be, but when we have free will some people will make terrible decisions. No deity forces their hand and they must live with that. 

“Life is a personal struggle. Grieving is never an easy road to travel. It’s painful and lonely at times but I use what I know to try to help when I can. I try to be loving and caring with my family and friends, and have fun. I will cry with friends in distress and hear other people’s stories and be kind because it does me good as well. I listen and I learn. It helps me to be better. Life without God is not a life without meaning. Everything, each and every interaction, is full of meaning. Everything matters.”

http://www.buzzfeed.com/tomchivers/when-i-was-a-child-i-spake-as-a-child#.egZ6Z5Yk7J

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How To Make Friends As An Adult In 4 Simple Steps ~ Margaret Manning

As many people in their 50s have discovered, making friends as an adult is difficult. Without the social bonds that connect us to others as parents, many of us feel isolated — or even a little lonely.

The truth is that it is possible to have an active social life at any age — but, first, we need to accept the fact that making friends after 50 is an active process. We can no longer afford to wait for other people to come to us. We need to take action.

This is the main reason that I decided to build Boomerly. I wanted to create a place where older adults could go to meet like-minded people. Along the way, I had the opportunity to talk with hundreds of people about their experiences making friends as an adult. Through these conversations, I learned that the people who succeed in building meaningful friendships as an adult are the ones that follow these four steps. 

Step 1: Start by Getting to Know Yourself

When you ask people how to make friends as an adult, they usually give you suggestions like, “just get out there,” “join a dance class,” or, “try speed dating.” On the surface, these are fine suggestions. After all, making friends does require us to get out into the world and take a few emotional risks.

Most of the time, however, we are not lacking for ideas on where to meet people. We are missing the motivation, confidence and self-esteem to get started. For this reason, most people find that reconnecting with themselves is a prerequisite to reconnecting with others.

Think back over the last five decades. Have you spent most of your life looking after other people? Have you left your own passions on the back-burner? Have you let your physical appearance go as you focused on raising your family? Do you feel a bit emotionally bruised by the disappointments that you have faced over the years? Do you have regrets that are holding you back?

Dealing with these issues won’t happen overnight. Be gentle with yourself. If you don’t feel like “getting out there” right away, don’t force yourself. Instead, identify the issues that you can control in your life and focus on those.

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Step 2: Develop Your Physical and Emotional Resources

If you feel tired, out of shape, or sad, most of the time, making friends is going to be extremely difficult. Fortunately, there are plenty of simple things that you can do to increase your physical and emotional resources.

Most people don’t realize just how disconnected from their bodies they have become until it is too late. Fitness after 50 is not about looking a certain way for other people. It is about having the energy and confidence to explore the world and make friends on your own terms.

Start small. Use the 1-minute technique to gradually increase your commitment to exercise. Get out into nature. Set a timer to remind yourself to get up every hour to stretch. Try gentle yoga.

Then, as your confidence and stamina improve, increase your level of commitment. Join a local gym or see if your community center has fitness equipment that you can use. Find a sport that you love. Whatever you do, do something.

While you build up your body, don’t forget to nourish your mind. Write down one thing every day that you are grateful for. Spend a few minutes every day in meditation or prayer. Learn to become your own best friend.

Step 3: Chase Your Passions, Not People

When people tell you to “get out there and make friends,” they are telling you to chase people. There are several problems with this approach. First, it puts other people on a pedestal. They are the prize to be won. Second, chasing other people simply doesn’t work. By this point in our lives, we know that the best way to push someone away is to follow them.

The alternative is to approach relationship building from a position of strength. Instead of chasing people, we need to chase our passions. This is the only way to meet people on an equal footing.

What have you always been passionate about? Are there any activities, sports, hobbies or skills that you sacrificed to give your family more attention? What fascinates you? What are you curious about? What gets you excited? These are the questions that you need to answer to make friends after 50.

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Step 4: Be Proactive and Invite People Into Your Life

By the time you reach this step, you will be in great shape. You will have a better understanding of who you are and the kinds of people you want to attract. Perhaps most importantly, you will have recommitted yourself to exploring your passions and getting the most from life after 50. Now it’s time to invite people into your life.

As you explore the world, you will meet hundreds of people who share your interests. Don’t settle for acquaintances. Look for opportunities to bring people deeper into your life. Organize movie nights. Invite small groups over to your house for cocktails. Propose hiking trips. The specifics aren’t important. Just don’t wait for someone else to make the first move. They usually won’t.

Making friends as an adult is possible, but, it requires a new approach. Instead of relying on our social circumstances to bring people into our lives, we need to take the initiative. We need to learn to understand ourselves. We must build our confidence. We need to pursue our passions, not people. Then, when the time comes, we need to reach out and invite people into our lives.

What do you think are the secrets to making friends as an adult? Do you agree that the first step to improving our relationships with others is to learn to understand ourselves? Why or why not? Please join the conversation and “like” and share this article to keep the discussion going.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/margaret-manning/make-friends-as-an-adult_b_7529424.html

11 Black Queer and Trans Women Discuss Self-Care ~ By L.G. Parker

11 Black Queer and Trans Women Discuss Self-Care

“We are each other’s harvest; we are each other’s business; we are each other’s magnitude and bond.” –Gwendolyn Brooks

“Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” –Audre Lorde

I know a few things about depression. After Thanksgiving, I checked myself into the hospital because repression was no longer enough. There was limited access to anyone beyond the narrow hallway, art and dining room in the hospital’s psychiatric unit, so I wrote and read often. What sustained me were the words I remembered from poems, like Lucille Clifton’s “won’t you celebrate with me,” Rickey Laurentiis’ “You Are Not Christ,” and Audre Lorde’s “A Litany for Survival.” 

When I got tired of walking up and down the hall reciting those poems to myself, I would re-read the African American Women and Depression Fact Sheet. What stays with me is that only 12% of Black women ever get help or treatment for their depression. Economic access, of course, plays a huge role in that, but how many of us never stop to acknowledge that we are hurting? How many of us actually can afford to stop at all to feel anything?

Audre Lorde tells us that we were never meant to survive, but to speak anyhow. I spoke with 11 queer and trans Black women artists, creators, and activists about their specific practices of self-care. May their insight be useful to you and their art inspire you to continue to dream, build, imagine, love, cry, laugh, dance, and live.

regina1. Regina Battle

Location: Richmond, VA
Title: Web Developer
Where to find her: Tumblr 

“Being the introvert that I am, I spend a lot of time alone. Taking time to myself allows me to recharge while doing the things I enjoy most. I respect my own limits and know when it’s necessary to step back, which often requires saying, ‘no.’ Surrounding myself with good, positive people is essential as well as minimizing my exposure to negativity. I practice mindfulness, live simply, and just always remember to breathe.”

blair2. Blair Ebony Smith

Location: Syracuse, New York
Title: Scholar, Feminist, Student
Where to find her: SoundCloud

“I practice self-love by creating with the intent to be present and non-judgemental. I create with the intent to honor Black (queer) ancestors and honor my own creativity. To honor my creativity, I let myself create whatever it is I may want to in the moment, whether that’s a beat from a sampled record, painting, collaging or writing. I also move and breathe. I love to walk and practice yoga. Self-care is also about community. I enjoy being in community celebrating life, talking shit (or just being) with other Black queer people.”

llerret3. L’lerrét Jazelle Ailith 

Location: New Orleans
Title: Queer Black transfemme visionary
Where to find her: InstagramTwitterllerretallure.com

“Self-care to me is about hanging stuff up until I’m absolutely ready to carry the burden again. If that means ignoring phone calls, texts messages, emails, and even resting as opposed to studying for that exam, then I will do so.

Sometimes, no matter what the circumstance, you need to just clear your mind and at least pretend you’re all good and can’t a thing hold you down or stand in your way. Pretend that you have all the time in the world and allow your body and mind to reset before you pick back up where you left off.”

4. Stasia Mehschel

Screen Shot 2014-11-12 at 8.32.45 AM

Location: Brooklyn, NY
Title: Producer and Vocalist for THEESatisfaction x DJ Stas Thee Boss
Where to find her: TumblrTwitterFacebookInstagramSoundCloudBandcamp

“The first step for me was self-love. I love my body, my mind, and my spirit. I want to preserve it in the finest and most luxurious ways that I can within my means. I take vitamins. I make sure to work hard and play equally as hard. I try my best to keep bad energy and vibes away, ridding myself of toxic relationships. A bath with scented oils and a fresh haircut can also do wonders for your confidence.”

5. Denise Maurice

Location: RVA (Richmond, Virginia)
Title: Creator
Where to find her: FacebookTwitterInstagramGoFundMe

Screen Shot 2014-11-12 at 8.36.51 AM“How do I practice self-care? In a world designed to break me, I keep myself healthy by first understanding that it is my strength that is being discriminated against, not my weakness. These Black woman hips bear the weight of the world with style and grace. This melanin in my skin can withstand the harshest of sun rays and some days…I feel as if I am the Sun herself.  I would be jealous if I wasn’t blessed to be who I am. How dare I step outside of gender norms and express myself when given strict commands to fit into a mold so that everyone else can understand me? How dare I not care about the opinions of people I will never even meet? Because I know who I am and am aware of my own strength and beauty. I practice self-care by creating spaces that allow not only myself but other gender nonconforming and artistically expressive individuals to flourish without having to twist and bend themselves into the form that society deems acceptable and employable…I am a firm believer that we are all born with specific gifts and if we become passionate enough about those gifts we can create our own means of survival. I practice self-care by refusing to believe the lie that I am not good enough. Spread Love!”

6. Monica Roberts

monica-roberts-trans-griot
Location: Houston, TX
Title: Writer, activist
Where to find her: transgriot.blogspot.com

“When I’m not writing on TransGriot, I have to take a moment to step back and actually do stuff for myself. There are times that I like to write poetry, and I do have a couple of fiction manuscripts and novels that I’m working on. There are times when I just sit back and just chill and go to a ball game or something, just to get away from always being in 24/7 serious activist mode.”

7. Diamond Sharp

diamond

Location: DC-based; Chicago native
Title: Poet and writer
Where to find her: Twitter

“I take time to myself. I say ‘no’ often. I don’t feel bad for putting myself first.”

Screen Shot 2014-11-12 at 8.39.19 AM8. Stud Slayer

Location: Washington, DC
Title: Advocate for Masculine Women of Color
Where to find her: Tumblr

“Self-care…is something I recently learned how to do. In the past I never had time to take care of myself. That neglect made me very grumpy and stressed. Now I make it a point to look out for my own well-being and mental health no matter what’s going on. Kind of like ‘Pay yourself first’ in regards to finances.

I write frequently and spend a lot of time at the gym. Working out and exercising is not only good for my physical health, but mental health as well.

I take care of my soul by writing on my blog and continuing to reach out, be there for and mentor masculine women of color in regards to sexuality, self esteem, gender identity and a myriad of other issues that aren’t always addressed in our under represented community. Female masculinity is very much misunderstood and misused and we need to continue having discussions about how we move in the world as masculine women and the micro aggressions that come with that.

Giving back keeps me close to the people that matter to me and makes me feel like I’m contributing to the solution instead of just complaining about the problem.”

9. JP Howard

Location: New York
Title: Queer/Diva/Poet/Nurturer
Where to find her:  FacebookTwitterInstagramwomenwritersinbloompoetrysalon.blogspot.com

(Photo taken by Rachel Eliza Griffiths)

“During the work week, I practice self-care when I seek out and find moments of ‘quiet introspective time.’ Like so many of us, my days are super busy as I’m in a relationship with my partner, we are raising our two sons and I also curate a NY-based literary salon, while working at a full-time, fairly demanding day job. When I can, I take long walks, usually by the water, during my lunch hour to regroup and focus on self. Those quiet moments are very precious to me. I also try to make a habit of traveling outside of New York to attend writing residencies or fellowships that let me pursue my own creative writing for an extended period of time either in a quiet setting and/or in an environment surrounded by fellow writers (for this full-time working mom even a week away from home is a true indulgent writer’s luxury!). While those residencies or fellowships may only happen a few times a year for me, they satisfy my self-care needs. I get so much writing done, I get a week away to solely focus on being a writer and while I miss my family during those trips, I think a necessary part of self-care is finding quality time to nurture ourselves, especially for those of us who are often busy nurturing others.”

INasah10. I’Nasah Crockett

Location: Down South
Title: Recovering Artist, Black Culture Junkie, Semi-Professional Big Mouth
Where to find her: Twitter

“This question kinda stopped me in my tracks because I’ve been doing such a poor job at it this year especially. [Laughs.] But more recently, I’ve been working on taking deeper breaths, being nicer to myself, and doing some yoga at home. It takes me being attentive to my body’s needs (which for me is also a form of self-care, not ignoring what my body and mind is trying to tell me), which takes some work, but I always end up feeling better for it. Also, binging out on my favorite TV shows and spending times with my friends always always always helps make life a little sweeter!”

11. Lourdes Ashley Hunter, MPA

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Location: Washington, D.C.
Title: Black Trans Revolutionary
Where to find her: Twitter

“I love to cook and take walks in the park with my dog, Cashmere, but I also enjoy taking time to touch myself. There is healing in your own touch and I love all up on this body. Taking time to breathe because every breath a Black Trans Woman takes is an Act of Revolution. I practice self-care by becoming submerged in self-love.  Allowing others to give love and allowing myself to receive love but also being particular with my love and with the love I allow in my life. For me, practicing self-care is an act of self-love.”

For more information about self-care, visit Black Girl + Mental Health or purchase I’Nasah Crockett’s zine Death Valley: Or, How to Not Kill Yourself in Less Than Ten Days.

 

LGPL.G. Parker is a student and writer living in Northern Virginia. Connect with her on Twitter at @posttragic

‘Fat Femme’ Yogi’s Instagram Mission: Yoga Is For Everyone ~ JOANNA PRISCO

‘Fat Femme’ Yogi’s Instagram Mission: Yoga Is For Everyone
‘Fat Femme’ Yogi’s Instagram Mission: Yoga Is For Everyone (ABC News)

A North Carolina yogi is causing a sensation on social media by breaking down body stereotypes with her personal photos.

Jessamyn Stanley, 27, who lives in Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina, and posts to Instagram under the handle @mynameisjessamyn, has attracted more than 42,000 followers in the last two years sharing images of challenging forearm stands and intense back bends.

The difference between Stanley and the seemingly myriad talented yogis posting online? She is a self-described “fat femme” with ample curves where others are stick straight.

“People need to see diversity, to feel included,” Stanley told ABC News. “It’s really not that I look different, it’s that I look the same as everyone else.”

 

Jessamyn Stanley

Jessamyn Stanley

A lifelong North Carolinian, Stanley was first introduced to Bikram yoga as a teenager by an enthusiastic aunt. But at the time, she was put off by the high-temperature rooms and studio experience. Years later, in college, when a friend mentioned a Groupon discount for Bikram classes, Stanley decided to give the practice a second try and this time something clicked.

“I was going through a lot of transitions and personal changes at the time, I was depressed,” she said. “And being forced to stare at yourself in the mirror and challenge your body was very useful for self-reflection. It turned out to be the saving grace of my entire life.”

Jessamyn Stanley

Jessamyn Stanley

But after committing to a regular practice, Stanley eventually moved and didn’t immediately have the disposable income to attend studio classes in her new neighborhood. It was then that she began doing yoga at home and documenting the experience online.

“When you practice, it’s important to note your alignment and progress,” she said. “And it’s a great way to get positive feedback from people. In the studios, there is a lot of judgment. And where I live, it was predominately white, well-educated, upper class people who attended and it tints the student’s perspective. I would feel like, ‘oh, my body will never look like that.’ So, [sharing on] social media has become a great way of feeling normal about being different.”

The attention she’s since received does at times detract from the original intent of recording her postures. But, Stanley reasoned, it’s not a bad thing.

“Sometimes I do wish I would get more feedback that was along the lines of ‘let’s talk about how we can all strengthen our practices,’” she acknowledged. “But if people are more focused on my physique, and connecting with someone they can look to as a peer in this life struggle… if you feel like there’s someone who really gets where you’re coming from, that’s way more powerful.”

Jessamyn Stanley

Jessamyn Stanley

Stanley, who currently also teaches classes in Durham, N.C., will embark on a yoga tour in select cities this fall with a fellow “curvaceous teacher.” There are also plans for a full-figured retreat next year.

“My big thing now is trying to be as accessible as I can to as many people as possible,” said Stanley. “I’ve always felt the yoga community is badly cloistered and it’s really important to me to make it clear that it’s for everyone.”

https://gma.yahoo.com/fat-femme-yogi-instagram-mission-yoga-everyone-165525912–abc-news-topstories.html

27 Stunning Works Of Art You Won’t Believe Aren’t Photographs ~ Heben Nigatu

1. Omar Ortiz – Oil on linen

Omar Ortiz - Oil on linen

2. Paul Cadden – Small drawing pencil on paper

Paul Cadden - Small drawing pencil on paper

4. Gregory Thielker – Oil on canvas

Gregory Thielker - Oil on canvas

5. Lee Price – Oil on linen

Lee Price - Oil on linen

6. Ben Weiner – Paintings of paint

Ben Weiner - Paintings of paint

7. Ron Mueck – Sculpture, mixed materials

Ron Mueck - Sculpture, mixed materials

Photo © Thomas Salva

Photo © Gautier Deblonde

8. Kim Ji-hoon – Pencil

Kim Ji-hoon - Pencil

9. Christina K – Drawing on tinted brown paper

Christina K - Drawing on tinted brown paper

10. Ray Hare – Acrylic painting on canvas

Ray Hare - Acrylic painting on canvas

12. Alyssa Monks – Oil on linen

Alyssa Monks - Oil on linen

13. Pedro Campos – Oil on canvas

Pedro Campos - Oil on canvas

14. Dirk Dzimirsky – Graphite on paper

Dirk Dzimirsky - Graphite on paper

15. Thomas Arvid – Limited edition Giclée on canvas

Thomas Arvid - Limited edition Giclée on canvas

16. Rafal Bujnowski – Black and white paint

Rafal Bujnowski - Black and white paint

“Bujnowski painted a photo-realistic self-portrait in black and white, had it photographed and enclosed the picture as his official photo in the U.S.A. visa application form. The consulate workers failed to notice the manipulation and, eventually, the artist received a passport with a replica of his own painting.”

17. Paul Cadden – Pencil on paper

Paul Cadden - Pencil on paper

18.Robin Eley – Oil on Belgian linen

Robin Eley - Oil on Belgian linen
<iframe src=”https://player.vimeo.com/video/22074927&#8243; width=”500″ height=”281″ frameborder=”0″ webkitallowfullscreen mozallowfullscreen allowfullscreen>

Jane Fonda On Her ‘Strained’ Relationship With Fashion~ Jamie Feldman

Jane Fonda already has best-selling exercise videos and an incomparable acting career under her belt. Now, at the age of 77 (yes, really) she has another title to add to the list: fashion icon. 

Fonda stuns on W Magazine’s June 2015 cover in a Giambattista Valli dress and cape. Inside, she shows off her famous figure in the likes of Lanvin and Nina Ricci, and while she looks perfectly at home in the designer duds, she doesn’t necessarily feel that way. “It’s a hoot that, at my age, people are calling me a fashion icon,” she said.

jane

In fact, when it comes to style, Fonda admits it started out as an afterthought. “Truthfully, my relationship to fashion has always been strained. When I was starting out as an actress in New York, I worked as a model because I needed to pay for acting classes. But I didn’t have what it took to be a model. I hated all the emphasis on how I looked, and I never paid much attention to clothes.” 

jane

Fonda can rock just about anything (remember that green Balmain jumpsuit from the 2015 Grammys?) with the confidence and sophistication of a true fashion icon, whether or not she thinks so.

Head to W Magazine to see the entire interview, and be sure to pick up your copy of the magazine, which hits newsstands June 2. 

fonda 3

#SayHerName: Why We Should Declare That Black Women And Girls Matter, Too ~ Lilly Workneh

Tanisha Anderson. Rekia Boyd. Miriam Carey. Michelle Cusseaux. Shelly Frey. Kayla Moore. 

These names are etched into tombstones that stand over the graves of black women killed by police — and were echoed at a vigil in New York City on Wednesday, where dozens gathered to show that these women should not be forgotten. For the first time, families of all these women came together to reflect on the lives of their lost loved ones and publicly share memories of their slain relatives. 

It’s not surprising if some of these names don’t sound familiar — but, activists say, it’s also not acceptable. As a national conversation around race and law enforcement has grown in recent years, the experiences black women have with police have largely been excluded. 

This was the central focus of this week’s vigil, which was part of a campaign titled #SayHerName. 

The African American Policy Forum, along with the Black Youth Project 100 and several other community organizations, rallied together to plan the event. The groups say the #BlackLivesMatter movement — which launched in response to the death of Trayvon Martin in 2012 and has inspired thousands of people worldwide to raise awareness around the injustices affecting black people — has become especially focused on the lives of black men, with women and girls seemingly an afterthought. 

While the dozens of protests and rallies that have swept the country as a result of the deaths of men, including Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Freddie Gray and Tony Robinson, have been both powerful and necessary, efforts to amplify the stories of black women who have died at the hands of police pale in comparison, AAPF Associate Director Rachel Gilmer told The Huffington Post. 

“When we wear the hoodie, we know that we’re embodying Trayvon. When we hold our hands up, we know we’re doing what Mike Brown did in the moments before he was killed. When we say ‘I can’t breathe,’ we’re embodying Eric Garner’s final words,” Gilmer said. “We haven’t been able to do the same thing for black women and girls. We haven’t carried their stories in the same way.” 

The #SayHerName campaign is a reminder to, as writer and activist Dream Hampton has noted, offer a more complete — not competing — narrative about policing and race.

“When you bring women to the narrative, it very much complicates our understanding of what police violence is and actually builds a much more structural-based argument around the problem,” Gilmer said. 

To put it simply, if these lives and stories aren’t widely recognized, they won’t be remembered and police reform will be incomplete, said Kimberlé Crenshaw, a co-founder of the AAFP.

“We don’t have existing frames to understand and talk about black women. If people don’t have a frame, they forget the facts,” she told HuffPost Live on Wednesday

“If we’re to use these stories as a way of thinking about how police reform has to be attended to some of the problems that happen, we have to include women in that to make sure that all the ways that black bodies are victimized by police are part of our demands and part of the reform,” she added. 

While the deaths of black women by police do not occur as often as those of black men, Crenshaw says this does not provide sound or logical reasoning for overlooking them. Instead, she encourages people to continue to give life to these stories, recite victims’ names and give their cases the recognition they deserve amid a national debate that often excludes them. 

Dozens turned out to fulfill that mission on Wednesday — here’s what it looked like:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/05/21/black-women-matter_n_7363064.html?cps=gravity_2439_-8849942559341552979#slide=start

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/05/21/black-women-matter_n_7363064.html?cps=gravity_2439_-8849942559341552979