very difficult

Is this what real beauty looks like?

By Steven McIntosh (Entertainment reporter)

“Go to Google Images right now,” says photographer Mihaela Noroc, “and search ‘beautiful women’.”

I do as she tells me. Millions of results come back.

“What do you see?” she asks. “Very sexualised images, right?”

Yes. Many of the women in the top pictures are wearing high heels and revealing clothes, and most fit into the same physical mould - young, slim, blonde, perfect skin.

“So beauty all the time is like that,” Mihaela says. “Objectifying women, treating them in a very sexualised way, which is unfortunate.

"Women are not like that. We have our stories, our struggles, our power, but we just need to be represented, because young women, they see only images like this every day, so they need to have more confidence that they can look the way they look and be considered beautiful.

"But,” she adds, “Google is us, because we are all influencing these images.”

Mihaela has just released her first photography book, Atlas of Beauty, which features 500 of her own portraits of women.

The Romanian photographer’s definition of beauty, however, appears to be that there is no definition. The women are a variety of ages, professions and backgrounds.

“People are interested in my pictures because they portray people around us, everyday people around the street,” Mihaela explains.

“Usually when we talk about beauty and women, we have this very high, unachievable way of portraying them.

"So my pictures are very natural and simple. And this is, weirdly, a surprise. Because usually we are not seen like that.”

Each of the book’s 500 portraits has a caption with information about where it was taken, and, in many cases, the subject.

The locations are varied, to put it mildly. They include Nepal, Tibet, Ethiopia, Italy, North Korea, Germany, Mexico, India, Afghanistan, the UK, the US, and the Amazon rainforest.

Some locations, however, proved more problematic than others.

“I approach women I want to photograph on the street. I explain what my project is about. Sometimes I get yes as an answer, sometimes I get no, that really depends on the country I’m in,” she explains.

“When you go to a more conservative society, a woman is going to have a lot of pressure from society to be a certain way, and her day-to-day life is carefully watched by somebody else.

"So she’s not going to accept being photographed very easily, maybe she’s going to need permission from the male part of her family.

"In other parts of the world they are extremely careful because there might be issues concerning their safety, like in Colombia. Because they had Pablo Escobar and the mafia for so many years.

"So they say 'OK, so you’re going to take my picture but I’m probably going to be kidnapped after that because you’re part of the mafia and you’re not who you’re saying you are’.”

She adds: “If somebody were to start this project just with men, it would be much easier, because they don’t have to ask permission from their wives, sisters or mothers.”

Mihaela says she occasionally puts pictures through Photoshop, but not for the reasons you might think.

“When you take a picture, it’s usually raw, and that means it’s very blank, like a painting, you don’t have the colours you had in the reality.

"So I try to make it as vibrant and colourful as it was in the original place. But I’m not making anyone skinnier or anything like that, never, because that’s very painful.

"Because I also suffered as a woman growing up from all kinds of difficulties, I wanted to be skinnier, look a certain way, and that was also related to the fake images I saw in day-to-day life.”

It’s safe to say Mihaela’s photography book is quite different tonally to, say, Kim Kardashian’s 2015 book of selfies.

“These days, the bloggers, the famous people of our planet have set this unachievable and fake beauty standard, and it’s very difficult for us as women to relate to that,” she says.

“Kim Kardashian has 100 million followers on her Instagram page and I have 200,000, so imagine the difference - it’s astonishing. But slowly, slowly, I think the message of natural and simple beauty will be spread around the world.”

So what’s the best piece of advice Mihaela could give to anyone keen to get into photography? Buy a good quality camera? Learn about lenses and angles?

Not exactly.

“Buy good shoes,” she laughs, “because you’re going to walk and explore a lot.”

Link here for the original article

Loosening the Knots of Anger Through Mindfulness Practice

by Thich Nhat Hanh

To be happy, to me, is to suffer less. If we were not capable of transforming the pain within ourselves, happiness would not be possible.

Many people look for happiness outside themselves, but true happiness must come from inside of us. Our culture tells us that happiness comes from having a lot of money, a lot of power and a high position in society. But if you observe carefully, you will see that many rich and famous people are not happy. Many of them commit suicide.

The Buddha and the monks and nuns of his time did not own anything except their three robes and one bowl. But they were very happy, because they had something extremely precious: freedom.

According to the Buddha’s teachings, the most basic condition for happiness is freedom. Here we do not mean political freedom, but freedom from the mental formations of anger, despair, jealousy and delusion. These mental formations are described by the Buddha as poisons. As long as these poisons are still in our heart, happiness cannot be possible.

In order to be free from anger, we have to practice, whether we are Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu or Jewish. We cannot ask the Buddha, Jesus, God or Mohammed to take anger out of our hearts for us. There are concrete instructions on how to transform the craving, anger and confusion within us. If we follow these instructions and learn to take good care of our suffering, we can help others do the same.

THE KNOTS OF ANGER

In our consciousness there are blocks of pain, anger and frustration called internal formations. They are also called knots because they tie us up and obstruct our freedom.

When someone insults us or does something unkind to us, an internal formation is created in our consciousness. If you don’t know how to undo the internal knot and transform it, the knot will stay there for a long time. And the next time someone says something or does something to you of the same nature, that internal formation will grow stronger. As knots or blocks of pain in us, our internal formations have the power to push us, to dictate our behaviour.

After a while, it becomes very difficult for us to transform, to undo the knots, and we cannot ease the constriction of this crystallised formation. The Sanskrit word for internal formation is samyojana. It means “to crystallise.” Every one of us has internal formations that we need to take care of. With the practice of meditation we can undo these knots and experience transformation and healing.

Not all internal formations are unpleasant. There are also pleasant internal formations, but they can still make us suffer. When you taste, hear or see something pleasant, then that pleasure can become a strong internal knot. When the object of your pleasure disappears, you miss it and you begin searching for it. You spend a lot of time and energy trying to experience it again. If you smoke marijuana or drink alcohol and begin to like it, then it becomes an internal formation in your body and in your mind. You cannot get it off your mind. You will always look for more. The strength of the internal knot is pushing you and controlling you. So internal formations deprive us of our freedom.

Falling in love is a big internal formation. Once you are in love, you only think of the other person. You are not free anymore. You cannot do anything; you cannot study, you cannot work, you cannot enjoy the sunshine or the beauty of nature around you. You can only think of the object of your love. That is why we speak about it as a kind of accident: “falling in love.” You fall down. You are not stable anymore because you have gotten into an accident. So love can also be an internal knot.

Pleasant or unpleasant, both kinds of knots take away our liberty. That is why we should guard our body and our mind very carefully, to prevent these knots from taking root in us. Drugs, alcohol and tobacco can create internal formations in our body. And anger, craving, jealousy, despair can create internal formations in our mind.

TRAINING IN AGGRESSION

Anger is an internal formation, and since it makes us suffer, we try our best to get rid of it. Psychologists like the expression, “getting it out of your system.” And they speak about venting anger, like ventilating a room filled with smoke. Some psychologists say that when the energy of anger arises in you, you should ventilate it by hitting a pillow, kicking something, or by going into the forest to yell and shout.

As a kid you were not supposed to say certain swear words. Your parents may not have allowed you to say these words because they are harmful, they damage relationships. So you went into the woods or to an isolated place and shouted these words very clearly, very strongly, in order to relieve the feeling of oppression. This is also venting.

People who use venting techniques like hitting a pillow or shouting are actually rehearsing anger. When someone is angry and vents their anger by hitting a pillow, they are learning a dangerous habit. They are training in aggression. Instead, our approach is to generate the energy of mindfulness and embrace anger every time it manifests.

TREATING ANGER WITH TENDERNESS

Mindfulness does not fight anger or despair. Mindfulness is there in order to recognise. To be mindful of something is to recognise that something is there in the present moment. Mindfulness is the capacity of being aware of what is going on in the present moment. “Breathing in, I know that anger has manifested in me; breathing out, I smile towards my anger.” This is not an act of suppression or of fighting. It is an act of recognising. Once we recognise our anger, we embrace it with a lot of awareness, a lot of tenderness.

When it is cold in your room, you turn on the heater, and the heater begins to send out waves of hot air. The cold air doesn’t have to leave the room for the room to become warm. The cold air is embraced by the hot air and becomes warm — there’s no fighting at all between them.

We practice taking care of our anger in the same way. Mindfulness recognises anger, is aware of its presence, accepts and allows it to be there. Mindfulness is like a big brother who does not suppress his younger brother’s suffering. He simply says, “Dear brother, I’m here for you.” You take your younger brother in your arms and you comfort him. This is exactly our practice.

Imagine a mother getting angry with her baby and hitting him when he cries. That mother does not know that she and her baby are one. We are mothers of our anger and we have to help our baby, our anger, not fight and destroy it. Our anger is us and our compassion is also us. To meditate does not mean to fight. In Buddhism, the practice of meditation should be the practice of embracing and transforming, not of fighting.

USING ANGER, USING SUFFERING

To grow the tree of enlightenment, we must make good use of our afflictions, our suffering. It is like growing lotus flowers; we cannot grow a lotus on marble. We cannot grow a lotus without mud.

Practitioners of meditation do not discriminate against or reject their internal formations. We do not transform ourselves into a battle field, good fighting evil. We treat our afflictions, our anger, our jealousy with a lot of tenderness. When anger comes up in us, we should begin to practice mindful breathing right away: “Breathing in, I know that anger is in me. Breathing out, I am taking good care of my anger.” We behave exactly like a mother: “Breathing in, I know that my child is crying. Breathing out, I will take good care of my child.” This is the practice of compassion.

If you don’t know how to treat yourself with compassion, how can you treat another person with compassion? When anger arises, continue to practice mindful breathing and mindful walking to generate the energy of mindfulness. Continue to embrace tenderly the energy of anger within you. Anger may continue to be there for sometime, but you are safe, because the Buddha is in you, helping you to take good care of your anger. The energy of mindfulness is the energy of the Buddha. When you practice mindful breathing and embrace your anger, you are under the protection of the Buddha. There is no doubt about it: the Buddha is embracing you and your anger with a lot of compassion.

GIVING AND RECEIVING MINDFULNESS ENERGY

When you are angry, when you feel despair, you practice mindful breathing, mindful walking, to generate the energy of mindfulness. This energy allows you to recognize and embrace your painful feelings. And if your mindfulness is not strong enough, you ask a brother or a sister in the practice to sit close to you, to breathe with you, to walk with you in order to support you with his or her mindfulness energy.

Practicing mindfulness does not mean that you have to do everything on your own. You can practice with the support of your friends. They can generate enough mindfulness energy to help you take care of your strong emotions.

We can also support others with our mindfulness when they are in difficulty. When our child is drowning in a strong emotion, we can hold his or her hand and say, “My dear one, breathe. Breathe in and out with mommy, with daddy.” We can also invite our child to do walking meditation with us, gently taking her hand and helping her calm down, with each step. When you give your child some of your mindfulness energy, she will be able to calm down very quickly and embrace her emotions.

RECOGNISING, EMBRACING, RELIEVING THE SUFFERING OF ANGER

The first function of mindfulness is to recognise, not to fight. “Breathing in, I know that anger has manifested in me. Hello, my little anger.” And breathing out, “I will take good care of you.”

Once we have recognised our anger, we embrace it. This is the second function of mindfulness and it is a very pleasant practice. Instead of fighting, we are taking good care of our emotion. If you know how to embrace your anger, something will change.

It is like cooking potatoes. You cover the pot and then the water will begin to boil. You must keep the stove on for at least twenty minutes for the potatoes to cook. Your anger is a kind of potato and you cannot eat a raw potato.

Mindfulness is like the fire cooking the potatoes of anger. The first few minutes of recognising and embracing your anger with tenderness can bring results. You get some relief. Anger is still there, but you do not suffer so much anymore, because you know how to take care of your baby. So the third function of mindfulness is soothing, relieving. Anger is there, but it is being taken care of. The situation is no longer in chaos, with the crying baby left all alone. The mother is there to take care of the baby and the situation is under control.

KEEPING MINDFULNESS ALIVE

And who is this mother? The mother is the living Buddha. The capacity of being mindful, the capacity of being understanding, loving and caring is the Buddha in us. Every time we are capable of generating mindfulness, it makes the Buddha in us a reality. With the Buddha in you, you have nothing to worry about anymore. Everything will be fine if you know how to keep the Buddha within you alive.

It is important to recognise that we always have the Buddha in us. Even if we are angry, unkind or in despair, the Buddha is always within us. This means we always have the potential to be mindful, to be understanding, to be loving.

We need to practice mindful breathing or walking in order to touch the Buddha within us. When you touch the seed of mindfulness that lies in your consciousness, the Buddha will manifest in your mind consciousness and embrace your anger. You don’t have to worry; just continue to practice breathing or walking to keep the Buddha alive. Then everything will be fine. The Buddha recognises. The Buddha embraces. The Buddha relieves, and the Buddha looks deeply into the nature of anger. The Buddha understands. And this understanding will bring about transformation.

The energy of mindfulness contains the energy of concentration, as well as the energy of insight. Concentration helps you to focus on just one thing. With concentration, the energy of looking becomes more powerful.

Because of that it can make a breakthrough that is insight. Insight always has the power of liberating you. If mindfulness is there, and you know how to keep mindfulness alive, concentration will be there too. And if you know how to keep concentration alive, insight will also come. So mindfulness recognises, embraces and relieves. Mindfulness helps us look deeply in order to gain insight. Insight is the liberating factor. It is what frees us and allows transformation to happen. This is the Buddhist practice of taking care of anger.

Every time you give your internal formations a bath of mindfulness, the blocks of pain in you become lighter and less dangerous. So give your anger, your despair, your sorrow a bath of mindfulness every day — that is your practice. If mindfulness is not there, it is very unpleasant to have these seeds come up. But if you know how to generate the energy of mindfulness, it is very healing to invite them up every day and embrace them. And after several days or weeks of bringing them up daily and helping them go back down again, you create good circulation in your psyche, and the symptoms of mental illness will begin to disappear.

Mindfulness does the work of massaging your internal formations, your blocks of suffering. You have to allow them to circulate, and this is possible only if you are not afraid of them. If you learn not to fear your knots of suffering, you can learn how to embrace them with the energy of mindfulness, and transform them.

Perhaps Evgenia Medvedeva will not perform at the Grand Prix Final

–Zhenya, after NHK Trophy, you did not go into details, mentioned the injury to your right leg. What was it really? 

– Zhenya: A few days before the Moscow Grand Prix I felt a pain in my right leg, but frankly I do not know a sportsman performing at such a high level who would not hurt anything. It is clear that I continued to prepare for the start. But 2-3 days before the Grand Prix, the pain intensified, we turned to the doctors who diagnosed a crack in the metatarsal bone of the right foot. At the “Cup of Rostelecom” I went for an analgesic, then immediately went to Germany, where the diagnosis was confirmed.German doctors gave recommendations, gave out many different vitamins, so that the bone quickly grew together and healed. Before the Japanese Grand Prix had even to reduce the load. To my treatment, joined our Russian doctors. In general, everything - and our Federation, and the doctors did everything possible to help me, so that I could quickly recover. Thank you all very much! But in such a short time the trauma to the end was not healed. Nevertheless, I felt some improvement.In this state, I went to the NHK Trophy. Yes, there was a big risk that the leg simply could not stand it. But this is the Olympic season, and it is completely unclear what will happen in the future with this whole situation around our sport, and in my career there was not yet a case when I refused to compete because of injury, even if I was injured.In Osaka, after a short program, I felt worse. An arbitrary program has already been used for strong painkillers. We spent a day in Japan, I underwent a medical examination, made an MRI that showed cracks in the bones of the right foot. 

– How are you now? 

– Zhenya: Leg in a cast. As soon as we returned from Japan to Moscow, I was plastered. I’m going through a rehabilitation course. I do my best to recover. I’m very helped by everything. Once again I want to say thank you to our Federation, coaches, doctors who support me and experience . 

–Question with the Grand Prix final open? 

– Zhenya: If doctors forbid performing in Japan, then this will be the worst scenario. It will be very difficult for me to watch from the side for the struggle of athletes. Moreover, I was selected for the final. And, as I said, this will be the first competition in my career that I will miss because of injury.But I very much hope that this will not happen. In any case, for myself, I decided that I will perform in the Grand Prix final, no matter what.

(Translated to Google translator, please see the source) 

Honestly shoutout to all the ppl who are trying hard to be more positive and make meaningful changes in their lives and work towards recovery because this shits hard and people definitely don’t say it enough, but focusing on recovery is very difficult and the progress you make is so valuable, just by choosing to work towards bettering yourself you have already come so far and that’s something to be really proud of

7

happy wednesday my dudes <3

(mila says something like “i want to take you to bed but don’t worry you wont’s sleep”, and georgi says “anya” :’) )

The rules about responding to call outs aren’t working

Privileged people rarely take the voices of marginalized people seriously. Social justices spaces attempt to fix this with rules about how to respond to when marginalized people tell you that you’ve done something wrong. Like most formal descriptions of social skills, the rules don’t quite match reality. This is causing some problems that I think we could fix with a more honest conversation about how to respond to criticism.

The formal social justice rules say something like this:

  • You should listen to marginalized people.
  • When a marginalized person calls you out, don’t argue.
  • Believe them, apologize, and don’t do it again.
  • When you see others doing what you were called out for doing, call them out.

Those rules are a good approximation of some things, but they don’t actually work. It is impossible to follow them literally, in part because:

  • Marginalized people are not a monolith. 
  • Marginalized people have the same range of opinions as privileged people.
  • When two marginalized people tell you logically incompatible things, it is impossible to act on both sets of instructions.
  • For instance, some women believe that abortion is a human right foundational human right for women. Some women believe that abortion is murder and an attack on women and girls.
  • “Listen to women” doesn’t tell you who to believe, what policy to support, or how to talk about abortion. 
  • For instance, some women believe that religious rules about clothing liberate women from sexual objectification, other women believe that religious rules about clothing sexually objectify women. 
  • “Listen to women” doesn’t tell you what to believe about modesty rules. 
  • Narrowing it to “listen to women of minority faiths” doesn’t help, because women disagree about this within every faith.
  • When “listen to marginalized people” means “adopt a particular position”, marginalized people are treated as rhetorical props rather than real people.
  • Objectifying marginalized people does not create justice.

Since the rule is literally impossible to follow, no one is actually succeeding at following it. What usually ends up happening when people try is that:

  • One opinion gets lifted up as “the position of marginalized people” 
  • Agreeing with that opinion is called “listen to marginalized people”
  • Disagreeing with that opinion is called “talking over marginalized people”
  • Marginalized people who disagree with that opinion are called out by privileged people for “talking over marginalized people”.
  • This results in a lot of fights over who is the true voice of the marginalized people.
  • We need an approach that is more conducive to real listening and learning.

This version of the rule also leaves us open to sabotage:

  • There are a lot of people who don’t want us to be able to talk to each other and build effective coalitions.
  • Some of them are using the language of call-outs to undermine everyone who emerges as an effective progressive leader. 
  • They say that they are marginalized people, and make up lies about leaders.
  • Or they say things that are technically true, but taken out of context in deliberately misleading ways.
  • The rules about shutting up and listening to marginalized people make it very difficult to contradict these lies and distortions. 
  • (Sometimes they really are members of the marginalized groups they claim to speak for. Sometimes they’re outright lying about who they are).
  • (For instance, Russian intelligence agents have used social media to pretend to be marginalized Americans and spread lies about Hillary Clinton.)

The formal rule is also easily exploited by abusive people, along these lines:

  • An abusive person convinces their victim that they are the voice of marginalized people.
  • The abuser uses the rules about “when people tell you that you’re being oppressive, don’t argue” to control the victim.
  • Whenever the victim tries to stand up for themself, the abuser tells the victim that they’re being oppressive.
  • That can be a powerfully effective way to make victims in our communities feel that they have no right to resist abuse. 
  • This can also prevent victims from getting support in basic ways.
  • Abusers can send victims into depression spirals by convincing them that everything that brings them pleasure is oppressive and immoral. 
  • The abuser may also isolate the victim by telling them that it would be oppressive for them to spend time with their friends and family, try to access victim services, or call the police. 
  • The abuser may also separate the victim from their community and natural allies by spreading baseless rumors about their supposed oppressive behavior. (Or threatening to do so).
  • When there are rules against questioning call outs, there are also implicit rules against taking the side of a victim when the abuser uses the language of calling out.
  • Rules that say some people should unconditionally defer to others are always dangerous.

The rule also lacks intersectionality:

  • No one experiences every form of oppression or every form of privilege.
  • Call-outs often involve people who are marginalized in different ways. 
  • Often, both sides in the conflict have a point.
  • For instance, black men have male privilege and white women have white privilege.
  • If a white woman calls a black man out for sexism and he responds by calling her out for racism (or vice versa), “listened to marginalized people” isn’t a very helpful rule because they’re both marginalized.
  • These conversations tend to degenerate into an argument about which form of marginalization is most significant.
  • This prevents people involved from actually listening to each other.
  • In conflicts like this, it’s often the case that both sides have a legitimate point. (In ways that are often not immediately obvious.)
  • We need to be able to work through these conflicts without expecting simplistic rules to resolve them in advance.

This rule also tends to prevent groups centered around one form of marginalized from coming to engage with other forms of marginalization:

  • For instance, in some spaces, racism and sexism are known to be issues, but ableism is not.
  • (This can occur in any combination. Eg: There are also spaces that get ableism and sexism but not racism, and spaces that get economic justice and racism but not antisemitism, or any number of other things.)
  • When disabled people raise the issue of ableism in any context (social justice or otherwise), they’re likely to be shouted down and told that it’s not important.
  • In social justice spaces, this shouting down is often done in the name of “listening to marginalized people”.
  • For instance, disabled people may be told ‘you need to listen to marginalized people and de-center your issues’, carrying the implication that ableism is less important than other forms of oppression.
  • (This happens to *every* marginalized group in some context or other.)
  • If we want real intersectional solidarity, we need to have space for ongoing conflicts that are not simple to resolve.

Tl;dr “Shut up and listen to marginalized people” isn’t quite the right rule, because it objectifies marginalized people, leaves us open to sabotage, enables abuse, and prevents us from working through conflicts in a substantive way. We need to do better by each other, and start listening for real.

It’s the 15th somewhere in the world.

A big, enthusiastic happy second birthday to Undertale!!
I’m a latecomer to the fanbase, but I’ve been a devoted fan ever since I tumbled into the world of this fantastic game.
I was originally very reluctant to have anything to do with it, but slowly it started to draw me in and finally I caved… and had one of the best experiences with a game that I’ve ever had in my life so far.

The message, the characters, the music, the EMOTIONS… I’ve played many games that have resonated with me, made me cry, made me HAPPY, all these things, but Undertale is REALLY special.
Special enough that I wanted to show how much it touched my heart by adapting the whole thing into a graphic novel.
It is absolutely fantastic.
And I know that even after the Undertale graphic novel project is over, Undertale will always have a special place in my heart.

Thank you for creating this wonderful game, Toby. You changed my life, and changed it for the better!
Happy birthday, Undertale.

6

A Series of Unfortunate Events + Book Moments

Oftentimes, when people are miserable, they will want to make other people miserable, too. But it never helps.

I’m sorry, Klaus,” Violet said meekly. “You’re not unbearable. Our situation is unbearable.

I know,” Klaus said miserably. “I’m sorry, too. You’re not stupid, Violet. You’re very clever. In fact, I hope you’re clever enough to get us out of this situation. Aunt Josephine has jumped out the window and left us in the care of Captain Sham, and I don’t know what we can do about it.