The Cost

Last night, I got to perform this piece with a local and very talented artist – Morgan Hannaleck – as part of the Word X Word Festival (www.wordxwordfestival.com) in Pittsfield, MA. While I shared, Morgan symbolically removed superficial layers of self and cultural lies eventually crossing them out completely (see the mirror below). You can read the piece here or checkout my YT channel (for an ‘ok’ quality video).

Dylan Lundgren
“The Cost” ©2019
Stop putting your value on the fleeting image of a magazine or post
Soon your body will be a ghost
And the soul you ignored will be host
To other people’s opinions
Like little minion’s casting doubt
Running about and clouding out
Each authentic thought
The person you were designed to be
Caught in an illusion
Based on the number of likes or lack thereof
Your self-disappearing and re-appearing
With every response
Like a mirage
A spiritual drought
Drowned out by the abundance of false connection
Let’s not let this be what it’s all about
Ask yourself, “what’s in a body?”
I mean do you think
Makeup is going to make you pretty on the inside too
Or is there something else that’s calling to you
Perhaps you just need the eyes to see
And the heart to believe
That underneath this
There’s so much more
For you to breathe and receive
Stop trying to plead with the powers that be
To do it for you
We’ve been programmed to only see skin deep
And it takes a little pain
A wake-up call
To look beneath
To slow down from the hustle
To put the muzzle
On the voices who say, try harder!
The hard part is we are being deceived
But this isn’t your fault
You were born into a culture
Where the vultures of validation
Were been circling around waiting
For any hesitating
So you could be fed this chicken-shit
At the drop of a hat
As if your self-worth is just bait on a stick
And I say fuck that
We’ve all been through enough
To realize that what makes us human
Isn’t the size of our thighs
Or the makeup around our eyes
It costs too much to keep playing this game
So, ask yourself, what’s in a body?
What makes us human?
It’s the intention we have for what we’re doing
I mean
Somewhere there is a little girl learning about makeup for the first time
Somewhere a Dad is about to give his daughter away in marriage
And somewhere else a kid is being bullied and no one is sticking up for him
In a school across town, a little girl is cutting herself for the first time
Another girl being told she’s ugly and therefore worthless
And each one of them has a story about their body
Believing they’re writing it
But if it doesn’t honor who they’re meant to be
Then they can’t see
They’re wrong
Because the critic inside is host
To a whole barrage of voices
That were never theirs to begin with
They learned this artificial language
Through artificial screens
The means by which
We are paying for the image ideal
It’s time we get real
And admit what this is costing us
Stop trying to steal
From the piggy-bank of codependency
Let go of the tendency
To take out loans on our worth
They’ve already been paid in full
But we keep acting like they’re null
And void
So, let’s stop playing this game
Put down the phone
Take a walk outside
And release the shame
Or just look in the mirror
Except this time
Beyond the makeup, into your eyes
And notice the beauty beneath the lies
Beyond the scars
You have an abundance of
Real connection to reap
So, discard the belief
That social media knows better
And when you’re ready
Go over to the shelf with your book on it
Open up to the chapter of your life
And begin to write
Because this is the day
Where the only thing that matters
Is what you choose to like

What If Dreams Follow Us

“In the city of nightmares, I was a dreamer. I took a fall just to learn to fly.” ~ Steve Aoki, from his song, “Bring You to Life.” One of my favorite songs; from a style of music called EDM: Electronic Dance Music. Dancing was one of my earliest loves. It started in the 90’s in the suburbs: going to YMCA dances. If you’re my age, you probably remember these – guys and girls standing on opposite sides of the gym; challenging each other to ask someone to dance or go for a first kiss. This was an interesting time in music history. See, Hip-Hop just started making its way into the suburbs. You may not know this but Hip Hop was a healthy movement at first; based around 4 principles: Peace, Love, Unity, and Safely Having Fun. Some of my fondest memories of childhood were the breakdancing battles at the local Town Hall. I still remember the older kids who knew how to breakdance. They were like heroes to me. I didn’t know much about it but what I could see was enough – music was playing that got people to dance and have fun, and I LOVED THAT! I remember practicing breakdancing moves with my friend Gabe; eagerly awaiting each dance. It didn’t occur to me dancing was something I could continue to pursue so when high school came around, I joined football, and forgot about dancing. Throughout the years I got into drugs. By the time I got sober, my love for music was so connected with drugs that it took a while to embrace the music again; but it did happen. It started at the rehab where I got sober. A friend and I had dish duty after dinner. We would wash the pots and pans while listening to this music. We would joke about the idea of a Sober Rave. As luck would have it, I ended up in a community development internship, a few years later, at a large retreat center; which gave me the opportunity to host events. The Sober Rave idea popped back into my mind and I started to look into the very real possibility of creating one. Right off the bat, it felt serendipitous; everything just fell into place. The biggest room in the center – the main hall – was open. The rehab where I got sober; ok’d a busload of clients to come. The yoga teacher trainer, who trained me, ok’d the current class of yoga teachers in training to come; as part of their curriculum. And of course, my friends came. Together, we created an amazing evening! In fact, it started off with an engagement. Shortly before the event, Tyler, who was dating my friend Khloe, approached me and asked if he could propose at the beginning of the rave. I asked him, “Do you think she’ll say yes?” She did! It was beautiful. One of the clients from the rehab center, said afterward, “it showed me I can have an awesome time in sobriety.” Carly, who brought the clients, said, “people say there is magic in certain places. I truly felt it that night.” So much of this seemed divinely inspired but it wasn’t just the experience which had a deep impact. Let me explain. At one point during the Rave, I was captivated by gratitude and I turned down the music to say a few words. My buddy Rick, a former Marine, who also liked to dance, began to chant my name; and everyone followed suit. It was at this very moment I had a vivid flashback. I remembered when I was around 10 years old, I wrote down on a piece of paper what our basement would look like, in my childhood home, if it was transformed into a DJ booth and dance floor. I imagined the same vibe I felt at these events growing up – and I wanted so badly to create this for others – the same feeling I got at the Y-dances and especially the hip hop battles; but I had totally forgotten about this sketch until 20 years later, at this moment in the Main Hall; DJ’ing to a group of friends and co-creating the same experience I imagined as a kid. My dream had come true. I learned that if we are willing to share our dreams and visions with others, they are usually willing to support us, and sometimes, in a profound way. It also taught me we may forget our dreams but they don’t forget us. The moral of the story: don’t lose hope. Your dream may be right around the corner; even if that corner is 20 years away.

From the Inside Out: Self-Healing, Conflict Resolution, and Bullying Prevention

How do you manage conflict? That was the question proposed to me. To be honest, I’ve never been great at handling conflict. When contemplating what to write, my mind went blank; and then I remembered my earliest conflict. I had a friend when I was younger named Tommy (I changed his name for privacy reasons). Tommy and I had a falling out before middle school. Tommy went on to become one of the main bullies in our school and I was on my way to being a scholar-athlete. We had different values, so to speak, which is said to be a breeding ground for conflict. I was terrified of Tommy. If I knew I would be seeing him in school, I would get sick to my stomach. Ironically, he was the first person to teach me how to tie a necktie. Anyway, the bullying went on for years and it progressed to the point where it became violent. One day, Tommy came in to the locker room swinging a plastic bag with an aerosol can in it. He hit me in the head, cutting my scalp, and hit another student, cutting his ear. Needless to say, this required intervention on the school’s part, which might I add is a last resort when it comes to conflict resolution. It’s best to mediate conflict early on, before it becomes this drastic. It wasn’t until high school that we saw Tommy again. At that point, he started to leave me alone so…. what do you think, problem solved? Not exactly. I had so much pent up anger that I started to harass him. If I saw him driving around I would tailgate him; stuff like that. I was so terrified of fighting though because I was afraid of what might happen if I released all that anger. I couldn’t stand the fact that Tommy and his friends were continuing to bully other kids. At the time, I thought I was being a hero and to be fair, there was a heroic aspect to it. However, I didn’t realize this anger was eating me up inside and there was now a second conflict to resolve; the one within myself. It’s said that conflict can arise from a misunderstanding or lack of information. See I understood I had been victimized but I lacked the information on how to deal with it. It wasn’t until years later in therapy, that I began to realize I could heal myself; ifI was willing to turn the focus inward and begin to feel all that anger and sadness. In his book Fear Memory Integration, author Jim Pullaro, states “If you’ve been traumatized, you must feel in order to heal.” I learned to experience emotions rather than talk about them. The window had passed for me to address this with Tommy. This was now about facing the bully within myself – the part of me that was projecting my pain out into the world. Through feeling the pain, I was able to reset my nervous system back to an equilibrium. When we are given the space to express emotions non-judgmentally we can come back to ourselves and to each other in a clearer, more grounded way – free from negative influences of our past. This can have a direct impact on our ability to address and resolve conflict. Today, I work with people living in conflict – ex-convicts, gang members – yet I don’t have such a drive to be right; rather, I can step back and let the toxicity go by without taking it all on…at least most of the time. If I do need to assert myself or set a boundary, I can do so with more ease. Not too long ago, a client was screaming in my face. Amidst the intensity of the situation, I brought my awareness to my breath; and stayed with it. When I realized my boundaries weren’t going to be respected, I walked away. After the situation, I vented and released all the emotion; which allowed me to heal and reset myself. At times it’s uncomfortable because conflicts do arise, it’s part of life; and unfortunately, some conflicts are very tragic. Yet, we are still given principles which allow resolution to happen. Throughout this journey I learned I can be free from the trauma of my past. In fact, my past can still exist in this moment but in a new and different way; when I resolve conflict, from the inside out.

You Make Space Matter

I wanted to share a poem about one of the most compassionate people I’ve met. Her name is Barbara and she passed away years ago at a young age. She was bullied a lot but continued to show up with love in her heart. As you read this poem, I challenge you to think about who you can stand up for (or to). It has become cool or spiritual to confuse right and wrong; but in our heart, there is a voice that has been guiding us from the beginning. Seek that voice, because IT matters.  Literally, you make space matter!

Dylan Lundgren

“Space” (©2008)

(In memory of Barbara M., R.I.P., 1997)

It was my first year of college

A chance to break away

To be free

We used to call her

And when I say we

I mean everybody but me

And when I say used to

I mean in high school

We used to call her waste of space among other things

For so long I fought to bring the underdog to the top

I realized it was never going to happen

So I went to college and let freedom ring through the boundaries of my past

But what makes you so good is what also kicks your ass

I was reminded of the struggle of fighting for the underdog

Never letting my guard down for someone even if theirs couldn’t come up

I remember praying that one day she would say “Fuck off!

You have no clue what it’s like to live in a car,

To beg for food in a town where poor is something you do with a drink,

Where homeless is a guy in a movie on tv,

Where white trash is a joke centered around me,

You have no fucking clue!”

But she wouldn’t and I realized I couldn’t do it for her

I know because I tried

She would smile and love

Did you hear that?

I said love

When I heard that she died in the house where her and her boyfriend lived

My first thought was of course

It makes sense just like everything else that doesn’t make sense does

It burned to the ground

He wasn’t there

I was in my first year of college

She was at home alone

I was fitting in for the first time

I came back to tell her boyfriend

That it’s not how cool she was

And it doesn’t matter what they said behind her back or to her face

Because in the end, the only true currency we have in this bankrupt world is what we share with another when everything else falls away

When our house burns to the ground

And me and you miles apart are left looking at the ashes

And all the courage I have

All the love I can give

All the anger I’m holding back

Gives me the strength to say

She was never a waste of space

The waste was what we did with the space in time when she occupied our minds

I want to say Barbara

In a world full of so much emptiness

You were never a waste of space

YOU were what made space MATTER!

 

Dealing with the “You Suck Monster”: Countering Suicidal Thoughts through Community and Self-Expression

We all know that voice which judges everything.  The voice that says, “Yeah, you could do that (goal/dream/etc), but you suck!” I heard someone coin the phrase, “The You Suck Monster,” and I stole it. Okay, so maybe that voice isn’t so severe for you. You may still find this content useful. If that voice IS severe for you, then read on!

As someone who has struggled with behavioral health issues most of my life (from depression/suicidal thoughts to addiction/trauma), I know that voice very well.  I remember when I was a young kid and a business acquaintance of my Mom had committed suicide.  It didn’t make sense to me. However, what I did take away from that experience, along with a deep sense of sadness, was “there is a way out.” And THAT voice has been with me ever since. LET ME BE CLEAR: I have no intention of entertaining that voice or following through on any of its ideas. I am sharing my experience with that voice to create a common bond and inspire hope that it is possible to transcend that voice!

So how can we do that?  Well I can only share my own experience which I feel is adequate to offer a beginning in this process of healing and recovering our ability to self-soothe.

I saw a quote once by a yoga teacher named Dinabandhu. He said, “depression indicates a lack of expression.” I remember when I was in middle school, the high school put together an event to combat suicide in the area. The upper classmen acted as “peer mentors” for those struggling with this type of thing. I felt part of a community in that assembly and something started to shift – I felt a sense of hope and shared meaning (as opposed to the isolation and deep sadness I felt within myself at times, and mirrored back by the suicide I heard about). It was also clear there was an avenue for this type of self-expression (i.e. it was okay to ‘tell’ on that voice).

However, there was no consistent space for this type of expression. It was a great start, but from what I remember, very little follow through. There were no consistent peer meetings nor did I have the willingness to be vulnerable – to reach out to a mentor when I was feeling down. Had I seen someone share their feelings on this or create a space for those feelings to be shared, I think I would have been more likely to express myself and begin to transcend/heal. This was validated years later as my life began to be transformed using these elements – community dedicated to a safe space for expression connected by a shared sense of purpose.

I know this is very concise and if this were a speech, I would go into more detail.  For today, let’s recap. Here are two simple tools I’ve found useful in beginning to transcend “the you suck monster.”

1) Safe Community (support group, yoga class, 12-step fellowship specific to the struggle)

2) Outlet for Self-Expression (dancing, poetry, singing, writing, something  to connect with others)

There are plenty of kids out there struggling with this issue. You probably don’t know that among people between ages ten and twenty-four, suicide is the second leading cause of death. I speak at schools and universities on this topic, and given that I have a personal relationship with that voice, I can address it in a way that resonates.  This is how I’ve decided to begin to address the issue in a bigger way. I’m convinced that you have your own way of doing this and I would like to hear about it or support in any way I can.

Come-Unity – A Holistic Perspective

cropped-we-are-the-soil.jpg

I have spent much of my time in sobriety within community – a combination of unique experiences: a close-knit rehab community, a residential volunteer program at a retreat center, and an immersive leadership training. As a result of these experiences, I’ve developed some theories about communities and how they impact those in, or seeking, recovery from addiction.

The premise I’m sharing today is community is a holistic organism seeking to heal and organize itself; just like an individual’s collective systems.  I further suggest that this healing and organization is seeking to happen, not just for the sake of healing, but for a purpose bigger than any individual part. That is why I break down community into “come-unity;” come into one: one meaning, one purpose, one “why.” It seems when the “why” is aligned, the process of healing and organization is more effective and the results increase individually and collectively.

I recently got back from a 3-year mission in Florida to bring holistic services to treatment centers. After 3 years and a lot of “failures,” I learned that communities (in this case, treatment centers) are similar to soil and not all soil is the same. In fact, some types of soil are not conducive to certain types of growth. I realized I had been trying to grow in soil that just wasn’t having it!

I also realized that soil can change. Ron Finley, known as the guerilla gardener from South Center LA, said “To change the community, you have to change the composition of the soil and we are the soil.” Communities in addictions treatment tend to be mostly seeking recovery or seeking addiction; usually it’s not an even split. Occasionally, and this was a miracle in my opinion, a community would have a few members in the minority with such a strong purpose (the “why”), and by sticking to that purpose so intently, the minority would begin to enroll enough of the majority to change the composition of the “soil” – to the point where the overall direction of the entire community changed!

I believe that shared meaning/experiences/practices in community can drastically affect results. This isn’t a new idea; however, it seems to be rarely practiced to the extent necessary to yield desired results. So, what if we created a soil/culture/community conducive to shared meaning rather than the values imposed by popular culture? Is that something that interests you? I would really like to know your thoughts.  Feel free to comment below.

 

 

Let The Vision Pull You (and find your uno, baby!)

Vision

Que pasa!  So here’s the question. Is your recovery pulling you towards a bigger vision or just pulling you away from addictive substances or behaviors? Perhaps the latter is what you need right now. However, if you’re looking for something more, continue reading……

I firmly believe a vision compelling enough to move towards has the potential to trump addiction (caveat: a vision fueled by a Higher Power and in service of a purpose bigger than one’s self).

One of the first things I did when I got sober was a vision board. I thank God for mentors who passed along to me the principles of recovery along with the principles of success. One of those being the idea, and implementation, of “vision.” Vision is defined as “the state of being able to see.” It took willingness, on my part, to open up to new possibilities.  This action led me into, “the state, of being able to see.” By doing so, sobriety started to take on new meaning and enthusiasm. I began to look forward to life, and the fact sobriety was the foundation for all this, was very clear!

This isn’t just about us though.  My vision has to do with SEEing a new paradigm in addictions recovery; to create a culture that will drastically affect the results of treatment communities. Who does your vision serve? If you can’t see a vision for your life, perhaps work on beliefs first. As Wayne Dyer said, “you’ll see it when you believe it.”

Alas, there will come a time when vision and goals are challenged! That’s the way this thing called life works, AND, we get a choice. Do we succumb to perceived limitations – whether they be internal or external – or do we use them as an opportunity to inspire hope (and cultivate strategy;)? Our choice……

When I came up with the idea for a sober rave, you know how many people thought that was crazy or impossible…more than one haha!  You know how many people told me it was possible – uno baby.  You know how many it took to fuel my vision – uno baby. Who’s your uno?…baby!

Consider the words of Joseph Campbell, “A hero is someone who has given his or her life to something bigger than oneself.” Are you heroic enough to believe in a bigger vision for your life? If not for you, then for others?

Take action in the direction of your dreams and let the Universal Source pull you!

(AND let me know how it goes;)