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Blog Educators Reading Reading & Writing Teachers Woman Warrior Woman. Warrior. Writer.

Woman. Warrior. Writer. Kate Murayama

Kate Maruyama’s novel, Harrowgate was published by 47North. Her novella Family Solstice named Best Fiction Book of 2021 by Rue Morgue Magazine is out from Omnium Gatherum. Her novella Halloween Beyond: The Gentleman’s Suit is out this October from Crystal Lake, and her literary novel Alterations is upcoming from Running Wild Press.

How did you come to author your life?

I have always written, from novel to screenplay to novel to stories to novels. But it seems every time I sit down to write, I’m writing toward the question of love in all its human varieties. The questions keep me going: What do we do when our beloved dies but doesn’t leave? How far will we go to keep them with us? (Harrowgate) How can ancestral greed come before familial love and what does a loving innocent child do, caught in the crosshairs? (Family Solstice) How do we make peace when a friend slips away? (Halloween Beyond) Alterations examines how going against love can have repercussions through three generations of a family. Lifelong friendship is the question my next work is pushing toward.

Kate Murayama’s website provides resources and articles on allyship, whiteness, and privilege.

This is an excellent resource and a solid demonstration of how we might try to share and learn from each other.  Intersectionality as put forth by scholar Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw is a key to changing the lives of women as a collective.

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Blog Break Divorce Hawai'i Reading Reading & Writing Self-help Teachers Woman. Warrior. Writer.

Hawai’i: Getting Out of Town

I went to Pūpūkea for a few days to write. I love the cooler climate and the silence. It’s always good to get out of town. When you tell people you live in Hawai’i people immediately conjure an image of an empty beach, not Honolulu.

I did some work on my manuscript (working title) BREAK: Learn Your Truth, Write Your Divorce, and Author Your Life. My book is about how to write a divorce story for your legal and personal file. It’s a self-help book. I designed a story structure outline that will enable any woman to confidently write her divorce story.

I have a specific and ambitious goal with this book: my aim is to shift perceptions on how women conceptualize divorce and selfhood, and to teach women to use writing as a means of empowerment to rethink their lives during and after divorce.

Valhalla on the North Shore is a beautiful place and I recommend it for those looking for some quiet.

 

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Belief and Philosophy Hawai'i Health Self-help

Hawai’i: Health or The Lens of Our Culture Determines Perspective

Today I listened to a podcast about proving the scientific aspects of various wellness practices and the examination of the self-help field. I was quite keen to listen to this given I appreciate all modes of inquiry. The health practice that decidedly could not register as having positive benefits was acupuncture and it was deemed to be very difficult to ascertain efficacy of studies.

I haven’t made a close study of these empirical studies. Here we get into the idea of what do we follow for medical practices?

That said, I noted that the derision of acupuncture by the podcaster, which of course is rooted in Eastern philosophical practices and perceptions of the body, was then followed by a podcaster’s pitch for Christianity.

I thought this was interesting because at its core then, potentially, was a conflict of cultural values rooted in the lens of the individual.

And I’ll make a disclaimer here myself: I’ve had acupuncturists and my great grandfather was also an herb doctor. His sons went on to be Western medical practitioners.

I think we have to remember that there are multiple approaches to longevity and health. Let’s face it, if you want to live a long healthy life you probably should be eating green apples, grains of some sort along with bark and bugs, have no stress and spend your days herding animals and horseback riding in the Urals or a remote isolated area without modern appliances like…blenders. Living in a modern cultural situation replete with cars, capital, alcohol, pollution and the intake of constant stimuli is likely to shorten your life.

I think when approaching the diversity of healthcare practices it’s probably best to understand that your own cultural background will determine your critical lens on this stuff. Maybe it’s worth borrowing or sharing. But you can be sure of this: we are in the Dark Ages when it comes to our own health and our planet’s health! Gotta rethink all of it.

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Belief and Philosophy Break Divorce Educators Health Self-help Teachers Woman. Warrior. Writer.

BREAK: Marriage and Divorce and How to View a Sculpture

How to View a Sculpture

I would like to explain a few ways that we can think about the practice of observation that might help us come to terms with the way we see ourselves within the construct of marriage and divorce.

Here’s the famous Venus de Milo (photo by tabitha turner) an ancient Greek sculpture displayed in the Louvre. She is a symbol of Western beauty. There are many tales surrounding her beauty and interpretations of her appearance. I am unaware of an Asian equivalent image of a woman that is as significant on a global scale. There’s a meta element to her existence as a sculpture that also interests me: the physical element that socially distinguishes an individual and determines personal navigation is the face, the next are one’s hands. What we move, carry, sculpt, shape, stroke, create, carve and more, determines what we do in the world. She has no arms, no hands, so we look at her body and face…but let me continue.

When I was sixteen my parents sent me to France for the summer to learn French. I stayed with an acquaintance of my father’s, a medical doctor’s family, which I did for a few weeks in their summer home in the south of France. It was eye opening for me: large meals of rabbit stew at noon, a Pink Floyd blasting grandmother, a tennis playing aunt with a deep tan wearing a bikini that displayed tufts of her pubic hair, and a bucolic estate replete with a vineyard and peacocks pecking about the front lawn. There were other teenagers, but I was an admittedly difficult teen, bookish, and easily bored and not the best social companion, and so, within a short period of time found myself alone on a train to Paris where I spent the remaining part of the summer attending classes at Alliance Francais. I was terribly lonely and wanted to return to the US, but refused to do so out of pride. Determined to stay on, I decided to be purposeful, and so I set myself the task of going to every single museum in the city. 

As anyone knows, there are countless museums in Paris, but I covered many of them, an admirable ambition and a reflection of what I recognize now, as a sometime dutiful and obedient nature. I wandered about with my guidebook and recorded my observations in French in my journal as I downed cups of hot chocolate and cut my way through pastry after pastry. One day I met an older man—I no longer remember his name or even what he really looked like, although I seem to recall dark framed glasses and hair, and a leather briefcase. He saw me wandering around outside the Louvre, introduced himself, and then kindly proceeded to take me on a tour of the museum, pointing out significant art, and commenting in a way, I realize now that suggested someone with an abiding passion for art. After we drank coffee in a nearby cafe and chatted about what we saw, although I politely declined an invitation to meet him again. There are all kinds of ways we can read this encounter, but suffice to say the lesson he imparted to me that day about how to look at sculpture was probably one of the most significant I learned in terms of observation, one that I have carried with me and added to, and have passed on to students throughout my life.

When we look at a sculpture face-to-face or face-to-shape a single look from one angle does not suffice. Modern life is hurried, but when we slow down and look carefully, we experience art in new ways. To take in a sculpture in a way that evokes a relational response to the art and artist, we observe the piece from multiple vantage points, address the three dimensional material object at various angles. We might walk around it, do a 360 degree stroll. We squat down and look up, as if to be a small child beholding the world above. We reach out and touch it. Lean against it, if we can, press our own body against it, feel its surface. We stand up on our tiptoes and then look down upon the object. We tilt our head sideways and maybe even upside down. Most significantly, we look at the piece of art at different times of the day to observe how the shadows change, how the light and dark are cast across the shape, and note what this does to the object. The shadows tell a story. A sculpture does not look the same at dawn as it does mid-day. We must interact with it at different times, note the miracle of how it changes, to really see what the sculptor might have been communicating.

We too must allow ourselves to understand that the way we observe, define, any object, idea, institution, state of being, or whatever we encounter as humans, depends on our vantage point and may dramatically shift throughout the course of a day, over a number of years, as we weave our way through a lifetime. This perspective is derived from where we are physically, emotionally, or in time. How we see and why we see is fluid. It changes depending on the light or dark, on our moods and priorities, on what came prior or after.

Our responsibility then is always to understand, and if writing, to record and detail what we know when we know it, forgiving ourselves for what we cannot possibly see at the time we are observing, or if we dare say, participating, responding, or dancing with the art or idea. We might be generous to ourselves, allow ourselves flexibility as we move to a new insight closer into the seeing and knowing of how and why, nurturing or answering our questions as we linger and skip. It is impossible to take in all angles at once. Maybe there is a spot where we gaze beyond the sculpture, and so the object becomes framed within the background, or the object comes forward, the background receding. We touch the shape, feel its ease, roughness, and smoothness, its temperature and crevices. This moment is all that we take from the experience of looking at the sculpture as we remember it later, trying to recall and feel again what we felt. Somehow, removed from that moment, we feel a bit differently, and we say in our hearts that the art was more expansive at that time, at that place. Maybe it was. Or not. We have to have a little faith in ourselves, that where and how we are seeing at the moment is one perspective and it is fine, we are doing our best, we are seeing what it is we are supposed to see. When we look back at the moment, we are also doing our best, recalling what we can with all that we can muster. 

Truly seeing art, understanding an idea, feeling, person, place, concept, requires us to be compassionate with ourselves. Seeing involves being seen–specifically, we must see who we were and are, and this will allow us to envision who we can be. Slow down. Take in the sculpture. Allow yourself to see. This practice of seeing will help you to see others and yourself.

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Belief and Philosophy Blog Break Divorce Self-help Woman. Warrior. Writer.

BREAK: Learning to say NO

I think the most important lesson I acquired from my divorce was learning to say NO.

NO, I do not want to be respected in this way. NO, I do not have to accommodate this decision. NO, I will not do this to placate. NO, I do not want to make up for your feelings. NO, I am too tired to be cheerful. NO, I do not feel like smiling now–in particular, upon demand. NO, I do not want to make small talk with people who are unpleasant. NO, I do not enjoy watching people get fall down drunk. Sorry that bores me. NO, I am not going there because everyone else is going. NO, I am not going to that place either. NO, I don’t want to watch that show. NO, I do not want to pretend, ever again, that I am enjoying myself when I do not. NO, I am not staging anything in order for another to appear better. NO, NO, NO.

One can say NO, THANK YOU, if you feel so inclined to soften the NO, which, coming from most women, is usually met with some resistance.

Saying NO allows one to say YES.

  • YES, I want to live authentically.
  • YES, I make mistakes and I am OK in life.
  • YES, I can experience joy.
  • YES, I have boundaries.
  • YES, I am here to be who I am.
  • YES. YES. YES.

What I noted was that I had to get comfortable saying NO before I could get to YES. For some, saying YES first and frequently, squeezes out the NO, so it makes NO a bit easier to say. Best to figure out what works for you. I believe that YES proved to be more confusing to me because women are taught to accommodate and say YES at their own expense, so I had to get comfortable saying NO.

Say NO to say YES. Figure out how many times you say YES when you really mean NO. If you start thinking about it and realize you never wanted to say YES to begin with, but felt pressured to do so, you need to think about why and how and with what frequency you say YES. It’s one thing to say YES if it’s a rather small ask. It’s another thing if saying YES chafes against your personal beliefs or narratives.

BREAK: Write Your Divorce Workshop will be held on November 14 SUNDAY 7-9AM (HST). Learn about how YES and NO affect the story you tell yourself about your divorce. This workshop will give you the tools that you need to write your story for your legal/personal file.

 

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Belief and Philosophy Blog Break Divorce Reading & Writing Self-help Woman. Warrior. Writer.

BREAK: Don’t Hold Your Breath

When you are divorcing you are scrambling to check off everything you need to do to get to the next step. You understand there’s a safe harbor out there beyond the horizon, but it’s as if you are setting off to sea with no clear map, only an idea of the destination. There are also rumors milling about that the globe is flat and you have been warned you could fall off at any time.

You don’t know how you do it, but you manage to move forward. You ask people for help. You figure out the steps. You are moving to a resolution and you are aware that you have to get to the end. You would like to sprint, but are starting to feel it’s a marathon ahead.

Remember that as this process is unfolding you have to take time out to simply breathe.

I’ve taken different kinds of physical exercise classes in my lifetime, from dance to martial arts to yoga to weightlifting. At one point or another, they all address the idea of breathing properly.

I’ve been told to breath in with my nose, out through my mouth

Count my breaths.

Touch my tongue to the roof of my mouth on the exhale.

Quickly exhale from my lower belly.

Slowly exhale from my lower belly.

Breathe in and out through my nose.

Breathe in my breath and focus on sending to other parts of my body.

Close my eyes and breathe in.

Open my eyes after I breathe out.

Breathe fast.

Breathe slow.

Breathe in the dark.

Breathe and imagine my third eye.

Relax my shoulders and breathe.

Take big breaths.

Avoid breathing in and out through my mouth.

Make a sound while breathing out.

They are all correct. About a month ago I realized that after I popped up on the surfboard I was holding my breath.

I have since corrected that, but I sometimes remind myself to breathe by using an exhale sound a Tang Soo Do instructor Master Jang once taught me, it’s a bit like this on the exhale: SHHOOOOOPPP.

I was fascinated to discover that for months I had been popping up on my surfboard and frequently not breathing. It explained a lot. It also made me think about why I would do this.

The truth is we hold our breath when it feels unsafe to breathe and we know we will be able to hit the surface and find space to relax. Holding our breath is never meant to be permanent. It’s a momentary action, an anticipation of eventual release.

Existing in terrible marriage before divorce was like holding my breath. I was drowning, but refused to surface. If you have been used to holding your breath you often don’t believe that the air is available.

For me, to divorce was to breathe.

When we begin our divorce we can finally exhale—we are free of the indecision surrounding whether or not to divorce! Then comes the second breath. We may have to think about our second breath. And third.

Eventually, normal breathing returns. But there are places and moments where we still hold our breath.  Because this is body memory at work. For me, there was no history of surfing while married. But I realized that I was holding my breath surfing because once more, I was in a situation that I felt I could not control. Holding my breath stiffened my body. It limits fluidity and agility. Indeed when the air and water that exists within you becomes porous with the exterior world and achieves an equilibrium wherein you become inseparable from the very moment and state you are in, this is the ideal state. Holding my breath created a protective wall between my interior and exterior world, but it did not allow me to relax.

Take some time during the divorce process to think about your breathing. See how a minute of being conscious of your breathing feels. You will do all that you need to do and holding your breath will not keep you safer. It will not make the divorce go more smoothly. Holding your breath will only make it more difficult for you to feel in control—your body stiffens.

Breathe in. Breathe out. Everything Will Be Fine.