Contemplating Independence

When the first one was still a baby, there was a night of unexpected fireworks that frightened him awake; it was just at the start of the first Iraqi war. As I held him and tried to comfort him, I had the full knowing that there was no actual harm or concern to accompany his fear. At that thought, I felt the presence of countless other Mama’s with their children, unknown to me and far far away. This mom could feel the exact same empathy for her baby’s fear of noises too close to home, but could not offer herself nor him the comfort of its harmlessness. And that was at the expense of my and my son’s privilege.

What is the difference between feeling your feelings fully, and making drama for the sake of feeling engaged?

It doesn’t matter if the silverware doesn’t match, but it is so much easier to pretend that it does. We have so many negativities and stories we create to make enough noise to distract us from staying embodied in what really does matter.

I am ready to be broken.  I invite the excruciating practice of staying embodied to essential truth, and also, I have little idea what that means. Yet, I am just aware enough to know that what breaks won’t be just those parts I’ve never really wanted to hold onto anyway. What is ready to be broken is also those seemingly unbreakable anchors in my psyche to which I cling so heartily, even the ones of which I am quite fond and call “mine”.

Truth is, I am ready to say “I am ready to be broken,” and naively aware that when I  am actually ready to be broken, there will be no “I” left after the process is complete.

Gifts of Inspiration

I’m on vacation. We could be lounging by the pool. We could be piss-drunk. Instead, we are sitting around a table, loudly exchanging ideas about spirit, art, prosperity, self. We are giving each other intuitions, and provocative questions and reading lists. I’m sharing the resource list with you:

  • The War of Art. Use this book for inspiration when you have trouble continuing being creative.
  • Think and Grow Rich. This is an original classic, and there are other books now that echo this in a more relevant way, but if you want to go back to the source, read this. It is apparently still a big hit on Amazon.
  • The Three Marriages by David Whyte. Partner, work and self. In that order is usually how we proceed. Hardest one? SELF.
  • That Martha Graham letter to Agnes de Mille. Reread this daily (that’s a note to self).
  • The McAloon Group. Try some of the assessment tools to get you on track for your career transition path.
  • WordPress.com.  Seriously, why don’t you have a blog? I’d like to help you with that. Please message me!

Landscape by Monteverdi49

Metaphorically, how about NOT speaking?

I friend who believes in LOVE but not in “God” shared with me his understanding that all of the religions and spirituality concepts we can encounter are simply metaphors for some unknowable truth. I used to agree with him whole-heartedly.

Now, as my practice deepens and I immerse myself in the teachings of others (that is, as I abandon further exploration with my strategic and rational mind) I’ve noticed that this concept of God as Metaphor has flipped on its head for me.

I now believe we are all perfect beings, interconnected in some knowable whole (well, knowable IF we could only awaken from our misconception that what we call “God” is something external over there). The metaphor is this thought-based “reality” we’ve created to try to come to terms with squeezing this perfect beingness into the inherently awkward and unknowable thing of living as a human being.

And now begins the journey of actually understanding this belief.

 

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Visions of the most fun to do list. Ever.

I’ve had the identity of myself as the curator, the writer, the wordsmith for a number of years now, but I’m starting to have radically new visions.

I’m seeing myself in the studio, drop cloths all about, messy overalls and a tank top on (I’m skinny and hot in my visions), working on some kind of sculpture. It’s big, and it’s sexy. Or walking just on the edge of the forest with a bucket full of stuff, some high quality shears, and pockets full of nuts, stones, knobby little branchlettes, asking me to take them home and give them new identities. And in these visions, I’m not the host, the mom making a craft activity for others, the curator appreciating the work of others –I’m the creative one. Visually creative.

How can this be? I have always been the most talkative person in the room- any and every room. This is the gift I have, language. Though I’ve appreciated art, dabbled as a crafts person, I’ve always found design and inspiration completely missing from my skillset. So these imaginings feel very audacious.

I’m not surprised then, to find myself deeply intrigued by a couple of local artists (Donna Dodson and Andy Moerlin). They have different styles, but between the two of them, they make big giant wood sculptures of animals to light on fire (I interpret as a tribute to impermanence), and giant realistic looking boulders made of styrofoam that are installed in trees so it looks like they were dropped there and are about to fall, or crazy giant things made of nothing but vines, branches, wire and paint that feel so alive that I swear I’ve seen them move. I don’t just admire these pieces, they have become what I see when I close my eyes, my day dream images. And they are bumping out the words that have usually been the gift brought to me in dreams.

Last weekend, we went to the Unifier festival, and there was a corner set up with yard waste, cut flowers, unbundled bales of hay, and buckets of dirt. Someone made a human sized bird nest. When I was little, I would sweep the pine needles into a series of nests and play the entire flock, bopping in and out of each of the little apartments. This nest was made of expertly woven branches with a soft hay filling. How is it that as an adult, I have forgotten to build nests? I kneeled in the nest as a joke for a photo, but was overcome by a sense of magic and wonder that left me giddy and speechless.

So before I lose my words altogether (I’m sure they will come back eventually), let me make a bucket list of fantasy art I want to not just see, but actually have my hand at creating:

Scholar stones with those cool curvy wooden bases stained rich dark brown, all different sizes.
A giant styrofoam model (Andy Morlean style, maybe he will come teach me?) of an Easter Island head, tipped slightly and a little broken.
A mini fairy river bed lined with blue glass pebbles with a sweet little raft because some rafts are for crossing.
Cut log stools hand carved to custom fit the butt cheeks of my favorite people’s bottoms.
Painted doors, mail boxes and flower boxes at the base of trees that have those interesting little scars that look like doorways.
Hand crafted cement stepping stones molded from the giant leaves of a catalpa tree.
Little hand carved faces made from the outer casings of the walnut tree made while they are still green and easy to carve, but them dropped back where I found them so they look like it happened naturally
An archway made of branches made just like the one at Unifier (need to find her business card, that artist was awesome)
A patch of hand carved and painted mushrooms made of logs and bark.
A series of paintings or pebble mandalas made to match the shape of those patterns that form when you play certain tones on a metal plate covered with salt crystals. These have words.
A meditation path where the mission statement of the human awareness institute is carefully painted on every other stepping stone, so you can read while you wander.
A giant rubber bath tub stopper and chain at the end of the pond where it flows back to the brook
A series of faceless goddess figurines (perhaps made of Fimo) that are multiracial, all the same height, but varied by body type and “weight” to reflect that study they did about women’s body self perception
So many little things made of fresh cut grass, and photographed over time as the grass wilts then dries to brown
A big fire circle with stones and cut log benches, with a little fire circle and comfortable soft sand for seated meditation, and then a tiny little one for the fairies as well.
A “Poet Tree” with hand written poems on tree cookies, this time properly sealed to the weather so the words don’t fade so quickly
Little signs hung about along the forest path with quotes by religious figures (Jesus, the Buddha, his holiness, the DL, Rumi, Hafiz, etc.) interspersed with little white boards or slates so that the living gods and goddesses on the path can add their own quotes.
Photographs to keep a slightly more permanent record of those words written by said gods and goddesses.
A wailing wall and a little one for the fairies

Mom writes a graduation speech

If I muck around long enough in your data universe, will I eventually find your heart?
What if I just sit there, information swirling by,  and listen. very. quietly.
Will I hear your calling?

I have always loved the way your mind works.
And even more, the end product of all those synapses firing.
The way your agenda gets so completely usurped by a good explanation
that contains a concept you don’t know, which causes you to go look that up,
and discover a whole new world, that means this assignment
is never going to get done on time, but in the meantime,
you’ve given yourself a far more compelling outcome
than what set you off in the first place.

I love the way you’ve convinced me that the technology and media
so many other people blindly assume is a “distraction” from life
actually IS the way your people find each other, engage in community,
create hope and sometimes even thrive.

And I love the connections you make, always dangling your head
over the edge of the current collective wisdom to see what is under there,
or ought to be added next, or what patch of intellectual property is just near enough,
and strong enough, for you to leap the gap and continue on your way.

But the internet literally has no end, and what one can learn and do is essentially infinite,
and when you think about that too hard, it starts to blow your mind.
This existential angst you’ve labelled “suffering” since you were way too little,
your concern over the futility of effort in such a vast place…

Well, it is my hope that you are starting to revise what must clearly be
your essential question, not as a problem to solve or avoid, but as the truth.
What ONE can do is infinite, but what YOU should do is to be discovered
by leaning into and loving this mystery as intimately as you can bear,
and sometimes by putting it down for a god-forsaken-minute
to go outside and see who else wants to play!

On this graduation day, I’m tickled to notice that I have no desire to congratulate you
on your academic accomplishments, or to appreciate that you are “wicked smart,”
any more than I want to gush all over you about how proud I am that you have ears.
THAT you are smart is a gift you were given, and we both know you use it skillfully;
What I am most proud of is that in spite of the fact that you have such a brilliant mind,
you also allow yourself to have a tender heart, and that you have begun to muck around
in that completely illogical universe soon enough to start to notice how that might matter,
if not just as much, maybe just a little more, than what you think about it.

Because what the world needs of you IS your big brain – I’m certain of that –
but FOR WHAT is up to you, and that is not a problem to be solved by said big brain.
How you move towards the truest, most happy, most “useful” version of yourself
comes from the struggle of listening quietly to the sometimes subtle,
sometimes excruciating, and sometimes utterly unknowable thump
of what stirs and calls your big giant heart.

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Solidarity

I am sitting on a couch next to my offspring, whose fingers whir across a keyboard imperceptibly fast, his thoughts coalescing into words for an essay that will form the foundation for his future adult self. But he is not yet an adult. What is this moment?

We are atoms. Electrons “spinning” around nuclei, but not really because electrons are just waves forming a pattern of movement. The idea of the electron, the orbital, mere models in our gross realm attempting to explain something inexplicable on the quantum level. He, me, the couch, the computer, the air between us, all just atoms, quarks. He is not me, but his atoms are no different than mine. How is it that we each are called by different names?

Our atoms configure themselves into molecules, proteins and water. Those form organs, skin, bones. Here we sit, essentially nothing more than bags of water, configured into slightly different shapes that we call different, but we are far more similar to each other than we are to the couch, the machine, the air. We are made of the same stuff.

Rest

The silt in this muddy glass we’ve been stir stir stirring
has finally begun to settle. It simply needed for stillness,
and a regular portion of gravity. Brownian motion aside,
the inescapable pull of earth on its tiny descendants in this vessel
Wins out over the chaos of fluidity, until it becomes apparent–
the difference between the transparency of the cool clean aqueous medium,
and the opaque denseness of that which has finally fallen out
of what looked like a solution.

I have to learn to return this earth, by being as careful as I am brave,
to the dark ground it desires. So I ever so gently decant
the fresh water into my gaped mouth, let it caress my hoarse throat,
quieting all these needless words. Then barefoot,
I will bring the slurry that remains out into the garden
where we will transplant bamboo from my my first life,
and from the first part of my second life.

Once there, in the heat of the rising sun,
I will scoop it out with my fingers, smell the chalky brownness,
then plunge my hands deep into the soil.
I will pull them out clean, leaving that mess in its new home.
Where, instead of obscuring, this distilled product,
purified of noise and regret, will begin its second life,
just as I have mine, nourishing hope, adventure and honesty.

There is a vitality

The first time I heard this letter read aloud was in a Soundstrue podcast by Rick Jarrow that is no longer available. I hear these words, in his voice, echoing in my head regularly when I see a beloved struggling to let themselves out, to be seen. I would love to have a recording of this again in a beautiful voice. Any volunteers?

 

A Letter to Agnes De Mille from Martha Graham
There is a vitality,
a life force,
a quickening
that is translated through you into action,
and because there is only one of you in all time,
this expression is unique.

And If you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and be lost.
The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine
how good it is
nor how valuable it is
nor how it compares with other expressions.

It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly
to keep the channel open.
You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work.
You have to keep open and aware directly to the urges that motivate YOU.

Keep the channel open…
No artist is pleased…

There is no satisfaction whatever at anytime
There is only a queer, divine dissatisfaction
a blessed unrest that keeps us marching
and makes “us” MORE alive than the others.

Martha Graham
( – a letter to Agnes De Mille-

 

sunset

On Falling in Love

I’m so honored to be in conversation with someone who is discovering the joys of loving another (I assume romantically and for the first time).  She found that a poem I wrote accurately reflected the experience she is having, and I am inspired by the way she is connecting it to a universal experience of feeling the joy of being in connection.  Here is my reflections on that.

On Falling in Love

This joy is not something we construct, merely something we tune into. I believe this feeling of joy we attribute to early romantic love and infatuation is there all the time, yet most of us only manage to access it when we are enamored with a new partner (the “you”), or when we first have children, or when we have something that feels like “winning” happen in our lives. Then, our egos and strategic minds tell us the feeling comes FROM the event or person, and we create a lot of suffering for ourselves chasing/clinging to people and events that we hope will “make us” feel this happiness. The invitation for me is to simply notice in myself this ability to feel joy and love, and grow that, regardless of who is in the room with “me” (and to feel deep gratitude for the triggering person or event for helping me awaken)!

I spend more and more of my life now with individuals who practice tuning into this kind of beauty and love without attributing it to anything but beauty itself, or perhaps something they may call God. The Bhakti Yoga folks sing to multiple gods, the Kundalinis to a universal energy, and the Sufis to an individual Beloved, but they feel like names for the same reality to me. For me, this feeling of connection to Love exists in individuals who are living as authentic to their true selves as possible, and so my journey is to do the same.
Here is a poem from a poet I deeply admire that discusses this phenomenon. Sometimes I read this poem and imagine it is a romantic reflection and the true love is a lover. Other times, it describes how I feel about my children. It is also easy for me to read it as an elegy to finding faith or connection to divinity, in which the true love is the poet’s God. But the most powerful read for me at this point in my life is to understand this true love is finding myself and my calling.
http://www.davidwhyte.com/german_truelove.html
As an aside, the romantic relationship that was forming at the time I wrote that poem did not last. It was with/about someone very powerful, but also who was far too ego-driven and self-protective to feel like a safe partner for me. I am deeply grateful for the experience though, as I learned a lot about my intuition and what I want in my community by being adventurous and willing to take on a little risk and inquiry.

Sexy Teachers

I spent the weekend at a retreat where we allowed ourselves to ask deep, beautiful (and for me, often frightening) questions about the nature of love, intimacy, self-care, sexuality and spirituality. As I “re-enter” the world where these aren’t the most common topics of conversation, I want to remind myself of these questions I’m exploring, and perhaps some of the answers I’m receiving.

What is Sexy?

People who know deep in their core that they are beautiful, and have absolutely no interest in convincing me of that, are a profound embodiment of luscious sexiness. People who have forgotten their own beauty and are hell bent on convincing me that they aren’t beautiful are the embodiment of unsexy.  And the paradox – people who have caught a glimpse of their beauty and are hell bent on convincing me to also see it, are in the ugliest part of the process. I’ve been in all three states, and know that how one gets from one of these states to another is a deeply personal journey. Love helps it along the way. For many of us, sex and love are so intertwined, that we get caught in this trap of it seeming like the only way to connect to feeling sexy is to have sex, but if we aren’t having a connection to our beauty, the opportunity for that becomes extremely scarce. Isn’t life a funny teacher!

How are Security and Self-Consciousness Connected?

I used to use the word “self-conscious” to mean “insecure,” as in “I’m self-conscious about my body,” or “I’m feeling self-conscious about the poem I just performed.” I’m gaining a new relationship to this word. I’m understanding that there are moments in our lives when something is worthy of bare attention – it can be when I’m on the edge of a beautiful new discovery about my truth, or when I’m on the edge of something that is powerful, or even when there is danger of harm near by. In these moments, a sharp and intense consciousness of Self arises to offer me the invitation to become present to my wisdom and to act from that place. This Consciousness of Self guides me – to garner the courage to walk away from negative mind chatter towards something more meaningful, to engage the powerful situation with appropriate and focused respect and care, or to move away from harm.  In this context, what I want is more self confidence, coming FROM the security of deep self consciousness, not to be “less self-conscious” because I’m feeling insecure. Fear is like this too, but I don’t fully understand that yet.

When to Teach?

I am so grateful for the teachers who have left breadcrumbs for me. And I’m deeply appreciating that there are breadcrumbs on every trail, each calling to me to go in useful and non-useful directions. When I choose for myself a painful path, I’m still learning. They are all teachers. My job is to feel myself drawn to the breadcrumbs that are healthy for me.

I love so much to be both the student and the teacher. I love the productivity of shared wisdom and workload. I love the way someone else’s journey can help me make a quantum leap on mine. But I struggle with knowing when to ask for help and when I’ll benefit most from the muscle growth of helping myself. I also struggle with knowing when to offer a hand forward vs. letting those I love find their own answers. The easy answer is to always ask permission before offering help, and I practice that daily. Yet, I notice in myself that I love best those relationships in which we know and love one another and have tacit permission to “cross the boarder” into one another’s hearts. When I’m a mess, I usually want my people to reach in and grab me be the shoulders, look me straight in the eyes, give me a little shake and say “get back into yourself!” Yes, I’ll get back to myself either way, but the process of going it alone often wastes needless time and effort. And I love the moment when I can offer an intuition to someone I love that helps them connect point A and B in their own journey.

 

So what is the toggle point of knowing when to cross the border? For me, sometimes NOT sharing that wisdom (in either direction) can feel like abandonment.  And also, I have stories of feeling invaded by other folks with helper tendencies like mine. I’m feeling like the toggle for me in deciding when to cross the border has to do with intention. Is it to serve my own agenda, or to help my beloved redirect towards their own good? And when someone is coming into my heart space — same question.

 

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a constant, real, and broad invitation for togetherness

I want to be like one of the living goddesses I know,
Standing surely in the puddle of her own light,
For whom ‘coupling’ is an indulgence in self pleasure
Rather than a humanly attempt to create identity.

Or perhaps like an enigmatic and lively wood nymph,
Touching lightly the ground of the dappled forest floor
While dancing a blend of spirit dreams and earthly fecundity,
Making lovers of those who dare to play in her realm.

As such, I shall choose to feel alive in my own human skin,
Practice daily the slow, steady unveiling of my inner light,
Make a constant, real, and broad invitation for togetherness
With the others who also struggle to be on this path.

Wind swept

You know, we all go through rough patches in our lives.
And it is dawning on me, as I sit here, that THIS is not a rough patch.
For the first time in a long time, it feels like I’m not fighting the wind.

This is not to say that those howling emotions have ceased,
but they aren’t coming from being in the wrong place, 
or the wrong time, or from being the wrong me.

It turns out, the second life is just …noisier,
this is how it sounds on the skinny branches
where I’ve always wanted to be.

No, this is not rough, it is an urgent invitation
to remember how to sway, and listen,
and not hold on so hard to past ground.

Riding the Wave

Today, I’m thinking about the wave(s) of love, the balance,

between autonomy and connection,
between stability and freedom,
between effort and surrender.
I love the Tedtalk by Reuben Margolin for all of the silence the artist invites into his “talk.”

Here is my contemplation on love today….

I had a sense that deep dive into relationship could offer an opportunity for growth, right? I ASKED the universe for this chance to see what it is like to be all the way “off the couch” with a partner willing to do the same. I stumbled through so many years of marriage where I didn’t talk about it, avoided both of our feelings, was disconnected from our bodies. As hard as that was, it was not easy on any of us to live with the choice I made to move away from that style of living. It felt imperative that I make the move “worth it.

So, I studied for my second life: meditation, workshops, books, therapy. I selected a new life for myself with care and clear intention.

So here I am, deep in it. And I was right. I belong here. And there is an ease to noticing that when I am on the right path, the universe comes up to meet me. And also, there is still struggle. Every time we reach a new level of light, shed a few unnecessary layers, what gets exposed is excruciating, beautiful, challenging.

It’s like a wave…

We ride up, exhilarated, hands clasped together, big toothy grins. We reach the peak, look around together at the horizon, amazed by the possibilities.

Deep breath, and then comes the ride down, the natural pulling back into self for integration, passing through the baseline, noticing it is a little higher than it was last time, but still feeling the contrast with the peak.

To the bottom, where each of our egos and wounds and past lives poke up, asking to be witnessed, embraced, taken “With” for the inevitable ascent. That long pause at the bottom, with the view completely obscured, is the real invitation to faith, to awe, to gratitude. I dig in. He digs in. I reach out. He reaches out. In this low light place, we offer each other insights into what we can each feel out, like the blind men and the elephant, we share what we know, begin to form a mosaic view of the wholeness.

Which kicks off the ascent. No rushing that either, it takes its sweet time pulled by the memory we share of what it is like up there, we “pass Go,” collect our sustenance, humble ourselves to the way this game is challenging, but almost impossible without a play partner, appreciate each other’s growing skills and effort.

I don’t want anything else but to be on this journey, in this life, with this partner.  This isn’t needless drama or some kind of manic cycle. This is soul work.

It is right effort, and effort nonetheless. So I bow my sweaty brow, deep and low, to the mystery, invite my body to be supple and steady, to maintain balance in the movement.

Wave

45 Things

Some people like to make to do lists. I used to be one of them. That list was filled with stuff I should do, or felt compelled to do, sometimes stuff that I enjoy, each list imbued with some kind of vague promise that AFTER the list was “done”, the reward would be some kind of arriving at satisfaction, meaning, or ease.

At some point, I slipped these three things onto my to do list: yoga, meditation, and loving with my whole being. Since then, somehow the to do lists just keep getting shorter and shorter. Some days, this is the whole list:

breathe.

Those are the days most filled with life and wonder.  Those are the days where, when the good moments happen, I actually notice. So today, I’m not making a To Do list. I’m making a Ta Da list – a personal accounting of the most important ways I’ve already learned to feel satisfaction, meaning and ease. Every thing on the list is love.

Today’s Ta Da list:

- Mom love (I’m pretty sure she was first)
- Dad love (And him immediately after)
- Grandma love (I don’t remember, but she was probably next)
- Sister love (The most constant thing, there every day of my life)
- Brother love (So blessed)
- Being part of the continuum love
- Blended family love
- I love you and would even if we weren’t family love
- Romantic love
- Mom love (this time, from the other side)
- Love even when it gets tricky love
- Self love (my biggest obstacle)
- God love (my biggest surprise)
- Sweet sweet eros love
- Loving men love
- Loving women love
- Oh, forget the labels, loving being loved love
- Student love
- Teacher love
Being in community love
Room of Love love
- Loving to learn love
- Learning that play is learning love
- Art is love Love
- And so is dance love
- Chaos love (that one’s easy for me)
- Stillness love (not as easy)
- Gratitude (yup, that’s love)
- Self love (I know I already said that)
- Love is a verb love
- Learning to receive love
- Letting go of self love (aaah)
- Forgiveness (yup, that’s love too)
- Which isn’t the same as not loving myself love
- Loving the content love
- Loving the process love
- Having no fucking clue love
- Those tiny flickers of truth love
- I have too much to say love
- I have nothing to say love
- I might have something to say love
- Love that feels like cozy shelter love
- Love that breaks you open bare love
- Unconditional love
- Undefended love

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This IS my Holiday Card (again)

Like LAST YEAR, I didn’t mail cards this year. Let’s pretend like that is some sort of reducing my carbon footprint “value action” instead of just me being too robustly engaged in life to keep up with the little details, OK?
So, here’s my holiday letter. Hope it finds you well and that you appreciate lugging one less piece of paper to the recycling center. I shall now execute the requisite parts of the holiday letter, also known as the well wishing, the bragging, and the plug.

The Well Wishing

Love love love to you and yours. I hope you are healthy and happy and well, and if you aren’t that you have the resources around you to get to that place. If I can be one of those resources, please let me know. If I have been one of the causes of your unhealthy, unhappy, unwellness, I’d like to know about that too.

The Bragging

My people are seriously awesome. I know everyone says that, but mine really are.

The big kid is applying to college, which means I’ve been doing that dance of trying to figure out 1) how to help, 2) how to let him find his own way, and 3) how to apologize when I don’t figure out 1 and 2 in an effective manner. Overall, I’m in awe of his mindfulness and honesty about how absurd the process is. I’ll not do the parent inventory of his other myriad and numerous accomplishments, instead I will share two of the privileges I’ve had this year that knocked me over. First, I’ve been lucky to get glimpses of how he is with his girlfriend – tender, intelligent, leaned in. I see so much of his Dad in his behavior, and note regularly to myself how lucky he is to have such a beautiful man as a role model. Second, even though he’s a thought-driven genius, this year he has cracked open a little doorway into the realization that there are some divine mysteries that are real, even if we can’t define them or graph them. That took me 41 years to learn, and I’m so proud that he has a leg up on me.

The little kid, who is in absolutely no way little anymore, has life by the reigns, like he always has. I’m regularly amazed at how such hipness could bubble up spontaneously from a kid begotten by two brainiacs. Last spring, he was literally Prince Charming, in a performance in the school play that everyone is still talking about. No surprise, this year he will be a prince again, this time Hamlet – but not the boring version, this is the parody version (made rated PG by his teachers) of Hamlet – Thrill Ma Geddon. On other fronts, I feel most grateful this year for the way he has acquiesced to being drug to “mom” things this year, including some stuff no teen should ever be so gracious to join. What cracks me up the most is his self awareness – telling me that he knows someday he’ll like saying he went to these things, but in the moment they really aren’t his first choice. Ha! Here’s a sampling: We meditated with Thich Nhat Hahn at Copley Square (then accidentally wandered into the smoke clouds at HempFest), caught hugs as my HAI friends marched by in the Pride parade, spent the day at 2 different yoga festivals, attended a sacred fire circle, and a wandered through the Path of Life garden in Vermont.  One of his coping mechanisms has been to use Daron’s camera and the way this lets me see how he sees the world is really special.

Both boys have embraced an expansion of our family to include Daron, and I’m humbled by the abundance of healthy relationships and love everywhere I look.

And The Plug

Last year, I preached to you in my letter about The Human Awareness Institute, which continues to be a deeply important source of growth and community for me. This year, I’m going to indulge a little in some self promotion, but not really, it feels more like offering you a gift. Or two, I hope.

2014 will see the official launch of a product called Kangaroo, which I’ve been helping to curate from smart concept and intellectual property to a web experience. Kangaroo (and The McAloon Group) helps professionals with career transition. I naively expected that I could just help with e-publishing and editing; the truth is that the message in the content and the processes Kangaroo teaches are profoundly shifting my attitude toward work. Which leads me to my second plug:

2014 will also see me contributing more artistically. This started with slowly getting the nerve to do more poetry and story telling at some Open Mics in the Boston area and has lead to the self-publication of my first writing collection, The Goddess Rambles.  This has me feeling vulnerable, excited and humble, with a sincere wish that someone finds the words that have come through me to be a source of comfort or enjoyment.

Merry Krishna

Merry Krishna

A Theorem about Love and Transformation

I attended a David White retreat this weekend. I took notes. Yeah, I’m that gal, sitting in the retreat center, surrounded by poets and yogis, treating the entire thing like an academic exercise. Needless to say, I got something out of it, though I’m not sure I fully accepted the invitation of what was to be gotten. It’s good though, so here I share with you some thoughts and words, straight from David White’s mouth through the gauzy haze of my intelligence, so this piece is part plagiarization, part synthesis, part knee-slapping insight. And a lot of love.

A Theorem about Love and Transformation

Let us start by agreeing on this:

You can not truly inhabit a world for which you do not have the language.

And then let us remind ourselves:

“Applying labels is a strategy of the mind,” not the heart, nor the soul. Labels are a feeble attempt to make something unknowable feel real in the moment. “The strategic mind is meant to assign temporary names so that you can be less terrified and move on; it cannot give you happiness, and it is not the part of yourself that helps you belong.”

Next, let us talk about change.

Transition is a time and place we tend to look down upon, but an inherent part of being courageous and stepping into transformation is accepting that change is where the previous identity gets subverted.

Finally, we all know love.

Love is the one and only, the most powerful and potent agent of transformation. We form relationships for the very purpose of growing. Love is always something out on the horizon, calling us to a deeper understanding of the language of itself and ourselves. Understanding love this way helps us see clearly that “the soul is the faculty of belonging to the largest horizon you can find.”

And so, I believe “we name our love always too soon and in that naming, we create limits.”

It is not until we abase ourselves to the Love itself
that it can fully unfold and grow itself and us
into what is meant to be.
Love named too early can only grow to the limits of that overly eager label
which our waning identity offered to understand the impending self and love
before either had fully become.
This paradox can feel excruciating, especially to the mind, who thinks there is something to do.
But I will offer you this gift:
Transformation isn’t something that you do, it is a becoming,
it is a remembering of the language of your soul.
If your mind insists on action, simply take yourself in the direction of that horizon that is calling you.
“Go to the place where the conversation is happening.
Then just crack your heart open a little,
And let it in.”

This poem came out when I should have been listening.

 

All of the organized
and disorganized religions
and poetry
are no more than
beautiful word salads
blended teogether
in imprecise proportions
to feed us the unknowable
combination of nuggets
we each should be craving.

Will you pick through
and take only the bites
you already know?
Or invite your gut
to digest unfamiliar
and potentially dangerous
and even more potentially life-saving
new soul foods?

Or can you be brave
potent and broad enough
to close your eyes
open your heart
and lean your head up,
gape-mouthed like a newly hatched chick
and embrace what is dropped into you?

What is in my hands?

I have just learned from David Whyte about a certain sect of Irish monks who pray, not with their hands together, but with them out and palms up. We have two hands, David reminds us, one for receiving and one for giving.  So the invitation I take from this insight is to wonder a series of important questions about my giving and receiving:

Are my hands presently held in balance?  Is my giving equal to my receiving, or am I favoring one over the other? Am I giving gifts that are of a nature that is in sync with what I have been given? Am I giving what is needed, or simply what I am seeking to receive?

This last question is one that deserves my significant attention.  Sometimes givers (and yes, I include myself in this characterization) aren’t altruistic at all. Needy givers can impose their “gifts” unsolicited onto others in order to allow themselves to feel significant, in effect, to manufacture self-importance. David implored the audience to “make yourself large enough to be able to hold what you have been given.” Trying to understand this will be a significant shift in perspective for me. My practices in expansiveness have been about becoming large enough that my grief is small in comparison to my wonder and appreciation, or so that I can be capable of giving without becoming depleted. It had not occurred to me that the expansion was for greater getting. But in David’s model, the two-handed monk model, this makes perfect sense – larger hands to accept, hold gently, and then pass on greater gifts.

And this beckons an even deeper wondering:

What have I been holding for far too long, that I can set down or pass on, to empty my palms so that they are ready for what is up next for me to receive, share, and give?

 

On Why I Like Pebbles

A beloved with helper tendencies tells me:

“I have an urge to tromp in and sweep every pebble off your path so you don’t stub your toe.” 

This is my appreciative response:

Pebbles

Sometimes pebbles get in your shoe.
Most people think that is a problem. Some people even get angry or sad about that pebble, and start telling themselves stories about how it isn’t fair that they always get the pebble or maybe if they had better shoes they wouldn’t have to cope with so many burdensome pebbles. Some people don’t have much feeling, so they don’t even notice the pebble. Or they notice and just don’t care. That’s the saddest way to feel a pebble in your shoe. To notice and just not care.
And then some people, the “way out there” ones that feel a little less like humans than the rest of us (or maybe a little more?), they notice that the pebble helps them be more aware of their foot. They notice that they’d forgotten to notice that foot all day, and here is this little pebble reminding me that I have a foot. Some people don’t have a foot, they think, and that must be sad, but I do have a foot, and now I’m remembering how great that feels and so in this moment, I am happy. Happy about this foot, happy about this pebble, happy about this moment of awareness.
We went to a mandala dance where people had gathered.  They built houses and a dance floor in the middle of the woods because they noticed that when other people come along, it helps to remind them that they have a heart. Just like the pebble in the shoe, the other people draw our awareness to ourselves in a way that can be experienced as a problem, or a burden, or a blessing, or as care.  And these people were mostly trying to mostly see that as a blessing. So they had a dance to celebrate that dance, and they invited us.  
And they brought pebbles. And flowers, and spices and we put them in bowls around an empty circle on that dance floor. All night long, the dancers paused to sit around that empty circle and make it less empty. The children helped too. We dripped pebbles and other little gifts into patterns that felt like the patterns of the people dancing and the way my heart feels when someone notices me. They call that a mandala dance.
A mandala is a celebration of impermanence. Like the thought about the pebble, like the dance, like a lover, a mandala is a human creation meant to help you notice that you forgot to be aware of God today.  It is a practice in this contemplation:
Some people don’t have a connection to source and that must be sad. But I have found my connection, and now I am remembering how great that feels and so in this moment, I am happy. Happy about this foot, happy about this pebble, happy about this moment of awareness, happy about this love, happy to be here where people can get in my heart as unexpectedly as when a pebble gets in my shoe.
Pebbles are nice. I like pebbles.
pebblesPhoto credit: http://www.southnorthsouth.net/2012/07/pebble-stone-and-river-rock-foot-board.html

The 5th Rhythm is Stillness

 “A dog is not considered a good dog because he is a good barker.

A man is not considered a good man because he is a good talker.”

- Buddha

 

Sometimes the words don’t come,

or the words that do feel like

some impostor’s talc on my tongue.

 

There was a time when I felt

I could understand, if only I could explain

and now the uncertainty, mystery,

inexplicability of it all

leaves me wordless, without a sentence.

 

My sentence has been lifted,

I am no more

(if I shut up long enough to notice)

interminably imprisoned

by my need to be heard.

 

And so, what takes the place

I have saved for those words

which have parted?

Is it listening? Silence? Prayer?

Or is it love?

Yes, it is simply and completely

Love.

On Feeding My Whole Self

One of my (beloved) on-line communities has been discussing addictions, including over-eating.

Here is what I want to share about my compulsive eating:

Eating and feeding has been a primary communication mechanism for my whole life.

I may not have know how to feel, or what to say, but I knew how to eat.

When I was depressed, I couldn’t ask for help, but I could have another serving and that would feel like SOMETHING.

When I haven’t been able to tell my family how I really feel, I could cook for them and watch my effort go into their bodies and believe that was some kind of connection.

As I’ve woken up, gotten connected to myself, community, love, I’m learning so many more forms of communication, and the food just gets less and less important in my life. I still slip, but every atom in my body that I allow to start feeling unconditional love for myself becomes one less craving.

My beloved housemate brings “God food” into the house – raw greens, protein powder, frozen organic fruit for smoothies. Even if I didn’t like the taste of these foods (lucky, I DO), I know how much love comes attached to them
and they feel amazing to put into my body. I let myself eat these and feel love. I used to not think I was worth the added expense of these types of foods, and now I know instead that those french fries aren’t worth the way they will make me feel. And this type of eating is so much less work! I used to spend 15 hours a week doing food prep, cooking and cleaning, and now I have an extra 13 hours to spend actually connecting.

When I want more connection with my kids, I am learning to ask “What do you want to do together?” rather than “What can I feed you?” And I do notice their programming, the way they get bored and wander to the kitchen. I’m
trying to find the right way to have that healthy choice conversation without shaming.

But I still feel the “Hunger.” Daily.
When I feel that deep empty ache in my gut, I ask myself if I’m HUNGRY or just feeling EMPTY?
If the answer is EMPTY, I’m trying to learn to feed something other than my taste buds and stomach – like feeding my other chakras (first, I had to learn that I HAVE chakras).

Here are some of my new “comfort foods” starting from the top:
- I stimulate my crown & third eye with meditation/contemplation/music (If I think about it, this probably feels better than a martini!)
- I feel richness in my throat chakra by singing cheesy love songs or chanting kirtan too loudly and out of tune. (This feels like a VERY creative fusion recipe to me.)
- I exercise my heart by expressing my love unabashedly by regularly saying stuff like this: I love you and it feels good. (This feels so much better than my Grandma’s “Clean Plate Club.”)
- I take my fabulous body to yoga and feel my core getting stronger every time. (Meat and potatoes, got NOTHING on being able to do the triangle pose properly or that feeling I get when my spine cracks back into place!)
- I don’t leave ANY chakras out – with a regular practice of self pleasure whether I’m partnered or not. (Expensive one-time meal out? No thanks, I’ve got this awesome handy purple vibrator I got at CVS for $35 and some
environmentally friendly rechargeable batteries!)
- And then the root. This was why I needed to eat so much for so long - because I couldn’t feel my own base, my own connection to the people and places of this earth. I hear some folks can hear trees, I’m working on
that. I’ll keep you posted.

Devakinandana Gopala

Sometimes a mantra lands in my head to tell me something. I find this mysterious and wonderful… I know the syllables but haven’t internalized the meaning of the Sanskrit, and when I investigate, it makes such sense.

At first, it was Shiva shiva shiva (Om nama Shivaya!) God of destruction which frees us up for re-creation (and dancing!) I almost went a little to far with that one, it can clean me out a little too much.

Recently, it has been the Gayatri mantra. Why? Oh, because it is the beginning, and that is where I am…. always right in the middle of the beginning. This mantra helps me stay in that not knowing, in that sense of connecting self to source, and then it, whatever IT is, can begin.  And much of the rest of my life themes have been about beginnings. I’ve been fantasizing about becoming a midwife, or a doula. I’ve been starting projects. I published my first draft edition poetry compilation. I’ve found little children absolutely fascinating. I’ve been picturing this inner self (I call her “Grace”) germinating and expanding inside me. I’ve been trying to translate romantic relationships into paths. I’ve been helping my teen son devise the first part of his adult path. Middle of my life span, and still just starting. Fascinating.

And now, a new mantra has landed, and I find myself chanting it in my head, looking for a good MP3, and googling for the translations.

Devakinandana Gopala

Most interpretations say it is a double entendre – a rejoicing simultaneously Krisha (Gopala), and his mother (Devaki), shining god (Deva) and joy (Nandana). But Nandana also means “son” or “one who comes from” or “rejoicing” itself. And Gopala also means “cowherd.” I love that one of the names of Krishna is synonymous with cowherd.

One possible translation of this string is that Krishna is the joy of his mother. Another is that we chant the name of the lord, Krishna, in his Gopala manifestation who delights in participating in folk-dances with Radha (mother nature) and Gopis.  This second translation cracks me up.

I was offered the name Radhika by a visiting guru (this is the affectionate term for Radha). As such, I have felt drawn to spend some time contemplating Radha, looking at the stories and their evolution – first lover of Krishna, wildly jealous of his romping with the Gopis (cowherd maidens), later viewed as the supreme Goddess by whom even Krishna is enchanted.

So, this mantra, a celebration of the circle, the creation and the source of that creation. The lover and the lover of the lover. And of dancing. And of being real – cowherd maidens, non-monogamy and all (Seriously, can I get some adoring maidens or what?).

So my mantra obsession has gone from destruction, to beginning, to circling back to identifying with the source from which all this destruction and creation emanates.

Devakinandana Gopala, my celebration of source, being source, coming from source, moving towards source.

 

Sometimes the Answer is a Question

 

 

I have a story that sometimes my take on reality doesn’t align with others. Sometimes it’s just a very different memory of what words were said; sometimes it’s remembering meeting someone in one place or time, while they remember the meeting in a slightly different place or time; sometimes it is about having a completely different take on the emotional context of an interaction. I expect this is a universal experience, and I’m curious about what other folks do when they have this experience.

For me, a common strategy is to request validation or reality checking; I am trained as a scientist, and the inquiry process is important to me. When my understanding of reality is divergent with the “common” or at least an “other” view, I like to ask my partner, family, or co-observer(s) this fundamental questions:

IS THERE TRUTH TO MY OBSERVATION AND UNDERSTANDING OF THIS REALITY?

In a more simplistic way, the question is:

IS THIS TRUE?

Again, my story is that the answers I have gotten often in the past, at least the ones I am coming to realize I have most deeply internalized are three pretty cumbersome answers:

  • No, that’s not true.
  • I don’t want to talk about it
  • What the hell is wrong with you?

Now, I’m certain I’ve gotten lots and lots of other good answers, but these three stones are the ones I’ve let most deeply into my heart, and they are the ones I use to beat myself with when I am in my quietest self reflection and I ask MYSELF “Is this true?” Here is a certainty: this is not a useful conversation to have with myself. And, I love myself unconditionally, so I am ready for a broader spectrum of answers to my question.

Luckily, my life is filled with beautiful people who also like to answer and ask all sorts of questions, with whom I have discovered and have witnessed so many other answer choices. So here are some other possible answers that I like, and I love that most of them are questions. And I am enjoying the process of internalizing these, and also sharing them with you. I welcome additional contributions to this list!

So, the question is: IS THIS TRUE?

Frankly, I think this would work with any question.

And here are some PRIME CHOICE ANSWERS:

  • That is a beautiful question.
  • Yes.
  • No.
  • I don’t know.
  • I don’t know, yet.
  • What’s the evidence?
  • It is not my understanding of truth, but I believe you.
  • What does your mind believe?
  • What does your heart say?
  • How does your body feel about it?
  • What does your intuition know?
  • Is your truth coming from spirit?
  • Are you sure that is the right question?
  • What is under that question?
  • Do you know why you are asking that question?
  • What is your deepest need?
  • I have no answer, but I am curious about how can I be of service to you in your exploration of your answer?
Human Awareness

Human Awareness

The Goddess Rambles

So, the thing is, they expect so much from us here,

tending to the children, and to the work, and these bodies, and egos,

and the other challenges men craft for themselves.

And then there is all this breathing to do, and then all the air molecules everywhere,

that are SO interesting. And moments to savor.

And I just can’t seem to square how to hold it all at the same time.

“What is the question?” is exactly the question.

So some of us can’t, you know, hold it all together.

And there are great warnings about that happening -

“You’d better hold it together” “C’mon, man pull yourself together”

And the best, in the delivery room — did you hear me,

IN THE MIDDLE OF BIRTHING — they say to me:

“We need you hold on just a little more, just breathe, honey.”

“Breathe?” I thought, “That’s what got me here in the first place!”

If the breathing and the loving and the waiting to become

weren’t so excruciatingly compelling, holding on and breathing

wouldn’t require instruction.

That’s the thing, in fact, there are classes in breathing, breathing practices,

some people even go so far as to make it into breath work.

So, some of us just can’t hold it all, all at the same time.

And that can go two ways, of course, you can fall into either side.

You end up either completely lost to the human race

— or completely found.

And more than half the time, the rest of them,

the ones who still believe there is something to hold on to,

they think that looks like crazy.

Though a few people get lucky, and they decide they just can’t hold it all

they just know it is pointless to try to see the point,

so, they decide not to.

And they let it go.

The other word for that here is they “Become.”

They Become either Insane or Enlightened.

And as far as I can figure,

the only difference I can see between the ones who lose it “wrong” and

the ones who lose it “by grace” is that the latter have learned to,

you guessed it, breathe, at least better than they’ve learned to do.

Those humans, they have trouble holding all the e-mail and appointments and

“what do you want for dinners” AND all the breathing and seeing,

so they just drop the part that’s harder to hold.

So they let go.

And breathe.

I think this will be much easier if I join them.

The Opening Chapter

OK, so I dropped a few layers. I still have a personality, an ego structure, a history, and an opinion about things, but I am also less driven from those forces as I am driven from a place of awakening and now awareness.

My experience last week (with Ashamarae and my current beloved) wasn’t insight, or understanding a good career opportunity when I see one, or “letting go” of some thoughts that have been troubling me. My experience last week didn’t even take place exclusively last week, that particular string of moments was simply a more tightly concentrated connection of moments that lead to a nice “Aha!” discovery, but what was there to be “Aha’d” has been here all along and would be here even if I hadn’t noticed. Last week was simply one of the precious first moments where I let in some help to really pay attention, and so I did.

It came about because I’ve learned to practice – meditation, listening, feeling, compassion in a way that was at first self-serving and thankfully has begun to shift to being of service. It was the logical next step of learning to meditate, of awakening my energy body, of beginning to let in the truth that this idea of separateness is an illusion. It was the next gift after learning how to access what the Buddhist call the “God Realm,” come back to what we call the “Human Realm,” and notice that neither is the true reality. (And the also the same experience with the “Hell Realm.”

It was possible because I became willing to turn to face and walk straight into the thoughts and feelings that have been most compelling – be they extremely attractive compelling or extremely aversive compelling. So long as I was unwilling to think of myself as worthy of the beauty of those compelling ideas that were enticing me, so long as I believed myself too weak to experience those compelling ideas that were scaring me, I was driven by those ideas and was therefore less aware. One by one, as I’ve turned into and deconstructed those compulsions, they have dis-integrated. This brought me to the emptiness, to the question, to letting go of the argument with the question, or wanting to get the question right, or even believing that I’d ever get an answer to the question.

Now, the tiniest taste of awareness has come and it is like one of those life changes that is like jumping off a cliff. There is no going back, and only the faintest idea of what the landing place looks like. And although what I understand is vast and amazing, I have the deep knowing that I’ve got only the tiniest inkling of a clue here. It is just like the books and (non snake-oil salesmen) gurus say, only not at all like that. All of these things we say to describe what it is are metaphors. And there are 7 billion of us, each with a very unique configuration of personality, ego structure, history and opinions about things, so many many metaphors are needed. Pick your philosophy, pick your path, it is not important, the how. It isn’t even important that we all awaken, but wouldn’t it be great if we did?

I’m not entirely ready to share what my particular insight into the oneness is, partly because I am reluctant to sully it with words, but mostly because I understand it is the tiniest little insight that has had to be interpreted through my silly little human mind and when I describe it in words, I will get it 99% wrong. And because it isn’t important that you know what my awareness is, it is important that you know what your awareness is.

And also, it is important that you know that awareness is possible in this lifetime, even for a middle aged house wife so inclined most of her life in overthinking and senseless chatter.
So get to it, and if you want some encouragement, radical honesty, undefended love, compassion and empathy on your path, let me know.

DSC_0346

Something happened. It’s called Undefended Love.

Something happened.

It was just a thought, really, when you look deeply enough. So some thought happened, and everyone involved had really big ideas about what that meant. Big ideas. Thoughts about a thought, as if that is what matters. But this time, we did something different – we tried letting this thing completely BE rather than trying to make something else happen.

We let the thing be and we paid attention, and that lead us to the thoughts and then the thoughts to unveil the feelings, and we let those into the light as well. And those all just turn out to be either desire or aversion, and we let that be, and under that, we could see the deeper truth, and I’ll tell it to you now:

It isn’t about the thing. It isn’t about the thought. It isn’t about the desire or the aversion, or about what happened or who you think you are. It’s about where this all comes from, and what is below that. That’s the lesson. The thing, the decision, the outcome of that decision, these are nearly irrelevant.

Letting myself be fully seen, to see with undefended love, has changed me. I think I just shed half a person and am now bare, light, released from a lifetime of story. That thought experiment brought so much into focus for me. Life is short. I want my time to matter. I want to live in love and nothing else matters. In love with art, in love with myself, in love with my people, in touch with whatever those people call God. I want each moment, the love making ones, the ones where I am a wretched puddle on the floor, the ones where I’m preparing a meal for myself and my family, to be fully experienced, unburdened by what I think should happen or how I feel about what happened before.

Today, the absurdity of e-mail and washing dishes and that there are practical things like bills to pay and train schedules is making me laugh. I used to think it was about these things. Sometimes, I used to even cry about these things. Ha!

So I say to myself: Give the people attached to these things a bare look. Such sweet small souls, each carrying these giant heaping piles of armor and baggage, making these Herculean and inherently flawed attempts to connect through all that. Look at yourself doing the same. Isn’t it amazing how much energy we have to keep trying this experiment in belonging, in knowing ourselves?

And then I say: I love you.

And that is all that matters.

http://undefendedlove.com/

The stories we tell ourselves

I’m thinking about the way we make our existence, moment to moment, by the way we choose to be (or fail to be) in each of those moments. I used to think it was all about how we spend our minutes… where, with whom, what activity… and now it is feeling like setting is less relevant than voice.

See, I’ve been to amazing places of beauty, and been miserable there — constantly rethinking past abuses, scheming futures, or even just having conversations in my head that were less true than the simplicity, joy and beauty of the present moment. I’ve also been to places others would find enormously challenging or just uncomfortable or boring, and found myself deep in wonder and healthy growth. Mind you, setting matters, and can create something conducive or contrary to achieving “right mind,” but the real juice happens inside.

So, when I was little, there were all sorts of events that transpired that were formative- oh, you too, right? It bothers me how I, my therapist, and the personal growth community focus so heavily on the stories where those experience formed something wrong in us we now must overcome, broke something in us we now must repair, or failed to meet a need we now must work to understand. For most of my life, when I’ve been asked about how I grew up, I told those stories, and consequently, much of my life has felt sad, incomplete, or otherwise not good enough.

But I’m telling you now, there were other experiences too! Certain as I am sitting here – in one of the wealthiest countries in the world with a nearly miraculous piece of technology in my hand (when you really think about), thinking cogent thoughts in a generally in tact body- certain as that, I clearly MUST have also had some formative experiences that went right, helped me grow parts of self that clearly serve me well, and met my basic and more subtle needs.

Why the disproportionate focus on the deficits? What does this focus do, day after day, thought after thought, new experience after new experience, to chip away at the sense of wholeness and grace that is our birthright? And I am so curious to notice what has happened inside of me, and in my immediate constellation, as I have invited those other stories, the ones about abundance, to be heard.

I believe that this scanning for what is wrong is cultural, and it is making us individually into sick, over indulged, miserable S.O.B.s. And I am beginning to know it is a choice, how we hold our awareness. As an illustration, have you noticed how when Americans travel to poorer countries, we are always shocked to notice happy people there? We are so ingrained with a distorted understanding of where happiness comes from. Notice how the people who have vacationed abroad experience this as an anomaly they talk about, but the people who have spent time really living abroad have shifted to a wholely different world view?

As another example, I cut most TV out of my life a couple of years ago as an experiment, and it has completely changed my view of the world. I feared that I would feel disconnected and uninformed. To the contrary, I feel more connected to the information that matters, and I spend my online time exploring stories my carefully culled (no negative noisy people) Facebook community delivers. I watch TedTalks, Buddhist lectures, and films that have made it onto my radar screen enough for the name to stick and prompt me to go find it. I am now acutely aware of the contrast when I get around tv, where the constant deluge of news tells us that the world is scary and that we need to get some more stuff, and then worry about how to keep that stuff safe. Why? Because most of the ways we seek solace in this culture is in acquisition of external comforts, and the makers and sellers of these comforts underwrite the news. So, in its barest form, we tell ourselves scary bedtime stories and then wake up every day to the need to comfort ourselves because the world is so bad.

One of the basic Eastern meditations on compassion starts with visualizing the loving care of your mother. When masters first brought this meditation to the U.S., they were shocked to learn that this very same meditation brings up anger, sadness, and anything but a universal source of compassion in Western practitioners. I find this story to be amazing, both as a daughter and as a mother. How have we created a culture in which our most fundamental and basic form of nurturing is generally perceived as not good enough? Think about it – in those countries where poverty is more pronounced and opportunities are more limited, people generally regard their mothers with gratitude and appreciation, yet in a country where we have all of our needs met and most of our wants, we tell stories of deprivation.

I’m going to end by saying that our stories matter… the good, the bad, the truthful ones we all have in common and the illusion ones we make up for so many ego personality reasons. I’m not saying we should stop telling our sad stories, or the stories where we were hurt, or violated, or truth was not served. Telling these stories is a key step to breaking free of the pain they caused. But I am inviting myself to also be mindful of the weight, time, energy, and heart space I give to the various types of stories I tell myself, and to scan for at least as many good as bad. I’ll let you know how that goes.

IMG_3703

Awareness (rewrite)

My mind invites me to collect the data of this moment,
My mind would pretend to name it’s truth,
My mind is present in this moment, but it is not this moment.
There is no data, no analysis.
There is only this moment.

My body invites me to be industrious.
My body would have me pushing or pulling or leaving.
My body is present to know pleasure and suffering.
There is nothing to do right.
There is only this moment and the ability to sense.

My ego invites me to predict and control.
My ego would have me regret, anticipate, manipulate.
My ego is present to provide awareness of my Self.
There is no good enough or not good enough.
There is only this moment, sensing, and awareness of self.

My heart invites me to feel this love.
My Heart would have me lean in or lean out,
My heart is present to feel this love, but it is not this love.
There is no sadness, no joy.
There is only this moment, sensing, awareness, and love.

This moment, love, awareness, sensing,
These are the gifts that invite me to connect.
They guide me to gather with others
To connect minds, hearts, egos and bodies
Into a collective awareness.
To become One.

Compassion

One of the basic Eastern meditations on compassion starts with visualizing the loving care of your mother.

When the masters first brought this meditation to the U.S., they were shocked to learn that this very same meditation brings up anger, sadness, and anything but a universal source of compassion in Western practitioners. I find this story to be amazing, both as a daughter and as a mother.

How have we created a culture in which our most fundamental and basic form of nurturing is generally perceived as not good enough? Think about it – in those countries where poverty is more pronounced and opportunities are more limited, people generally regard their mothers with gratitude and appreciation, yet in a country where we have all of our needs met and most of our wants, we tell stories of deprivation.

I believe that our stories matter — the good, the bad, the truthful ones we all have in common and the illusory ones we make up for so many ego personality reasons. I’m not saying we should stop telling our sad stories, or the stories where we were hurt, or violated, or truth was not served. Telling these stories is a key step to breaking free of the pain they caused.

But I am inviting myself to also be mindful of the weight, time, energy, and heart space I give to the various types of stories I tell myself, and to make a practice of telling the good ones too. I expect this practice will significantly alter the nature of the future stories I have to tell.

Meditation can be a beautiful form of masturbation.

SOMEDAY I’LL BE BACK AT SCHOOL,
SKINNY OLDER LADY SAUNTERING ACROSS CAMPUS
WITH MY CUSHION AND MY HEAD COVERED,
IN JEANS AND A FLOWY SHIRT THAT SHOWS OFF MY SEXY ABS.
I DON’T NEED NO MAKEUP BECAUSE PEOPLE JUST LOOK INTO MY EYES -
ALWAYS MY EYES, BECAUSE I STILL TALK, BUT MORE,
I LOOK. AND LISTEN, AND THERE IS AN INFINITY OF MEANING
IN THOSE MOVEMENTS YOU MAKE
WHEN YOU DON’T SAY.

AND I REMEMBER THAT THERE WAS A TIME,
I WAS SO SO LOQUACIOUS AND I TALKED SO MUCH THAT I COULDN’T HEAR,
AND I EVEN TALKED SO MUCH I COULDN’T SEE,
AND SO I DIDN’T NOTICE THEN ALL THE QUIET THINGS NO-ONE SAYS OUT LOUD
BUT THEY SHOW IT, THEIR LITTLE MOVEMENTS BETRAY THE TRUTH
AND THAT IS WHAT I SEE, NOW THAT I FINALLY SHUT UP.

I’M TRAINING TO BE A TEACHER, BUT NOT THE REGULAR KIND
WITH GRADE-BOOKS AND CURRICULUM THAT MUST BE TURNED IN
OR LESSON PLANS – FOR GOD’S SAKE HOW COULD WE IMAGINE A LESSON PLAN FOR THIS?
I’M GONNA BE A TEACHER WITHOUT A PLAN,
JUST A FEW GOD IDEAS JOTTED DOWN ON THIS HERE POST-IT NOTE
AND A SHELF FULL OF BOOKS IN THE REAL WORLD AND ONE IN MY HEAD
THAT I HAVE BOOKMARKED AND HIGHLIGHTED AND NOW I TEACH
BY WATCHING WHAT YOU DIDN’T SAY AND THEN I REMEMBER
THAT I READ SOMEWHERE THAT SOMEBODY ALREADY SAID THAT
SO I HELP YOU OUT WITH THE WORDS, GIVE YOU THAT TEACHER
WHO CAME BEFORE I BOOKMARKED THEM
SO THAT I COULD LOOK AT YOU HERE AND NOW AND REMEMBER THEM
AND CONNECT YOU TWO BACK UP WITH EACH OTHER. ISN’T THAT NICE?

BUT I’M NOT SOME FUCKING CHARLATAN PSYCHIC OR MADAME OR ANYTHING.
THIS IS THE REAL KIND OF FORMAL OFFICIAL ACADEMIC SHIT UP IN HERE
WITH LETTERS AFTER MY NAME AND EVERYTHING
AND YOU TRUST ME WITH THAT AND SO ARE LURED IN BY THE ACADEMIC ILLUSION
BUT I REMEMBER THE GOD STUFF THAT WAS MORE TRUE THAN IMPORTANT,
AND I’M TOTALLY HAPPY TO HOOK YOU UP.

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