The Secret Ceremony

it started in a dream.  or was it a dream, really? turtles.
Turtles, crossing the road, moving forward. Traveling slowly, as turtles do, while cars whizzed by them. The turtles, unfazed by the speed of that which was moving around them.  Steady, slow, determined.
This crossing to where?  why? I wondered these things as I witnessed their travels.  Cars stopped.  A momentary pause in the buzz of activity.  A driver gets out,  helps the Turtle reach a safer place on its journey.  Everyone is patient, no one gets irritated.  In a brief moment we are all connected to this turtle, her journey, and we are all reverent in the process.
This is a gift, this crossing.  To those who witness it, not just to the one initiated.  I see this scene, not once, not twice, but 3…4 times played out. Exactly the same each time.  I am always the car right next to to the car who stops the traffic for the turtle.  Like a co-pilot, a prime witness, to this event.  I wonder in vain, ‘what does it mean”?  But meaning is often difficult to ascertain in the moment. There is only being present to what is happening.  meaning follows presence.
 And then the turtle enters my dreams.  Night after night I dream of turtles.  The last night of these dreams, the most potent.  A beautiful huge sea turtle who is trapped.  something heavy tied around its back leg holds it to the sea floor.  I saw this injustice happening.  Someone did it intentionally. I felt it like it happened to me. And so I am searching for the sunken sea turtle, with little hope for its survival. With diligence, I find it. I see her limp body weighted to the bottom of the sea.  I go in to bring her out, and as I lift her out of the water, I see her still struggling to free herself.  Her limbs fanning the air around her in an invisible dance.  My heart leaps. She is alive.  More than just alive, she is totally fine.  I untangle her foot and place her on the waters edge and for a moment she turns around and we lock eyes. The turtle and I.  And the depth of her gratitude washes over me as a gift of tremendous bounty.  I am humbled.
 And she turns and dives into the water.
 Free.
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she persists.

this persistence, it is the very thing we are made of.  Flesh, bone, blood, persistence.  I believe it is what holds us together at our very core.  Many have forgotten. Too many.  As we have moved into places, initiated our ascent,  motivated by fear, by threats, by bribes, by guilt, by the need to prove how successful, beautiful, important and relevant we are …. the slow, steady, mundane pace of persistence is in danger of being lost. forgotten.  forever.  we are in trouble.

Its not sexy.  Or radical.

Its not juicy.  Or big.

this persistence.

say it. listen to its whisper.

Persistence is not about taking risks,  making leaps of faith, diving into the unknown.  It is not the “just do it” mentality of  pop culture fame and fortune.  Nor is it the ignorance of looking the other way.  Of giving up and giving in.  I can’t bear to hear one more person applaud the accomplishment of tough as nails pushing through barriers, of the value of being a radical risk-taker.  I can’t bear to hear one more person tout the ‘let it all go and just wait for sign’, the trust in the universe and you don’t have to ‘do’ anything,  mentality either.

Where is our sense of balance?  of persistence?

I know.  I look to the artists.  Not the ones you’ve ever heard of.  Not the ones in museums and big deal NY galleries.  Not the ones who are famous, or almost famous, or who have created a life that makes them a true living through their art.  No. Not them.

I look to the real world, struggling, mundane, ordinary artists who persist.  The ones who, in addition to full time jobs (by necessity), families, responsibilities and general adulting, still… still make time to make their art.  They do it without recognition. They do it without reward.  They do it in too small spaces, in too small gaps of time between things.  They don’t do it perfectly, or every day.  They don’t waste their precise little time applying for shows and recognition. But still…. but still, they persist.  Unknown to anyone they persist.  They persist in spite of everything.  When every impulse, pressure and sign indicates how difficult it is, they persist.  why?  Why?  Is it just for their own gratification?  Is it just so they don’t forget who they are?  or maybe, just maybe, they are silently teaching, leading the way in the invisible realm.  Showing, guiding us, in the principles of persistence.

If you want to know the truth about persistence and not some trademarked version of it, you must seek these people out.  Understand what it means to buck the trend of accomplishment to find the soul of authenticity.

Look to the artists.  The quiet ones.  The not motivated by success ones. There is so much wisdom here.

Lets not lose touch with the heart of persistence.

I know.  I persist.

 

Phoenix.

 

I am on fire this morning. A blazing hot transmuting machine.

My soul is shining bright in this dark dark place. My vision razor sharp and focussed.
These are the times I am made for. To shed. To Shift. To Awaken.
This is the work I was born to do. This journey has led me here in this place and time. Right in the center of it all. There’s no place I’d rather be.
Denial is useless. I must own this dark place and rip it open from the very center where I stand. Turning the fabric of the universe inside out, because I know,
oh,
I know,
whats on the other side.

Octavia

A story from my day.  Celebrating the extraordinary within the ordinary.  May your lense be clear so that you may see the light all around you now, and always.

I met a woman yesterday.  She was in front of Safeway ringing two bells, one in each hand. She was a Salvation Army volunteer.  Red apron on, christmas hat askew and a broad smile on her warm weathered face.  I noticed she was dancing a little, while ringing her bells, one in each hand.  Creating a rhythm, a pattern and enjoying the moment.  I tapped the beat with my foot as I walked to get my cart. She made me smile.  I greeted her warmly and went inside to shop.

When I came outside after shopping, my son was hungry “RIGHT NOW MOMMY!!!!!” he demanded.  So I sat with him and all our groceries at one of the outdoor tables and let him eat some food I had just purchased.  At that moment, the bell ringing woman appeared.  She was on a break and had a snack with her. She sat at the table behind us to rest and eat.  As she walked by I again said  “hello!”  and smiled broadly.  Her presence truly made me happy. My son looked at her, than at me,  and as though knowing what I was thinking he said (very loudly)  “I hate it when you talk to strangers Mom.  It really bothers me.  You don’t know her.  Why are you saying ‘hi’ like you know her?  You’re embarrassing me.”  and on and on he went as only an 8 yo can.  I listened and gently tried to tell him that she didn’t seem like a stranger to me because I saw her so often in front of the Safeway.  I went on to talk about community and the people we live side by side with who are not really “strangers” at all.  In fact, none of us are really “strangers”.  This just caused him to get more upset and so I was about to just drop it and have the conversation later , when the woman came over to us.

“Hi” she said to us both cheerily.  “Do you mind if I talk to your child?”  she asked me.  “No, not at all” I offered and asked my boy if he would listen to what she had to say.  He didn’t respond to my request, but the woman jumped in amiably.

“Can I talk to you for a moment please?” she asked kindly .  He rolled his eyes and deliberately looked the other way.

“Well, ”  she coaxed, “I would like to see your eyes when we talk please.  Do you mind looking at me?”

To my surprise, he turned to face her and offered her  his intense full gaze.  She met it with absolute gentleness and equal intensity.

“Well,” she began “I just wanted to tell you a little bit about myself so we don’t have to be strangers.”

She went on to talk about her life a bit, how she was old (grandmother age she told him!), how she worked for 25 years and then retired.  She explained to him how much she loves people, ALL people, and how she has the strong desire to help others.  She said that after she retired she couldn’t just sit at home and do nothing so she started volunteering wherever she could.  She now volunteers with Salvation Army working 10 hour days in front of Safeway ringing her bells and hoping kind people will give whatever they can to the charity.  She talked about families and children who have very little, no toys, no home, no food, and how every little bit helps and how each time we reach out to help another, we make the world a better place.  She told him how lucky he was to have parents, a home, food, warm clothes, toys and to always be grateful. She did all this without ever sounding preachy or getting angry or raising her voice or making him/us feel bad about our privilege. His gaze met hers the whole time and she never once looked away from him.

At the end she simply said to my boy, “Thank you so much for listening to me”

And then I turned to her and asked her name. “Octavia” she said.  I expressed my gratitude for taking the time to talk to my son.  She smiled a kind “You’re welcome” and gently went back to her meal.

A moments exchange that revealed humanity at its very best.  The kind words of a wise elder meeting the willing ears of a young boy.  In this exchange, I saw the most authentic expression of hope.

We can change the world.  One person at a time.  We just need to listen. And speak with authenticity.

 

Broken

 

I am shattered.  Into a million tiny bits.  Scattered everywhere at once.   In this space, there is not even an inside to come to.  There is nothing. I am broken.
And yet still, I breathe.  And this breath, well, it must have a container, right?
And this heart?  Well, it is still beating too and so it must also have a body.
But the pieces of myself that are torn to shreds are the ones that belong to my Eternal Being, not this physical one. It is painful beyond words.  It is devastating beyond compare.  I am not sure that I am reparable.  I feel rage, anger, sadness, desperation, sorrow….
until the breath, it calls me.  And slowly with each inhale, I feel a tiny shard of me return.  It may not be much, but it is a beginning, and I’ll take it.  With focus and intention,  I use my breath to bring in more pieces.  and more.  and more. There are so so so many still to collect.  Collect them, I must and will.
I am reminded of a broken piece of pottery my then 6yo son laboriously taped together.  Each and every tiny ceramic shard.  He taped it back to its perfect original form. It took him hours.  I remember looking at that tenderly repaired pottery, now so obviously “imperfect” and feeling a surge of incredible love for him and the time and care he took.  Each piece of tape represented his concentration and intent.  He didn’t give up until it was whole again.
And then he sheepishly presented it to me, wondering if I’d noticed it had been broken in the first place. I actually did not notice.  I just thought how odd it was he decided to cover the small bowl in tape.  When I realized what had happened, that bowl took on new meaning, it became a symbol of what is possible when we care, when we are willing to do something that seems impossible, like taping a bowl back together teeny tiny bit by bit not leaving even the smallest piece out.  And it was more beautiful to me than it had ever been in its original form.  Its function as a bowl long lost.  But its inspiration as a symbol of perserverance profoundly moving.
This image, this memory, of that bowl, keeps me going.  Keeps me searching out more scattered pieces.  Keeps me focused on putting myself back together with tenderness and care and the willingness to believe it is possible.  With the innocence and compassion and willingness of a child who cares… a whole lot, I slowly come back to Wholeness.

Gong the Vote

I stand next to it, 32″ of metal, hand pounded to perfection/imperfection.  As I raise my arm, I breathe in.  A deep, widening, expansive, connected inhale.  As I breathe out, my arm moves with my breath, rides the wave,  flows towards the Gong,  and gently, ever so gently, brushes its surface.  The mallet follows the wave of sound then rides off the gong, moves forward and out in a large flowing arc.

It begins.  I am in.

I stay connected to my breath, to my body, to movement, to the flow, to the chi, to whatever it is that comes.  I stay grounded solidly, through the soles of my feet, through my core.  Occasionally I look out over the group.  I take notice.  Someone is sniffling.  Someone else is restless.  Someone is snoring.  I breathe in this information, ground again, and follow the flow of the Gong.  I watch.  I pray.  I respond.

It is not something I can articulate or tell you about that easily.  It has been years, lifetimes, of work of being of paying deep attention of noticing everything of consciousness of clarity of discernment. There can be no triggers, no fears, no doubts.  There can be no anger, no ‘sides’, no need to be right.  What is required is absolute neutrality.  I have worked my whole life for this that I was born to do.

In my neutral zone I see it all. I become the Gong.  No expectations, no judgements.  I see and feel and hear as the Gong.

Its not particularly pretty this time.  Dark nasty things float to the surface.  They reach out, like disembodied hands, pulling on me.  They try to pull me down with them.  They are desperate.

But in the darkness of the sound, I hear a tone.  A single perfect clear radiant tone.  Through the crash and boom, this tone sounds like a bell.  A bell being rung in the midst of the chaotic noise.  I focus here on this bell, this note, and I watch as the darkness begins to dance.

Yes, Dance. Dark shapes shift from groping to undulating.  From desperate to  relieved.  “I see you”, I whisper.  “Its OK”, I re-assure.  And then a song, and another, and another.  Piling one on top of the other, a backlog of songs needing to be heard.  They are coming down a line. A grandmother line.  The line of an Elder. She speaks, she chants, she is holding the bell.  She is sitting in the center of it all.  She is directing the dark, the light. She is bringing them to an understanding.  A mutual place of respect, love, commonality, hope and humanity.  Her eyes glow blue, her skin warm earth, her hands withered.  She holds both light and dark, she sings sweet lullabies to them both.  This native voice will not be silenced. She is the water, the earth, the fire, the sky.  She weaves the world, through time and space, through light and dark. Within seeming opposition and division, she creates bridges, pathways for understanding. And she has come to be heard.

At times I feel the heaviness almost pushing me down.  Almost.  And in my breath I once again connect to my stability and find the lightness from this grounded place.

At times I get so hot I think I must be on fire, literally.  And again my breath comes back to me, cooling me with its long exhale.

Each element, in turn, tests me.  Pushes, pushes harder, and harder still.  And I remain solid.  Grandmother smiles with her eyes upon me.  As I conclude the Gong event, I step out to fan all the participants, and she pushes me again to sing.  Her voice (oh I know it well) moves through me, creaky, old.  My fans turn into wings.  Flaming wings of light.   Mothers are pouring in now. Women from many traditions, many paths, many lifetimes.  Singing, sharing, landing.  Songs shift as I move from person to person. I breathe, pray, fan, move.  Somewhere, someone is sobbing.  “let it go” I whisper to the wind and blow it away.

As we close our evening, we bring our voices together, we listen to the sound of our own unique vibration, our signature, our frequency.  Through the collective “om-ing” I wait for it……  My voice fades away, and the collective voice comes together. There it is.  Home.  It is breathtakingly beautiful.  My work is done here.

Beneath the gong lies my altar.  2 candles, burning.  A shell. Sand.  A bowl of water.  4 crystals representing the 4 elements. The Sri Yantra.   Blessings in all directions.

“Thank you Grandmother”, I offer.  And I ask her for her name. Who is this being I feel so present with, this helper, this guide, this goddess, I wonder?

“Silly child” she laughs

“I am You”.

 

Thursday, Sept 22nd, 2016

Equinox.

a story.
10:21 am. Thursday, Sept 22. I knew the time and I had a vision for how to celebrate the Fall Equinox.  The plan:  get out to the mountains, to the farm to be more exact, by 10 am with kids and dog in tow and find a breathtakingly gorgeous view (there are many out there) from which to stand in Tree Pose and Greet the exact moment of the Equinox.  Check.
Except it didn’t quite go as planned.  Of course.
I should have known when my son was vacillating between cranky, ornery and demanding for most of the morning that something was going on.  But, I reasoned, after a good healthy breakfast and the lure of a farm trip, he’d be in great spirits.  Well…. not really.  Everything bothered him.  From the way his cream cheese was spread on the bagel, to the way the bandaid on his toe felt, to how his socks were making him itch, to a barely visible bump on his forehead that was “in his way”, I chalked it up to “one of those days”.  So I gently shifted my plan.  Clearly, we were not making it 1.5 hours out to the Farm by 10:21am. ‘That’s OK’, I thought, ‘we’ll get as far as we can and then at 10:20 am, where ever we are, I will pull the car over to the side of the road/highway, strike a tree pose, and still get to acknowledge the Equinox’.  Great.  Plan B was initiated.
Yeah.  But by the time we got the loaner car from the dealership (did I mention we had to drop off our regular car first?) and I managed to put out all the mini fires being created by Rilke’s annoyance with Everything, it was approaching 10 am.  OK, no problem.  Plan B still in action, only we won’t get as far as I thought. So what if we are on the Beltway at 10:20am? It will be easy to pull over a strike a Tree pose there. Right?!
Finally we settled in the car and rolled out the driveway and I was still sticking to my plan. As I was enthusiastically telling my kids “the Plan”,  I looked in the backseat and saw that Rilke was in full blown meltdown.  Tears streaming down his face, he was trying to shove his entire body into a backpack, feet first.  Uh Oh.  I pulled over to the side of the road. We were about 3 blocks from our house.  I double parked, put the hazards on, and went to him, opening his car door.
“What’s wrong?” I asked with concern.
“I don’t know!!!”  he sobbed loudly.
 “Are you tired?  hungry?  Are you hurt?  Are you upset ?”
A long series of “no, no, no, no”.  No matter what I asked him, he said “no”.
“I told you!  I don’t know whats wrong!” he repeated.
Right.  I got that.  So I started to clear him, wiped down his field, fanned him, re-set his perimeter, held has hands…. Still, he sobbed.  I asked my daughter, sitting next to him, what she thought was wrong.
 “He’s out there.” she said, pointing a finger towards the sky in a particular direction.  To which Rilke chimed in “I am NOT climbing that Tree!”
Haiku continued, “You have to get him back into his body”.
“OK,”  I asked her, “what would you suggest?”  curious to what she would offer.
“Have him close his eyes first” she directed.
And so I did, and I tried to use my words to help him come back to the present moment, coaxing him by asking him to come back to his “bubble” and “put on his protective suit”, but it was clearly not working.  So I took his hands, still in mine, and started to move them in figure 8’s and circles, in front of his body.  I became acutely present, responding to the moment without an agenda or a particular instruction manual.  Suddenly, he stopped crying.
“What are you doing mommy?”  he asked.  I paused before answering, thinking quickly how to respond.
“Well Rilke,” I explained  “Feel your hands?  They are Jet planes”  I closed his fingers and made his palms straight.  “And the Jet planes are circling through the air”  I moved his arms in loops  “and now they are flying RIGHT towards each other!!!”  I brought has hands in “And they look like they are about to CRASH!  But NO!  at the last instant they fly, side by side, straight up into the air!”  I brought his hands to prayer pose, fingers touching, and moved his arms up his body.
At this point I stopped, as he was totally engaged.
“Keep doing it mom! Don’t stop”  he said “Its helping.”
So I continued, telling a story about airplanes flying and moving his arms in different ways around his body.  I was using QiGong.  Moving his energy, creating space, and bringing him back in.  I ended with the airplanes circling ALL around him and then coming in to land on his body.  As I placed his hands on his heart, I asked him to use his breath to Fill.  Only I realized immediately, it wasn’t enough.  He was so so empty.  So I put my hand on top of his on his heart.  Then Haiku reached over suddenly and put her hand on top of mine.  Then Rilke put his other hand on top of hers, I put my other hand on top of his and Haiku closed our pile of hands with hers on top.
And we sat there, in the backseat of the loaner car, with all our hands piled in a heap on top of Rilke’s chest, breathing in love and filling together.  Connected. Present.  Clearing, Grounding and Filling all at once.
I glanced at the clock in the dashboard of the car.  10:21.  Of course.  I closed my eyes, we all did, and we filled with the love from the Universe. Right there, on the side of the road, with the hazards blinking wildly.  As we lifted our hands away, we got silly, started laughing, and took turns with different hands on the bottom of the pile as the pile moved down to Rilkes belly, then his pelvis, then off his body. And we laughed and shared in the Joy of this wondrous and spontaneous roadside ceremony we co-created.  At the exact moment of the Equinox.  The sacred moment we celebrated together, from a place of paying attention, being where we most needed to be and doing exactly what needed to be done.
 In that moment, I felt deep appreciation for this boy.  For this girl too.  Keeping everything real.  I swear, he was guiding us each and every step of the way.  Only in the beginning I saw his guidance as distraction and difficulty, something that was getting in the way of my “plan”.  And my lesson, our lesson, of equanimity on the Equinox, came in the most unexpected of packages, in the most unexpected place, in the most unexpected way.
It’s never what you think it is.