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.
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.
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.
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.
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”.