Dancing Home

I am home from the Sun/Moon Dance. My spirit lives in the center of the medicine wheel, and part of me will always dance in the arbor, but my integrated life is in my home and community here. The single beat of the drum calls me to action and the three beats to rest, every day. The energy I channeled there trickles into my daily practice. Things are different, better, but imperceptibly so from an unpracticed eye. I am so grateful. Life is so good!

The fulfilling beauty and inspiration of the people, space and spirits with which I danced gave my path a new name: The Beauty Way. From the moment the drum called us from our spaces in the circle, I was danced … I could be. Active or passive in the dance, the resistance was gone and nothing pulled me from the path of the Divine. It was bliss and challenge at once.

The heat, the silence, the needs rose up with demands that all of me had to face. There were so many moments where the thought that the work or environment would break me dominated all others. Then, my very cells cried out for help. Every time, relief was there: a breeze, a drum beat, an eagle cry, an ant, a dancer’s movement, inspiration, the fire, the tree, darkness, light, change of place, a single hug, a pillow, a feather, a cold wet towel (oh the towel angels!), a laugh. Every time, I surrendered more deeply into the Love. It is everywhere and nowhere, nothing and everything. It is every being and every thing, natural and man-made. It is real.

I think the biggest surprise I brought home with me was the awareness of objects I had thought of as inanimate. The movement of the cells in my computer, or the sidewalk I place my steps on, or the chair I sit on, or the car I drive, is something I notice still after nearly a week and am likely to never forget. Have I been disrespecting the life in these things by ignoring the slow speed of their constant motion? Just because it’s formed from natural materials into a shape chosen by humans, does that make it less than natural, less worthy of consideration? It seems not.

At the end of the days that were unclocked spaces of eternity, I feel compelled to bring all this home with me and infuse every moment with connection. The infinite possibility of commitment and surrender brought me back to my daily choices with a deeper understanding of faith that can’t help but form a loving foundation. I want to live a “Thank You, I am here for you too.” And I no longer want to do it alone in a cave of illusory safety and separation. I found a second home in the Island of Misfit Toys and can take my connections outside the ceremony at last. That means, I can make friends with the fascinating, honorable, loving, unique and inspiring folks of the circle, right here in square world. We can have dinners and swim and make things and listen to the wind and take our dogs for walks. We can share stories and worries, thoughts and solutions, food and drink, mistakes and inspirations, laughter and hugs. For a long time I thought that wasn’t possible, but now I hope it can be. Ceremony and friendship can dance on together.

My life is full of words and decisions and recommendations I share with others, but the simplicity has hold of me still. I don’t want to speak or write, just solve problems. Or rather –  be a solution, and let the energy communicate for me. Our world is not there yet, and that is lovely in its own way. It simplifies my actions. There is such richness here, such truth and promise in the business of life. And so, a new lesson of patience and commitment guides my days. It is enough that I can be danced in one place, one time or two a year – for now. The rest of the time I can be with friends and family and colleagues in an easier, healthier way.

Thank you for taking this journey with me.

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I am a Spirit Dancer

This weekend, I will be celebrating the 7-year anniversary of my death and rebirth after a 4-day ceremonial dance at Madre Grande Monastery in California, with a 4-day ceremonial dance for Peace & Healing at Birdsong Peace Chamber in Pennsylvania. The symmetry has a lovely appeal. Preparing for the next few days has absorbed most of my focus, hence my silence for all of June and most of this month. The thought brings joy and calm this morning, but it raised a lot of fear and questions that I’ve had to address over the last weeks.
I was hospitalized after that last Peace & Healing dance. Despite good intentions, I was not properly cared for or watched over then, and checked out of my body after day 2, but was kept through day 4 and packed off alone in an ambulance when the ceremony was over, although not complete. It may be disputed, but I briefly died in the hospital and checked back in after the machines screamed and people started running to help. I was resistant and confused to return, but made it. The next Spring, I was ousted from the Tokala Society that hosted the dance. I had completed 2 years of a 4-year dance commitment. Although I was present in spirit, I did not complete that cycle in person.

A few years ago, I went to my first sweat lodge after that with a group here out East. It was supportive and the energy well-balanced between male and female, light and dark. There are several lodge leaders nearby that follow the teachings of Beautiful Painted Arrow who gifted the Sun/Moon Dance for Peace & Healing to some of them. After several sweat lodge ceremonies with different members of this group, I participated in the Long Dance  at Birdsong for the first time. Contrary to its name, this dance is just one night and self-supported. It was a lovely and healing experience. Last month, I danced a second beautiful and healing Long Dance with the same group at the Birdsong Peace Chamber, and a few different people.

In the hush of early morning, it came clear to me, that I had completed the cycle of my first dance commitment. It is time to start a new 4-year dance cycle in a good way with this new group of people. It must be now, although now is not a logical time. I had just one month to prepare, since I made the decision on the Summer Solstice: find a supporter to stay with me through the dance, find the money to cover it, find the money to ease my mind about our family’s financial woes, find supporters for my husband and son, get fresh sage for my giveaway from Southern California, make prayer ties, prepare things for giveaway, fix my dance dress, find more dance clothes, and so on. My husband is afraid I’ll die for good this time. I’m concerned for him and pray that I will be strong enough to surrender in the right way.

So many good questions have been raised by loved ones concerned with my well-being and answered with love and patience.  I am so very grateful that they would care to caution me as they did, and offer their insights into me and fears for my safety.

Have I thought of my son and husband? A child should have his mother. Yes. I am taking every precaution I can for my health and safe return. What kind of example would it be for my son if I were to deny who I am and what I believe is right because it is unpopular or misunderstood? I’ve taken good care of myself for many years now and that habit is one I mean to keep. I ask my loved ones to have faith in their experience of me rather than in unfounded fears of what could be.

Should I just grow up and get over this “foolishness”? Am I searching so hard for something that’s right here inside me? No. I have found peace in my own heart, love and wisdom in the world I experience every day. Back when I started on this path, I was searching very intently, and reveling in whatever I found that answered my questions. I was a zealot, in the words of one friend, uncomfortably passionate and enthusiastic at times. I threw myself into ceremony with the ecstatic bounce and swagger of a drunk teenager, sober and clean as I was. It wasn’t too much for then, maybe, but it was … too much to last. Consistent practice was bound to focus my unbridled passion, channel my visions.

Warned by dreams I’d had from childhood, I knew I was going to die in my 35th year, but I didn’t know how or when. I didn’t know I was going to come back. Surprise! Oh my friend, I was so angry and sulky after I made the choice. I had my own personal It’s a Wonderful Life journey with a twist. I saw what life could be if I returned and what life would have been if I didn’t. The latter was unacceptable and so I came back, defiant and confused and angry and exhausted.

I took my time to recover and ease back into ceremony. I had my former commitment, but I’d been broken. I had no choice but to be gentle with myself. I tried to find out the specifics of what had happened when I’d been unconscious the last 2 days of the dance, but could never get a full or clear picture. The bits I’ve been able to piece together are consistent with what I experienced watching my mother’s spirit separate from her body while dying of her brain tumor. Nobody knew what to do with me, some thought I was on drugs, some thought I was sick, they tried what they could to help but with modern tricks or intuitions not practical ceremonial responses. Nobody took any responsibility for the conditions of the dance, and so I took responsibility for the whole thing for awhile. I was not surprised when the dance tree was felled by lightning. It felt right to me, like justice.

There was jealousy and undermining that carried on according to friends that were there, but I continued to love and wait. Usually, if I deflect the most obvious damage and keep focused on my own work, after awhile the situation resolves itself with a deep friendship or a separation. This time it was the separation. The shock of that shook me up and made me question my tokala commitment. Am I still a Tokala? What do I do now? I prayed a lot about it and went back to Madre Grande for a final resolution after a few months. After a few days on the land camping and praying, walking and singing, a hawk met me on a path and I sat with her for some time before she turned and hopped off the log she’d been perched on. It was then I knew that my commitment didn’t rely on Daniel Moon and the Medicine Shield Tokalas for approval. The answers came from the land and a hawk at Madre Grande. Yes, the commitment was between you and Creator for the people. You do now what you always did – pray and live in service. If it must be alone, so be it. Every day, I live this commitment in the way of a flawed human surrendering to the greater good as much as I can. My ego and desires still want to take hold more than is good for me, but I manage to make small improvements over time. I help in my small way.

My work is to hold the spirit line and live as a hollow bone in the center of the Medicine Wheel to the best of my humble abilities. I’ll explain that over time. For now what matters is that I carried on praying and healing, working the medicine and letting Creator work me. I didn’t go to an Inipi for 3 or 4 years, doing ceremony as guided on my own. When I was pregnant with my son, I built the new habit of taking meticulously good care of myself. It started off as being just for his sake, but after 2 years of it I could see the way nurturing myself expanded what I could to for others and the habit was cemented. I’m not searching anymore. The love and wisdom of Spirit is within and around me, undeniable and perfect. I’m integrating now, getting on with my loving and steady little improvements, steady richer joys.

So now we come to the dance and timing issues. I was actively avoiding doing ceremony in groups up until two years ago or so. Then I needed to go West to do some closing ceremonies for all the doors I’d opened and forgotten to close. To prepare, I needed to do a sweat, so I put out the question to people I knew and trusted. One sent me to a lodge in Malvern.

The caretaker of the land and the people there welcomed me easily. The first of 4 water pourers taught by Joseph Rael, Beautiful Painted Arrow that I encountered and sweat with, he was a surprise to me: very human and wise and understanding with the kinder part of coyote medicine. Through him, I met and did ceremony with others. One put lavender on the wood with the tobacco when the foundation for the lodge fire was built and used fewer stones than I was used to. This way is much more nurturing than the way I was taught, which is wonderful. I was skeptical at first, but went to a few more ceremonies, introduced my family to the circle at casual picnics on ceremonial land, and met more good people. There was never any cost for ceremony or guilt to give a donation when times were tight. The leader would say what it cost to put on lodge if you asked for a suggested donation, but always emphasized that you should never let lack of money stand between you and the healing ceremonies. They remain consistent.

I first chose to dance a personal Long Dance, co-chiefed by two water-pourers last year. It’s one night, “self-supported” they said, so I used it as a test case. Yes, I brought my own stuff, set up my own tent and drummed or rattled for myself when I needed it, but it was far from unsupported. Both chiefs were really specific in details that could help me support myself and the incredible force of love there just carried me both last year and in the dance I repeated a few weeks ago.

All of the people supported the others in our own way and never abandoned anyone in need – truly magical. I should have accepted last year the vision of me dancing the 4-day dance at Birdsong with them, but I was too afraid to accept it then. It took having the same vision repeated for me in this year’s dance before I would accept the truth. I didn’t want to accept that I was ready, didn’t want to let go of the past and accept my role in Creator’s plan, so I delayed everything as long as I could. It was making me sick to deny it and so I’ve embraced it in that crazy-love way I have and here we are. As one dear friend pointed out, the dance is inside of me and the spirit is in my dance. I can no more deny that without wilting than a sunflower can turn from the sun.

The question of MONEY made me wonder and hesitate too. The cost seems high for ceremony, but it is also a suggested donation. They try to recoup the costs of the dance and give something extra to the drummers and for the support of Joseph Rael or the medicine person for the dance if they can, but if I’m called I shouldn’t worry about it. Fixating on the cost gave me an excuse to delay the commitment to this dance and that’s one of the few things I’ve denied in the past  years when it spoke to me so clearly and cleanly.

That denial was a mistake. My friends are right that Spirit wouldn’t ask anything of me that would jeopardize my family and well being. When I raised the question of payment, the dance chief and her husband, who’s danced this dance for about 25 years now, both told me there are scholarships available if the need is there. They told me to pray on it and let them know, to simplify my approach to the ceremony. I was relieved. From my part, if I’d been preparing for the whole year as I would have been had I heeded the call last year, it would have been no problem to use the $2 or so per day to help me focus my intentions and preparations for the dance. I do feel called to support those that hold the dance space, caretake the land and support me as I dance, and I will eventually donate the amount that Creator shows to me, probably the suggested donation or more. They don’t call for a giveaway, but I am releasing a number of ceremonial things that will serve others better than they would me at this point.

I know this is the best thing to do for the highest good right now and everything is coming together to support me in this choice. I am one who dances with spirits to amplify the prayers that come for a better world. If I do not dance, a part of me dies, corrupting the rest. Might you understand what I mean? Sometimes things are so clear to me that I’m not sure if I’m communicating well. Thanks for bearing with me.

When I started the preparations last month, I gave myself, this dance and all my worries over to Creator. That was after I broke down and cried with more of my heart and soul than I wanted, of course. A single breath of thought for me as I prepare and dance is an incredible treasure that I value. A little food and water wouldn’t hurt either. It will all come from somewhere, and so much has come already from friends old and new. God, by whatever name, always provides the means to do what is requested of us. The goal of this dance is to promote peace and healing for all beings through dance, prayer and sacrifice. I can’t think of a better way to give thanks for all I’ve been given, particularly those I love.

Thanks for taking this journey with me today. I’ll dance for you tomorrow.

Aho, mitakuye oyasin (amen, for all my relations)

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Active Resistance

Resistance for a cause is not futile

however simple its form.

Individuality seems chaotic,

free will threatening

when hubris has solidified

a viewpoint into a mandate

for everyone else.

 

If love and nature have chosen

to express themselves in a form,

its viewpoint is sacred,

its life inviolable,

its choice unlimited.

 

If a mandate is carried out by Force,

the touch of grace fades from it

and resistance becomes

necessity

in defense of the forms

without the will or ability

to deny another.

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A Human Hero – Heroes Part I

It is easy to deceive someone who longs to be dazzled. It’s so easy to follow the pretty shiny thing in the dark night or too bright day, when the steady work has worn us down and we can’t see far enough, from lack of light or exhaustion, to recognize another soul making an ounce of effort. We get discouraged, put down our tools and cry for a hero.

The greatest mistake we make is ignoring the beauty woven into our lives to search for the shining holy grail. Enticed by dreams of jewels and riches and sparkling people, our gaze fixes beyond the breathtaking strokes of color on the horizon. Our vista may be cluttered with battered buildings, streets and wires or as freshly open as a waking field and we can not see it. Reality weighs on our spirits, dingy and uninspiring, when we’re desperate to taste a nectar so sweetly refreshing it must belong to another world. And if the subtle art of a morning sky, the delicate scent of a juicy fruit, or the sweet trill of a calling bird can’t penetrate our distraction, how could the heavy grace of another flawed human?

What if the holy grail is the rough cup in my hand? What if the hero who will save me is… me, or my mother, or my next door neighbor? What if we don’t need a hero at all?

We plan our adventures to beyond the horizon, but the treasure always lies just out of reach. Where do we start? Is there a passage across space lurking in a cave on the outskirts of town that ends at the treasure trove marked with a giant X? Is there a secret club in New York or Paris or Dubai that will unlock the secrets of the universe once I’ve earned my first billion? If my beautiful image is splattered across the screens of the world, will I at last be enveloped in the arms of true love? The days and disappointments accumulate. The un-granted wishes tarnish as a growing mass in our hearts until they threaten to break our chests open. That’s when we’re the most vulnerable. If all of my constant efforts have led to nothing, maybe I’m not the one who makes my happiness. Maybe there’s someone smarter, richer, more beautiful, more talented who can grant my wishes. I must need a hero.

Along come the Deceivers. The most ancient tales of temptation glorify them with their richly textured condemnation: the serpent, the talespinner, the illusionist, the dark wizard. The ripe scent of longing lures them in. In a flash of clear perception, they know what we want. The wry smile curves their lips at our blindness. What we need is all around us, it’s even part of us and we have no idea. Friends offer a pleasant chat over dinner, but we hold out for King Arthur’s Court. Children invite us to play, but the next dollar beckons from just one more transaction. Lovers open their lives with a glance, but we turn to the beauty on the screen that flickers behind them. Clouds in the sky form answers to the formless questions in our minds, but we have to answer this tweet. The warm beat of our very full hearts taps out the code of unconditional love, but the soft message is drowned by the buzz and clang of the rushing crowd. We are tired of searching, tired of waiting, tired of wishing. We long to be dazzled.

They dazzle us. Oh, the glory they paint over rough boards is stunning, if a little lurid. They give us just what we beg for and we pay through the nose for it. Smoke and mirrors and perfumes overwhelm our greedy senses. Humans are made to absorb sensations with every cell. We’ve turned ours off to the world we fill as we strain for clues from the one we seek. When we’re starved, any food is manna from the heavens. And when the sordid truth rises up from the fine print on the glossy package, we ignore it, too hungry to stop gorging ourselves. But the tricks only last so long, and the deceivers know it. When the listlessness crashes back in, and our nerve endings throb from the onslaught of flash, all that’s left of the show are the echoes and scraps. The frayed curtain flaps in the wind. We suffer loudly.

Usually, this is where we blame whoever put on the show, grab our pitchforks and call for an avenger to chase down the deceivers and wrench from them the dignity we handed over with our cash. But the longing creeps back and we’re too tired from the rush and crash to do more than complain. The little energy that remains channels into long and vibrant strings of words that blend into a muffled roar.

A plain, clear voice rings out from the bewildering noise. This one doesn’t want revenge. This one wants change. This one was cooking dinner, playing with children, growing food, fixing leaks, healing wounds, hugging friends, listening to troubles, watching life unfold, cleaning house, making art, singing songs, while we watched the show. “We’re still here,” the voice says. “We have each other. Why don’t we clean up, get some rest, and see how we feel in the morning.” The crowd of voices shouts its wrath and the voice fades into the distance. We buzz in vain as we wait for the hero to come and lead us to victory.

Oh we love our heroes, the ones we can’t touch. We dress them in armor or leather, or robes or spandex and give them amazing powers. They rise from the mist of other eras, other planets, extreme conditions to glow backlit at the edge of our cloying darkness or unforgiving glare. Storytellers from Homer to Stan Lee have spun tales of their great feats and great flaws. Bards from the first wandering minstrels to the Foo Fighters have sung of their exploits. When the hero is viewed across the distance of time, wealth or fantasy they can make mistakes. No matter how dark their doubtful passage, how thoroughly they embody cruelty, we forgive them when they save the day in the end.

Our flesh and blood heroes aren’t so lucky, they have to be perfect. They can’t be steady and sensible and wholesome. If they swear or drink or lie or cheat or steal or blaspheme or sleep around or have a mole, or have any fat, or have bad days, or speak with a lisp or fumble for words, they can’t be a hero. If they don’t, there is something wrong with them or “they think they’re so high and mighty.” A hero must live beyond the best that we’ve come to know. However smart, creative, rich, beautiful, kind, understanding, strong, skilled, crafty or impressive we are, they have to be 10 or 100, or 1000 times more so. They have to dazzle us.

A human hero is expected to never have doubt or temptation, never make a mistake, never choose among competing priorities, never give the impression that they’ve done anything they shouldn’t, but have every one of our weaknesses. It is impossible to fill that job description. And what healthy person would want to fill it?

The good people I know just shake their heads when no one will listen, and get back to their lives. Those are the ones I started to see when the blinding flash faded enough for my world to come into focus. Those are the ones whose clear voices I started to hear.

They may not be heroes in the flashy sense. They may prefer to lead from the middle where they can tend to the slow and wounded as the fresh rush out ahead to scout the path. They wear no armor but their values. They look out of place in leather or robes, and does anybody look good in spandex? Truly, anyone? They tell corny jokes and argue with their families, bosses or both. They have flaws they don’t hesitate to admit – too quiet sometimes, too outspoken at others, can’t resist coffee or chocolate, beer and fries or wine and cheese, addicted to books or technology or exercise, too trusting of the wrong people, too suspicious of the right ones. They laugh like animals, cry like faucets or rocks, and overflow with information. They have good reason to apologize now and then, but they do apologize.

The good people I know have amazing powers. They listen with their minds and hearts open. They think of everyone involved when they solve the problems that face them. They learn as much as they can and share what they know with those who need it. They appreciate what they have and make the most of it. They consider the consequences of their actions and adjust their course to cause the least possible damage. They agonize over tough ethical dilemmas like whether or not to use the pennies in the cup at the register when they are short 6 cents and have no reserves to draw from. They channel their anger at injustices done to them into soft words of praise for the unappreciated. They choose to live here and now, to help those who are next to them, and forgo distant glory to suck the marrow from the bones of life in their own kitchens.

What if we stop chasing dreams and build better lives? What if instead of untouchable heroes, we embrace real flesh and blood human people to live with and learn from?

In my profession, there’s a lot of talk about influence. The one whose voice is the loudest and reaches the furthest corner of the room is given the most sway by those who value the art of deception. So the mob chatter of anger and bragging and blame gets louder and louder. In our culture too, glamour is more valued than substance. Have you noticed that the chatter may be louder but the glamour doesn’t satisfy anymore? The loud voices are mostly noise. We want to share ideas. The sound grows and morphs until any thread of sense is lost in the thrilling cacophony.

Suddenly the cloud of sound bursts with a bright flash and the roiling emotion pours down. Just like one of those sudden tropical storms, the flood rushes for a few harrowing moments. Then the throb of stillness expands to fill the space. The steady beat of each of our truths sounds out in synch. The clear pure harmony of reason and truth rises again above the rhythm. If we can pause to listen, maybe we can learn to love what we have and cherish what we love. Maybe our heroes can be plain extraordinary good people who sometimes make mistakes.

It’s nice to be able to hug a hero and have a real conversation with one. I was sick of making up the answers to my questions. Thank you Jeff, Wendy, Stephanie, Aunt Janie, Pat, Grandpa Karsten, Aunt Kate, Shirley, Eddie, Rebecca, Roxanne, Jim, Sally, John, Sharon, Brian, Pete, Tom, Morgan, Mark, Sidney, Susan, Kelly, Spyros, Mary, Dale, Linda, Frank, Gwen, Jeanne, Peggy, Harvey, Carol, Larry, Richard, Reggie, Barbara, Kathy, Shazia, Diana, Ann, Karissa, Claude, Virginie, Michiko, Bill, Zave, Carolyn, Jun and so many more. You make real life feel like a fabulous adventure.

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A Small Loss

One week it was money I was missing, the next week … a life.

It shouldn’t have been significant; the evidence was weak. I felt uncharacteristic nausea at odd times. The tenderness in my breasts was uncomfortable. A touch of fatigue made my head heavy despite solid rest. It was the wrong time of month, too early. It can happen any time. But it felt different. The focus of my energy had shifted to my belly and my hands drifted there unconsciously more and more often. My little one took to kissing it and smiling when he hugged me. And I so wanted to believe.

I shouldn’t be surprised. Last year wasn’t easy, with two miscarriages within 7 months. The rise of hope, the shadowy image of a child growing on the ultrasound, the hormonal shifts, the sparkling expectation, the whispered promises of love and laughter, the family tour of the birth center, the satisfied prayers of our happy child. Then, the horrifying public gushes of blood, the calming explanations that mommy’s okay but the baby may not be, the life-wringing pain, the hospital drama and cool decisions, the fierce stabs of loss, the recovery, the cremation, the ceremonial planting of a tree. Then, the deep comfort of faith, dizzying hormonal shifts, waves of unconditional love, remembering it’s not our fault, slow healing, nascent forgiveness, gentle answers to innocent questions, survival.

Months pass and the desire to welcome a new being into our lives overcomes the fear of such crushing disappointment. We have to eat and laugh, play and dance; it’s who we are. This grace of beauty in a life of routine is undeniable.

The first one started at the dining room table. A surprising gush of blood as I sat down to lunch. How hard I struggled to convert the roar of dismaying anger into soft and steady action. Our boy was there and I couldn’t do anything about it but comfort him and smile my love as I confirmed that no one had hurt me and I just needed a few moments of solitude while my blood spilled uncontrollably through my clothes.

We managed, with the help of loved ones and the openness of our grief, to hold together. The days after “surgery,” as I lay alone in bed, I felt the most secure sense of nurturing love all around and within me that I’d ever felt. Expecting emptiness, I was overflowing with a love that glistened with truth, more precious than any gem I’d longed for in my childish dreams of reigning queen in some rational universe. That was faith flooding in, the creative power at its most tender, and I felt supremely blessed.

It was hard to arrange, harder than I would have imagined in a compassionate world, but we held a private wake for two, in a lonely hour at the funeral home while our cherished boy played at school. My mother-in-law offered the cremation money, bless her. The three of us buried the thimble of ashes at the base of a tree gifted by a good friend for the occasion. I could go on, we could grow closer in our frustrated wish, we could honor the life for the time it graced our lives, and dare to dream of another. But could we connect so easily again, give ourselves over to hope so completely when the memory was glazed a transparent red?

The next one was more majestic, less dramatic. Again at 10 weeks, this time with no ultrasound picture to prove our loss, the blood betrayed our hopes. Nana was watching the boy at her home while we hiked to the top of a water fall to honor our anniversary. The day was gorgeous and happy, but laced with the fear that a few dark spots had unearthed in me. The bleeding was easier to conceal, the loss quicker. No need for surgery, inept blood draws, debilitating anesthesia, or invasive procedures in the wee dark hours. It was only a day, instead of a week, before I could stand still for long periods without the room spinning.

The enthusiastic lobbying for a baby starts more quickly this time and escalates beyond subtlety in a heartbeat. His friends have babies, why can’t he? A new cousin arrived at Thanksgiving, can we have a baby for Christmas? “Not this year sweetheart, I’m sorry.” Rocky, his lovey, becomes “Baby Maya” in more of our adventure games. He declares that Rocky won’t have to be the baby anymore when a real baby comes. “Gaga googoo, I’m a baby,” he whines, crawling to me and clinging so heavily I ease  to the floor. I sit “criss-cross-apple-sauce” and hold the nearly 4 feet of him in my arms as much like a baby as I can and sing to him in “brother’s room” until he becomes his big boy self and his transformers and pirates and books and blocks are his own. The sharp pains recede when we’re building a tower again and weaving the threads of an adventure together.

Easter weekend, I was sure again. The subtle signs were there. My smiles weren’t quite so bittersweet when I held my baby niece and my sweet boy sidled up next to me to indulge our collective fantasy. “I’m pretending she’s our baby that just came from your uterus,” he confided, and we cooed and rocked and kissed her gently. I was so sure.

Then the day of the resurrection brought a few dark spots. It was a week or so early for my moon time. I meditated and found the unconditional love I needed all around and within as before. But I felt a flash of desperation. It couldn’t be.

Not having a community of my own to pray with, I honored my mother-in-law by going to church with her. Prayer is prayer, wherever it is. You could feel the contentment emanate from her as she held the baby girl, while one son held his older boy and my husband bracketed me and our son halfway down the pew. She normally goes to church alone. I rarely join them, no longer being Catholic.

On my knees, I felt the flood of loss rising, and I kissed my son to hold it down. I sang unfamiliar hymns to focus my voice. For the first time in years, I took communion and the communal wine. My son was excited to come with me until he didn’t get to eat the crisp white wafer the lay minister offered me. He groaned and squeezed my hand imploringly. I smiled and hugged him to me as we returned to our family. At the end of mass, we went together to light candles – for my mother, for the two lost babies, for new life. There was still hope.

Oh, but Monday…. I was grateful to have said nothing, to have hinted nothing about the growing suspicion I’d touched gingerly with my spirit. The moon time is a period of cleansing, rest, renewal and feminine strength that I honor with as deep a silence that my life will allow. I greet it most months with a grumbling joy in the wonders of nature. Despite the pain, the gentle tide of surrender gives me such relief I consider it a blessing.

That morning, a stab and twist of wretched clarity came with the vibrant blood. I just managed to catch the renting wail in my throat before it woke the family. I forced down the tears with a ruthlessness bordering on the despotic, dropped my head to my hands and transmuted the wail into a hushed, anguished moan. Oh, how do I explain to my darling boy for more harsh, dragging months that God hears him, it’s just not the right time? And I breathed. And I moved softly to bed and curled up against the warmth and sleeping innocence of my husband. Routine overtook the grief.

At work, I cried in the bathroom before any others had arrived to hear the pain roll out. I blotted cool water on my face, fixed my makeup, and tugged up a reluctant stream of gratitude to create some forward momentum. The days rolled by in a blur of passionate routine until yesterday afternoon. “Hey!” I heard a colleague shout through the silence of a diligent office. “Anyone want to see our family of foxes play out here?” Half a dozen or so of us rushed to the window of the second edit suite.

For me a fox is more than an animal, it is a symbol of a commitment I’ve made to be a Tokala. The translation of the word, I’m told, is “kit fox.” Once, as I was praying on the question of taking on the responsibilities of the role, a red fox emerged from the darkness and approached our fire, its coat blending into the dancing flames. It stopped a few feet away, captured my gaze for an infinite moment and trotted confidently back into the night. I made the commitment with all my being.

I knelt next to the bay window under the lens of a film camera focused on the remarkable activity outside. Amid the excited chatter, I watched the mother fox nuzzle her three babies as they wrestled each other in the sunshine on the small patch of green next to the office parking lot. I ran to collect the refuge of my still camera when the emotions bubbling up in me were too hard to bear. Snapping useless shots turned me into a chronicling observer and the delicate pangs transformed into wonder as I watched with fascination. The mother fox retreated to her den in the dense foliage, followed by one of her cubs. The other two played relentlessly and fearlessly in the afternoon sun for a warm space of time. I sighed for my lost babies and the one I still hold in my arms several times a day. As the others peeled away to their desks and devices, I dropped the silver rectangle from my eyes and watched the cubs play. A single tear rolled down each cheek for each of my children. And I let another one go.

Perhaps the ones that left us came to experience unconditional love. Perhaps they learned enough of it in the short time they were with us to satisfy their curiosity. Who am I to say? I’ll continue to love and hope until the truth shifts again.

Posted in Stories, Thoughts | Tagged , , , | 9 Comments

Daily Scales

In the bright haze of doubt

only the work has meaning,

not the manicured bravos whispered from a discreet distance

or the perfect twist of thought

or the raging grief for what has been found and lost, or painted blue

In that place where there is no good or bad or talent

where there is no charmed or gifted,

where there is only

you

and a need

It is the commitment

that matters

the scales twanged out to offended ears

the nouns, verbs and adjectives numbered on wide-ruled pages

the master drawings copied upside down, by space not line

the symbols translated from tangled code to clear answer

the habits mixed to match a fully molded life

the single sacred exercise devoted to craft,

not to art

or to money

or to the god forsaken for the Muse,

is the key

When the certainty of love is shadowed

and the transformation loses its shape in the fierce white light,

the touch of discipline,

firm and trusted,

will open the dream that you no longer see

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Slight Change of Direction

Last night, I took a brief look at our main bank account and my heart constricted with fear. The blood started pumping faster, rushing sound to my ears. My breath moved from my chest to flutter high and shallow in my head. What was I going to do? Stop, breathe and pray. Okay. Back up, sit up straight, close your eyes. Breathe in,  count 1-2-3-4, hold 1- sweep the thread -2-  of fear clear -3- from the web -4- of thoughts in my head-5, breathe out 1-2-3-4-5-6. Breathe in 1-2-3-4-5-6, hold 1-2-3-4, breath out 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8. When the counts reach an even 8 counts on both ends, I ask the question again. What am I going to do? Now I can think.

Assessing the situation, I realize I need $934 in my account by midnight or my mortgage payment and my son’s preschool tuition payments will both bounce. I have $905.56 in combined funds. First, transfer every cent from the connected accounts to checking. Next assess my other accounts. Credit Union 1 – $25, enough to cover an outstanding check for $25, so $0. Bank 2 – accounts closed. Bank 3 – accounts closed. Bank 4 – $28.20. Good thing I didn’t transfer that to the loan balance last week like I usually do. My gut said I should wait. Further proof I can trust my gut.

Do I have my check book with me? No, I’ll have to go home before going to the bank. Damn! Okay, don’t get distracted. That brings me to -$0.24. I have a quarter in my purse that I saved for my son’s piggy bank, but the bank will be closed so I won’t be able to deposit it. Drat! Did I give that last dollar as a tip on Friday, or did my gut prevail over generosity and keep the single dollar in my wallet for an emergency? I was already giving a 20% tip, wasn’t I? Wow! It’s there. Break for short victory dance. My gut prevailed. I’m thrilled I listened to it, rather than the snide comment in my head: “What kind of emergency could be fixed with a single dollar bill?” Apparently this one. Yet another confirmation.

I gather my things and drive straight home, barely processing the book that’s playing in the car. It’s a good one, so it keeps panic at bay for the long 42 minutes door to door. As I take off my seat belt, my husband calls to say he’s on the way to pick up our son. He pinpoints his location at an intersection 5 minutes away from the school. There are 2 minutes left before we’ll be late picking him up. I focus on my breath, raise my eyes, use my breath to calm my heart rate and hope he makes it in time so we don’t get charged $5 a minute for the lost time. The clocks at the school are often slower than the one in the car. It could happen. If we have to pay, it will be next week and there will be a deposit before then. Okay. I thank God our son is in the care of such compassionate people and walk in the house. My husband signs off, recognizing that nothing he’s saying is getting through the focus on my mission. I sigh, open the door and turn off the alarm.

From habit, I walk to the front door, open it, and retrieve the day’s rubber-banded mail from the metal box attached to the brick facade. There’s a letter from the New Castle County False Alarm Administrator. The alarm company put in sensors that could be tripped by a heavy wood spider and we’re being charged for a false alarm that was triggered while we were out. Since there was no evidence that we were being robbed when the police visited our house, we’re being charged a $200 fee. Robbery in my book. Focus on the breath. Look for the check book.

I rifle through every drawer of my desk where it could be and the checkbook is nowhere to be found. Where could it possibly be? Okay. Breathe. How can I get a check? Do I have the box of extras? Yes, yes, okay. I write myself a check for $28.20, countersign it on the back, replace the pen in the proper drawer and leave. I don’t turn on the alarm when I leave.

When I get in the car, I confirm that the check has been written as it should, get the single dollar from my wallet, and place it on top of the check. It’s an old bill. George Washington’s face has been rubbed off in places, but it’s legal tender. The deposit is ready. The drive to the bank is smooth and easy. I resist the urge to speed and focus on even breathing. A couple is driving away as I pull into a space across from the door and ATM machines. It looks like I’ll be alone while I make my small deposit. The relief pushes out of my lungs with an unexpected sigh. I’m embarrassed, but why should I be? I’ll be able to cover our bills.

I take out the wrong card and barely notice, my attention pulled to the slight shake in my normally steady hands. Will it work? Can you actually deposit a single dollar? I really hope so. Breathe in – hold – breathe out. Holding the breath in the middle can lighten my head with a buzz of dizziness, but it does clear the burst of panic. I replace the green card in my wallet and take out the blue one. So far so good. The check and the dollar are still on the passenger seat. I take them and straighten myself up. It’s time to do it. Breathe.

At the ATM, I breathe steadily, fending off the fear while I take action to prevent the next backward step in our financial progress. The buttons don’t make as much sense as usual. What do I push to make a deposit in checking? There’s one to deposit a check in checking, and one to deposit cash in checking. They’re favorites of mine apparently. I need to do both. Can I do both at once? No. I choose. The dollar first. I arrange the dollar like the picture on the machine and wait for the prompt to slide it in. It goes in. Yes? There’s a wait and $0 flashes on the screen. It was not able to read the bill, which shoots back out at me. I turn it around and try it again. No luck. And again. No. Okay, the check first.

The check goes in just fine, the image of the green check flickering to life on the screen. It is accepted. But then what to do – deposit more checks? No. Exit the system? No. Go back to the main menu? No. How do I deposit the dollar? No choices for that. I breathe again. Deposit more checks. That does not work. The check slides out of the machine toward me. There is now a line at the second ATM. The lady retrieving money smiles compassionately. The man behind her tries not to look curious. I go through the process and deposit the check again. This time I choose the main menu. $28.20 has been accepted. That leaves the 24 cents to cover. Now for the dollar.

Want another transaction? Yes. Deposit cash to checking. The tremor in my hand bubbles up again as I move the dollar toward the slot. It goes in. Pause. It comes out. I keep the face up, turn it around. It goes in. Pause. It comes out. I flip it over. The dollar goes in. Pause. It comes out. I’m not giving up. I keep the back up, turn it around. it goes in. Pause. It comes out. “Why are you trying to deposit one dollar?” The un-curious man asks? He’s young, tall, a bit scruffy and fidgety but seems harmless enough. I opt for the simple truth: “If I don’t, I’ll be short a few cents for my mortgage payment, and another one that comes out tonight. There’s no more to put in.” He bites his lip. “What if you put a twenty with the one?” I stare. “I’ll give you a twenty. If the machine takes the one with it, you can withdraw the twenty again and give it back to me.”

Thank you. Doubtful, I give it a try. It was a nice thought and I want to respect the kind gesture, although I’m pretty sure it won’t work. No reason to be rude. I put the twenty with the one and go through the procedure. Only the twenty registers. I push the button that kicks back both bills. “Thanks. I appreciate the thought.” I hand back the twenty, a little hopeful, but not willing to ask. He pockets the twenty with a muffled “Welcome,” missing his wallet. I think a second. “Hey, do you have any singles?” He lowers his eyes, shaking his head, and ducks quickly away. I sigh. Another man is coming. I decide to to ask him as well before heading across the parking lot to the Boston Market. “Excuse me, do you have a new dollar bill I could trade for this old one? The machine’s not reading it.”

A little bewildered, the man hesitates for a blink before pulling a crisp one dollar bill from his wallet. We exchange bills and turn in synch to the two side by side ATM machines. Relieved, I start babbling a bit, confessing and thinking out loud. “Let’s see if this works? Always on the knife’s edge you know? These days anyway….” He grumbles assent: “Yeah. We all are.” I push the button to deposit cash in checking. “We’re making progress but times like these really make me feel it again. Oh, there it goes. Yes!” I’m wildly, irrationally ecstatic about finally managing to get the machine to accept my meager deposit. “I’ll have 76 cents left over if I worked it out right.” The embarrassment I felt before I got out of the car to face the ATM boogeyman has morphed into pride with my success. The man nods and smiles, genuinely happy for me, happy to have made a difference for someone.

“You hang in there,” he offers, a little awkwardly. “Thanks. I will.” My elation has loosened my tongue. “My husband and I make a game of it, seeing how we can make the best use of what little we have. One time he was about to deploy to Iraq and he wouldn’t get paid until the day after. He was a Marine, you know. I was out of work for the moment, and all we had was five dollars and seventy-eight cents or something like that to buy food for the weekend.” We finished our transactions, got back our cards, and moved a few steps back from the ATMs. The man listened politely as I finished my rambling story. “We wanted to have a good meal but didn’t have much in the house. We went to the commissary, ran around comparing and exploring until we had the best deal for the money down to the penny. It was fun,” I finished awkwardly. We both shuffled uncomfortably for a few seconds. “Well, keep positive,” he said. “Thanks again!” We hurried back to our cars. My latest catastrophe had been averted.

As I was buckling myself in to the driver’s seat, the pieces of a puzzle I’d been wrestling with for days fell into place. A week ago, a friend made a brave revelation. She was at ground zero in her soul and had no idea what to do. What could I say that would be at all useful? What could I do from so very many miles away? Was there anything I could share that would help? Recovering from my adventure, I  realized I’d forgotten a huge piece in what I’d been planning to communicate through this blog. I had worked through the reasoning, written the first story and sketched out the next set of discussions in a logical way. I’d been asked to talk about the nuts and bolts of living a conscious life, all the things that I do every day to try to make myself a better person. I was going to talk about each part of my day and the tools I use to stay on track, keep it practical and tangible. But, I’d forgotten how I’d gotten to the point where I had tools to use.

When you’re broken and alone and don’t know where to turn, when you feel listless and unworthy, when every day brings another challenge with the potential for humiliation or disaster, how do you even start thinking about change? The devastation is just too big and compelling to see around let alone work around. Now I plan to develop the pieces in the middle, lay the foundation before moving on to the maintenance.

So, I decide to survive. Gratitude tore my eyes from the misery. Now what? Well, it’s complicated. There’s a lot of work and research to do.

  • clear the wreckage
  • focus on the here and now
  • find things to be grateful for
  • embrace the struggle
  • figure out what I want
  • figure out what works for me
  • figure out who I am
  • accept myself
  • figure out what I believe
  • figure out who I want to be
  • make a plan

That’s what builds the foundation for the daily work, and the first steps on the path. It’s practice and experimentation in itself. Once it starts it never really stops. There is always something to improve in myself, always a new field or method or person to learn. There is always more to clear away – misunderstandings, ignorance, poison, pain, anger. The essence of the path gets clearer and clearer as I walk it, but there’s always a piece I can’t see. The support under my feet, the lengths in either direction just beyond the bends in the road, are beyond me. But, I feel the support, enjoy where I am, and keep moving forward at a steady pace. When the panic seeps in, I breathe and get to work, get moving. That’s what I can do.

Thanks for sharing the journey with me today.

Posted in Stories, Thoughts, Tools | 2 Comments

Gratitude

If there is a single key

to unlocking the universe

of possibilities, it is

Gratitude.

What about Natural Ability,

Passion,

Focused Work,

Practice,

Mentoring,

Love,

Forgiveness,

Truth,

Nature …

God?

They’re all on the key ring,

all things to be grateful for,

tools for opening doors to spaces

in the infinite kingdom,

or the very essence

of possibility.

But when there is no hope,

no faith,

no energy,

no will,

no help,

no love,

no redemption,

no light,

no health,

no comfort,

when the drama of despair seduces the spirit

into doing nothing,

believing that we are not worthy

of anything

so grand and beautiful,

believing the destructive forces

are the most

powerful,

what is the first step?

The Infinite and All-Powerful feel so far away

when hate and loss are feeding on us.

Beauty and Goodness seem alien.

Truth has been twisted

into grotesque mockeries of hopes

by those who use our

abilities, grace

and work to serve

themselves.

I remember the moment

everything changed for me.

Not a cell in my body believed

I was good enough

for anything

so grand as God,

or so I thought.

There was one cell,

then a handful,

that rested open,

waiting

for something,

anything,

to lead

me out

of the cycle.

Godot?

God to?

Too much.

No,

it was a leaf.

Not a shaft of light,

drop of water,

flickering flame,

whispering wind …

No.

A single dead leaf

saved my life.

It was red

and yellow

on black and white stones,

the four colors of the path

I walk.

Then, I looked down.

and saw

the Truth.

And I was grateful.

Posted in Poems, Thoughts, Tools | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

You have to “Play In” before you can “Play Out”

Once there was a brilliant unsung jazz musician named Grover Mooney, a big barrel-chested man with wild hair, a bitter smile and satirical eyes. When he wasn’t playing, you could feel the chaos in him. Sometimes, out of the corner of your eye, you could see his ancestors going a few rounds with each other behind his trickster’s smile. I swear I saw Chief Two Moon wrestling a drunk Irish poet into civility in there at least a dozen times. When he wasn’t playing music, Grover seemed unfinished and uncertain, the hurt child he’d been lashing out from safety behind his massive, but haphazardly built, defenses.

But when he was playing, ah…. the hair on your arms stood up and vibrated to the sound, your heart cracked open to possibility and your soul danced on the streams of synchronicity. Having met him out of his element, one could easily dismiss the man as childish and irrelevant. If you ever heard him play, even for a few precious moments, no matter what you witnessed in the soundless part of his life, you could never ignore his greatness. Never before, or since, have I had such a shocking experience as the first time I witnessed Grover at the drums. Experienced is a better word. Those of you who know me well may realize just how significant that statement is. It may be that this single jazz concert prepared me for thousands of incredible journeys I’ve taken since. It cleared off most of the dusty arrogance of youth and tugged my gaze from my navel. After that, I understood that a brilliant teacher could peek out from behind any face.

The details blur, considering the power of the experience, but I’ll share what I can.

It seemed like an ordinary night out in Boston. Grover was backing up a bold and beautiful jazz singer with my first name – Rebecca Parris, I believe. I’d heard her inspiring voice and was looking forward to the evening in the elegant, crisp hotel bar with the floor to ceiling windows overlooking the water. Grover was an afterthought. He was my ex’s father. We’d come out to support him as a kindness, an indulgence, the way you go to a naughty child’s Christmas concert. I can’t believe the ignorance of that attitude, but I had no idea of the transformation about to take place. We got our drinks and sat on stools 8 or 9 feet away from the drum kit, so we could see Grover’s face and watch him connect with the bass player to move the music. We wanted to make sure he saw us too, to prove our fidelity and make the most out of our act of kindness. I cringe at the memory. Grover smiled and nodded as he shuffled into place, waiting for the other artists to settle in. His smile filled with intriguing knowledge and his eyes turned to things I couldn’t see. I tried to ignore the brash wink he threw me, suspecting for the first time that I’d underestimated Grover. Annoyed by the thought of being wrong, I tried to hide in talk and liquor. A few laughs and sips later, the train started rolling. That was the last I saw anything in the room clearly until it reformed around me.

For a while I tried to make sense of the experience, to protect my separateness and bear witness. I struggled to identify the source of each sound and nuance of feeling. The effort was pointless. The rhythm wore down, cracked, then dissolved my defensive analysis.  I lost track of where I was, with whom, and the lame, silly excuse manufactured for being there. It was destiny.  My spirit woke, rose and danced through emotions I didn’t know existed and can barely freeze long enough in memory to spy as lacy edges to a story sculpted in what might be. Drums widened to the range of an orchestra and narrowed to the focus of a single heartbeat. It was the heartbeat of The Mother, beating as a guide to my smaller organ, and the heartbeat of every creature in the Universe weaving our common story together into one web. There were sounds to create any nuance of every plot twist imaginable, but it was impossible to see how they were made. The movements of the man, and the finite look of the drum kit he interacted with, belied the magic produced in those precious moments. There was the Heartbeat made flesh.

My energy pulsed behind the veil of decision. The Heartbeat beckoned it forward, lay down the bridge at my feet and danced away smiling. My soul hinted up the veil. The Heartbeat stomped and whooped with teasing power, and no paving stone wobbled. “Safe to come out,” it danced. “Safe to explore.” My soul withdrew and listened in the space between, the dark comforting connective tissue weaving a larger cocoon as I held back. The breath added its ragged rhythm to the music. In moments the space was cavernous, the world of Love and Truth, as rich and expansive a mix of earth, sea, sky, fire and possibility as my blocked senses would allow. My spirit inched toward the Heartbeat. Halted.

“I can carry you if you let me,” the Heartbeat promised, weaving my own safest place. Threads of mother and honor and wisdom and grace formed around me. The long pause yielded. The Heartbeat carried me until I could dance on my own. Safe in this new freedom, exploration was easy and fluid. Where we traveled, I can’t explain here. In short, we crossed planes of time, space, matter, perception and order within the cells of the infinite. The persistent magic made us all and singular at once. Many spirits danced there on waves of rhythm as the Heartbeat made sense of our blended individual stories. The moment was perfect. And then it was complete.

The Heartbeat led us back, we followed contentedly through the elements, through the walls, into square world. The Heartbeat singled out each heart from the rest. It led each rhythm back to its heart, unwrapping it from the new cocoon and gently reconnecting it to its old one. When the music stopped, there was no regret. Each heart was fulfilled. That infinite experience was enough to justify a whole life of feeling “other.” Giving over, not giving up, brought me where I needed to be – in tune with the universe. That sounds corny and intangible now, crazy and wrong, but the fulfillment of that moment was more real and tangible than any of the practical plans and dreams I’d invented myself up to then. It was just right.

I knew I could be that connected again, that ease and wholeness were the natural state of being, and the journey to it could be instant and safe. I could learn to go there myself, and take others with me, if I devoted my essence to it every moment of every day. No artificial drug or thing or person or job could take me on the journey then leave me to myself without a major crash or slice of isolation flooding in where it had been. So what could I do?

Many a soul has wilted, hovering around the Heartbeat, waiting for that magic to repeat in the times without sound, without drums, without faith. That night, I started my journey of stopping. Stop trying to control my life. Stop trying to make sense of everything. Stop trying to prove my cleverness and worth. Stop trying to find myself and my purpose. No amount of thinking or planning could substitute for the steady work of learning the fundamentals. I turned my attention to surrender. I opened by senses, and got down to work.

As for the two us, once Grover realized he had my respect, at times the cruel imp in him stopped lashing out at the ignoring egotist in me; we listened with care and could share real conversations. Grover was family to people whom I love deeply or once did, so most of the time we danced around the edges of each other’s lives. Occasionally, though, we shared a meal or sat quietly together watching something unimportant on TV or listening to music in the space between comings and goings. One shadowed twilight in one of these spaces, Grover shared one of the most important bits of advice I’ve ever absorbed from any human source. It made sense of the magical musical tour he’d taken me on. We may have been completely quiet digesting some feast, we may have been listening to scratchy old jazz records or wilting tapes of Moon Unit and talking about art and people and colors and rain, but that context is out of my reach. I can’t even say for sure whether or not others were in the room, what time of day it was or if walls and furniture existed. All I know is that the recorder in my brain started when Grover spoke ten inscrutable words: “You have to play in before you can play out.”

I perked up at that. It sounded cool and mystical and simple, but my high and mighty brain could make no sense of it. “You think too much,” his indulgent smile seemed to say, “and understand too little.” The bitterness had melted from the corners of his mouth and the magic lit his eyes from the music inside playing too softly for me to hear, so I didn’t take it personally. Grover talked about practicing every day, about paradiddles and pentatonic scales and things I don’t grasp as a weak and barely trained musician. He spoke of repetition as the safe zone we can return to when our fellows aren’t following, or can’t. He spoke of building bridges with the safe sounds as you travel, moving two steps forward and one step back to build the faith of our fellows as the bridge we’re building grows more solid under us all. We wrap the fragile egos, psyches, energies and resonance of the beings we lead on the journey delicately in the comfort of familiar things so they can open to the unfamiliar like roses to the rain and sun on the other side of the bridge.

We had the conversation several times over the years, and each time the lesson became clearer, the message purer. So what if you have a gift, if you can go places no one else even dreams of going!?! If you can’t take anyone with you, the trip is pointless. All of our arts are about communication and evolution. The pretty form is nothing without the substance of hard-earned skill and the intangible quality of surrender to the truth, to the Love. It lacks relevance.

Listening to Grover, exploring new worlds swaddled in familiar warmth he’d tucked me in, made me realize my own work lacked relevance – sad and dismaying discovery. Oh, I could turn a gorgeous phrase no doubt. But why should anyone care what it meant if I didn’t? I wasn’t trying to communicate, really, just to display something clever and pretty and easy on the ear. Arrogance. Hubris. No matter what I wrote, I was only saying “Look at me!” Then, I still wanted to “control my destiny,” “conquer the world” and “prove my worth.” I stopped creating and started listening, searching in every face, every voice and each vibration for clues to the truth. I practice reading rivers of communication flowing like water beneath and between words and notes. I practice lines and rhythms to bring different kinds of thoughts to life. I practice ways to breathe and focus that change the flows. I practice dancing out traditional rhythms to build solid bridges over them. For years now, I’ve tried only to write when I have something to communicate that can’t come across without words. The occasional poem slips out of the surrender alongside the frequent notes to loved ones. At work, play and prayer, I make daily attempts to learn and grow, to help myself and others understand our needs and motivations and those of our communities. Through all that, maybe I can communicate more clearly and kindly with others. I’m doing the work, dancing the void. More about all that later.

by Rebecca Tversky

life in the museum

Thanks to time, patience, Love, death, and a lot of dear friends & enemies, I can surrender now. To survive and evolve, I’ve had to. I can surrender to that higher vibration, whatever you call it, and get down to the rhythmic, steady practice of communicating and evolving. Grover showed me how to nurture and protect people while taking them places he’d discovered on his journeys. How much better it is to write, now that the rules are part of my routine and I understand how I get to where I always went so easily.

If you come on a journey with me, I’ll do my best to keep you safe and happy so you can revel in the ride, and come back without regrets. Thanks for your company today.

Posted in Stories, Thoughts | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

What to expect from this weblog.

The posts will be about the nitty gritty of the process of integration and the creative work that comes from that process. In case the concept is not entirely familiar, what I mean by “the process of integration,” is accepting, embracing and balancing all of the parts of myself with the goal of continuous self-improvement. How do I integrate and balance body-mind-spirit-emotional body, self-family-work-exercise-politics-community work-spiritual practice, freedom-commitment…? How do I make room in every day for making life better for myself and everyone around me without getting overwhelmed?

I’m going to start with a story of a person who gave me the best piece of unique advice I’ve ever gotten one on one. That story is about practicing the fundamentals of a skill. Then I plan to flesh out the details of my daily practice, so the next pieces will give those details. I’ll be posting stories of people and what they’ve taught me, poetry I’ve written, answers to questions, questions to answer, and opinions I can’t resist sharing.

Who am I?

by Dave Parish

my first avatar

A unique person with an ordinary life trying to make the best of what I have, much like anyone else. I’m awful at expressing where I fit in the scheme of things and unsure how I come across to people. I can tell you my viewpoint, my main purpose in life, what makes me happy, but fit my identity and impact into a pretty package? Not so easy. In my mind, I’m a single red blood cell, moving through the body of life, absorbing what seems essential and nourishing whatever I can with it. You’ll decide what I am to you, if anything, after reading my words.

Why am I doing this?

I’ll be asking myself that exact question every time I bleed my thoughts into the public realm. I don’t have a clear idea, except that it will help me practice some skills, clarify thoughts and give me input on the daily work toward balance and wholeness that ignites my passions. Not long ago, the inspiration came, a friend asked for more information about the details of my daily practice, and things fell into place. I’m here writing for those I love and respect.

by Jeff Tversky

evolving ones

Table Salt – why the name?

For this, I’ll be calling on the words of friends to help me explain my reasoning. It’s shameless, but necessary. The name arose from my subconscious and I called upon them to judge and confirm the sense of it with me. Salt is a crucial element; it brings out flavor, brings on thirst, brings the metabolism in balance. It’s the only necessary spice and it’s totally taken for granted. As for my friends, for one “it means additives and high blood pressure.” Some just liked the sound of it. One commented that “although it may have negative connotations to some, I think that it is very you…a little flavor and necessary for life, but dangerous when …overindulged.” Another said: I do believe it reflects exactly who you are, perfectly….Hmmmmm…. “Salt”…. it is completely natural, a gift from nature,… it enhances, it is essential to life, it reflects the light when held to the light, it’s a little gritty, but -it makes most everything taste infinitely better- particularly when used with discretion and balance, it works best in unison- with many other diverse flavors and textures, versus say… flying solo, it has many ordinary uses, including beauty and medicinal, it can even be utilized to gain traction when things get slippery, and while a very common element, it has been held by some as being as worthy as gold, silver or diamonds, ounce for ounce, pound for pound. It is a gift from the Creator.”

So, I got my confirmation. Every other title that seemed to cover my style and what I am thinking sounded pithy, pretentious or arrogant. Had there not been a movie out with the name Salt, I would have chosen the single word. It’s simple, elemental and common. It has 4 letters, making it both sacred and profane. The Hollywood spy story has nothing to do with this, so I looked elsewhere for additives or alternatives. For years I have considered getting “NaCl” as a vanity plate, but that seemed too falsely clever. Rock salt had too narrow a definition. So, Table Salt it would be. But then, Table Salt as a url was taken. I added my maiden initials R.E. A. L. to make realtablesalt and here we are.

And the tagline … ?

Honor. Work. Learn. Evolve. It has a flavor of early 21st century marketing style, sure, and may come off as a bit pretentious. That’s okay. The words were chosen carefully for many reasons, among them are: the 4 letters in salt, the 4 walls in a standard room, the 4 directions of the medicine wheel that I use as a foundation for resolving issues, and the 4 steps in W. Edwards Deming’s project management cycle (yes, I love order): plan-do-check-act. Since the focus of these pages will be concrete steps toward a goal, I chose action words. Here’s a little bit about each word:

Honor.

The foundation of a conscious life is built on gratitude, love and respect. When we honor people and things, seeking first to understand then considering the results of our actions, it is easier to make constructive choices. I can’t change anyone else, but I can appreciate someone with a little effort.

Work.

There was a time when I thought much more than I acted. It feels better to decide a course of action and dig into it. If it doesn’t work, I can change course later.

Learn.

One of my friends was trying to help me flesh out what makes me unique when it comes to the work I do and said “you groove on wisdom.” That’s the plain truth. Thanks, Zave.

Evolve.

My greatest fear is of stagnation. One of my key goals in life is to leave every place I go better than I found it, or at least as good. If I improve myself as a first step, I’m more likely to have a positive effect on my environment.

Questions? Post them as comments and I’d be happy to answer as clearly as I can.

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