Wednesday, June 20, 2012
Today is the first day of summer. It is my favorite season, and I have to say it is no wonder to me that sun worship has had a place in the hearts of people since the dawn of time. I delight in the radiance, warmth and beauty of the sun, despite my fairer than fair freckled skin that is always on the brink of burn. A little sun changes everything, well, it does for me at least, brightens the mood, makes me smile. I love to dance all the time, but especially in the sun.
My best memories of childhood are in this sumptuous season of peaches so juicy they dripped down my face and arms, bright jewel tone watermelon, diving into the cool of my backyard swimming pool. I would ride my bike on grand adventures through my small suburban neighborhood. At night I would play kick the can with the kids next door. Summer brought back my kindred spirits; toads, butterflies, and beetles. The long grass a wonderland and hideaway. Summer, a season of magic, dreams and dancing, and dance I did every chance I got.
Now, in my house, in a little woods I feel that same anticipation and relish experiencing it with my own kids. Our little backyard pool guarded by towering elder trees, air full of bird songs and buzzing bees. Our brook that bubbles with delight, and frogs, salamanders and turtles to befriend. Dances and laughter with my girls, and my son looking for wild mushrooms and may apples. Life itself seems more spacious with the longer days, we linger in the light, with room to ease back into the repose of the evening. We tell stories and light fires, roast marshmallows and are warm in a deep togetherness that feels almost tribal.
Summer is a season of sweet ripening, of stepping into that light. Ancient traditions observe this as a time of power and action, a calling to move forward boldly. We are of the earth, and become more enlightened and empowered by connecting to earth's rhythms and cycles. Summer solstice celebrations bring people together. Traditions include fasting and feasting, fire rituals and of course song and dance.
The fire element is transformational, it can burn away what is no longer useful so that new life might spring forth from within us. It is a call to be powerful and creative, but also to lean back and enjoy, to savor the sweet juice of life.
Dream a dream and let it float on dandelion seeds or firefly wings. Dance in the light and roll in the grass. Bite in and let the sweet juice flow, dive into cool waters and gather by the fire. Feel the magic of this living breathing earth. Sit in tall grass or under those elder trees and be awestruck by the beauty all around us. Feel the solar power and dare to grow.
Tuesday, June 12, 2012
In the last twenty four hours I have been obsessively embroiled in a heated discussion on an online blog collective. I usually read blog articles with an open mind and I might not always agree but there is no visceral or emotional reaction. I am able to hang back, observe, and process, but occasionally something grabs not only my attention but my guts and becomes a flashing neon target, and I take the bait, hook, line and sinker. This article was about all the false arguments and justifications meat eaters use for their immoral and planet destroying penchant for flesh. Honestly I mostly agreed with the premise of the article even though I can currently count myself amongst the cruel destroyers of the earth. I actually would quite like to go vegetarian, vegan is a bit too extreme for me, but I have kids, one of whom is a carnivore through and through, makes it tough.
What really got me was the tone and delivery of the author's argument. I can boil it down to one line that really hit my sensitive spot. He said,"I am not talking down to you, or judging you. Now get your head out of your butt before it gets lodged in there permanently. See what I did there?" I saw what he did there, he pushed a major button in my pain body. The whole article smacked of fundamentalism, which I don't think is ever good, no matter the cause. It was condescending, disparaging, and lacking in any invitation to a compassionate discourse, but the epicenter of its explosive effect on me was in that one line. It provoked me to post a comment, which received abrasive and biting comments from other readers and back and forth we went. I could not stop from continuing to defend because they just were not seeming to get my point. I could not disengage even when a wise friend suggested that would be the best course of action. That hook had sunk in deep, I could struggle but I could not get away. Now I ask myself "Why?"
This is actually of more interest and consequence to me than my position on the article. What got triggered? Clearly the intensity of my response had something more in it than feeling offended by this author's statement, right or wrong. This had something to do with me. Here it is, I don't like to be labeled as stupid. Stupid hits me deep in my psyche. I was bullied in elementary school (read relentlessly verbally attacked) and one of the most popular offenses was to attack my intelligence or cruelly try to say I did not have any. This is a shadow space, a core wound and the ego goes to great lengths to defend this vulnerable territory, the problem is that the defense causes its own suffering. To end this cycle of suffering requires deep self love, patience, and a willingness to bring the shadow into consciousness. This does not mean to get rid of the shadow, it holds many gifts and a lot of energy, but to hold it and comfort it, heal it.
Whenever we find ourselves reacting to our environment with anger, behind it we will find fear, shame, hurt. Knowing this might allow us to be more compassionate. The author of this article is clearly angry too and now I can remember that he too must be experiencing fear, sadness, suffering. I still do not agree with his methods but I honor his humanity that is just like mine.
I think we all get hooked. What we don't always do is dig in and figure out why. What does our reactivity point to in ourselves? Going there is the only way to get off the hook.
Tuesday, June 5, 2012
"When I rise up let me rise up joyful like a bird,
When I fall let me fall without regret like a leaf." Wendell Berry
The words falling and fear seem to be inextricably tied to each other. Maybe it is because we also associate the experience of falling with another alliteration, failure. I have experienced debilitating, paralyzing fear in my life over failure. I have sunk into deep murky pools of self doubt and depression, waters that echoed with falling, fear, failure. There have been many moments where the struggle became so tiring I wanted to give up, give in, in every cell of my being wanting to sink down to the bottom and surrender to the dark. What I did not know then is that the pain I was experiencing had as much to do, or even more so, with my perceptions and judgmental notions as the facts of my situation. I had bought into the story that I was essentially, irrevocably flawed, that I did not have much to offer and felt the world at large was not on my side. I found it excruciatingly difficult to step into new situations, to move beyond old habits and behaviors or to accept that my successes in life were more than transient flukes. I was quite blind to my own goodness and potential, my gifts, and my fear of failure, of falling, kept me from growing or evolving. I was stifled and often depressed.
On the other hand I have always had a warrior nature as well. Often in these situations of complete terror my warrior archetype has led me to say yes to things even when my insides were trying to run in the other direction. These situations of ominous opportunity have had various outcomes, some highly successful and some not so successful, but upon reflection every experience, even the ones which by some standards would be called failure or falling down, brought growth, insight, and informed my evolution. In fact I have realized that making friends with falling opens the door to amazing freedom and exponentially accelerated growth. The ability to take a step into fear and the unknown in order to explore the possibilities of life, and grow into our gifts is what we are called to in this life. In this one life to live (or this time around) we have a choice to risk and play, to experiment, expand, to fall and fly or to stay small and caged when the vast sky awaits.
In my yoga classes I often do an inquiry which I call intentional falling. What we can befriend on a yoga mat we might just carry more and more into life. I begin this exploration by talking about falling. The fact of the matter is that we would have never learned to walk, to ride a bike, to climb or dance without the willingness and ability to fall. Next, we enter a balancing pose such as tree or uptavishta konasana (a seated balance where you hold your big toes and lift the legs up at a wide angle), hold for a breath or two and then playfully allow ourselves to fall, with a smile and a "weeee" or a "wooop". This falling becomes its own new form of warrior two or spinal rocking. This illustrates how when we allow, and flow with the course of life and energy, what might at first seem undesirable, a falling, a "failure", can surprise us and be a gateway to something beautiful, something brilliant.
Our power lies not in our holding on, but our letting go. Fall into freedom and learn how to fly.