Friday, December 11, 2015

Home of the Brave



Where is the home of the brave,
 for those who seek it now?
 Life and liberty we love,
 if for one, then for all.

Light the fiery torch,
brighter now to see
the truth beyond all fear
that sets the captives free.

Revealing what we've been
and what we hope to be,
knowing now we choose
what becoming will.

Captains of our ship
we sail by star and faith,
creating our own destiny,
 what we destroy
  what we save.

In this we are defined
our actions prove our way.
Rise up!
Stand strong!
Make a home for the brave!



Tuesday, November 17, 2015

peace offering

the world is on fire
all teeth and claws
swift and vicious
the fury that erupts
in gunshots and hate

many rush to
fight fire with fire
hoping to vanquish the enemy
or keep their hearts safe

but see

they have forgotten their tears
sweet antidote to flames
the salve of sorrow that
clears the eyes of rage

sitting in our grief
being with our pain
touching tenderness
we remember each other

i gather sacred water
in my small cupped hands
and offer you a drink




Tuesday, November 3, 2015

The Virtue of Humility




Humility:
the quality or condition of being humble; modest opinion or estimate of one's own importance, rank, etc.


Humility is espoused as a great virtue. I can't say how many times I have heard people praised for their humble nature, or conversely criticized for holding themselves too high in their own esteem, branded as arrogant or pompous. I wonder at what point do we end up sacrificing our confidence to meet the expectation of staying humble? In a world where many people are barely scraping by in the department of self esteem, where self image is already darkened with insecurity, and beliefs of being "not good enough" are epidemic, how does this concept of humility serve us in living our best lives? How does it help us step out of the shadows of self doubt and bring our gifts to life, to serve not only ourselves, but the world? The way we currently define this quality of humility forces us to downplay our talents, requires us to stay smaller than we really are, convinces many of us to remain followers even when we are called to lead, because it is the polite and right thing to do. This limiting ideal of humility affects some groups more than others, women and other minorities, those typically already in a power deficit, are additionally hindered by such humiliation. We were raised this way, educated and coached this way, society praises it and we pass it on to the next generation, just because that's how it has always been done.

In yoga we typically use the salutation, namaste, to begin and end practice. Namaste means, "The light or spirit in me, honors the light or spirit in you.".  It is a recognition of the essential goodness and wisdom that we all carry within us.

I think it is time to adjust our definition and application of humility to align with the truth, that we all possess this inner light, this essential goodness. What if we all were firmly grounded in the belief that every single person is worthy and valuable, that we all serve an important purpose in this journey we call life? I think the world needs more illumination, more inspiration , more brilliance. My greatest happiness would be to see my children discover the things that fill them with joy and excitement, light those torches up within themselves, stoke their sacred fire, and let it be seen in all directions, without ever feeling that they are required to hold anything back. By expanding the light that shines from within us we then can see others more clearly as well. Perhaps, instead of needing to cut ourselves, or others down, so as not to appear inflated, we can discover a way to rise together.

Why shouldn't humility be about elevating and expanding instead of withholding and diminishing?

Humility should be the virtue of knowing that you have purpose and brilliance in you, and so does everyone else. No one person is above another, we are all entitled to express our unique and important purpose in life, whatever that may be. More love, less judgment. More confidence, less fear. More yes, less no.

We are all beautiful, unique, gifted, feeling, talented, beings of light and spirit. We all are needed and we all have value. The problem is, for many of us, that knowledge is never imparted, our torches don't get lit, we are not helped along. We need to help ourselves, but additionally, we need to bring each other up, we need to invest in each other's success and well being. Mastery and achievement are certainly of value and should be recognized and celebrated, but those who have attained mastery, and who have achieved excellence, those who are leaders, can embody humility, not by downplaying their accomplishment, but through generous service; by sharing their gifts and utilizing them to inspire others to shine.

Maybe I am being an idealist here, but I know there is truth in this ideal. I believe we can move towards this enlightenment. I pray for it.

“A thousand candles can be lighted from the flame of one candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness can be spread without diminishing that of yourself.” ~ Mahatma Gandhi





Wednesday, October 14, 2015

A Ghost Story

In Tibetan Buddhism, Hungry Ghosts have their own realm and are represented as teardrop or paisley-shaped with bloated stomachs and necks too thin to pass food, such that attempting to eat is also incredibly painful. Some are described as having "mouths the size of a needle's eye and a stomach the size of a mountain". This is a metaphor for people futilely attempting to fulfill their illusory physical desires.

i set out
unknown course
grasping for some latitude
the day and I
go together
searching for a clue
some small sign
a flash of light
a remembered tune
a recollection
it will be a miracle
a treasure
a scrap of myself
that i can hold up in the wind
saying
here i am

I am here. I am alive, but sometimes I feel invisible, as though I am really half ghost.
I wonder where I belong. Why am I here?

I sense myself lost at sea, a vast internal ocean that keeps me separate, keeps me searching, keeps me hungry. I have a hunger that is never satisfied. The ghost in me is ravenous, with a sieve for a stomach. She is a bottomless pit, a sinkhole. She wants it all, and all would never be enough. All the success, acclaim, friends, beauty, wealth, love, in the world, would never fill the gut of the hungry ghost.

I have tried to soothe this part of me. I have tried to send her away. I have denied her existence and tried to put her in the attic or the basement, but she just rattles her chains, deafeningly loud. I have tried to numb her with alcohol, drugs, food, accomplishment and all manners of escape.

I have tried to feed her. She always wants more. She is the mother of addiction. Addiction is the definition of this hunger. She can't be fed, she must be healed.

I am finding a way to heal my hungry ghost.

I have walked through so much fear following the trail of chains that bind my ghost and me. My search led me directly into the heart of a dark void, the core of this hunger. In order to free my ghost I have to know her, deeply and intimately, as a sister, my kin. I have to look her in the face. I have to hold my eyes wide open and see the truth, full and clear and painful. I have to open to the grief that this ghost embodies. Things that have been lost along the way, dreams that withered, yearnings unfulfilled, wounds that have been inflicted, and all the ways that I have come to the wrong conclusion that I am not enough. There was a moment that planted the seed of this misshapen idea that I must strive to be more, something other than just me. That seed grew, and it was nourished by all the messages, coming from so many directions, messages that I could not possibly be whole as I was, as I am. As it grew, it strangled pieces of me, starved some of my aliveness, leaving a hollowness that longs to be filled, that aches for nourishment.

I have been on a quest to fill that hollow. I want to set the ghost free and bring her peace.

After so much frustration at attempting to fill that hole from the outside in, I realized that this hunger must be met from the inside out. No one else could ever love me enough to bring me contentment. I would have to meet my ghost alone, out in that sea. I am the only one who can finally heal her.

I am enough and I possess the medicine and wisdom to bring this to completion. I have always had it. I have the perfect and infinite power of divine love in me. Just like you. Just like everyone. I also know I am not the only one who has been harboring a ghost. Maybe this sounds familiar in some way to you. If it does, I think we are in good company.

We forget who we are. The ghost distracts us and leads us away from ourselves. I forgot myself, my true and complete self, for a long time. I fade in and out now, moments of remembrance are increasing though. I catch glimpses, that are becoming gazes of truth. Clarity is coming, I am stepping out of the fog. I am reaching out of the darkness and reclaiming my light.  It is a long and arduous path, and yet, such a rich journey, it offers so many gifts.

I did some intense work on this at a retreat this summer. I told my spiritual circle about this ghost, and how I have been hanging on to things that have passed, how I am haunted by regret and how I long for a self that seems out of reach. My inner little girl still crying and heartbroken over what might have been and if only. We acted out a burial of that little girl, lost and wandering, and we brought her back, whole and new, fully alive and in the now. Then my dear friends told me how they see me. They named the gifts I bring to the world. They helped me see myself. Together we worked to put a bottom on the sieve that has been leaking my power and emptying my joy.

Something shifted at that retreat. I took a large step towards integration. Integration is the key. Healing this wound is not an extraction. It is not an exile. It is in fact, a welcoming, a homecoming; a way of speaking to this spirit about coming to shore after a long time at sea. I say to my ghost, "I see you. I love you. Come have a rest." I take her in my arms and separation falls away, and really, it never was. Our wounds, in truth, are our gifts, and to that I deeply bow.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Why Share Struggle?



"If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten we belong to one another." ~ Mother Teresa

We long for peace and understanding, and yet it seems so far out of reach. I often pause to contemplate this quest for peace and acceptance within myself, how I sense it in others and in the world. We all thirst for it, but it seems elusive.

As a writer, I tend to be drawn to writing about my life, my personal experiences and the learning that has come, or is coming from them. I often share very personal accounts of struggle, and I frequently have moments, days, or even weeks of hesitation as I decide whether to publish or keep my writing private. That hesitation is not typically derived from any personal shame or insecurity about the challenges I am revealing, but rather the social attitudes I have encountered around vulnerability and being open and honest about the difficulties of this life.

"Don't compare your reality to someone else's highlight reel." ~ Jill Sessa

When I am online I detect a kind of pressure to never let them see you sweat, and I would add, cry, despair, fail, hurt, outrage, suffer or anything that does not fit with the one dimensional "good life" we have perpetrated on each other, especially on social media. I am not saying we should hold back from sharing all the good stuff we have going on. Lordy, in today's world of bad and worse news it is such good medicine to see each other living and thriving, loving our families, our friends, our work. What I am saying is that we should feel equally empowered to share our tough times too, lest we all end up feeling like the only one in our circles that stumbles and falls every once in a while, or, let's be real, every single day in some fashion (at least I do).

When we allow ourselves to be seen in all the ways we show up, and meeting all the diverse experiences life is throwing at us, then we can begin to cultivate real and meaningful connections with our communities both large and small. I cringe when I hear people criticizing others for posting, blogging or in other ways sharing their hurts, sad moments, illnesses, relationship challenges, mental health problems and so on. I have heard accusations of narcissism, being an attention hound, holding a pity party and general commentary of  "I can't believe that she/he put that out there, like in public!"

My take on this is that, whatever the motivation for sharing...BRAVO! It takes courage to be honest and authentic, vulnerable. I am not held hostage by someone's choice to share something. I get to choose if I want to respond or not, and if I respond, I get to choose in what manner and how much. I get to hold my personal boundaries, and I can do so without judgment of any kind; no judging of my action and no need to judge their action. If we could all embrace that, imagine the freedom we would have with each other and ourselves. How liberating it is to share what is real, both the sweet and the gritty, with no fear of rejection or reprisal. I endeavor to model that in my sharing and way of communicating with others both on and offline.

We should share our struggles because it increases empathy and inclusion. It is my experience, that when I disclose a challenge I am working with, someone almost always thanks me for making them feel not so alone. I know there are probably others who do not understand why I would reveal what I do, but that one person who feels supported and understood always makes it worth it.

Our wounds are ultimately our gifts, our obstacles are our greatest opportunities, and we can find the healing that eventuates that much more quickly, and with greater immediate impact, when we do it in relationship, in the company of our fellow journeyers. When we see and are being seen, clarity is awakened, the clouds part. Light emanates from the joining of hands and hearts, but this can't happen without the presence of trust and compassion. If we are hiding from each other in fear, our lights are hidden as well.

We should share our struggles because it is the path to peace. When we feel separate or apart from our human family; when we feel judged, alienated, misunderstood, or outcast, that is when fear takes hold and anger grows. When we feel separate from each other, we become protective, defensive, ready to battle...and we do battle. The more we battle the more we withdraw and withhold, we hide our wounds and mask our weakness with a shiny exterior that we imagine to be bullet proof, but really, it is just connection proof. It holds us back, keeps us in a small shell, stifled. Pressure builds in there, that pressure can become violence. That pressure is the stuff of war.

My teacher Devarshi says, "There are really only two prayers in this world, "Help me, help me, help me." and "Thank you, thank you, thank you.". When we create a culture in which it is safe to say our "help me" prayers out loud, they can get magnified and energized, so that the "thank you" prayers can become bigger and stronger. Together we can make those "thank you" prayers more and more abundant, because we are manifesting a world of love and support. That sounds like peace to me.

My prayer, my hope, is for a time when I, you, anyone, can speak their truth, be exactly who they are in any given moment, and be met with respect and a willingness to try to understand. I hope for a time when I can share any struggle I am facing without hesitation, and when I do I will not be applauded for my bravery, because bravery will no longer be required.





Wednesday, September 30, 2015

at the peak

at the peak
where i could nearly
grasp the fingers of clouds
longing to touch ground
tender and loving
i marveled at the
dance troupe of
middle space
between heaven and earth
a swirl of wings
spiraling and soaring
beautiful black
butterflies that glide
swallows rising and falling
dragonflies hovering
weightless and magical
free and so alive
what a tribe of the skies
gathered there
standing among them
i felt
at peace

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Now Fly




what seemed a wall
can be a window
depending on which eyes you use
whether day or night
light or shadow
a kingdom
of things unspoken
what some call magic
you will call simplicity
knowing the unknown
how stars sing
birds shine
and dreams have wings
now fly

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Beginning Again



In expat lingo I am what is called a "trailing spouse". I don't much like the sound of that term, but honestly, it is a fair descriptor. A trailing spouse is the one in a partnership who follows the other; usually on their career path, in the quest for success, financial security, the good of the family, and, in expat assignments, the thrill of unique experiences and adventure.

We have moved a lot both at home and now abroad. I am an expert at starting over, beginning again and again...

There is something exhilarating and liberating about moving to a new place where you have a fully clean slate. No one in this new town knows anything about you, much less that stupid thing you said at the meeting, or the embarrassing thing you did at the party, or any single piece of your baggage from the history of forever so far in this life.

Every time we move I get the opportunity to reinvent myself as much or as little as I like (to a degree). I get a kind of do over, armed with what I learned in my last hometown; mistakes I won't make again (hopefully), changes in how I will invest my time, or goals I will set, things I will set aside for awhile, new things I will try.

I always enter these new beginnings with ideas of how I will be, who I will be, how things will go...I am always surprised by reality. I find I really can evolve in these spacious transitions, but I am who I am, and I can't simply wish my basic nature, my core self away, nor would I, but I do sometimes dream of it, a break from me, a complete metamorphosis. I lack patience in many ways, and most of all with myself.

We move, and I am anonymous to the people around me. I am merely a face, a stranger, an unknown. This stripping away of identity, while ripe with opportunity, is also quite scary, startling and difficult.

I was a yoga teacher in Shanghai, and every place I have lived for the last 13 years. Suddenly, I am a yoga teacher with no one to teach. This happens every time, and every time it is quite uncertain what I will find, or not. Having to start from ground zero, yet again, is exhausting. And then the question arises, "Who am I if I am not being a yoga teacher?". I am really attached to that role in my sense of self. I panic a bit when I realize I might not be able to be that here, or not in the way that I am used to.

"Who will I be, if I am not...." Fill in the blank with those things we think "make" us who we are.

At the center of that question is the base fear; the fear of death, the fear of unbecoming, disappearing, nonexistence. If I move to the other side of the planet will it feel like annihilation? Will I become too far removed from those who I am leaving behind, will I be forgotten, will I be lost?

Of course I have the anchor of my husband and family. I have my role as wife and mother. The most important and beloved people in my life are right by my side. That is a great comfort. Yet, this one kind of falling away reminds me that others are coming. My children are getting older, soon they will leave home and begin their own unique quests. My nest will be empty.

Who will I be when I am no longer so defined by that role? I have been a mother, dedicated and fully invested, for almost seventeen years. I see in that near future an opening up, a space full of newness, and I also sense grief. I expect to feel and experience a vast array of emotions. I anticipate meeting that ending and beginning in ways I can't even fathom from where I stand now. I know reality will surprise me, it always does.

Life is full of rich searching, struggling. We are all here finding ourselves, experimenting with possibility that becomes reality, and we can get stuck in the safe haven of who we think we are, but that house is built of straw at best. The only true shelter is in making friends with flow, vulnerability, risk, leaps of faith, courage and surrender. Beyond identity, beyond typecast roles we zip ourselves into and hide, there is a greater self, the light we are at our core. Love.

I determine more and more through these repeated deaths and rebirths, that the most important achievement in life is not what you do, or how high on a ladder you might climb, how rich you can be, or even how smart you are, how much you "know", but rather, how much you risked to feel, how wide open did you allow your heart to become, and did you let it get broken, not just once, but over and over again? Did you let your heart be broken by joy, by sadness, by love, by grief, by upheaval and transformation? It is in brave vulnerability that we come to know our wholeness, our power, our ultimate truth.

If we are to be deep wells, dug down to our souls, we must allow ground to be broken, we must allow our earth to be split and upturned. From that the most beautiful things will grow, those things will have endings too, and we will begin again.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

When the Storm Hits


"You are the sky. Everything else - it's just the weather. ~ Pema Chodron

My family moved to Taiwan three weeks ago. We arrived on the island just in time to find out that a typhoon would be upon us within a few days. Not just a typhoon either, but Super Typhoon Soudelor. A friend commented to me that the name sounded a bit too much like soul eater. I considered this observation with interest and an undercurrent of anxiety. I had prickly thoughts of landslides, flash floods, powerful currents, vicious winds and rains that could sweep everything away.

Storms can be like that. They can rush in and change the landscape of everything in one fell swoop of mother nature's hand or gust of her breath. Transformation can be destructive and violent, storms teach us that. They teach us that nothing is ever set in stone, nothing is indestructible, nothing exists outside of the realm of change.

As we waited for this storm to roll in from the ocean, I knew I was waiting for another storm as well, another storm foretold, predicted and not yet confirmed, not solidified, a shade away from real, but ahead of the storm I could sense a shift in pressure, an electricity in the atmosphere, the pretense of what approached, the calm before.

Super Typhoon Soudelor came during the night, with howling wind and bucketing rain. The power popped and struggled and then submitted. Noises swirled and inflamed my anxious imagination, every bump, thud and wail, made my heart pound. I spent that night sleepless and desperate for the morning light.

The morning did arrive, and the storm raged on, trees bent and breaking, the rhythm of fierce gale winds that threatened to tip the whole world sideways and then would drop it back down. Curtains of rain hiding the city below. Our family huddled in our new home, hoping it would pass this test. Wondering how we would pass this test.

We spent the next days without electricity. We played poker through the storm and continued after it parted. We ate meals by candle and flashlight. We went for a walk the day after and marveled at the power of nature. We held each other and helped each other through. We also got grumpy and irritable as the house got hotter and hotter, as we were stripped of our escape mechanisms of technology; no television, no computer, no video games. There were moments of bad behavior by children and adults alike. Tempers ran short, and yet we hung together, we laughed a lot too.

I had enough battery charge on my phone to turn it on sparingly and check in. The day after the typhoon passed, the other storm hit.

My son had gone in for neuropsychological testing a few weeks previous. He already had a diagnosis of ADD from a couple years ago, but we anticipated some new findings, ones that would stand to change his life, our lives, forever. I had received an email with the findings of the testing.

I scanned through the lengthy report and got towards the bottom where it listed the diagnostic outcome. ADD, Bipolar 1, general anxiety disorder and written language learning disability was what I read. The words filled my eyes and flooded my brain. We suspected some of this before, now it was real, there in words, in concrete form, it made landfall. In an instant, in a breath, the world turned sideways and dropped back down, the landscape altered, forever changed.

But what stands out on both accounts, is that no matter what size or shape a storm may take, what never changes is our commitment to each other. The love always remains. The love stands the test of time and circumstance, and though things don't remain the same, and we ourselves don't remain the same, we stay with each other. My heart broke a little reading that diagnosis, but my love for my son shone out through the brokenness, the light piercing through the clouds. I have always loved him as he is, and in that respect nothing had changed, not the least bit.

Sometimes the bravest thing to do is to accept what is. It is hard to acknowledge that there is actually so little in this life that we can control, so much is outside of our will, outside of our wanting. When I accept what is and enter the flow of life, then I can engage with reality in a productive way. When I balance my fighting warrior nature with an equal measure of faithful surrender, then I can navigate the storm, come through the challenging terrain with more ease, with greater skill.

The true test of who we are is not in how we show up in the good times, on days of blue skies and gentle breezes on calm waters, but who we are when the super typhoon hits and our world is tilted sideways and dropped down hard upon us, or when the ground seems to disappear from under our feet. It is in weathering the storm that we will meet our edges, face our fears, and grow stronger, wiser and more resilient. We can learn how to stay and experience life, how to feel, instead of burying our heads in the sand or running away. The storm might seem to be entirely destructive in nature, but it is also the force of creation. What was lost or transformed is the invitation for something new, whether or not we venture out into that new world, and how we choose to meet it, is entirely up to us.



Thursday, August 13, 2015

On My Feet Again

sitting here now
with nothing else to do
i consider my feet
irritated by the chipped polish
on just one toe
the assymetry it creates
a gash in otherwise perfect pink
i see lines and creases
skin peeling like old paint
disrepair, tired and worn
reptilian scales
i recall their former smooth creamy
surface
untouched, unblemished

now calloused white sand deserts
fill gaps
blue veins rising, cataclysmic
the new topography shocks me
i recoil from such ravage
this failing flesh
decay of youth

i see it on the side of
my big toe
down to the heel
the roughness of these years
journeys taken
hard concrete roads
blistering barefoot
walks on glass

but also dancing
playing
skipping through fields
climbing mountains
toes in warm sand

the hardships endured
the delights enjoyed

perhaps there is wisdom here
even beauty

when i look closely
it is all there
every story
every step taken

with all directions wide open
in front of me
i get on my feet
again

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Sun, Moon, Water, Sky

soaring high on broad wings
seemed to soften space and time
into a tender embrace
 a love newly discovered

 the very sun himself
turned the purest hue of rose
a blossom from the heavens
fire of passion born
dazzled sky and adoring waters
the ocean mirrored muse

at the peak of brilliance
he humbly gave himself
all he had
surrendered
descending into her tidal arms

 day makes way for night

full moon rising
dressed in stars
the dark that holds the light
her beauty needs both

down on the water below
the fishing boats
sit in clusters
lamps lit
creating their own constellations

the eye can't tell now
where sky ends and water begins
or if they do at all

Monday, June 8, 2015

Expectation is a Bitch

"The root of suffering is attachment." ~ Buddha

 "...we expect love if we're offering it to others. Since we expect it, when the time comes to offer love, we're hesitant. Because of this hesitation we fail the test to some degree. That's because we don't know the principle of love. Love can only be offered, not asked for in return." ~ Swami Kripalu

It is said in Buddhism that expectation, or attachment, is the root of all suffering, and in yogic philosophy we find many messages about the importance of nonattachment to the fruits of any and all actions we take. It may seem fallacious to think that all suffering at its core is derived from expectation, but hold experiences of pain and suffering up to close inspection and the truth is revealed. Distill disappointment, heartache, disturbances of all kinds down to their essence, and expectation will be there in some form.

I find myself chronically afflicted by expectation. Even though I have been practicing yoga for over a decade I can't seem to get a grip on this one. No matter what I throw at it, no matter how sincere my efforts are to assuage it, I find it creeping into my thoughts, fueling my actions and impacting my emotions. Releasing expectation is the most challenging of practices, the most elusive of intentions. Expectation is the opposite of yoga because it takes us out of the pure present moment and propels us into future stories and possible outcomes, which are illusions, and may or may not ever come to pass. Expectation is the sharp edge of ego, insatiable and greedy, as soon as it has what it wants, it is on to wanting more. If it doesn't get what it wants it howls and lashes out, or sulks and sinks into lethargy and hopelessness.

Expectation is a bitch.

I am a writer and artist. I dig deep into my very heart and soul to birth each creation large or small. I pour my truth and feelings into words. I used to write and keep my words to myself, for my eyes alone, but a blog is an enterprise of sharing, it requires the bravery to be vulnerable, it begs for generosity. It is a giant leap to go from withholding to generosity, and true generosity does not marry itself to expectation, they are incompatible. I aspire to be generous, but I am only human. I live in a society and culture where expectation is the norm and we learn about it in our earliest formative experiences. As small children we are rewarded and punished alternately for how we are showing up, how we are "behaving". We learn what is expected of us, and we learn that failure to meet expectations causes suffering and pain. We are born into the cult of expectation and fear, desire and aversion, and so we must be fiercely compassionate with ourselves as we begin to bring awareness to these powerful and compelling forces, and invite a new way of being into our lives.

When I write a piece and share it, I work quite intentionally to be conscious of my attachment to a result, my expectations. There are actually layers of expectation I can identify. There is what I expect of myself, what I expect from others, the different currencies I expect to receive, the level of success and validation I hope to acquire.

I put energy and emotion, love and care, into creating art that is genuine and heartfelt, and I offer it to you. The roots of suffering begin there, the moment I put my heart on the line, when I give, I almost immediately start to crave getting something back. This is a set up and it can result in elation and satisfaction, but it can also lead to disappointment and devastation, suffering. The onus of that suffering is mine and mine alone. The principle of love applies to my creativity, it can only be offered, an expected outcome or return is not guaranteed.

Anytime we expect people to be or act a certain way, when we put our happiness in the hands of external phenomenon, when we assume a debt is owed to us, or we feel we have earned certain things, we put ourselves directly in the path of potential suffering. I know this is true for me, I do it all the time. I do it in my relationships, in my parenting, it runs rampant in my quest to be seen, my efforts to be good, my perceptions of progress and achievement. Around every corner expectation is waiting. Some expectations are small and cause minimal vacillations in my energy and emotions, while others are massive, and when I fail to materialize them, can wreak havoc on me, leaving me despondent and feeling diminished.

That is not to say that reasonable expectations don't exist or that we should not stand up for ourselves in our lives. Boundaries must be held and respect must be required of ourselves and others. Expecting to make our way in our lives, have our basic needs met, to have safety and security under our roofs and in our communities is fundamental. We should reasonably expect to have opportunities to seek fulfillment, to be treated as equal beings on the planet and to walk our unique roads in the pursuit of happiness. Unfortunately, we have a long way to go in delivering these basic expectations to all.

In each of our lives, we must do the best we can with what we have in any given moment, seek ourselves and give of our love, be of service. That means to generously share our talents and brightness with the world and to be vulnerable and courageous in this showing and sharing of who we are. The question is how to maintain our own inner balance and harmony even when we are walking on rocky terrain or sailing stormy seas. How do we match effort with ease, will with surrender, desire with contentment?

How can we navigate this maze of inner and outer worlds? How to soothe our anger, how to soften our pride, how to be compassionate warriors in our lives, our relationships and in our communities? Releasing attachment and expectation is the path to true love and contentment. It is the way to peace.

I am not Buddha or a master yogi, so far from it! I can expect to dedicate the rest of my life to this practice of nonattachment and release of expectation. However, awareness is a powerful first step. Although I do not anticipate conquering expectation in this lifetime, I can consider it, I can examine it, I can soften into my breath and attempt to return to compassionate self observation when disappointment and suffering are being experienced. I can lean into the sharp point, feel it, embrace it and give love to it.

The key is love for myself. It has to start there. If I truly love myself, even my flaws, even my greed, even my dark side, all can be integrated. Wholeness is our true nature, love is the way back into our own hearts, but not selfish love, true love. Love that is given without demands or caveats. Love that is given seeking nothing in return. Perhaps this is the work of a lifetime or more, but I sense that this is the way to liberation. I think we can all agree that liberation is what we seek; to be truly free, happy and basking in the light of love, released from the bonds of fear and longing.





Sunday, May 31, 2015

Parting is Such Sweet Sorrow


Goodbye is something we say a lot and often in this family.

We don't stay in one place for very long. In our kid's lifetime thus far, and in the span of twenty years of marriage, we have lived in four states, moving from the Midwest and reaching the East Coast, two countries and two separate continents. We are preparing to move to our third country of residence in the last three years. We have, in that short span of time, gone from The United States to China, and now on to Taiwan.

My husband and kids are all dual citizens of the USA and Australia and our family is divided among those two distant lands. No matter where in the world we are, we are always away from someone. Distance is an experience we are constantly aware of and living in. We are always missing someone.We love saying hello, and we know it will be followed, at some point, by the sting of goodbye.

My present state of affairs has me deep in reflection on this relentless shifting and changing of circumstance. I am confronted with the truth that nothing can stay constant. Eventually, no matter how deep our roots seem, no matter how solidly we construct our lives, things will shift beneath our feet and we will be forced to acknowledge that loss in life is unavoidable. We will all have to contend with such sweet sorrow and sometimes the sweetness will be difficult to taste.

A week ago I lost one of the most important people in my life. I knew the day was coming, and yet I seem to have allowed myself to be lost in denial. My teacher, my guru, a woman who came as an embodied angel to help me heal deep wounds of pain, fear and anger, and in turn showed me the ways of love, devotion and faith, passed on from this world.

I was not, I am not, ready to say goodbye to her. And yet, I have been shoved right off the cliff. I feel myself falling down and down. The ground I had come to rely on is crumbling out from under me, and I can do nothing to change it. She is gone, and I didn't even get to say goodbye, at least not in person. I know she can hear my heart, sense these words, I feel her presence, and yet the emptiness I am experiencing is large. She was always the light of reason and wisdom in a life that often occurs confusing and unnavigable to me. I wonder who will hold up a lantern for me now.

But I am still here.

Buddha, when he was near death, advised his students, who feared this untethering as I do now, "Be a light unto yourself."

My teacher's name was Vidya Carolyn Dell'uomo. Vidya was her spiritual name given to her by her teacher. Vidya is a Sanskrit word which means knowledge. Vidya gave me a name as well. My name is Jyotika which means light.

I will endeavor to live up to the name my teacher gave me. I will step forward into this void, into this unknown, and trust my teacher's knowledge, which I have been blessed to recieve. There will be light. She has taught me what I need to know. I carry her teaching and her love forward with me. I will serve in whatever way I can, no matter where this transient life takes me.

My teacher has moved on to a new place, and my family and I prepare now to do the same once again.

Just a few weeks from now we will have to say our goodbyes to the friends we have made here in Shanghai. I will say farewell to yoga students, my husband will say goodbye to colleagues and our kids will say goodbye to peers and teachers. We probably will see very few of these people again, and we love them. We will carry them in our hearts and good memories, we are bigger and better, we are wiser and stronger for having known all of them.

Now our course is set. We are moving on. The winds of change and impermanence are blowing.These winds blow on all of our sails, and move through all of our lives. As all things begin, all things eventually must end. If it were not so, we would miss all the beauty of life. We see beauty because it must be savored. When we are touched by impermanence and loss we are reminded to appreciate the sweetness of all we have today, and though things will come and go, it is that truth that sparks our senses and wakes us to full aliveness. And yes, it brings suffering and heartache sometimes as well.

People, at times, have wondered at this transient life we are living with our family. Occasionally people have questioned me about the negative impact it might have on our children. They point out how challenging it must be for them to have to say goodbye to friends, move on, and start again.

I can only speak for my family and our experience of this. It has its difficulties for each of us to be sure, but it teaches us to cherish what is in front of us while it is there. It teaches us to be grateful and not take anyone or anything for granted. Yes, it hurts sometimes. Yes, my children have had tears and upset, but they have also learned the value of relationship and kindness. No one can be foreign or strange to them because they have seen how the world is inextricably interconnected, and people all across the globe are in this together. Every life is transient and impermanent, but love, the stuff of our souls, is eternal, and keeps us always together.

Life is short. We journey together for now, but even these children will soon set sail in different directions. I hope to have shown them the way of their own lights and loving hearts. We are always and forever connected by love, that is what matters, that is the direction towards which I hope to always set my course until I too move on at the end and the beginning of things.

"Goodbyes are only for those who love with their eyes. Because for those who love with heart and soul there is no such thing as separation."  ~ Rumi

Monday, May 25, 2015

For My Teacher a Poem of Love


This poem is dedicated to the memory of my spiritual teacher and mentor, Vidya Carolyn Dell'uomo, the path of love she put me on, the teachings of Swami Kripalu and my beloved Acharya family. May we all awaken to our true nature which is pure and infinite love.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Essential Life Principles as Taught By My Dog

 

I am definitely a dog person, always have been. When I was little I used to wish on every star in the sky, every furry dandelion, every birthday cake, for a dog all my own. My wish eventually came true and my first dog brought me abundant joy and happiness.

I have had a few dogs since my childhood pooch, named Sparky. I live in China now, on expat assignment with my husband and three of our children.We had to make the heartbreaking decision to leave our beloved dog Evan behind when we came here, and I thought we would be dogless during this adventure abroad. Then, as luck would have it, our Mandarin teacher told us she had rescued a wonderful dog named Dahei, and she felt Dahei would be the perfect pet for us. Stephen and I resisted at first, but eventually agreed to meet her. Dahei arrived at our home on a Thursday evening last spring and she has been here ever since. She quickly became a full fledged member of our family, but I feel she has been an angel, a healer, and a teacher in a special way for me. When she arrived I was going through a spell of deep loneliness and depression. I believe in my heart, she was sent to be my companion and to be my daily reminder of these most important life principles. I am blessed to have her by my side each and every day.

These are the essential life principles my dogs have taught me:

~ It is of absolute importance to go outside at least once every single day. ~

Okay, barring illness or other events that truly make this impossible, this is a must do for our health, our sanity, and I believe, our spiritual growth. Even if you are not the outdoorsy type, we all benefit from breathing in fresh air, feeling our feet on mama earth, experiencing the beauty of the world around us. It kindles our aliveness to watch the changing seasons, observing how things come and go, the beauty of flowers, the smell of rain, warm sun on your face, catching snowflakes on your tongue. When I go outside I remember who I am, part of this glorious world, so captivating, so beautiful.

Dahei does not let me go a day without stepping outdoors for a walk or three or four.

~Stay curious.~

Dogs head out the door each day eager to check out their surroundings and see what the day has to offer; what new sights, smells, sounds and tastes are waiting to be discovered today! Dahei has her favorite walking routes, but each time she travels them she does so with great attention and interest. She uses all her senses and I can see her visibly perk up when she detects something new or intriguing. Even though her kingdom is relatively small in area it is infinite in possibility and she engages it as such.

What a difference it would make in our lives if we could harness such enthusiasm and interest in our daily routines and approach even what seems boring or mundane with curiosity. Dahei points things out to me that I would gloss over on my own, new flowers that have bloomed, a bird in a tree, the smell of the air and earth. Such miraculous and incredible things are all around us to witness and explore. Be curious!

~ Do one thing at a time and do it fully. ~

We have become a multitasking world. I often notice that I am doing something, but my mind is elsewhere, or I am trying to kill seven birds with one stone and end up feeling scattered and anxious.
I end up doing many things in a half ass sort of way and I miss the total experience of each action. I am there, but not really there. The antidote for this is presence and mindfulness.
These are skills that can be practiced and cultivated, and lord do we need them!

 "It’s about living your life as if it really mattered, moment by moment by moment by moment.” " Jon Kabat-Zinn

Dogs are fabulous mindfulness teachers. Dahei does one thing at a time and she does just that one thing. When she is playing she is full on, tearing around at full speed, leaping, throwing her toy around wildly while she growls like a fierce forest hunter. When she eats she fully engages her food, everything else seems to disappear for her. She might not chew as much as she should, but she delights in the feast when the feast is on. When she sleeps, she sinks in fast and deep, she sprawls out or curls in, but it is clear, looking at her, her rest is profound and complete.


~ Unconditional love is real.~
 
Love in this life is often complicated, messy. It is easy to fall into a pathology of pleasing or put stone walls of protection up around our tender hearts. I look around sometimes and become terrified by all the anger and judgment I see. It becomes a risky proposition to show up and be open and honest with others about who we are, what we think, how we feel. People might not be able to stomach our idiosyncrasies, bad habits, our shadow parts, or perhaps we shine too bright, have a little too much sparkle in our step. We can end up either too big, too small, too this or not enough of that. And yet, we all thirst for the very same love and acceptance that can seem elusive at times. That kind of love and acceptance is possible. Not only that, it lives in the very heart and soul of each of us, it gets lost in our upbringing, our indoctrination into propriety and a culture riddled with scarcity mentality.

Dahei loves me every second of every day no matter what. She adores me in the morning, bedhead, coffee breath, grunting and groaning, as I creak back to life. She loves me when I am happy and playful, equally when I am bitchy, spiteful, sad, anxious or depressed. She wags her tail unfailingly, and with great enthusiasm every time I walk in the door, whether I have been out for five hours or five minutes. Her love shines on me and our family without fail, constant and true. Unconditional love, she gives it and in turn we learn how to receive and give it as well.

~Never give up on life.~

My last two dogs have been rescue dogs. Dahei had a particularly harrowing start to life. She was abandoned on a construction site in the cold of winter in Shanghai. She had no shelter from the elements, she only had garbage for food, and in her situation in China, she was in grave danger of becoming someone's food herself. Dahei survived all of this harsh and hopeless circumstance and her will to survive led her to us. Believe me, her life is as different now as it could possibly be because she hung in there. Miracles can happen. Life can change.

If you are thinking of getting a dog, wishing on stars, dandelions or birthday cakes like me, please consider adopting a rescue dog. These dogs are also wishing on the stars for you to let them into your life and bring you the gifts of love and companionship, loyal and true.

You may think you will put all the effort in training and teaching your dog, but the truth is your dog will have much more to teach you.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Bird's Wings


what a bird reveals
in one gesture of her wings
freedom is simple

Sunday, May 3, 2015

the dance




beetle belly up
dances his distress skyward
or perhaps delight

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

what you see

The following poem is not speaking to one person in particular. It is addressing a collective "you". I wrote it when I was feeling frustrated about how I thought people were perceiving me, or more accurately perhaps, what they seemed to value most about me. I was struck by a painful notion that my greatest asset is my ability to dress up nice and pose for a photo. That perception on my part may or may not be true. I am not asking for anyone to appease me here, it is just something I felt and I am working with it.

I do think we can all agree though, that women tend to be objectified in our culture. That objectification comes from all directions, from men, from women, from marketing schemes, from Hollywood and the entertainment industry at large. We are submerged in these messages our whole lives, brainwashed from our very beginning.

I don't know how to change that, but I can write a poem and share it with you.
 
what you see is what you get
when you look at me
what do you see?
tell me
what part fascinates you
or is boredom creeping in?
restless for the next baited hook
i wish you would look into my eyes
so i could also see into yours
we might be transported, remade
in a mere glance of the eternal
you keep looking at something
a place on my skin
a muscle or joint
what angle enchants you?
i tried to show you my heart
but you loved me more
dressed up
skin deep
shiny facade
a piece of material
but that love languishes
deteriorating, fading
can't you see that?
flesh is mere fantasy
it fails
i wish i could shine up my heart
as good as a gold dress
beautiful and enchanting
i want to win you with
a mind that intrigues
a soul that speaks to your soul
what you see is what you get
do you get me?
we all want
to get gotten

Monday, April 27, 2015

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Flower to Seed

 

flower becomes fruit
fruit an offering to earth
seed a promise held

don't give up

I know as a creator, a writer, I have varied things I want and need to express, that come from different aspects of myself , my life, my experiences. Sometimes I sit down to write with an idea of what I want to say or create, but a voice rises and wants to be heard, and the words, like a current, move in that direction. I find that the creative energy is not entirely interested in what I thought I was going to do or say, and sometimes something needs to be let out, a part of me needs to speak and be heard. That voice from within can be like a most unexpected and sometimes challenging visitor. Sometimes that is uncomfortable or even extremely painful for me. Sometimes I want to slam the door in her face. But when I receive her, it is a birthing, a birthing towards healing and freedom. When I allow what comes forward to come out, especially the painful parts, the wounded parts, I free them. Each time I open and welcome what wants to be spoken I arrive into a little more freedom.

I also notice that the poems that come from my more shadowy side are scary for me to share. I wonder if that says more about me or the culture I am living in. I think we live in a culture where it is taboo to share openly about your struggles, your pains, your grief, and please don't even mention aging, illness or death. We live in a culture that shuns vulnerability and favors numbness over feeling. I sense this intense pressure to put on a smiley face and get with the program. The program is about success, status, achievement, and that can get dressed up in all kinds of ways, but don't let them see you sweat, or hurt, or break down, or for God's sake give up. We are never allowed to give up. I am not saying I am an expert on any of this, and maybe I am off base, but this is what I feel.

So when I write a poem like the one below I take a long pause, to consider if I want to share it, out here in the open. I wonder if it really is better to keep these things behind closed doors, hidden away from the people around me and maybe even hidden from myself. Would that be better? Kinder?

The voice that gave me this poem would have published this without hesitation. My young adult self, so rebellious and defiant. She didn't care very much about what anyone thought of her, but because she was lost and in pain. I want to receive her and hear her now, and give her what she so truly thirsts for and deserves, which is not a truckload of expectations and demands, but love, and permission to rest in the perfection of her beingness.

That is what this poem is about.

don't give up

those words have been driven
deep into the veins of me
saturating every space
filling every gap
i overflow with it

too much of a good thing

when i was standing on a ledge
one foot dangling
those words were my savior
divine messenger
angel wings

they are heavy now
boulders tied to my delicate ankles
a fine line between medicine and poison
somewhere it crossed over

i didn't give up

i got better and nicer
learned the rules
showered off
dressed it up
they say i clean up real good

went and got a heap of hopes and dreams
things to strive for
so much to prove and an ego to feed

fuck is it hungry
never satisfied

i heard about hungry ghost
from a medicine woman
a spiritual infirmity
that's what she called it

i'd say i got it bad

i wonder when they told me
don't give up
if this is what they had in mind

i was a death star then
a starving phantom now
still hoping to get with the cool kids
feeling in my bones
i belong to the outcasts

how to give up on not giving up
without giving up

how to die while living
yes
how to die while living

that is what i seek


Monday, April 13, 2015

Rebel Mama, Midlife Crisis


I am 43 years old. I have been a rebel my whole life.

Just ask my parents, who were all but evicted from their apartment in my first months, because I just wouldn't stop screaming. Colic? Maybe. I think I was just raring to go right from the start.

Now I have kids of my own. My kids have only ever known me as mom, and that word, that title, is rife with ideas and images so evocative and compelling that I barely know what hit me. My kids never knew me as the out of control, in your face, rebellious, non conforming, punk girl I once was, and thank goodness for that! They have seen some photos; big hair, shaved hair, nose ring, combat boots, crazy makeup, outrageous clothes, but the details are too sketchy and well...maybe I will share at a much later date, like when they are, hopefully, established firmly in their own adulthood, or maybe never.

The point is I have changed. I am still a rebel, but I have moved from anger and fear to compassion and love. I channel my powerful warrior energy into creation instead of raging destruction. I have done some hardcore healing work, faced my wicked demons and dug into the deepest darkest pits of myself to excavate the light, and that is some fierce and truly epic rebel shit.

I still like edgy music, I like to dance as wild and unleashed as ever, I still think the system sucks and art rules. I have gone from no faith, no spirituality, to a total immersion in a spiritually rooted life, but per my style, I have gone unconventional. I have parted ways from my culture and upbringing. I believe in magic and miracles, I follow a yogic lineage and study shamanic practices as well. These are the realms I am drawn to and I follow my heart. I always have stood up boldly. I have always been a fighter for myself and what speaks to my soul.

My kids are pretty clued in to the fact that their parents are into some interesting stuff and aren't marching to the same drum as most of their friend's parents. We talk to them about our beliefs. We have raised them to have very strong moral compasses and to treat others always with respect and compassion, but we have not insisted they believe in what we believe in either. That has had an interesting result, but that is a whole other post.

My daughter Avery has recently had a bit of backlash around my "weirdness". She has started calling some of my practices "mumbo jumbo". She will say, "You know mom, you are into so much mumbo jumbo. You really believe in that stuff??". Avery is fourteen and so I know better than to try to convince her that I might not be totally wrong here. I have taken the let it go option.

My style has also retained a bit of its former funkiness and I don't much care about dressing to fit current trends and I certainly do not care one iota about dressing my age. I am in yoga clothes most of the time, but I still rock my combat boots and play dress up sometimes. I also like to do different things with my hair and I am currently in a shorter and shorter hair trend. I keep my color fun and add blasts of bright and bold hues. I like it, I have always liked to keep it off the beaten path, my style is no exception.

I recently told my daughter, Avery, I was thinking of getting a faux-hawk type haircut and she completely freaked. She told me that I am just having a midlife crisis. She said if I get my hair cut like that she won't go anywhere with me, she would just die of embarrassment. She said no one her age should have to have a mom who is walking around trying to look like a teenager, and why would I do something to look like Miley Cyrus, she is so "ewwww", and not a good role model anyway. And then she cried.

My younger pre-motherhood self would have told her to shove off or worse and gone running to the nearest hair salon to show her what's what and that no one tells me what to do. Actually, I would probably still do the second part if anyone else challenged my choice, but this is my child. My kids are the only people for whom I am willing to tone myself down in order to please or make them more comfortable. I am the fierce rebel protectress , the mama lion of these cubs, and I see that I must make space for Avery to be front and center now as the teenage girl coming of age in this house. I will roar for her and cheer her on as she finds herself and even as she breaks away. This is her rebel age and I will respect that and take the back seat a bit. I don't need that new hairstyle as much as I need her to feel that I am on her side. I love watching her find herself inside and out, she is beautiful and capable, so very different from me and yet so much like me. She dyed half her hair purple last year and she likes to paint, play music and dance. She also does lots of sports, is disciplined and well behaved, oh and definitely popular, which is the antithesis of me at that age, and I love that about her. Most of all she stands up for the underdog and courageously promotes kindness amongst her peers. She is a rocking rebel in her own perfect amazing way. I honor her. I am honored to make way for her.

I can wait out her discomfort and continue our conversations about all things in life and heart, share our unique outlooks and our connected souls. I remain a rebel, but I am mother first. I clear a path for my kids and I do it with fierce love. Anyway, hair is one thing. I might get a new tattoo instead.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Mind Storm



some days come heavy
thick with storm
wrapping around me
a straight jacket
a vice grip
crushing weight
life sits
on my chest

breathless being
i crawl through moments
among the living
cracked edge of a smile
over my coffee

a master of disguise
i cloak my complete unhinging
in a friendly hello
hope you are well
oh let's do
give me a call

i am a wounded animal
unseen
itching to retreat
clamoring to
claw my way out or
tunnel into the deep hole
of my heart
dissolved into dark

 i wait trembling
choked and heaving
riding out the storm
of who i am
until by grace
the world leaves me to
the sweet night

i retire
curling in
my body a question mark
asking into the days end

what will become of me?

i recall a prayer

do not fight the dark
just turn on the light

i know one thing about light
it returns

This poem is an attempt to articulate what a day of high anxiety and depression feels like for me.

I have written and shared before about my decades of struggle as a person living with mental illness.
I have done so much work and have made great strides, but I will never be "cured", at least not given where we stand now in the treatment of mental disorders. I survive, and I do thrive. I have periods of ease and cycles of suffering. My anxiety and depression can flare up on any given day and stay for an indeterminate amount of time. I have learned how to cope, how to function, and how to care for myself. Unfortunately, I have also found it necessary to learn how to mask and hide so I can be in and participate in "normal" society.

I know there are many people like me. I can almost guarantee you know at least one person who suffers from some form of mental health issue or brain difference, and you very well might have no idea. Many of us smile through our agonizing mind storms, because we know we won't be understood, and judgment on top of the already heavy burden we carry is just too much to risk. It hurts too much.

I count myself a million times blessed, because I have had key helpers show up for me at the right times. I have been fortunate to find a spiritual practice and community that embraces me exactly as I am. I have had good therapists, coaches, teachers, friends and family. I have also had the courage to say yes to these helpers. Saying yes to the help is scary in a way, because what if it doesn't work? Then what? I said yes, and it has helped. I still have bad days like the one described in the poem, but I have resources and tools to help me get through. Things can get really dark and hopeless when the storm is moving through, but I know now that I can ride out the storm, and I have people who will hold my hand and wait with me. It didn't always feel that way. There were years when the darkness seemed endless and all consuming. A ray of light was, at times, a fiction to me.

There are people around us who feel that way right now. What we can do for each other is simple, be there. Show the people around us that we do care, and we aren't going anywhere. We can be good friends and neighbors. We can live from our hearts and be that ray of light for those around us. We can pay attention and learn how to really listen. If we learn to really listen to people, we are more likely to notice when they might be feeling down or not quite themselves, and then we can offer to help. If we don't feel equipped to help , we can offer to assist in getting our friends to the help they need.

You don't need to understand what mental health issues feel like exactly. Unless you are suffering yourself, it can't totally be known, but you can have open ears, an open mind, an open heart, and often, what we need most is a pair of open arms.

If you are reading this and you feel in the dark and all alone, you are not alone. Reach out, and keep reaching until you find a hand, there will be one.

I know one thing about light, it returns.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

temple goddess

 
 




      i think of how many years
      you have been here
      holding this prayer
      of the hands that crafted you
      so long ago
      what did those hands
      long for
      what devotions and pleadings
      infuse your form
      and here you have stayed
      ever present and watchful
      a mother's station
      you do not waver
      receiving
      souls yearning
      rivers of prayers
      given to your kind face and countenance
      the imprint of accumulated askings
      in the weathered strength
      of one who shines divine
      birthed by human hands
      the infinite mother is called
      to manifest form
      that you might give us
      once again
      to ourselves
     
     
      
     
         

Friday, March 20, 2015

Tribe of the Broken Heart



there is room for you here
after roaming and reaching
come blood, bone and spirit
fall into our arms

tell us what aches
what is broken and shattered
and we will receive it
as alms for our hearts

there is room for you here
to dance in the fire
bathe deep in the river
these baptismal rights

 all is yours for the taking
dive into the darkness
sink still to the bottom
rise up to the light

there is room for you here
we take you now fully
you are a piece, a part of us
we long to embrace

we are one sacred body
born of the universe
broken hearts living
into undying grace


Wednesday, March 18, 2015

slow unfolding



make of this life
something slow
  unfolding
a spring flower
the land sculpted by water
 revealing itself
 part by part
the story of
 its beauty
  unfurls
almost suspended
 as breath
beholding it
moves to be born
again and again

Friday, March 13, 2015

Road Tripping



on a road trip,
i got fear riding shotgun
he loves me in a twisted way
a codependent dream

or maybe i'm a hostage
giving in to stockholm
we've been out here so long
i think i forget

i have tried hard to lose him
in my rearview mirror,
but somehow he is always back in my ride

he tells me he is only looking out for my safety
but it feels more like bondage
suffocating and tight

one thing's for certain,
when i start looking
out there,
and that hopeful longing
comes across my face,
i feel him slide over
his coolness beside me
his hand on my neck
like a shadow of death

fear begets fear
i am weak and complacent
but if i cuddle up close
i feel he might disappear

i hesitate there
but the tug keeps on coming
a strong pull of knowing
liberation is near

i whisper

"fear i see you
i know you
i even love you
i am sorry i have kept you
all this time chained to me"

i stop
door opens
true understanding

 i whisper again

"now go on and be free"


This poem is about my personal relationship with fear.  I have focused intensely on inner emotional and spiritual healing and growth for many years now, and a fundamental part of this has been meeting fear over and over again. I have often become frustrated, wondering why fear keeps clinging to me, why, no matter how I try to process and release it, the next thing I know there it is again, riding shotgun.

I have slowly come to understand that I am in relationship with fear, and as much as I feel that it is fear that won't leave me, it is I who stay with fear. This pattern runs deep. Fear serves a purpose, it is a protector, a shelter, and I realize that I find a comfort on some level with that. I am fear dependent. I bring fear with me, it is a familiar place to hide, a friend that has always been there. Fear has never abandoned me, ever.

 I must point out that, in this poem, I am addressing a particular aspect of fear that I experience. This is the fear that keeps me small, that tells me not to show myself because I will get hurt. This is fear that keeps me from growing. There are other aspects of fear that are essential helpers, and have saved me on many occasions, from dangerous situations and even from myself.

I can only surmise that if I have this kind of experience with fear of this nature, others probably do as well. I am learning that the way to deal with this fear is to look in its eyes with love and compassion. Fear is a dimension of my self, and if I hate and despise it, I hate and despise a part of me. If I exile fear and ignore what it needs from me, it can not be healed and we remain chained together.

I try to become aware when I am operating or reacting from fear, and instead of recoiling or shrinking away, I allow myself to feel it, to go into it, to have my freak out. I can then apply breath, tell myself that it is okay to feel this way, and in opening to the feeling with compassion, it can begin to flow through instead of staying stuck within.

Everything that exists within us longs to move towards love and freedom, and we are the only ones who can create that, by choosing vulnerability and trusting our loving hearts to lead the way.


Monday, March 9, 2015

i come close



i come close to myself
i whisper the invitation
i am here
seeking the arms
of this one
the singular
that meets all others
i want to know
the hue and texture of my breath
the angle of my gaze
looking out
looking in
to fully see
every shade of longing, joy
despair and ecstasy
all the curves and hidden passageways
of my heart
if i am here for any purpose
it is to delight in the language
of my embodiment
to listen
to know
to sing my song
dance my dance
i come close to myself
closer still
to love you




Thursday, March 5, 2015

A Combat Boot Kind of Day



it is a combat boot kind of day
the kind of day with marching to do
heavy things to kick
the kind of day for loud stomping
dances of tenacious will
screaming to the sky
a howling
that transforms to laughter
a day of might and muscle
to ward off the dull
achy brain haze

it is a combat boot kind of day
the kind of day where things
can shift
if i walk on forward
even though i'm scared
i hear the percussive beat
of each intentional step
medicine drum guide
saying the way is through
"break on through
to the other side"
i sing to myself my mantra

it is a combat boot kind of day
i march myself right to
my own center
i take off my boots
curl my toes in the warm sand
and dive in

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

my offering



 i keep lowering my bucket
 into the well
 each time full of expectation
 tremors of anticipation
 that i will hoist it up
 and have something
 beautiful and pure
 water like words
 to offer you
 and you in your
 heartstruck amazement
 will love me

 but i keep coming up
 empty
 for a long time
 i have tried
 i have given it my all
 i finally held my
 empty vessel
 i cursed into its
 void

then i saw
something new
the beauty of that
emptiness
the sweet space
within

i hold it up
my emptiness
i offer it to you

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

i am love and you



 i only wished to feel
 to somehow become real
 i closed my eyes
 whispered prayers
 i even clicked my heels
 at least three or a hundred times
 but the storm kept blowing through
 ripping out the truth
 from under my feet
 rocketing me up toward troubled skies
 my heart all black and blue
 when i look down and see you
 you come meet me
 and say "we're free"
 love has got us now
 you caught me by surprise
 with your angel arms and eyes
 now i feel
 i was always real
 i am love and you

Monday, February 9, 2015

I am Not my Son's BFFL



I recently had a Facebook status that read; "Great mom moment. Tuesday afternoon, Mason, who is 16, comes home from school and says with a big smile, "Mom, hey you know you are my BFFL." I said, "Isn't that best friend for life?". He smiled again and said, "Yup." Made my year.

I received heaps of likes and lots of nice comments on that status. I suggested that maybe I should expand it to a blog post, so here I am.

I was poised to write a testimonial about the exchange, and wax lyrical about this great moment in momdom, blah, blah, blah.....and then it occurred to me that I needed some follow up and clarification first, so I went back to the source, Mason, my 16 year old son.

I asked him, "Remember when you came home and told me that I am your BFFL?"
He said, "Yeah..."
I said, "Did you mean it?"
Then his reply. First it sank my ship a bit, but as I considered it, I loved it, I loved it so much!
He said, "Mom, I was kind of joking you know. I would rather hang out with my friends, but I like that when I come home from school that you are here. You make good food, and you make home, homey."

I love this, because, as I thought about it, it is really a good thing that I am not Mason's, or any of my kid's BFFL. The relationship between a parent and child should not be the same as the relationship between a child and their peer circle. As his mother I am responsible for nurturing him, providing him a safe haven, giving him support, I also provide structure, guidance, and discipline. I have to hold some specific boundaries as a mother that can't get tangled up in trying to be a friend.

Mason has ADD and so he has struggled for years to stay focused and get tasks done in school. This is coupled with his high intelligence and occasional attitude of superiority.A typical scenario at home with Mason goes something like this; "Why do you have three zeros in English class?", his usual responses are; " I don't know.", "The assignment was boring and stupid." or "I lost it.".

Sometimes these exchanges escalate to raised voices and often include Mason saying, "I hate you!", and then stomping off and slamming a door. Dealing with his ADD and his tendency to be anxious, and, at different points in his childhood, sometimes quite explosive and hurting/hurtful has been challenging on every level.

I have not always dealt with these issues, in heated moments, the way I would like to. I have lost my cool, I have yelled, I have cried, I have thrown my hands up in despair, I have felt like giving up, but I never have. I have never given up. I love Mason, and his sisters without fail. I tell my kids I love them every day, on the good days, the bad days, the ugly days.

I have gotten help. It does take a village, and sometimes mom (me) is not the best person for the job. Mason currently has an academic coach, a psychologist, a math tutor, a kung fu teacher, plus his school staff, who hear from me on a very regular basis. I have no desire to try to be "super" mom, singlehandedly running this whole show. No, kids need support from diverse sources and each kid is unique. I think the key is to see them, to pay close attention to who they are, and then also see the ways to help them in their becoming.

My role is mom, and I am dedicated, consistent, relentless in my love and care. I am not, however, interested in dictating to them "who" they should be. I am here to love them no matter who they choose to become. Stephen and I have not force fed anything to our kids about their unique identities. We encourage them to try different things, we support them in those explorations, whether it is music, sports, art, science, anything. We want them to seek out their passions and find things that light them up and bring them a sense of joy in self. I want them to know they have a right to be exactly who they feel called to be, and that family is a given, a rock, a sure thing. I am also here to show them what is right and wrong, to set limits and teach lessons about responsibility and accountability, which means I am not, can't be, a friend, in the strict sense of the word.

We mothers are so much more than friends to our children. We are called to a most sacred vocation. We are the guardians of precious innocents, charged with their safety and shelter. We are trusted guides, a light always on, reliable, steadfast, fierce protectors, boundary holders, torch bearers, nurturers and disciplinarians, most of all keepers of love in the family. We are also human and we won't do it perfectly, not even close, but it is the love that counts. It is the love that lasts. Not all who give birth will be true mothers, and there are many who will be mothers in their own right, creating bonds beyond blood, in a call to service and a larger kinship.

I am grateful that my son, at 16 years of age, feels he can kid around with me, tell me the honest truth when asked, most of all, I am so glad to be his mom and make his home homey. I am thankful for this family, we are here for each other, we love each other, no matter what may come.

I am not his BFFL, best friend for life. I am his mom for life, that is all I hoped to be.

Monday, February 2, 2015

In The Short Run



 Running is part of my physical, mental,and emotional health regimen. I have certain activities and practices that make up my self realized mind, body, soul, life prescription for healing, feeling, awakening, and evolving. These are the things that keep me on the path of being alive in life, instead of living a half life, a numb life, a forgotten life, a caged life. Running cracks me open and sets me free.

There are mornings when I NEED to run, but depression and anxiety do their damnedest to upset my flow. They tell me to just leave it, no use, curl up in a ball and hide, go back to bed, give up, stagnate, fester.

I had a morning like that today. I could feel in my bones the deep calling for my movement medicine, but it seemed lost, unavailable, I resisted its call, depression and deflation had a grip.

My husband got a read on me and insisted. "GO for YOUR RUN!"
I pouted around it, felt the pull of that other voice, "Why bother?"
I put my running shoes on, laced up, plodding out the door.
I committed to a short run. The long run was more than I could consider today.
Sometimes it is like that. Start with one step. It is something. Just to start, to change the momentum
begins in the lacing of shoes, the plodding out the door, the shift begins with the intention, the shaking off
of that lying voice that says, "Why bother?".

I ran the short run.

In the short run I persisted, I met struggle. The first five minutes, step, struggle, breathe, step, struggle, breathe, repeat.

In the short run I let feeling have its time and space. I met it in the moment. I acknowledged what I felt
and knew I could be with it, all of it.

My running partners showed up each in turn; fatigue, frustration, fear, doubt, anger, hopefulness, courage, lightness, strength, fortitude, joy, freedom. The slow pass of one to the other, all of them needing that run. All of them needing that movement of energy, to be awake, felt, seen.

In the short run I drank in the air, danced with the earth, met the day, heard the birds, felt the wind, connected to flow, returned to nature, that true nature living in me. My true nature where nothing needs to be hidden, fixed, exiled or denied.

In the short run I shook myself awake. Now with the fog cleared,the long run looks amazing.

Pic and a Poem #38






   the pivotal center
   axis of expansion
      gathering in
  hold strong and stay
  deeply connected
  bonded to the place
  struck hard deep note
          stillness
  integrated clarity awakens
    quietly in the space
        of inaction
  stretching out its arms
        to eternity
   witnessing, watching
   the blast of creation
   birthing galaxies
   celestial dancers
   tumbling and twirling
   heavens and planets
   black holes and stars
   light and darkness
   birth and death
   you and me
   all the creatures
   sky, land and sea
   spun out from
   the exhale of God
   like wishes blown
   from the center
     of a heart
 beating and breathing
  going out and out
  returning to center
     God inhales
  beginning again
   
 

Stream of consciousness, inspired by starfish.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Proof of Magic







This is a painting I did resulting from a class I enrolled in online called "Visual Quest", led by an amazing shamanic teacher named Pixie Lighthorse.

I am in no way trained, or naturally skilled, in the realm of painting. I am, however, a creative being (as we all are), who is willing to explore foreign terrain , and to dig into new ground. I am curious, and I am a seeker. Those two things have resulted in a meandering kind of life. I look around, see what shows up, or what I seem drawn toward, and I kick it around . I start scraping the surface of things, see what is revealed and how it touches me. Some things stick, others are brief visitors, while some come and go in cycles and seasons.

I have become most intensely interested with all things spiritual, mystical, and miraculous. Magic. Not that hocus-pocus, sleight of hand kind though. Magic, as in experiences or phenomenon beyond normal understanding, the seemingly unexplainable.

I used to be a staunch skeptic in some respects. Anything approaching being spiritual, or connected to divinity, in any way, shape, or form felt alien and unreasonable. Miracles, or mystical occurrences were not even a consideration in my view of reality.

In my quest for healing I landed on a yogic path. The yoga I practice is deeply spiritual in nature, a way of living and being. My skeptical, jaded, wounded self has gone through intense periods of doubt, questioning and resistance, but once I encountered this path it became clear, it had my name on it, like it or not. Maybe that doesn't seem like magic, or a miracle, but from the vantage point of this moment, from where I am sitting, I know that it is.

Since embarking on this yoga journey, I have become more and more open. I have discovered buried pieces of myself. I trust my intuition, I follow it with deep faithfulness. I am expanding, evolving, and often, when I least expect it, more miracles and magic arrive. Sometimes my skeptic gets her nose into something and puts her two disbelieving cents in, and I thank her for her service. She keeps me grounded and level. An essential part of a spiritually based seeking of truth is to question everything. It is useful to be in harmony with both the mystical and the pragmatic.

I have directly experienced what I call miracles and magic many times now, this painting being one example.

I signed up for this shamanic painting course from that place of playful curiosity, and also from a desire to explore painting as a creative expression; through my hands, in shape and color, to source my soul and let it spill onto the canvas, without concern for technique or attachment to ideas of what constitutes "good" art.

The course began with some introductory work on shamanism, background on animal guides and how to connect to them, as well as some guided journey work, think led visualization to meet these guides and receive their messages. If your skeptical side is already tapping her toe and rolling her eyes...yeah I know, been there, felt that. For the sake of my story, just go with a bit of suspension of disbelief here. Thanks.  At any rate, I had already done a few shamanic courses and found them to be very grounding actually, as well as deeply moving and transformational. You never know how powerfully something will impact and change you unless you give it an open minded try.

When the painting instruction began though, I started bumping up against the edge of my comfort zone. I have some old stories about my ability, or lack thereof, as an artist. I took a breath and followed the preliminary steps, and as they were presented with such kindness and grace, I was able to loosen around the fear and commit to my creative process.

Then came the part where Pixie explained, how after putting preliminary layers of color down through intuition and feeling, I would pause to observe the canvas and my animal guides would somehow begin to appear to me. These guides would just magically step forward, active participants, co-creating my painting with me. Now these are not the particular words she used, but my interpretation, how I heard it. My inner skeptic practically guffawed in cynical hysteria at this. I thought, "Sure, all these arty artists will have veritable safaris of beautifully rendered animal totems blossoming exquisitely from their brushes, but no way that could possibly happen to me!"

I forged ahead nonetheless, curiosity is my stronger inclination, thank goodness! I applied paint and set it aside for awhile. Then fumbling for faith, I returned to it a day later to give it a look. My skeptic was on alert, and in her defense, she was there to protect my fragile ego from a potentially injurious disappointment, and a deepening of the gash of insecurity I have been carrying around about art. I took out the canvas and looked at it once, twice, rotated it to each side, scrutinizing it hopefully, and then I saw an outline of a bird head, nothing fancy, but definitively a shape, a form, emerging from those swirls of color! I roughly painted it in, and then a whale shape was there, clear as day, all I had to do was follow the outline with my brush. I became totally taken, delighted, awestruck. Over the next couple of days, I painted and looked, and I saw more and more, a dolphin, a heart, a coyote. I was left joyfully astounded by the whole experience. I truly feel these images came forth from source, from a larger intelligence, one that is both within me and yet beyond me. Mystical and magical, but in my direct experience also concrete, very real.

I call this, my first shamanic painting, "Proof of Magic". It figures as an important piece of evidence, among many, that continue to anchor me on my path, my quest for truth, my seeking by the light of faith, guiding me through doubt and fear. I have come so far and transformed so much, by way of and by witnessing  each miracle, whether small or profound, by my willingness to consider, and my capacity to expand my ideas of what is real and possible. Anything can happen. I learn this again and again.

Maybe you believe this is proof of magic, or maybe not. My intention is not to convince of you of anything, or to force my evidence upon you, but to invite you to look at the canvases that are in front of you, the events and experiences that find you, the colors and shapes of your life. Maybe if you look at them at a new angle, with curiosity and a spark of faith, you will see magic and mystery at work. Who knows what you will discover, if you get your brave on and take a chance, try something new or revisit the familiar. Why not delve into the unknown wilderness of what calls your name? Get curious, be a seeker, you are guaranteed to discover great wonders in you.

If you are interested in the fabulous and deeply sacred work of Pixie Lighthorse you can find her at www.pixiecampbell.com. I highly recommend.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Pic and a Poem #37

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
i can go anywhere now that
you are by my side
the big space before us
the barren vista
of dead wood and shed skin
which once would have left me
trembling in fear
is transformed
 
harsh angles soften
earth is yet alive
you show me how to look
pointing it out
laughing at my naivety 
believing is seeing
vision is substance
we carry it even into
the darkest night
making our own way
lit torches across heaven
and earth

telling stories, singing songs
secret dances of our kinship
the ways of brothers and sisters
in a wild tribe of deep magic
those who travel the great distance
of life and death
whispering back to us
in shifts of sand
and stirring of creatures
 
we trail on the footsteps of ancients
out into the far reaches
beyond doubt and despair
unearthing the plenitude of being
truth, love, and beauty
that extends infinitely
from an endless past
to a fathomless future
 
our feet planted here
knowing who we are
in each other 
fearing no freedom
we journey on