Disposable Society

I am in a space of unfolding layers, seeing guards I have constructed to bar hurt from entering me in a deep way. These layers keep unfolding, wavelike in nature, first one, than another, than a third. So many ways our culture is broken, so many lives compromised at the alter of our consumerist culture, so much sacrificed to the God of Capitalism. I have chosen not to see the real consequence of my thoughtless actions and choices, it seems to much to bare. If my choice to get a takeout cup of coffee, or a to go box has such a powerful ripple through the world, how can I bare the weight of being human? How can I always choose well? Why does it hurt so badly to have the blinders ripped from my eyes, to see the far reaching and devastating ways each day that my actions and those of the people around me affect the whole?

So many of us choose to simply not see. In the words of the dear Bob Dylan ” How many times can a man turn his head, and pretend that he just doesn’t see?”
I am seeing in a raw and truthful light, so much that once was hidden from me, or perhaps hidden by me. As I often do, when troubled. I put my pen to paper and with words, gain insight to the heart of the matter. I share here a poem that came from the deep pondarence of my current unfolding layer. How can I live lightly on the Earth? and how do I mourn the ways that I do not without falling into apathy and despair. I have found some answers of a sort, small as they may be, and I have found the peace that comes from not pretending that I do not see.

Wasted

I am surrounded by a nebula of “trash”
Discarded, once useful thing
surround me where I sit.
A plastic cup, a lid, a straw
cellophane wrappers piled on the floor.
A pair of scissors, broken and forgotten
purchased from the dollar store not long ago.
Half lives of things once needed now discarded
a shadow of our hunger
the gaping maw of convenience.
If we could look with eyes that see,
at the star-trails of our waste
the wake of “disposable” suffering
we would lie down on the still friendly Earth – and weep.
for all our careless blundering
our selfish need for ease
our lost sense of belonging.
Behind me, the trail of cast off things
is miles wide – and towers high above me.
No amends can meliorate this sin.
My only penance is a glass jar with a lid
A muslin bag, a woven basket,
I carry these in solace for my sins.
My greed, my haste, my waste.
I may not right past wrongs,
but I can wage peace and freedom with the tools I choose
Sing reverence for all I use.
A scared pact of human need
and Earth’s abundant gifts.
Walk slowly, look, see,
Your choices matter
You have power
you – are a person of consequence
Be consequential.

 

The Humans Weep

Poems have been pouring forth since I have returned from Orphan Wisdom School. On the plane home I sat, set pen to paper and they began to come. A mournful pursuit poetry can be at times. Mournful, joyful, encumbered, yet free, but most importantly true. The words that come through as I write poems are all true stories. Expressions of the joy and sorrow of my aliveness and my wonderings. I plan to begin sharing them more frequently here, may they fall upon the ears of those who need them.

 

The humans are crying tonight
Darkness gathers in the corners of our lives
Just out of sight-you have to turn to look at it
Trouble is brewing, dangerous times are these
Flick your eye, just left of center
There it waits-terrible trouble indeed
In fact- if you are not crying tonight
You may not be human at all
Or perhaps you have forgotten how to be
Or were, never properly shown
In the first place
What it means to be woman, or be man
But the humans weep tonight
Raise voices in a howl of grief
So keening and wrenching
That only the wolves understand
They know the sound of a heart breaking
They know the exquisite beauty of the moon
They  know loneliness, and kinship and pride
Tonight as the humans weep
On the dark warm Earth
Wolf lays downs-belly to the same Earth
Licks her paws and sighs…
“Oh yes, welcome home Kin, welcome home-
It is time you know despair and hunger again”
Wolf rests her head on her paws softly
And the weeping fills the night sky

Marianna – 2017

When Myth Knocks Three Times, Answer the Damn Door

I have been blessed and fortunate too, to spend much of my life in the company of myth, legend and story. In childhood I literally sat in the lap of story, the lap of a master teller, my own father, as he wove from his past, his learning and his mind, stories that delighted, haunted and taught me much. I would not know this world without the layers of meaning and mystery that this teaching delivered to me at a young age, and continue to deliver to me now. Nor would I want to know this world, bereft of the stories that hold the whole together, weave the fabric of our lives into some semblance of meaning, and give us strength to carry on in troubled times.

I recognize that not all humans live with this richness and I give great thanks for the wondrous fact that to me, the tales have been an integral part of who I am, company on a sometimes lonely path, and inspiration to guide me on and help to understand pain of life. Characters I know so well have traveled always with me, Robin Hood, King Arthur and his noble knights, Elsie Pittock, live in me and teach me how to be human, how to be kind, how to be human and Wonder-Filled. I am learning more each day how rare a gift wonder is in a time where we have already decided we know everything, that doesn’t leave much space to play or to grow. In fact, knowing seems the surest path to drudgery that you could find or choose.

Being steeped in story, I have learned a few things in my days. One of those being that numbers show up in stories and they are not to be ignored. Three wishes, seven sons, nine fair daughters… I could go on and on, and surely scholars have delved into this territory of number symbolism to a depth that I will not attempt here. I share this only to bring to light that I am tuned in enough to know, in my life, when things begin to happen in three’s, I am on mythological ground. A sacred place to be indeed, and one that requires my full attention.

Teaching tales of all sorts live  in the realm of myth, and in our hearts if we are touched by them and give them lodging there. I am often so touched by the tales Michael Meade chooses to tell. Indeed his work has been a part of my becoming who I am and I see him as a wise elder in my life. A truth teller and a man of mystery, all intriguing qualities indeed.  I saw him live recently, in Portland at a beautiful church. The house was full of people seeking connection to something deeper than the merely physical realm in which we dwell, connection to a deeper truth, an older truth.  A sip of the sweetness of the land of myth and mystery.
One story he shared, that night was one of Zusya the Rabbi. A man of great wisdom and elder hood. Who found himself on his dying bed, surrounded by his students and grappling with the reality of his demise and his soon to be reckoning with God and the Great Beyond. In the story his students say to him “Rabbi, you are wise and learned, pure and righteous. You have the courage of Jacob, the leadership of Abraham and the vison of Moses, why for should you be afraid?” Zusya replies, ” I am not afraid that God will ask me, Zusya, why have you not been more like Moses, or Jacob or Abraham? I am afraid that God will ask me, Zusya, why have you not been more like Zusya? And for that I will not have an answer.” And with that Zusya dies. Teaching with even his last breath, giving of himself even to his very end.

This story hit me in the heart, The kind of feeling that grows and fills all the space that exists in the body and then expands past that physical barrier into something unseen yet tangible and real all the same. I gasped, a hard lump rising in my throat, a wail building in my gut, a sob racking through me with a shudder. Sucking for air as my eyes filled with tears. ” Why have I not been more myself?” When I do come to the end of days there is no sin I want less to confess, and yet, how frequently I separate from who I am to be who I think I should be. How often do I withhold my truth, even from myself? why is this fear of being me so strong and overpowering? Zusya is teaching me too, long from this world and far away as well, but present here for me. This is the power of myth.

I let it settle. I have been taught by my wise father that when a story claims you in such a way as this, it is an occurrence that is worthy of investigation and attention, with some expedience employed in that pursuit.  Why am I not more myself? What happened to the pieces of me that I cast aside, left in dark corners long ago, wondering what became of me and hence what will become of them. Is it fear of failure or fear of splendor that causes me to disown some of who and what I am, or perhaps a strange and perplexing tangle of the two? A half breed love child of my unclaimed selves, a shadow of my fullness, a discarded remnant of my gifts…I don’t know yet, I am seeking and sometimes the seeking before the finding is where the sweet meat is.

A week after the live event with Michael Meade, I tuned in as I often do to hear his voice come to my ears through his podcast Living myth. There was Zusya waiting for me again. Told in the same characteristic and urgent style that Michael so deftly gifts the world with. I listened well to what the story had to say, deepening into my inquiry of how I can be more myself. I felt a bit surprised to find the story placed on my lap again so soon, but not overly so, life seems to give us what we need and it is obvious that I needed to hear and feel this now. A welcomed guest at my fireside, I let Zusya in.

One more week passed, as weeks are ought to do and I found myself scrolling through my podcast app, seeking something nourishing to listen to. I had listened once or twice before to a show called Women in Depth and decided to give it another go, selecting an episode almost at random, of course, nothing is random…however I did not put much careful thought into my selection. The episode was about metaphor and the use of story in physiological practice. I was enjoying the show but not overly tuned in, until the speaker began to tell Zusya’s story. She called him by another name Akiba, but the story was the same one. Here he was again, Rabbi Zusya calling me to live my life as me. I pulled my car to the side of the road. In awe and wonder of the ways that life speaks to me and guides me always to right where I need to be. Obviously this story is for me, I need it, here and now. I am so glad it came to me. I am paying attention.

It seems almost an impossible thing, to not live as oneself, but I see after examination that almost know one is truly who they are. We are so afraid to be seen in all our flaws and human-ness, so afraid of being unlovable or rejected that we hold a front up. This may feel safe, and may seem to be the only way, yet soon the mask becomes a prison we no longer know how to escape. We become trapped in a life of our own making, a life of silent compromises, aching heart and lost dreams.

So here I sit. Zusya close by. My heart full of questions and my path unclear. I know that now I choose to live as me, I know there is no way to do this that won’t hurt. Fallout happens when great change occurs. When one changes the structure, the whole has to change as well, be that a plant, a workplace, or a family. To listen to the calling of my heart means I will become a new me, already this has been happening, and it has not been easy. In fact it has been utterly painful to find myself amid the ashes of what I used to know and hold dear, reeling and looking about for something solid to hold onto. Learning to live fully as myself means learning to say no, and to say yes, to stretch to where I can’t touch bottom anymore, to boldly take the risks calling to me….
There is so much fear, and so much freedom beckoning from a doorway deep within me. Can I step through? Can I claim myself and all I am to be?…..I know this, I am willing to give my life to the pursuit. When I leave earth I want to leave having fully lived the life I came here for. May we all be so blessed.

Zusya,
A Rabbi’s wisdom reaching out
from beyond the grave
catches hold of my skirt hem
and holds on
“Why was I not more myself- for this I have no answer”
My greatest fear, lives in your words
I wonder- did God ask you
when you crossed his threshold there?
Were comparisons to Abraham and Moses made of you?
Did your head hang heavy as you spoke the truth-
“I wasn’t me, I wasn’t me, I wasn’t….”
For me- I choose another path
cast off my city body
and my cloak of sameness
though it be cold and I, naked and alone
I choose to be all that I am-
ardent, sweet, and dangerous
much like a wild hive of bees-
hungry and seeking nectar.

 

 

A New Old Forest, My Birthday, and the Power of Following my Heart

I just celebrated my 36th Birthday,36 trips around the sun. That is 13,140 days I have been alive and breathing outside of my Mother’s womb. Incredible. It seems like a lot when you count in days. Long enough that I have learned many things, unlearned a few, and have oh so many I am still learning. I feel young, I am young, but I also am no longer a youth. I am truly a woman and very much feeling the power of that truth.

I spent my Birthday in the woods, writing, eating amazing food, wandering in the rain for hours and making some unexpected new friends. Truly magical, and made more so by the circumstances of my coming to be on that land at that time. I will share this story of how I came to be on the land, on the weekend of my Birthday and share also some of the poetry that come from my time immersed in the power of nature.

More than a year ago I read the profound book Braiding Sweetgrass,  by Robin Wall Kimmerer. I was deeply touched by her work and to say that this book was life changing for me would be and understatement. It actually changed the way that I see nature and my place in relationship to all life. It is a book that weaves us as humans back into the whole of life in a way that helps me believe we may make it as a species after all. It was in the pages of her book that I heard first of Shot Pouch Creek.

She tells the story of  a man , Franz Dolp, who bought 40 acres of land in the coast range of Oregon and devoted his life to restoration of that land. He tended the trees, planted natives, kept them safe from the hungry mouths of deer. Nature was a direct route to the divine for him, and that resonates so deeply with me. I immediately felt an affinity with this man, now deceased, and longed to see the place that he so loved. A new old growth forest.

Being that it was located in Oregon and I am as well, I knew that I needed to go there. I consulted google to find out where exactly the land was and how I could gain access to explore. I learned that the land is not open to the public, and the only way I would be able to visit was with permission of OSU. I also saw that there had recently been an event called The Trillium Project, in which residencies are granted for creatives to be on the land and create projects in relationship with the land.  This is a program offered through The Spring Creek Project which is a part of Oregon State University’s Liberal Arts Program. I signed up for the newsletter so that I could keep up to date on happenings and events as the overall feel of the departments online representation felt like something I wanted to be part of.

Over the next many months I read the newsletters that came in my email, feeling more and more called to be part of this work. I also read Braiding Sweetgrass twice more. I was learning so much about being a human being, my relationship to other non animal beings and how we can all thrive together. It is mind blowing to start to feel that not only do I love plants, but they love me back too! Incredible and maybe even delusional, depending on who you ask. But this was my felt sense and I honor that above all else. My body does not lie to me.

Early spring I was excited to see in my inbox the call for applicants for this years Trillium Project! Here it was, my chance to go to Shot Pouch, my chance to be on the land and write, in the peace of the new old Forest. I submitted a proposal, and was elated to be chosen for a writing residency. I was elated to be able to go to the land I had long dreamed of, but also to be chosen as a writer for this project. I am not a scholar or an academic and it was a big thing for me to submit that proposal. I think I have a touch of imposter syndrome when I comes to calling myself a writer. I am a writer, yet I am also shy to say these words. Shy to claim my place as a writer of words and a maker of poems. Stepping into the unknown and away from my comfort zone always pays off for me, and this was no exception. I listened to my heart and was richly rewarded.

I left early on Friday May 12th, car loaded up with my camping gear, extra tarps (thank God!) my writing supplies, some watercolor pencils, and a cooler stocked with really delicious foods. It was after all, my birthday weekend. I drove south to Corvallis and then west into the Coast Range. My heart humming, ready for what was to come and excited to be going. It was one of those times when I felt almost disbelieving that it was really happening. How could it be that I had read about this place, wanted to go, and a year later found my way there? Not just to be there but to dive deep into my writing and contribute to a project that is so deeply inline with my beliefs and principle. Incredible. When you jump, sometimes you land right were you are supposed to be.

As I arrived the rain had stopped, I fumbled with the lock box for a moment and then was able to open the gate and drive through the intense green all around me, over a small bridge with a flowing creek beneath it and pull up outside the cabin. It was quiet surreal to be there, to really be there. Surreal and not what I had imagined at all somehow, but so beautiful all the same. I wandered around for a bit to get the lay of the land and let it all sink in. Then I set up my tent, at the edge of a meadow, right by the creek. It did not start to rain again until I had my rainfly up.

Rain came hard after that though, so much rain! I was cozy and dry in my tent home and had good gear to keep me dry outside as well. Quite content I walked in the rain, began to think about writing and ate some much needed lunch.
My time there was nurturing on so many levels. I was first of all there because of answering my hearts guidance, that itself was comforting. I met three amazing women who were there at the same time as me, and they welcomed me into there group with so much affection. The poems began to flow and came through me with astonishing ease and grace. My senses all feasted on the beauty around me. Truly such an amazing place in the world. Fertile ground for all life, mine was no exception. I found myself blooming right along with everyone else on the land. All the plant people, in all their forms blooming with me. A richness of life appearing for me in a profound way. I am humbled by my experience and will treasure the memory for a long time to come.

This trip will live on inside me, and will also live in the pages of my writing that came from my residency. I am compiling and editing now, in the hopes of creating a chapbook of my writings on ecology, spiritualty and humanity. Below I will share two of my poems from this trip as well as some photos. It is with a full heart that I write this. I have so much gratitude for life bringing  this dream of mine into being. SO much gratitude for Robin Wall Kimmerer, Franz Dolp, and the Spring Creek Project at OSU. Life is full of blessings, if our eyes are open to see them. Nature is not only there for us, nature IS us. All flourishing is mutual.

Shot Pouch

This land called me-
and I came.
Driving from city streets
down long highways
and curvy roads
and then – here
I have arrived.
Rain and apple blossoms
the creek softly humming outside my tent
A foragers feast of green
How often I’ve imagined this!
the meadow wide, trails ascending
Maple and Cedar greet me
I walk slowly, expanding my senses
smell and touch
the earth, water, air
It is all so alive here
Cedar fragrant against my fingers
Earth soft and damp beneath my feet
bird songs encircle me,
for now I have come-
home.

Grandmother

My grandmother said – “nature is my temple”
and so I worship there as well.
Cathedrals of green canopy above me,
prayer rugs of violet and clover,
the blessing of life giving holy water.
These are my sword and shield,
my crown and chalice,
my strength.

When Grandma was dying,
her bed was moved outdoors.
To the garden, under the edge
of the green cathedrals canopy.
The place where she could see
the face of God above her.
She lay still for a long time,
just looking up,
and then almost voicelessly whispered –
“Thank you.”

Green fills my spirit when I think of her.
my hands become hers,
brown with soil,
rich with life and food.
I draw her from the earth,
Root, stone and bone.
All she left undone is now on my lap,
I release the mantle of her sorrow,
we are both freed.
I have only one wish left –
That my last words be
‘Thank You”IMG_3600IMG_3605IMG_3575IMG_3570 (Edited)IMG_3598IMG_3591

 

 

 

 

Foragers Prayer

My poems often feel like prayer. Erupting from a space deep within myself, almost fully formed. It is a remarkable sensation. I do not fish,  yet somehow I know that this feeling is akin to a bite on the hook. The gentle tug and dance, and then voila! I meal is in your lap. My poems feel like food, soul food. They sustain me.

I’ve been spending as much time as I can out in this beautiful world. Looking for food, watching the birds and immersing myself in my landscape. I love this place I live. I love seeing the plants return, greeting them as old friends. I may in fact have been chatting with the Camas I saw last Friday night as bewildered walkers past by on the trail just behind me. Spring is incredible to me every year. Life is just so impossibly beautiful.

It has been hard for me to go to work. I want only to be free, in the wild, on the soil, tasting life. This poem, or prayer, came to me on my drive to work as I struggled with the desire to just keep driving. Past the confines of the city, past the constructs that hold this system together. And into what feels to me like the only true thing. Natures teaching.

Foragers Prayer

This is a day to slip my leash
lose my shoes
Move soft footed through the wooded hills
Green calls my name
the sun is dancing just for me
All  is beauty
so alive it makes my skin ache
I want to bathe in this
Roll in it, let the dew soak through my clothes
I want to eat it
Green in my mouth
Pungent, bitter,wild
It is all too much to bear
my heart beats a rhythm
A deep sweet pounding
this wonder of spring
let it pierce me, consume me
green growing from my heart
Tendrils twining round my ribs
Petals unfurling in the iris of my eyes
I am in love
And I am love
Nature grows
and grows me
blooms in my heart
and calls me home
to Her

Finding my Wild

I went out early Saturday morning. The sun was shining, such a rare treat in this exceptionally wet NW spring we are having. I have been wanting to fill my bottles from the spring, it’s been weeks since I made it out there. Sometimes the 60 miles feels like a long trek, life being busy as it is, I can choose to put it off for a while… and then I can’t anymore. Nothing is quite as sweet as fresh spring water! IMG_2370
I loaded up all my empties, about 28 glass gallon jugs and assorted growlers. I have the system down, cardboard dividers to prevent breakage, towels to dry bottles, gloves for fingers that become numb as the frigid water rushes out. I made sure I had my garden gloves with me too, and a knife, scissors and gathering bags. It is spring and the forage is on!
It takes a little over an hour to get out of Portland and to the spring. Enough time for my mind to start to calm down a bit. As soon as I leave Hillsborough I can feel the shift happen. More green, less pavement, more space, less hectic. My body begins to feel its breath again. Why do I live in the city?? I seem to ask this question with greater frequency of late.
I love going out early. Missing the rush of folks driving down to the coast for the day, even at 7 am I see a lot of surfboards. I arrive at the spring by 8 am, its still only 37 degrees out and I can see my breath come in puffs. I am glad I brought the gloves and that I have dry boots to put on for my drive home. Filling up can be cold wet work.
I always stop in wonder, to see this perfect clean water pouring in a constant stream, free and plentiful. How blessed we are to receive this gift. Doing nothing to be worthy of it, save simply being. A gift freely given, the love of our mother the earth. I am breathless, in awe of this. I pray first. Thanking the water and the earth, I drink deeply and bless myself. Anointing my head and heart with sacred water. A ritual older than religion. Holy water was not invented by Christians after all. The practice of blessing with water is ancient as we are and just as primal.
The water flows quickly into the bottles, so cold they instantly fog up. I wipe each down as I cap it an place it back in the car. It only takes a few minutes to fill them all. The water keeps on flowing, so strong and steady. As I make ready to leave I pause again in gratitude  and reverence. I bow and drink deeply one more time. So thankful for the gift of clean water. Driving off, I look back fondly…until next time my dear spring!!
Leaving the spring I drive a short way to a trail head. In the winter I make this trip just to forage water, but it is spring and greens are coming on strong and bountiful. Gloves, scissors and a gathering bag in my hand, I head into the woods. Following the path of  stream over fallen logs and under low hanging branches. My eyes begin to adjust to the variation in color and texture of the foliage. Moving from the “wall of green” we city dwellers see, to the keen eyes of a gatherer. I see the nettles, small and tender. The tell tale leaf shape, the fine looking fuzziness that will sting my skin and stay burning for hours if I am not careful. At first I see only a few and then its as if they all suddenly appear. Really they were there all along but my eyes adapt. Carefully I harvest, listening to where the forest guides me. Thanking each plant. I leave behind any that tell me no, please don’t choose me. I listen with my heart not my mind. So easily I could  disbelieve my hearing, so easily talk myself out of knowing. I am learning to hear with my hearts ears, learning to speak the plant language.
The gathering is so peaceful. I alone, in the forest. There is some sort of magic that over takes me. A heightening of my senses, acuity of smell, taste, hearing, seeing. I become more alive! I love to sing as I gather, blessing songs, lullabies, simple crooning’s to let the plants know I love them . I can feel the ancient power of this practice, how long have we gathered food in such a way? Seeking nourishment and giving thanks. It is so familiar to my soul.
To have survived so long, my ancestors must have been good at gathering, no small wonder it feels so natural to me. I have read the theory that our cultural addiction to shopping is a stand in for our deep need to gather. We seek out sale bargains instead of seeking the choice greens or ripest fruits. This makes sense to me, our powerful skill built over eons of seeking the best we can find, misplaced in the malls and outlet stores. A sad remnant of what we once knew, what we once held as our own.
I gather for my own nourishment but also for the nourishment of my people and my heritage. I Gather to remember how to be a human woman, providing from the land. I gather for the plants, yes, I eat them out of love. I want them to know we have not forgotten, we need them still and honor all they do for us. I gather to know who I am, the forest sings it back to me, again and again, reminding me of my place in the circle of living.
Driving home, my car filled with water and greens. My heart filled with moss and glory. I am at peace, no wait, I AM peace. Now the cleaning and storing begins. The real work. Now it is time to get back to city life, yet I am still hungry…ready to head to the woods again.

IMG_2444

 

The Doorway In

Pain is my teacher
She knocks on the doorway of my heart
claws at the tattered screens on my windows
Her wind whips across my threshold
rattling my very bones

Who can say what is right or wrong?
Is it wrong to hurt, to cry, to hurl myself against the door?
Is it right to open it wide, allow the pain to enter,
welcome her home
at least for now

Nothing stays here any more
Its all a passing parade
the pain that swirls around like wind and whips tears to my eyes
and the joy that is so huge it aches deep in my heart
Are they so different after all?

Feeling moves through me now
I open to this moment
let go to hold on
Hold on to let go
my bones rattle  like a caged beast, but my heart is oh so quite….
could this be the doorway?

Simple Gifts

“Tis a gift to be simple tis a gift to be free! Tis a gift to come round where you ought to be…and when you find yourself in the place just right you will be in the valley of love and delight. ”

These words danced from my mothers lips throughout my childhood. The sweet and simple tune, a lilting soft spun sound, like the rhythm of waves lapping at the shore. She sang as she cleaned the house or drove in the car, as we walked through the streets of Northwest Portland. Sweet hymns where her songs and they became mine too. Simple gifts was her mothers song as well,  so it is truly in my blood, my generational memory, my DNA as well as my heart.  A song which now holds the power to make my heart swell to twice its size simply on hearing the first notes of the melody. This song has in fact become one of my own simple gifts. A treasure I carry with me, a comfort, a portable  piece of home I can never misplace.

I mostly sing this song in praise and moments of joy, I snuggle up beside it. The familiar feel of its presence so companionable. I sing it for Grandma Marjorie, an audible prayer of remembrance and devotion. It says “I won’t forget where I came from, my home is in your heart and yours in mine.” It is one of the ways I carry the bones of my ancestors with me. I sing it for the girl child I once was. Small sticky hand pressed into my Mama’s larger, less sticky hand. I sing it because I remember the feel of her cheek on mine. How her hair would fall over my face, that long heavy braid engulfing me. A curtain of Mom. Could anything be as beautiful as her hair?

Simple Gifts is a teaching song. Teaching a lesson we desperately need to learn. As life grows faster and faster with each passing generation. Simplicity is losing its place at the table. Being replaced by gadgets and gizmos, social media and netfilx binges. Can this small  song serve as a vessel to reconnect me to what really matters? The simple, free and beautiful blessings that life is made up of? Can I hold the teaching close enough to feel it?

I walk out in the morning. Rain falls softly, of course it does, it is spring in Portland. I do not have much time before the hustle of the day begins. Morning is my time, I make it my own. My thoughts are dark this morning. Life feels hard, how will I make it? How can I ever fulfill my dreams when I work so much and seem to have so little? Seem to save so little, my world feels little. I am a pawn in a system I cannot change, the thoughts begin their downward spiral once again…then I see the bird. Small, so small. A bushtit I believe. A fluttering of brown in the low shrub I am passing. The roundness of the birds body, stark contrast to the long angles of the branches. There is no fear of failure in his bright eye. No self pity in his morning foraging. It looks like joy, the way he moves through the shrub, onto the ground for just a wee moment and then brightly returns to the shrub. Watching me, head cocked just so in greeting.

I remember….Simple gifts. This is the gift to be free. To walk in the morning with an old dog beside me. Now so deaf that he hardly pulls on the leash at all. The bushtits calls do not attract his attention, he just keeps on sauntering, smelling, peeing every few feet. This is the gift, pure and simple. The gift to be in my life. Fully present and aware. To see that sweet bird and let his fearless joy for life swell in my heart. The unspeakable tenderness for this shared experience of the sacredness of life. This connection of being alive on this planet together, us three. Bird, dog and woman. Intrinsically linked in this pursuit we call life.

 

7031_Bushtit_01-03-2010_0

When true simplicity is gained to bow and to bend we shan’t be ashamed…..

 

Peering out from behind the mask-Who is under there?

whos-under-there-Social-Download

I wear a mask. You can  not see it on my face, but it is there all the same.  Well concealed are the parts of me that I would rather you not see. The parts that hurt. The shame gremlins. The sorrow. I learned to wear this mask when I was so young. A self preservation method that worked, on some level to create a perception of safety. A wall around my heart. How can we live in world that feels so cruel when the heart is so soft and tender How can we grow up whole when culture teaches us to tear each other apart? We learn  to see the hurt, the otherness, the awkwardness  in others as a sign of their weakness and lack of validity. We learn this early. Our parents do not have to teach it. We have another mother who happily teaches us the ins and outs of judgement and the social power structure, mother culture.

Most of us have mastered the tool of masking before we are 8 years old. The skill grows quickly and insidiously  from that first age of self consciousness. In many cultures and faith traditions, a child until seven years of age is considered blameless, or  “sinless.” If we look at the etymology of the word sin, meaning “to miss the mark” then we see that children in the younger years are truly sinless. They have no mark to miss. No plotting or planning, and no masking. Pure expression and experience. Pure love and emotion. Of course the age at which we learn to begin hiding varies greatly. Some children probably learn much earlier, as circumstance requires of them.

I consider a mask to be a form of separation we create to hide from others, or even to hide from ourselves. This is so subtle that we may not even be aware that we are masking.  We hide so that we don’t feel wounded. Or we hide because  we have been wounded. The trouble with the hiding is that it also keeps us from expressing the truth of our being. The truth is the reason we are here on earth. To express our truth and the wisdom of our souls is why we accepted the assignment of life school in the first place!

Many of the things we learn in childhood serve us at the time we learn them. We use them and we need them then. As we grow older the behavior that was so useful when we were young may no longer serve us. Alas, we may also no longer know that it exists in us, until we begin some real inner excavation. Masking is one of those tools. I use the word tool here not to say it is necessarily a healthy life skill…but in  more rudimentary sense. A tool = an implement that get a job done.

The bitter truth is that we live in a culture that is built on people being willing to wear a mask. We admire humans who seem to have it all together. The friend we all have who  works endless hours, trains for a marathon and is always put together and smiling. Families that are intact and happy, with clean young children and perfect Christmas cards sent out each year on time. Women who hold high power jobs, parent perfectly and go to spin class faithfully. Celebrities  and television characters that make life look like a perfect picture of ease, fun and excitement. All of these projected images of success have one core thing in common, they make us feel like we  could be more. We could be better. We could be thinner and more dedicated to our work. We could make more money and travel more. We could have invested years ago and have it now be paying off. Our teeth could be whiter and we could have more friends and more fun! This feeling of longing, of wanting to be more…it makes us feel like we are less.
Here is the trick, here is mother culture speaking untruths in our ears. Here is the trap that keeps us tied up, wanting, waiting, wishing, comparing and masking. Because you know what? It fucking hurts to want what you don’t have. And it takes raw vulnerability to say    ” yeah I want a lot that I don’t have and it hurts me, I feel less than, I feel left out.” So we don’t say it. We throw on a custom made mask and we head out the door with fake ass smile plastered all over our poorly concealed sorrow.

The trap has been set. We grow up with images of life that are unreal and unattainable for most. Even the wealthy among us find out that our needs are not met through the accrual of things or power. We think we want a life that look a certain way, that meets these standards of success that we were taught would make us happy.  Everything in our culture sings this same song, produce more, buy more, you will be happy….or at least you will look happy. Most of us do not even know how to find out what happiness mean to us. We give up our sovereign right to know our own minds and we settle for the daily grind and an ever changing mask. Can we be brave enough to look outside? Can we peel the corner of that mask off and allow ourselves to be seen? In all our longing, confusion and fear? If this speaks not to your souls experience dear friend, do not feel compelled to read any further. But if you feel the call of longing to set down the mask and find out who you truly are, stay with me in this inquiry.

As I began this writing I spoke of childhood wounding and of sorrow. I would propose now that all of our searching outside ourselves, all our longing and all our masking are tied to this same root. The need to  love and be loved. In fact, our entire consumerist culture is built on this. The desire for love.  We humans are truly so simple. Food, water, warmth, shelter, love and sex are really all we need. Love topping the list. I remember reading of the Harlow study done using baby  Rhesus monkeys. A cruel horrible study indeed. In which the infants separated from their mothers were given the choice of a wire fake monkey mother with a bottle of milk attached that the young one could drink. Or a soft plush fake mother that had no bottle that the young one could feed from. Each time the baby chose the soft, more life like fake mother monkey. Coming only to the wire one to feed when very hungry and then scrambling back to the security of a soft body to cling to. Even though it was a doll and lifeless, the security of something soft to cling to, the only mother these poor creatures were allowed to know.

In this life where so many of us feel isolated and alone. We substitute the needs for love and connection with the pursuit of things, status, wealth and power. It is a cultural madness that leaves us always and forever wanting more. Of course we want more! Our basic needs are unmet so we try again and again to meet those needs, attempting to fill up a hunger that cannot be filled by anything you can consume. Not food or drink. Not drugs or sex. Not new clothes or cars. Not the latest iPhone or gadget. None of it will even touch the longing, only numb you for a moment so that you can’t feel the pain.

This drive for love is under and around everything we do. Beginning in childhood with our family and then as we grow older at some point the focus shifts and we desire to have this love from our friends and peers. Many families cannot give the love we seek, many homes are full of sorrow or fear. Peer groups are fickle and ever changing. We can grow up seeking that which we want more than anything else in any place we can find it. This shows up in addictions, in compulsive behaviors and unhealthy relationships. We desire so much to be loved that we try to find the parts of ourselves that we deem unlovable and hide them. The masking has begun.

To begin the process of taking of our masks we must become willing to be seen. First seen by ourselves. Willing to look into the dark corners of our lives and see what we have been hiding from. This takes great courage. Until we can see our own truth, we cannot start to really learn how to be honest . In learning to be honest, first with ourselves, we can the learn what it is that we really want.

My mask comes mostly in the form of “I am fine and everything is ok.” I wear it so well and so often that for many long years I did honestly not know that it was there. I wore it into the desperation of addiction which eventually brought me to the place of needing to look under the mask to see what hurt so badly that I was unconsciously trying to destroy myself. Hidden under my mask, is a deeply sad and confused little girl. With a huge tender heart who doesn’t understand why the world feels so cruel and why she is so alone. In seeing this clearly, as painful and hard to admit as it may be, I open the door to see what it is I am longing for. Love, security, and belonging. I know I am not alone.

I know I am not alone because this is what all humans want. A place to feel safe. To be loved and to love. To be accepted as we are and able to shine! How sad that we don’t learn to give this to each other. How sad that instead we feel we have to hide out behind a mask that presents us as something we deem to be more loveable than our true selves. When nothing could be farther from the truth! Our true selves are what is loveable about us!

I am ready to learn a new way. I am ready to put down the mask, to stop saying “I’m fine” when all I want to do is lie down on the ground and weep. I am ready to allow the pain and the beauty of life to break me in half. to crack my mask, once and for all. I will leave that mask on the floor and step over its broken pieces on my way to the freedom of living as me. Like it or no. I am who I am .

As the wise teacher, Krishnamurti once said  “it is no  measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.” It is no strange thing that so many of us are sick, in this profoundly sick society. How can we change the way we live as a people to start meeting the true needs of each individual and of the whole? How can we create a new world where we honor the life of ALL beings as holy? How can we make our children feel safe enough that they never have to learn to wear a mask? I don’t know if I have answers…but I do have some ideas, and I am sure you do to.

We can learn to listen to the call of our heart to meet the heart of another. We can slow down in our lives enough to be with the people we love and meet new people to love! We can hug more and make eye contact with strangers. We can commit to leaving every person we meet better than we found them. We can speak up against injustice and tyranny. We can bravely be willing to say what we need and what we feel. We can make our homes safe for our children to do the same. We can get to know our neighbors and offer our hands in service and love. We can grow our own food, cook and eat it in our homes with our families. We can learn to hear the parasitic voice of mother culture as she tries to tell us we are not enough and call her, then and there on her bullshit. We can be examples in our own lives of fearless, simple and heart centered living. We can be thankful for all that is given and all that is taken away. This is my prayer. This is my commitment.

I’ll leave you now with a simple poem by the great Hafiz. A call to being brave enough to let your heart be seen. Know that you, wherever you are and whoever you are, have a place here. You are whole. You are needed. You are welcomed. You are loved. Leave your mask at the door tonight. Let’s meet each other in the plain beauty of our own sweet faces.

5af8473a26cbae339ea58a277091edaa

 

 

 

Body of Wisdom

I wake before dawn most mornings. Drink a glass of  water and take care of the animals. Then it is on to the mat for me. My daily practice of connection with body, breath and spirit. This is one of my life’s greatest gifts, and greatest challenges. Funny how those tend to go hand in hand…

I practice yoga because it provides a reprieve from the absolute insanity and unmanageability of my human mind. It creates some space around my personal self and the thoughts that cause the majority of my suffering in this life. It brings me a sense of freedom in my life….but first it brings up all my shit.  And I do mean all of it. My self worth issues, blame, shame, anger, disappointment, self condemnation. The list goes on and on.

Truth be told,  many days I have to drag myself out of bed, whining and complaining the whole way to my damn mat. I do not leap out of bed with glory and land softly and gracefully on my mat, I have to work just to get my ass there. I have to show up and slog through all of this suffering to reach the core of gold that yoga brings to me. I push through, following my breath. Transitions happening smoothly or not so smoothly, sweat beginning to wet my temples and the small of my back. Present in the moment, the only moment that ever existed, this now.

My body moves on my mat. I do not always love being in my body, my thighs feel too large, my belly heavy. My mind is usually quite sure that there is something terribly wrong and inherently unlovable about me. what am I even doing here? Shouldn’t I lose some weight before I practice yoga? Am I even allowed to practice in a bigger body? Am I a fraud? I come hard up against  my own inner critic. My mean girl is wide awake and talking trash.

I don’t give up, I don’t give in, I don’t even believe that harsh voice. I know  I can only live in love or fear, never both at the same time. And as I keep moving, the magic happens. It all starts to fall away. I lose pieces of my shame and blame. I breath through the self doubt and loathing. I welcome myself here, just as I am . In this human body. This woman’s body. This curvy sweet body. I am woman, I am whole, I am so glad to be here sweating on this mat! Then the joy comes rolling in It may not be there as I rise each day but it is usually there 20 minutes into my practice. I am ALIVE!

I have learned that for me, yoga is not about the shapes I can make. It is not even about shapes. It is about intuition, self mastery ,self love, and prayer. Yes, prayer. I pray with my body on my mat. I  AM a prayer of thanks and praise for all that was so freely given to me. My life, my body, this earth, all the love that holds me up. I pray to what I know not. I don’t think I have to know. I don’t think anything has to be figured out for it to make sense. It makes sense because my body says it does. It makes sense because I feel it.

Yoga is coming home. Home to my own sweet self. The wisdom of my body never fails to speak. It is only I who sometimes fail to listen. When I show up for myself on the mat, I seem to show up better everywhere, for myself and everyone else. Yoga gives me the capacity to be bigger than I thought I was, and own it.

This is why I love teaching so much. We come in through the body but we end up working on the whole package. Body, mind and spirit. The practice brings us into deeper knowledge of self and no piece or part of us is left unchanged. In teaching I get to see others start to realize this. I see students come alive in a new way to themselves. They are coming home too, to their own sweet bodies. What a gift to witness and to share. And the gift just keeps on giving. Day after day, practice after practice. The doors open wider, the heart opens wider. Freedom pours her liquid gold inside….magic.

IMG_3414