Dropping Down and Feeling

For several years, I’ve been practicing a spiritual discipline that I think of as non-defensiveness. I am not even sure when I first began it. It sounds vaguely Buddhist or Gandhian, and I’m certain those are influences, but I can’t really define where or how I began it as a spiritual discipline. Lately, I’m becoming uncomfortable with the term because it feels so non, so negativizing. And as I try to expand my ability to stay in touch with my feelings, something about the word feels too cold and calculating, too harshly reasonable, too solidly logical.

I think of rage and fury and defensiveness as the vanguard emotions, the frontier responses. They’re out there on the front lines, fighting it out. When I feel attacked, I practice dropping down below the fray, finding the steady place beneath the wild turmoil of the fighting plain (plane). And I have been getting better at that, good at taking that breath, realizing that my instinct is to dash in with my own verbal bombs, and instead dropping down. That dropping down, sinking to center, settling in–that’s the non-defensive posture that I have been learning to take.

I think, however, that there’s a danger of being non-defensively defensive, of sinking into that posture while wearing a mask of cold, hard, untouchable reason. It feels safe to step out of the fray and begin to take apart the arguments with logic. This is the King’s response–to break it down with the force of mind, the sword of reason. It’s not a bad stance, but it needs to be paired with the Queen’s shrewd eye for the inner world, her awareness of the secrets hidden in the chalice, the grail. If I don’t acknowledge my emotions while I drop down, I fail to find the true spiritual depth I’m seeking by not getting sucked into the skirmish.

It’s only by fully acknowledging the feelings that the skirmish brings up within me that I can truly grow from a non-defensive posture. Otherwise, I am just a Tin Man. While I breathe and drop down, I want to tell myself the story of my feelings: I feel hurt; I feel attacked and stalked; this wounds me.

Last spring, in Dr. Amanda Kemp’s course/workshop on Holding Space for Transformation, her emphasis on recognizing and acknowledging your feelings as you interrupt your defensive responses in the heat of the moment really spoke to me. When I mask my inner work with reason, I leave the feelings untended, and the wounds fester underneath my chain mail and my suit of armor.

And, to continue the martial metaphor, it isn’t that I never get into the battle. In these times, I believe that it is of utmost importance that people of conscience stand as a unified and powerful force against the powers that threaten to destroy the earth and the children, that silence the voices of the vulnerable, that exclude and marginalize difference and otherness. But I will not be effective in the big things if I spend my energy skirmishing, if I let myself get distracted from the big story by the little attacks in my individual story. And this big story needs us to be fully-realized humans who are capable workers in the realms of both reason and emotion. So the challenge, in the small skirmishes, is to drop down, but also to feel.

(I acknowledge that the archetypes of King and Queen are deeply gendered. I also find that they’re part of the language of the deep group conscious of my particular cultural background. Certainly, as a woman, I am more than the box that the Queen sits in, and I am more also than the King-Queen binary. I think that the fluid and ungendered realm of the Fool is where we will all be more free, but that’s for another day’s ruminations.)


Gratitude List:
1. Teachers who help me on the path toward wholeness. Thank you.
2. Time off, time out, time between time.
3. Three cats. I think a three-cat house is just about perfect for me.
4. How sleep tosses up bones for the dog of the brain to chew on.
5. That scarlet cardinal shining out in the gray of the morning.

May we walk in Beauty. With intention.

A Goal is a Dream With a Deadline

Gratitude List:
1. There’s something to be said for being welcomed into the day by three small furpeople as though one is a long-lost traveler returning home at last.
2. Owls calling through the gloam.
3. I like that word, “gloam,” and “gloaming.” And “crepuscular,” though it sounds a little like a disease. “Dusk” and “dawn,” the grey times of day. The words are pleasant, and suggest the magic present in the liminal moments of the day cycle.
4. The clean white page. Possibility.
5. Onion bagels.

May we walk in Beauty!


Here’s a poem I started working on yesterday. It might still want some revision:

Your Wild Cry
by Elizabeth Weaver-Kreider

When the gun of the hunter is trained on your arrow,
on the vee in the sky where you strain your wings
beneath the belly of cloud, call aloud
to your sisters to fly with the wind,
to fly true. Tip your wings through the gap
between beams of autumn sunlight,
shift your shape, shift your seeming.
Turn your goose to crow, to wren. Turn into jay,
into warbler. Dive down, fly low, change your sky-riven cry
to caw, to buzz, to a twittering in the brushy fields.

Don’t let your voice be silenced. Change it.
Don’t let your call be deadened. Let it echo
through the valleys and hillsides. Take a new voice,
more insistent, more urgent, and wilder.

Dreamtime 5: Day of Solitude

Today I will be alone. My parents are taking the children for the day, and Jon is going to work, and I get to be just me by myself. There’s tidying to do, and grading, possible baking projects, and all sorts of other things to distract me, but today, I am mostly going to write. I am going to plan to get five or six solid hours of writing done. Maybe a nap. Maybe some reading, some quiet contemplating, some yoga.

Last night’s dreams included the one about the treehouse. This is a recurring setting in my dreams. You climb up to the tree house, and then there are two possibilities for how to get into the treehouse: You can squeeze through a claustrophobic little window (I only tried that option once or twice) or you can balance across the very slippery top. Last night, I scooted across the top backwards on my backside, and it was easy. Usually, crossing through or over the treehouse is the only way to get to one or two of the rooms in the hotel–and I am usually assigned to one of those rooms when I have this particular dream.

In last night’s dreams, I meet a group of friends on the porch of the hotel. One friend, whom I haven’t seen for a long time, has lost a dire amount of weight. He says that some signal coming from his television has turned the fillings in his teeth toxic. Shortly after telling me his story, he gets a surprised look on his face and comes across to sit next to me. Something emanating from me has reversed the process, he says. And he IS looking healthier suddenly.

In the last couple of days, I have done a lot of processing about the way I have become weighed down in the past month or so, wondering whether it’s a mild depression, a seasonal affective disorder, a little of both. . . I’ve been thinking about my style of working, how I approach the Impossible Tasks (or avoid them, rather). I think the ease with which I crossed the bridge-roof of the treehouse is a metaphor for the shift I am making, not just pushing right into the first tight hole and getting stuck, but looking up and outward at other possibilities, putting aside worry, and just crossing to where I need to go.


Gratitude List:
1. Solitude
2. Quiet
3. Sunshine
4. Cats
5. Words on a page

May we walk in Beauty!


Words for the Second Day of Kwanzaa:
Today’s word is Kujichagulia. Self determination.
(Even if you don’t know Swahili, it’s a fun word to roll around in your mouth. Try it. Emphasize the second and second to last syllables.)


“For one human being to love another; that is perhaps the most difficult of all our tasks, the ultimate, the last test and proof, the work for which all other work is but preparation. I hold this to be the highest task for a bond between two people: that each protects the solitude of the other. This is the miracle that happens every time to those who really love: the more they give, the more they possess.” ―Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet


John O’Donohue:

In out of the way places of the heart
Where your thoughts never think to wander
This beginning has been quietly forming
Waiting until you were ready to emerge.

For a long time it has watched your desire
Feeling the emptiness grow inside you
Noticing how you willed yourself on
Still unable to leave what you had outgrown.

It watched you play with the seduction of safety
And the grey promises that sameness whispered
Heard the waves of turmoil rise and relent
Wondered would you always live like this.

Then the delight, when your courage kindled,
And out you stepped onto new ground,
Your eyes young again with energy and dream
A path of plenitude opening before you.

Though your destination is not clear
You can trust the promise of this opening;
Unfurl yourself into the grace of beginning
That is one with your life’s desire.

Awaken your spirit to adventure
Hold nothing back, learn to find ease in risk
Soon you will be home in a new rhythm
For your soul senses the world that awaits you.


“Stay afraid, but do it anyway. What’s important is the action. You don’t have to wait to be confident. Just do it and eventually the confidence will follow.” ―Carrie Fisher


“Be somebody that makes everybody feel like a somebody.” —Kid President

Glorious Compensation

Gratitude List:
1. The glorious compensation for these darkly claustrophobic mornings is that we get to see the sunrise clouds on the way to school. I love sunrise clouds and sunrise skies.
2. Challenges. Our chapel speakers this week have been issuing challenges: See the sacred goodness in every person, turn off social media for two days, look for a situation in the world where dehumanization is happening and figure out how you can change that.
3. Fuzzy warm cats
4. A new good fantasy book to read: Tomi Adeyemi’s Children of Blood and Bone
5. Raquel Vasquez Giilibrand’s chapbook Tales from the House of Vasquez. I read it yesterday, and found myself walking around chanting: madre, madrina, madrone. . . Mythic, legendary, ancestral: I love her poetry. It was like living in a dream while awake.

May we walk in Beauty!


John Philip Newell writes, “Knowing and naming brokenness is essential in the journey toward wholeness. To look life straight in the eye, to see its pain and to see its beauty—this is an essential part of glimpsing the way forward.”
*****
“Change is the essence of life; be willing to surrender what you are for what you could become.”
—Reinhold Niebuhr
*****
“The hardest spiritual work in the world is to love the neighbor as the self—to encounter another human being not as someone you can use, change, fix, help, save, enroll, convince or control, but simply as someone who can spring you from the prison of yourself, if you will allow it.” —Barbara Brown Taylor
*****
“As long as I live,
I’ll hear waterfalls and birds and winds sing.
I’ll interpret the rocks, learn the language of flood,
storm, and the avalanche.
I’ll acquaint myself with the glaciers and wild gardens,
and get as near the heart of the world as I can.”
—John Muir
*****
“The world is our Mother. If we destroy her, where will we live?”
—Kogi Mama
*****
“It helps to think of our swamps of despair as the necessary muddle before clarity. Actually, swamps are incredibly fertile places full of life. In mythology the heroine must cross such a place in her darkest hour, where she comes to face her unlived life – meeting each of the divine allies disguised as regret, doubt, and insufficiency which swell up from the mud of her despondency. If she is willing to consummate the full encounter, they will reveal themselves in service to the vitality of her true being.” —Toko-pa Turner

The Single Word in the Silence

Here’s something that happened in the Writers’ Retreat yesterday. Mostly unpolished, it might end up being only the final stanza:

If you take a vow of revenge, revenge will find you,
for vengeance works by exponential law,
building upon itself inexorably
until you no longer understand
the meanings of the words
balance, justice, restoration.

If you take a vow of poverty,
you may receive a mirror of what you offer
and what appears to be a meager bowl
and a wretched hovel will hold beauty
beyond the richest treasure
within your gilded spirit.

If you take a vow of silence,
you will find the words in every cloud and star.
For silence works by laws of paradox.
The bell chimes clearest in the quiet
and the space of no-words offers space
for the single word―
the sound borne on each passing breeze
too gently to hear when the heart speak in sermons
but always at hand when the soul settles inward―
Beloved.


Gratitude List:
1. The strong message, repeated by wise people two days in a row: Take care of yourself.  I’m listening.
2. Painting (I’ve been telling myself that I have been granted an Artist’s Residency for the next month. It’s the Goldfinch Farm Artist’s Residency, and I have granted the prestigious honor to myownself. The requirement is to make ten paintings between now and the beginning of school.)
3. Shifting the daily practice.
4. Resolve
5. Another strong message, two days in a row, by the same wise people: Prayer/Magic/Energy is also part of saving the world. The story of the Tibetan monks is that when they pick up the hoe for garden work or the knife for cutting vegetables for soup, they do it with the prayer that this act will be part of what brings all Beings awake, what makes all suffering to cease.

Namaste!


“We become neighbours when we are willing to cross the road for one another. There is so much separation and segregation: between black people and white people, between gay people and straight people, between young people and old people, between sick people and healthy people, between prisoners and free people, between Jews and Gentiles, Muslims and Christians, Protestants and Catholics, Greek Catholics and Latin Catholics.

 

“There is a lot of road crossing to do. We are all very busy in our own circles. We have our own people to go to and our own affairs to take care of. But if we could cross the street once in a while and pay attention to what is happening on the other side, we might become neighbors.”
—Henri Nouwen
***
“Do anything, but let it produce joy.” ―Walt Whitman
***
“Stories make us more alive, more human, more courageous, more loving.” ―Madeleine L’Engle
***
“I believe that if I can sit out there long enough those crows, the trees and the wind can teach me something about how to be a better human being. I don’t call that romanticism, I call that Indigenous Realism.” ―Dr. Daniel Wildcat
***
“The most valuable possession you can own is an open heart. The most powerful weapon you can be is an instrument of peace.” ―Carlos Santana
***
“Take for joy from the palms of my hands
fragments of honey and sunlight,
as the bees of Persephone commanded us.”
―Osip Mandelstam
***
“All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware.”
―Martin Buber, “The Legend of the Baal-Shem”
***
“It’s no wonder we don’t defend the land where we live. We don’t live here. We live in television programs and movies and books and with celebrities and in heaven and by rules and laws and abstractions created by people far away and we live anywhere and everywhere except in our particular bodies on this particular land at this particular moment in these particular circumstances.” ―Derrick Jensen

Voices of Young People

Gratitude List:
1. The strong, articulate voices of young people
2. Morning mists–such a sense of mystery
3. Driving to school in daylight
4. That colony of feral cats at the farm we pass every day. I am starting to pick out several individuals now. I love the person who keeps them well fed.
5. Lonesome Joe (or Handsome Joe) the duck, who paddles in his little pool, and stretches his neck to see up the bank when we pass by.

May we walk in Beauty!

Water Under the Bridge

Sigh. I don’t have the time to do a sketch every day. I am going to try to maintain the practice, at least periodically, though perhaps I won’t always post them here, and just see where it takes me.

I love that photo of the water under the bridge. I didn’t notice until I pulled it up a few minutes ago that the reflections in the water look like script.


Gratitude List:
1. Deliberation.
2. Fajitas for supper.
3. The writing on the water.
4. The sweet-faced, open-hearted batch of students this semester.
5. The little songs of cats.

May we walk in Beauty!

Holding Presence

Gratitude List:
1. Did you see that sunrise this morning? The magenta clouds shot through with a golden ray?
2. An extra nap for the bad cold. Complete with cats.
3. The humidifier–may it last the whole winter.
4. Warm blankets
5. All the colors that we painted these rooms. Colors feed me through winter.

May we walk in Beauty!


Quotations for Today:
“You loose your grip
and then you slip
into the Masterpiece…”
—Leonard Cohen
***
“Your life and my life flow into each other as wave flows into wave, and unless there is peace and joy and freedom for you, there can be no real peace or joy or freedom for me. To see reality-not as we expect it to be but as it is-is to see that unless we live for each other and in and through each other, we do not really live very satisfactorily; that there can really be life only where there really is, in just this sense, love.” ―Frederick Buechner
***
Toko-pa, quoting and reflecting on Marion Woodman:
“Marion Woodman—Jungian, author, teacher, crone—taught me that what is most missing from our culture is the Mature Feminine. Mature Feminine, she says, is the ability to ‘hold presence.’ It is not divided attention, like the sort you feel when someone is psychically composing their grocery instead of listening to you. “I don’t have time for that,” she says. Holding Presence “is to love the other exactly as they are, not as you want them to be.” It is love without judging, without getting the other tangled up in your own unconscious, unlived life. “Holding presence is to create room so the other can grow into their destiny. They can feel that.””
***
This one is not just for mothers. I know people, men and women, single and married, parent and nonparent, who see all children as their own. I know that parenting has heightened this for me personally:

“Becoming a mother makes you the mother of all children. From now on each wounded, abandoned, frightened child is yours. You live in the suffering mothers of every race and creed and weep with them. You long to comfort all who are desolate.” —Charlotte Gray