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.

Guarding Our Deepest Treasure


Today’s Prompt is to write a “good for nothing” poem:

Good for Nothing
by Beth Weaver-Kreider

This poem has not practiced its lines,
it hasn’t memorized the tricky bits,
it doesn’t know the plot shifts.

This poem might be good for something,
but more likely it’s a time-waster.
More likely, it’s just addlepated.

This poem knows it isn’t going anywhere.
It knows it’s got a short shelf life,
so it will just take this country minute

to saunter into the middle of the room
and bow, and tell the only story it knows:
about the poem that has not practiced its lines.


“When Tolkien needed someone to place in the face of the great rising evil in his story, he chose the small ones. You and I are the small ones, friends. Let’s join hands and stand together. Let’s work together, speak together, sing and whisper and shout together.” —EWK
***
“We have been to the moon, we have charted the depths of the ocean and the heart of the atom, but we have a fear of looking inward to ourselves because we sense that is where all the contradictions flow together.” —Terence McKenna
***
“I am not free while any woman is unfree, even when her shackles are very different from my own.” —Audre Lorde
***
“Don’t operate out of fear, operate out of hope. Because with hope, everything is possible.” —Winona LaDuke
***
Our deepest fears are like dragons
guarding our deepest treasure.
—Rainer Maria Rilke
***
Praise Song
by Barbara Crooker

Praise the light of late November,
the thin sunlight that goes deep in the bones.
Praise the crows chattering in the oak trees;
though they are clothed in night, they do not
despair. Praise what little there’s left:
the small boats of milkweed pods, husks, hulls,
shells, the architecture of trees. Praise the meadow
of dried weeds: yarrow, goldenrod, chicory,
the remains of summer. Praise the blue sky
that hasn’t cracked yet. Praise the sun slipping down
behind the beechnuts, praise the quilt of leaves
that covers the grass: Scarlet Oak, Sweet Gum,
Sugar Maple. Though darkness gathers, praise our crazy
fallen world; it’s all we have, and it’s never enough.
***
“Look at everything
as though you were seeing it
either for the first or last time.
Then your time on earth will be filled with glory.”
—Betty Smith


Gratitude List:
1. Synchronicity
2. Magic
3. The bravado of the Fool
4. The wildness of crows
5. Reminders to be true to myself

May we walk in Beauty!

Everything is Sacred

The Goblin Rumpus began at exactly 2:48 AM with a sweet falsetto yawp from Little Thor. I went out into the hall to see what was happening, and about a dozen cats were zooming through the halls, bouncing off the walls, skittering down the stairs. My daytime brain knows that there are only two cats in the house. My nighttime brain knows that there were at least a dozen cats performing the Goblin Rumpus–a couple of them were indigo gray with shining golden eyes, and the others were orange blurs.


Today I am turning fifty. Growing up. I’ve completed a half-century here.

If you follow the numerological significances of things, five is the number of the hierophant or teacher, and zero is the number of the fool.  Doing a little wizardry with the numbers of my birthday and birth year, my birth number reduces to 5, so it appears that I am coming into my own this year, and carrying the madcap, free-spirited nature of the fool with me. This is the year to focus on my work as teacher and fool. I’ll take it!


I feel like this is my birthday poem:
“The Seven of Pentacles”
by Marge Piercy

Under a sky the color of pea soup
she is looking at her work growing away there
actively, thickly like grapevines or pole beans
as things grow in the real world, slowly enough.
If you tend them properly, if you mulch, if you water,
if you provide birds that eat insects a home and winter food,
if the sun shines and you pick off caterpillars,
if the praying mantis comes and the lady bugs and the bees,
then the plants flourish, but at their own internal clock.

Connections are made slowly, sometimes they grow underground.
You cannot tell always by looking what is happening.
More than half a tree is spread out in the soil under your feet.
Penetrate quietly as the earthworm that blows no trumpet.
Fight persistently as the creeper that brings down the tree.
Spread like the squash plant that overruns the garden.
Gnaw in the dark and use the sun to make sugar.

Weave real connections, create real nodes, build real houses.
Live a life you can endure: make love that is loving.
Keep tangling and interweaving and taking more in,
a thicket and bramble wilderness to the outside but to us
interconnected with rabbit runs and burrows and lairs.

Live as if you liked yourself, and it may happen:
reach out, keep reaching out, keep bringing in.
This is how we are going to live for a long time: not always,
for every gardener knows that after the digging, after the planting,
after the long season of tending and growth, the harvest comes.
*
“In these cataclysmic times, living in what Michael Meade calls the ‘slow apocalypse,’ despair can be dangerously seductive. Our lives may feel inadequate to the terrible momentum of our times, but it is in those moments that we must remember the difference between despair and grief.
While despair traps us in the bog of despondency, grief carries us into life. Grief calls us into a deeper engagement with those things that we love. And even as we are losing them, grief wants to exalt their beauty.

“If we let grief move us into expression, it will sing the blood into our songs, colour the vividness into our paintings, and slip the poetry between our words.

“Rumi says, “All medicine wants is pain to cure.” And so we must cry out in our weakness, our ineptitude, our beautiful inadequacy and make of it an invitation that medicine might reach through and towards us.” Toko-pa Turner
*
“I have always been spiritually promiscuous, lying down with any God who will have me. When I drop down into these ancient texts, I feel the breath of the God of Love on my face. It makes me crazy. In the very best way.” —Mirabai Starr
*
“By virtue of the Creation and, still more, of the Incarnation, nothing here below is profane for those who know how to see. On the contrary, everything is sacred.” —Teilhard de Chardin
*
“A library is infinity under a roof.”  —Gail Carson Levine


Gratitude List:
1. Fifty mostly satisfying years on this Earth.
2. Okay, even if I am working on less sleep today, the delightful thrill of a springy little cat walking begging for attention in the night–walking all over me, bringing me his new favorite toy, purring and snuggling.
3. Goldfinches: how they fly, how they twitter. Their purpose is joy.
4. Everything is Sacred, indeed. Grateful for the words of Teilhard de Chardin
5. The promise of a massage sometime in the next few months when I really need it. My guys gave me a gift certificate for a friend who is starting up her own business. Win-win! I love it!

May we walk in Beauty!

The End and the Beginning


Several years ago–we’ve been going through old photo files this weekend.

Here is my poem from the first of April:

Begin your road at the ending,
as the last pathway rounds the bend.
Dance to the lip of the chasm–
place your foot upon a bridge of rainbow.
Keep your eyes upon the distant wood,
your ears tuned to the song of undine and dryad.

Remember, your road is a circle,
and everywhere you are is the start of your journey.
Your road is of water, of vision, of air,
of heartbeat, illusion, and wisdom
a pathway of fire and smoke.

Feel how the sky under your feet holds you up,
how the earth at your back is made only of dreams,
how the only way forward is light and color,
how a distant harping draws you onward.

Here is today’s poem, on The World:

End your road at the beginning,
as the last pathway rounds the bend.
You stand on the lip of a whole new chasm–
dance out onto the bridge of gossamer web,
the wind in your hair, the sun warm on your face,
your ears attentive to whisper and blessing.

Are you back where you started? Do you
set your Fool’s feet on a whole new pathway?
What is your road made of? Of sunlight?
Of shadow? Of birdsong and cobweb?
Of wisdom and heartbeat, of fire and smoke?

Feel how the mystery you have encountered,
the secrets you’ve unearthed,
the knowledge you’ve longed for,
balance the bridge as it sways with your passing,
how a distant harping draws you onward.

No New Prompt for Tomorrow:
And so National Poetry Month comes to an end. I am weary, like my Fool, ready for the open road of the next cycle of the story, ready to relinquish the added work of the month, but I am sad, too, sorry to see the end of this cycle that has brought me new insight, new revelations. I am grateful, so grateful for the feedback I’ve received this month, a chance to hone and develop my craft more intentionally.

Tomorrow is Beltane, the ancient holiday marking the mid-point of spring, the wanton flowering season, the wild celebration of abandon and extravagant freedom. What will you give yourself to in the coming season? What direction will your passions lead you? What freedom can you claim for yourself in the days ahead? Throw off the cloaks and veils that hide you. Remove your corsets and girdles. Run barefoot in the fields. Roll in the grass. swing from the trees.

Tomorrow marks six weeks since I put out my little bundle into the weather and the elements. In the afternoon, I will bring it in and see how the elements have acted upon it, assess the wish I made six weeks ago, and begin to see what I can make from the pieces that I gathered.

Gratitude List:
1. Is there anything more visually and aurally satisfying than a bird with feathers the color of sunlight asking its sweet questions in a tiny tree with baby green leaves? Perhaps, when it flies on its rollercoaster of air to a redbud tree, twittering all the way. (I realize that twitter has become a vacuous word in recent years, but I refuse to relinquish it.)
2. Young voices.
3. Cleaning clutter. I could let myself be a little grumpy about how excited the kids suddenly are about cleaning up the floors, when every time I have mentioned it for months, they have hollered at me that I am trying to control their lives. Oh, but the satisfaction of a vacuumed floor!
4. Beginnings and Endings and Circles
5. Makloubeh for supper. And samosas. And cucumbers. Thanks, Mom!

May we walk in Beauty!

In the Desert


Mary at the tomb.

The way out of the desert, said the old woman,
can only be found by entering the desert.

No one can show you the way,
and if you have not first found the way
through the windy dunes of your own heart,
you will never find the secret pathways
through the shimmering sands.

The desert, she said, gives life,
but only if you know how to look for it.

If it is death which you seek,
the desert will help you to find it.
But life is hidden everywhere
if you have but the will to seek it.

TOMORROW’S PROMPT: Tomorrow the Fool encounters the Wheel of Fortune. Life changes. What was up will go down, and those who were crushed by the heavy weight of the wheel will rise to the top. Kings are brought low and paupers rise to greatness. Fortunes change. Hopes and promises are dashed and all is lost, and then suddenly despair is swept away and joy and delight return once more. Sounds a little like Easter morning?

Gratitude List:
1. Making connections
2. How we give our stories meaning. How our stories make us.
3. Creme Brulee for dessert
4. Intuition
5. Rituals of the Wheel of the Year. Living the stories again and again.

May we walk in Beauty!

The Way of the Fool

Ah, yes. Here on the first day of April, I spent the day with eight-year-olds, and am soon off to another birthday celebration with Grandma. Ah, the life of the Fool–planning it ALL in there, even if it seems impossible.

Begin your road at the ending,
as the last pathway rounds the bend.
Dance to the lip of the chasm–
place your foot upon a bridge of rainbow.
Keep your eyes upon the distant wood,
your ears tuned to the song of undine and dryad.

Remember, your road is a circle,
and everywhere you are is the start of your journey.
Your road is of water, of vision, of air,
of heartbeat, illusion, and wisdom
a pathway of fire and smoke.

Feel how the sky under your feet holds you up,
how the earth at your back is made only of dreams,
how the only way forward is light and color,
how a distant harping draws you onward.

Tomorrow’s Prompt: Let’s just keep going down the Fool’s Road, shall we? After she embarks on her Rainbow Road, the Fool enters the Enchanted Wood, where she meets a complex cast of characters, meets a variety of challenges, and develops her skills and knowledge. Today, let’s take her Into The Woods. Take a fairy tale turn or a psychological turn. Be whimsical or wise–or both: that’s the Fool for you.  My April 2 poem goes Into The Woods.

Gratitude List:
1. The world of the Fool. Stepping off the edge of the chasm into the void. Trusting the bridge.
2. The energy of eight-year-olds. Fun, playful, eager.
3. Moss and ferns in the woods. Green, green moss.
4. The play of sun through clouds.
5. Pink trees

May we walk in Beauty!

Fools Poem

 

Parable of the Rich Fool, Rembrandt (This one is new to me.)

Tomorrow is April Fools Day, which means it is also the first day of National Poetry Month. It’s a Fool’s Journey, the decision to write a poem every day for a month, even when things are feeling tight and busy. Still, it would be foolish to give up the writing and the striving to write just because my life is busy. So here’s to the new month. I am diving in! I will be creating my own prompts this month. Feel free to join me! You can post your poems in the comments section, if you like, or email me your endeavors at 4goldfinches@gmail.com, if you want to share.

  
Polikushka’s Despair, from Tolstoy’s “Ivan the Fool,” and “King Lear and the Fool in the Storm” by William Dyce

For an April First Poem, write about the Fool. Consider your own fool’s journey, your own madcap dance on the edge of the cliffs, throwing caution to the winds. I once wrote an acrostic poem about the fool, using the words DANCING ON THE CLIFF’S EDGE for the first letter of each line. Fool that I am, I seem to have misplaced it, let it flutter off into the past.

  
The Fool on the Hill in the Bisti Badlands, by John Fowler; The Fool from the Rider Waite Tarot Deck, by  Pamela Colman Smith–the image of the Fool archetype. 

Gratitude List:
1. Things come together. Things get done. Sleep gets slept.
2. This man who is decorating a birthday cake for a boy’s birthday party tomorrow.
3. Rain. Then it stops. (Hoping for a clear day tomorrow–I don’t want a houseful of small boys.)
4. Shining eyes
5. Pablo Neruda

May we walk in Beauty!

Epiphany

My holiday season is Twelvenight, the time that stretches from Christmas to Epiphany, a quiet and contemplative time, time out of time, intended for the gleaning of images and words that might help me focus the unfolding of my story in the coming year.  I extend the season a little, beginning at Solstice.  Through the long nights and the waiting for light to begin to return, I watch and listen for images and words that compel me in some particular way.

Two years ago, I found myself suddenly obsessing over the word palimpsest, a strange and new word that carried the sense of layers and shadings of meaning, of old stories suddenly appearing in the middle of new stories to inform the current living.

Last year, bridge was my word–an image that appeared repeatedly to me in conversations and dreams, and a concept that became incredibly powerful to me in the meaning-making of my own life when I found myself suddenly making a major life transition, from farm and child care back to teaching.

My grab bag of images and ideas this year is full and cluttered.  Fred the cat has been in one of his agitated cycles during the past couple of weeks, frequently waking us up in the middle of the night, which leaves my head whirling with fog-skuthers of dream-images, compelling pictures that slip into my thinking space throughout the day.  I woke up one morning thinking about a student at our school, wondering if she would be in my class next semester, with an almost wild sense of protectiveness for her.  Vulture, lynx, and leopard have appeared in my dreams.  Plantain and pigweed.  Storytellers, fools, and shamans (somehow associated with the image of those magical folk from the east who decided to follow the sign of a star).  There was even a nightmare about watching a plane crash that woke me up with a pounding heart and tight breathing.  The dreams have been full and fantastical.

Out of it all, I have settled on two words that have floated to the surface of the pond of my unconscious: secrets and impeccability. I don’t really like the word secrets (I have seen unhealthy secrets destroy relationships too often), and I keep trying to change it to mysteries, but something in me thinks that the distinction may be important to explore during the coming season, particularly in the context of the word impeccability.  Perhaps it’s a step in gaining wisdom and maturity, that ability to keep one’s own council and trusting to the strength of one’s own character.  I know I have much to learn on both fronts.