Breathing Up to Dragons

Spot the dragon.

Five or six years ago, a friend read my animal cards for me, to determine what animal energies exist at my personal cardinal points: horses at east, lizard at south, panther at west, and crow at north. Frog at left, ant at right, dragonfly below, butterfly above, and antelope within. I loved this reading, and it helped me immensely in my breathing meditations, in helping me to orient myself within a safe sphere.

A few weeks went by, and I felt sad because there was no owl in the reading. There was no bat. There was no honey bee. And I began to think about the cross-quarter points on the circle. Who stands at my southeast? My northwest? So I meditated a while, and filled those in.

Then one day as I was breathing and meditating, I decided that because the animal meditations had so enlivened my awareness of my personal circle and orientation, they might help enliven my chakra breathing and meditating, so I contemplated and meditated, and found animals for each of those energetic points as well.

I work with more than seven chakras, and until all was said and done, I had thirty energy points, on my body and in my surrounding sphere, that I began to check in with. I found that, in order to remember them and not have to check a paper while I was breathing and meditating, I began going through them in my head as I was falling asleep. This helped me memorize them, and it helped me get back to sleep if I woke up in the night.

At the time, I was working in a shop that sells precious stones, and I found that as I imagined breathing into the great tortoise who stands at my earth star chakra, I was picturing serpentine, that stone that appears to hold within itself a map of vast landscapes. So I added a stone at each point. A while later I added plants. I stopped there. With occasional doubling up (both elephant and whale exist at my lower heart chakra), that’s over elements to remember and work with.

All of this is simply to explain why seeing a dragon in the clouds on my walk yesterday was particularly satisfying. At the very top of the chakras that I breathe open in my meditations, in the soul star chakra, are dragons. So when I saw the dragon, I recognized part of my inner self in the outer landscape, and I breathed all the way up to dragons, without even meditating.

And in some ways, that’s the point of the whole thing. Encountering animals and birds and plants and stones out there in the world outside myself brings me to a grounded awareness of my inner spaces. Now the morning birdsong, while just as beautiful as ever, is also a subtle reminder to keep my voice strong because of the songbirds at my throat chakra. A deer crossing the field at dusk reminds me to consider my higher heart chakra, to open myself further to deep self-compassion and unconditional love. The inner and outer landscapes mirror and reveal each other. Even up to dragons.


Gratitude List:
1. Dragons in the clouds
2. Meditative practices
3. I have to say it: School is almost over for the year. I need this kind of school to be over now please. I will be able to prepare myself for online learning in the fall, if that is what we must do, but for now, I am really grateful that this school year is almost over. For me. For my students. For my family.
4. Small creative projects that I can fit into the day’s rhythms. I made five little one-sheet/one-cut booklets yesterday. I want to print out several of my little Songs of the Beloved to glue into them as I decorate them.
5. Yeast. I got a little overwhelmed last week with the care and feeding of my wild yeasts, so I tossed it into the fridge. Yesterday I was ready to play again, so I took it out to warm up, then fed it last night, and I am about to go mix and knead the dough for a loaf today. I have been marginally successful in the past couple of months, so this might be my last attempt. If today’s loaf is still too cakey, I am going to return my yeasts to the wild and just keep using bought yeast. Still, working with this particular force of nature is a deep joy, no matter the little frustrations.

May we walk in Beauty!


“A witch ought never to be frightened in the darkest forest, Granny Weatherwax had once told her, because she should be sure in her soul that the most terrifying thing in the forest was her.” —Terry Pratchett


“Oh, God, make me a hollow reed, from which the pith of self hath been blown so that I may become as a clear channel through which Thy Love may flow to others. I have left behind me impatience and discontent. I will chafe no more at my lot. I commit myself wholly into thy hands, for thou are my Guide in the desert, the Teacher of my ignorance, the Physician of my sickness.” —attributed to Abdu’l-Bahá


“Truth is an agile cat. It has more than nine lives.” —Joy Harjo


Silence

A day of Silence
can be a pilgrimage in itself.
A day of Silence
can help you listen
to the Soul play
in marvelous lute and drum.
Is not most talking
a crazed defense of a crumbling fort?
I thought we came her
to surrender in Silence,
to yield to Light and Happiness,
to Dance within
in celebration of Love’s Victory!
—Hafiz

Poem a Day: 4

Nursery Rhyme for the New Plague
by Beth Weaver-Kreider

Ring around the rosie,
ashes, down we fall.
London Bridge is tumbling down.
Mirror on the wall:

I wish I may, I wish I might
see how my garden grows,
upstairs and downstairs
and a pocketful of rose.

Plague Doctor! Plague Doctor!
Whither shall I wander?
Only in your pumpkin shell
and to the gate. No further.

Mirrors and Reflections

One of my recent obsessions is taking photographs of light reflected in windows, so that it falls on the landscape outside, or seems to hover between realities, like a doorway or window between worlds. Mirrors, reflections, shadows: light and shadow create images that show us another version of reality, enable us to see things from a different perspective.

At the beginning of the year, instead of choosing a single word for my meditations throughout the year, I felt a nudging on Epiphany day just to keep the three that had risen to the top of my list: Bird, Bridge, Boundary. They’ve been weaving and reweaving themselves through my contemplations in the past month. And a week later, I felt the compulsion to add a fourth: mirror.

The season of Brigid calls us to consider mirrors and reflections and shadows, those otherworldly, deeper layers that offer us images of who we really are in the world. Look. Then look deeper. See, then See again. Open your eyes, and then open your eyes, and then open your eyes. The Groundhog takes on a priestly role, reminding us to examine what reflections we are making in the world, what shape is the shadow that we cast behind and around us.

Two nights ago, I dreamed about going on an adventure with one of my beloveds. I wrote and told her of the dream the next morning. During our conversation, she offered me the gift of mirroring, of showing me the shape she sees me casting into the world. It was a different image than my own perceptions offered me, and gentler. My own sense of inadequacy, my fierce judgement of myself, has cast another layer of shadow into my own perceptions, and made me see myself with too critical an eye. It took the gaze of a friend, the tending perception of another, to shift the view for me.

Light is funny that way. Send it through water, and the image is distorted, shifted slightly. The kingfisher knows this, and automatically corrects for refraction, aiming straight for the minnows despite the tricks of the light. I’ve let myself be seduced by the critical angle of the light, viewing myself with a distorted lens. It helps to have a beloved willing to gently mirror a different perception back to me. My contemplative lens will be clearer now, and perhaps my work will blossom as I view it through another’s eyes.

I’m intentionally mixing the images here: mirror, light, shadow, image, refraction, reflection. Their meanings are like different layers of light viewed in the reflections on a window, each with its own truth to offer, but all part of the layered image.

May your reflections in this season bring you insight into your truest self.
May your beloveds be tender mirrors to guide you to images which help you blossom.
May your inner gaze be kind, offering yourself space to grow and change.

Postscript: This image of the back pages of my grandmother’s copy of The Mennonite Community Cookbook is also a reflection of sorts, a mirror that shows me my reflection in the past, in my own ancestors, or perhaps their reflection/refraction into the image of me. When I am searching for a recipe, fanning the pages with my thumb, there’s a moment when I feel this little arc in the paper, this spot worn away by the years of my grandmother’s own thumb flipping the pages of her cookbook, and I can almost feel her reflected into the moment, into me.

Into the Dark, December 2

Every year at this time, I feel the anxiety and restlessness begin to rise within me, a claustrophobic pressure in my soul. The darkness begins to feel overwhelming, and the cold settles into my bones. Every year, I need to consciously contend with the darkness, to ease my spirit into the season. This year, from the beginning of December until Epiphany, when we proclaim the light really and truly returned, I will set it down here on the blog. Knowing how the season hits me, I will give myself permission for some minimal days, a sentence or two, or soothing words from another poet or writer instead of my own. May we journey into the darkness with intention and tenderness.

I am fascinated by the light reflected in the windows on these just-past-dawn winter mornings. I keep taking photos, trying to look through the reflections back into my world, but an altered version of my world. I am Alice gazing into the looking glass. I am Lucy looking into Narnia. There is a world of possibility out there, but also back in here. The images draw me outward and inward at the same time. There is magic at the very center of our lives. Alice and Lucy and their authors knew it: We are standing in the shining door or window or mirror or lamp post between worlds, you and I. The same vast worlds of possibility that reach outward also reach inward, and sometimes we approach them on the same pathways of light and shadow.

So today’s word is Reflection. Isn’t it interesting how we’ve chosen that word for contemplating our place in the world. We need the mirror or the glass, the light and shadow, the eyes to see the deeper layers.

Here is a poem on light by John O’Donohue. If you like it, you might consider buying yourself a copy of his To Bless the Space Between Us.

For Light
by John O’Donohue

Light cannot see inside things.
That is what the dark is for:
Minding the interior,
Nurturing the draw of growth
Through places where death
In its own way turns into life.

In the glare of neon times,
Let our eyes not be worn
By surfaces that shine
With hunger made attractive.

That our thoughts may be true light,
Finding their way into words
Which have the weight of shadow
To hold the layers of truth.

That we never place our trust
In minds claimed by empty light,
Where one-sided certainties
Are driven by false desire.

When we look into the heart,
May our eyes have the kindness
And reverence of candlelight.

That the searching of our minds
Be equal to the oblique
Crevices and corners where
The mystery continues to dwell,
Glimmering in fugitive light.

When we are confined inside
The dark house of suffering
That moonlight might find a window.

When we become false and lost
That the severe noon-light
Would cast our shadow clear.

When we love, that dawn-light
Would lighten our feet
Upon the waters.

As we grow old, that twilight
Would illuminate treasure
In the fields of memory.

And when we come to search for God,
Let us first be robed in night,
Put on the mind of morning
To feel the rush of light
Spread slowly inside
The color and stillness
Of a found word.

Gratitude List:
1. Sweet Habanero sauce on scrambled eggs.
2. Taking the world a step at a time
3. Creative projects. I need to draw and crochet and knit and take pictures right now. Zentangles, especially, are helping me to meditate and keep my heart open right now.
4. Hot showers and how they wake you up.
5. Yoga. Balancing. Stretching.

May we walk in Beauty!