A New Year Dawns

Here are two versions of the same photo, taken as the sky was beginning to show grey on this first morning of a new year. In the first, I played with filters and textures and color saturation in order to create a pensive mood. Looking at it here in this space, it feels anxious and wary and stark, especially next to the second version, which I ran through an AI Dream filter. This second one is still pensive, but cheerier, more hopeful.

While both are significantly changed from the original, both of them hold emotional truth that is deeper than the just-the-facts original. I AM going pensively into this new year. I am both rattled and happy, scratched and hopeful. The shadows are there, but they don’t scare me (not so much, anyway), and I am ready to explore them a little more deeply.

Usually I wait until Epiphany to declare my words to myself, but I am feeling settled now, ready to choose, ready to embark.

So, my word for this year is Embodiment. I have written about this idea before, the way I have always felt a deep sense of wrongness whenever religious and spiritual and self-help practices begin to talk about mind over matter, or about transcending the body, or about liberating the soul from its body trap. I understand at a base level the philosophical concept that this physical reality isn’t the Real Reality, but I don’t really accept it as a core principle. Or, as I understand it, I think I need to understand it through the physical body I live in.

I think it’s helpful to consider body, mind, and spirit, to see to all our various categories of health and wellbeing, but I always feel like the greatest health happens when I am working to integrate all the various aspects of myself rather than separating them out, dividing in order to conquer, particularly in the way the culture I live in seems to see the punishment of the body as a virtue, unless it fits some strange “idealized” vision of what a body should be.

I am soul embodied into matter. I think perhaps, yes, the soul part of me exists in a way that may transcend this physical plane. I get glimpses of that. But this collection of atoms that make up the physical part of me are no less ME than the sentient, thinking, yearning, indwelling part. And if my soul exists here in this present plane, then I believe it’s here for a purpose, to know what it feels like to touch and taste and see and hear and smell, to experience physical pain and pleasure, to be em-bodied.

Body imbued with soul, with spirit, with sentience. Soul enmattered. Mind ensouled. These different pieces of what we come to know of as Self are in this current configuration because they teach and inform each other. I think we hinder our evolution by trying to escape and transcend the magic of this intertwinement. Or, to take the positive twist, we further human evolution and our own personal destiny and purpose by becoming integrated selves, all the pieces braided together.

Two streams that I have been working with this year that relate to Embodiment are Creativity and Magick, so those are also words for my coming year. If I am categorizing the various parts of me, perhaps Creativity fits in the more mental realm, the ways in which the mind solves problems and develops new ideas. And Magick is the more spiritual, the prayerful, the awareness of deeper levels of reality, the level of the soul. So my quest for the year is how to braid my creative and spiritual selves more artfully into my physical reality.

Some implications:
* I will continue this journey to consciously stop beating up on my body for the way she looks or feels. I will offer her what she needs and tend to her aches and changes.
* I will live through this period of peri-menopause with as much consciousness and intention as possible.
* I will feed the creative and spiritual parts of mySelf as intentionally as I feed my physical Self. With care and with joy. For health and for satisfaction.

Last week, I posted a quote by bell hooks on Facebook, about how self-improvement when done as a simply inward-looking thing can become narcissistic, that we only become better in the context of community. A friend expanded this, pointing out the paradox that we cannot improve our communities unless we do our inner work. Both/And.

Perhaps that’s part of why I have this urge to keep this blog-journal public, to lay at least some of it bare so that I can place my own journey into the community context. It’s why, even while I recognize that aspects of my social media life have become addictive and need reigning in, the overall open and vulnerable quality of the community I have discovered on social media keeps me learning and growing from the inner journeys of so many circles of beloveds. We become better together.


Gratitude List:
1. Being a multi-faceted being: soul and mind and body and spirit and streams of energy braided into one Self.
2. Evolving, growing, changing, Becoming
3. Cats
4. Reflections: windows, mirrors, shadows. . .
5. Layers: in artwork, leaves, selves, reflections, clothing. . .
May we walk in Wisdom!


Honoring Kwanzaa with those who celebrate it: The word for this last day of Kwanzaa is Imani, or Faith. Believe that your dreams have the power to create change in the world. May it be so for you and for me and for all who long for and work for justice in the coming year.


May the long time sun shine upon you
All love surround you
And the pure light within you
Guide your way on.
—Traditional Irish Blessing


“A writer without readers is just a person alone in a room.” —Barbara Kingsolver


Someone Should Start Laughing
by Hafiz (Ladinsky)

I have a thousand brilliant lies
For the question:
How are you?
I have a thousand brilliant lies
For the question:
What is God?
If you think that the Truth can be known
From words,
If you think that the Sun and the Ocean
Can pass through that tiny opening Called the mouth,
O someone should start laughing!
Someone should start wildly Laughing –Now!


“Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the year.” —Ralph Waldo Emerson


“Courage, Dear Heart.” —the Albatross (Aslan) to Lucy, C. S. Lewis


“And now we welcome the new year. Full of things that have never been.” —Rainer Maria Rilke


“Hope smiles from the threshold of the year to come,
Whispering ‘it will be happier.’” —Alfred Tennyson


“Darkness deserves gratitude. It is the alleluia point at which we learn to understand that all growth does not take place in the sunlight.” ―Joan Chittister


“For last year’s words belong to last year’s language
And next year’s words await another voice.
And to make an end is to make a beginning.” —T. S. Eliot


“And we are put on earth a little space,
That we may learn to bear the beams of love.”
—William Blake


“I want to think again of dangerous and noble things.
I want to be light and frolicsome.
I want to be improbable beautiful and afraid of nothing,
as though I had wings.”
―Mary Oliver

Getting to the Next Story

The Bird Watcher

In last night’s dream: I am trying to find my way to the second floor of the building I am in, but the stairs are really hard to negotiate. They a metal rail stair/ladder that starts four feet off the ground. If I can scramble up onto them, I’ll have to squeeze through a tiny little hole in order to get to the next story.

(Huh. Getting to the next story, eh?)

After I search all over, I finally find an elevator and stand there waiting with some others, and it suddenly hits me–within the dream itself–that this is a constant pattern in my dreamtime: I am very often trying to find the next level, the next story, and I am thwarted by challenging climbs and claustrophobic entrances. Occasionally, there are broad and wide staircases, or hidden safe passages, and there’s the occasional elevator that might just take me anywhere.

I wonder if I am experiencing a period of disjuncture between my heart and my head, unable to find my way safely between the two? That’s got a dream-worker’s reasonableness to it, and I will definitely explore that as an ongoing theme in my life with such a powerful symbol recurring again and again and again.

Or perhaps I feel myself and my world in a time of transition between one thing and the next, and the route from point A to point B feels particularly treacherous and difficult.

That last certainly suits my sense of the times. Here we are on this level where we’ve always done things a certain way (which has for so many, been tragic and deadly), and we need to make it to that next level. We need to climb and crawl and wriggle into the next story. In the case of our national dream, people’s lives depend upon it. We must get to the next story, and we’re going to have to help each other reach that ladder way up there, and when we get to the top, each of us is going to have to deal with our own discomfort and anxiety as we wriggle through the birth passage into the next reality.

Can we do it?


Gratitude List:
1. All the anti-racism resources for learning and growth that are floating around social media right now. Quite a lot of the books on the lists were already on my list to read, but I will make extra time for them this summer, and I am going to compile some lists to post in my classroom.
2. I don’t like taking allopathics if I can help it. I have, as usual, been trying all the herbal and other remedies and therapies for my allergies, but every once in a while, I just need something huge to calm down my body’s hyperactive response to defend me from tree pollen. I’m glad I have that option. My body has definitely shifted out of crisis mode for the moment.
3. The hospitable strangers of the Swann Street Siege. While a twisted tableau of faux faith was occurring down the way, Rahul and his neighbors–whatever their belief system–were acting in the way that The Good Teacher asked humans to act toward each other, harboring people who were frightened and harmed, feeding them and tending their injuries, and managing the boundaries of their homes to keep their guests safe. Hospitality has been a sacred trust between humans in many cultures around the world since first we knew ourselves human.
4. I am grateful for statements and resources being offered by institutions that I love and belong to. Mennonites as a group got it so wrong in the 50s and 60s, holding back, not speaking out (except for individuals). To read the Mennonite Church USA statement yesterday, supporting those who are demanding racial justice and explaining why All Lives Matter is tone-deaf and inappropriate was satisfying. My school has put out a statement of solidarity and a list of resources. The church I attend has formulated a statement of support as well. Yes, we have to put our feet in the story, too, but statements are like signposts for people to follow.
5. Lots of windows. I am on a critical lockdown at the moment, keeping the house closed and not venturing outside while the trees are in the height of their pollen-producing time. Still, I can look out and watch the squirrel with the excessively long tail, the chonky chipmunk, and all the wingfolk flashing by.

May we walk in Beauty! And Solidarity.


“We will not know our own injustice if we cannot imagine justice. We will not be free if we do not imagine freedom. We cannot demand that anyone try to attain justice and freedom who has not had a chance to imagine them as attainable.”
―Ursula K. Le Guin


“Each of us has lived through some devastation, some loneliness, some weather superstorm or spiritual superstorm. When we look at each other we must say, I understand. I understand how you feel because I have been there myself. We must support each other because each of us is more alike than we are unalike.” ―Maya Angelou


TS Eliot:
“We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.”


“Authentic spirituality is always about changing yourself. It is not about trying to change anyone else.” ―Richard Rohr


“Isn’t it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet?” ―L.M. Montgomery


“I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library.” ―Jorge Luis Borges

How the Light Enters

I don’t like questioning people’s spirituality. We all believe what we do for various reasons. Still, I have become incredibly curious about the folks who are making policy in this country, about the supporters of the current raft of laws and bills that further marginalize the poor, that block people fleeing terror from reaching safety here in the US, that put so many in danger of losing their health care. I know that Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan and many of their comrades call themselves Christians, and I do hesitate to call people’s faith into question, but. . .  Yes, but I think that there is an appropriate time to do so.

I think someone needs to ask these guys how their faith informs their politics. I would like to ask these folks about what they see as the message of the Prince of Peace. I would like to ask them what it means to them to follow the way of Jesus.  I would like to ask them what they do with the Sermon on the Mount, how they interpret the Beatitudes, and even how they answer to some of the Old Testament prophets who called down gloom and doom upon a nation that would not see to the needs of the poor.

Again, normally I would consider it bad form to question someone’s faith, but this is the kicker: So many people in this country who also call themselves Christians are following their plans, supporting their ideological architecture of greed and graft, that they have more to answer for than their own faith. They have become the preachers and the prophets of a style of Christianity that I want to repudiate and distance myself from. I want to know how they carry that weight on their souls. Or perhaps, if they do not feel that weight, I would like to show them the weight that they carry.


“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


Gratitude List:
1. A long fun day with the family at Legoland yesterday. We came back exhausted and happy.
2. Today’s Work
3. Good sleep
4. Anger, rage, grief: these, too, are teachers, unwelcome as they often are.
5. My friend’s yard sale: Last year, and this year, I went to her yard sale and found the basic clothing that I will need for the coming year. No need to make a big shopping trip to search for clothes that fit and might or might not look like me.

May we walk in Beauty!

Summer Rains

Reminiscing: Eight years ago

“Choose to be in touch with what is wonderful, refreshing, and healing within yourself and around you.” ―Thich Nhat Hanh
*
“Someday, somewhere―anywhere, unfailingly, you’ll find yourself, and that, and only that, can be the happiest or bitterest hour of your life.” ―Pablo Neruda
*
“Spirituality is not to be learned by flight from the world, or by running away from things, or by turning solitary and going apart from the world. Rather, we must learn an inner solitude wherever or with whomsoever we may be. We must learn to penetrate things and find God there.” ―Meister Eckhart
*
“Walk as if you are kissing the earth with your feet.” ―Thich Nhat Hanh
*
“No matter what the fight, don’t be ladylike! God almighty made women and the Rockefeller gang of thieves made the ladies.”
―Mary Harris Jones


Gratitude List:
1. The shining children in my week. Laughter, mischief, earnestness, wonder. . .
2. Morning storm. That mucky wet air is feeling crisp and clean again
3. Just doing the hard stuff. I submitted a short story and some poems yesterday. I really do want to publish, but the work of finding the right place for the right poem or story is a little daunting. It took me hours to settle on which pieces I wanted to send where. I have to get better at that.
4. The birds who are out there singing in the rain.
5. Ah well. My house is messy and cluttered again, but it’s filled with love and laughter.

May we walk in Beauty!