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.


Oh dear. It’s getting late, and I have been grading or reading all day. The prompt is a two-fer: Write a Free/Not Free Poem.

I wear these papers like shackles,
dragging the ankles of my brain
into a constant state of bondage.

Teachers develop a seventh sense,
an awareness, always, of the piles
that wait in a bag or on a table,

so even when I walk in the sunlight
or finish the novel I have been reading,
the shackles of inadequacy hold me down.

Eight Candles

Gratitude List:
1. People who cry when they read the sad parts in books. I am thinking of a particular student wiping her eyes as she finished the last pages of her most recent book.
2. Cherry blossoms
3. The tight fists of buds in the Flinchbaugh orchards. Some tiny blooms, too.
4. This parenting gig. Birthdays remind me how precious it all is, and how fleeting.
5. People are still talking about the Senior Presentations. During Tuesday’s final group, the rooms were packed, the energy was high, and the support was evident. People were pronouncing blessings on their fledglings. I love to hear students speak of how much they appreciate their teachers–it gives me a new and deeper appreciation (already deep) for my colleagues.

May we walk in Beauty. May we shower each other with Blessings.

Follow Love

I like to set my camera to “Fireworks” and then “draw” with fire.

There will be days, Bright Spirits,
when you will not know which way to go,
when the voices will tell you to follow a path
where light shines righteously through branches
and others are striding with purpose.

“This is the right way, the truest path,”
they will call to you, and they will wave their hands
and motion you to join them on their journey.
But you will sense something lurking there
in the hard, sharp edges of the light
and you will know that it is not your road.

But how will you know your own way?
Follow Love.  It will never lead you false.
It may whisper to you from the shadows
of a little-trodden tracks through brambles,
or call you across the wide and shining spaces
over rocky mountain passes,
leaving cairns and altars
to help you find your way.

Follow the roads where Love calls you.
Love will guide you where you must go.

Gratitude List:
1. The team of teachers and support staff and administrators who care for our children.  They pay attention, they notice, they plan and adapt and respond to the children’s needs.  It makes me want to commit even more fully to notice each of my own students with clarity and intention.
2. First family fire in the fire pit.  Making s’mores.
3. My first view this morning when I opened my eyes was a windowful of pink, where the dogwood tree is vigorously blooming.
4. In-service day.  Yesterday’s in-service offered some good time to collaborate, and learn from, and bond with colleagues.  I really do like the people I work with.
5. The flock of deer that ran across the road and leapt the stream into the bosque.  (My family tells me that I must call them a herd, but I feel like a herd is thunky and stolid, but a flock is fluttery and wispy, like the deer that crossed my road.  So my family will have to put up with my word.)

May we walk in Beauty!  May the rains water the earth and refresh us all.


There is much I would write this morning, so much I need to learn about myself today, if only I could write it out.  There is a prayer of sorts, waiting to find its way into the world, to cast its golden threads through the air.

There is a poem waiting too, about a mother and a daughter, about the house of the heart, about how I want to join with a village of women to encircle that house, to sing, to gather river water, to cook beans and rice, to comb their hair, to sit in silence, to hold their feet in our hands, to anoint them with precious oils.  Perhaps this is that poem.

Meanwhile, two boys are on the edge of battle in the background, and I must go and open the door on my day.  Here was this moment, and now it is passing, and another is coming to meet me.  All of it is holy, perhaps, even the name-calling over there on the fringes. If only I can listen closely enough, perhaps I will begin to understand a little of the song that surrounds us.


Gratitude List:
1.  Swans!  Yesterday I saw a small flock flying westward, toward the River, as we were driving east.  There may have been twelve of them.
2. The twist of that sycamore on the corner of Walnut and Lime, spiraling upward through the forest of city buildings toward the light.
3. Tabea’s kombucha.  She has a magic touch.  I am loving this little bubbly jarful of chai-flavored deliciousness.
4. Teachers, again: Yesterday we went to the Science Festival at the Lancaster Science Factory.  There was an exhibit there which was running two 3D printers.  We were there when they started printing out a ratchet, using the exact program which NASA sent to the International Space Station a couple weeks ago.  This caught Ellis’s attention and he stood there at the table–asking questions and watching, and telling other kids about it–for most of the hour and 39 minutes that it took to print it.  The people at the table were kind and gentle teachers, understanding his quirky obsession and blessing it, delighting in his questions, and never talking down to him.  If he grows up to be a scientist or engineer, I will credit this moment as important in that.  In the end, they gave him the ratchet.
5. Kestrel on a cornstalk, wind in her feathers.

May we walk in Beauty!