You may be wondering why on earth I’d voluntarily choose this for myself. So am I.
Tuesday, October 7, 2014
I awoke early today under the light of the moon, me who is a child of the light. Rather than sunbeams reflecting off rolling hills while birds sing their morning song, I was greeted by the spotlight-like intensity of the glowing moon, just shy of her fullness, blazing a beam of insight through the dark night sky. No birds called to me. There was only stillness and quiet. What better metaphor for the journey I am about to enter into.
Today I depart to enter into silence. Today I will turn away from the oh-so-many outer distractions, indulgences and influences that fill my vision and play upon my energy to take a journey inward. Today I will silence my phone, silence my to-do list and silence all that exists outside of me in an attempt to reach something akin to silence within. I will cast most of my life into darkness and focus my beam of light on my inner world just like the moon piercing the vast blackness of night.
I’ll be sitting for my first-ever vipassana meditation retreat. And if the word retreat conjures images of luxury and pampering, you are mistaken. By all accounts this practice is quite austere. Sparse, simple meals and accommodations, just the bare minimum to support you while your days are spent largely in stillness and with almost total outer silence. No eye contact. No conversation. No reading, chanting mantras, prayer beads, yoga asana or journal writing. Basically everything I do in the course of my normal daily spiritual practice must be put aside and everyone I turn to for sharing and support must be cut off in order for me to commit to this experience. I am easing in with a day of nature, then comes ten days of dedicated vipassana practice followed by a final day of words and outer engagement being reintroduced before returning home.
I woke up this morning with a runny nose and an itch in my throat having gone to bed feeling 110% fine last night, a sure sign of my body protesting my heart’s decision. I’ve gone through the mental checklist of all the things I’ll be missing out on while I’m away, weighing them on a proverbial scale against the very substantial weight of this undertaking. And I’ve already begun to feel the wave of contraction creep through me as emotions such as fear, intimidation and worry arise in the face of this profound experience.
And that is exactly why I’m going.
I’ve taken some major leaps toward the things that I’m afraid of lately, and yet I know I’m not done. Maybe I won’t be done after vipassana either, but my gut and intuition both tell me I must do this regardless. When I refer to my gut, I’m referring to my lower chakras, and when I refer to my intuition, I’m referring to my higher chakras. That they are all aligned behind this choice is all the confirmation I need to take yet another leap. Only this time, unlike some of the recent leaps I’ve taken that were actually away from certain things that were no longer of service to my highest vision of myself, this time I’m leaping right into the fire so I can be burned away and arise anew. This is my phoenix moment.
I’ve conditioned myself to be quite masterful at moving through emotions I don’t want to feel. Get knocked down? Not for long. Dust it off, stand a little taller than before, keep moving. That’s me. Resilient. Brave. Strong. Yet there is a piece of me who carries those bruises and scars. There is a place inside where I am the shadow of who I show myself to be most of the time. Reticent. Fearful. Weak.
I don’t want to be fragmented any longer. So I’m going within to claim these pieces of myself and integrate them into the whole for I know that it is only in my wholeness, in the whole of my pain as well as my pleasure, that my full passion and purpose can pour through.
I am claiming the child within seeking approval and a sense of safety. I am claiming the woman who longs to be held in loving, lasting partnership. I am claiming the mother who aches to know the ultimate act of creation and service. I am claiming the priestess who has held herself back and kept herself small. I am claiming the author who has yet to commit to letting her voice be heard. I am claiming the friend who desires to get as good as she gives. I am claiming my grief, sadness, loneliness, pettiness, weakness, anger, lust, greed, yearning and everything else that lives in the darkness of my shadow, claiming it so I can bring it forward to become one with my light.
This sense of separation I’ve lived with, that most of us live with, is a prison. It keeps us locked away from the fullness and richness of our lives. The truth is I actually love my life and recognize the abundance of blessings in it already. So imagine how it would be then to grow that love and increase that abundance by bringing ALL of me forth into the light of my life? And if I can manage that, how sweet will it be to eliminate any sense of separation between me and all my brothers and sisters, the flora and fauna, and the Mother who birthed us all?
My journey into silence will not be easy. I anticipate feeling pain on every possible level. I’d be lying if I said I’m fully prepared for that because how can I be? I’ve never done this before. I have no way of knowing just what will arise throughout these ten days. I know what my intention for this experience is. I know I have the power to choose my reaction to this experience, just as I can choose what it is I need to burn away in the fire of purification so that I may arise anew. So I choose integration. I choose wholeness. I choose to bring darkness into light. I choose a life lived fully and authentically. I choose my phoenix moment.
See you on the other side!
Monday, September 29, 2014
This is how I pray.
Still and silent, seated in solitude, cosmic energy swirls within.
Palms joined, or perhaps uplifted, sacred syllables fall from my lips.
Feet to the earth, one step, two, following the pilgrims pace.
Joined in communion, dancing, twirling, music guiding me home.
Enveloped by the ocean, or maybe a river, sinking and floating are one.
Pressed against lover’s flesh, passion pulsing from groin and chest, Divine union.
Synagogue, mosque, temple, forest, behind the wheel of my car.
Fingers at the keyboard, pen to paper, let it freely flow.
Lit by candles, or perhaps sparkling stars, no distinction behind closed eyes.
Holy days, rainy days, every single new day I wake to see the sun.
Laughing, crying, contemplating, articulating, the prayer is never done.
For as many souls as there are shining, there are that many ways to pray.
And that brings me to this inquiry, the burning question for today. . .
What is prayer to you?
When you pray, what do you say?
Who do you say it to?
Do you do it everyday?
There is no wrong or right.
We each find our own way.
When you say it, say it true.
This is how I pray.
Wednesday, September 24, 2014
The energy of this moment is potent, so very potent. The Autumn Equinox has just brought us forth into a season of harvesting bounty and shedding leaves. A new moon is close upon us, always a time of renewal and focused intention. It is Rosh Hashannah, the new year of the Jewish calendar, and Navaratri, the nine nights of the Divine Mother for Hindus. The confluence of these occasions stirs me from within, sparking surges of insight in my mind, rolling waves of pranic force in my body and a tender sweetness in my heart as I honor and revere the sacred wisdom and traditions associated with them.
We are all children of Mother Nature, and as her children we live by her rhythms and cycles. For something new to begin, something else must end. Energy is infinite, and we do not create or destroy it so much as channel and transmute it. So it is with the seasons and the phases of the moon. So it is with seasons and phases of our lives.
As I have been reflecting on this delicate and powerful portal we are passing through right now, a question came to me, a gift from the Universe. A friend posed it to me, asking with rawness and earnestness, as a love that has long been dying seems to have finally met its end. “How much heartbreak can one heart take?” she asked.
My answer flowed immediately, and its timeliness was as immediately apparent. “Your heart will take as many breaks as your soul needs to experience. Your soul is limitless strength and utter tenderness and everything in between, experiencing itself through this most human of pains,” was my reply.
And so it is. Whether heartbreak or heart opening, sadness or joy, we experience what we need to experience as many times as is necessary for our soul’s journey.
We live season to season, phase to phase, moment to moment and breath to breath. One gives way to another as we cycle through the encounters and experiences that sometimes feel oppressively repetitive so we may learn, or better, remember, whatever it is our soul needs. The moon doesn’t complain of its constant cycling. The seasons don’t tire of coming around again year after year. So why then do we take issue with living through the same emotions again? And of course these are select emotions. Have you heard someone complain of being too happy for too long? Likely not. But too sad for too long, too scared for too long, that is a common complaint among us.
Just as there is more darkness than light during the days of fall and winter than spring and summer, there come times in our lives when we are meant to experience pain. Pain is a precious teacher. We sense our very vitality through it, but more, we cultivate qualities such as empathy and compassion, as well as come to understand how we can better chart our course in life through periods of pain. Then, when the cycle of pain comes to its end, we are equipped to move forward with grace and more fully enjoy the pleasure, joy and light of the spring and summer seasons of our lives.
Where many of us go astray is in attaching suffering to our pain. That is neither the soul’s desire nor its intention. The ego is at play when we suffer, clinging fiercely to that which no longer serves us. Yet if we could be like leaves on a tree in autumn and allow ourselves to release and fall away, rather than holding on tight, we would experience the divine beauty and blessing of our pain without the bitter edge that suffering brings. Like fallen leaves we would use those emotions and experiences to enrich the soil of our lives, making it fertile for the seeds we plant so they may grow and blossom as fully and heartily as possible.
Release and fall away, Dear One. Drop down into the lap of the Mother and be held. Let the energy of the new moon infuse you with her essence. Prepare for the harvest lovingly, openly, so that you may reap the purest seeds of your soul when the time comes. Be renewed. Be reborn. Be.
Tuesday, August 12, 2014
“I don’t want to feel alone.”
Such a simple, even common, statement, yet when I heard it spoken the other night in a sacred space of truthful, soulful, beautiful sharing, its nuanced complexity struck me, hard.
I’ve said these very words, certainly thought them, often enough. Each prior time they arose in my heart or mind, or passed through my lips, I was vibrating from a desire to not experience loneliness, a desire to know there was someone by my side, holding my hand or holding space, traveling down the path with me. It was a desire to feel supported, protected, seen. We are social beings and thrive in community. We gravitate toward partnership and collaboration. We are biologically built for it and emotionally conditioned for it. When it’s all said and done, none of us wants to feel alone.
Yet there is another way to interpret the statement “I don’t want to feel alone.” It could express the very specific desire not to feel – happiness, sadness, joy, grief, hope, hurt, or whatever emotion on the spectrum – on one’s own. To navigate the waters of feeling, at times calm and clear, at others stormy and tumultuous, without that same sense of companionship is a daunting task for many. It’s a daunting task for me.
I’ve long understood that the reason I’m so inclined to openly express my feelings, whether by talking or writing, is because it is a fundamental way for me to share their weight, texture and shape with someone outside of myself. For me this is a crucial way in which I process those very feelings and come to know myself better. More, it’s the best way I know not to be overcome by them, and it’s the best way I know to build authentic connections with others. I need to let my feelings out, give them voice, sunlight, and room to breathe. And I need to know I can safely and honestly do so in the company of another who is willing and able to receive me in my Truth.
I do not want to feel alone, for feeling alone overwhelms me. “What if I drown in my own tears? What if I combust from my exploding joy?” These aren’t rational, conscious questions I ask myself, yet they have a certain resonance, a ring of truthfulness that someone small and quiet inside of me connects to. “And isn’t it so much better to share?” she says. “Yes,” I say. “Yes, it is.”
So I do. I seek out those very beings who are willing and able to receive me in my Truth and I open to them. I am not one to sob into my pillow behind closed doors for days on end. I am not the one to quietly demure when I am bursting with ecstatic bliss. I wear my heart on my proverbial sleeve, and whether my eyes sparkle from glistening tears or radiant delight, I keep them open wide for they are the windows to my soul and that is the place I seek to connect from.
I do not want to feel alone.
It wouldn’t be surprising if I were feeling alone right now. It hasn’t been very long since I broke up with a dearly beloved partner and moved clear across the country to a place where I scarcely knew another soul. Both loneliness and the overwhelm of experiencing my emotions on my own would make sense given the circumstances. Yet I stopped playing victim to my circumstances a long time ago. I am victim to nothing and no one. I choose my life.
And I have chosen with tremendous purpose and clarity. I have chosen not to feel alone, but to feel together, united, connected. I have chosen to call in new community, friendships, and opportunities to share in a space of Truth. I’ve chosen to surround myself with a tribe that vibrates at a frequency resonant with my own so that together we can feel, share and be our most authentic selves.
Knowing that choice, it’s also not surprising that I found myself in that deliciously sacred space a few nights ago so that those tender and profound words could fall upon my ears so softly and with such strength. I was amidst an intimate birthday gathering for a very special member of my newly found tribe. And the celebrant’s request, as we sat together in a cozy, warm, lovingly held circle, was for us to share a piece of our beauty. What, I wonder, could be more beautiful than expressing the Truth of your heart and having those feelings freely received with absence of judgment and total presence of spirit, body and mind, by another being?
Tuesday, July 1, 2014
I wanted from you what you did not have to give. It wasn’t that you didn’t want to. You couldn’t. I see that now. I see all I hold so dear about you, not those things you couldn’t or wouldn’t be. I see You as you are. Heartbreak heals through rose-colored glasses, a shadow of pink to tint my longing.
In the shadow of my longing I see you, honey skin, earthen eyes, Beloved embodied. I see you where you are not, beside me in bed when I wake in the morning. My eyes flutter open some days, searching the sheets for your form. Other days they stay closed up tight, searching within for the embers of love that live in me even though you do not anymore.
In the shadow of my longing I feel you, steady breath, strong hands, Beloved embodied. I feel you where you are not, walking alongside me as I move through my day. My fingers reach to twine themselves around yours some days, walking with the ghost of your form. Other days they ball into fists or open into grace, gestures of moving through the process of moving on.
In the shadow of my longing I hear you, sensual tone, deep resonance, Beloved embodied. I hear you singing to me, showering praise and adoration from your heart to mine. My ears strain to catch a whisper of your silken voice some days. Other days my song fills them so sweetly, remembering these words were always mine to begin with.
In the shadow of my longing I taste you, salty sweet, sex and dirt, Beloved embodied. I taste your skin beneath the tiny mountain range of my tongue; feel my mouth full of your passion and pleasure. My lips seek yours for kisses some days, gentle and quick, long and strong. Other days they kiss sun ripened fruit and cheeks of dear Ones, and their sweetness and mine fulfill me.
In the shadow of my longing I find me, raw vulnerability, fierce strength, Beloved embodied. I embody all that it is to be a woman, seeing, feeling, hearing and tasting what is Real. My entire being flows with the rhythms of Mother Earth. Some days I am in constant motion, dancing, writhing, strutting, soaring, staking my claim. Other days I am in stillness, contemplating, meditating, germinating, creating, staking my claim.
I CLAIM ME.
In the shadow of my longing I find what I wanted from you, I had all along. Always did and always will. Beloved embodied am I.