Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Sitting With Discomfort


Pema Chodron is my favorite Buddhist writer on the necessity of getting comfortable with not knowing, not getting attached to outcomes, and accepting impermanence as a constant state of affairs.  She reminds us that the thing we do, the thing we grab for to make ourselves feel better or safer or less afraid can become the problem, and that sitting with the discomfort, giving it space in our physical body and our spirit through the practice of maitri and extracting both its sting and its truth in this way is the solution.
"Death" from my Soul Collage deck

Frankly, I don’t like this.  

I don’t like to sit with discomfort.  I don’t like to sit with not knowing, ambiguity, and feeling un-tethered.  I don’t like this at all, because it doesn't feel good.

However, every so often I am presented with a wonderfully rich opportunity to learn once again how to do this, and it is almost inevitably after a time of deep peace and comfort.  My sensory experience of it is that the universe fills me up and then shakes it all loose, or maybe I’m just catching a break in between soul lessons, just riding the waves near the beach during times of peacefulness, and then I am rolled and tumbled onto the rocky shore bruised and scraped, spitting out salt water, pushing my wet, sticky hair out of my eyes and swearing....and then getting back up to ride the waves some more.

In any case, I am always caught by surprise at my own reaction to fear, because I think I am so evolved (yeah, I know).  I think I should be beyond this.  And the reaction is not just the constriction in my chest or the hand around my throat, or the butterflies careening around my belly.  It is sometimes like a psychic invasion, with an energy all its own that, if I am not paying close attention, will make me act in ways that are truly out of character, that can make a mess out of an already messy situation, that can make it hard to look in the mirror after I’ve hurt someone. It comes with thoughts that drive and cajole and plead, ideas that seem like a solution because they are so laden with emotional energy, ideas that say, make this feeling stop at any cost!

"Emo" from my Soul Collage deck
Pema says, “Most of us do not take these situations as teachings. We automatically hate them. We run like crazy. We use all kinds of ways to escape -- all addictions stem from this moment when we meet our edge and we just can't stand it. We feel we have to soften it, pad it with something, and we become addicted to whatever it is that seems to ease the pain.”

I have no current addictions to a physical substance except my morning coffee.  But I have been deeply attached to the belief that I will be safe if I am in control, if I know what's going to happen, if someone (anyone) can offer me enough reassurance that I will not be hurt/embarrassed/lose out. This is the cushy padding I reach for.  But that belief that I will be safe if I am in control is not just one of the biggest delusions I can ever operate under, it is also pretty harmful when I act on it, and pretty isolating, which is the exact opposite of what I want. It is so easy to push people away in that state, the phenomenon of what my ex-husband familiarly called, “the clanging of the gates.”  I shut down, hard. I put things in tidy little boxes with tight little bows, snugly wrapped little packages of rule-based thinking that says, “If this happens, it means this.  If this doesn’t happen, it means this.”  It’s as if I get hi-jacked by “autistic girl,” an aspect of my inner self who doesn’t like to play with the matchbox cars, make them go "vroom vroom" and careen around the track. No, she likes, instead, to line them up in neat little rows, by size or color or design, whichever seems the most logical at the moment, and then put them back in the box. She doesn’t like to make tall towers with Legos, she likes to sort them by color, then put them back in the box.  She likes boxes.  She likes order.  She very much dislikes mess, ambiguity and not knowing.  She sometimes makes up new rules as she goes along just so she thinks she knows what's true. It can be a little bit like playing Calvin Ball. It can be a little bit crazy making. 

The point is, when I get stuck in black and white thinking and want everything in a nice tidy little box, with a tightly knotted black and white bow and a great big label, well, it's because things are very, very contained and defined in a tidy little box.  The things in the box may not be alive and breathing and they are certainly not growing and changing, but by God they sure as hell are predictable. Things in a tidy little box do not move, they don’t go away, but most importantly, they don’t get any closer. There is no risk when things are in a tidy little box, except that of losing out on true intimacy with a fellow human being (and yes, it is this area of my life in which I've created the largest number of boxes).

Frankly, I hate this, too. 

"Lost Child" from my Soul Collage deck
I hate it because it no longer serves me. I hate it because I have hurt people with it. I hate it because I have pushed people away, and I hate it because when I am confronted with the fact of its continued existence, I am embarrassed by it. It seems so….primitive, so childish.  Which is, frankly, where it originates from - the child I once was who was so wounded and lost still sometimes speaks as if she knows the truth. A life of chaos and deep, deep ambiguity does not lead to a feeling of safety and comfort with not knowing outcomes.  You have to work really hard to get over this (and many other things) if that is how your world began and then continued for many years.  I have worked really hard, and am still working really hard, to respond differently in the face of fear in this particular area of my life.  It's a really good place for me to bring the practice of maitri, that friendliness and acceptance of oneself and others without resistance or judgment, just observation.  Oh, but this is so much easier said than done! 

"Witness' from my Soul Collage deck
One tool I find helpful is Soul Collage, which enables you to create visual impressions of aspects of your soul, both personal expressions of it, like “autistic girl" (which I have yet to make, because I only recently discovered who she really is and thus named her), or “Femininity," or "Hope," or universal ones like Warrior, Goddess, or Death.  There are three trans-personal cards – Soul Essence, Source and Witness – the Holy Trinity.   It is when I remember that which I truly am – Soul Essence connected to Source and observed without judgment by Witness – that I am most deeply at peace with what is.  I know this to the core of my most basic self.  I know this.  And yet, being so deeply human, it seems I must continue to learn this lesson over and over…that all is fundamentally well, that I am safe, that I can never truly be harmed, that there is nothing to lose and nothing to be taken away, that all I am and all I have is, to the naked eye, invisible, timeless, and infinitely and deeply loved and loving.  All is well.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Holy Longing

I drive with my granddaughter
strapped snugly in her car seat
and as she begins to fall asleep
I begin to think of God

and in its familiar way
my throat aches with a longing
only a woman knows deeply:

to be seen and pursued 
accepted and embraced
with all my messy glory
without being too much
without being not enough
without being pushed away

and sometimes on the outside
when we are together
you and I
I am smiling and I am laughing
I am looking into your eyes
but on the inside
I am kneeling 
with my head slightly bowed
with my hands in prayer position


praying you will recognize
without any doubt
the Divinity that is in me
and also in you
and I find myself driving
and longing for transcendence
just a glimpse of eternity
some little love note
from the Universe

and there in the rearview mirror
is the face of a sleeping angel
and humbled by its beauty
I softly whisper,

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Oh, Loneliness

Oh, Loneliness,
Old Buddy
Old Pal.
I am sorry to say that
it is not so good
to see you.

I was just bragging
the other day
but only to myself
that I am such a champ
at making friends
with you
(so easy for me to say
when you were
so far away)
but now you have moved closer
and even had the audacity 
to claim your squatting rights
just behind my belly button
with your swirling, 
quiet energy 
because, I think,
I wasn't paying attention
and I,
well, I slowly leaned in to the Other
and they slowly 
leaned away

from me.

Oh Loneliness
I would like to call you
Friend again,
I would,
but I think it would be easier
if one of us moved
to Buffalo

Monday, October 22, 2012

Bring Me...

Don’t try to entertain me;
I have no wish or need for
stories of your heroism
you think will impress me.
I am not looking for a hero
or a masked crusader, some figment of
your imagination who wears
a cape and silly little tights,
someone who thinks they can rescue me,
or that I want to be rescued.

Do not, I beg of you,
bring your most charming self
to me. 
Leave him somewhere else
because I don’t want him,
because I am done with
the Charmers of this world
with their smooth talk and busy
hands, their mouths full of lies
and promises they will not keep.

Bring me, instead, your broken open heart
and show me the scars,
the places where it’s healed over,
show me the moments your courage
was the only thing you had.
Bring me your longings and dreams and
tell me how you hope to meet them
in broad daylight or
in the dark of night,

Bring me the music of your soul’s poetry,
show me how you dance when you are alone,
tell me the prayers you say in a whisper in case
someone is listening and they might come true.
Bring your whole self to me and all of your heart
(not a sliver or a half - all of it. Otherwise,
I don’t want it).

Hold my hand and tell me the truth,
tell me the truth, tell me the truth,
and lean into the energy between us
and rest. 

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Birthday Gifts

What made my birthday particularly awesome? It’s the little things. 

 • Woken up by Muse’s “Madness” at 5:30 a.m. and hearing it again on the way to work 

• My baby sister texting me birthday wishes eight minutes later 
• My 17 year old son remembering what day it is without being prompted 
• A text from a best friend to tell me she was on the trail of resolving a long-standing problem 
 • Arriving to work to see lots of Facebook friends wishing me Happy Birthday 
• A gratitude-filled birthday wish and a poem from Ted 
• Texts and calls from friends and family 
• Beautiful flowers and gluten-free cookies from my boss and co-worker 
• Confirmation of my visit to Bridge OTW tomorrow 
• Day off tomorrow 
• My paycheck two days early because I belong to a credit union 
• Official acceptance onto the Lexington Housing Partnership Board 
• Plans for the weekend, including a kirtan and dancing 
• A text from my little brother 
• Birthday cake made by Chris and Lily (gluten-free) and dinner with all three of my sons 
• A card from my mom and two wonderful friends, one of whom is an incredible photographer 
• “I Won’t Give up” by Jason Miraz on the way home from work 
 • Two episodes of NCIS. Gibbs. Yeah. 

 The only downside was Lily’s upset at the end of the day, after her friend Lisa left. ☹

The thing is, most days are like this (minus the birthday wishes). Peaceful, loving, and happy. 

Monday, August 13, 2012

Walking in the Rain


When I pulled up to my apartment the rain was just starting, streaking the windshield and fogging my vision.  I knew the rain would be cold on my skin and knew also that I would need to embrace its cold or else run screaming like a girl into the house.  I stepped out into it and walked slowly around the car and to the stairs...and then stood there.  My animal body didn't want to be inside the stuffy house, hot from the last few days of sticky weather and no air conditioning.  I stood in the rain and let the sensation of the water and the individual rain drops on my shoulders and face and hair and hands wake me up.  I needed to be out in it, part of it, getting soaked to the skin and being wide awake. 

And so in my raincoat and Keens and one of the boys' hats, and disregarding the "Are you crazy?" voice, I walked.  Just a long walk around a couple of blocks, no marathon, no forced march to prove something - just a joyful exploration of sensation and being alive, fully in this moment and not resistant to it.  I wondered what I looked like to the people in the cars, this woman in a bright yellow rain slicker and dark shorts and a cheap hat slogging through the deluge.

This was no simple heavy summer shower or a gentle spring rain, this was a monsoon, sheets of water flung from the bucket of Jack's Giant.  The pelting of the water against my chest and belly hidden behind the rain slicker reminded me of just how alive I am, and that all I will ever have is right in this moment, this one right here. And the sound of the rain reminded me that it is in these moments of laugh-out-loud crazy fun (yes, I did laugh out loud all alone in the dim light of the rain) that will make those questions I will inevitably ask as I lie on my deathbed (uh huh, this is what I thought of, too, as I splashed through the puddles) easier to answer:  Yes, I lived a full life. Yes, I loved as hard as I could. Yes, I failed miserably over and over but only because I kept trying.  And yes, I have regrets - the time I didn't call you, that time I let you get away with something that hurt me, the hours I writhed in grief, the countless moments I spent absorbed in self, the time I forgot to be happy. Yes, I will be sad to say goodbye to this beautiful, tragic, wild world, but I have practiced so many times in my own small way, deep inside my soul, that when I do finally get there, that final goodbye will be just that much easier.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

"The Jesus Moment"


I’ve been thinking a lot in recent days about “the Jesus moment,” the one that many of us will have at some point in our lives, although we may not recognize or name it as such.  It’s not a matter of simple disappointment that brings you there, or a small heartache, or a little grief, a Petite Pal. No, no, I’m talking about the Big One, the Grand Mal seizure, the Big Kahoona, the goddamn death throes - the moment you cross over in this life from the world you used to live in, from the beliefs and people that held you up and kept you in the illusion of safety, and from the person you used to be.  

It's the moment when you are on your knees yelling, “Uncle!” and really meaning it, or curled up in the fetal position around your broken heart pleading for mercy, or walking around just fucking stunned and wide-eyed and crippled with the agony of being in your own body, unable to draw a full breath without stabbing pain, lost and confused because everything you thought you knew to be true, isn’t.  It’s that big ugly cry you have with the snot running down your face when you need a bath towel and not Kleenex to sop up the mess, the cry that is so noisy and gasping you seem kind of crazy, even to yourself, the cry you believe will never end.  Yeah, that moment when you are begging God to release you, asking what He wants from you, asking if He really means it, really?  Begging to be freed from the torment of being in your own skin because it burns to be you, asking if you really have to give up everything you ever wanted, to give it up and give it over, to let it go claw marks and all, to die to your old earth-bound, small-seeing, petty little Self.

And if you think I’m being dramatic then you haven’t had your Jesus moment yet. 

But stick around – if you are living and loving hard enough, you will have it.  You may avoid it if you stay small, if you stay alone, if you don’t give your heart to a cause, a purpose, a great love, if you keep hiding from yourself.  But if you risk at all, if you ever want something or someone so badly it blinds you to everything else, or blinds you, more importantly, to God, then you will have that moment. Because - and I can’t believe I’m saying this and really meaning it – I believe God is a jealous God, in a nice sort of way.  The Great Creator wants us as Her Lover first, before anyone or anything earth-bound.  He wants us to love Him more than anything, to go to Her first before we seek advice from others, to have the Great Reality as our Primary Relationship, to be one with the Great Beloved, and to experience Great and Constant Love from the Universe.  

I believe that moment, that Dark Night of the Soul, the deepest, darkest night ever, when you are curled up in the fetal position feeling betrayed by life, when you feel so alone because you ARE alone, can become your brightest moment ever, if you let it.  Because when you accept the truth that we are all alone (and yet we are all one), and that aligning yourself with God is the only way out, you will have your Jesus moment.  You will understand what Christ was really saying as He hung there, and what He still says:

“If you give God your right to yourself, He will make a Holy Experiment out of you.” *

*My Utmost for His Highest.” Oswald Chambers, June 13

Friday, June 15, 2012


There's a poison
running through my veins
as ancient as the sea
as stealthy as the wind
which has lived here so long
I can sometimes almost forget
it is there.

There's a poison in my veins
running deeply and dark-ish
and bright lit and golden
through small nooks and crannies
through deep bones and muscles
through bloody red organs and
soft, tender tissue
like bright dreams and hope
and deep, deep desire
for some other 

There's a poison in my veins
that reminds me of you
and feels just like you
and tastes just like you
and is just as hard to extract
as you
or maybe
it really is you. 

But this poison in my veins
takes space inside my body
and space inside my heart
where the Sacred 
and the Beloved 
should live 

So please, could you please
I'm begging anyone, please
put your mouth right here
put your lips right there
yes, right over my heart, please
draw out that dark poison 
and spit it on the ground, please
let me be free
finally free 
of that luscious dark poison
from the sweet, 
of you.