Saturday, October 23, 2010

I’m driving on the freeway

I’m driving on the freeway. I pass the exit to the place I used to live when I first moved here five years ago. I see myself like a ghost driving up the hill as I pass by on the freeway. I smile at myself, feeling the threads of life and time intersecting at this junction. As one of me drives west on the freeway and the other drives north up the hill, there is also one of me petting my cat in my apartment back east and yet another walking a field in the sun in Vermont, with thick green grass like carpet under my feet. I guess you could say that these are parts of me, but they don’t feel like parts, they feel like all of me. They feel like all of me is here and there and driving and walking and going east and going west north and moving up a hill.

I heard Johnny Cash in the meditation:

“I hear the train a comin,
it’s rollin round the bend,
and I ain’t seen the sunshine
since I don’t know when”

I’m on the train and I’m rolling by myself in the prison. Here I am and there I was. It’s not that profound and yet my whole life seems to wrap around it.

I keep having this recurring feeling, this recurring thought, that it doesn’t matter so much what I want, what matters is what I’m here to give. Being in this place or that place isn’t so much about me anymore, isn't about what I can ‘get’ from being in that place, it's more about what I can bring to the people in that place.

I have another song in my head:

“It’s all the same
Only the names have changed.
Everyday it seems we’re wasting away.
I’ve been everywhere and still I’m standing tall
I’ve seen a million faces and I’ve rocked them all.”

I went to yoga class yesterday. In my meditation, I was teaching thousands of students. I was a leader. I was a guide. In Buddhism, they talk about helping others alleviate pain and suffering. They talk about being a boatman, putting people in your boat and taking them across to the shores of enlightenment. I’m in the boat. It’s a small boat right now. The fog blocks the shore and the air is cold and foggy but my body is warm and my heart is strong. I reach down into the water with my long staff, feel the muddy bottom and push forward.

Sometimes it feels like barreling on a train. Sometimes is feels like a foggy bottom boat.

Like pieces of a puzzle, we come together. Isn’t it that simple?

I had another thought in my meditation. It was more like a vision than a thought. I saw myself at the beach, in the ocean, dolphins swimming near me, rising up and down in the water. I thought, “I want to be in perfect harmony with nature. I want my breath to rise and fall with the dolphins. I want my mind to surrender completely to the rhythm of things. I want my body to wake and sleep with the sun. I want to merge with Mother Nature so I know her thoughts as my own and I never have to doubt or question or worry. I want to be in harmony with the world and I’ll return to it soon enough.”

Mary Oliver says, “Doesn’t everything die at last, too soon? Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

I love you

I love you. I came looking for you and I found you. I found you in the small black girl with the big eyes in Wawa. I found you in my writing teacher and the brave souls who continue to lay their stories at her feet like offerings to the Goddess. I found you in the tap of the drum, the strum of the guitar, the strange language that rolls off his tongue like ancient warriors marching out of a cave. I found you in my own overflowing heart that pushes up into my throat and out my mouth. I found you in the mother and child sharing a snack on a stone bench in Center City surrounded unawares by people, buildings, taxis and other bustling things, glowing in their quiet shared delight. I found you in the cold bubbling creek, tumbling over rocks through a path of multi-colored leaves, red, orange, brown and gold. Is it possible to be in love with everything? Is it crazy? Is it dangerous?

The vows, they say, ‘forsaking all others.’ Why would I want to forsake all others? What a strange concept? I think he’s thinking about loving me. I can feel it. All I can think about are the obstacles, the resistance. I was thinking about how much I dislike visiting him. I was thinking about how I worry that he will steal the happiness I’ve worked so hard to find. I was thinking that my happiness is fragile, like a vase, like an egg, like a flower. But then I remembered that he needs me. I am here to serve him – not in an indentured servant kind of way but in an I-chose-this-for-a-reason-before-I-was-born-kind-of-way. Who I am is shifting and changing him. I realized that if I serve him, then love will flow through me and my happiness will be safe. And if he hurts me, it’s an opportunity to do more healing, to go deeper within myself. I feel protected. I feel safe to be me. The more you give, the more you receive.

But sometimes I feel resentful about being a giver. Sometimes I want to take. Sometimes I want to be gluttonous and selfish and lazy. And there she is, the shadow of me. The empty heart. The scared little girl. The insatiable, needy, desperate little girl. The one I thought was me. I see her in others. I hear others speaking from that place. Fear mingling with fear. Need mingling with need. Blame, shame and all the other yummy things that fuel the engine of dysfunction. I used to think that I had to run away, that I had to avoid sick people, that I couldn’t handle it. I used to absorb their sickness, become the sickness itself.

I’ve been thinking about sickness. I’ve been thinking that I can choose not to be sick, even if my mind tries to ‘think’ me into sick. Such a funny thing, the mind – not a friend, really. A foe. A prism of images. A mindstream. Imprints and implications. Could everything that ever happened to me in countless lifetimes be culminating in this moment? What if it were true? What if enlightenment were a breath away?

He said he thinks that I have ‘ripening karma’ in this lifetime. How fun to be ripe and juicy and shedding tears of joy! Driving in circles. Riding in grooves. The jeep starts to lift off the ground. Still circling but swirling dust instead of treading dirt. Floating like an eagle. There is freedom up here. There really is. I can’t explain it. Not sure how I got here. They say, “How did you do it?” I said, “I don’t know. I just put one foot in front of the other.” I never really believed I could be happy. I could see it in others but I never thought it would be mine. Still I aimed in that direction, following little bread crumbs of joy, hoping to infiltrate their world, the world of the shiny happy people.

Of course, it’s a mess of a trip, right? There are those who look happy but they’re really not. And those that look quiet and suspicious, but they are deeply peaceful. It took some time to decipher and figure it all out and I still make mistakes, still get confused, still think something is something that it isn’t but I’ve always been accused of being gullible and na├»ve. So be it. At least I give people the benefit of the doubt. Who doesn’t need a benefit of the doubt once in a while?

I went looking for love again and again, in books and bedrooms and bars and ballrooms. And all I can say is, “Keep Looking.” If you keep looking, you will find it. Aim yourself in the direction of what you love, pull the trigger and shoot. Launch yourself towards love and love will grab hold of you like a hungry ghost. Love wants you as much as you want it.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

When I was a Little Girl

When I was a little girl, I thought that the world was made of fixed things. Solid objects. And I thought that the grownups were going to teach me the names and the history of those objects and how to arrange them in such a way like turning the dial on a combination lock so that something would click and the whole world would open up and everything would be available to me.

And I reached with my mind and my heart to try to grasp the solid fixed objects that I thought existed. Objects like: identity, marriage, friendship, achievement, passion, love, money, health, travel, fame. But I couldn’t grasp them. They were unavailable to me. Just out of my reach and I would try to hold them but I couldn’t. They were too watery for me.

I remember a time during ballet class, a class that I attended nearly every day from the time that I was 8 until 18, where I was making my way across the dance floor doing pirouettes. I couldn’t do them right. I couldn’t make them pretty. I couldn’t make them look the way there were supposed to. I stopped half way across the floor in frustration. Exasperated. I proceeded to walk the rest of the way, head down, mumbling to myself.

My teacher said, in very harsh tone, “It’s your attitude, that’s why you can’t do it.” I remember feeling so called-out, so judged, so reprimanded. “It’s your attitude, that’s why you can’t do it.” There was a negativity in my attitude. There was a fear and a self-criticism and a suffering in my attitude about the pirouettes. I wanted to be able to move effortlessly across the floor. I had certainly been practicing pirouettes for a very long time -- as long as the other girls in the room. But it just wasn’t meant to be, I guess. It wasn’t my calling to be a ballerina. Maybe not my gift, not my talent.

Whatever the reason, ballet and I were at odds with one another. I didn’t feel like ballet was within me. It felt like something forced. A forced beauty. A forced poise. A forced elegance. A forced gracefulness. It felt unnatural. It hurt my body. My feet were strapped to satin bricks that caused my feet to bleed and ache. And yes, my attitude about the whole thing sucked.

In contrast, I would also go and take painting classes and spend hours alone drawing and writing in my room. And when I put pen or paintbrush to paper, I felt as if large golden gates between this world and another would open up, and life would flood in and flow through me and everything I wrote or drew would be alive in some magical way, like I was creating worlds, but not creating them like making a clay sculpture, creating them like discovering them, uncovering them, revealing them. Like a pen stroke or brush stroke was wiping away some mist on the glass between this world and another, like wiping your hand on the mirror after a shower so that you can see the reflection of your face.

There was an openness. I would call it love. The way it made me feel was ‘more’ instead of ‘less.’ There were no bloody feet or short angry women pointing at me when I opened up those other worlds. And so drawing and painting became something private and dance became something public. I did well at both. Both had there benefit, both shaped me, carried me through until I was a young adult but in different ways.

One said, “You are an object of beauty for the world. You have to be beautiful for the world.” The other said, “There is beauty within you. You are beautiful because you are.” One said, “Try harder. Be better. Drop your shoulders. Lift your chest. Tuck your pelvis.” The other said, “Where would you like to go today? How can I help you get there?”

And so the pull to go in and out, to go deeper and yet stay visible and graceful pulled on me. “You can do both,” I thought, “You can be pretty. You can be tall. You can do a perfect pirouette and you can hide, and you can dive deep and you can swim with imaginary dolphins, you can even breathe under water. Who says you can’t do both? Why would you choose one over the other?”

Many years later, I find myself facing a new canvas with the desire to create something moving and meaningful. And like a good girl, I walked with bloody feet through a dissertation, fitting tightly into grammatical, structural, logical forms so I could perform for a committee watching me make my way across the hardwood floor. With each revision, I stood up taller and straighter, and arranged the words in a way that was pleasing to them so that they would approve and sign on the dotted line.

And in the in-between moments, the stolen moments, I would shamefully put a word or two on paper without consideration of format or spelling or even punctuation in an attempt to maintain the slight crack in the door, between this world and the other, the world I moved to and from so freely when the when the big golden gates were open.
The bright light forcing its way through the crack in the door beckoned me not to dance too much but to also come out and play, to feel the light on my face and my skin, to feel the light in my heart, to see the other worlds that not many seem to visit so much anymore. And in my determination to be pretty and graceful, I spent much more time working on my dissertation then exploring the light behind the door.

Now my rigid self and non-rigid self stand staring at one another like a mirrored reflection, trying to find something that they have in common. One is tall and lean and calculating and the other is smaller and softer and seems to be carelessly absorbed by a purple flower between her fingertips. One judges and one dreams. One dances and one sings off-key. And if they knew each other, they might be able to create something together. They might be able to speak to the world, to say something meaningful, unlike something that has been said before. If they could find that thing that they had in common, that thing that united them, then maybe the whole thing could move forward.

Then maybe I could write.