Friday, August 5, 2011

Home - Eulogy

In 27 days, I will move out of my home of 9 1/2 years. 

When I think about it, I ache sometimes.  And other times, I feel totally exhilarated by the possibilities of new change.  Back and forth these two feelings go, as I ride the wave of the reality that in 27 days I will move out of my home of 9 1/2 years.

July was a time of intense mourning.  779 Hollow Road is the first home I've ever truly made for myself.  When I came here, I was looking for a more interesting place to be, someplace near a town center so I could walk there and be in community.  (I didn't even know what being in community was yet, though.)  I knew that I wanted to have a place to create a flute studio where I could teach and have a beautiful space for working with my students, and this house has been perfect for that.  When I moved here, I loved the thought of living in a quaint little historic town, perched on the edge of a state park, with a train going by in the distance.  It all fit my vision of the perfect place to live.  And it has been the perfect place to live!  Here, I have learned what it feels like to know and love my neighbors like family, to truly be who I am.  I have learned what it means to create a home that is a true sanctuary, a space that is an external expression of my innermost being.  My home has also been a sanctuary for others - I have opened my doors for parties, potlucks, drum circles, women's circles, energy healing shares, musical rehearsals, and beloved friends.  I have always wanted to open my door and leave it open for all of my people to feel welcome.  And I have done that, and it has been wonderful.  On my 35th birthday, just a few weeks ago, I felt the fullness of that openness.  More than 30 of those who are dear to my heart came to help me celebrate, and I was full and brimming over with joy and love. 

But living here has been more than just community and this house.  It has also been a decade of learning what it means to live in deep connection with the land.  When I moved into this house, there was nothing growing by the sidewalk, just a long stretch of gravel.  It was ugly.  I asked my landlord for dirt so I could grow a garden, and dirt was gladly provided.  Now, I see trees shading the sidewalk, I see butterfly bushes thick with blossoms, providing nectar for bumblebees, hummingbirds, and butterflies.  I see flowers in bloom for most of the green seasons.  I see plants others label "weeds" growing happily, because I've decided I like them and want them to stay.  I've seen the lilac bloom every spring, and have been filled with joy to sit by the window in the living room and take in the heavenly scent.  I have watched the magnolia blossom and grow, and also be broken down by the heavy snows.  I have buried my first cat beneath her gentle boughs, as well.  I see herbs and flowers coming up in new places that they seem to have chosen for themselves, though the original was brought in by me, and planted elsewhere.  I love that, too.  To know that I have been the caretaker of this land, and to see how it has grown so lush and beautiful because I have cared enough to love the Earth through planting green growing things. 

And the River.  The holy sacred River.  My beloved Ganga Ma, sweet waters that have taught me so many things.  I have learned the deep blessing of knowing the way she moves, whether low in drought or high in raging post-rain rush.  I have learned the ways of moving in her waters, of finding rocks to hinge my body from to lean into her current.  I have learned the place of each rock in my special spot, and can find them by feel and by knowing as I move in her waters.  I have sat upon my rock, and have enjoyed the feeling of the warmth of the sunlight after the sun has begun to sink behind the trees - the rock will stay warm for hours after the sun has left.  I know the rush of her water, the different songs that different parts of her current sing, and have offered my own songs to her as well.  I have come to know the sweet smell of River, which is most clearly inhaled when I am very still, and breathing in very slowly.  Each time I have gone to enjoy her waters, I have known the holiest of Baptism, as she openly receives me back into her sweet flow.  I have never known a feeling of home more than in this River.  I love her like any being I have ever loved.  I love her completely. 

Sigh.  And now, the ache in my heart has grown stronger.  As I imagine myself leaving Oella behind, I understand how powerful it can be to truly have a sense of place.  Place on the Earth, place in relationship not only with humans, but with the natural, wild, sweet Earth.  I have never consciously known what that is before living here, and I am grateful in my bones for even being able to comprehend what that means, to know where I am, and to know who I am in relationship to that.  I haven't met too many people who understand what I'm talking about either.  That makes me sad.  It seems that we know who we are in relation to our families, our neighborhoods, our churches, our friends, our schools and workplaces, and our homes.  But how many people truly know what it feels like to be rooted in the land, in the Earth herself?  I am grateful for knowing that and feeling it here.  And knowing it and feeling it so deeply in my heart makes the ache even stronger because I feel the process of uprooting myself now growing so strong.  This is the end of a sweet relationship, the end of a marriage between myself and this place, and for that I will continue to mourn.  My heart is heavy in sadness.  And I know that the time to leave is here, and I must move on.  The River has taught me as much, that we must keep flowing.  I must keep flowing. 

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Dancing with My Sister's Questions

Today I had a great conversation with a friend, and it seems that we have been sitting with some similar questions recently. In her own blog, she posted the following questions:

  • Does the overlap between new theories of quantum science and ancient metaphysical and shamanic principles lead you to a perspective focused on personal desires, intention and goals, and/or to a mystical experience of awe, wonder, relatedness?
  • What point on the spectrum of and/or resonates as a personal place of balance?
  • What is the impact of that point on personal consciousness and action? On others, human and nonhuman? On the planet?
  • How does this experience shape personal choices regarding responsibility and action?

I am not terribly well informed in the world of quantum science. My primary exposure to this was through the film "What the Bleep" when it came out, and I must have watched it about 20 times in all. I also once went to a lecture with quantum scientist Amit Goswami, and it was truly wonderful - though I believe that he is considered "way out there" by much of the school of quantum physics. What little I have read in his books is certainly fascinating, and resonates with a knowing that is deep within me. While my own depth of understanding in the field of quantum theory is certainly limited, I have a cursory understanding, which is probably just enough to understand the question and to begin to play with it.

I think I understand the question to be one of personal focus. As modern theoretical sciences have begun to uncover information that seems to resonate with ancient truths found in metaphysical traditions - shamanic traditions in particular - does the individual to whom these ideas are revealed experience an intensification in wanting to fulfill personal desires, intention and goals, or does the person experience an intensification of the mystical experience of awe, wonder, and relatedness, or some blending of the two? It also seems that my friend is suggesting that a blending is essential, only natural, and that makes sense to me.

Let's say that I have uncovered one of the most mysterious secrets of all: I have the power to affect my reality through my mind, my intentions, and my beliefs. This is certainly the most heavily marketed of the ideas I recall from "What the Bleep." So, if my mind affects my reality, then I damn well better get it in check so that I can magically manifest the life I've always dreamed about... This has been a popular conversation topic among the new age community for years. How can I get the angels, totem spirits, energy particles, thought waves, universal energy (insert your favorite here...) to favor me, to give me what I want, what I need, what I deserve. The cult favorite film, "The Secret," was about exactly this. And true, in my reading about Peruvian shamanism, there are certain rituals that one must do in order to affect the inflow of good fortune into one's life - whether making a despacho offering, or pouring out some of one's beer onto Pachamama in gratitude, or some more complex ritual. And indeed, we all have needs and desires, and it is only natural to want to have those needs and desires fulfilled. One thing that crosses my mind, though, is this - ancient Earth-centered spiritual traditions were making rituals to Spirit in order to pray for these needs to be met, often hoping to fortify the survival of the people in a most rudimentary way. Please bless our family, our baby, our crops, please bring good weather, please help us to buy a new bull so that we can plow the field more easily. And what crosses my mind when I think of the new age tradition of manifesting is that the whole notion of please bless has been dropped. Instead, people tend to hold so tightly to the belief that through their own mind and intentions they can manifest anything, and that there is no need to pray, to seek connection with Spirit. In fact, it often seems that prayer has been dropped altogether as people practice manifestation: I am the master of my destiny. I am abundant, I am driving a new Lexus, and my bank account has six figures in it. As we have moved further and further away from feeling the sharp edge of survival, and deeper and deeper into an existence that is easily explained and controlled by science, the need for prayer has shifted. And too, the attitude of humans has shifted a great deal. When you're praying to God that your family may survive the year, there is an essential quality of humility - you are truly in the hands of God to keep you alive and well. But when you trust science to fix things when they go wrong instead, and when your essential trust is in the human mind, you no longer need to rely upon an imaginary power to keep you safe and alive and well. Science will cure it, science will fix it, science will control it. God is no longer necessary, and prayer is absurd. Hence, as I see it, the huge upsurge in atheism in the world right now. But what is still sitting there beneath the surface is that we're still here on this planet for reasons we can't comprehend, we have no idea how we got here, no idea how long we will stay, and no essential understanding of what the whole thing is about.

Science and modernity have brought a lot of really great things into existence. I am grateful for being able to take a hot bath, for having an ipod filled with amazing music, for the flute that I play, for having been blessed with the opportunity to fly to amazing places across four continents. I am glad that if I break my leg, I can have it taken care of in a hospital and I will probably heal completely. I am grateful that I have access to an abundance of food and water, that my home is warm in the winter, and that I can sit here and write on this computer, or at the very least, on paper with a pen in a lovely color. I am glad that we have ways to manage our waste so that plague and other diseases borne of poor sanitation do not cause great harm in my life. I love that I have fingernail clippers that keep my nails nice and smooth, because it might make me crazy if I had jagged, pointy fingertips. Really, there are so many things that I appreciate in this modern world, and at the same time, I feel the deep need to acknowledge that much of what we have created is wasteful, extravagant, foolish, and extremely harmful to the ecosystem that is this planet. A planet previously revered as Mother, Pachamama.

Once, I was talking to my friend Gray in Peru. He had been living there managing a guesthouse for a couple years, and had walked by the Urubamba River every day, watching and connecting with the people there. Along the riverbank, the men were hanging out, and strewn all around was garbage. He noticed that they had thrown more down, and he approached them to talk. He asked them why they were throwing their garbage on the riverbank - garbage that was plastic. The men, illiterate farmers who probably lived in simple homes with very little in the way of modern amenities, men whose first language was Quechua, and were likely to be struggling to communicate in Spanish as much as Gray was. Their answer? The river will wash it away. Now, it's easy to get angry at such ignorance. After all, the plastic garbage will simply end up on another riverbank somewhere further along. But in a culture that is not yet accustomed to plastics and other materials that simply do not return to nature in the course of even several natural lifetimes, this is difficult to explain. When these farmers throw things onto the riverbank, they were still connected to the thought that whatever the Earth provides, she will take back. And in the world of food scraps, bones, plant matter, and the like, this is essentially true. It's difficult to explain to an old farmer that we humans have created this plastic substance, which is cheap to produce, and is considered absolutely disposable, even though it will persist in the ecosystem for more than two hundred years. Plastic, the brain child of a culture addicted to fast, cheap, and easy - a far cry from a culture that still plows its fields with the power of bulls, while barefoot men guide the wooden plow from behind. A far cry from a culture that refuses to mechanically thresh its wheat because that would cause damage to the individual grains.

I realize at this point that I have gotten a bit off course from the original question, though in a direction I find valuable and absolutely worthy of consideration. One thing I want to revisit is the flip side of the coin I began with: I have the power to affect my reality through my mind, my intentions, and my beliefs. When focused on self interest, this power can cause great harm. If I only consider my own needs, my own desires, my own wishes, and forget that my own life touches every other one in the process, then I will make foolish choices, and my power will invariably cause harm. But when I realize every choice I make to fulfill my needs, desires, and wishes affects the whole, and that with great power comes the need for great responsibility, everything shifts. Power without wisdom is the game of fools.

What would balance look like? If I were to combine the wisdom of ancient traditions - traditions that honor the mystery of life and Spirit, that humbly bow in reverence to the Earth, and live in true interdependence with all of life - with the discoveries of science - that we can create ways of living that offer greater security, heath, and ease in our daily lives? I believe that is the direction in which human civilization is headed, though it seems to be moving slowly.

The advances of post-industrial human civilization are not going anywhere, in spite of my greatest fantasies. So, it is my sincere hope that the human species learns, collectively, that we are by no means the most important species, nor the creator of this world. Indeed, in the last hundred years, we have become its destroyer. We carry the seed of God within us, and indeed, we do have the incredible power of consciousness and the ability to affect our reality through our thoughts and intentions. But we are merely carriers of that seed, and we remain here, alive in this great mystery! When the experience of power and control meets unwise, immature minds, great foolishness is the result - it's like a small child realizing that it has the power to pull the legs off a daddy-long-legs spider (which I definitely did as a child, to my great horror now). When we realize that we are blessed with the seed of Divine power within us, we must become wise carriers of that power, and make choices that are in alignment with the truth that we humans are merely one small part of the great interdependent web of life.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Fallen and Lost

Yesterday, I took a sub teaching job at a high school in Columbia, a dance class. What unfolded was the day from hell. I got to the school and realized that the teacher I was working for had neglected to tell me which space was hers for parking, and spent 10 minutes driving in circles until I found another teacher who could point me in a direction to an empty space. By that time, I was late arriving in the building, and classes were going to start in 5 minutes. I checked in with the office, and was handed a piece of paper telling me where to go, and then when I asked where the classroom was located, the woman brushed me off with an irritated, "down the hallway over there" and I headed out. I walked "down the hallway over there" and found no dance studio at all, but ended up locked in a corridor and unable to get out. I banged and banged on the door, bruising and cutting my hand, finally getting someone to let me out. This teacher led me to the proper classroom, and I walked into a room full of bitchy 15 year old girls with attitude seeping out of their pores.

Plans? Nope. This teacher didn't leave a single note for what I was supposed to do. I called the office once, then again, asking for them to find some kind of plans. They didn't. Finally, when a particularly bitchy foursome put on their ipod and proceeded to blast gangsta rap, I went over and told them to kill it. They were nasty, and probably deserving of a good ass-kicking, but I just walked away. I finally was told by the office to put on a video...which one, they had no suggestion. I found something and put it on. The bitchy girls continued to be bitchy, and loud, and then proceeded to direct their bitchiness at me. I went to them and told them they were too loud and that they were being rude, and that if they felt the need to continue, I would happily have them removed. They continued, and I put another call into the office to have them removed. At that point, the office decided they needed me in another classroom. I happily took the switch.

Math class. I did have a couple free class periods, which is rare at this school. They tend to really use sub teachers for all they can, with little appreciation. Finally the fourth period class arrived, and I was only one of three teachers in the room. The other two took care of things, while I sat back and pretty much helped with discipline. This was a class full of kids who were barely passing Algebra, and some felt the need to share with the whole room that they were, in fact, failing the class. I have rarely been in a classroom like that, full of students who are so rude and disrespectful that they will outright disrespect teachers to their faces, shouting and making threats, using obscene language at top volume, and generally refusing to participate in the class. It was like being in a circus, or a zoo. And in spite of my usual intentions to find the ways that kids are not being served and respected, all I could think about was how this class of students was a joke, and how unevolved they were. They were, for the most part, just not very smart, and it is a huge dicouragement to me when I consider that these are the "average" kids in one of the best school systems in the country. If this is "average" then there are a large majority of kids in this country with this kind of point of view. They don't want to learn, they just want to play with their electronic devices and feel like they are entitled to certain things - entertainment, respect, and no responsibility for themselves. It made me angry, and hopeless. There was no spark evident in most of these kids - no spark to learn, to fulfill their potential, to contribute something of themselves to the world. Just to get what they want, and if they don't, they'll pitch a fit.

I was slated to leave the school before the last class of the day, but the office called me at the last possible moment - the end of the previous class, after the bell - to tell me they needed me in another class to cover. They gave me a room number. When I asked who it was, and what class, I was told they had too much going on to answer those questions, to just go there. I was once more put off by the disrespectful, demanding attitude of the people who run this school. Part of me definitely wanted to go to the principal of the school and tell them my experiences there. But the other part of me said "fuck it." I can simply refuse to go there.

I left the school feeling edgy, aggressive, and pissed off. I had a huge headache. I was hoping that getting my hair cut would help with the day, and then had planned to go to DC to meditate. I ended up having an impromptu afternoon coffee date with a friend, which was a blessing, for sure, and then went off to have my hair cut. Which was also a major disappointment. The haircut was adequate, but not good - especially for the cost, and set off a whole new level of sadness, since my amazing stylist of many years died suddenly back in the winter. I left in tears, feeling crushed by the day. I didn't go to DC, I just didn't have the energy for anything more. I spent the evening in tears, wondering why I even bother to try to do anything at all.

I am still sitting with that. Why fucking bother is the question in my mind right now. Why bother going to get my hair cut and paying a lot of money for it when what I get is mediocrity. I could have gone to the Hair Cuttery, or just dreadlock my hair and not even think about it at all. Why should I bother to go into schools with an attitude of compassion and listening and wanting to contribute when I am faced with bitchy, entitled attitudes of children who don't have any desire to grow beyond their childish demands. Why should I bother making any contribution at all to a culture that is shallow and immature, that seeks entertainment and the most fancy, shiny new device, seeking happiness in material garbage? Let the fucking culture die a poisonous death. I don't care. I won't feed it, support it, help it along, or contribute to it in any way. Let it rot.

Which leaves me feeling lost and confused and full of sadness. I feel like a fish out of water. Sure, the water is poisoned, and I don't want to be in it. And now, I'm mostly not in it. But where am I? And what do I do now? I am not at all regretful of my path. I know who I am, I know what really matters in life, and I know that I want to cultivate my life from those points of view. But how do I do it if I feel like I am doing it alone? I don't have the energy for it. Not to swim upstream in the very poisoned water I have made such effort to pull myself out of. I don't have any answers at this point. I feel lost.


Inside a hostel in Cusco, Peru