The ceremony has to be within.
The mountains and the desert and the sun and moon and open spaces and canyons and rivers need to live inside you. You need to be able to be there in a heartbeat and here, too, wherever here is (especially with the children).
Now clean your house.
We go into the woods, into the wilderness, to practice traveling, to practice our understanding of attack and protection, to practice seeing out and seeing in, to practice listening. And it’s all happening right here, in the kitchen, on the soccer field, as we move through traffic. Right here. All the time.
I took you for a walk and explained to you why attending a $7000/month summer arts camp was not in my vocabulary. We spoke about social class. We spoke about where I came from and where your dad came from and how different those two places were. I told you I was glad your dad had the degrees, the connections, the experiences and the resources to make it possible for you [both] to be at that camp. I told you I did not have those things. I told you that for some people, camps like these were the norm. I told you that for others, a low-cost summer day camp in the park was the best and only option. I asked you if you felt poor and when you said you did not, I felt good. I do not want you to feel ashamed like I did, though I understand my shame was deeper than the mattress on the living room floor or not enough food in the cabinets. I do want you to understand your place in the world. I told you we can talk about these things.
This morning, from my bed, I heard a young couple and their guardian arguing across the street. I do not know if you noticed. A pregnant mama pushed her baby in a stroller up a snow packed hill. I heard, “I love you,” and “I’m sorry,” and, “Bring the baby back to where it’s warm,” and “Ya’ll are crazy,” and “Leave me the fuck alone.”
From the inside, our home is enchanted like Narnia. It is a good life. But the picture is incomplete if I let you think these things do not happen or, worse, if I let you think I do not see them.
greet the desert after a long absence
give thanks for rain
find a place in the wide open
slip off shoes
dance barefoot in a slow circle
touch the ground with bare hands
ask the unanswerable questions
love the journey
say dreams out loud
commit self in service, again
whisper the names of beloveds
pray, thank you
watch the lightning
feel the gentle rain
listen to crickets
open heart even wider
greet the desert after a long absence
give thanks for rain
I listened to one of Thich Nhat Hahn’s talks and chants today in the kitchen – Day of Mindfulness at Blue Cliff Monastery. I’ve used his talks at various difficult times in my life, like a virtual sangha. I wept. I felt so angry yesterday. I heard myself say aloud that I wanted others to feel as badly as I did. Then I felt worse for that wish. This morning I understand that I was saying I needed others to help me hold the pain, because it felt like too much for me alone. I feel better now, somehow.
This made me think of a certain toddler I love, and her anger and her needing someone else to help hold the pain. Oh, child.
I know that we all suffer - every single one of us. Yet, when my pain is high, that awareness doesn’t help, it feels minimizing. The suggestion that someone else’s pain is worse also feels minimizing. We each have our own hardest thing.
When my own pain has passed, I am able again to take my place in the collective sangha and help to hold the pain of others. Each of us needs moments of feeling held, I think. What that looks like varies.
My pain has passed for now. And I take my place in the collective, holding, feeling gratitude.
Happy new year, day, morning.
Entering the Gila Forest, I feel as if the boulders, trees, pinyon jays, soil, icy puddles, coyote scat, everything, are part of an elaborate theater set. I hear a helicopter overhead and imagine the pilot seeing a smattering of humans and their canines below at various places on the road and off - stage left and stage right. The hollow sounds of fists knocking on tree trunks or dog paws treading over terrain reinforce this feeling of construction. It is quiet out here, like a vacuum. Who would create such a set, and why? What am I doing in it? If I change the set a little, could I alter the play? What an interesting thought. If I move a few moss covered rocks here or there and enact a small ceremony, will I change the fabric of the world, constructed or otherwise?
I am working on a detox regimen: How to cleanse the self of institutions.
The process will vary with each individual. However, as with other detox regimens, skin eruptions, emotional pain, physical discomfort, cravings for safety and certainty, temptations to “go back,” as well as openings to new and unfamiliar sensations and/or gifts, are likely.
It helps to have a circle of support, others who have painstakingly deinstitutionalized and can share their life experiences, ask questions of you, and offer encouragement on the doubtful days. Even one person can make a difference.
Anything is possible.
There is a scene in the film, “Off the Map,” in which the actor Jim True-Frost realizes that a story he was told about himself as a child, which he had believed since childhood, may not have been true. I thought about the significance of that scene today while out walking.
First, I thought about the blind trust we place in those around us to tell the truth and what happens when/if we learn that they have not.
Second, I thought about stories of self and how significant they are. What I say and do, who I love, the possibilities I imagine for self and world, and so on, are based on stories I have either been told about myself, or stories that I tell myself. If it is a faulty story that I am carrying, imagine the outcome.
I reflect on the myriad stories societies tell about groups of people, and the projections of stories made daily by loved ones. I make a commitment to clear out my own story house, with love and discernment, and to allow both self and other to be new in each moment.
I use creative non-fiction, autobiographical fiction, and poetry to communicate, connect, and understand.