when god is gone, everything is holy

once upon a time, i was in deep despair. grief upon grief had broken me and i was uncertain i could go on in a life that promised only more of the same. those were both harrowing and hallowed days…months… years. what became of me during that time, i cannot fully explain. at the time, it felt like something outside of me surrounded and infused me with Love each time i was at the end of that proverbial rope, the noose round my neck, ready to step off of the chair.

sometimes it was a light so warm and bright that it completely suffused me. sometimes it was a more physical sort of love-making, my body responding as if touched.  sometimes it was small gifts of wonder, upon wonder, upon wonder, saving my life.  sometimes it was words spoken in a dream, a voice awakening me to a life in which i was ‘bound to beauty’. sometimes it was the feeling of being held by a Love that received me with such an encompassing embrace that I understood that such a Love simply could never leave me abandoned in a desolate place without hope.

along the way I healed, bit by bit, and fell in Love with life again. fear of this life, and of that one, released its hold.

i don’t know exactly what That was. at the time, it felt like God to me. it certainly felt like something outside of myself, like i could not have conjured such things.  but now, i don’t know, perhaps the human spirit is more creative than we give it credit. in the end, it doesn’t matter to me what it was.

gradually, along the way, that Other disappeared from my life. not that the feeling of life being precious was gone, but that the sacredness of life was now diffused across the whole of the earth, permeating it all. this was not an entirely new awareness or way of being for me, but was more like a return to who i was, to who I had always been, and to what i had always known, as if it was that painful rupture, which had momentarily made me forget and deny life’s inherent goodness and innate beauty. what the intensity of that excruciating time perhaps gifted to me, however, was the awareness that even the terrible is beautiful, even the horrific holy. the crown of thorns is a basket of flowers. no separation. anywhere. ever.

the earth has always been a sacred place to me, particularly the natural world. the sacredness i experience in an unmanned place is exquisite. human beings can make that understanding more problematic. we hurt one another deeply.  and yet, i have also returned to that deeper knowing,  which in the child is named as naïve but in the mature adult is wisdom, that we humans are also innately divine. good. blessed. Love.

sometimes i miss those years of God loving me, that feeling of Belovedness.  it can be hard to feel as if one is cared for in a world where humans hurt one another deeply. it can be hard to feel seen, held, beloved by . it can be hard to know how to pray when there is no one ‘out’ there.

when there is no separation.

between the holy

i am the seer, the holder, the lover.

i am the One that is needed

the reciprocality for which i  long must come from the other seers, holders, lovers in this place – human and nonhuman alike. animal and plant, water and air, sound and touch – in a world where everything is God and there is no thing Other.

belovedness, revisited, again, for as many times as it takes

I awakened this morning smiling, remembering who I am, not unlike waking after a morning of falling in love, except the Love I have fallen into is my own.  Truthfully, it feels a bit disorienting, except in a reverse sort of way, as if I have been wandering confusedly in a barren and alien landscape, looking for something I believed I was missing, outside of myself, and now I am dwelling deeply within a lush landscape of bounty.

It makes me wonder how I got so lost in that search, trapped, believing that who I am is to be found outside of myself, within some identity or purpose or ‘doing’.  I do trust that the wandering deserts of my life are as vital to my soul’s journey of becoming as is this lush land of lakes, both essential legs in this spiraling (no way is it linear) life-death-life journey. I understand the necessity of traversing and exploring the dark, shadowy realms – realms I seem to be thrust into, never willingly enter- in order to reclaim pieces of my wholeness. But still, it seems I completely forgot some important truths about myself while I wandered there, and came to accept some decidedly harmful and diminishing ones in their place. I was a LONG time in that dark night, unable to hear her affirming voice of Love.

I can see in some ways how it was that I was searching for Love in all the wrong places, waking up in the wrong bed – not at all lying in the arms of one who honored the particular and unique sacredness of my soul. Gazing at my reflection in that shadowy bedroom mirror, was like seeing myself in the walls of a funhouse, my image distorted, reflecting to me brokenness where there is Beauty. Those refracting mirrors remain in my life, unable to see past superficial measures of value, and so what has been validated has been my shame, my feelings of inadequacy, my not-good-enoughnesses. Caught in measurements of beauty that have to do with the dominant cultural assessments of worth, I have discounted and diminished my very dignity.

Here, a wiser mirror, a handheld one perhaps, one that beholds at the level of soul,  is helping me to appreciate who I am. Other totems I’d misplaced are also here in this lush landscape – this enduring Vision of Goodness, that encompassing Knowledge of Love within All, this noble Quality of Soul, that Voice, whispering in my dreams, ‘You are Bound to Beauty’. Valuable pieces I’d discarded in deference to trinkets of quasi-belonging. And, of course, this Diamond I’ve been carrying, the one I’d thought was a rock tethered to my ankle.  Each one – the mirror, the diamond, the totems, now tucked into my medicine bag, along with those Golden Scissors given to me by Her. These I will tie about my neck to protect my heart from harm.

Finally, in the center of this woodland grows my Belovedness, fully mature and developed. That dried seed, deposited so long ago, the last time I traversed this way, is rooted and vibrant, thriving and strong. In blossom, here She is, planted where she would surely bloom. I’ll look forward to tasting her fruit.

 

to love and to honor from this day forward

There is a scene in the 1990’s remake of Miracle on 34th street, in which the girl-child, setting her unhappy mother straight about her disbelief, quite succinctly states, ‘I’m very sorry mother, you have it perfectly wrong’. It’s a favorite line for me.

Something like that happened to me today. Similar words, twice, from my soul to my self, setting me straight about the delusion I have been under, a delusion that has been causing me undue shame and despair.

All of these years, I have been believing my real life was on hold, awaiting my arrival after that huge detour that I took, when I was in truth living! Growing and becoming, expressing and embodying.  Authentically so. I got caught in the cultural(ego) trap, which dictates that certain accomplishments or ways of being are more worthy than others, so often in perverse proportion to their actual value.

First came a little morning validation. That always helps, especially when the usual mirrors in your life have no way of seeing because your experience is outside their range. Yes, this mirror reflected, what you have done, in fact what you are doing is HARD! And it is REAL. And it is a LOT. And you have performed it with the fullness of your flawed humanity, which, by the way, also includes grace, resilience, love, nobility, courage, perseverance, patience, compassion, and presence alongside that fumbling inadequacy and weariness.

That validation was followed by a good afternoon dose of soul truth revealed in the pages of a book that fell from the shelf onto my lap. Expecting to find myself indicted in its pages, and therefore in need of a lot of remediation and retrieval of what had been lost or stolen, I was struck once again by the whispered dignity and integrity of what i had labeled as less-than and broken.

After your many years of performing your (role) , you’ve not only mastered a form, but more importantly, you’ve acquired a deep-rooted familiarity with what your soul qualities feel like as they pour forth from you. On countless occasions you have observed your soul powers at work in the world. you saw the ways your best efforts affected others, how you changed the lives and experiences of people, perhaps how you shifted the collective field, or how certain human or natural habitats were rendered more wild, diverse, or vital. In these ways, you’ve acquired a nuanced feel for the results that your soul desires.  Now, (in the next stage of your life) you will engender those kinds of results regardless of how you get there, and often enough you in fact no longer know how you’ll get there. – Bill Plotkin

As I received the deep blessing of my life in these words, something healed in me. as if I recognized myself for the first time. That dim mirror wiped clean for a moment of the fog that covers it over, I could see clearly how it is that each role, each stage of my being HAS been infused with my soul. A soul that yearns for each human and non-human in this place to be received as beauty, to be valued, to know its original goodness; a soul that desires for each one to be, not only allowed, but encouraged to be uniquely and authentically who she/he/ki is because he/she/ki is breathtakingly vital; a soul that longs for the girl to know she is vibrant and the boy to know he is love, for women to know they are beloved sisters, for all to know they are sacred; a soul that longs for the earth to be wild with the gifts of blossom and fruit, beauty and bounty, and for humans to have a real place in that wildly mutual gifting.

My life has been spent nurturing and protecting the preciousness of life, and ‘perfecting this delivery system’ for whatever is next, the way of which will open before me, and into which my soul will infuse its gifts.  This time of my life is not at all about casting off stones, but carrying forward the diamond that has been honed by a life well lived.

 

sweet darkness?

What is this place? 

This newfound feeling of surrender – could it be healthy relinquishment? Or is it merely giving up? How can a body know?, when each new terrain that a human being treads is previously unchartered territory. I look around and wonder if this is simply what life looks like here, how it feels to be across this threshold, like reaching the summit…

and seeing a desert landscape on the other side.

From this vantage point, I turn to witness the passion of youth, so full of dreams and ideals, and I smile, though it feels like a façade, behind which there lies doubt. I feign because I don’t wish to despoil their hope. It is their time to plot and plan, to imagine and create. 

Perhaps I am simply weary, because if I test this new feeling of surrender, it’s not quite contentment that I am experiencing. It feels more like defeat, as if having hit too many walls, I no longer have the ambition to push back nor the energy to climb. The burning that filled my being even 6 months ago, is suddenly extinguished as if from a flood of rain.

Is this what it feels like to let go? Of attachment. Of desire. Of need. Of longing.

I wonder if vibrance also departs with those. Somehow, in the movement from doing to being, from household to forest, I expected that joy would deepen.

Perhaps THIS is how a body knows then that she has not arrived, for vitality sings of her health. 

Perhaps I have taken the wrong path.

 

When your eyes are tired
the world is tired also.When your vision has gone
no part of the world can find you.Time to go into the dark
where the night has eyes
to recognize its own.There you can be sure
you are not beyond love.The dark will be your womb
tonight.The night will give you a horizon
further than you can see.You must learn one thing.
The world was made to be free inGive up all the other worlds
except the one to which you belong.Sometimes it takes darkness and the sweet
confinement of your aloneness
to learnanything or anyone
that does not bring you aliveis too small for you.– “Sweet Darkness” by David Whyte, House of Belonging

 

commune

We’re all hurtling through our lives, and the planet is hurtling through space without a seat belt. We have to discover successively more freedom inside the terrible things that have happened and the terrible things that certainly will happen, and the whole of it is also a mysterious splendor, full of kindness, welcome and cups of tea. – John Tarrant

as dawn broke on this day, i awoke with the same feeling of deep sadness with which i had fallen into that fitful sleep. my dreams had only reinforced my feelings of failure. you know how that can be with dreams. as the morning unfolded, my tears were so near to the surface that silence fell over me like a blanket to keep them undercover.

after spending some time with myself in my journal, some of which i also shared here, i texted my friend, to see how she was feeling today. she has been experiencing her own measure of sorrows lately. we soon made a date for afternoon tea.

that time spent with her, mutually revealing and receiving our fears and flaws, remorses and regrets, struggles and sorrows was to share a communion more healing than any sacramental bread and wine.  being held by a true friend in an empathy that understands, not from an intellectual assertion, but from the mutual experience of being human is truly redemptive.

its not always easy to be vulnerable with another human being like that, but when we find that place of true belonging, acceptance, and love, where we are free to be all of who we are without shame, the saving of our souls from despair is so real. i don’t know how often that happens. i have the feeling i am blessed to have a small circle – a circle that is growing – of women in my life with whom i can get naked like this. i am suspicious that it is my willingness to get naked at last that is making that so.

three mornings a week, after we have finished our morning water aerobic class, i shower in the university locker room with a group of women.  standing naked with all of those fearfully and wonderfully shaped women has helped me to love my own body in ways that i could not have imagined i could ever do. i no longer measure myself against some illusory standard that isn’t even real. that’s what getting naked can do. strip the illusion of perfection we use to hate ourselves and cover over our beauty.

it’s a brave thing to do. get naked. there are still places out there where we will be laughed at or ridiculed, shamed or rejected, judged as unworthy. we do have to learn where it is safe to take off our clothes, but more and more i realize that there are others out there who look just like me, hurting and lonely and doubting and longing and messing up and feeling life deeply.

that blogger i’ve recently discovered, Dr. Kelly Flanagan, whom I’ve mentioned here previously sums it up perfectly.

Vulnerability is a beautiful thing. And it sucks. It gets a little easier over time, but not much. Because vulnerability is always a door thrown wide open for pain. So, why keep doing it? Because it is also the doorway to grace and worthiness and connection and belonging and passion and purpose. And joy of every surprising kind.

i realize that i also do this here, with you. get naked. sometimes it is scary. i wake up and wonder what i have done! like a woman the morning after taking off her clothes the first time with a new lover. then i take a deep look in the mirror, rereading my words, and realize i’m not so mishapen at all. i look just like everyone else. 

i hope that my vulnerability is likewise a gift to you. a mirror. a sip of tea. a lump of bread. a moment of connection and grace. a place to be human. a place of belonging.

as we hurtle together through this terrible, beautiful life without a seat belt.

see

there is a situation in my life that causes me deep pain, has been causing me deep pain for a very long time. i have gotten caught in the trap that if i just could fix this, i would be free at last to be happy. i could finally let go my frustrations, my longings, my weariness, my fear.

perhaps my deeper wisdom has known that this is not true, but i can’t seem to live in and from that deep place as much as I’ve thought that i could.  of course, my love is tangled up in that pain. it seems that is always the case. again, my deeper wisdom knows a deeper Love that can hold it without getting hooked into the spiraling chaos.

i slept fitfully last night, after having gone to bed early to get away from it for a while. my dreams were plagued by starving children and unforgiving adults. there is no escaping it, i suppose.  so, here i am with my journal, seeking the wisdom she so often reveals – beneath it.

i see that i need to stop hooking my happiness upon others, whether it is upon their happiness or their understanding. likewise, stop blaming them. look to myself for it. not in a self-centered, armored kind of way, as in ‘i’m going to take care of myself from now on’. but in a looking within- to how it is that i contribute to my own despair. how is my own behavior – thoughts or actions- harmful to myself and to others. what unskillful patterns have i taken on as model ones. it is hard to see myself clearly, both in the somewhat impossible way-from within the blindness of my conditioning, and in the painfully difficult way when i do finally glimpse the truth.

of course, the trick is always how to go there without slipping into self-hatred or self-condemnation, with the resultant popping back out of that place with a determination to atone my humanity. humility is needed to simply acknowledge my self- my blindness, my striving, my clinging, my fear, my flaws – and stop trying so hard to be perfect, or frantically fix what i perceive to be broken.

this going within is one kind of way, of course, to separate myself from the drama. move into the eye of the storm. sometimes that feels like escape, like running away, like not addressing the problem that keeps spinning out of control. i have learned, however, that i am quite small and powerless in the force of that storm, and i am learning what is not mine to fix. i need to step away from that.

of course, sweet companions of mine (we who eat of the same bread), you know that stepping out of the fray is also what i experience when i escape in another way into the woods and the water of the wilderness.  i hold dear to my heart an explanation given by a psychotherapist on the process of individuation, those passages in our lives when we are shedding old roles and ways of relating and growing a new way of expressing and being our selves. clearly, she said, there is a necessary break away that is a part of that becoming in order for the new self to emerge, outside of the tugs, pulls, hooks, that dismantle one’s identity before it can fully take shape. i see a caterpillar inside it cocoon here, hidden and protected from the beaks that would consume it before it had wings.

the classic example of this is a young adult leaving home for college. but I’ve often been taken by the Hindu life stage referred to as ‘the forest dweller’, which honors this need in the older adult as well, as she moves away from the householder stage. separation is a valid way to transform oneself and one’s way of relating with the world. we have similar stories in our culture, most often something like Cheryl Strayed’s experience on the Pacific Crest Trail.

the test of whether the change goes deeper than the surface, or whether it is also simply escape, can be when one returns to one’s ‘ordinary’ life. just as daily prayer or meditation practices, which invite one to access a deeper wisdom within from which to live, can so easily erode over time, so can the sense of deeper identity one finds out there.

metamorphosis cannot be hurried. wings cannot be forced open, or the butterfly perishes before it becomes.

time. deep time. i need.

in order to see who i am.

 

 

 

 

follow

The door closes behind her. It is finished. The great task of her life complete. 

It was a world into which she had been thrust 30 years prior, as if plucked from her life and cast into that cell for walking down the wrong street, her old self gone in an instant. In shock, at first, she was resilient. Quickly she learned to survive, to make herself skilled in what was needed to do so. Love not only made that possible, but necessary.  Thriving was required of her if the children were going to flourish.

But now.

She’d heard the song for some time, coming from outside those cold walls. For years, she’d known it was there awaiting her release. Honestly, at times it drove her to madness during those years when that heavy door was locked. Mostly, it gave her hope.

Standing here, now, on the other side, the song calls from over the distant ridge. Across these winter white barrens, it beckons.

The part of herself she lost.

It is not so unlike the last time she was thrust from all that she’d known, except that walled existence was so full, there was no time to feel lost, it was all she could do to keep up.

But this.

Vast emptiness is more frightening, in so many ways. It’s tempting to turn back, knock on that door, see if she can make herself fit again –except for the terrible heaviness she’s felt when she’s tried.

The song beckons her come. It sounds like Life. Like resurrection. Yes, the stone rolled away from that tomb!

Why is it so hard to reach the source of that elusive voice?

The stone, of course, tied round her ankles.  

Impossible to fly, she’s walked all this way. No wonder

She’s weary.

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