After the writing from my body workshop I strolled on up to East West Bookshop at the recommendation of my spirituality professor. We had talked about poetry in my class, and when I walked into the shope, which was overwhelming (in a positive way) I was immediately drawn to a shelf and on that shelf was a red book enttiled Love Poems from God: Twelve Sacred Voices from the East and West. Whew. Looking at the authors I was flabbergasted: Rabia, Hafiz, Rumi, Meister Ekhart...all these people that we have talked about in class wrapped up neatly in one book of poetry. The best part was the clerk who said "hey, we have that used, do you want that copy?" If I wear more poetic I'd think the book chose me... Today I did my final piece of artwork for my spirituality class. Here's the poem (by Rumi) that inspired it:
The grass beneath a tree is content and silent.
A squirrel holds an acorn in its praying hands, offering thanks, it looks like.
The nut tastes sweet; I bet the prayer spiced it up somehow.
The broken shells fall on the grass, and the grass looks up and says, "Hey."
Yesterday I attended a wonderful writing workshop that was all about writing from my body. These are two of the experiences that stuck out to me the most:
The voice of my belly says: "Why are you ashamed of me? When did this all start? At the end of the day you sigh and release me. Comfortable yoga pants in front of the fire. At hom you let me be me, but in the world you do everything you can to pretend I don't exist. I can't breathe. You cut me off from feeling. You've made me feel like I don't matter. Conditional love, that I have to somehow prove myself to you. Will I ever be good enoug? How did you let them convince you that I am the enemy? Did their voices get too loud? Is this a right of passage, from childhood belly breathing to the shallow breathing of adulthood? Shallow."
The voice of my heart says: "Wait a minute missy, don't get so close. You get an assignment to ask me what I want after jacking me around for so long. I don't think so. You can't just waltz right in and expect me to be open and vulnerable, I have too much to lose. What you're asking for is a lot and can't be accomplisehd overnight or in this short period of time. I don't trust you or anyone around and there isn't time to build safety. My strength lies in keeping myself back. Love anorexia. What can I withold from myself out of a sense of control? Witholding love is as good as withholding food. I can spiritually and emotionally starved, a skinny and withered heart."
In class we've been discussing labels, things that we embrace and begin identifying with as being "me," which has left me to wonder...how do you see me?
I certainly have a perception in my head of who I am, what things make me me, but lately I've been encountering the discrepancy between how I perceive myself, and how others perceive me...
Scene 1: FH husband and I took his parents theater tickets a week or so ago and went to watch a musical version of Huck Finn with his parent's family friends. On the way home the discussion of sleep came up and the man said "you should get up at 6 everyday," and she replied with "you shouldn't sleep so much, you don't want to get in a bad habit." It was the manner in which they stepped into parent role that irked me. In that moment I realized...they don't see me as an adult, they see me as a 'kid' and are treating me as such...which was very irksome to me because a) they are not my parents and b) my parents don't treat me like that...
So what if I wake up at 9? I don't have class until 4 each day, and I end up spending like 40 hours a week on homework, so....I'm not just a lazy bum. Also, it seemed that they, without any knowledge of my life, assumed that I have never had a job or been awake early. I guess I should have let them know that I used to slosh buckets of water to our horses at 5:30 in the morning in highschool, and have had many jobs in my life that required worked early (and late) hours.
Scene 2: As many of you may know, I'm sort of a hippie and fashion just doesn't come naturally to me. I was discussing hairstyles the other day with my future MIL and she said "well, when you grow up you'll want to spend more time on your looks, especially as you enter a career."
Um...excuse me? Who says that? Was that supposed to be constructive, because it sure didn't feel that way...
The thing that annoys me the most about these sort of comments is how very parent-like they are, which is so strange to me. I can understand why his parents might still slip into a 'parent' like dialogue with him because he's their kid and making that transition could be hard...but why are they talking to me like I'm a kid?
Sure I'm not working this summer, but I do have a job (it just so happens that school isn't in session during the summer). Sure I'm a student but I'm not in high school (hellooo, graduate school). I live alone, pay all my own bills, have a car and a fish and while I don't wear a 3 piece suit every day, but I'm not 12...
And the funniest part is, my parents don't act like this at all, at least not with me.
So that's what's got me thinking...how do others see me?
Today, during my massage therapy appointment, I had the most unusual experience. I have become progressively more relaxed each time I go (which I can tell by my involuntary body tics as I become in a state of relaxation), and today, when she moved to massage my lower back and legs I suddenly stopped being aware of my upper body. Now this has happened somewhat in my body scan meditation, where my awareness focuses on one part of my body, but today it wasn't about my mind. It's like my mind was in my buttocks (which is a very weird way of putting it), but it's not really my mind...it's just awareness, which is much bigger than my mind (because i am aware that I am thinking thoughts, so what part of me is that awareness..that knows I'm thinking?). So today I completely forgot about my upper body, if you had asked me in that moment, I was only 3 feet tall, because that was all I was aware of. It was an amazingly cool feeling, though it was very brief.
But the best part is how it coincides with what I have been experiencing in my spiritual dimensions of counseling class and what I've been reading in my Yoga+ Joyful Living magazine. The other day in class we opened with this meditation:
I have a body, but I am not my body. I appreciate that I have a body.
I have feelings, but I am not my feelings. I appreciate that I have feelings.
I have sensations, but I am not my sensations. I appreciate that I have sensations.
I have a mind, but I am not my mind. I appreciate that I have a mind.
I am pure consciousness.
So when we meditated on the "I have emotions, but I am not my emotions," I almost started crying, which I processed as needing to stop clinging to my emotional states as being a part of me, instead allowing the feelings to be felt, but move through me, like a filter rather than a container. Because the emotions are becoming a stagnant pond, and I'm clinging to them like I'll lose my identity if I let go.
There are so many things that I cling to as a part of my identity, and most of them are just pure nonsense. Who am I deep down beyond all of the labels?
So today was a very good experience, and even though I know I shouldn't grasp...it'd be super cool to have more of those...
According to wikipedia, the source of all sources, "in various spiritual traditions, mandalas may be employed for focusing attention of aspirants and adepts, a spiritual teaching tool, for establishing a sacred space and as an aid to meditation and trance induction. Its symbolic nature can help one "to access progressively deeper levels of the unconscious, ultimately assisting the meditator to experience a mystical sense of oneness with the ultimate unity from which the cosmos in all its manifold forms arises." The psychoanalyst Carl Jung saw the mandala as "a representation of the unconscious self," and believed his paintings of mandalas enabled him to identify emotional disorders and work towards wholeness in personality."
I had a conversation about my spiritual journey and was able to see clearly, for the first time, my fear of opening up again and being vulnerable to God. It will make itself clear in a moment:
You can begin in any circle, because who knows where I began the first time, but, like a good westerner, let us begin at the top.
The top circle is enlightenment, the time I saw Jesus as I sat in a suicidal heap on my bedroom floor. I had made bad choices and felt like life was no longer worth living, however the vision snapped me into a feeling of peace and made me do a 180 degree turn. I think this is the very definition of repentance. Rather than thinking I blindly clung to the ideals I had been raised with, fundamentals, which only later would I come to see as being muddled ideas that have come about since the enlightenment and modern thinking.
The second circle, clockwise of course, is my days as a fundamentalist. To turn away from the source of my pain and embrace, unthinkingly, uncritically, the evangelical right wing version of christianity. Black and white like penguins. Carbon copies. However, I was exposed to many different ideas as a SALT intern and found myself growing, questioning, wondering if the Jesus that supported Republicans wasn't perhaps just a tiny sliver of the whole thing. I went barefoot. I saw Aslan in the clouds and finally admitted to others that...yes...I believe in evolution, and that this makes me feel closer to God than a poof theology.
The third circle is my entrance into faith that is not limited by the arbitrary doctrines set up by the church. This is a time of exploration. Reading. Blue Like Jazz. Girl Meets God. Anything by Anne Lamott. Anatomy of the Spirit. A New Kind of Christian. Devouring books. Talking. Exploring. An internal struggle as I begin practicing new ways of relating to God. The blank space between black and white and out of the box is tearing me in two. I never fully settle into a vulnerable faith. I never really breathe into the spots like I do during a vigorous yoga practice. I am afraid and that fear dries me up.
Desert. I'm living in the in between. Sometimes returning to the oasis of spiritual vulnerability, but mostly I'm living in the dry spots. But I am hanging back, punishing myself, forcing myself to wander for 40 more years when perhaps there is a promised land ahead. Why? I long to get out of the 'dark night of the soul,' but am afraid of the pattern ahead...
I am not afraid of the 'enlightenment' or the experience of the divine meeting me where I am. I am not afraid of being opened up and vulnerable. Ok, I am afraid, but mostly I'm afraid of running right back into the arms of the pharisaical way of practicing Christian Spirituality. I don't want to begin measuring my faith by how many things I give up, by being less materialistic than others. I don't want to think I have it figured out and look down and judge others for their 'less than' spiritual way of acting. So I am punishing myself because I've noticed a pattern in my life (it's happened in smaller ways, not just on the big scheme). But then I keep thinking...maybe it's something that I have to experience...that I can't stay in one place forever....
And here is how I spent my time in church today. 1/2 way through the doodle I realized I was drawing someone praying and what I feel happens when we really connect...
For the summer I am supposed to pick up a spiritual activity, and I decided to continue to use art as my base for my summer spirituality, with plenty of meditation, contemplation and some time on my dusty-from-lack-of-use-lately yoga mat. Here are the first 3 pieces that I've finished:
On The Other Side was inspired by the image of a housewife peering over her neighbor's fence. Finding an image of heiroglyphs, it seemed a natural fit for the housewife to be peering over, as if to say, "what's on the other side of my spirituality?"
Time and Delicate Flowers is a painting I did the night I learned my grandma was diagnosed with breast cancer. Time is something that shows up a lot in my work and so it didn't surprise me that I found myself adding clocks to the delicate blooms. This painting reminds me of the scripture about how fleeting our lives our, like grass (or flowers) or a passing mist...
Time & Energy. What do you spend your time and energy on?
I once told her that she had to live until she was no longer needed, and that she would have to live forever, because I would always need her.
Tonight I learned that she, my grandma, my "best friend over 67" has breast cancer.
All I can think of is Carolyn Myss's Anatomy of the Spirit and how it talks so much about cancer and energy and how relationships can contribute to physical diseases. I know in my gut that the cancerous relationships in my family are contributing to her health and I, on the outside of the dysfunction (to a degree I suppose) have no power to change this.
Except my own personal forgiveness for the rift I've felt since an incident where she took my uncle's side. That betrayal shattered much of my trust, and it makes me sad. Sad for the time we've lost together. Sad that she might not be around to see ME have kids. She's a great grandma already and I think "but what about me? what about my kids? they should get to know their ggrandma too!"
It's early and with a lack of information about the extensiveness of the cancer I can't jump to conclusions.
But I think it's bad, and I'm not ready to lose her.
I'm tired of grocery-list journal entries and doodling during boring lectures. I think it's fitting that I'm starting in spring, because creative writing and art is a lot like gardening to me, it's messy and dirty and even if dandelions grow out of it, it is still worthwhile and always a beautiful process.
I'm interested in creative ventures and how I will implement them in my own life and in my counseling practice.
"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others." --Marianne Williamson