Monday, October 05, 2015

Recycling Grief

"If that younger self inside you is the only one who responds to grief, then you end up doing what I call "recycling grief," because that younger self doesn't have the capacity to handle it." 
-Francis Weller, interview in October 2015 issue of The Sun

I don't have much to say about this yet. I am still mapping it all out, and figuring out what will resist mapping. But something is shifting in me, deep inside. After I read these lines by Weller, I realized another piece of it - the grief my inner child self has carried for so long - ostensibly for my mother and father, who died when I was so young - is slowly transferring to my adult self. 

It is a delicate procedure, a handling of an egg without a shell. Slick and delicate membrane of feeling and all that I couldn't feel when I was younger. Raw sadness without labels or names. Yesterday, on a walk through the Wingra creek portion of he Arboretum, I felt the lowlands marshy-ness, the high oak hill. I knew all of this is natural, suddenly, with full feeling. A relief. I can have this grief in the world, for the world - not just about my loss, but about all loss.

It's hard to describe, but ascribing my specific sadnesses to the larger current moment helps me both feel more specifically and directly, and also with fewer labels. I can just feel. And that feels amazing.

No more recycling grief. Feeling a fresh sadness now, so what comes from before can move through and on. I don't expect less sadness in the future because of this. But perhaps clearer sadness, less muddled by story and yet with better insight into past and present.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Class Chorus: Lessons in Love

(I am bringing back something I used to do for my classes each week - write a new piece that threaded in all the experiences from the classes I had. Each week's writing has a theme.)

Why oh why does English only have one word for love? Intimacy, sexuality, romance, none of these are verbs. You can have sisterly, brotherly, friendship love but these are only adjectives, adverbs to describe the verb of loving, which attempts to describe something so profound and instead gets so overused as to become cheapened.

Romance, of course, appears most. First loves - heart breaking and rejuvenating. Spontaneous, raw, intense. Snapshots and short strips of film lodged in memories like symphonies that begin all over again with a simple cello tuning.
Leaning that fairy tales aren't real, unless princes can be girls and have paws. Not betting on anything related to another human, hurt, hurt and so much need for connection. 

And yet when you can grow where you are planted - marriage, children: saying I love you a million times a minute so it will soak into your spouse and children's bones. Is it possible to love too much? Is it possible to give too much? Can loving the self really help someone else? The most complex love of all - that which we try to grow for ourselves, without feeling selfish. "How can I be me and love someone else?"

Animals. First dogs and cats, wet paws and snouts that lick broken up wounds. Some kind of unconditionally, simplicity, like most have for their children and few have for their parents. Teaching us how to love, then, because they die so easily, under card or of cancer, so young, how to let go. Love of land and nature go here, too, love of most places, especially those without people - farms and cabins, lakes and hills or mountains.

And trying to make what once was one love into another, under the public gaze of your friends' opinions. When do ex's become friends? Have we really let go of they are the one thing we regret? What we hoped to leave behind, to blame, that follows us into every other relationship to come. Trying to answer complex questions with simply leaving, and yet, sometimes leaving must happen.

Yoga, dance, running - for some the simplest love of all, and for others a fear-based festival. Sweat and trust, knees and feet thrust just so. Who made you feel good? Is sometimes less a who and more a how, just like studying the patterns of how we were hurt, the furrowed brows, we can feel when a skull was held just so in another's hands. 

"I love deeply, steeped in the people around me," the sacredness of sacrifice when in the right context. Looking at religiosity - when is surrender not about paid for sins but about a fundamental forgiveness. An erasing between the boundaries of icons and myths and into the deep earth experiences we all share: bliss of connection, sharpness of rejection. Being together in groups, simply working or laughing, a thousand eyes looking back across the Willy St parade. Sometimes easier to feel it for or from hundreds of others than the one right in front of you.

So excited to get love. Then, shit. Now what? Habit and grasping, lust and disappointment. But after that, love again, from a friend or from the same companion, a re-working it out. When er can't hold or hug, when what our other needs is something we can't give, how can we trust they know they are loved? Letting them soak in it in any way we can. 

Focusing on breathing, again and again: falling asleep on mama's belly, listening to a lover or partner or pet snore, feeling in your own body enough to feel love or a longing for love. For life. Love is our oxygen; drink it in. There are depths of love possible that we aren't even aware of, and chances are they won't come from those we know best. Stretching to meet different families, different languages that can express these feelings with their bodies or faces or words we can't even pronounce. 

Exciting, exhausting, pacing ourselves because the best love is constantly discovering, finding comfort in discomfort, being willing to be unsure for just a moment longer. 

Being willing to put a stake in the ground and choose love over death means active work. Resistance, resilience, resonance.

Tuesday, September 08, 2015

Facing Procrastination Demons

I don't set out to procrastinate. It just sort of happens. After a couple of hours of work - good, hard work - I suddenly start to feel totally crappy. As if I have DONE NOTHING at all, even though I've been working hard.

I get up from the desk, wander the house aimlessly, maybe take a shower or meditate. Then, if I write or really ask myself what is going on, chances are I find out that I've been getting a lot done - but not THE ONE THING - or the few things, but usually it's just one - that will help me feel like I've gotten something done. Contacted that client I am way behind on. Sent in my bio and picture to that Shambhala Center. Returned that call for a potential gig.

I am not really interested in why I do it. So many people do it. I am sure it is part self-sabotage, part old habit, part lack of organization and prioritizing. Sure enough, now that I recognize the feeling and face it, I can find THAT ONE THING and put it at the top of the list. 50% of the time it's not nearly as hard/bad as I was making it out to be.

But to be honest, 50% of the time it is. Or worse.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Returning in Stages

A couple of days after I got back from California, last week, someone asked me if I felt like I was back in Madison yet. I'd been in Europe, then Texas, then California, gone for over a month of the summer, which is not unusual for me.

Feeling a bit spaced out, not quite landed anywhere, I replied, quite spontaneously: "I am working on just arriving in my house. Can't arrive in Madison yet."

Friday, August 07, 2015

The Power of Narrative

Earlier this week I taught a day-long contemplative arts compendium - presenting practices like haiku, Miksang and contemplative writing all in short hour or two-long snippets. In the micro haiku workshop, which went surprisingly easier than I thought, one woman came back from her perception walk with a few photos and a few short narratives in haiku form. Though I had encouraged the students to cut as close to direct perception as they could, viewing their thoughts as another set of sensory data, I had not explicitly said to avoid narrative. I find it better not to say "don't do this," especially in a short workshop.

And paired with the photos that the narratives explained/interpreted, her work really shone. One shot was an abstract, textural photo of part of a tree trunk, beautifully shot and totally simple, with a lot of space. Her haiku referred to an elephant that she saw there. By itself, the haiku would be too metaphorical, too abstract. By itself, the photo was really more of a texture shot. Together, they made something quite poetic - not haiku, other than in form, and not quite Miksang, other than in form. I told her so, as she apologized when she heard others' haiku and realized that she has a penchant for narrative. I said that her pairing was simply less haiku and more senryu (human-based experience, with more room for metaphor/narrative) and/or a haiga (an image and haiku matched together). In other words, forbidding narrative would have cut off this experience for her, which was rich and affirmative. Especially in a short workshop, where they are going out for a first pass to just see and smell what they experienced.