Sunday, September 28, 2014

Gold and Mud, and What I Mean by Kindness

Everything is within you, gold and mud, happiness and pain, the laughter of childhood and the apprehension of death. Say yes to everything, shirk nothing...You are a bird in the storm. Let it storm!" 

~ Hermann Hesse

During my gold year, I entered a process I metaphorically referred to as kintsugi, which refers to the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with gold. (You can read my musings on that process and how it can apply metaphorically to the inner life here.) And where I stand now, it really does feel like I've been repaired.

Another metaphorical process related to gold that I contemplated last year was chrysopoeia, which is what the ancient alchemists called the transmutation of base metals into gold. According to everyone's good friend, Wikipedia, this transmutation "symbolized [the alchemist's] evolution from ignorance to enlightenment."
(And then there's this perspective, which I also like.)

I certainly don't claim to be enlightened, but I do feel like a transmutation has happened within me. I have these moments, fairly often these days, in which I'm profoundly thankful for my life. I've come through some shitstorms in the past few years, but now my inner and outer landscapes are pretty clear. Not perfect, of course; I still find annoyances and worse in my outer landscape, and pettiness and worse in my inner landscape.

The real difference is that I've learned to give myself a break, and in doing so, have discovered that I love my life just as it is, both the mud and the gold.  The transmutation has resulted in, if not enlightenment, at least a certain kindness.  But the way I mean kindness here is not really in the conventional sense of being super nice and thoughtful and generous; I am definitely not always those things (and am even sort of suspicious of people who are). No, it's more like recognizing that everything is kindness, and simply receiving that.

But I'll leave you with this, because the poet Naomi Shihab Nye writes about it much more eloquently than I:


Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.
Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness,
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.
Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.
Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to mail letters and purchase bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
it is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you everywhere
like a shadow or a friend.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Just for the Joy

I suppose it's no coincidence that I started blogging again just a few a days before my blogging anniversary, which is today.  However, it has more to do with the season than the day.  It's fall* again, and the magic is at work that hits me every year at this time.  A bursting of creativity that I sense all around me.  A nostalgia for a home deep within me, and in that nostalgia a return to it.

I got away from blogging for many reasons, and most of them are good, but the one that irks me, and that, in truth, is a primary one, is Facebook.  It became so much easier to just scroll endlessly, skimming and posting snippets, than making the effort to read and comment on actual blog posts, let alone write one myself.

There was sort of this exodus to Facebook, way back in whatever year that was.  Many of the people who were blogging regularly during the years when I was migrated over there at the same time as me and more or less abandoned their blogs.

It was fun for a while, I guess, but I'm just so over Facebook these days.  I still use it, but in a more moderate way than I have at times.  And I'm hungry to blog again, to be posting regularly, to be reading other people's posts, getting back into conversations that are far more meaty and satisfying than those that generally happen on Facebook.

For me, Facebook is kind of like a town square where everyone's talking at once, selling something, whereas blogging is like an intimate group of friends meeting in a quiet cafe.

That whole thing of selling is another issue that drove me away from blogging.  When I first started this blog, it was purely because I wanted to be writing and connecting with people through my writing.  As time went on, I ventured into other blogs that were more about "generating traffic" to a website, whether it was my own or a client's.  I started thinking about stuff like keywords and SEO.  Blech.  It took all the joy out of blogging and put it into an entirely different paradigm.

What I love and have missed about the blogs I used to read was how the people were writing and posting just for the joy of it, just to be setting down and sharing their experiences, just to be playing with words and ideas.  This is where I want to be again.  It feels like home.
The photo from my very first blog post, in honor of my "blogiversary"
* I realize that fall has not technically begun yet, but in my world, seasons start on the first day of whatever month they officially start in.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Vision of Wholeness

I've been a practicing ceremony celebrant for over a year and a half now, and it's a more fulfilling vocation than I could have imagined.  It's really confirmed for me the value of ceremony and ritual as a tool for transformation, as well as celebration.

There's a place just outside of Taos on the Rio Grande that's become a "sacred spot" for me, where I've now done five ceremonies, beginning before I was even a celebrant when I scattered my brother's ashes there.  In a significant way, that was the beginning of my journey into celebrancy, although I didn't know it at the time.

Since then, I've performed two weddings there (both same sex), a baptism (the bride in the second wedding I ever did requested it), and a personal ceremony that was one of the most meaningful, important, transformative things I've ever done in my life.

It was a ceremony for forgiveness, healing, and closure with my ex.  He had begun a new relationship almost a year earlier, and I had a very hard time dealing with that.  Long story short - when I mentioned in my last post that I went through a period of utter misery, that's what it was about.  But I had to find a way to accept it, if for no other reason that we have a child together, and there was now a new mother-figure in her life.

That process began last fall, when I had a dream about my ex's new partner on what happened to be her birthday.  In the dream, we were talking across a table, and there was a palpable feeling of love and tenderness between us.  I woke up feeling the same way; in fact, it permanently changed the way I felt about her.  I felt compelled to reach out to her, and I sent her an email message, to which she responded with such openness and kindness that it moved me to tears.  It still took several months after that for us to connect in person, but when we did, I knew we had crossed a threshold into a much more pleasant and positive part of the journey.

Meanwhile, my ex and I decided to do the forgiveness ceremony.  I'd found a resource online for us to use called 6 Steps to Completing Relationships.  It entailed writing down resentments, apologies, things you forgive the other person for, things you're grateful to the person for, and things you appreciate about them and will miss; and then expressing all those things to each other.

It was an incredibly powerful thing to do this.  When we were done reading our lists, we burned them together and threw the ashes into the river.  We cried and hugged and knew without a doubt we had truly moved into a new way of relating with each other, a rebirth of a relationship that was not just about raising our daughter, but was based on a love and willingness to grow with each other, and that now included his new partner.  I felt expansive, clean, whole.  At peace.  Full of joy and acceptance.

Fast forward to the present.  He and his partner have been going through some really difficult stuff related to a health problem she's been having, and the other night he and I talked on the phone about it.  When I got off the phone, I was shaken up.  I felt the need to process the complex emotions I was having about all of it and to in some way focus healing intentions toward these emotions, and her, and him, and the whole situation.

I had a sudden urge to make a collage (which I haven't done since I made my 2014 collage last December).  My plan was to give it to my ex and his partner, and I would keep a photo of it for myself. I got out a bunch of magazines, put on my awesome Pandora shuffle, and sat down at my dining room table for the next few hours, staying up way past my bedtime.

During the whole process of making the collage, and especially when I stood back and gazed at the finished product, I felt that same sense of healing and wholeness and expansive warmth I had when I first connected with my ex's partner, and when my ex and I did our ceremony.  The feeling that we are all together, part of a great tribe on a momentous journey.

"Vision of Wholeness"


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