Sunday, January 30, 2011


I have a deck of Medicine Cards; each card features a different animal, and the book by David Carson and Jamie Sams gives you an interpretation of the significance of each animal.  I don't consult them much these days, but my 3-year-old, Eliana, likes to lay them all out, naming each animal.  Often she'll do this when I'm sitting in my room reading or writing in my journal, and she's pretty good about putting them back in their box when she's done.  But recently I found one that had somehow made it out into the living room and was face down on the floor.  I picked it up and it was the Raccoon card, then I went to the book and read about it.  The gist was the need to consider the meaning and uses of protection.  Kinda random, I thought, but okay - I'll take it.

I started asking myself questions like, What is worth protecting, and from what?  What do I truly have the power to protect? 

I looked up the word "protect" in the dictionary, and was particularly caught by two concepts:  guarding and covering. I thought of the verse from the biblical book of Proverbs:  "Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life."

Since I was still musing over the "heart surgery" metaphor from my last post, this protection theme began to take on deeper significance, especially in connection with healing.  When I looked up the word "heal," there was an emphasis on "closing," as in closing a wound.  It occurred to me that one cannot heal until after the surgery is finished, because by its very nature, surgery is an opening, not a closing.  To heal is to re-cover.

Then a Facebook friend of mine posted a link to this article and video about baby bats that have been orphaned in Australia due to flooding and were found on the ground covered in maggots.  This post would get way too long if I went off on a tangent about the significance of bats for me, but I will just point out that they are pollinators, and I do hold a strong connection with them, which I may post about some time.  Maybe it is because of this connection that I was so profoundly moved by these images:

Or maybe it's just because they're so darn cute.  Regardless, this got me thinking that one protects what is weak that it may strengthen, what is young that it may grow mature, what is wounded that it may heal.

Then, a couple of days later at Abbey of the Arts, Christine posted the theme for her 49th Poetry Party and it was "Fierceness and Courage."  She asked, "What are the things of your life you are called to protect fiercely?"  I love the word fierce, and one of the best compliments I ever got was from someone who called me fierce.  (The same person also told me I "look good disheveled" - another of my favorite compliments.)

With some of the issues I've been working through regarding a severed relationship in my life, I began to see how all of these things apply in a practical way.

I thought about St. Paul's definition of the armor of God.  I realized that the only way to truly guard my heart is to bless from it.  I saw that the thing worth protecting in me now is innocence, and the only way to protect it is to bless.  This came out of a sudden understanding that my only choice in a situation that causes me great anger and pain is either to curse or to bless.  And because the temptation to curse is so strong, so fierce, I realized I have to turn that into fierce blessing.

Did you ever see the scene in Tomb Raider when the villain has thrown a dagger toward someone, and, while time is stopped and the dagger is freeze-framed in midair, Lara Croft has to turn it around and point it back toward the villain?  It takes an immense act of will, concentration, and strength; she has to use both hands, which she cuts in the process.  That's what it's like turning cursing into blessing.

The sense of being unhinged that I spoke of in my last post, the image of a cut-up chicken, the metaphor of surgery - in contemplating protection and healing, I began to see what the next step was for me.  Interestingly, around the same time as all the rest of this, I read in Sue Monk Kidd's The Dance of the Dissident Daughter:
In an old Sumerian myth, the Goddess Inanna, making a descent to the underworld, moves through seven gates.  At each gate she must strip a piece of her clothing away until at last she is naked, arriving without any of her former trappings.  At the depth of her descent she is turned into a piece of meat and hung on a meat hook for several days before being resurrected as a woman.
All of a sudden I can see my journey over the past year or so as an integrated thing.  Starting in October of 2009, I began posting around the theme of nakedness as a metaphor for what I was experiencing in my life.  (If you click here, it will take you to those posts.)   Now I've had the meat hook experience.  Which is exactly why protection has come up, I now understand.  I'm like those baby bats - I'm fresh and new (green!) and I've been through the wringer, and now I need a warm soft blanket around me.

The mistake I've made in the past is unconsciously believing my coldness and anger can protect me, but in thinking about what a blanket does, I'm coming to understand it a new way.  A blanket protects you by keeping the warmth you already have within you from escaping.

Epiphany:  Keeping one's warmth close to oneself is not the same thing as being cold toward others.

I'm not just the innocent that needs protecting, I'm the compassionate mother who weaves and wraps the blanket.  I'm the child who is healing and the resurrected woman both.

Taking all these signs and insights that are coming to me from multiple directions is how the blanket is woven.  Or maybe a quilt would be a better metaphor.  A quilt is, after all, a kind of collage.

And speaking of collages, I haven't yet told you how all of this connects with my 2011 collage.  I'll save that for next time.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Heart Surgery

God has to work on your soul “in secret,” according to the saints and mystics.  If God gave you any idea of what God was doing, which is always radical surgery, you would do one of two things:  you would try to stop it, or you would try to engineer it and take control of the process.  God has to operate in darkness to get the job done.  ~Richard Rohr
I chose the word bless as my word for the year because of a book that friend, author, and fellow blogger, Jonna-Lynn gave me.  This book is called The Gentle Art of Blessing: A Simple Practice That Will Transform You and Your World and was written by a man named Pierre Pradervand.  The premise of the book truly is simple; it's the idea of practicing blessing any- and everyone who (literally or mentally) crosses your path (including yourself).  And in terms of freeing the mind from negative and obsessive thoughts about the self and others, it really works.  For it to work, however, the blessings must be sincere, they must come from the heart, and this of course is the hard part.  But I've discovered that if I am the least little bit willing, and can muster up just one simple blessing-thought, it quickly blossoms into more.

With this blessing practice combined with green as my color for the year, which is the color related to the heart chakra, I already feel enfolded in an intense gentleness, energized by a vibrant airiness, circulated by a  lush bright flow.

And yet, there is something else going on too, something I've been having great difficulty putting my finger on.  When I tried to write about the feelings I've been having in my journal the other day, I kept seeing the image of cutting up a chicken, and thinking of the word "unhinged," and a Bible verse came to me, Hebrews 4:12:  "For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart."  This is the best description of what's been happening within me that I have found so far.

I have been slowly replacing the word "God" in my vocabulary with "Being."  Eckhart Tolle points out in The Power of Now that for many people, "God" as a word has become too tired and overused (and even abused) to truly point to what it points to anymore, which is far more mysterious than anyone can fathom.  The word "Being" however, is very open-ended; an atheist could probably use it comfortably, and it points to the great mystery of sentient presence, whatever you believe its origins to be.

My point in saying all this, is that for me, "the word of God" is any manifestation of Being that I pay close attention to, which is to say, anything at all.  By this process of blessing and by simply practicing presence in the moment as I have for several months now, things have become loosened within me, and lately I have this sense of being unhinged.  When negative thoughts try to take over my mind these days, I experience it far more intensely in my body than I ever used to.  Specifically, I feel it as a trembling and weakness and acute anxiety in the area of my heart.  However, it's also much easier for me to recognize and move out of such negativity.  Moving into blessing is one way to do that, putting my attention on how I feel inside my body is another.  Sometimes all I need to do is breathe.

The dividing of soul and spirit mentioned in the verse above I read as the division of the temporal and the eternal, the self that uses mind to operate in the world, and the selfless spirit that is the eternal witness.  According to these definitions, I can say that by practicing watching my self/soul, I have become more aware of the spirit, the one who watches.  All of these words are inedequate; I have no way to really explain this.  I'm always relieved when I find a metaphor to express such things, and yesterday morning as I sat in meditation with these deeply disturbing physical/emotional sensations, I finally landed on a metaphor that fits, and the moment I did, I felt centered and calm:  Pruning.  Green surgery.

Back in June, I discussed pruning as metaphor in a post called The Ruthless Gardener, but back then, the pruning was about outer situations and relationships; now it's more intimate.  It's about thought processes, cherished mental habits and beliefs, and so on.

Somehow, by envisioning limbs being cut off a tree, I came to peace with the loss of control I've been feeling. Which has resulted from a greater and greater recognition of the illusion of any such control, that the thought-habits the mind cherishes are its always futile attempt to make control real and grasp it forever.

Yikes!  That's way too convoluted.  Let's try this instead:

The spirit prunes the soul; Being prunes everything that interferes with Itself.  

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Synergy of Spheres

I could start anywhere, because the collage of images I am contemplating has no beginning.  Or it has many beginnings.

But because I must start somewhere, I'll do it with the point in time just before the collage was made, which was the day before New Year's Eve 2010.  I already knew my word for 2011 was bless, and the color was green, and so I decided to make a collage that reflected these guides.  Last year was my first to use a guiding word and color, and it was a wonderful experience to go through the year with those polestars.  This year, I have taken it a step further, by creating a guiding image, or rather, a combination of guiding images, which I know I will be contemplating the connections among all year long.  And this thrills and composes me in a way I cannot describe.

As I said in my last post, I make collages usually with some kind of general intention or theme, but the specific images often continue to surprise me with meanings I did not see when I chose them, meanings that deepen and radiate with time.  I finished my collage the morning of New Year's Eve, and in the few short days into this fresh green year, I have already been amazed at what it has revealed to me. So amazed, in fact, that I had to make a mind map to start tracking the connections.

I would so love to see this in an interactive 3D version.  Oh wait - that's the world.

I did something like this last year too, and then attempted to discuss all the connections in one post.  Okay, it was two, plus an addendum and a poem.  I won't bombard you in this post with excited ramblings about how all the things in my mind map connect.  In fact, I won't even begin to discuss them.  However, be forewarned that I will likely be posting throughout the year about these and other connections I have yet to even see.  I just have a feeling it's going to be that way.

It truly is all connected, folks.  And I find no greater joy than in seeing and sharing that, one blooming thing at a time.


Related Posts with Thumbnails

Search This Blog