We Remain

I remember back in 2016, I was listening to this song sometime after dinner. The house was deserted. It was the year that I found myself cracked open and this song buoyed me. 

All the ways that you think you know me,

All the limits that you figured out,

limits that you figured out,

mmm,

had to learn to keep it all below me,

just to keep from being thrown around,

just to keep from being thrown around,

yeah,

every single time the wind blows,

every single time the wind blows,

i see it in your face,

mmm,

in the cold night

there will be no fair fight,

there will be no good night,

to turn and walk away,

so burn me with fire,

drown me with rain,

i’m going weightless

screaming your name,

yes i’m a sinner

yes i’m a saint

whatever happens here,

whatever happens here,

we remain.

I was drawn to shadow work, not out of mere curiosity but because I had this sinking feeling that if I didn’t confront my demons, I would live out the same stories again and play the same scripts in my life with others.

Winston Churchill once famously said, “if you’re going through hell, keep going.” It was my refrain.

My naivety died that year, opening me to what I saw as weakness for landing myself in that relationship to begin with. Were I to speak to that younger self now, I would say, no sweetheart, you are not weak, you are human, experiencing a bottoming out of life for the first time. Grow.

I found expressions for rage, for anger, vulnerability, for love and tenderness, sensuality, for courage and strength, to fight and to surrender. Movement and dance became an invitation to drop in… judgement ceased to exist when one flows. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi explains this concept as a state of consciousness we experience when engaged in creative work where our skill set is equal to the challenge… or simply, whatever it is that lights us up.

In the healing, I realised I was the one that had no boundaries. That bottoming out could be seen as an invitation to develop strength and courage… that we don’t have to be psychic to deepen into our intuition. To experience our emotions more fully, to experience my dysfunction more entirely, to experience the barren landscape of despair, so that I learned, the extent to which we experience despair is also the extent to which we can feel joy.

In the healing, I realised that whatever was dysfunct in my life and yours, did not begin in our dance but was rooted further back in our lives. Does anyone come through childhood unscathed? How crazy, to settle for believing that’s just the way the world is. Would we still be here if women said that to themselves 200 years ago? 

I realised how sad… how sad… how sad I was. How sad I was becoming, that there was a reality looming on the horizon that made me uncontrollably sad… that this life could disappear beneath the waves and I would have failed in all that I came to do. In that moment, crouched by the side of the road with the darkness and the streetlights around me, that possibility scared me more than the unknown… the kind of death with no rebirth.

As Clarissa Pinkola Estes put its, you fight to save your instinctual life. Her essays in Women Who Run with the Wolves, brought the archetype of the Wild Woman back into our consciousness… a reminder that domestication kills the wild spirit in us. It kills the part of us that is regenerative, full of creative life and power. In the culture of patriarchy, we lost this. In the political interest of patriarchy’s dominant religion, we lost our wisdom keepers. And in that loss, it is not merely women who can feel this emptiness but men too. 

Choices that feel like life or death – the slow kind, where one goes through the motions of life and work… drowning the truth of what has happened or is happening, is a death choice, no matter the reasoning. When I see you, I see your story and how it could’ve also been mine… perhaps with different characters and changes in the plotline… but you did not arrive at this point in your life without making all the choices you did… and I forgive myself. When made, life choices draw beautiful energy to them, doors open and you go through them and what you need arrives like a gift.

Fear is not a dragon to be slayed but a curious ally sometimes.

Halfway around the world… all things from childhood began surfacing. Understanding began to dawn in places that held shame and blame. Events that once held a shape larger than they merited… began to shrink in perspective. I learned that I could draw boundaries, that I could offer forgiveness and kindness and still express where my boundaries are. That I am enough, that I am worthy and my needs are real and they matter. I could offer that nothing we do… is unforgivable… and still choose not to re-experience the past. 

What does it mean… that a woman can judge another for being too free in her expression? Too playful, too flirtatious? What does it mean… when the offhand remarks she makes, places blame on her own sex? Is she aware of her own patriarchal conditioning… or has it faded into the background of life? How far would she have to go, to uncover her own pain?

How much it would hurt, to have everything heaved open, to upheave the life that has been built over decades… how much hurt is repressed?

How many years of patriarchal conditioning have we experienced in our histories? How did patriarchy take root? Sometimes there are no answers that suffice.

Out here, climbing mountains, stone walls, trudging across abandoned farms because I’d forgotten which path I’d taken… I learned to trust myself. Witnessing the chaos of life, I love it. I love the blue skies, the surrounding mountains, the traditional garb, the stray dogs… the bareness… of what is real. Of this life. Of my own privilege… I’ve learned, what that truly means.

I choose to experience my creativity fully. And that ones sexuality, is never, an invitation. That erotic energy is also creative energy and that the dance of life comes out of this spiral. 

Here, I learned to love. A different kind of love. A forgiving kind of love. A love that says… bloom… bloom… bloom.

Out here, away from everything else that is there, I understand the only person we can begin to heal is ourselves and that is enough. That we came together to witness each other, and that perhaps, we can carry the truth of each others innocence, deep within.

When you express the love you feel, when you express a desire to see me more fully, when you invite others to expand, when you see beauty… without needing to possess it… when you bear witness and offer strength and solidarity, you bring the healing. 

I am deeply grateful for your presence… for your guidance… for your truth… and for your faith in me. I am moved by the love you extend to me, the compassion you extend for me… not out of sympathy or pity but out of a deep inner knowing. In the way you witnessed me, you empowered me. 

I learned, to ask… what is here? What am I learning? And in my frustration, near to tears, the answer that came was merely, patience.

I know that stories will evolve and shift and wear new costumes as times change, but ultimately these stories belong to the collective and where there is resonance, there is universality. I have compassion for where we are in the process of becoming. I have compassion for the parts of me that have been afraid. For the parts of me that I disowned. For the parts of me now yearning for expression. To have boundaries and to honour them. To taste the mysteries of life. Eve’s story needs a re-write. To live is to experience life’s joys and life’s sorrows. Knowledge is not a sin and women are not responsible for men’s repressed lust. Before the snake was re-appropriated to represent ‘evil’ it was a symbol of regeneration.

To hear the judgements… and say… I know… and I am sorry. I know… and I forgive you. I know… and I am choosing a new story. I know… and I honour my truth, my boundaries and the life I am creating. That really, endings are merely beginnings… all beginnings come out of endings… so death, can be a doorway to life… to all that renews itself. To the rebirth, come Spring… and to the re-awakening of what is true for you.

July, 2019

Sand

Deep appreciation

What does it feel like to let go? 

What does surrender feel like? 

What myth… am I over-riding right now? What strength am I calling upon? What winds… move through my hair, where have they been and what do they see? When the mountains rise from the ashes… and cities fall… and the cycle begins anew. 

What does being seen feel like? 

What does fear feel like? 

Do you know what latent fear feels like? Do you know what overt fear feels like? When is fear… intrusive… and when does fear feel normal? Letting go of so much. Letting go of everything. 

And yet… a part of me is still here… refusing to die. And… I would like death to be sweet. For the part that is afraid, that judges… to appreciate itself. 

Do you know what feeling too much feels like? 

When are you in another reality? 

Where are you? 

Would the world understand? Why should they? 

What parameters are you measuring? Are you still? Do they serve you? IF not… perhaps it’s time to re-orient yourself. To forgive yourself, realising… failure is nothing more than an experiment.

And so… half a year later, you realise, how funny, everything is. How constructed, how real, how sad, how hopeful, how optimistic and how beautiful. Duality is simply the understanding that everything is changeable, movable, shifting and all realities… are within you. 

This part of me is dying. It’s as though she is taking another breath… willing herself to live on… but I am in deep appreciation of her. I love her.

I am in deep appreciation of the places you’ve been, 

the depths you’ve seen and the tears you’ve shed. 

I am in deep appreciation of who you were, 

all that you held dear,

that which hurt the most 

once near to your heart, 

I am in deep appreciation… 

of the scars you cut across your skin, 

of the pills you swallowed at sixteen,

shame fit itself snugly then

 into the pockets of your jeans,

til the story wove itself a new beginning, 

I am in deep appreciation… 

for the relationships carving canyons…

for the ones taking the scent of Spring

echoing across the years,

blooming into barren places,

where was your voice?

lost? in the compass of the past?

be free

you kept trying to say,

and choked on the lump

that formed in your throat,

why do you unravel the threads

and discover the meaning of home?

laughter blooming from your heart,

you are,

the stars… wind… trees and birds, 

here,

I am in deep appreciation of the identities you wore,

the hats you cautiously put on,

from beneath

you looked up at the poems in the night sky,

You know?

I am in deep appreciation of your resilience, 

the way you mined rocks out of your sadness

eons deep in the earth,

I am in deep appreciation of the histories you keep

etched into your skin, 

eyes,

fathomless with the universe

twinkling back at me.

I am in deep appreciation of the women

riding on the backs of constellations,

Mothers and sisters,

Brothers and kindred souls,

I am in deep appreciation

of the love you showed me,

In your kindness 

your belief in me

shone the gift of gratitude,

the strength to be gentle

from your torch to mine 

this is a poem

in this world…

for the feminine 

rising.

Sand

Softness in the wilderness of surrender

(I don’t own this image. If you know who it belongs to, I’d love to credit them, or I’d be happy to take it down, otherwise.)

I

What is the magic that you hold to your chest?

In the thrums of your heart, beating its rhythm against your bones?

You are living poetry.

~

I don’t think the past is something you want to go lugging around… I don’t think the past wants to keep being dragged, mercilessly into the present, because I don’t think the dead want to crawl out of their graves to entertain your sorrows. They are only your sorrows because you’ve refused to let them go.

~

please… hold onto them as long as you like… treasure them as meticulously as the cranes you are folding… counting yourself to a thousand.

~

close your eyes and make a wish.

~

because you’ve spent half your life, making space for it, it’s time. time likes to flow as the seasons do – change – observe – mountains with clouds floating by, make good sceneries for zen poems… love poems… and soft kisses.

~

but now it’s time to love this soft human, warm blooded body of yours, because how long are you going to breath in this world through your skin and your magic? the one in your chest, beating its rhythm onto your bones. the thrum, steady thrum of this life of yours.

~

with time, even mountains change.

~*~

II

Sleep chases after me as I try to find words to fit into my heart, my mouth, words slipping out of the pores of my skin. Somehow, I cannot find them, I cannot contain them, I cannot morph them like a smithy cleverly sharpening her tools. I forgot… that because these are words, I cannot make them something else.

~*~

III

Surrender. She is a curious creature with a soft belly, a warm hide, basking in the delight of Summer’s heat and Springtime rain. Surrender… is like a river… flowing to the Sea… this is a metaphor… I love, that the Sea is a body, my body… your body… the Earth’s body… the depth, the deep, murmur of unconscious… wisdom… and also fear… the womb, the place of birth, creation… and the rivers… our veins, carrying our blood, carrying our death, our pollution… our waste… our healing? What do the rivers carry? What do they mean?

She said write… honestly… she said… examine your traumas, fears, wounds… face them… there is a healing…. in this kind of poetry… of letting it be.

~*~

IV

I stare at a blank page and wonder what words I can put across it, to soothe the restless, to invite the softness, now, the softness, of a beating heart, quietly rising chest like the maps of a well traversed terrain, breathing…

~

At what surrender feels like. these moments in time, these lessons in silence, in sound, the breath, is going home… sinking a little deeper. I remember the feeling of the cold stream on my feet, I remember the feeling of burning… and the coolness of the waterfall, soothing this earthly, fleshy carriage… vehicle… sanctuary… temple… I reside in. I remember what it felt like, to lay my heart bare, in whispers, in the heart of stillness, in the embodied invitation, words, inviting you back home.

~*~

V

Reading Rumi felt like my heart had been thirsty and I didn’t even know. Hearing the truth, seeing it in its squiggles, particular squiggles that my mind had been taught to coalesce into meaning… felt like the subtle hand of something else, beyond these walls, beyond the rationalism I mistook for over-thinking and judgement. I didn’t think I could believe in god… I don’t think I do, not God, layered with dogmatism and concepts too narrow and constrictive, to breath properly. But whatever this feeling is, whatever this feeling is, softness, surrender, movement, flow… joy, ecstasy… I could believe.

~*~

VI

You know, you are here. in this moment. take a look around… at all the beauty in your life… even the cracks… are blooming now, with sunlight and wild surrender. Wild, wild power. You know, when you follow those winding paths into the woods of your unconscious, you’re learning to take responsibility for the healing of your wounds… you think… but when you get deeper into the shadows, when they engulf you, swallow you whole, what do you realise? the joy of being. the truth of your experiences. the (w)hole of nothingness. the deep, deep pool of reflections, revealing your sharp teeth, dishevelled hair and sharp claws. the primality of that creature you see.

~*~

VII

feel her.

~*~

Sand

Human condition: Wild

“… the maiden represents the heartfelt and formerly sleepy psyche. But a warrior-heroine lies beneath her soft exterior. She has the endurance of the lone wolf. She is able to bear the dirt, grime, betrayal, hurt, loneliness, and exile of the initiate.” (pg.452)

“In the underworld birth, a woman learns that anything that brushes by her is a part of her. Sometimes this differentiation of all aspects of the psyche is hard to do, especially with the tendencies and urges we find repulsive. The challenge of loving unappealing aspects of ourselves is as much of an endeavour as any heroine has ever undertaken. … For the majority of women, mothering and raising the internal selves is a creative work, a way of knowledge, not a reason for becoming unnerved.” (pg.467)

Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Ph.D., Women Who Run with the Wolves

I hope you come into this life chasing fire,

opening your eyes and your hearts,

your selves to the deep inner wisdom

and the universe within,

dear sister,

your sacredness belongs to you –

your body;

let me say that you need not share it to feel worthy,

nor share it to belong,

nor share it to conform,

you need not share it because someone looked at you

and said a thousand things you didn’t know you could say to yourself,

you need not share it because you fear not being enough,

you cannot measure how worthy you are

as a goal or a place to get to,

it is not some distance on the horizon,

an arbitrary shape or a number on the scale,

you cannot step onto it in the morning 

or in the evening 

or at any point during your day,

your worth, dear sister,

is you as every self conceivable;

the you in the mirror

and the you screaming at the sky,

the you drowning in the sea of your emotions

and the you laughing as the wind tickles your skin,

the you running a marathon

or the you sleeping til past noon,

the you showing up

and the escape artist in you,

how many selves are layered into the body that you wear?

take the kindness to know them,

every existence in the fire,

burning and untamed,

every existence in the waters,

flowing and alive,

every existence in the winds,

idealistic and poetic,

every existence in the earth,

erotic and sensual,

every existence in the shadow,

dying and liberated

in the darkness of the womb,

new beginnings

in the light of the dawn,

flesh, blood and bone,

an incantation to the wild;

sister,

wisdom is knowing your worth from inside out,

wisdom is knowing you have the power to know yourself,

wisdom is the work of a lifetime,

your birthright to being human,

look in the mirror and see,

you are the mystery

and the key,

the story 

and the teller…

the myth and the living,

embodied wisdom, 

truth and life.

This poem was inspired by a conversation, mostly one-sided, that I overheard between two guys a few days ago whilst waiting for the train. I remember thinking that I was glad the person sitting next to me wasn’t the person standing and asking questions, and right on the heels of that thought, I heard, “So how old is the slut you’re fucking?”

Shock ricocheted through me before the train came and I was gone. To me this feels like a conversation worth unpacking… not also because I felt a visceral repulsion or the coincidental timing of it… but because being a human being makes us part of this conversation.

Where were the women that shaped the experiences and life of a boy barely a man, posing this question? The question reveals more about him than his friend, who mumbled a reply that suggested he’d rather drop it… yet wasn’t quite willing enough to push the point across or defend his partner between the sheets.

It occurred to me later that the girl in question was, fucking his friend and not him. Was his remark, then, a defence mechanism for his own buried insecurity? Was he ever loved by his mother? Where did he learn to denigrate women with this double standard? Did women exist in his life or did his perspective come from men who simply passed on misogyny? Was everything just left to porn?

What immediately occupied my thoughts as I left, was my hope that she’d drop them both… and that for her to do that, what would have to shift?

The asking reflected back to me my own experience with self-worth. This particular moment, this conversation… I discovered, was one way to see the wound and feel into what is needed, what I needed.

I found myself pulling this classic Women Who Run with the Wolves, off the shelf to look for a quote and though I know I fell in love with Dr. Este’s writing… it still felt like a jolt – how much power lies in her work and how deeply rooted it is. If a hypothetical apocalypse came… and I had a time capsule to save three books, this would be one of them. Her wisdom is timeless.

“The ways and means of living with the instinctive nature are many, and the answers to your deepest questions change as you change, and as the world changes, so it cannot be said, “Do this, and this, in this particular order, and all will be well.” But, over my lifetime as I’ve met wolves, I have tried to puzzle out how they live, for the most part, in such harmony. So, for peaceable purposes, I would suggest you begin right now with any point on this list. For those who are struggling, it may help greatly to begin with number ten. (pg. 498)

General wolf rules for life:

1. Eat

2. Rest

3. Rove in between

4. Render loyalty

5. Love the children

6. Cavil in moonlight

7. Tune your ears

8. Attend to the bones

9. Make love

10. Howl often

Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Ph.D., Women Who Run with the Wolves

Sand

When you let go of who you think you are… you might discover who you really are

She weaved her way through the throng of bodies, all undulating, in motion, swaying, some with their eyes closed, some with their eyes open… alert, soft, keen, curious, kind, intense, probing, stiff, present, childlike… the whole array.

She passed him in her periphery and smiled… not at him… but at the presence of him. Tonight eye contact eluded her. 

What was it about eyes? 

Her arm arched over shoulder, momentarily, fingers leading her dance before her hips spun and her feet found the next step, toes grounding into the floor, the muscles in her thigh dutifully supporting her weight. 

They say everything. Everything is sometimes too much. 

She breathed out a sigh, eyes closed, a breath followed by the release of the tension she’d been holding. Tonight her dance resided in the interior of her inner self.

Between bodies, her feet swept the floor and time passed as they danced themselves alive, their sorrows and their joys, their fears and their hopes, their pain and their catharsis, their shadow and their light… into the space of transmutation.

The music brought out the delight of her inner child, as though she was a child jumping on a trampoline in sheer joy… the sheer joy of knowing that feeling again. Her eyes opened for a moment to see bodies in unison… in staccato, in contrary motion. The music brought out the stillness from within, as though time slowed and the space grew silent in prayer and her wounds and her tears crept up to meet her again. The music moved the erotic through her, playful and uninhibited, sweeping into the center of her desire, spinning her like a spiral. The music moved through her intensity with its ferociousness and her body weaved the language it spoke, carrying it through the space. And as the night drew to a graceful close… the music brought the lyrical melody of the infinite and she followed its arc.

Turning, she suddenly found herself eye to eye with him and the shadow of a smile on his face.  

Surprise pulled her lips into a smile before her thoughts could assemble and he returned it with the same grace. As though that was an invitation, they moved together, energy sweeping around their bodies as whatever dance they began to co-create… weaved itself through them and in the space between them. They were the dance and the dancers, lyrical and languid, slow turns and graceful motions… drifting yet energetically intertwined until the music came to a gentle landing and whatever had been created… was in the uncountable depth of his eyes accompanied by his smile.

When you let go of who you think you are… you might discover who you really are. 

It was joy and love and the beauty of connection that she felt. Did her smile and her eyes, too, hold joy, love and the beauty of their connection? She bowed.

Joy continued to uncoil from her belly, rising its way into her heart, into the feeling that was unfurling there and buoyed her for the rest of the evening.

What was it?

She mused as she drove home. The way he moved and connected with her. How curious, that a connection like that created the joy and fulfilment she was feeling.

Respect.

The answer reverberated back to her.

Worthiness, platonic love and respect. 

Sand

Spirituality – you are, and beauty

There is this curious worldview that you’ll come across the moment you begin to explore spirituality… that is… that we have souls… that we are spirit first before we are matter… material and flesh… and that… we chose what we wanted to explore in this particular lifetime. Perhaps not from the perspective we hold as these conscious beings. 

It’s the morning after an evening of conscious dancing. And… as I’m dropping into my yoga mat more fully today… I’m realising… going through my Brahmihavara practice… and all that I am grateful for… I realised this funny, funny, thought. Last night as the session came to a close and I sat down to meditate through the ending… I practiced gratitude for everyone I met on the dance floor, for what they brought, what they triggered… and all that made them the way they are, as what made me the way I am… and this thought shifted something in me: I am grateful that you chose to come here. I am grateful that you chose to be here. I am grateful that you came to experience this human world with its chaotic messiness. 

It moved something in me.

Even if there were times that I pulled away, that I struggled to connect… that I didn’t want to… or that our energy connected us in the dance with no eye contact… that our energy spoke volumes, or our energies smiled before we did… by the end of that session, I was grateful. None of it happened in linear order.

On my mat, moving through my Vinyasa flow… I could feel this internal dilemma, processing last night, this internal dilemma about how I was going to respond… react… and whether I still wanted to respond and react that way, and why? I couldn’t put quite put my finger on it, but the feeling of this shifting quality was vaguely palpable to my mind and my being. 

And then as I leaned into it… a variation of this thought cropped up again, on a deeper level… that everything that happens… that could possibly happen… operating with this worldview of spirituality… was something, everyone that is experiencing life including myself… as spirit, knew… and came anyway. 

Without a doubt, I cannot know that for sure… but the moment this worldview envelops me… I want to cry. Last night after I came home, I found myself going through the tags on this blogging platform… and I come across so many people writing sad poetry, writing angsty poetry, writing about their lives, about their traumas… about all that is painful. And I see that in me too. I see that in me and I feel tired now, I feel tired, adding my voice to that. I wanted to see something else. I went and read a YA novel. 

(It was my first re-experience of YA… now that I am no longer a teenager and haven’t been for quite some time… there were moments that I couldn’t stay in the plot, in the simplicity of it, in the unlikely characterisation and dialogue. No longer ensconced in the world of that audience… I recognised the escapism for what it was… for the underlying desires the author was catering to and catered to successfully… hope, determination… friendship, bonds.)

In the world outside of imagination and books, our emotions and our experiences are valid too… they are more than valid, they are real and powerful, I just wish… we were better at loving ourselves… that we will take our experiences and bring something beautiful to our lives for having experienced them. 

And a poet said, Speak to us of Beauty.

And he answered: 

Where shall you seek beauty, and how shall you find her unless she herself be your way and your guide? 

And how shall you speak of her except she be the weaver of your speech? 

The aggrieved and the injured say, ‘Beauty is kind and gentle. ‘Like a young mother half-shy of her own glory she walks among us.’

And the passionate say, ‘Nay, beauty is a thing of might and dread.

Like the tempest she shakes the earth beneath us and the sky above us.’

The tired and the weary say, ‘Beauty is of soft whisperings. She speaks in our spirit.

Her voice yields to our silences like a faint light that quivers in fear of the shadow.’

But the restless say, ‘We have heard her shouting among the mountains,

And with her cries came the sound of hoofs, and the beating of wings and the roaring of lions.’

At night the watchmen of the city say, ‘Beauty shall rise with the dawn from the east.’

And at noontide the toilers and the wayfarers say, ‘We have seen her leaning over the earth from the windows of the sunset.’

In winter say the snow-bound, ’She shall come with the spring leaping upon the hills.

And in the summer heat the reapers says, ‘We have seen her dancing with the autumn leaves, and we saw a drift of snow in her hair.’

All these things have you said of beauty,

Yet in truth you spoke not of her but of needs unsatisfied,

And beauty is not a need but an ecstasy,

It is not a mouth thirsting nor an empty hand stretched forth,

But rather a heart inflamed and a soul enchanted,

It is not the image you would see nor the song you would hear, 

But rather an image you see though you close your eyes and a song you hear though you shut your ears.

It is not the sap within the furrowed bark, nor a wing attached to a claw,

But rather a garden for ever in bloom and a flock of angels for ever in flight. 

People of Orphalese, beauty is life when life unveils her holy face.

But you are life and you are the veil.

Beauty is eternity gazing at itself in a mirror.

But you are eternity and you are the mirror.

Khalil Gibran

Sand