Monday, February 28, 2011
Crazy pre-spring skies lately.
Part of what happened while I was receiving the download of information a couple of weeks ago is that I was asked to kick it up a notch in my practice as a shaman. I was made aware of the fact that I now possess the gift of prophecy. Holy cow, what does THAT mean? I've been exploring this idea in a number of ways, including reading "Practical Intuition" by Laura Day.
It's a pretty good book, though, in reading it and doing the exercises I have come to the realization that I don't believe in the future. What I mean is, I don't think the future is out there, fixed, shaped, therefore ready to be clearly discerned. The truth is, I don't believe in the past, either, as a fixed reality. We write our histories, re-write them as needed in the moment, yes? During my ten years of psychotherapy, I definitely re-wrote my own history, oh yeah.
As for the future, I believe that in this present moment - yeah, right NOW - we are, all of us, busily co-creating, which is why books like "The Secret" get me so riled up. Books like that make it sound like it's easy to create a specific future if only we focus on what we want/need. Books like that ignore the fact that there are several billion OTHER HUMANS out there also fixated on a particular future, not to mention all the thoughts, wishes and hopes of animals, plants, etc. If only it were so easy - to focus on intention and create your own beautiful, perfect future without the interference of the billions of other coherent life-forms sharing this planet. Ridiculous.
I believe all our thoughts, wishes, dreams, hopes and fears weave themselves together. Our wishes and dreams, our fears, too, are the foundation upon which we cut through time/space, on which we walk through our days and nights. That tightly woven tapestry, our collective intentions, I mean, is the ground upon which we base our behaviors, take action, move and live. It's impossible to predict what kind of future will come of these complex interactions. That kind of big picture clarity is the domain of God, if you ask me.
So - what good is the gift of prophecy, I ask you? Well, so far, I've been able to see around small corners of time for individuals. For instance, I correctly guessed that after five weeks, a client's cat was about to come home. I told her what I saw, but begged her to take that vision with a mountain of salt. After she left her session, she texted 20 minutes later - the cat was home! I was flabbergasted actually.
As with all the other gifts and skills of shamanship, the gift of prophecy is something I will have to practice, something that will no doubt come to me in bits and pieces, slowly, little by little. I might have to adjust my belief system about the future, too. Frankly, even though it is beginning to happen, I remain skeptical.
Sunday, February 27, 2011
This lovely fairy circle is on the grounds of a school in Annapolis.
I've lived in cities my whole life except for two years at Lake Tahoe, when I sampled village life. It took me awhile to relax after I moved there. I had to actually learn how to relax because I was so used to urban hustle and bustle. I remember one of the first winter snowfalls at Tahoe. My friend and roommate handed me a cup of hot chocolate and said, "Let's open the drapes and watch the snow." We watched - for about two mintes. Then I turned to her and said, "Now what do we do?" I didn't get it, that watching snow is a meditation, a lengthy, slow, beautiful way to unwind.
As soon as I moved to San Francisco (from Tahoe), I forgot all about how to relax. Then I moved here. Truly, Washington DC compared to San Francisco is like Tahoe compared to San Francisco: algorhythmically busier, more frantic, more electrical.
I love urban hustle and bustle, I do. But every now and then, I have to get out of the energy field. It's a matter of sanity, it really is. These days my habit is to visit a friend in Annapolis who lives right on the water in a cool, oppulent but not fancy house, full of books, various animals (cats, dog, bird). What we do is sit around, looking at books, staring into the woodstove fire, eating, drinking. We always get the dog out for a nice walk, but basically we spend a whole day relaxing.
Returning to DC after one of these luxurious days is always kind of a shock. When I see how frantic we are here, how we race around, even on a Saturday, I always have to laugh. We citizens of the District? We're crazy!
Happy Sunday, y'all. Stretch out and do nothing, will you, as I go to work? Yes? I say yes.
Peregrine Espresso yesterday morning. Busy, oh yeah. Always busy.
Friday, February 25, 2011
Do you think anyone under the age of twenty would know what this is? Claes Oldenburg, once upon a time ironic and clever is now completely mysterious.
I love Robert Rauschenberg. He was one of my very favorite artists of all time. I loved his happy spirit, how he was unafraid to work in any kind of media. I was in awe, learning that he threw one of his art projects, a series of boxes, into the Arno River after a critic suggested he do so. He didn't toss them in the river out of desperation; he thought the critic had come up with a very fun idea.
Another inspiring Rauschenberg story, at least I find it inspiring, is that he erased a De Kooning drawing - again not out of any kind of "negative" emotion, but because he was at the time exploring purity, painting white paintings. He talks about this piece here.
When I think about do-overs, when I imagine tossing one of life's episodes into the Arno (or Potomac) river, the urge generally comes from a sense that whatever I want to toss was a "mistake." (What IS a mistake, anyway?) Almost always for me, the idea of erasing comes from a place of wanting to obliterate what was, rather than creating space for something new. I love the idea of erasure as purification.
I'm thinking about this today as I reflect on what I received from the Star Mandarins. As they dissassemble the structure through which they have always kept us connected to our personal and collective destinies, I'm trying to imagine that they are doing this in the spirit of Rauschenberg - with humor and curiosity, and, too, with trust. Yeah ... trust ... that every one of our social structures won't go belly up while we co-create the new structure.
I want to trust. I want to believe. But bloody hell, this moment in time is nervewracking. Maybe it's just me. Is it?
Happy Friday y'all. Shalom.
Speaking of mysterious, check out this staircase. Ummmm ... why??
Thursday, February 24, 2011
No star mandarins, no strange clouds, nothing unusual in the sky yesterday. Sweet.
"This moment is the perfect teacher." --Pema Chodron
Mindfulness - bloody hell - it's hard. At least it's hard for me. I have a lot of theories about why it's so hard, why every tradition I know about includes a process for steadying the attention. I know that I benefit from sitting every morning, and I know I keep myself from going off the deep end in many different situations because I've had so much practice. And still, it's hard.
Yesterday I had a whole day of unstructured rest. My mind was wandering here, there and everywhere. For instance: I know that the brick sidewalks of Capitol Hill are treacherous, but my eye was on the sky and the almost-budding trees, tra la la, which is why I tripped (but did not fall, thank God) repeatedly.
I dropped my wallet on the Metro (but noticed and picked it up immediately - a good thing because someone could have - and would have - easily scooped it up). I left the container of blueberries at the cash register after I paid for them (though the nice people at YES! Market ran after me as I left the store, made sure I had the blueberries I tried to leave behind.)
I ate too much yesterday because I wasn't paying any attention to whether or not I was hungry, and I drank too much (a little bit too much) probably because I was bored.
During weeks like last week when my sanity and groundedness depend on being mindful, oh man, I can get in there and be seriously, professionally mindful. But a day like yesterday when allegedly I need to take a break from it all, I am an idiot. For heaven's sake.
I am very grateful to all the angelic interventions yesterday that kept me from falling, losing my wallet, leaving the groceries behind, and god knows what else. Today I have some errands to run, and, too, I may invent a few chores to do around the chateau. Structure keeps me on my toes, apparently! Gosh.
At the Hirschorn.
Wednesday, February 23, 2011
I'm not actually a fan of cut flowers because - well - they're dead! However at the end of a long, cold, rather discouraging winter, bringing some color into the chateau seems fitting and proper.
I'm in a good mood today. It's cold, oh my yes, but the sun is shining and the best thing is: I have absolutely NO PLANS for the day. I can do whatever I want. I baked and cooked yesterday so the fridge is full of food, and I took care of my weekly need for some kind of healing by visiting the osteopath. The taking care of business aspect of my "weekend" is complete. Yeah!
Today I will take my time. I will sip my coffee instead of chugging it, I'll get in the shower in a leisurely manner instead of "jumping" into it as I sometimes do. I'm thinking I might swing by the house on Tennessee Avenue, drop off some of the cake I baked yesterday, take the big dog out for a walk. After that I might put my feet up and stream some Grey's Anatomy episodes. Why not? Even the beautiful rose needs manure to grow.
Ah the pleasures of vegging out. I worked hard last week staying open to the shamanic download while remaining (relatively) sane. Then I worked hard on the process of translating what I received. That translation is not perfect, I should say, but I did my best. I worked hard at work to stay focused; I did a good job with my clients.
Indeed my head/heart are still buzzing from the experiences of last week. Whew! But last week is over now. I did what I had to do, imperfectly, with gratitude and humor. Today I will rest.
It's still winter but there is light at the end of the tunnel. Crocus are blooming, sadly not in a photogenic way. The birds are singing. Spring WILL come, it will.
Tuesday, February 22, 2011
The Age of Pisces is over. That age was all about heroes, leaders who rose up to guide the rest of we faceless followers. Whether it was the Pope, a president, the king, or a general in the military, we organized our communities around The One, almost always a man, who could guide us.
The Age of Aquarius is about the collective, about how every individual has a role to play. The revolution in Egypt is such a perfect example of the way the world is in the brand new age. After thirty years, Mubarak stepped down, not in response to a call from one individual, but from the masses, literally.
My sense of what this is, I mean the blog world, also Facebook, Twitter - all the ways we interconnect over the internet - this is the ground, the matrix, the foundation for the way in which we will co-create destiny. The Star Mandarins will play a part, but not in the same way they used to. Of course the way we conduct ourselves in "real" life matters, my goodness yes. Think globally but act locally. However the resonance of what we publish on the network (as the Star Mandarins call the internet) is greatly magnified. Once we put it on the network, whatever we've published becomes instantly available to everyone else who is connected. It's very powerful.
Each of us, then, has a responsibility to think carefully about how we use this network. The power of this way of connecting is monumental, though no one person or small group of leaders can control it. It's up to all of us to use this brand new format to create a healthy foundation for the upcoming jump in evolution. May I say right now that I am so grateful to Tess of Willow Manor, for throwing her Willow Manor Ball every year, a way in which we gather for a day of glamour and fun, and create community in a way that's both miraculous and silly. I'm patting myself on the back for starting the Bridgid Poetry Slam here (something that has also migrated to Facebook). On February 1 or 2nd, the network is infused with poetry. That can't hurt, right?
I'm in awe this morning thinking about how well I know ... for instance ... Ellen of the blog Ellen's Head. I've never met Ellen in "real" life, but we are very close. It's not fake or virtual, it's a real closeness. I'm thinking about my band of "gypsies" as a group of ten of us call ourselves. All of us attended the same high school, lost track of each other, but then reconnected on Facebook. We are truly and genuinely there for each other, seeing each other through all kinds of ups and downs.
It feels more important than ever, to me at least, to eschew all forms of propaganda. In fact I feel kind of bad for posting a link to a picture of Hitler the other day - as if we really need another image of him on the network, for heaven's sake.
Everything we publish becomes part of the tapestry. So, in order to help co-create a culture of beauty, balance, and delight (thanks Donald Engstrom), I'm going to think really carefully - even more carefully than I already do - about what I put out.
It's an extraordinary time. Chaotic right now, yes. Shake it, shake it, baby. (Sending Reiki and soothing energy to the citizens of Christchurch, New Zealand this morning.) The old ways and old structures are falling away and there's no valiant white man out there to tell us what to do next. We are going to have grow up. No one great leader is going to save us. It's time for us to save ourselves. Isn't that cool?
Monday, February 21, 2011
Being a shaman is not glamorous. It's interesting, yes, but fun? I wouldn't call it fun, not most of the time. I am definitely a reluctant shaman.
It has been, to be perfectly honest, a rather scary week. Though perhaps unnecessary, I'll lay out the trajectory of this shamanic adventure before I get to the substance of the psychic download. Is that OK?
Last Tuesday, as I drove my zipcar to the supermarket, the sun just happened to be shining at the perfect angle so I was blinded by reflections in the rear view mirrors of the cars in front of me. That kind of blinding light is something I associate with messengers of the Sky God. (Insert disclaimer here.) I noticed, definitely. I notice these things. I even said out loud, "I see you. I'll pay attention."
But I didn't.
Last week I was deeply immersed in the novel, The Journey by H.G. Adler, I was soaking in the second world war, so I kind of forgot about the blinding reflections. Wednesday, the Sufi acupuncturist "prescribed" the song I Will Be Light by Matisyahu, as a part of my treatment. I had not mentioned the blinding reflections to him, but I did take note. I thought to myself, Whoa. The Sky God has something to tell me. I should listen. But then I went back to my WWII reveries.
Thursday I took a big walk, and couldn't help but notice the Star Mandarins, up close and personal, at the Washington Monument. Well. Finally, I paid attention. I brought my mind/heart back from WWII to the present moment. It was like coming out of warp speed into an energetic maelstrom. Holy cow.
Friday was a whopper of a day. Indeed I was able to see so clearly all weekend - too clearly for comfort. I become frightened when I'm that clear, when I can see things too distinctly. It freaks me out.
What followed was a big ole psychic download that has been ongoing since Friday. The trajectory of the download is now easing, making it possible for me to begin to put what came through into words. People who channel all the time ... how do they do it? If I didn't have my "sanity tools": groundedness, mindfulness, humor, light-heartedness, and the pervasive knowledge that I might be just plain nuts, I might really go over the edge.
The substance of the "download" echoes what many astrologers have been saying, that this is a time in human history of personal and collective reinvention. This is the time of the Tower card (from the tarot) when things are shaking, shaking. Look at northern Africa. Bloody hell, things are shaking there. In Wisconsin, things are shaking. Here in DC, the government may shut down for awhile. Shake it, shake it.
What the Star Mandarins tell me is that the mechanisms by which we have co-created our personal and collective destinies have been unhinged. The Star Mandarins are in the process of creating a new matrix for this co-creation, something brand new. Did you have crazy dreams over the weekend? If so, you're part of this, too - or so I think, anyway.
That's why the Star Mandarins are down so close to the surface, checking us out. The truth is, they're kind of impressed by us, they're watching us create a planetary "neural" network here on the internet. They're fascinated by the way we're finding cohorts, friends, and clan through FB and here and on Twitter and in other ways. They're watching us as we make unprecedented interconnections. In Egypt, this way of interconnecting helped create a revolution. It can also work in terms of evolution. If the Star Mandarins had eyebrows, they would be raised right now. If they had mouths, they would be saying, "oh wow."
The Star Mandarins do their jobs, it's what they do. They find us rather disgusting physically, but lately they're taking a hard look at us. They're understanding that we're capable of a whole lot more than they ever gave us credit for. What we're creating here, this brand new kind of community - well - they would never have imagined we had it in us to do this, to make common cause in this radically different way. It's what we have to do in order to evolve to the next level, or so they say.
There is so much more to say about this, but enough for tonight. I've done my shamanic duty; I've listened and I'm translating what I've "heard" as best I can. For the rest of tonight: stupid movies. Oh yeah. I'll write more tomorrow.
Saturday, February 19, 2011
Though not as lovely as Ellen's sunsets, we've had some beautiful DC sunsets lately.
USUAL DISCLAIMER: Either I'm psychic or psychotic - or both. You can decide for yourselves. OK?
Apparently those wispy clouds actually were star people, or so say my spirit guides. Part of my cosmology includes a strong relationship between the stars and we humans. The stars have admin assistants who hover in the upper atmosphere. Their job is to keep all of us here on the surface in contact with our individual and collective destinies. I've written about the Star Mandarins before, at length.
Usually they stay way up in the mesosphere which is why I didn't recognize them straightaway the other day at the Washington Monument. When they come close to the surface, my sense is that they tend to hide themselves behind conventional clouds. But Thursday, they were not hiding, nor were they hanging out in the mesosphere, appearing as noctilucent clouds. Hmmmm.
What were they doing so close to the surface? Coming down into the stratosphere, for the Star Mandarins, would be the same thing as a human being going for a deep sea dive to check out a subduction vent or something. I can't imagine they would come down here without a good reason. They find our species kind of disgusting, in the same way that when we see pictures of the creatures that live at the bottom of the deep ocean, we tend to make a face, and say "Ewwwwww!" We're so fleshy - and dirty by their standards. We kind of gross them out.
So what were they doing here? For today at least I'm bringing myself to the here and now, leaving WWII in the mid 20th century where it belongs. How I wish that Peruvian shaman was close at hand right now so I could ask his opinion. Sometimes it's kind of lonely being a shaman in Washington DC in the 21st century. Ya know?
Two warm days inspired we citizens of DC to get outside, with or without dogs.
Friday, February 18, 2011
Indeed those wispy cloud things look like Star People, don't they?
It was gorgeous yesterday, sunny and actually warm. Yes, WARM! It bet the temperature here on Capitol Hill reached 70 F. This lovely weather will not last at this time of year, but it was a tantalizing preview of the season to come.
I was out there for hours, walking around, thinking, praying, singing my therapeutic song ("I Will Be Light" by Matisyahu, the Hasidic reggae hip-hop singer). I was breathing, smiling, dancing around shamanically. Of course I was!
Eventually my wanderings lead me to the Washington Monument, one of my favorite places in DC. The title of this post refers to what a Peruvian shaman said when he saw the Monument for the first time. Oh yeah.
You can't imagine how happy I was to hang around for awhile at the base of that huge, elongated pyramid. The breeze was sweet, and there was only a smattering of tourists. The throngs won't arrive until the end of March. (No offense to the tourists, but it's very hard to share the nation's capital with the nation. It just is.)
I danced around, then put Reiki into the four corners of the base of the monument. Though unclear as to what that means or what effect it has, it's something I always do. It can't hurt, so why not?
Today is very warm and overcast. I wouldn't mind it at all if we got some rain; it has been such a dry winter in the District.
How glorious it was/is to reconnect with the world outside of the chateau. I felt yesterday in so many ways that I was back home. It has been a long, cold, rather discouraging winter. With much gratitude to the weather gods for this preview of spring. Shalom.
That little kid was as joyous as I was. So tiny compared to the monument. Ha. See the White House?
Thursday, February 17, 2011
Historic Eastern Market, admiring its reflection in the hood of a shiny car.
I watched all 104 minutes of Leni Riefenstahl's Triumph of the Will yesterday, on youtube of course. Youtube is such an amazing phenomenon, isn't it? I was blown away - what a beautiful piece of work. Wow. Of course it isn't sophisticated by today's standards, but wow. I kept thinking about how devastated Germany was at the end of WWI, how people were literally starving to death, not to mention humiliated in every way possible. Then there was the Depression, which made everything worse. Conditions there were way more intense than you and I can begin to imagine. OF COURSE the people were more vulnerable to Hitler's promises and visions than they might otherwise have been. Here's a link to one image I captured digitally. Holy cow. What was that dude channeling?
In preparing for the trip to Poland, I'm not wanting to get entrenched in some rigid idea of what the Holocaust was; I want to open my mind and heart to what I don't already know. Sincere thanks to everyone who commented on yesterday's post. Y'all are so thoughtful, insightful and smart. THANK YOU.
I could get further into this topic, but today is not a day to dive deep into the black hole of WWII, nope. It's going to get up to 65 F. in DC today, and I have the whole day free. Oh yeah I WILL be out there walking around, looking at things, taking pictures. It's going to be warm enough to sit outside without a coat, scarf, gloves, hat. Oh man!
The Sufi acupuncturist would agree with today's strategy, to turn away from the darkness, get out into the sunshine and warmth. In fact, yesterday he gave me a musical prescription. I am to listen to this song at least three times a day for nine days. Greatest prescription I've ever had! I'll be getting out into the light, oh my yes.
Of course the warmth won't linger, which is fine. Late February is not supposed to be warm, not even here in swampy DC. But a day or two of sunshine and warmth? What a blessing!!
Seizing the day. Shalom.
That ole devil moon is Very Full today. I'm feeling the buzz. Are you?
Wednesday, February 16, 2011
This guy was taking a self-portrait in front of the white house, using his phone. Sweet.
I finished the H.G. Adler book, The Journey, a couple of days ago. But I picked it up again this morning. Apparently I'm going to re-read it. That book, what a book. It's fiction and philosophy, and also true, the story of Adler's deportation to Theresienstadt. Rather than a grim, black and white retelling of the horrors of the Holocaust, it's a personal story. The word "Nazi" is never used, nor is the term "concentration camp." There's nothing black and white about it - it's fiction that strikes me as incredibly real. Reading that book is helping me unhinge from many old assumptions I held about the part we Jews played in the genocide. Wow.
What I was thinking today as I walked home from my appointment with the Sufi acupuncturist was mind games, the way hopes and fears obscured what was really going on, not only from us, the Jews, but from the Nazis as well and also from the German, Polish and French people who were close up but perhaps not quite as clued in to what was going down as I used to believe. In retrospect it's easy to imagine that everyone was lucid but in fact I'm starting to really get that no one, no matter what role they played, was truly in his/her right mind. H.G. Adler calls it "insanity." Oh man - truer words were never written!
Propaganda - it's so effective. I'm thinking about this today because a dear friend of mine posted an article from The Patriot Post on Facebook today. Just the name of this site explains exactly what kind of propaganda my friend wants to share. Does anyone tuned in to what's happening politically in the U.S. right now doubt for a second that this is an article written in order to juice up those who support the conservative mind game while enraging liberals such as myself? Well?
Similarly, when I see that someone has posted anything from the Huff Post on FB, I don't have to read the article to know it is intended to stoke my liberal righteousness (also a mind game) while enraging those who lean to the right side of the political agenda.
I'm so over the propaganda, so over articles written to massage the egos of one type of thinker while enraging another kind of thinker. I'm so OVER American rage, the way we can't even tolerate normal conversations with each other any more. I am so DONE with propaganda no matter whether or not I agree with the point of view behind it.
I wonder, would I have been wowed by Leni Riefenstahl's amazing work? Could I have been convinced, as so many were, that the final solution was a Really Good Idea?
Probably. Hence, I'll be avoiding propaganda - like the plague - from now on. Oh yeah.
Speaking of propaganda, these are the feet of a sculpture dedicated to the Boy Scouts. Holy cow. It's monumental - kinda scary.
Tuesday, February 15, 2011
The tree tops look fuzzy, crocus are blooming, and under foot the ground is rumbling, shaking, vibrating madly. Perhaps it isn't a literal rumble, but energetically spring is gathering its wits together: underground as well as above ground, the green world is about to pop. The trees are waking from their winter sleep. You know that moment every morning, right before you're actually awake, when you pull yourself out of your dream state in order to become conscious? Yeah. It feels like that here in Washington DC.
We humans are of course dancing shamanically with the energy. For instance, I've heard a lot of shouting during the last couple of days, not necessarily angry shouting, just shouting for the sake of being loud. People are smiling, or shouting, sometimes at the same time. Oh yeah, that is the tumultuous energy of spring just before everything pops.
The wind is whipping around this morning; it's cold. But the angle of the sun cannot be denied, my ill-tempered brother. Yeah Mr. Wind, I'm talkin' to YOU. Be a bad-ass as long as you can, my dear - the warmth of spring will soon send you packing back to the North Pole, or maybe the South Pole. Ha ha.
As an invocation of the coming season, I'm having a dinner party tonight. We will eat light, spring-inspired foods. All those heavy, soupy, stewy, curries and such? I'm SO OVER it. We'll have crab cakes (yeah ... CAKES) and a spring salad with mint, citrus, spring onions.
I love winter, but I'm so ready to sneeze and shout and smile all at the same time. C'mon spring. C'mon.
Monday, February 14, 2011
My birthday sunset. Wow.
It was a great birthday day. I worked hard with clients I genuinely adore. One of my clients is a woman so pregnant she's ready to pop at any second. It was incredible to think about my own mother, may her soul rest in peace, going through all that fifty-eight years ago.
1953 can NOT have been a fun year to have a baby in the U.S. Whoa. One thing I'm thankful for is that at least Dr. Gray didn't yank me out with tongs, a common practice at the time. But I'm sure my mother was drugged beyond submission, perhaps with ether - a terribly toxic substance. No doubt she was laid out flat on her back, strapped down. I know my father was also in the hospital with torn hamstrings so my mother must surely have been very worried all the way around.
One of my theories about why we Baby Boomers got into hallucinogens revolves around the idea that most of us were born stoned out of our minds. When we came of age we of course sought a similar state of consciousness. Right after birth, we were held upside-down and smacked on the ass, hard, by the doctor. Is it any wonder that one of our slogans was about distrusting authority? Or that we believed you should never trust anyone over thirty? Hmmm
Breast feeding was "out" during the 50's. After birth we were denied our mothers' milk. Instead we were fed some kind of hideous combo of cow's milk, corn syrup and god knows what else, out of a bottle. We were kept in "play pens" (cages, really). Dr. Spock advised mothers to "allow" their kids to cry themselves to sleep.
Oh man. Is it any wonder so many of us turned on, tuned in and dropped out? Or spent many years in psychotherapy? I did both - of course!
We Baby Boomers are all much older than thirty now, and many of us have given up our old habits around hallucinogens. At least I have. Thank God! I'm outta here early to go work on clients.
Happy Monday, y'all.
Sunday, February 13, 2011
I didn't mean to cheat or anything, by celebrating my birthday yesterday, however, that's how it turned out. Some friends dropped by to help polish off the buttermilk country cake. One of them is engaged; she brought with her a selection of dresses she might wear on her wedding day. Seriously GREAT of her, don't you think? So there was cake, tea, and a fashion show! Right here in my living room! How cool is that? Then another friend arrived, also for cake and tea. It was a full house - so much fun.
After that, we went out. I had two martinis - yeah - TWO! - some fish 'n chips, then went home and drank water for two hours before passing out (I mean, going to sleep) nice and early.
Today I'll be working all day, which is how I planned to honor this rite of passage into the age of 58. I might sneak out after work to the Matchbox for one more martini. Maybe. On the other hand, I might have already experienced my quota of celebratory activity. Yesterday was pretty festive, so maybe I've done all that's necessary to mark the passage of another year. Ya think?
I am very lucky, rich in friends and family, good health and humor. I live in a beautiful house on a beautiful street in a city in which spring is just about to pop. There's no doubt that I'm happier than I've ever been. Life is good and I am grateful. L'chaim!
Saturday, February 12, 2011
All the years I lived in San Francisco I missed having four distinct, dramatic seasons. Where I grew up, in the American midwest, winter and summer are extremely intense. Fall and spring pass quickly. I find a landscape with four seasons orienting, grounding. The eternal, year-round spring-like weather of San Francisco really threw me off balance. In San Francisco, you might be cold enough to build a roaring fire in August, or warm enough to go to the beach in January, depending on the fog or absence thereof. There was no such thing as a really hot or really cold day in San Francisco. Never. It did not make sense to my midwestern raised body.
Washington DC has near-perfect seasons. Spring and fall go on for months, winter is very mild compared to New England or the midwest. Summer? OK, summer bears down on us, but really there's only one terrible month: August. The rest of the year is beautiful.
There's a quickening underfoot in DC this morning. Robins are singing - loudly. Haven't heard that sound for many months. The trees are beginning to stir, too. The tips of their twigs are swelling, and there's an aura around the branches that wasn't there two weeks ago. It's still very cold, though yesterday afternoon I was able to sit comfortably on the porch without wearing a coat. I wore sunglasses yesterday. Sunglasses, yeah.
As a human and a shaman I'm very excited to be able to imagine spring: the trees popping, the crocus and daffodils rising, the springtime energy rushing straight upwards out of the ground, as if the earth herself were trying to grab the sunlight.
Because of the energetic shift that I sensed only yesterday, I've called a moratorium on the cake baking. There will be no zucchini cupcakes. It was getting a little bit pathological, my obsession with flour, baking powder and eggs. I don't even LIKE cake. Some friends are dropping by this afternoon to finish the buttermilk country cake, drink coffee. While they're here, I might be able to crack the windows in the kitchen, allow a little bit of almost spring air into the chateau. Wouldn't that be exciting? I think so, I do.
Shabbat Shalom. Happy almost spring, or if you live south of the equator, happy almost fall. And so the wheel of the year turns. Oh yeah.
Thursday, February 10, 2011
Buttermilk Country Cake, or so says the recipe. Pretty good!
I've been on a quest of sorts this week, a fairly unusual quest, for cake. Pancakes, cheesecake, Buttermilk Country Cake. I'm considering the merits of zucchini cupcakes, too. I wonder what all this is about. Cake (as well as all things that include wheat flour) does not agree with me.
I was able to force dinner guests to take home the individually wrapped blueberry pancakes, thank goodness. The cheesecake kind of flopped, so I didn't feel any regret watching it twist and twirl as it went down the garbage disposal. As for the Buttermilk Country Cake - it's almost too good. I'm trying not to eat the whole thing; maybe some of my clients would like a slice or two. You see, this obsession is not about eating cake, it's about baking cake. Weird.
The official, public-relations version of why I'm on this quest goes like this: it's cold outside, too cold for a nice long walk, so I might as well be in the kitchen doing something. Do you buy it? My PR story, that is? Hmmm ...
I have a rather creeping suspicion that my birthday (Sunday) might be partially inspiring the cake-a-thon - though - I've been telling myself that 58 is no big deal. I like the idea of feeling nothing in particular about 58. Makes me feel cool. It would be kind of embarrassing to admit that the impact of my upcoming birthday is producing a cake baking frenzy. That said, baking cakes is better, as a mode of acting out, than shop-lifting or doing drugs, right? Well?
The truth is, I really don't want to have feelings about aging. I want my mind/heart to be light as a feather when contemplating the return of Brother Sun to the place in the sky where he was when I was born. I want to have a sense of humor around it; I would like to be a jolly 58 year old. I really would. I want lightness, I want this birthday to be like ... like ... oh. Like a piece of cake.
Maybe it would be fun to make a chocolate cake, too, do you think? I'm considering it, after the zucchini cupcakes. Maybe I'll have time on Saturday. We shall see.
Every day it's possible to find an article or report about how animals are more like us than not. Usually I just shake my head when I see these stories. How could it be that only just now we're officially figuring this out? What was that old thought form about being separate from the animal kingdom, anyway? How did that serve us? I could get into a big thing here about how it's obscene that we still experiment on animals, especially our close cousins, the chimpanzees. Truly obscene.
But what I'm thinking about this morning is the human urge to improve ourselves, to become more skilled, smarter, faster, thinner, funnier, sexier, kinder. We wish to open our hearts, or become less emotional, or more spiritual, or more practical. What is up with that?
Do you think dogs ever have these kinds of thoughts and ambitions? Do they think things like, I should bark more, or Why did I miss that frisbee catch? Do cats ever think, I wish I was as fierce as a feral, or I COULD be nicer to my human companions.
Maybe our human urge to improve ourselves is an extension of instinctual pecking order hierarchy. We want to get promoted because that moves us up the food chain, we want to be thinner in order to attract a suitable mate, that sort of thing. I'm not sure about this. Any theories?
We homo sapiens are visionaries in so many ways. We can imagine perfection. Once visualized, we reach for it again and again, unwilling - or incapable - of admitting to ourselves that perfection actually does not exist.
We try so hard, we screw up so often. But we keep trying. Do other animals do this? I wonder.
Wednesday, February 9, 2011
When I'm struggling in any way, one of my favorite practices is to look myself right in the eye (in the mirror of course) and ask myself, Can you be in a place of acceptance? When I can honestly say YES, my day goes relatively smoothly, even if I'm in the midst of some drama or another. Being able to just BE with reality, whatever that reality is, is the ultimate dance of shamanic alignment. Acceptance is a state of trust and patience. Acceptance does not include ambition. Acceptance is so graceful. You know?
On days when the only honest answer to this question is NO, well, those days I am doomed to bang my head against one brick wall after another, wave my fist at the sky. On days of non-acceptance, I tilt against a state of shamanic alignment. When I say NO, that means I'm entrenched in an idea of how things SHOULD be or COULD be, a state that pretty much guarantees mood swings between outrage, i.e. How dare they?? (whoever "they" are) and moroseness, i.e. How could this have happened - to ME? Pooooooooooooooor me.
Even on the days when my answer is NO, I'm well aware of how to bring myself back into balance: by breathing, dropping down into my heart of hearts, praying, coming into the present moment, walking, stretching, singing. There are so many ways to become aligned. But you see this is the very reason I would make such a bad Buddhist; what I'm saying is, sometimes I know the way back to balance but I choose to stay unbalanced. Is that crazy?
Well - yeah - AND, sometimes the floppage back and forth creates a bit of wiggle room that would not become available if I were able to remain still and peaceful all the time. I'm a human being, capable of great emotional extremes. Is it really such a terrible thing to punch my way out of my various entrenchments every now and then?
Yesterday I could not, would not, allow myself to accept the reality that it's mid-February and therefore still winter, still too cold to walk around without my hat and gloves and scarves and coat, still too cold to ride my bike, to sit for hours outdoors and look at the sky. I felt recalcitrant, impatient. I pouted, I did! I suppose another piece of yesterday's little fit has to do with the reality that I'm about to turn 58. Who knows what else was going on. So I flopped and I shouted poetry into the wind, (for heaven's sake!) I tried to pick a fight with a friend, but she saw right through me and refused to engage, thank god.
When I woke up this morning, something had changed. Today I CAN be in a place of acceptance. The chateau feels twice as roomy as yesterday, the miraculous experience that comes after I've fought my way out of entrenchment.
Tonight some friends are coming for dinner. I feel so cheerful and content to spend the day cooking, cleaning, choosing the poems for after dinner. I'm not saying here that the days when I tilt against the world are a whole lot of fun, but they serve a purpose, they really do. Today I can even be in a place of acceptance around my passionate nature. I flop, it's just part of the package of the fully faceted, three-dimensional me.
Life is good, and I am grateful. Shalom.
Tuesday, February 8, 2011
It's cold again today. Not only that, but Brother Wind has returned full force, all sharp and metallic, as if it were still January. Winter winds are so mean. I am so OVER it.
I thought three days of poetry here on the blog at Candlemas might be enough to crack the ice in the heart of this long cold winter, but apparently not. Lucky for me, I've just received a new book of poetry, a collection written by contemporary European poets. This morning I've been pacing back and forth, reading poems out loud with a sharp, pointy voice, staring out the window through squinty eyes as if to say to the cold and the wind: GET OUT.
Of course in the contest of Reya vs. The Winter Wind, you know who's going to win every single time, oh yeah. Still, it's important to put up a good fight. I tilt against the weather as often as I dance in shamanic alignment with it.
So on this cold, windy morning in Washington DC, a poem. Yeah Brother Wind: a poem!! Take that!
I took care of everything: the alias,
The hotel where no one would look for us.
His muscle, his being short and taciturn,
His smooth, brown soles were my idea.
The calm with which he did what he did
To force a confession out of me.
Shock, ice-cocktail, bamboo, false hope:
He was a master in the third degree.
When I left I'd sworn to what he wanted.
I had killed, betrayed, and lied,
And ranted more than he had ever heard
and agreed: our meeting never happened.
--Tonnus Oosterhoff, translated from the Dutch by Allisa Valles
Monday, February 7, 2011
The way we live right now in the U.S. at the launch of the new millenium is so crazy in so many ways. One of our cultural values that is truly screwed up, in my opinion, is the way in which we view healing. It's supposed to be instantaneous whether the wounding is emotional, physical or spiritual. Our cultural value around being wounded is to just get over it as soon as possible.
I never thought about the fact that in many American businesses, standard bereavement leave is three days - that is - until my sister died. It was then that I began to wonder what the hell you're supposed to do in three days to get over a loss like that. When I returned to work, still (of course!) prone to tears, my boss actually asked me, "How long do you expect the grieving process to last?" Bloody hell.
Physical illness, too, is something that "should" be discarded as soon as possible. When I had pneumonia a few years ago, my M.D. (a wonderful doctor) said, "Can you wait three days before going back to work?" I had pneumonia!! When I told her I was going to get into bed, let the antibiotics do their job, and return to work after I was healthy again, she actually said, "Thank God!" I bet she doesn't hear that too often.
It's so bizarre.
Tragedies, loss, illness - all of these very universally human experiences - can bring insight, wisdom and strength if, that is, we're willing to give them some attention, if we're willing to be patient with these realities, to notice how they change us rather than shoving them aside as soon as possible.
I'm thinking about this today because I'm entranced with the book, The Journey by H.G. Adler. He survived the Holocaust even in spite of spending time in at least three concentration camps. He was a writer. He wrote poetry in Auschwitz. Yeah, crazy, huh? After the war, he wrote twenty-six books of philosophy, poetry and fiction, all about the Holocaust. He had a hard time getting his books published because making art out of the Shoah was seen as obscene.
Of course it was. For the first few decades after the war, the healing from that terrible event had barely begun. Hardly anyone could face the idea of creating beauty out of that. H.G. Adler knew what he had to do, though.
Now a handful of his books have been translated into English, The Journey among them. What a book. Wow.
I have often said to clients that the final stages of healing should include beauty. When I was recovering from pneumonia, first my lungs opened up; the physical symptoms disappeared. Next I became bored, but before I went back to work I spent a long afternoon at the National Gallery, gazing at beautiful paintings, breathing in the beauty as it were.
I believe that in order to be fully healed, the emptiness that follows illness and loss can and should be filled with beauty. Not too soon, though. The fact that I have this book in hand, that I can read H.G.'s work, means to me that the black hole of the Holocaust is indeed unwinding. It's so great, isn't it? Yes? I say yes.
Sunday, February 6, 2011
The sun is shining in Washington DC today. They say the temperature will rise to a "balmy" 45 F. Wow!! Sometimes in February, the weather actually gets worse for awhile, but at least so far, here in our tiny corner of the world, the weather gods are allowing us to see that spring actually will come again.
I'll be indoors all day working, which is fine with me. I have two windows in the treatment room where I work so I can keep an eye on the blue, blue sky. I'll step outside between clients, breathe, take in some much needed Vitamin D in the form of pure sunshine. Ahhhhh...
A whole bunch of other folks will be indoors this afternoon, watching the Superbowl. It's an American ritual I have never taken part in, but I honor its power and fascination for many. As I understand it, it's like many of our feast days: people gather in groups, eat, and drink alcohol. They also watch warriors engage in a mighty battle. It's like the Coliseum, though I believe no animals or humans are actually killed.
I'm so out of the loop in terms of professional sports. I remember a year when the Kansas City Royals won the World Series (long time ago). I had gone to the movies that day. I saw The Elephant Man. As I left the theater, in tears, I was confronted by people driving around, honking their horns and yelling "WE ARE NUMBER ONE!" It was so disorienting! Talk about your weird juxtapositions, eh?
Saturday, February 5, 2011
One of the books I read and re-read, when I was a child, was A Wrinkle in Time. Of course I loved the fact that a girl was the hero, there were witches and magic and such, but what I loved most about that book was the idea that time could wrinkle, that two locations in time/space could be brought together. It sure made long distance travel very easy for the characters in the book and, to my young mind, made perfect sense. Indeed I was a shaman even then, I just didn't know it yet.
I think about the hypercube idea of time travel whenever I get together with old friends. You know that feeling, as if not even a week has passed since last you saw someone? You pick up right where you left off. I find that experience of seamless continuity over time to be so heartening.
Last night I met ever so briefly with Pandora Minerva O'Mallory, one of the greatest teachers of magic and earth-based spirituality ever, the greatest priestess I have ever known, a brilliant, compassionate, gifted, funny human being. Seriously. Ask anyone who studied with her; I'm not the only one who feels this way.
I took my first class with her around 1990 in San Francisco. From then on I signed up for every class she taught, even if I had already taken the class in question. There are people you can learn from just by sitting there, listening. Pandora is one of those people. When she finished her Ph.D. at Berkeley in medieval literature, she was immediately snapped up by a university back east, a wonderful thing for her and a great loss for the San Francisco Reclaiming community.
Last night we had dinner, drank tea, talked talked talked. The last time I saw her was at least 13 or 14 years ago, but that truth was of no consequence. Both of us have aged, and have become more light hearted. It was so wonderful to reaquaint ourselves with each other.
Dinner with Pandora is an excellent example of carpe diem behavior. Life is short. Make time to sit down and feast with people you love. Seriously.
Shabbat shalom, y'all.
Friday, February 4, 2011
The truest truths all involve paradox, yes? I say yes, at least in my experience. For instance, life: the life force, the survival instinct. Life force is so tenacious, yet so tenuous. We could hang in till age 100, or drop tomorrow, you never know.
I'm thinking about the venerable dog Shadow, one of the house dogs on Tennessee Avenue. Oh man, that dog is OLD. It takes her several minutes in the morning to "unwind" - her hips and spine are so crippled by arthritis. She's blind mostly, and deaf, but the windhorse within her burns so brightly. When it's time for dinner, in spite of her arthritis and other aches and pains, she starts jumping up and down. She loves her dinner. We joke that Shadow might outlive us all; it wouldn't surprise me.
Also thinking this morning about a friend whose brother died yesterday. He had a massive stroke, went down into a coma for a couple of days. When they removed the life support machines, the man died soon after. Survival after a massive stroke is not always possible, or even desireable.
Death is not a bad thing. It's part of the cycle, it's just what is. There is almost always a sense of relief in the room when someone who has been suffering passes through the veil. I don't fear death, I really don't. However, when someone we love dies, for those of us still standing, that truth is inconceivable, almost unbearable.
I guess the paradoxical truth I'm looking at this morning is the way in which death is inevitable and yet its timing is a complete mystery. When we go is out of our control, unknowable.
My heart is heavy for my friend this morning. His brother's death reminds me to live well right now - today - this very second. Everything could change tomorrow, or in five minutes, you never know. Carpe diem, y'all. Seriously!
Fog is nature's version of the photoshop effect called "diffuse glow."
Thursday, February 3, 2011
The sun came out for a little while yesterday.
Did I promise to interpret the big blizzard that pounded the central U.S. this week? Yikes. Didn't mean to! I connected with the storm, definitely, and I "got" something from it, but interpreting what I sense often isn't possible, and almost always sounds like stoner thinking when I try to put it into words. This paragraph is probably a disclaimer, yes?
Ever since the dragon-arrow of the solstice eclipse passed through the heart of the earth, the energy of this planet has felt (to me, at least) quite different. All I'm doing is trying to notice, just notice. What it means I can not say. Also: I might be making it all up! Who knows?
The hurricane-like superstorm that swirled over the U.S., the cyclone that just came ashore in Queensland, Australia, and other storms since solstice seem to me like a part of how the earth's aura is adjusting to what happened at solstice. See? I told you this would sound weird. In fact, it IS weird, I admit it.
I'll take one more crack at articulating what I'm feeling. When we humans take a deep breath, the fascia that surrounds the spine spirals inwards, "squeezing" and lengthening the spine. Momentarily, all the lovely curves of the spine straighten a bit. When we exhale, the fascia relaxes, unwinds, the spinal curves reform themselves. On a planetary scale, these huge storms feel like reactions and adjustments to something big that came through, similar to what happens when we breathe. Maybe.
Honestly this post is a truly pathetic attempt to describe what I've been feeling. Please forgive my inability to articulate my shamanics. For heaven's sake.
Here is my final offering to Bridgid, a good wish from a book of pagan British ballads, spells and rhymes:
Wisdom of serpent, be thine,
Wisdom of raven, be thine,
Wisdom of valiant eagle.
Voice of swan be thine,
Voice of honey be thine,
Voice of the son of the stars.
Bounty of sea be thine,
Bounty of land be thine,
Bounty of the father of heaven.
So may it be! Shalom.
At Dupont Circle. It was warm-ish! People were smiling, flirting - so unusual for Washingtonians! Spring will come again!