MALLY GOES TO BUSINESS SCHOOL

episode 3: power 


It has been a difficult week.

For those readers who are feeling triggered by the Kavanaugh hearings, I suggest that you do not read any further.

I also highly recommend reaching out for support.  If you aren’t sure where to look for support, you can always call RAINN (the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization): 800-656-HOPE (4673).

How do I reflect on the magnitude of what transpired this week?  How do I wrap words around the exhaustion, the rage, the fear, the shame and the isolation?  To be honest, I don’t really know.  I feel drawn, as many people have this week, to speak out about my personal experiences with abuse and harassment.  I know that I am not alone, every single female-identifying friend of mine has experienced some form of sexual harassment or abuse. 

Every. Single. One. 

In my life, much of the harassment I’ve experienced has been fleeting… an unpleasant comment from a passerby, a sexist message from some anonymous dude on a dating app, a gross one-liner from a guy at a bar.  Then there are the times when it has gone further than that… the camp counselor who inappropriately and unendingly praised me when I was 12 years old, the family friend who wanted to “comfort” me when I was going through a difficult time, the ex-boyfriend who convinced me that I was sexually rigid, and that it was my fault that he chose to pay for sex.   

A couple of years ago, I had a stalker who over the course of two years, left me a number of abusive, hateful and violent facebook messages, emails, texts and voicemails.  Once, while walking home along my usual route, I passed by him.  He turned around and started to follow me.  When I started running, so did he.  I wound up running in to a bar where I knew I’d be safe.  He stood outside, pacing back and forth in front of the entrance for about 15 minutes before leaving.  The next time I saw him, he cornered me in the grocery store.  He called me some hateful things.  I yelled at him to leave me alone, ducked under his arm, and ran outside.

Rage… how dare this man try to take away my power, my joy - how dare he make me question my independence!
Fear… what if next time is worse? what if he finds me at work or comes to my home?
Shame… this must be my fault? what did I do to bring this on?
Isolation…
I can’t tell anyone, they’ll all think it’s my fault. there’s nothing I can do about it, I am completely alone.

I called the police after the very first incident.  The officer I spoke with told me that the abusive emails and the fact that he (somehow) found my cellphone number and work information, wasn’t enough to file a report.  But… “if anything more happens, honey, just give us a call!”

So apparently I’m just supposed to wait until he attacks me or rapes me and then the police will do something about it.  Great. 

After the second major incident (another barrage of violent messages), I didn’t do anything.  What was the point in telling anyone when nothing was going to happen anyway? At this time, I had only confided in a few very close female friends about what had happened.

It was only after he followed me on the street that I told my mom.  I’ll never forget how afraid I was before that conversation.  I am incredibly fortunate to have an amazing relationship with my mother – I have always talked to her about everything.  But somehow, this man and his actions drove a wedge of insecurity and doubt between us.  I was afraid so she would blame me, I was afraid that by telling her it would somehow make it more real, I was afraid to admit that I was afraid.

In the end, my mom’s response was incredible; she was supportive, understanding, angry for me, and ready to stand by me in however I wanted to proceed.  After speaking with my dad, the three of us went down to my local police station to file a report.

I filed a report with a white male officer.  He told me that I should have been filing reports after every incident, because you need three or more incidents recorded on file in order to warrant further any protective legal action. … (insert long pause dramatic eyeroll)

When I asked him what I could do in the meantime to keep myself safe, he suggested I carry pepper spray in my purse. … Thanks for that, officer.

Then came the grocery store incident.  I returned to the police station to file another report… two out of the necessary three before I could take actual legal action.  While speaking with a different white male officer, we were interrupted by a black female detective who had overheard my description of the perpetrator.  This incredible woman stepped in and took over.  It turned out that she was in charge of an ongoing investigation of multiple incidents reported about this same man. 

Her words to me: “If these officers had been doing their job, they would’ve listened to your initial report, realized it was the same man I was investigating, and sent you to me.  We could’ve had him in court after the first incident.”  

And so, with the guidance of this powerful detective (an absolute super hero in my eyes), I went to court.  I filed for a restraining order.  I stood in front of a judge, and 30+ strangers and recounted the entire story.  I was told that I had to say the exact words the man and written or spoken to me.  So I stood alone, in front of a room full of complete strangers and explained how this man had called me things I can’t even bring myself to write here because the words are so violent.   

I finished my testimony.  With great emotional and mental effort, I remained composed.  I clasped my hands tightly together and waited for the judge to determine whether or not I was allowed to move forward with the restraining order.  

He decided that I was not.

His words to me: “You haven’t experienced enough physical or emotional damage to warrant moving forward with a restraining order.”  And when I asked him for a suggestion for what I could to protect myself, he said “I’m not allowed to give you any advice.” 

Rage.
Fear.
Shame.
Isolation.

I will never forget what that judge said to me. I will never forget the hollow shame I felt as I stood there, knuckles white, and vision cloudy.  I will never forget the looks of compassion and empathy on the faces of the women logging my testimony.  I know they saw my pain.  I know they felt my fear and embarrassment and anger. 

I went back to the court three more times until I was finally granted the restraining order.  I then had to return for a hearing at which the perpetrator would be present.  But, come the hearing, he didn’t show.  So I had to come back for another hearing… and another… and another… I went back four times. 

My harasser never showed up.  But I did.

Each time I returned to that courthouse, I had to restate my testimony; I had to relive every single detail of my interactions with this man in front of a new judge and a new group of strangers. 

It was exhausting.  And it never got any easier. 

Finally, the restraining order went through and that was that.  It was over.

Except that it wasn’t.  It is never over.  Those experiences are inside me, they are woven into the fabric of my being; they are a part of me now.  And though I’ve healed and grown and learned so much about myself since then, none of that changes the fact that every time I return the neighborhood where those frightening encounters took place, my heart starts to race.  I still carry pepper spray in my purse.  I jump when someone catches me off guard in the grocery store.  I look over my shoulder whenever I pass someone on the street at night to make sure they’re not following me.

I am incredibly fortunate.  My experience of abuse never crossed the physical line.  I was not attacked or raped; I was not touched or taken advantage of.  I cannot imagine what it is like live with that kind of experience written into the pages of your life.  To those of you who have experienced abuse like that, I believe you.  You are not to blame.  I encourage you to reach out for support from a friend, a family member, a therapist, a counselor or an anonymous help-line like the one mentioned at the beginning of my post.  What you’re feeling is valid.  And you are not alone.

I am in complete awe of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford.  I am inspired by her courage, her strength, her vulnerability, her self-awareness… and really, aren’t those all facets of the same multi-layered quality? … POWER.  She is powerful.

Courage is power
Strength is power
Vulnerability is power
Self-awareness is power     

Anita Hill is powerful.  The women who confronted Senator Flake are powerful.  The protesters are powerful.  The people who came before us who fought against sexual-violence are powerful. The individuals and organizations who spend their energy, time and money quietly and often thanklessly fighting back against hate are powerful.

The collective power of the resistance reached a new level this week.

I can’t wait to send in my absentee ballot.

MALLY GOES TO BUSINESS SCHOOL

episode 2: first impressions are for chumps


How is it possible that it has only been one week? 

I think god/the universe/science/mother nature/whateverthefuckisoutthere/all of the above is playing a massive trick on all of us. Linear time isn’t real. Time is actually a crazy spiral made up of impossibly different building blocks, each one unique in size, shape, color, and most importantly, the way in which it interacts with and effects space, time and the human experience of said phenomena.

This week has felt like an eternity.

I sat through 26 hours of lectures over five days. TWENTY. SIX. HOURS. That is a very long time to be sitting down absorbing new information. To top it all off, I got my period mid week. Those of you readers that have experienced menstruation know first hand just how AWFUL that time of the month can be.  Don’t get me wrong, it can also be a beautiful empowering regulating grounding time… and it can also be awful

Picture this: anxiety/insecurity on irrational steroids + lack of sleep because of cramps/I never really sleep when I have my period + body aches that make me want to assume the fetal position at all times + zits + hormone related eczema flare up + insatiable hunger + fucking Brett Kavanaugh + 26 hours of lectures.

I was dead to the world come Friday at 2pm. 

BUT! Even amidst all of that madness…

I ACTUALLY REALLY ENJOYED MY FIRST WEEK OF BUSINESS SCHOOL! GASP!

[Insert all the surprise face emojis ever]

I went into the week like a fiery knotted ball of anxiety and insecurity [I don’t belong here, I’m too old, I’m not smart enough, this was a terrible idea, I will fail], with a whole bunch of insecurity-inspired preconceived notions as to what business school and my fellow business school attendees would be like [straight-laced, boring, soulless, money-obsessed ickiness]. But the reality was very different!

… I actually really enjoyed the lectures [and even felt kind of prepared at times!]

… I was intrigued and inspired by the subject matter [you know that creative domino effect thing, when one idea sparks another and another and another?! yea, I got that!]

… I genuinely connected with my classmates [they’re all so different and smart and inspiring and curious and want to do good in the world! they’re amazing and I can already tell that I’m going to learn so much from them!]

There were three particularly big surprises this week:

1.     We did a team building exercise at the army barracks near the city, and the officer in charge of our day actually said these words: “I want you to notice how you feel during the day, pay attention to your body language and how you’re acting in your team, and then be curious about what you’re noticing” …. Um, sir. Did you steal my meditation and yoga scripts?!?  Heck yes! Mindfulness in business school!!

2.     The professor of our Introduction to Accounting for Entrepreneurs intensive somehow defied all odds and wove CREATIVITY AND ART into bookkeeping. He made accounting fun! [I can’t believe I just said that] [Also, my dad always tells me that I should marry an accountant… I’m starting to think he may be on to something]

3.    After the first day of lectures, I quickly realized that I am not 18 years old anymore and I absolutely cannot sit in shitty school chairs for more than 30 minutes without getting insanely sore.  So on Tuesday, I brought Peabody [my bright green meditation cushion/exercise ball] with me to class… gotta have that lower back support!  I was feeling rather self-conscious about the ridiculousness of bringing a bright green squishy ball to a lecture, but Peabody and I were welcomed with open arms, and I actually found that I wasn’t the only one who was struggling with aches and pains after sitting for so long!

 So really, I guess business school ain’t so bad after all.

Is it going to be challenging? … Yep.
Will I get bored and annoyed and tired of it all sometimes? … Uh huh.
Will I be googling business lingo from now until the moment I hand in my dissertation? … You know it!

AND, I think it’s gonna be fun :)

Oh, and there was a double rainbow the other day…

If that’s not a sign from god/the universe/science/mother nature/whateverthefuckisoutthere/all of the above, I don’t know what is!

Mally Goes to Business School

episode 1: a tethered bumblebee

On the eve of my first day as a postgraduate student of business, I find myself divided. 

I’m like a frantic pendulum.  Not one of those beautifully sleek metal situations you find at The Sharper Image, gracefully swaying from one side to another… but rather, like a bumblebee tethered to a stone. 

Buzz buzz buzz

            I am a strong, capable 32-year-old woman who has her shit together.  I got this.

Bumble bumble bumble

            I have no idea what I am doing and everyone around me knows it.

Buzz buzz buzz

            My age, creativity and alternative background is my greatest strength.

Bumble bumble bumble

            I’m an old fart who is completely out of her league.

For those of you who don’t know me [and just to be clear, I am well aware that 99.99% of you reading this are my parents] my name is Mally.  I am a songwriter, a yoga and meditation teacher, an aspiring herbalist, a feminist, and a believer in magic, serendipity, love, and the incredible power of kindness.  I am also a white middle-class woman from Massachusetts.  In my 32 years of living so far, I have had the incredible privilege of highly specialized, creative education.  From majoring in dance and psychology in my undergraduate studies, to living in a tiny caravan on an island off the southwest coast of Scotland learning about plant medicine, I have always followed my heart and my passion.  To top it all off, I am blessed with a remarkably supportive family who, despite my left-of-center career path and sometimes questionable/risky (at least at first glance) life choices, never cease to believe in me.

So how did I end up in business school? 

Good question.  

Last year, I fell deeply in love with Scotland – the land, the music, the people… even the weather!  No matter how hard I tried to redirect it, my compass was unshakably pointing towards the land of thistle and heather

In order to live in Scotland, I needed a visa. 

Ways to get a visa:

1.     Get hired/sponsored by a fancy business that would commit to paying me a salary of at least $40,000 [now remember, I’m a yoga teacher… I challenge you, dear reader, to find a company that will hire a yoga teacher at that salary]

2.     Marry a Scottish person [romantically quite appealing… but even had this been a possibility, the paperwork and hoop jumping required are a major bummer]

3.     Get accepted to an accredited university [ding ding ding! we have a winner!]  

I had been thinking about going back to school for a few years… mostly, I fantasized about studying some form of holistic medicine.  I even thought [quite seriously actually] about going to Divinity School.  But in the end, I wound up enrolling in a postgraduate degree in business. 

Mally, the free-spirit adventure-seeking nature-loving flower-child, is now a student of Entrepreneurship & Innovation at the University of Edinburgh [UoE].  Yipes.   

To be fair, the business route wasn’t completely out-of-nowhere.  Over the past six years, I built my own freelance yoga business and also helped to open and run a handful of successful juice bars in the Boston area.  And more recently, I have begun to envision a future business venture that combines my passion for holistic medicine, my desire to empower women/women-identifying individuals, and my dream to build bridges between alternative medicine and western medicine… So sure, business made sense!  With the program at UoE, I can gain the foundational tools necessary to take my vision and make it real, while also satisfying my soul-shaking desire to live in Scotland. 

It’s a win win!  A no-brainer!  I got this.

Cut to today:  

I am a sweaty, anxious mess.

The eczema on my hands has decided to rear is ugly, itchy, fiery head… Which probably has something to do with the anxiety… and maybe the sweat too, ha… sigh.

I spent the morning in the library pouring over week 1 lecture slides, googling “equity in business,” “pro-forma,” “copex/opex” and “liquid assets,” reacquainting myself with the Dewey Decimal System, and printing out articles with titles like “Preparing Financial Projections for Entrepreneurial Firms,” “A Structural Approach to Assessing Innovation,” and “The Dark Side of Creativity: Original Thinkers Can Be More Dishonest”… the latter being particularly terrifying/disheartening/oh shit, what the fuck have I gotten myself into.

I spent the afternoon in the university bookstore, pressing my face to the proverbial glass wall dividing the rainbow colored Poetry, Gender Studies, Gaelic Culture and Music sections from the dull grey of Business and Finance.  

… Deep breaths.

I think that at the heart of my anxiety is fear.

Fear that I made a mistake; fear that I am in the wrong place, doing the wrong thing; fear that I will look stupid and make a fool of myself; fear that I wont be good at it; fear that I will fail.

I am afraid that I will fail. 

Yep, that’s the one.   

Plain and simple.

Exhale. Just saying that “outloud” helps. It helps a lot, actually. 

I think that’s why I want to start blogging again… I want to offer myself a safe space to get out all the crazy tethered bumblebee madness going on in my brain; a place where I can step away from business and academia and just be creative and honest.

So, here I go!  Blogging again!  I have no idea how often I’ll be able to post once the semester gets going… I’m giving myself zero guidelines or expectations. Except that I promise to include some photographs and fun non-wordy things in the future.  But other than that, I’ll post when I post.  No more, and no less.

Tomorrow, Mally goes to Business School…. wish me luck!

Blessing #52: At the End of the Day - A Mirror of Questions

"What dreams did I create last night?
Where did my eyes linger today?
Where was I blind?
Where was I hurt
without anyone noticing?
What did I learn today?
What did I read?
What new thoughts visited me?
What differences did I notice
in those closest to me?
Whom did I neglect?
Where did I neglect myself?
What did I begin today
that might endure?
How were my conversations?

What did I do today
for the poor
and the excluded?
Did I remember the dead today?
Where could I have exposed myself to the risk
of something different?
Where did I allow myself to receive love?
With whom did I feel most myself?
What reached me today?
How did it imprint?
Who saw me today?
What visitations had I 
from the past and from the future?
What did I avoid today?
From the evidence - 
why was I given this day?"

Coffee, Commas and Goo

My travel alter - a reminder of all those who have blessed me with their friendship on my journey

Almost every morning this week, I woke up, read the blessing either out loud or quietly to myself, and then meditated.  Aaaah....

Starting my morning by acknowledging and blessing the new day was so simple and so beautiful.  It got me thinking about this past year and how this blog - these blessings - have been such a huge part of my weekly experiences.  In some ways, I think I really embraced O'Donahue's words, allowing them to weave into my day-to-day life in a game-changing kind of way.  And then there were other times when the blessing didn't strike any chord whatsoever, and I all but forgot about it until 7pm on Sunday when it came time to post something.  But whether I thought about the blessing during the week or not, for the past year, (with rather impressive consistency, if I do say so myself) I stayed true to my weekly ritual of creation... My art projects became a little blessing, honoring the previous 7 days of my life.  

Everybody, whether they're aware of it or not, has little personal rituals in their daily life... little blessings to mark a moment.  My brother sometimes sings a really silly chicken-related song while he brushes his teeth... it might not look like a blessing from the outside, but I imagine this little ritual of his brings a toothpastey smile to his face every morning, so to me its a blessing!

An ex-boyfriend of mine used to make his coffee every morning with a beautifully precise ritual; the perfect consistency of the grind achieved with a couple of well placed shakes of the old grinder, the exact amount of water, the sound of a motorcycle on his phone timer, marking that joyous moment when the coffee was ready to be pressed, and poured into the Larry's Beans mug.  Though his ritual was performed almost as a mindless habit sometimes, the look on his face when he took that first sip was always one of such pure appreciation and simple pleasure... a blessing!

Every night before bed, after they've read a book and sung a song, my niece asks her parents one question.  I'm pretty this ritual was born out of the days when my niece wasn't the easiest little lady to get into bed - she would just continue to ask questions in a futile attempt to avoid the moment when the light went of the door closed... a kind of "if I don't stop talking, you can't leave, which means bedtime will never happen" maneuver!  Anyways... eventually, my sister and brother-in-law had enough and decided to put an official limit on the number of questions she was allowed to ask... One.  Just one question.  Over time, this ritual has evolved from the never-ending question machine, to something profoundly beautiful.  In December, while babysitting, I got to witness this beauty first hand.  As I was turning off her bedroom light and walking out the door, she reminded me that she had not yet asked her question...   

My niece and nephew planting seeds

Anna: "Auntie Mally, I have to ask you my question!"
Me: "Oh! I forgot! Ask away..."
Anna: *big pause* "Do you ever have trouble falling asleep?"
Me: "Yes, sometimes I do. ... Do you?"
Anna: "Yes.  Sometimes. ... Auntie Mally, can I ask one more question?"
Me: "Yes, you may."   (I'm the cool Auntie - its my job to spoil her a little bit!)
Anna: "What are you going to dream about tonight?"
Me: "Well that is a wonderful question. ... I am going to dream about making snow angles and drinking hot chocolate - that sounds like a lovely thing to dream about.  What are you going to dream about tonight?"  
Anna: ".... Being with my family.  Goodnight, Mally."

GAH! I mean. Come on.  If thats not a blessing, then I don't know what is!

~

Another thing I like about blessings and rituals, is how they serve as a kind of comma for the long, jumbled, run-on sentence of the day... they're just these simple little punctuations marks to remind me to pause, breathe, and be in the moment.  Sometimes its a subconsciously placed comma, one that maybe I'm not even aware of.  And sometimes its more deliberate, like my choice to start my days this past week by reading the same blessing every morning, or saying Grace at the start of a meal.  

Say Grace.  I just love those words... they sound so beautiful together... a blessing in and of themselves.  

A few weeks ago, at my family's Easter dinner, I was reminded of how much I love this ritual.  Since then, I have been trying to remember to say Grace before every meal I eat - no matter if I'm alone in my kitchen, out in a coffeeshop or on a date in a fancy restaurant.  Taking even just one small moment to say thank you infuses every bite with something special.

But its hard to remember!!  I move so fast so much of the time, I often find myself just grabbing my fork and diving in!  I love food so much!  The flavors!  The textures!  The combinations!  I just love to eat!  But I also know that when I take the time to acknowledge the incredible gift of the food before me, the whole eating experience changes; I slow down, I eat mindfully and I enjoy every bite, from the moment the first morsel touches my lips, to that last swallow, the memory of the flavors still lingering on my tongue.  

My mouth is watering.

~

My art project this week is the Oatmeal Cookie Goo I mistakenly made while attempting to make Oatmeal Cinnamon Truffles.  I completely misread the recipe (total brain-fart moment) and put one cup of water into the blender instead of one TABLESPOON!  Big difference.  So rather than ending up with a rather corse, moldable delicious oatmeal substance, I basically had goo.  Delicious goo.  But goo nonetheless... not cookie dough, not sauce... goo.   

Raven enjoys day-old baked Oatmeal Cookie Goo

My friend Raven was with me at the time, and while I tried my darndest to un-goo the goo, he strapped on his Superman cape and flew off to the grocery store to buy a late night pint of Vanilla ice cream.  So in the end, instead of the decadent Oatmeal Cinnamon Truffles that I had planned on, we ate Ben & Jerry's vanilla ice cream smothered in Oatmeal Cookie Goo.  And it was amazing.  It was also really good on hot cereal in the morning... or you can crispify the outside by putting them in the oven for a few minutes...

Oatmeal Cookie Goo.  Art?  Maybe not... Versatile dessert goodness?  Yes.

Let me know if you want the recipe ;-)  

Set Your Life On Fire

"For a seed to achieve its greatest expression, it must come completely undone.  The shell cracks, its insides come out and everything changes.  To someone who doesn't understand growth, it would look like complete destruction."  ~ Cynthia Occelli

"Set your life on fire.  Seek those who fan the flames."  ~ Rumi

~

This week I thought a lot about cleansing... spring cleaning... letting go... transformation.  

It has been a potent year for me in so many ways - a year of transformation.  I have been (and continue to be) the seed; rent open, changed.  And I am also the same.  I am changed and I am more me than ever.  I am whole and broken, empty and full.  I am one thing, and I am many.  And I am growing.

I find myself sitting here now, asking "Okay, so if this has been a year of transformation, what have I transformed into?" -- but now that I really think about it, I'm not sure that there can actually be an answer to that...  Does transformation have a beginning and an ending?  How do I know when it starts and then when is it over?  Or is life just a constant evolution?  

Is transformation like the ocean?  At times fraught with massive waves, the water churning relentlessly underneath, and other times subtle, quiet, lovingly pulled by the moon... but never still - always in motion, shifting, changing - a perpetual transformation?  ...  Right now, I am the ocean. 

Hm... And I am also fire.  

I just sat here and wrote and erased probably 4 different descriptions about how transformation is like fire before I realized that I was basically re-writing everything I just said about the ocean.  Fire and ocean are quite similar.  They can be powerful, raging, destructive: a surging tsunami, a ferocious wildfire.  And they can be graceful, warm, sultry: the steady tides, a simple campfire.  

The photograph at the top of this post felt so perfect... the infinite ocean... the fiery sun... and me.

~

I'm still riding the songwriting wave this week... or maybe I'm stoking the songwriting flame (Hehe) ... Anyways, this one came in a zippy, lightning-bolt-to-the-head kind of a way just now.  The idea of this song has definitely been percolating for about a week now, but it was nothing more than that - an idea.  I'm so grateful it unveiled itself tonight. 

*Its just audio this week, sorry folks! :) 

Ashes & Feathers

I pull my dress over my head, put it on the pyre with the rest.  I stand in my skin beside it all.  I light a match and watch it fall.  Oh... I watch it fall.

The flames climb higher, they crackle and scream.  Your words burn away with my lingering dreams.  I step my body into the blaze, the heat of the burn, the fury of the flame.  Oh... the fury of the flame. 

Oh but after I die, then, then I'll rise.  I'll be clean of heart and clear, clear of eyes.  I'll spread my wings, I'll spread them wide. Ooh... and take to the sky.

And on that day when finally you return, all that you'll find of me here are ashes and feathers, and embers that burn.  

 

Two more blessings left... this is really it!  Its the beginning of the end! 

 

 

 

Blessing #50: Meditation on Transformation

"Real presence is the ideal of all true individuation.  When we yield to helplessness, we strengthen the hand of those who would destroy.  When we choose indifference, we betray our world.  Yet the world is not decided by action alone.  It is decided more by consciousness and spirit; they are the secret sources of all action and behavior.  The spirit of a time is an incredibly subtle, yet hugely powerful force.  And it comprises the mentality and spirit of all individuals together.  Therefore, the way you look at things is not simply a private matter. 

Your outlook actually and concretely affects what goes on.  When you give in to helplessness, you collude with despair and add to it.  When you take back your power and choose to see the possibilities for healing and transformation, your creativity awakens and flows to become na active force of renewal and encouragement in the world.  In this way, even in your own hidden life, you can become a powerful agent of transformation in a broken, darkened world.  There is a huge force field that opens when intention focuses and directs itself towards transformation."

Sing To The Moon

Vespers... an evening prayer... aah, such a beautiful word...

Tenebrae... another word worthy of goosebumps.  

Tenebrae, in latin, means 'darkness' or 'shadow.'  The ceremony of Tenebrae takes place during Holy Week, and is marked by the gradual extinguishing of candles while a series of prayers are sung in the background.  I have to admit that I didn't know what Tenebrae was - I had to look it up.  But after reading a little bit about the ceremony, I couldn't get it out of my mind.  I see rows and rows of golden and orange flames, flickering softly.  Slowly, one-by-one, they each fall into blessed darkness.  This darkness isn't of some evil making, but rather something of beauty... Profound stillness and simplicity... Empty yet overflowing... 

So here is my humble prayer to the night, birthed from the heart of a coyote, the late-night folk-singer of the New England wilderness...

Once I was a Coyote
(the moon song)

Oh I sing to the moon 
And hope she's listening to me

I keep wandering off
Into the night, my heart gets so lost

So I sing to the moon
To the moon 
Are you listening? 

Up there so high
Is the melody your light?
'Cause oh its mine

Oh I sing to the moon
I know she's listening to me

 

 

... Stay tuned for a new blessing this week... only three more left to go ... <3

Blessing #49: Vespers: A Nighttime Blessing

"As light departs to let the earth
be one with night,
Silence deepens in the mind,
and thoughts grow slow;
The basket of twilight
brims over with colors
Gathered from within
the secret meados of the day
And offered like blessings
to the gathering Tenebrae.

After the day's frenzy, may the heart grow still,
Gracious in thought of all the day brought,
Surprises that daw could never have dreamed:
The blue silence that came to still the mind,
The quiver of mystery at the edge of a glimpse
The golden echoes of teh worlds behind voices.

Tense faces unable to hide what gripped the heart,
The abrupt cut of a glance or a word that hurt,
The flame of longing that distance darkened,
Bouquets of memory gathered on the heart's alter,
The thorns of absence in the rose of dream.

And the whole while the unknown underworld
Of the mind, turning slowly, in its secret orbit.
May the blessing of sleep bring refreshment and release
And the Angle of the Moon call the river of dream
To soften the hardened earth of the outside life,
Disentangle from the trapped nets the hurt and sorrow,
And awaken the young soul for the new tomorrow."

She Has Risen

 

This morning I woke up blissfully early - warm sunlight shining through onto a little patch of my bed.  I adjusted so that my body nestled into that little sun spot.  Aaaah.  I lay there, warming my face in the sun, for nearly two full hours... thinking, meditating, dozing, dreaming.  When I finally pulled myself out of bed, I stood up with gusto and drama and thought to myself "SHE HAS RISEN!"  I giggled - I was (and still am!) pretty darn proud of my Easter-related humor.  
 
So I just finished my art project, and looking back at it now, I realize that it probably looks exceptionally religious, especially considering that today is Easter, the resurrection of Christ.  But it really isn't.  Well it is spiritual, it just isn't Christian, and I'm pretty sure it has nothing to do with Jesus.  But it does have to do with me. 

"Often torn ground is ideal for seed
That can root disappointment deep enough
To yield a harvest that cannot wither:

A deeper light to anoint the eyes,
Passion that opens wings in the heart,
A subtle radiance of countenance:
The soul is ready for its true other."

I know I just wrote these words only a moment ago, but for my own sake, I am going to repeat them:

"...A deeper light to anoint the eyes, 
P
assion that opens wings in the heart,
A subtle radiance of countenance:
The soul is ready for its true other."

Blessing #48: A Blessing for Broken Trust

"Sometimes there is
an invisible raven
That will fly low
to pierce the shell of trust
When it has been brought
near to ground.

When he strikes,
he breaks the faith of years
That had built quietly
through the seasons
In the rhythm of
tried and tested experience.

With one strike, the shelter is down
And the black yoke of truth turned false
Would poison the garden of memory.

Now the heart's dream turns to requiem,
Offering itself a poultice of tears
To cleanse from loss what cannot be lost.

Through all the raw and awkward days,
Dignitiy will hold the heart to grace
Lest it squander its dream on a ghost.

Often torn ground is ideal for seed
That can root disappointment deep enough
To yield a harvest that cannot wither:

A deeper light to anoint the eyes,
Passion that opens wings in the heart,
A subtle radiance of countenance:
The soul is ready for its true other."

I Will Blossom

IMG_1774.jpg

Settling back into home after three months of adventuring on the other side of the world has been overwhelming.  It has also been amazing, exciting, invigorating, fulfilling, grounding... so many -ing's.  But I think the biggest -ing of them all is overwhelming.  After the initial adrenalin rush of my first few days back subsided, I found myself completely exhausted, and it wasn't just jet lag - it was (is) everything.  

Life moves so quickly here.  Do. Make. Say. Think. (great band by the way) Create. Plan. Step. Pay. Earn. Love. Grow. Gain. Move. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

And its all amazing... I want to make! I want to earn! I want to step! I want to love! I want to gain! I want to lather, rinse and repeat!  But what if right now, all I can do is simply BE?  

People keep asking me, "So what's next?" and "What's your plan?" -- what it feels like they're saying is "WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO WITH YOUR LIFE?" in ginormous capital letters.

A few times, I responded with a pre-packaged response... some sort of societal, subconscious construction of exactly how I plan to utilize all the knowledge I've gained over the past months: first I'm going to teach these kinds of classes and make this much money, then I'm going to branch out and expand to this, then I'm going to move here, then I'm going to open this kind of a space, then this is going to happen, then that, then this, then blah blah blah.

Other times, perhaps when I felt safe to be real, I responded authentically... 

"So what's next?"

I'm going to let my wings dry.  

"What's your plan?"

My plan is to slow down.

"WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO WITH YOUR LIFE?"

JUST BE ME... and see what happens.


Don't get me wrong, having a plan is not a bad thing.  In fact, I'm a *huge* fan of plans.  I"ve found it enormously motivating to set goals and come up with a game plan for achieving them.  But I'm just not there right now.  Or maybe I am there, but its just that my goal is better achieved without any plan at all.

So how do I just be me?  Well... by singing, dancing, reading, resting, creating, meditating, teaching, laughing, loving, playing, sleeeeeeeping, eating, drinking, and CELEBRATING the incredible gift of my wonderous life. 

Sounds amazing, right?  Easy-peasy-lemon-squeezey - who wouldn't want that lifestyle?

But in truth, I've found that just being is actually really hard.  Over the past few days, the powerful realities of money, responsibility, relationships, time, space, expectations, goals (because yes, I do have goals), all joined forces in my mind and swept me up in a Wizard of Oz type tornado... but instead of landing in Munchkin Land, at the foot of a handy yellow brick road, I landed right back in the middle of everything - depleted, overwhelmed and lonely.

....

I sat down to write the blog today, and I re-read the blessing for the week... As he has done so many times before, my faithful companion for the past 12 months, Mr. John O'Donahue, walked quietly into my heart and whispered... "Don't allow your sense of yourSelf to wilt."

It was nearly a year ago when I posted my first piece of art for this blog.  I'm reminded now of the Shawn Colvin lyrics... "One small year, its been an eternity, its taken all of me to get here, through this one small year."

Yup, it has been an eternity.  And yup, it has most definitely taken all of me.  Preach it, sister! 

In the corner of my room in my new apartment is a pile of stuff to be hung on the walls... mostly paintings or drawings from this past year.  I found the painting, my *first* painting, towards the bottom of the pile.  A grey bust of a woman, a stark white skeleton, and within her ribs, a flower.  Not just any flower, a SUNflower - full of light, warmth, fire, and most of all love.  

"Don't allow your sense of yourSelf wilt."  

I leaned the painting against the wall so as to get a better look at it.  As I backed up to take it in from a distance, it fell forwards, revealing a second layer of art that I had completely forgotten about.  On the back of the canvas frame, I had written the names of my "gardeners," the remarkable people who, a year ago, were lovingly tending to my hidden sunflower, holding me in my darkness, and never allowing my sense of mySelf to wilt.  

So I think my "art" this week is simply the experience of remembering my sunflower and rediscovering my gardeners - its sort of a re-run, and its not really even art... but just think of it as a metaphor!  And since spring has pretty much officially sprung, I think I better strap on my favorite overalls, pick up a shovel, grab some seeds, and get my hands dirty.  Its time for me to be my own gardener, to give myself the time and space I need to just BE... and trust that by being, I will blossom. 

 

 

 

Blessing #47: A Blessing After A Destructive Encounter

"Now that you have entered
with an open heart
Into a complex and fragile situation,
Hoping with patience and respect
To tread softly over sore ground in order
That somewhere
beneath the raw estrangement
Some fresh spring of healing
might be coaxed
To release the grace for a new journey
Beyond repetition and judgment,
And have acheived nothing of that,
But emerged helpless,
and with added hurt...

Withdraw for a while into your own tranquility,
Loosen from you heart the new fester.
Free yourself of teh wounded gaze
That is not yet able to see you.
Recognize your responsibility for the past.
Don't allow your sense of yourself to wilt.
Draw deep from your own dignity.
Temper your expectation to the other's limits,
And take your time carefully,
Learning that there is a time for everything
And for healing too,
But that now is not that time ...yet."

Normalize

So here it is.  My first week of really and truly have zero to offer to the blog.  I returned to the states a week ago after 3+ months of traveling in Southeast Asia.  I spent a few days in San Francisco with my amazing brother.  The 10-hour time difference was, of course, quite confusing for my body - I'm not sure I ever totally settled into SF time.  Then just a few days ago, I flew back to the east coast... a whole 'nother time zone for my body to figure out.  So right now, I'm somewhere in between 13 hours ahead of where I am, and 3 hours behind.  Hm.  I wonder if thats a metaphor for something? Ha!

But needless to say, I am pooped.  

Returning home has been a many-layered experience that I want to talk about and create art around... but I just don't have any gas left in the tank.  As always, I found inspiration and solace in the blessing for the week, but didn't have the punch to do anything with it.  

I'm looking forward to my body normalizing, and carving out some real time to sink into art this week so that come next Sunday, I'll have something more substantial to offer :) 

But for now, I'm off to dream land! 

Blessing #46: A Blessing for Someone Who Did You Wrong

"Though its way is to strike
In a dumb rhythm,
Stroke upon stroke,
As though the heart
Were an anvil, the hurt you sent
Had a mind of its own. 

Something in you knew
Exactly how to shape it, to hit the target,
Slipping into the heart
Through some wound-window
Left open since childhood.

While it struck outside,
It burrowed inside,
Made tunnels through
Every ground of confidence.
For days, it would lie still
Until a thought would start it. 

Meanwhile, you forgot,
Went on with things
And never even knew 
How that perfect
Shape of hurt
Still continued to work.

Now a new kindness
Seems to have entered time
And I can see how that hurt
Has schooled my heart
In a compassion I would
Otherwise have never learned.

Somehow now
I have begun to glimpse
The unexpected fruit
Your dark gift had planted
And I thank you
For your unknown work." 

Nothing Unravels

 

 

"When we love another heart and allow it to love us, we journey deep below time into that eternal weave where nothing unravels."

Just *some* of the hearts I've had the joy to encounter this year &lt;3

Just *some* of the hearts I've had the joy to encounter this year <3

I've encountered some remarkable hearts over the past three months of my life, many of which I'm quite sure I've known for lifetimes.  And there's something about these places that I have been exploring... Especially Bali... the very air seems to exist in that space that O'Donahue writes about, "deep below time... where nothing unravels."  Every inhale, I fill my lungs, my body, my heart with "that eternal weave."  Its like magic. 

One of the hearts that has come into my life this year belongs to a soul sister of mine.  She is back home now, while I still travel on... but thanks to the wonders of the internet, we've been able to have daily "chats" since she arrived back home.

Soma Souls  

Soma Souls  

She is a real inspiration for me.  I said to her the other day that I'm pretty sure we've had many lifetimes together - we were probably sisters at some point... lovers... mother and daughter... teacher and student... the moon and the stars... and we were most *definitely* two feisty little dolphin pals somewhere along the way, jumping and twisting in our happy little pod.

She's going through an incredible time in her life right now - massive shifts - transformation - stepping into her destiny - lots of rather epic happenings, to say the least.  I feel very lucky to be witnessing her emergence from the cocoon.  As I've watched her wings unfold, I have just been in awe of her ability to step back, to trust her heart, to listen to her mind, to honor her intuition, and to simply ride the divine wave of her life.  Even in the face of saying goodbye to old flames, she walks with such grace.

"Though a door may have closed between us, may we be able to view our lost friends with eyes wise with calming grace,... celebrate the gifts they brought, learn and grow from the pain, and prosper into difference, wishing them the peace where spirit can summon beauty from wounded space."

It is a courageous human that can celebrate gifts of pain.  
It is a strong human that can wish peace on those who have caused hurt.  
It is a powerful human that can summon beauty from wounded space. 

Seriously, John - these are some tall orders here. 

And yet, so simple, so true.  

image.jpg

I think, that underneath the stubborn, proud ego (that can often have serious trouble accepting that which cut it down)... the root of the heart, the core of the soul, is full of gratitude for all layers of life - the good, the bad and the ugly.  Experiences are simply experiences... strands to be woven lovingly into the eternal weave.  That is our true nature; we are courageous enough to celebrate pain, strong enough to wish for peace, and powerful enough summon beauty.

My art project this week (the first - and probably only - doodle on my new journal... I am pretty psyched that I used my first bit of color in my doodle this time!) is dedicated to my sweet soul sister, my dolphin-spirited, jungle-romping, crescent moon of a friend ~ she is a glowing reminder of the true nature of my heart <3

 

 

Blessing #45: A Blessing for Lost Friends

 "As twilight makes a rainbow rob
From the concealed colors of day
In order for time to stay alive
Within the dark weight of the night,
May we lose no one we love
From the shelter of our hearts.

When we love another heart
And allow it to love us,
We journey deep below time
Into that eternal weave
Where nothing unravels. 

May we have the grace to see
Despite the hurt of rupture,
The searing of anger,
And the empty disappointment,
That whoever we have loved,
Such love can never quench.

Though a door may have
Closed between us, 
May we be able to view
Our lost friends with eyes
Wise with calming grace;
Forgive them the damage
We were left to inerit,

Free ourselves from the chains
Of forlorn resentment;
Bring warmth again to
Where the heart has frozen
In order that beyond the walls
Of our cherished hurt
And chosen distance
We may be able to 
Celebrate the gifts they brought, 
Learn and grow from the pain,
And prosper into difference,
Wishing them peace
Where spirit can summon
Beauty from wounded space."

Death & Rebirth - The Abridged Version

Amed

Amed

I just spent the better part of the past hour and a half writing a beautiful, long, heartfelt post about how I've experienced many "deaths of the beloved" within my own Self... how layers of my self (physical, mental, emotional, spiritual) come into being and eventually die all the time... I wrote of how I've honored those deaths... celebrated them... mourned them... how its simply a natural cycle of life... I mean the liver is capable of actually regrowing - rebirthing itself if you will - even if the vast majority of it has died!  

Come on! That's amazing! 

So I was writing writing writing... divine poetry flowing out of my fingertips... And then the wifi cut out and I lost it all.  Sigh. 

Initial reaction: exhaustion and disappointment. 

Secondary reaction: exhaustion and disappointment, haha.  (I was hoping my second reaction would be a bit more reminiscent of a second wind, but no dice)

I'm not going to rewrite it - I'm sorry.  I wish I had it in me, but I just don't!  I tried to write a "here's the jist of it" version, and it just didn't do it justice.  So instead I'm simply going to put up some photos of my week, and call it art <3 

Dusk in Ubud

Dusk in Ubud

  I'm a cocoNUT

  I'm a cocoNUT

A sandy reminder of the volcanos that are the heartbeat of this island

A sandy reminder of the volcanos that are the heartbeat of this island

Lotus in my backyard

Lotus in my backyard

Gratitude

Gratitude

Okay so I am going to write a tiny little hint of what I originally intended for this blog post...

One of the most beautiful Balinese traditions that I've encountered during my month and a half here is, when someone dies and their body is burned, it is believed that the soul then begins its ascent into heaven (into the beyond, the afterlife, whatever you want to call it) ... The entire village gathers to be present for the soul's departure, to support and encourage its release of the human form.  A host of men play an incredible symphony on the gamelans, a traditional Indonesian instrumental ensemble made up of gongs, drums, xylophones.  The boomings sounds from this magnificent orchestra build a ladder - wrung my wrung, note by note - for the soul to climb.  At dawn and dusk, when the spirit is thought to be most weary, most likely to fall prey to the demons grasping at its heels, pulling it back towards earth, the musicians pour all their energy into the instruments - the music gets louder and louder, so frenetic and powerful you can feel it vibrate in the deepest parts of your body.  Each strike of the drum, each ring of the gong, urges the spirit onwards, helping it to let go, to say goodbye to its time in this body on this earth and to move gracefully into its new form of being, whatever that may be. 

When I die, and my village gathers to mourn and celebrate, I want there to be music to guide my soul into the beyond - to mark the death of this beloved and the birth of another.

image.jpg

~

I'll leave you with the words from this week's blessing that really sing to me...


  "We look toward each other no longer from the old distance of our names; now you dwell inside the rhythm of breath, as close to us as we are to ourselves. ...

Let us not look for you only in memory, where we should grow lonely without you.  You would want us to find you in presence, beside us when beauty brightens, when kindness glows and music echoes eternal tones."

Blessing #44: A Blessing on the Death of a the Beloved

 "Though we need to weep your loss,
You dwell in that safe place in our hearts
Where no storm or night or pain can reach you.

Your love was like the dawn
Brightening over our lives, 
Awakening beneath the dark
A further adventure of color. 

The sound of your voice
Found for us
A new music
That brightened everything. 

Whatever you enfolded in your gaze
Quickened in the joy of its being;
You placed smiles like flowers
On the alter of the heart.
Your mind always sparkled
With wonder at things.

Though your days here were brief, 
Your spirt was alive, awake, complete. 

We look toward each other no longer
From the old distance of our names;
Now you dwell inside the rhythm of breath, 
As close to us as we are to ourselves.

Though we cannot see you with outward eyes,
We know our soul's gaze is upon your face,
Smiling back at us from within everything
To which we bring our best refinement. 

Let us not look for you only in memory,
Where we sould grow lonely without you.
You would want us to find you in presence,
Beside us when beauty brightens,
When kindness glows
And music echoes eternal tones. 

May you continue to inspire us: 

To enter each day with a generous heart.
To serve the call of courage and love
Until we see your beautiful face again
In that land where there is no more separation,
Where all tears will be wiped from our mind,
And where we will never lose you again."