Intergrating

A dear friend, a midwife, once said to me that you can see the core of a woman’s makeup while she is in labor.  All conditioning and social facades melt away when a woman is giving birth.  Something primal is released.  Bringing a child into this world is so all consuming that all that is left is a rawness within the mother’s presence.

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I think this rawness can be observed too when we are faced with difficulties, particularly those of the unexpected and unknown.  In these moments we are stripped of our filters – our cultural mythologies – leaving us vulnerable, raw, and unfiltered. 

Coming to Costa Rica has been in many ways a stripping down to this basic state of being.  We have experienced floods, earthquakes, tropical storms, scorpions, and the jungle at large.  In being here, we have been thrown off our game, allowing us to see what lives underneath, at our core.  Are we really as adaptable, positive and open to new things as we think?  We can’t hide behind comfort here as much.  

I have conversations with people in similar circumstances as ourselves and within the words spoken, I listen for the story that they spin about their experiences.  I listen to the story that I spin as well.  I am continually fascinated by all the tales – what is emphasized, what is forgotten, and what is exaggerated in the telling. 

I can hear the difference between the individuals who, at their core, have a growth mindset and others who are trying to find it but struggle when vulnerability arises.   What I do know is that at times, adapting and finding the silver lining, or the sweet within the sour of lemonade, makes me weary.  There are some days when I feel up to the challenge of being here – when I feel open to embracing all the medicines of this place, knowing that on some level, growth and change is happening.  At other times, I just want comfort, to be in a place where I feel safe and where things are known and familiar.  

I believe this vacillation is normal and healthy.  I think that in everything there needs to be times of exertion and then times of rest.  Nature is a beautiful, direct example of this.  The seasons… the flux between growth and dormancy.  I am no different; being a part of nature as well, I also need times of rest and comfort to fortify myself for all the growth and change that is happening.   The cultural myth that was fueled by the well-loved Descartes saying, “I think therefore I am,” reinforces the idea that the mind is the most evolved part of ourselves.  With my mind I believe that I can control all the other aspects of my complicated self, including the wisdom of my body.  For example, my body might call for rest but the mind urges that I need to work.  When I remind myself to follow the natural flow of energy, which is more basic, more raw, and more important than anything my mind can configure, I no longer fight what is naturally-occuring within me.  When I stop fighting, all of my being comes into sync. 

 I have come to understand that this flux between rest and exertion is the only way we can truly integrate and transform.  Force of will and hard work will only take you so far – and if you are not careful, it will exhaust you.  It is important to support the deep work of rejuvenation and the natural cycle of integration.  We can only learn from history if we pause, center ourselves, and remember.  We cannot learn by plowing ahead or by trying too hard. By tending to our natural rhythms and the body’s wisdom, we provide space for integration to occur. Pause, remember and re-remember. 



Being with Time

I desire for my relationship to time to shift.  I am noticing that my mind takes the concept of time and uses it against me.  I am beginning to see that when time is viewed as a commodity, it is continually being judged.  I frequently think of time as being well spent or wasted. I feel that there is never enough time, that my time is limited on this earth, that time is running out.  I look at the clock and watch the markings of time and all that it does is cause me to hurry.

Time is now viewed as a limited resource.  How does this view of time shape my relationship to it?  What happened to the so-called expansiveness of time? I have read books on how our relationship to time is shifting with the advancement of technology and our ability to measure more and more minisual moments of time.  Time used to be measured by the sun and by counting the number of moons that passed. I would love to inquire with our ancestors about their relationship to time. Nowadays, we all know here what a minute feels like . . . a half hour, an hour . . .  these are definitions we use to mark our days, our tasks, and our purpose. How would life be measured if there was no awareness of a minute or an hour? How would time feel different then? I am curious . . .

We are studying the Spanish language.  We are humbled. As I have never studied a language before I have never had the joy of discovering a culture through how the language is organized.  I was struck as we were learning estar/ser verbs that meaning is “to be.” In the Spanish language “to be” is separated out into qualities of being: permanency or fluidity.  Sleep is fluid, whereas hard is permanent. To my amazement, death is thought of as fluid and not a permanent condition. This tells me so much about the culture I am living in and also their view of time.  There is not an end of life according to this view; it just shifts into another realm. The language also intrigues me when in reference to age. In English, I say, “I am forty-six years old.” In Spanish, I would say I have forty-six years.  Again a different way to measuring time.

How can I step into a different sense of time. . . a sense of timelessness?  I know when I am in ceremony, I taste this; so I know it to be true. I always forget this though, and this always leads me back to the forgetting and the need to re-remember.   

When I was young maybe, 10 or 11 years old,  I remember taking all the clocks out of my room, blocking my windows with paper and begging my mom not to tell me what time it was.  I wanted to discover for myself: when I would be hungry, when I would go to sleep, how long would I do anything without measuring the worthiness of the task by the clock.   I have done this a couple of times when I have been on retreat and it helps me shift to another dimension of being. Something more internal, deeper and primal. I am not sure how, with kids and clients and outside life that lives according to a schedule,  I can really cultivate this sense of timelessness; but I would like to see something shift. I think most of time I am just wanting to step into a place of timelessness where the task I am doing is all consuming, that I forget time exists, where I forget what I have to do later in the day, the next day or the next week.  I want to forget that there is any other time than the one I am in. I am think this is what I am always searching for . . . this state of flow. How do I reach it? I reach it by writing this, by having a meaningful conversation with someone, by staring at the ocean, by feeling the wind on my skin. Maybe it is not my relationship to time that is problematic; maybe it is the quality of my attention and the choices I still stubbornly make that bring me into the deadly dance with time.  I think I am called now to move my attention to something deeper and to remember: the clock was man made and really does not belong on this earth.



A Poem by Naomi Shihab Nye

Kindness

Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.

Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness,
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho 
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans 
and the simple breath that kept him alive.

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside, 
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.  
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth. 

Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to mail letters and 
     purchase bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
it is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you every where
like a shadow or a friend.

A Poem from Mary Oliver

 

Wild Geese

 

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting --
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

~ Mary Oliver ~

 

(Dream Work)

Global Metamorphosis

I feel excited and hopeful.  In Costa Rica we are immersed in the rhythms of nature.  We cannot separate ourselves from the rains, the sun, the insects, the animals.  We cannot conquer the jungle.  I am noticing how the locals dance with the jungle.  There seems to be a give and take, a complicated relationship in which the humans know they are not in charge and cannot force their will.  Instead, there seems to be a deep, respectful entanglement with the elements.  I feel I am re-remembering something deep within me.  Something that in our modern times is absent from our cultural understanding.  I feel like I am remembering that I am nature.  

Our cultural myths reinforce our separation with nature: our need to dominate and control the elements; our need to take care of the earth, as if it needs us to survive.  These myths tell us that there is the earth and then me, and we affect one another.  I know that the monkeys outside my window do not feel separate from the tree in which they hang; there is a symbiotic flow of interdependence, oneness.  Living in the jungle does not allow us to stay in our disconnected state of mind. I feel like I am remembering that I am not separate, I am not in charge, I am not a steward of the earth, but I am the earth.  

    These moments of remembering are fleeting  . . . I forget and then I remember.  When I remember, I hear the poetry, I hear the call within myself to listen acutely and to let myself be immersed in a state of awe.  I can hear the whispers of the ocean and I can hear the medicine of the rains  . . . I pause and soak in the beauty of the sunset each night and bear witness to the artistry in the sky.  I pause and remember.  

When I remember that I am the earth, my actions hold great meaning.  My words, my thoughts, and my behaviors have the power of connection or disconnection.  Judgement/fear or inclusion/wonderment.  I feel the call to come back to be in rhythm.  I was reading Jung’s, "Man and His Symbols," again and came across this reminder of what we have lost with our separation:

“As scientific understanding has grown, so our world has become dehumanized. Man feels himself isolated in the cosmos, because he is no longer involved in nature and has lost his emotional “unconscious identity” with natural phenomena.  These have slowly lost their symbolic implications.  Thunder is no longer the voice of an angry god, nor is lightning his avenging missile.  No river contains a spirit, no tree the life principle of a man, no snake the embodiment of wisdom, no mountain cave the home of a great demon.  No voices now speak to man from stones, plants, and animals, nor does he speak to them believing he can hear.  His contact with nature has gone, and with it has gone the profound emotional energy that this symbolic connection supplied.”

I wonder what would transpire if we heard the poetry in nature again.  I wonder what would change if we saw earthquakes as Mother Earth shrugging her shoulders to remind us to be more fluid.  When nature speaks loudly it is easy to feel only fear and the need to protect ourselves.  What if we looked at these events not as disasters and tragedies only, but also as the earth healing itself?  Global metamorphosis.  Here is a great reminder of what we can see when we orientate ourselves to an inclusive perspective.  

“Trees and vegetation toppled by hurricane winds return to the earth in the form of rich, new soil. Torrential rainfall is part of the earth's hydraulic system, which moves water from the surface of the planet into the atmosphere, and back again, renewing our water supply. Earthquakes are caused by the constant recycling of planetary crust, which for millennia has formed our geographically diverse and fruitful planet. Wildfire clears away old growth, making way for lush new plant life. Volcanic eruptions add valuable nutrients to the soil, producing fertile agricultural land.” (Four Winds Society)

The Earth seems to be healing herself.  I am excited about our opportunity as a species to follow her lead.  To be in rhythm with the one that birthed us, nourished us, nurtured us, and will take us home again.  

 

 

A Beautiful Poem . . . Fire

Fire

 

What makes a fire burn

is space between the logs,

a breathing space.

Too much of a good thing,

too many logs

packed in too tight

can douse the flames

almost as surely

as a pail of water would.

So building fires

requires attention

to the spaces in between,

as much as to the wood.

When we are able to build

open spaces

in the same way

we have learned

to pile on the logs,

then we can come to see how

it is fuel, and absence of the fuel

together, that make fire possible

We only need to lay a log

lightly from time to time.

A fire

grows

simply because the space is there,

with openings

in which the flame

that knows just how it wants to burn

can find its way.

    Judy Brown