Thursday, November 24, 2011

Up against a wall (Rilke's Gold Mine)

The meeting had drained me. After cross-currents of discordant conversation, I stepped outside and welcomed the chilly wind nipping at my cheeks as I approached my car. I turned on the CD player and drove away in a haze of static. Heading into the mountain pass that leads to my home, heavy swollen clouds loomed overhead

I wasn’t hearing the CD so I turned it off. I’m trying to FACE troubling energies rather than avoid them. Static warns me when inner turbulence is present. Resistance merely masks what festers and makes me unavailable. Tight sadness burned like a knot inside my chest. Everything in me wanted to get away from this feeling.

Constricted--as if blocked by dark, musty rubble--I felt stuck. Swirls of vague sensation made it stuffy. Hard to breathe--and yet, a sense of potential lurked. Who knows how close we might be, at any point, to striking gold! Rilke captures it well: 

Pushing Through

It’s possible I am pushing through solid rock    
in flintlike layers, as the ore lies, alone;
I am such a long way in I see no way through,
and no space: everything is close to my face,
and everything close to my face is stone.

I don’t have much knowledge yet in grief
so this massive darkness makes me small.
You be the master: make yourself fierce, break in:
then your great transforming will happen to me,
and my great grief cry will happen to you.

Rainer Maria Rilke
(Translated by Robert Bly)  

Why do I struggle to keep others from seeing how deeply hurt I feel? What am I afraid of? Is 'exposure' really dangerous? What might happen if I actually 'gave another the advantage' of glimpsing how I truly feel? How much energy does it take to hide or pretend? How true are all of my ideas about what's 'good' or 'bad'? Sometimes it seems like I've gotten everything backwards.

Trees part around a steep curve revealing misty swirls settling over a sea-bound canyon, filling the basin with cloud-creme. Wind enlivens everything. Opening my window I take a whiff of cool moist fragrance. Drawing powerful nourishment from the companionship of foliage, wildlife, sky and the changing elements, my shoulders finally soften. A sigh escapes as I marvel at Life's inscrutable honesty, and inherent order. It pierces the armor I have unknowingly accepted, frees me from the prison of safety and self-consciousness. 

Human animals are merely another aspect of nature. What we witness in each other, is simply a mirror image. Obviously this common plight includes a propensity to distort reality. When tension, fear and irritability surfaces, it is usually because we're unwilling to acknowledge our own pain.

Any pain we inflict upon each other
is merely our own heartbreak
not fully acknowledged 
to ourselves

Being exactly AS and HOW we are at any given moment without approval or rejection, justification or defense, is not dangerous, but rather truly sane and honest. The only source of real safety is admitting what we try so relentlessly to deny: our innocence; our sincerity; our vulnerability; and our ignorance. This opens a doorway to what matters most for all beings. If we take this leap at the very instant when we stand face to face with uncertainty, we begin to discover an amazing secret. Try it out! 

Trust is the doorway that will take us there.

On the other side of the mountain pass a valley opened into the late afternoon sunshine, boring holes through the cloud-fabric. Rays steamed forth. It made sense now: what a relief to discover how the tapestry is always a result of every thread within the woven warp and woof, which holds the form in place. Hidden images glimmer here; glint there. Each one demands my undivided attention: Everything yearns to have its moment in the Light!

My dialogue is only just beginning.

How to Untangle Knots (My mothers yarn)

I am obsessed with fixing broken things. I discovered this talent early on. I would untangle knots and thread needles for my mother. When my baby brother's swan shaped, night light shattered, I spent a week gluing the bumpy milk glass back together. Years later, after wasting an entire day--when my son was in high school--trying to find one lost item, I fessed up to my addiction.

Why do this? Eventually, I realized none of these items were THAT important (part of me knew this all along). I was after something significant. My earliest impressions suggested that something was 'not quite right' with the people and situations around me. Nothing calibrated. A project of inquiry began, fueled by fierce determination to get to the bottom of this problem. This quest has ruled my life.

My inquiry uncovered some basic questions:

What is it that I believe has been lost, broken or hopelessly entangled? Is there anything that isn't lost, broken or hopelessly entangled? Can I get to the unbrokenness by fixing broken things? If not, then what?

My approach was counter-productive (wasting time, draining energy, trying to solve endless 'problems' one by one). It seemed futile to be driven by such blindness. 

I actually just want TO FIND the realm that exists BEYOND problems and dilemmas.

I already knew that such a realm existed because IT's rays had often pierced the cloudy haze of chaotic life to reveal a sparkling, clear, spacious emptiness that enfolds us all. Yet there seemed to be no doorknob on this side of the situation. ENTANGLEMENT turned out to be my guide. The puzzle of 'The Tangled Knot' became my invisible doorknob. It started with my mother and her knitting hobby. 

I would hold a mass of my mothers tangled yarn in my hands and look at it.  Tight. Impossible to see where the snags and snarls had locked up the strands free flow. Space was obviously needed. So I began to loosen the entire ball of yarn by gently pulling at it from all angles in order to enlarge the size of the skein itself. By expanding it outward, more space was created within. I intentionally did NOT try to untangle any of the knots (because it became quite clear, early on, that by doing so they would only become hopelessly locked). 

Instead, by letting space breathe through the tangles, it was easy to see which direction each thread took, and how these threads crisscrossed each other. With such visibility there was room to gently maneuver the threads. It took time, but the entire ball of yarn would eventually become untangled. It was a relaxing endeavor whereby the value of SPACE was being utilized, appreciated and experienced. 

There was a sense of satisfaction each time I succeeded--as if I were 'on the trail'. Others liked it. I liked it. Thus began a life-long habit of following the trail, doing what I could do well. Unfortunately, I could do many things quite well. So it took decades before LIFE finally brought me to my knees in utter helplessness and despair. Once the more effective invisible doorknob of FAILURE began to haunt me--only then--did the real territory began to fully open itself. 

When we fall short of the standards we have subscribed to, it can feel like failure. Or Life, itself, might intervene to knock us off the 'safe & narrow' path we tread. Yet, even as this happens, we can easily miss the fantastic opportunity presenting itself: Hoping to avoid this thing called 'failure', we tend to run as fast and far away from it, as we possibly can. Rather than peer more deeply between the threads of its foreboding fabric, we fortify ourselves against it's insinuations; we seek images and beliefs designed to counter the bad ideas, whispered by our worst fears. 

One day, I finally reached my threshold, got fed up with being afraid, and stood up to FEAR, itself.  I was working in the NICU, when this happened. On my way to attend a high-risk delivery of a premature infant, I felt wearied by the continual sense of inadequacy that had always haunted me in my job. So I asked fear, itself, "What are you?" Thus began the longest walk down the hallway to L&D that I have ever taken before or since. 

I discovered that Truth was the opposite of everything I thought I knew: There is nothing to fear. There is nothing to know. There is no one to be. There is nothing to do. Yet, everything will happen, with and through LOVE if only we get out of the way and allow it.

See Waking Up to What We Are. (by 'swanfether' WHO IS 'ME', on the site where it is posted) if you want to know the 'STORY' of my long walk down the hall. Or better yet--see your own life, which is no doubt full of your own version of such discoveries . . .

Wednesday, November 16, 2011


I want to wear something that
expresses nothing, in particular,
suggests nothing, in particular,
and defines nothing, in particular. 

Can a piece of clothing refrain 
from embellishing style, genre, or image?
De-Emphasize the particular?

What sort of fabric, color, and design
is not 'particular? I want a 'fit' that won't try
to hide, describe or convey.

What might entice the mirror to reflect ‘NOTHING’?  
How accurate is a mirror when it only offers
an endless series of "SOMETHINGS"?  
Do we notice the fissure this creates? 
The way it ruptures the unruffled surface 
of tranquil absence?

How Illusion wrinkles innate Presence 
and populates    E m p t y   S t i l l n e s s  
with hallicunations?

When clothing continues to promote 
an image, where none is sought, wanted, 
helpful, or true—then what? 

It's quite tempting to seek stuff that blends in 
or find clothing that broadcasts bulletins like:

“Ignore this person—‘she’ isn’t really here anyway
please look elsewhere if seeking someone
who’s anything at all.” 

But I know that’s not ‘it’ either. 
What  ‘IT’  is, 
I do not know.

I only know that NOTHING inside my closet ‘feels right’ 
and the very idea of “right” fails to fit anything I try on.
There’s a sense of ‘no not quite that...' But
no reason why ‘this sense’ is so. 
It just is.

I keep scanning for another sense;
One of ‘Yes, this will do.’  Some sign 
that such signals might exist. Confirmation
that IT can inhabit every smidgen of Beingness.
How long must I wonder? 

Meanwhile, what do I wear ?

Stephanie Laura            

Thursday, November 10, 2011

TREE poetry


Everyday a new poem appears in my mailbox. Today's poem was about TREES. I was raised by a grove of Eucalyptus trees, in the undeveloped San Fernando Valley. They taught me more about life than almost anything else.

Michelle Taransky's poem contains trees, rivers, woodworking and the things we do. But mostly its about loss, change, relationship, understanding--and those huge gaps--where SPACE lives, always eager to swallow us up. It was while sitting on the trunk of a tree my father had cut down, that the meaning of life, pulled me into its mystery. I was 10 years old.


This— The best tree
 27 yr old 'ME' at a Eucalyptus Grove 

Is sick now, now discuss
Where to look, discuss:
The cause, and, if
Possible, discuss who
Could have prevented
The workers who are working
To prevent, and if it happens then
Prepare to discuss how bodger* will
Recognize people saying "sick"
Everywhere, discuss how to handle
Discussing one sickness as if
That sickness is the other
Sickness— Ok, sickness
Ok to say ok discuss
Discuss the landscape
When it changes from woods
To sorry. To not the ideal
Tree to use as the marker
Beginning a discussion by a river
May confuse explanation with
And, how to avoid, when I say I need
A new chair to work, you think:
I am using the chair as a metaphor

by Michelle Taransky

* A bodger is someone who works with wood


     Early one morning, nearly a year ago, the majestic Live Oak tree that has been growing for decades at the edge of our property, crashed to the ground, demolishing all that lay in its path. Life's 'BEFORE' was magic charm with flagstone steps across the green. 

. . .  a courtyard gathering place with climbing vines, shade, and festive colors

The THUD woke me up--literally--out of one life and catapulted me into a very different world.

My inner landscape was emptied out, as well.

Strange how realignment can 'take away' what has felt like "given's" 
to open up gaps and vistas,
where barriers and boundaries once prevailed.

Now, nearly a year later, the 'AFTER' of our front yard still looks empty and barren. 

Our neighbor drove home from work, after she got my call, to survey the damage. The tree was on her property. Both of us were drawn to this stretch of land, largely because of the lovely old oak at the common border.  

     "How bad is it?" she asked me over the phone.
     "Prepare yourself. Half the tree is laying across our yard and blocking the entire street." I explained. We stood in her driveway embracing after she got out of her car, still stunned.
     "I wonder what this means?" she murmered, "This is no small things that's happened here." Her astonishment was intermingled with the awe that happens when Nature's force makes us small. And her insightful trust that Life creates out of pattern, somehow.
     "Nothing will ever be the same." I whispered back. But even then, I had no idea how drastically the entire tapestry of our lives would be affected. 


     In the aftermath of dealing with debris, rupture and repair, our family faced upheavels to pocketbook, heart, and the essential 'identity' our property had embodied. There is much more LIGHT and SPACE everywhere--on every level--as a result. Unseen consequences continue to ripple out. The fabric of interpersonal dynamics initially mirrored the disarray of the parched, unruly wasteland out front. Both were equally disrupted (exposed) by the vibratory THUD that shook the house that morning. 

     Although I would not want to relive this year again, I am grateful and amazed at the transformations. Sometimes it takes an external nudge to disrupt the status quo; to start THE CONVERSATION rolling. Reading the words of Michelle's poem, I recognize this sense of wading into uncomfortable territory with hard questions and unwelcome consequence. How one has to push through layers of resistance:

Ok to say ok discuss
Discuss the landscape
When it changes from woods
To sorry.

     So many layers exist. They serve their purpose well: to shield and deter. Yet, pushing through these layers, anyway--because we are forced to do so OR because Life simply makes things impossible to ignore--we cross 'forbidden' safeguards. We enter awkward truths and grieve what must be seen; done; known. This includes facing the programed scripts of condemnation that come with "sorry". These and so much else, fall like dead leaves into the SPACE that holds it all.