Of Dreams and Foxes

This is the story of how the poem ‘Night Foxes’ got written.  It’s all about how creative acts can bubble to the surface.

Not sure why I’m sharing this.  It’s sort of mundane, personal… but why not open up an exploration of the ways in which creativity emerges and see what other experiences anyone has to share?   I would love to hear.
It was during a visit from my father.  Dad had been with us for a week already.   On good form but intense.  Always so caught up in his own head; the incessant talking.  My own latent anger.  It was the end of a nice, but emotional, day where his family had come over for lunch.  My aunt had cried while talking to me and her daughter about the time our grandmother, her mother, had died.    My Aunt told me later by e mail that she always felt guilty about how differently her and her brother’s life had turned out.  Her’s marked by material success and good health as she aged; his by big losses and struggles with mental and physical health.  I was getting a little lost in the big feelings that were coming up.
That’s the general background.
Before going to bed that night, attempting to settle, I drew a Medicine card.  It was the Fox.
This is a summary of Fox’s message:
The ability to meld into one’s surroundings and be unnoticed is a powerful gift when one is observing the activities of others.  Fox’s ability to be unseen allows it to be the protector of the family unit. If danger arises, Fox is johnny-on-the- spot. Nanih Waiya, Great Spirit in the Choctaw tonguehonors Fox with the duty of keeping the family together and safe. This is accomplished through Fox’s ability to observe undetected, without making others self-conscious. Fox is always concerned with the safety of family members and is an excellent talisman for those traveling far afield.
If Fox has chosen to share its medicine with you, it is a sign that you are to become like the wind, which is unseen yet is able to weave into and through any location or situation. You would be wise to observe the acts of others rather that their words at this time. Use your cunning nature in a positive way; keep silent about who and what and why you are observing. In learning the art of camouflage, you need to test your ability to pull this off.  One test of exercise that may be helpful to you is deciding to be invisible. In doing this exercise, you might try to visualize your body as part of your surroundings, full of the colours of the location you are in. See yourself in your mind’s eye, moving with stealth and grace, unheeded by others. If you do it right, it works! You can leave a party unnoticed or become as unobtrusive as a piece of furniture, watching the developing
drama of the subjects you are studying.   
With Fox medicine, you are being asked to see
all types of uses for Oneness.
 
I reflected on the aptness of this card after a day of being so immersed in the memories and dynamics of the preceding generation.  My father and Aunt don’t see each other very often.  Their meetings are years apart, and can be hard work.  As a daughter and niece, I had hosted this lunch because it was a means to create a space where we could be together.   Though not always easy, there is something important about witnessing the dynamic of the family; accepting it; opening to it.  The lunch was not about ‘me’, but about witnessing the older generation, however imperfectly.  It was my attempt to acknowledge the ‘oneness’ of my story with theirs.  And I suppose it had required me to become less visible, to listen more (I struggle with listening).  Fox is also a significant animal for my younger sister, who is away right now travelling in North America.  Drawing it, I felt connected to her, able to draw on the support and insight she gives to what can be a heavy family dynamic.
I then went to sleep, but was woken a couple of hours later by shrieking sounds outside on the street.  I got up and looked.  There were two foxes on the road outside!  They appeared to be having a fight, eventually going their separate ways.  I watched the last fox make its way out of sight, then wrote this down:
 
The dead of night
Foxes wake, sounding warnings
Crossing rivers
Made of
Sand
 
I went back to bed and had this dream:
I had through a process of becoming, infiltration, luck and knowing, become part of a tour of Brazilian musicians, who were world famous, and also deeply rooted in a spiritual tradition.  The most well known of the musicians, an older, slightly porky man, showed me evidence of sacred places where he had been instructed not to play music by ghosts who had communicated through till receipts (yes, the kind you get from Tesco.   There is no accounting for the sub-concious!)  He showed me where they had marked the receipts with ‘zero’ to communicate the silence.  This was not a message not to play music -far from it- it was a message about which places on earth are places of sacred silence.  A different thing altogether.  It was powerful.  I put on a big show of being freaked out.  Inside I was amazed and glad to have been included in this inner circle.  I had gained access to it at the Stage Door.   When stopped by the bouncers, I had talked my way in by partly bluffing and partly remembering that I was a Fado singer, who had grown up immersed in the world of Fado through my family.  As I spoke to him I was engaging in a process of piecing together, and creating,  the story of my life, partly fact, partly fiction.  Anyway.  It was enough to get me through the door.
There it is.  In the waking world, I have grown with the world of Fado as a marker of identity, albeit distantly.  My father and Aunt are of Portuguese descent, and their grandmother, a seamstress and a poet, had once made a dress for the famous Fado singer Amalia Rodrigues.  This was a story I had heard a lot as child.  There is more to excavate in this dream, but for me the main thing right now is this sense of making a life story of one’s own that is intimately connected to all the life stories of all the others who are around you, came before you, will come after you.
Since then I have been practising the technique of ‘disappearing’.  This is not so much about magic as it is about lessening one’s sense of being separate.  Doing it, I was reminded of something I had read once by Alice Walker in which she spoke of imagining yourself as gone from the earth, having left not a trace.  In a world obsessed with legacy, fame, being noticed and remembered, this is a powerfully challenging exercise to do.  In terms of my Wheel of Initiation practice, it has provoked an examination of the ways in which I engage with the process of writing my life story in the West.  What version am I telling?  How do I inhibit growth by attempting to tell a perfect version?  What other pain stories, apart from my own, are revealed in hearing what I am writing told through other people’s perspectives?  What do I carry?  What does it mean to release these burdens?  Disappear?  Cultivate spaces of silence?  Not as an escape, but as a form of practice that lessens the attachment of ego to the idea of separation as a primary identifier of Self.
These are tentative reflections on the ways that creativity, in all kinds of forms,  bubbles to the surface out of the soup of everyday life, dreams, coincidence and the opening of practice.

The Stuck Places aka It’s Okay, Take Your Time

In the West, as the process of telling the life story unfolds, I find that a big challenge is finding my way out of the spaces in the story that I get stuck in.  Today in our circle, as I shared the latest chapter, I felt a sense of wanting to rush through, get past the section of my life that I have been writing so much on.  I have had enough!  I want to move forward!  So I try to… and the writing reflects this.  Sharing it in the circle, I don’t get the sense of having released and passed through.  Because in trying to rush through, what is revealed instead is a powerful stuck place that is holding me tight.  A shrill, victimised voice runs through the text, and it is mine.  Rushing through, I would like to quiet this voice, but this doesn’t work!  In order to release, there has to be a point of acknowledgement.  Sigh!  I see the newspaper cutting I have pinned on my desk:

IT’S OKAY, TAKE YOUR TIME  

My circle partner is supportive, and gently encouraging about the need to acknowledge pain and release it with gentleness. Again, I am grateful for the space and support that a cohort; a sangha, brings to this process.  She recounts a story from Ursula Le Guin’s book The Wizard of Earthsea.  Ged, the main protaganist, is on an island where many of the inhabitants are addicted to a drug that has robbed them of their magic powers even as it keeps them cloaked in a haze of comforting illusion.  You can’t see what’s ahead when all you can see is yourself.  This is the way that a powerful pain story, unreleased, operates in one’s life.  It dominates the narrative so that all that is seen is Self.  This obscures life.  This blocks the way forward.

My partner also points out how amazing it is that we spend so much time resisting where we are and who we are here with.  She reminds me of Pema Chodron’s teaching to practice precision – to see what is clearly.  How you feel is your starting point.  Be with it.  How you relate to it comes next.  And both parts, the being with and the letting go, require gentleness. Being with and letting go without harshness.

We feel tired of how we feel about things.  I feel tired of how I can feel about things.  Where I am in my work, in the telling of the story, in my practice, in my life and relationships.  But if we/I don’t listen to the stuckness, keep denying how we feel, try to layer it with a self-judgement to be compassionate, then they will continue to swim around like hungry ghosts, needing attention.  Getting stuck is due to not being with the feelings, avoiding them or trying to turn them into other, more acceptable feelings too early.  Like turning anger into compassion.  Yes, this is the ultimate aim!  But, it can’t be rushed without going through due process.  Getting through the stuckness with honesty.  The compassion must start with ourselves if it is to go out into the world.   Because suppressed feelings are dangerous.  They can jump out unexpectedly and do damage.

A way to avoid dealing with supressed emotions is to defer them to a martyrdom that masquerades as compassion for others.  Am I doing this process to heal a relationship with others?  This may very well be a side effect, and if it comes out of it, great. But primarily this is about healing myself, so that in making my way through the world, I stop the cycle of inflicting pain and damage unthinkingly and dangerously.  In the inner and outer worlds.  This is the connection of all things with self.

Angry girl… you hold your heart on the inside

Angry girl, you turn the point in and do damage. 

The side alleyway.  I tried to grow things.  I tried to make a nest of my own.  i think I did this with my sister.  i think we did these things together.  It was in shadow so things could not grow.  I imagined I could make it beautiful but I did not have the resources to do it.  Nor was there the natural light.  This was a place to bury things.  The goldfish corpse that I placed in the ground and dug up a year later to see the bones.  This was where I ran to after fights, during the heat of things.  This place of shadows and quiet, of building rubble, neglected and private.  I cried here a lot, sitting on the upturned bricks.  I did bring friends here too.  To sit on the bricks.  Later, when I was older, to drink Vodka, sniff turpentine.

How do I make space to express suppressed feelings so that I can then allow those feelings to pass?  The italicised passage above speaks of a space I made during the time in my life I am writing about at the moment.  I placed it randomly here to demonstrate how we carry these spaces with us as metaphors all the time.

The tension of going through the Wheel lies in the dance of identifying whether what we do is honest, or more masking.  If we are really seeing the path through, or if we are blinded by the massiveness of our fascination with ourselves.  Identifying a pain story is one step.  Acknowledging it the next  (this can mean difficult feelings).  Then, letting it go.  For me, the stuckness comes with an attachment to pain, a clinging to the mask of victimisation.

That without pain, my life lacks meaning.

This is where the Wheel is powerful medicine, a structure through which various kinds of spaces can be made to allow things to have their expression.  And sometimes, it is in the articulations that other’s make that we can find the right expression for our feelings.  These two poems spoke powerfully to me today and yes, gave space.  So I keep moving, gently gently.

1.  http://starsrainsunmoon.com/2012/07/12/gulping-sleep/

2. Poem by Maia Marie
Making love to you is a ritual
When the rain is done and the air is new and clean and fresh
After all of that
I still love you, I just love
It lays there bare, a knowing, a fact
A feeling on its own
Separate from place and journeys and destinations
I open and close the window as the wind calms and sun appears
I spend my day like this
Adjusting a sail
Yet the tree always stands in the courtyard letting the wind through its branches easily
Perhaps it’s true, it has no choice but to grow towards the sun from where it’s rooted.
I look for my voice in hiding places
A child playing, koo koo

Not Writing at Dawn Bears a Late Harvest (aka Another Day. Another Cup of Tea.)

Since my resolution to try writing at the dawntime I haven’t written a word between 4.30am and 6am.  I got as far as turning the computer on at 5am on one day, but then the baby woke up again and all bets were off.  He’s been poorly too and the nights have been rough.  So I’m sitting with some questions.  Is this a failure? Is this a manifestation of resistance (the baby is sick…. I’m so tired…. so I can’t write).  Well.  Yes! All of the above.  But that’s not the end of the story.  Because I may not have written a word, but I have been ‘turning up’.  At dawn, I wake up, and even as I regret not writing, I have in the past week been present with my work at this time.  My thoughts have been fermenting ideas, though it’s been hard to see what the fruits of it would be when I couldn’t follow through with the dawn writing I wanted.  Instead, the fruits have appeared at other times of day, when the writing does happen.  Today, I gave a lecture titled ‘What makes us human?’  I was terrified by my lack of concrete preparation, it’s also been a very long time since I spoke publicly.  It rained and rained in the morning.  Getting us all out the house left me soaked to the skin… crouched under a broken umbrella.  But once I’d dropped my daughter at school and my son with a friend, the hour before the lecture was there.  Stretched open and ripe to pick.  Resistance wanted me to ‘wing it’ as I so often do, but instead I allowed the percolations of the dawn time to get their space.  The lecture that emerged was cool…. it had life and substance, imperfect yes, and also full of questions and the dynamic of the conversation that makes us think about being human in the first place.  I delivered it to all of four 17 year olds on a university taster day, and a couple of their teachers.  There were no great accolades or rewards here, just the satisfaction of a job done, and seeing the shift in their faces as some of those questions got through and resonated.

Afterwards,  I went to a greasy spoon cafe and got a full English and a cup of tea.  Soaking up the beans and fried tomatos with a buttered slice, washed down with the golden brew, I sat with the sense of satisfaction that comes when you’ve done the work.  It passes.  That’s cool.  I’ll fight the battle again.  And continue to turn up at dawn.  Whether I write or not, it’s the showing up that counts.

image

10 Questions to Answer at the End of My Year of Initiation

1. Did I finish the thesis?

2. Did I get a PhD for it?

3. Am I doing a Post-Doc in Dreams and Divination?

4.  How has my community been transformed?

5. How are my family doing?  Those closest to me in the lifeboat?

6. What is my practice?

7. Where is the music in my life?

8. Did I find that Soul Home?

9. How are my Ancestors doing?

10. What now? 

 Looking forward to writing the answers and feeling the story emerge….