The ReUnion

Summer magic
Weaves story telling spells that speak to
A ReUnion
Of Heart & Soul
Body held and released
Remember when?
You ran… free?
Searching out seashells in stones
The easy emergence
Of poolside signs
Laundering the contents
Of Mind grown dusty
Cobwebs blown out
Till Blue Monday
Stay with me!
Stay with me!
We travelled through time…
Visiting World War scenes
Playing out to a captivated audience
They listened, mouths open
Small bodies pressed against timber
Rough hewn, the colours of our ancestors
Called on prism lines of Red & Black
This is truly an awakening
Lucid dreaming in SE1 shadows
Under diamond skies
I ask, in the dawn light
Crow flying over pop-up green tents
What is more true?
Which new world emerges?
In this blink of an eye
Drinking the bitter sweetness
Our lives made vivid
True life drama
For real.

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Pain Stories? Let’s Head North!

Arrived in Denmark tonight…  heading northwards.  I realise that Denmark is not that much more North than London, where I have come from, but that’s about right.  We are still very much on the edges of the West of the Wheel.  So this is a creep northwards, an inching towards the next direction.  As it is!  The West is a demanding place, where we face all kinds of difficulties.  The stuff that makes us want to turn back.  The pain stories.

I’m all disorientated…. arriving at night… no knowledge of the language.  But that’s cool….  being out of the orientation of what is familiar is a good way to be.  Sometimes.  Anyway, my circle partner tells me everyone speaks English here anyway.  And hey!  Even the word ‘English’ comes from the word ‘Angle’ which was the name for those Danish invaders all those centuries ago, who along with their Saxon bredren, gave us that infamous moniker ‘Anglo-Saxon’.  It’s all connected!

So, this is something my writing and circle partner wrote all about Pain Stories.  We are moving, ever so slightly, northwards.  And her reflection is pretty cool.  So here it is.  Enjoy.

Pain Stories

What a dramatic ring it has. We have been talking about pain stories for a while, sharing them, circling around their meaning in our lives. I have been thinking recently about staying too long. Like the Dionne Farris song “I stayed just a little long and now it’s time for me to move on”. I am always/often staying too long. Past the point where I know I should get up and move, I am still sitting there, wallowing, paralysed with indecision or just plainly not wanting to let go – a little kid screaming mine mine long after the toy’s left your hands. Where’s that step between knowing you have been holding onto this truth for too long and actually letting it go? As Pema Chrodron said somewhere letting go is not something you can actually practise it kind of happens like magic when the ground is set for it. What you can practise she says is gentleness and precision. Precision as in focus, concentration seeing things for what they are. Gentleness for each mis step, inability to move, the meandering route we are likely to take.

So where does that leave us now? We haven’t finished thrashing out our complicated life stories, configuring the various threads to our pain stories. But we have shared a lot. We have been sharing a lot for years. And we know the things that press us down. So much of what we have shared over the past year has been about seeing them more clearly owning up and loosening those ties. It’s a process possibly there’ll always be more to undo and unhem from ourselves and we’ll keep coming back in different forms until we’re light enough to float up into the atmosphere. And along the way there are lots of opportunities for letting go, or for setting the ground for letting go. Intentions, rituals, marking moments all have a role in this…But we also need lightness that’s part of what helps the magic happen. There’s a deep mystery to all of this – which our rational minds can’t quite grasp. Coming from a culture of words – Words to map, words to express, words to limit and free we sometimes forget the power beyond words and store too much faith in the act of saying, as if saying it is enough…
Cause really you have a sense of why you build a certain path, follow a route, but not really where it will go. There’s a balancing act there – focus and openness. Precision. Gentleness. Letting go.

You must know the person you are “or a pattern that others made may prevail in the world” A lot of our writing has explored this. How we have channelled our energy into serving forces that suppress us – for acceptance, for recognition. We want to reclaim this energy for ourselves. Ignite that fierce compassion which guards our hearts and takes back what’s ours.

“The medicine for the wound is right next to wound”
I am not certain what this means. When i think of my pain stories they are just painful. But i can feel that in seeing them for what they are there is healing. Perhaps it’s the old story – when we run from the hurt it just gets worse. When you stop and face it, you find how to heal it…I had a dream recently
I was at the drill hall but it was a different looking building, and I had just had my Danish class there. I was walking around with the guys. The building was doing this weird thing to us, the rooms and passages kept on changing. We were walking around with a torch following strange noises, like the scuttling of creatures. Doors would suddenly shut closing off our way. It was dark and creepy but I wanted to go further, see more. Then all of sudden the passages disappeared and instead there was a smart modern shop – something that the outsiders would be able to see. Nomonde was next me now and told me that the building is actually always the same. It’s my fear that makes it change. I could see that now, it was this organic mass shifting in response to my fear. I could see the possibility of facing it without the fear but told her it’s hard to be there without being scared….
It’s like that one step forward one step back, touch my power and run away. So we continue, giving each courage in the dance.

“People are disturbed not by the events but by the meanings they make of them”
We don’t just experience things, we develop narratives around them and then we repeat these narratives. I have been noting that in myself recently. Like with this decision not to do my Phd. That impulse is there to feel like a failure – it doesn’t work out because it’s me, because there’s something wrong. Then there’s the – what will people think of me, I look like a loser – parcel. But that impulse is not as strong. It’s there but not a truth as it used to be. I choose to not acknowledge the pain story as truth, even as it runs through me…There’re there as ghosts, as I turn more and more to finding my own truth, defining who I am on my own terms.
As Julie writes it:
“It is the strength of the ego that holds on to the agreements of pain. It says to you: ‘This pain speaks the truth’; ‘If you give up this agreement, you will be destroyed’; ‘This is who I am.’ The ego doesn’t want you to listen to your wisdom heart and follow a true god home. Rather it wants you to stay lost and focused on false god rooted in the pain of the past”.

Sometimes it feels that my ego holds me on a leash, I can get some space but too much and it pulls me back, roughly. Then I feel lost.

In the West

Purification, release, recapitulation
Most important is holding in one’s heart-mind a wish for purification, a wish for freedom.

by Maia Marie 2012

Wedding Song

Migrant Sons & Daughters

Moved Across

Indian Oceans, Irish Seas

The mass of three continents

Set into this stone, one moment

In the midst of bravery

Stories of heroism that reach skywards, dazzling

Beware the crushing consequence of their weight

Embrace, instead

The sweetness of your wholeness

The endless stream of Love

Beginning now

Heading homewards

Speaking softly

On the Night Bus, Quarter to One

The Bats of Tropical London AKA Reading the Natural Life of the City

There’s a mini heat-wave, and London becomes the tropical city of my dreams.  There are long sun filled days at the ReUnion.  My five year old splashes in the pool, golden, beads she made in the play project round her neck, performing songs with her friends while I have a cheeky half with their mum.  Icy cold London Lager from the micro brewery, sipped under the railway arches.  I follow my baby son, now toddling, as he pads along the deck, walking with Sara, a member of the collective of artists who made this space, interpreting her dreams.  These whisper of a steady,careful surrender to a great and transformative Unknown; and the tensions of how humans exist with, and make, built environments.

Lucky me, I think, brought to this place of freedom and Life: easy, joyful, gently/firmly disciplined, grounded, ephemeral.  Wide open.  Most of all, playful!  When I come to a place like the ReUnion, I am grateful for the sense of play; both internal and external.  There are other families here too from the local flats.  All of us benefit from the openness offered by the ReUnion.  The sharp edges our children develop in defense against crowded living conditions and the materialistic city, visibly melt as they begin to play.  Or make banana crumble.  Or sit wide eyed watching a group of feminist protest artists practice a topless intervention.  I love how afterwards these serious and focused women bend down to answer the questions from the children.  Only here.  In the gap between building sites, luxury apartments, council flats and the overhead trains.

In the sultry tropical evening, I go for a walk with my Beloved.  Rainbow Olympic lights on the River, the Tate changing colour.  When London gets hot, even the local parks gets a sweet and heady feeling in the golden pink hazy light of dusk.  Our meander takes us through our local park.  The grass has become lush and electric green.  A bat flies over our heads.  I am surprised and delighted.  It is so rare to see bats in the heart of a built up metropolis like ours.  But if my dreams and practice of the last year have shown me anything, it is that the city has a natural, wild-life all of its own, woven into the concrete and the high rises.  The pocket woods in-between.  Animal teachers do appear, and they bring messages and lessons.

On that day, Bat spoke to the tension and dance of what had come up for in my weekly Circle meeting with my writing partner, and in the dreams I had interpreted for Sara at the ReUnion.  What happens when we try to control and dominate what we create?  What happens when we are responsive to the environment we create in (both the inner and outer worlds), surrendering to the rhythm of what is and building  from that point?  It’s a dance because there is always the opportunity to take a step away from a stance that is too dominating; to be rescued from the plotting of our egos.  The soft landing of Hay Bales.

Dancing between domination and surrender in the West as I write the Life Story, I notice how when I try to force the story (I want it to be finished quickly….), it gets stuck.  When I write from a free and open point (within a gentle discipline), it flows.  It is almost like magic, the way it shifts and unburdens my mind set as I read it out loud.  The same goes for listening to the stories my writing and circle partner shares.   Bat brings me a live message about death and initiation:

“Shaman death is the symbolic death of the initiate to the old ways of life and personal identity.  The initiation that brings the rights to heal and be called a Shaman is necessarily preceded by ritual death”

The ritual death that I am being asked to undergo by my practice isn’t about being buried alive or placed in the woods alone.  It’s about releasing the hold of what has gone and being reborn without the ego that clings to the pain stories of the past as my primary identifier of Self – and all too frequently, my sub-concious saboteur.

I wondered today about what I would say, or what I could say, when my daughter asks why we aren’t rich or live in a big house.  What are the reasons?  My initial thought was how I could tell her about the hardships I went through as a youngster when we first moved to the UK, when our family lost all our money and our home, and fractured rather than pulling together through crisis.   How this set me back so I couldn’t recover economically as an adult – there was both the lack of financial help for getting started, and the pain of traumatic rupture I carried around too.  Then I remembered the story my father told me as a child: about how he gave up his place at University so his sister could study because his father couldn’t afford to educate them both.  And the subsequent loss of all of his family’s property and money when Mozambique became independent.  This is a pain story about sacrifice, martyrdom, holding onto regret and being self-made against the odds that has been passed down.  I listened in awe to it then, and now I’m ready to pass it down again as the primary answer to a question that actually deserves far more nuance and consideration in its reply.  Not least in questioning the very basis of what we consider wealth to be!  How dangerous.  That’s why I’m going through the Wheel.  To stop passing down the pain stories.  And it’s hard.  Sometimes I stagnate.  And it scares me.  The idea that I won’t make it.

“The basic idea of ancient initiations was to break down all the former notions of self that were held by the shaman-to-be”

That’s what telling the Life Story, and identifying the pain, does.  It breaks down all former notions of ‘self’ and ‘past’ as intact, absolute, inevitable.  Allowing the old self and beliefs to be broken down and die, is to allow it to be transposed into a newborn being.  Again, this is the message from the Bat in Mint St:

“Hanging upside down is a symbol for learning to transpose your former self into a newborn being”

I have to keep going.  Surrendering to the writing of the Life Story as it comes, and moving into the North of the Wheel.  This is what I learnt from giving birth too.  The more I resist what is, or try to impose my will on it,  the longer and harder the labour.  The labours for both my children were fast, easy and exhilirating because I practised surrender to the pain, the fear and the Power that was greater than ‘me’.* I joke that if I was as good at writing PhD’s as I am at giving birth I would have several by now!  And the same goes for the stuckness I get to in the Initiation practices of The Wheel.  It’s all about Resistance – letting it run things and dictate the pace.  The less resistance to what actually is, the easier the birth of whatever it is we are labouring to deliver.  Or the faster the death of whatever it is that no longer serves us.  Which is the final message from contrary Bat:

“Some people think themselves into a corner with obstacles that are illusionary.  By the time they decide what to do, the opportunities are gone and old age is upon them.  Use your mind, courage and strength to insure an easy labour and quick  delivery into your new state of understanding and growth.  Surrender to the new life you have created from thought.”

Tuning in to the natural life of the city on a hot summer’s night.  Now that’s how I like to live!

*Giving birth in this magnificent way also involved pooing on myself (both times) and making some very far out noises.   Just so there are no misconceptions about what ‘easy’ means in the context of birthing!

With thanks to the following sources:

http://the-reunion.org.uk/

http://www.medicinecards.com/

http://www.julietallardjohnson.com/wheel-of-initiation

Earned the Right to Take Rest?

I press Stop.

Some friends who follow this blog have commented to me recently that it seems like I am perpetually tired and fighting to go on. My writing reflects this struggle with fatigue. They have a point. Young families, social housing, PhD’s and deep spiritual excavations can take it out of a woman! Never mind the entropy of domestic life. You clean it up, and it just gets messy again. Round and round we go.

I notice as part of my Wheel practice, that my initial response to the observation is denial and defensiveness. I am not tired! Or so what if I am! I can handle it all! It’s hard to admit sometimes that I am not as in control as I like to think I am.

It’s OK to press stop.

It’s OK to let my family know that tonight I’d like to go to bed early and be alone for a little while.

It’s definitely OK to do this without a drama. When we give ourselves permission to rest when we need to, it’s easy to let the people close to us know that we are doing so. No big deal. When our need to take a break is tainted with judgements about worthiness and the need to state that we have earned this rest, well, we can act up in all kinds of silly and destructive ways.

Sometimes I need a rest and in the eyes of my inner critic, I didn’t really do anything to justify it. So the lists of ‘all that I do’ come out, the whiny voice of self-justification. I feel compelled to share these reasons with those around me. I teach my children that rest must be earned. Really? And who calculates what counts as work? Was I at that meeting? What kind of cultural belief am I agreeing to when I refuse to allow my knackered body an early night because I didn’t earn it? How much time do I waste by not resting when I need to, in the name of a false belief in what counts as productivity, that is sanctioned by a wider consumer-material culture? The flip side of a cultural belief in needing to ‘earn a rest’ is the equally damaging response of taking too much rest, too much leisure, too much reward. I earned this!

I sat with a friend today watching my son walking. He mastered it about three weeks ago. And he’s really good now. Because every day he practices: he gets up and starts trying to walk. We were reflecting on how babies just get on with stuff, not because they have to or someone tells them to, but because of the sheer joy of it. They haven’t got those moral filters on. They never get tired of their work – to keep walking, to keep making sounds. Except, actually they do!  They walk and walk and walk, and then they get tired. Or hungry. Or they make a big old dump. And if we are wise carers with gently flexible schedules, we let them sleep. Or eat. Or clean them up. And when the business of rest or sustenance or discomfort is done, they carry on, from that pure place of single minded Joy. I am mindful when I follow this formula. Walk when I need to. Eat when I need to. Rest when I need to.

I’ll keep walking towards it! And tonight, I press Stop. Early bedtime, with a hot water bottle and a good film to watch in bed. I begin ten days of recapitulation exercises tomorrow, as I slowly exit from the West of the Wheel.  Visiting my Circle Partner in Denmark in 10 days time. Literally heading North!  Work I choose to do. And when I don’t stress about whether this counts as the kind of work that earns me a rest, then everything is cool in the world.

Night night xx

The Boy with the Aztec Eyes

Narrative therapy, remember?
From the heart
Shaman Girl
Check the story on your phone
Dream some more
Don’t be scared, Maybe
Watch him, Probably
I want you to sing…
Any day now
Any day now
I shall be released
They tell you you aren’t enough
To keep you enslaved
So don’t edit
Stay focused
Take it easy
You are all you need to be
And then some