Got caught up in the game Riding trains around a sunset city a perpetual indigo twilight a heatwave headphones on an outmoded technology Still, reliably able to get lost in …. All of that sweet dream You are something else … Continue reading
dreamt about A Whale Girl close to death in a too small container i shouldve been looking after her i thought she was dead but she wasn’t. i poured water over her blow hole and she came round she was … Continue reading
i was a video girl
though too shy to
step into the light
i hung back
watching dancing initials stiched on the back of their jeans
she was beautiful
i know it
just awkward in her skin
uncertain of stepping out; disjointed
occasionally feeling the power of the flow
when she shone inside it
stars on her belt glinting fierce
wild lights and Oh My Goodness!
her hips would wind and God smiled
were they wasted years?
those perfect bitches that were my inner critics
colonised my brain
spoke a language i only partly understood
well dressed and operating with
their violence targeted the potential for creative collaboration at my heart
i kidnapped the weakest one,
stuffed her in a cupboard
slipping out through the kitchen door
ready to fight a mighty battle on the dance floor
these are my creations after all
this poem my offering
for a New Year
A deep love calls from outside
But there is nothing
Only night sounds
A mountain climbed
Back down again
I bake a woman cake
A girl named Macaroon
Sweet and lovely
Thick sponge thighs
Coco brown icing skin
Crimson tinted full lips
Marzipan striped tank top
(Ancestor red and white)
Jeans made food colouring blue
Assembled life sized
Her hair hangs loose past the jaw
Black waves created by funnel
Soulful eyes are deep, unblinking
She is as me
Neither traditional nor modern
A dream girl
Large and delicious
Edible and fresh
The last few months have been strange. A submersion in single-minded commitment. Trying hard to get the thesis finished, and when I haven’t succeeded in hitting the targets, putting everything else off till I do.
- Vajrayogini The Trauma Goddess (oliviajade.wordpress.com)
When you’ve been with a project for a long time – and I’ve been with the work of my post graduate degree for almost ten years – it’s sort of weird to let go of it. Especially when it doesn’t feel like I did my best. I handed the thesis in last week Friday. A big heavy blue bound tome, that looked the part, but left me feeling empty.
Because it could’ve been better?
Because I’m painfully aware of how my habitual pattern of refusal has kept me time and time again from doing the work I dream of doing?
Because there is still the letter to the examiners to complete?
Instead of the expected and hoped for rush of release, I reached my target and fell flat. Seeing only the gaps, what’s wrong with the work, the real possibility of failure. Or the even scarier possibility of being given yet another chance to give it my best shot.
What might have been a celebration of completing became a wallowing in self-criticism. I shudder when I think of the examiners reading what I have written, sweated over and sacrificed for. Close my eyes like I’m on a scary roller coaster I’m riding over and over again in a grim endurance test. I start to write the letter to them explaining what I have done to the manuscript in response to their last set of comments, and feel ashamed.
That’s what’s at the core of this refusal to be cool with where I am at: shame.
It’s been written all over the life story exercises of the West of the Wheel. A deep abiding shame. Damn! And there was me thinking I’d got this thing down. Ready to enter serene and smiling into the East. When it doesn’t turn out that way, my impulse is to give up. I can’t do this.
Who is the ‘I’ at the centre of all this chat anyways?
My writing partner and friend in the Circle writes to me. A reminder that these are the fault lines. Recognise the cracks, but don’t fall in. Not this time. Wallowing in my shame is Resistance to Life. And life is sweet at its heart. Sweet and shameless.
My Circle partner shared a powerful reflection on shame, thesis submission and the intersection of the personal with the social scientific by Alison Pryer. You can read the full post by clicking the link at the end. It’s so beautiful, and true. Her story, and the bravery with which she writes, put my stuff in perspective. And the way that it is poetry that offers her a wild exit from the sense of shame that threatens to paralyse her creativity resonated deeply with what it means to me when I let go and allow that channel to be opened. Reflecting right now, the experience I can liken it to is the one I had giving birth: something that could’ve so easily been tainted with shame, but for various reasons wasn’t, unlike other parts of my life. Why was that? Pryer alludes to it when she writes about the poet maintaining a state of alertness while lovingly attending to the world. Much of the pleasure of making poetry lies in the wait for and then the chase after that which is elusive, and which will always ultimately evade us. Like pleasure itself, poetry is somewhat unruly and feral. It can’t be controlled or scheduled. You have to take what comes. Thus, the poet must remain in a state of alertness, must attend lovingly to the world, in order to experience and represent wonder and possibility.
Here is a bigger extract. I urge you to click the link at the end.
All of us have at some time or another keenly felt the intense burn of shame – the horrible recognition of our deficiency, inadequacy, and unworthiness, that feeling of exposure and social alienation (Kaufman, 1980). Shame is the obliteration of vulnerability and trust in relationship. Thus, shame is only possible when we make or find ourselves vulnerable, as I was in this particular pedagogical situation as a doctoral student being publicly examined at my doctoral defence, where I had chosen to talk about my explorations of a subject matter that was taboo. Clearly, I had been naively trusting, blind to the power of academe to uphold its unspoken culture of silence, even though I had so accurately described it in my work.
Unfortunately, further factors compounded my shame. According to Elspeth Probyn (2005), shame “always attends the writer” (p. xvii). Also, those who have experienced shame early on in their lives have “a greater capacity to re-experience the feeling” (Probyn, 83). To make matters worse, according to Gershel Kaufman (1980), shame is “always particularly amplified in a culture which values achievement and success” (xiv). By the end of my doctoral examination I was teetering on the brink of failure.
Perhaps western culture goes too far in its almost complete pathologization of shame. So much so that it is shameful to even talk of shame. Yes, shame is always unwelcome, always uncomfortable, painful even. Shame “marks the break” (Probyn, 2005, 13) in relationship, in connection, in community, in trust. We feel shame not because we don’t care, or because we have no interest in a given situation, but because our interest, our love, our care, our desire for mutuality in relationship is not returned. We are spurned. We yearn to repair “the break” so that our interest, love, desire, and care might in some measure be reciprocated. Shame, writes Probyn, “illuminates our intense attachment to the world, our desire to be connected,” (63) and is always deeply embedded in contexts, politics, and bodies.
As I have since discovered, it is how we respond to an experience of shame that matters the most (Kaufman, 1980; Probyn, 2005). Shame can be a highly generative emotion, a catalyst for self-transformation. Probyn puts it this way:
Shame is not unlike being in love. The blush resonates with the first flush of desire. It carries the uncertainty about oneself and about the object of love; the world is revealed anew and the skin feels raw. Shame makes us quiver. (2)
This keen appreciation of our longing for connection and community is in itself deeply transformative. Shame, shot through with desire, may embolden us to tell new stories (Probyn, 2005), or to tell old stories in new ways.
Poetry may be the ideal medium of inquiry for someone (like me) who’s longing for connection and community has been heightened through an experience of shame. The making of poetry is deeply concerned with building relationships and seeing affinities (Simic, in Zwicky, 2003, 47). It is also about finding community, coming home as it were, to our own lives and the life of the wider world. Thus, it is a medium that affords an ecology of both knowing and expression. Jane Hirschfield (in Zwicky, 2003) expresses this more poetically:
Every metaphor, every description that moves its reader, every hymn-shout of praise, points to the shared existence of beings and things. The mind of poetry makes visible how permeable we are to the winds and moonlight with which we share our house. (16)
Poetry is also an ideal medium of inquiry for someone (like me) who has experienced trauma. The poet, Charles Simic (in Zwicky, 2003), writes:
My hunch has always been that our deepest experiences are wordless. There may be images, but there are no words to describe the gap between seeing and saying, for example. The labour of poetry is finding a way through language to point to what cannot be put into words. (85)
Much of the pleasure of making poetry lies in the wait for and then the chase after that which is elusive, and which will always ultimately evade us. Like pleasure itself, poetry is somewhat unruly and feral. It can’t be controlled or scheduled. You have to take what comes. Thus, the poet must remain in a state of alertness, must attend lovingly to the world, in order to experience and represent wonder and possibility.
Simone Weil (in Zwicky, 2003) says, “The poet produces the beautiful by fixing his attention on something real. It is the same with the act of love” (102). Adam Zagajewski (in Zwicky, 2003) insists that in poetry we exercise our capacity “to experience astonishment and stop still in that astonishment for an extended moment or two” (p. 108). Thus, the creation of poetry calls for a nondualistic appraisal and understanding of the world, one that privileges neither thought nor feeling, intellect nor emotion.
Earlier I quoted Probyn’s (2005) claim that “shame always attends the writer” (p. xvii). However, the quality and clarity of a poet’s perception helps to dissolve feelings of writerly shame by rekindling profound connections to the world. Simic (in Zwicky, 2003) proclaims only half in jest:
The ambition of each image and metaphor is to redescribe the world, or more accurately, to blaspheme. . . . The truth of poetry is a scandal. A thousand fornicating couples with their moans and contortions are nothing compared to a good metaphor. (46)
So the poetic impulse – that generative, loving state where whole worlds are birthed with mere words – is of necessity quite shameless.
Cultivate a shameless heart filled with light. Be that girl.
Over and out.
I’ve thought a lot about resistance over the past year. Read Stephen Pressfield’s book, been inspired and shaken by the rallying cry to recognise the insidious forms resistance takes. For me this meant getting on with my work; with writing; no matter what it took. The results were powerful, and productive. I realised I did have it in me to do this thing. To finish the thesis I have been working on for years. To move on. To use other forms of writing to take the pressure off the dissertation, to allow it to be what it is (an academic training exercise) rather than the bearer of all my memories and experience.
I’m handing it in in two weeks. And the pressure is on to keep working. To keep up the momentum and get it done. And I’ve been there at the coal face. Everyday, writing, editing, crafting. Releasing the need for it to be perfect (it isn’t). Releasing the need to know everything (I don’t).
So what’s gone wrong?
I got an inkling of it when my daughter fractured her arm in the playground last week and the first thought that flashed into my head was , “But what about my work?”
Then a dear friend extended an invitation to come to a surprise birthday celebration for her husband. First response? “But what about my work?”
Well, what about my work? In pursuing it so single mindedly I have begun to exclude other daily practices that give my work life and purpose. In the aftermath of the resistance to engage with what is happening elsewhere in my life, my work has begun to congeal. I find that though I turn up everyday, progress is slow, the creative spark that was transforming the text vanished. Resistance came in by the back door. Not because I wasn’t turning up for work, but because I wasn’t turning off the work.
I see that Resistance is also about not participating fully in my own life. That the single minded pursuit of work, when it is at the cost of a balanced Wheel, drains the life blood of what sustains the work in the first place.
The Love that keeps you turning up.
The Love that lets you leave when it’s time to.
Untangling the threads of these final weeks, I see that my challenge is not to simply turn up for work. It is also to blur the boundary of work and play, to make work a long term satisfying practice that I return to, restoring the meaningfulness of work as part of my Life, rather than a crash diet I go on every now and again.
Pause to keep going. Funny that.
I Awaken my Light…
How much of my life is in alignment with this intention?
Last night I went to bed late having actually done some work on a project that is mine. I didn’t feel tired, I guess that’s the energy of doing something fresh again, like I was energised by returning, at last, to a project that I want to finish, even if I struggle to at
times. This is interesting to me, the way in which awakening my light is about honoring the things that are close to my heart, that feed the inner fire. And feeding that fire means having more energy, rather than less. This seems to be the way to see if what’s happening is right; to check in with that energy. So there are different kinds of tired. The tired that comes from ‘job well done’, the tired that feels like pushing through treacle because there is so much resistance to doing the task. I’m caught up in thinking about work now. It’s like at long last I have permission to pursue it. Here’s another interesting thing. In order to finish the thesis, I have to totally let go of making it polished and spectacular. There’s not enough time, and the project is too convoluted and complex anyway. My skills are not there yet. This means that sometimes I don’t want to bother finishing. But here’s the rub, and where I know when I am in alignment with my intention. Because dropping the standard, and doggedly sticking to it in order to finish, and finishing itself being the end goal, means that I am released from the other baggage and find that the energy returns. The fire ignites.
Going to sleep last night after doing a good few hours on this, I had a dream about my mother and father. My father was collecting all kinds of stuff as he does, and it was all covered in mould, damp. It needed to be thrown away. He hates throwing stuff away. I remember when we left South Africa to come to the UK 19 years ago, how he threw tantrums when my mother took control and emptied the house of all the rubbish and stuff that had accumulated over the years. In my dream last night she, my mum, assumed this uncharacteristically assertive role again. She had a new boyfriend, and was keeping this new information to herself. It was like she had distanced herself from us, her children, and was now living her own life. From what she did say, I guessed that the new boyfriend was Greek, from Tottenham, and a Spurs supporter. A proper immigrant London son and geezer. Not her usual arty, flaky, volatile type at all. It was cool. I liked this change. Having guessed her new involvement I reconnected with her on an equal level. She admitted to me that she had never wanted children, and that she was aware of how this not actually wanting the children she had would’ve affected our experience growing up. This was even more so for my younger sister than me as she had been the second child, and her birth had been located in the really difficult part of our mother’s relationship with our dad. Like I was the romantic baby, my sister was the no-turning-back baby.
Later on my dad let me and my sister throw the mouldy stuff away. It felt good. Both to thrown the stuff away, and have his permission to do it.
In the waking world, my circle partner and I shared our free writes in our weekly space about how in alignment we felt with our intentions. Mine was the piece of writing shown above. Discussing our observations from the preceding week, we had a conversation about the unexpected twists in living an intention. I’ve transcribed it (we held our circle in a chat room due to work commitments… holding our space indeed!) as an experiment in communicating the process of working our way through the Wheel:
Maia – Awakening our light is sometimes not what we expect
Dom – yes, that sounds right
facing what we don’t want to
it’s etched with pain and struggle too….
Dom – And awakening our desire within that….
Maia – And pulling ourself out of i
it has tension at the edges
that we see and choose not to submerge in
it can be tired
Dom – Honouring the intention to awaken desire in ALL of life…
Maia – It has a history of heartache
promises not kept
the birthing process is painful sometimes
and we to mourn
for losing innocence to find it again..it’s the tunnel we have to go through
Dom – Bumpy journey through the birth canal…
Maia – yep
and accepting that
Dom – and that’s where your intention has so much resonance for me… because it holds this thread of accepting all of life… not resisting or trying to push away the bumps….
Maia – well it’s only possible if I do
which maybe I didn’t realise
I thought this stuff was partly a get out of jail free card
you know a clean slate where its all different
Dom – Ha ! Tell me about it!
Maia – but its a bit of both or something
Dom – yes… that’s the thing…. its a bit of both….
Maia – it does say you don’t have to feel what you been feeling that’s not yours
but it’s not easy
Dom – exactly… and so the processes in the west of naming and holding and releasing are such an important part of clearing the space, so you can’t just push it away and avoid. We work with the pain, hold it, and release.
Maia – What feels hard is that I have to do it myself – the thing that’s it’s actually my choice, i create it, am responsible
Dom – Sounds so simple as I write…. I think about the power of resistance that slows me down
Maia– we get help but we have to be willing to take that responsibility
that leap of faith that belief
no one will do it for me
Dom – When we hold that… the realisation of taking responsibility… how much are we able to drop then? And how liberating is that? Like… for example, you dropping the idea of doing the PhD… I have to talk to my boss today about doing less hours in the office over the next few weeks…. it terrifies me… to ask for what I need….
Maia – each of these little things is important and what it’s about
reminds me of a pema chodron quote
where she says we hear a lot about the bliss of enlightenment
but not a lot about how painful/difficult it is to go from being totally wound up to being unstuck
Dom – ha ha… yup.
Maia – or something like that
but joy is important because we have it there everyday
like my therapist said – have fun – without it there’s not lubrication
Dom- Yes! And it’s hard to go down a slide dry…..
Maia – maybe this could be a task for next week……
Dom – fun is so important… its everything… that playful, smiling spirit…
It changes the nature of things… the heaviness…
Maia – everyday before we sleep, write about the things that made us happy that day
from the smallest to biggest moments
Dom – Is this our practice this week?
Maia – and share with each other – just a list if we wish
Dom – great… I love it ! xxx
share all in one next week? Or email each morning?
Maia – hmm maybe email each morning – i like that idea
Dom – me too…. sort of like daily scripting in reverse….
Maia – yep….. too much counting sorrows let’s count some joys
Dom – Joy counting x
Maia – : )
Dom – Mould wiping : )
Maia – Hehe !
Dom – tee hee xxx
I’ve been at the gates of the North for a while. There have been many diversions, things to attend to, resistance to unravel.
Our circle didn’t meet for a good few weeks as these threads of new jobs, relocations, changed plans and shadow dancing were worked through. Are worked through. Process is always unfolding. I get this. When our circle finally met, it was sweet, a reminder of the value of a cohort rooted in mutual commitment to truth, and the diversity of how truth manifests. What was clear in our meeting was my resistance to scripting a new story. Like I wasn’t wanting to let go of the old one yet, or needed more information to make a new one. Can’t say I’m fully out the woods of these fears, and holding on stubbornly to the old storylines. But damn, I’m noticing them playing out. I can see the trees even as I tremble beneath them. She moves through, anyway.
There’s an agreement here that I break when I move on. The one that says I need to know everything. Gulp.
Finally I do. Move on. Into the entrance of the North. I call on helpers because when I break the agreement named above, I can open up to assistance. For me right now, this is the support and insight of the circle, the strong home-girl compassion of the deities who speak to me, retreat into time alone and consultation with a fresh version of the I Ching (a dear old friend and guiding hand through many turning points).
This week I move with a light and slow touch. I perform my roles as mother, worker, partner, sister, friend, daughter, writer and thesis reviser with care, attention and a joyfully playful mind.
I notice when I compare myself with others. Even little things; the seemingly inconsequential. I note the effect this has on how I do the things that matter to me. What forms of censorship I impose. What is suppressed. What I do instead. I write down these observations as I go about my business, do my work.
I do this to identify what my truth is.
This practice assists me in locating and living by this truth, inhabiting it rather than being led by speculation about the ‘truth’ I think others may expect from me.
I live and respond and take action from this still point. I stay watchful. Keeping meticulous notes frequently helps me in this, because any kind of research is assisted by reflective record keeping on the job.
I travel with pen and paper.
I awaken my light.
I discover my truth.
Bring on the week…. looking North.