Evil is a Facebrick Church in a Modernist Style.

I am no one

A thin spirit

Wandering the Land at its source

Shape-shifting to become 

The peaks and valleys 

Of the everyday

The banality of Evil

All around me

Sits, hideous

Contemplating the world from a park bench 

Evil is a face brick church built 

In a modernist style

Signalling its permanence

As a landmark on the highway, heading home

I struggle to keep pace

Wraith-child match girl

Lighting flames in the wind

The terrible book of the past

Written around, and on, and through me

Jaws of bone and stone

Open to offer a route 

Elsewhere

Standing at the gate

Pink light of dawn

Cold hands of morning

Slipping into the folds 

Of a warmer place, 

A language learnt

A past unravelled 

Commentary

I wrote this poem in response to Jane Alexander’s sculpture ‘The Butcher Boys’, currently part of the permanent collection at the South African National Gallery.  It depicts the brutal and dehumanising forces of apartheid.  It is unsettling and haunting.  It is also the subject of the tourist’s gaze.  A work to be photographed with by visitors to the gallery pulling amusing poses.  This is the way of things.  Alexander made the work in the 1980’s, a time when the violence of the state, and the response of the people was exploding in South Africa.  I remember this time as my childhood years in Johannesburg.  Sun-lit and ordinary.  Lying on hot bricks, wet from the pool.  The tanks rolling down the quiet suburban streets to quell uprisings in the neighbouring township.  The barbed wire going up around our primary school.  Bombing my bike as fast at it could go around the twisted pedestrian bridge that spanned the highway.  Horror on the outskirts of an insulated suburbia that was participating either through active collusion or a studied refusal to notice.  Being in South Africa over the last few weeks, the visceral sense of a great evil that made the present is something that I feel everywhere.  Life goes on, as it should, but this poem bubbled up in response to the insidious ways in which evil sits with us.  In my practice I think about what it means to live with the after-effects of evil.  What the balance is between knowing the evil of the past, seeing how it operates in the present, and also being sufficiently free of it to be able to respond to what is right now.  It is the tension between knowing what made us, and releasing its stranglehold without the denial and amnesia that can characterise a too-hasty release of the pain story.  Working through identifying and releasing pain stories in the West of the Wheel, I am aware that these stories are woven into the fabric of national narratives, kaleidoscopically.  Poems bubble up in dawn meditation.  The cacophony of the dawn chorus.  My tired eyes snap open.

 Briefly, I am awake.     

Image

Advertisements

Woman Cake

I bake a woman cake
A girl named Macaroon
Sweet and lovely
Luscious hips
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

Being in Allignment with Intention Is Not a Get Out of Jail Free Card

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

Maia – Not necessarily all romantic and free

sometimes laundry

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

of disappointment,

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

a suggestion…

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

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

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.