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

Keep On Moving: Postponement as Troublemaker in the North West

keep moving

keep moving (Photo credit: Wrote)

Our circle’s experience of symbolically entering the North of the Wheel in Denmark was so liberating and powerful, the feeling of freedom and flight that followed so wonderful, that there had to be a crash at some point!  And so it goes.  Peak experiences are brilliant – I love and live for them!  But they have their shadow aspect, which manifests as a belief that somehow this is an arrival point, a finishing line moment.  So when the insights of the peak experience have to navigate their way through the more mundane spaces of everyday life, it can be hard to adjust to the ordinary; to the application of insight.  Jack Kornfield wrote a whole book on it, ‘After the Ecstasy, The Laundry’.

It is in these post-peak spaces that Troublemakers really show up.  And as Julie Tallard Johnson discusses in the Wheel of Initiation, these Troublemakers are ways in which our attachment to habitual ways of doing and being in the world can be identified.  They offer us the opportunity to liberate ourselves from them when they show up.  The more you practice, the more you can spot a Troublemaker when it comes up.  A bit like that scene in The Matrix when Neo plucks bullets out the air as if they were apples on a tree and tosses them aside.  Practice strips troublemakers of their power to damage you unthinkingly.  However, where I’m at is more like the start of the Matrix, where Neo flails about and is generally nearly cut down by said bullets!  Awareness of Troublemakers, and shifting the energy patterns that hold you captive to the beliefs that surround your responses to them (what our Circle focused on in Denmark),  is only the beginning!

The day after getting back from Denmark, still on a high, I received an email from Julie about Dealbreakers.  As the week progressed, and things got tougher, I really felt the resonance of her communication.

At times, it is an all-out civil war between our habitual selves (that often sustain our pain stories) and our more authentic nature (and our intentions). Deal breakers finally break the deal with some agreement that is keeping us hostage to our pain stories. (Wherever we are suffering there is an agreement to a pain story).  When a Deal Breaker arises a choice is usually involved. My indifference would say to me: “This doesn’t matter.”  “This doesn’t count.” My authentic self knows on a very basic level that everything counts. In fact sometimes the smallest choice opens us up to an new paradigm, and the briefest comment reveals the deepest truth. It all matters (but this doesn’t mean it is heavy or somber). Every decision, as Joseph Campbell would say is a Destiny Decision. Within the Buddhist philosophy we recognize that everything contributes to causes and conditions and everything has a consequence. So when we break an agreement, and invoke the Deal Breaker there may be blood, but more importantly there will be LIGHT. 

I realised that our Circle was probably more in between than our big leap forward had suggested.  Located somewhere North West if you will. Though we have symbolically moved into the North of The Wheel, in many ways we are still embroiled in the business of the West.  The clearing out of pain stoires, identification of the habitual, recognition of troublemakers and looking out for Dealbreakers.  This is movement in the Wheel.  When I stop and take a breath , I feel how I love and am energised by the dynamism and gathering momentum  of the Wheel!  It is a beautiful thing.

In our Circle we have been negotiating reforming our meeting schedule as new jobs, country moves and change occur around us.  This has been challenging, but also an opportunity to approach our work together in ways that are responsive to what our circumstances actually are (as opposed to imposing a vision of how it ‘should’ be on the process). The point, sometimes, is not to achieve perfection, but to keep turning up. Keep moving.

To finish, I am sharing some of my Circle partner Maia’s writing around something that both of us have identified as a powerful agreement to ‘Postpone our Lives’ or ‘Not Participate’.  These are dealbreakers for real.  I love her writing because it is so raw, and honest.  It elucidates the fragile jaggedness that comes up in this kind of work: it articulates the captivating Siren charm of Resistance (she points out that the will to postpone and resist starting comes up as much in work that she does like to do as work that she doesn’t).

I am in major procrastination mode.  Came to the library to work because it just wasn’t going to happen at home.  Those days when you just don’t want to start.  Probably/maybe when I start it will be much easier.  Been thinking how much this is linked to my deal breaker – not wanting to participate in life, or feeling helpless in my non-participation. I’m that girl  looking at the playground roundabout, thinking that is the world and I am not on it. It was this feeling of being separate and alienated, this numbed off state, of being unable to move beyond the separateness and part of the movement of life.  

Whether I like the work I have to do or not, it brings me face to face with that state again. There are two Osho tarot cards that came to mind this morning.  The one is of a woman looking through window.  She’s all grey and the world outside is full of colour. The card is called Postponement. The other card is called the Outsider.  It shows a child looking through a gate longing to be outside.  The child doesn’t realise the gate is not locked.  

I have always disliked getting these cards, especially the postponement one, which asks you to put aside the desire to delay and act.  I don’t like the card because I like putting stuff off for tomorrow. It’s comfortable, I have gotten used to it.  As much as I have longed for action, to live my life as a bird in full flight, delaying – putting off and slipping into that numbed off, nothing is really happening state is what I know.  It’s really very comfortable. I  also got tired of hating myself for it.  But it’s all been changing for me. The Wheel of Initiation has helped  a lot with it.  Swept me up more than I anticipated.  I now see the possibility of not choosing to follow the narrative.  I see that I am actually a bird in full flight who thinks she’s a postponing woman.  I see the power I have to re-write the narrative to shift and transform and ease out of these heavy habits.  Yes it’s difficult.  I have to meet the troublemakers again and again.  This is my deal breaker.  

I was thinking of an intention that works with this – I participate fully in my life.  It’s what I read Toni Morrison said in an interview.  She just wants to feel whatever she’s feeling whether it’s good or bad.  To really be there.  So here’s the practice.  The call to come alive in whatever I am doing. To not put myself off.  

The feeling I encounter when I do step up to participate is that I can’t do it, that I’m not good enough. That’s the Outsider card.  The gate is open but I don’t step out because I believe I am not good enough. I am that thee year old girl, getting frustrated, crying I can’t do it.  Giving up.  As soon as I start to write there’s a voice crying, I can’t do it, it’s too hard.  That’s the voice I have to look at and say thank you and then turn back to the feeling that I can. 

When I delay or don’t do something that I must, I end up feeling more powerless, paralysed, heavy – it’s circular and then there is no way out.   That’s the mess I create.  I have to keep moving, even though it feels heavy.  Keeeeeep moving.  It’s lighter ahead.   

Maia Marie 2012

 

What am I postponing?

How would it feel to do it?

What happens when I finish?

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Wheel-Initiation-Practices-Releasing-Inner/dp/1591431115/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1347454034&sr=8-1

http://www.julietallardjohnson.com/

http://www.osho.com/Main.cfm?Area=magazine&Sub1Menu=tarot&Sub2Menu=oshozentarot

http://www.jackkornfield.com/

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

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

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