Follower of No Separation

Right now I am a follower of 

“No Separation” 

This nor that, 

Here nor there

I weave between traditions and practices

like a mendicant in search of a holy light, 

which is always

already

Here.

No separation: seamless living with what arises,

going with a flow, 

acknowledging grace of present moment,

being in a state of love –

and not just in mind or heart

but full body

extending into an ether of oneness. 

No separation: quiet gaze understanding

common heart of wisdom

swimming beneath all disputes and orthodoxies.

Soft wind blowing leaves,

reminder of cycle of life

which transcends words.

No separation: the space Beyond and Before.

The space steeped in silence

like hot cup of tea:

burns but delicious – 

a drink to be savored, 

a Holy Gift:

just like human life with all its complex flavors

unfurling into 

One 

Great

Expression 

(some call God).

Advertisements

Birth: Entrance into This Crazy World of Light

A slow, uneventful early labor leaves me wondering whether he really is coming. I clean, burn sage, take a walk, make dinner, call my mom and tell her to come, help with bedtime (all between mild contractions). I roll into active labor at 7:25 pm with back to back contractions, dipping into the timeless realm of touch and go pain, blurred vision, doubling over, calling for help, shaking wondering and awe. I roll into the realm of surrendering control and I hear myself say how much I hate it. Modesty slowly goes out the window. The midwives have arrived and now I’m fully in the dance of dilation. Not “contracting” but rather expanding – and I try to meditate on the star-gazer lilies I’ve bought for this moment. “All you have to do is float…” says the midwife. “You don’t have to do anything…” But there is no floating, only the shaky handing over of myself to one moment and then the next. There is no floating, only the raw practice of trusting a process that is greater than myself.

I move to the tub for relief and finally feel the urge to push. Has it been one hour or five? I have no idea. I only know that I don’t want to be alone and I don’t care anymore about words. Chris tells me to “stay with it” and I hear myself say “I have no choice but to stay with it.” There is no getting out. No escaping. No distraction. “The only way out is in,” I hear my yoga teacher’s voice as a fuzzy line of background noise. The only way out is in.

It is one of those moments in life where the rawness of physical pain and discomfort serves as an edge upon which I serve myself up to a force greater than myself. I’m terrified of I know not what – except perhaps the searing truth that this passage of bringing new life is really happening and I’m responsible somehow for overcoming exhaustion and doubt and mustering the strength and wilfulness to push a baby down and out. Its true: “you don’t have to do anything…” All you have to do is trust that your body was made for this – AND: you can’t just ‘give up’ either. At the very least the moment requires presence. At the least, the moment requires a square confrontation with the reality of what is arising, particularly when the reality doesn’t match up with one’s preferences…

I’m so, so tired and its one wave of pressure after another. I have no idea where to go or how even to move with a head like a bowling ball two centimeters away from crowning. All I know is I have to get him out. I’m dripping sweat now and standing over my bed. I see stars and beg for rest, even though I know that the final moment of reckoning is upon me like a pressure cooker. This is when I have to dig deep and find a reservoir of strength that I’ve only tapped into twice before with my other births: A woman’s gritty wilfulness to make something happen that feels impossible. For me, this is no easy birth. It is raw, uncomfortable, painful. There is no bliss, no rest, no peaceful hypnobirthing place to relax into. For me, birth is a series of deep, wild screams of disbelief coupled with absolute, unfiltered awe in the face of great mystery. How the hell does all this work? How the hell do women do it? So normal, no big deal – and so literally transfiguring at the same time.

And then: he’s out – blue, sticky body on my chest, loud cries and the midwife comforts him by saying “You only have to do this part once…” And in that moment I feel again my own birth – squeezing into life through a narrow passage, “contracting” into form… And I simultaneously feel my death, which perhaps will take me into the opposite realm of expansion. And I feel back to the burst of my waters breaking earlier – a crackling preparation for baby’s entrance – and I wonder if somehow we come via darkness and water into this crazy world of light and go too from this world into a different light?

All this passes through me as we welcome my son – and really all that matters now is the skin touching skin, and the awe-filled reminder that being in this body is a blessing unlike any other. Sensation! Touch! Love! Pain and pleasure blur into one of the most glorious moments of Grace…

Breezy Point Madonna

Understanding the laws of nature does not mean that we are immune to their operations.”  ~David Gerrold

And here she is: Madonna presiding over the devastated remains at Breezy Point after Hurricane Sandy struck. The rest of the neighborhood is charred from fire and swept away from flooding, and somehow she remained intact and unscathed in her original location. To me her graceful, open posture reminds me of the capacity for stillness in the eye of a storm as well as the powerful, unbiased, compassionate witness to life’s unfoldings. No judgement: just peace amidst what painfully is.

Loosening of Self into Service

Notice what you are up to:

Resisting the intense

(often overwhelming)

responsibility

of caring for another human being.

Resisting sensation:

physical contraction of co-sleeping, carrying, breast-feeding

shoulders rolled forward, tight neck, sore back,

stillness filtered as stagnation

which is

actually Grace, Mystery

Abiding.

Instead: A Reckoning with what’s greater than yourself

while also perfectly accepting limitations.

All of this a huge gesture of love, a relaxation into the grace of giving, a loosening of self into service…

Pushing vs. Opening – And Shining a Light on Our Habits Through Practice

To open your body through a sacred and intentional spiritual practice is a precious thing. So simple, such an encounter with Self. Spiritual practice can hold up the mirror and shed light on where we haven’t been true to ourselves and where we obstruct free, open, loving flow of energy and attention through habit or via blind spots we have yet to see into. For me, the practice is Hatha yoga, where after a too-long spell of neglect I finally rediscover my legs, my hands and feet – and re-learn the essential practice of just feeling: just feeling full bodily into the vast mystery of life.

I’m reminded that to maintain a practice of opening the body in an intentional way is especially essential for those of us immersed in the radical shifts required of a woman’s body throughout pregnancy, childbirth and early motherhood. If we don’t attend to our bodies we become stiff, habituated in often imbalancing physical patterns, and generally less intentional with how we place ourselves in space as we shuffle between critical tasks. The practice not only becomes a critical means for maintaining a structure of physical and emotional well-being as we juggle life’s requirements, but it also becomes the vehicle through which we can open ourselves to fresh revelations about ourselves and our lives in an ongoing way.

We can choose to dip into a practice where we can literally plug ourselves into currents of light always available and at work in the body; Plugging into lines of light is ultimately freeing your energy and attention such that there is open, clear, free, loving flow between and within all parts, as well as extending outwards from this place of freedom and openness. It translates into a radiance of experience that permeates and embraces. It also translates into a shedding of light on and within our own experiences that illumines the interior world in all its vast mysteries and complexities. My yoga teacher Sofia always says the feeling of light is actually Love – and it is that experience of Love that is available too in our bodies when we dare to cross the threshold of depth and move beyond conditioning, habit and avoidance of discomfort. As we make ourselves available to the opening of new pathways in our bodies, we can shed light with our attention on the whole of our experience. In this way we bring our full selves further and further into the light of self- understanding and ultimately into embodying the full gift of a beautiful, loving self-expression in the world.

Certain yoga poses have the capacity to usher us down the rabbit hole into the realm of sustained transformation through a simple abiding with sensation – “difficult” as well as pleasant or even blissful. Yoga can take us to the gates of our own personal hell realms of self-avoidance and untruth – where we might tell ourselves lies to protect ourselves from pain and unwanted discomforts of growth. It is at this such gate that I recently realize the simple truth that many moments of my motherhood growing journey have been rooted in pushing, rather than opening. It happens often in a deep physical practice: the impulse to muscularly will, physically push yourself to the “other side” – you know a great opening is possible and in moments when you are taken to your knees with feelings of weakness, craziness or incapacity – you push through, rather than surrender and open – and then perhaps even dare to call it “strength.” Many of us do this kind of pushing not even for the sake of a great opening – but simply for the sake of “getting things done” or “getting to the next place.” It strikes me like a light bulb turned on in place I’ve never been; I catch a glimpse into a blind spot I’ve been living in.

And here is the next great opportunity of a spiritual practice that requires you to pay attention to the subtleties of your own experience: if you can stay with the complexity, a jewel of realization may emerge. It hits me that there is no strength in whittling away open currents of life force into exhausted collapse. I see so many women journeying this path and I hadn’t realized I’d joined the ranks. Surrendering into exhaustion can also entail a subtle (or not so subtle) shirk of profound responsibility. I am struck that a profound growing force in my life can also become the same means to fabricating an excuse to not further grow (think on this one: have any of you experienced this?). Said another way: for me, exhaustion coupled with the responsibility of motherhood has brought me to my knees in a way that crash coursed me into letting go of lifetimes of habits that don’t serve me while also gifting me with an impeccable opportunity to surrender into what is without resistance, and in the spirit of love – even when it doesn’t feel “good” and even when I feel as if I’ll fall apart. At the same time this growing edge I’ve been riding for two years can also stagnate me into shirking a responsibility for opening my body and my heart through consistent practice and self-care; (Why am I physically weaker than before? “I’m so tired.” Why won’t I practice today? “I’m so tired”). Yet with fewer inner resources and without an established structure of sustained openness through practicing, I end up further tiring myself from pushing from less authentic places. Reserves are thin and the undercurrent of awareness of participation in and with the Divine allows me to ride the waves of life with some amount of Grace, BUT, the subtle truth is that I’ve slowly been falling into the habit of “pushing through” rather than opening into Grace.

Why is this self-revelation important enough to share here? Because opening into Grace is a profound resource for all of us to relax into. Because these are times when too many of us are pushing too hard in our lives and losing connection to vital threads of practice rooted in paying close attention to detail and subtlety. Because to live as our best selves does not mean moving randomly through space and time and it certainly doesn’t mean sloughing off personal responsibility to succumb to the mass patterning of “I’m so tired and busy I can’t even deal with anything that is fundamentally important to myself anymore.” We can instead exchange a different kind of energy in the world. We can take care of ourselves by  surrendering into acknowledgement of what breathes us. We aren’t doing breath. Breath is doing each of us. Something greater than yourself is at work on you and will ultimately dissolve you in the end. Opening to this insight is profoundly liberating, albeit potentially unnerving at first. Opening into what is arising in any given moment means making oneself consistently available to wisdom, insight, being moved, stretched, worked on, yanked open, uncurled, unfurled…All we have to do is make ourselves available to transformation and grace. All we have to do is make ourselves available to mystery. And the doorway to this is through our own felt experience. This is opening rather than pushing. This is moving through our lives with a sense of flow and grace rather than resistance.

To live steeped in this awareness is a different kind of strength, and ultimately a feminine sort of strength, rooted more in the heart realm and less in the will and intellect realm. These are times where many of us are pushing rather than resting in a surrendered nourishment that does not hide or collapse, but gives outward from a place of relaxed understanding. These are times when shit has to get done and someone’s got to do it – and the key is to live each breath of the doing as if you weren’t doing it but as if it is doing you – whatever ‘it’ is for you. In this way we not only find a new kind of rest into what just is – we open ourselves to our interconnections with all life and light and we live more as our true nature, ever becoming clearer and less fettered – and more capable of the profound Love that the divine feminine force entails.

 

Walking the Labyrinth, Available to Grace

I dance the dance of surrender into the days of motherhood – 18 months in.  The ‘aha’ moments slow down, making way for steadier rhythm of more predictability, a slow apprenticeship of descent and return – much like the walking journey in and out of a labyrinth.  A whole cycle of transformation coming to completion, somehow waxing and waning like the moon cycles spread out into years.  All of the sudden I take stock of truly being on “the other side” of massive transition. Unpredictability has ushered in evenness. Lessons coalesce.  “I’ve settled in,” I suddenly realize, like skin sinking into sand on a beach, that same sensation of familiar returning to a rhythm of being and flow that only the edges shared with water can reflect.

Suddenly there is space to see the labyrinth journey into motherhood from the outside – to gain a perspective different from the center;  There is being in the fire so to speak (which pregnancy, birth and early motherhood often feels like) – and there’s a bird’s-eye view of where one has just been.  Like an eagle’s 40 mile vision radius, it is now that time to take stock of soul’s journey in and soul’s journey out.  I am forever changed having traversed the leap from ‘maiden’ to mother (to use the triple goddess lingo) in the progression of life’s generational dance.  How we come out of transition into something new is just as important as simply marking the transition itself (neither of which my culture does particularly well).

So now, the question arising:  what is my next unfolding?  How will I integrate the lessons of becoming a parent into a next iteration on life’s path?  All too often days blur, hours blur and routine dominates the slow folds between worlds in a lifetime.  How many times have we heard “where did the time go?”  How many times have I met a parent on the bus who tells me with a wistful expression “my child is 18 now and I don’t know where those years went.”  18 months or 18 years – we are constantly invited to mark the moments as sacred.

So how can we make life’s moments of transition marked, sacred, noteworthy?  Like a short (or long) carpet rolled out for ourselves, we can mark our transitions and transformations with clarity and reverence.  Even if we don’t know what’s next, we can acknowledge the passage of time carrying us into new phases.  Each one prepares us for a future unfolding, eventually death.  The key is:  do we pay attention?  Just as pregnancy and birth took me on a profound crash course on letting go of body – a handing over of ego and ‘self’ to larger forces of creation and chaos beyond my control – so too will future transitions teach me the art of letting go and letting be what simply is.

There is no better place for marking the sacred as in the present moment.  Again and again we can ask how we can live life more fully and passionately?  How can we integrate lessons learned into being the most compassionate mother or person?  How can I hold on to my seat as a new person emerged from a rite of passage into parenthood?  And, how to live into what is next with great intention when time for reflection feels scant?

A friend once said “you can’t do anything about your desire to live closer to the Divine.  All you can do is make yourself more available to Grace.”  Just like light somehow splits open a seed, we can make ourselves available to grace in our daily actions, trusting that glimpses will emerge as guides.  Sofia Diaz always reminded me in Yoga postures that “you can’t do it… let it do you.”  Let yourself be done or undone.  So too with the vicissitudes of parenting and soul’s ebbs and flows.  Like a rock in water I’ve thrown myself into this stream of path, and now I must simply trust the tides as they do their work, aiming at least to marvel at life’s smoothing gestures of slow transformation.