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My essay In Falling is published here, through the Shambhala Publications 35<35 project, personal essays from Buddhist practitioners under the age of 35.

http://www.35u35.com/submissions/in-falling/

PS’s & dedications:

*so so so much gratitude to the lovely Ms. Meredith Arena for loving me through this madness

*loves to my sister Cindy for listening out loud at the EXACT right moment

*congrats to my brother Chris for the courage to share and be himself in the world

*and always to OWL, for saving & enriching my life

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Walking with lightness across the past week, down sweet avenues of promise.

Fall asleep to the heartbreak of harshness, how we diminish and mistrust ourselves so deeply, how we salt our wounds at every turn. How we can love anyone but ourselves.

Awake in the courageousness of my heart, aware that I am good enough to be the mama I’ve become, the mama OWL needs. Aware that in this moment, perhaps that’s all there is, and that is enough. I awake aware that the unwavering presence of goodness that is so hard to touch still resides inside, and I am grateful that the week has illuminated it so vividly. But there is more work to do, always more do to.

And so it is just not time. Not for this.

With breakfast tea in hand, discover this quote, posted by the dear Mrs. Marit:

LOVE: when your energetic heart expands out of your body so far it explodes joy and color all over the world around you in such a way that all your beauty is reflected back at you. then your spirit says ‘Ahhh… that’s the purpose.’*

And so it goes, a cross town train and latitudes, into laughter and forgetting.

Regard all dharmas as dreams. Flip a card. Abandon all hope of fruition. Shuffle. Be grateful to everyone. Shuffle. Begin the sequence of sending and taking with yourself. 


(*from a Mountain Sage Medicine postcard picked up at Mother’s Market Pace in Hood River, OR)

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The nature of grief, or at least mine, presents itself as cyclical. Seasonal. Marked by the harvest moons of pregnancy and breaking up, followed by would-be anniversaries that bookend OWL’s birthday, which is also the day of my haunted delivery into mamahood, a day of immense joy & gratitude joined by the rattle & hiss of an unshakeable failed start. And from this place, the world moves forward. I am motionless.

Is there a slogan for that?

Yup, Sarah replies. Transform all mishaps into the path of bodhi*.

Mishaps. I say.

Love of all kinds is kind of a giant glorious mishap, eh?

And she lists the last 9 years of my life, my loves and disappointments, vows and friends lost to miles, and sends me a picture of grey skies and apple blossoms. I cry for the 7th time in 2 hours.

This morning nausea spread from behind my eyes and into my throat, hunger pangs, chills and fever. After an extra hour of sleep and pills, I put on a dress with a fancy sweater and scarf, leggings and boots to meet the dreary June rain, earrings and makeup, bravely applied mascara that is now long gone.

My words are hollow, circular. I cannot believe there is still so much letting go. Always there is letting go.

(* bodhi = wakefulness)

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It is a beautiful Spring day, the kind with magic in the drizzle and almost warm air, and listening to the planes and bird songs on the walk to the co-op with the tired OWL-babes in the pack, I felt like superMama. It’s a strength I wish I could crawl inside of right now, as babes naps through the sun break and I sit here instead of cleaning. I suspect though, that it is indeed that strength that allows me to write through this tangle instead of shutting down among the brooms and mops.

Last Friday, I looked different. Like a small worry that had grown too big for itself lifted and dissolved. But the other night I noticed that it is back, and I hardly recognize myself again. The lines in my face, the shape of my cheeks, the definition of my torso and soft curve of my belly. I tried to trace all my lines, follow the turns, the rise and fall of breath inside my chest. I tried to examine the expressions, the places that no one ever sees, so that someone bears witness to all these changes, the shifts in the gravity of love and birth and loss. But I don’t know if I can, if I have the courage to study and stay, to inhabit the compassion I need. Stand like mountain, give like water, shine like the sun.

I find myself dwelling in that place of small mind, the one where I can draw a straight line through all my mistakes and fuck ups to this exact moment and say – “Aha! Of course I am here. It all makes sense and there is no way through or out of this mess!” Every little thing is attached to the storyline of never good enough, never enough. And I mean really, that well appears quite limitless.

The problem is that I cannot start where I am, at this moment in time, from this place. Because all those years of waiting – waiting for things to be okay so that they could get great – are heavy and big and I can’t figure out how or where to set them down. Because all those years of self-restricted forward motion – half steps and big slides back – are like a dam that will not hold, even though small mind is scrambling like mad to plug the holes with guilt and inadequacy and fear. But my heart also knows that the price of waiting, for me, has been non-action, never doing, and not necessarily better or wiser decisions. I’ve learned to let go of (some) outcomes, and trust that the path will provide the opportunities. But can I also let go of the path I see, the path for which I plunged myself into the murky depths of mental illness and worked my ass off to reach?

And didn’t I already start where I was when I stepped out of my skin and onto a cushion in a room full of strangers and committed to wake up, to feel and be present? The thing that’s a bitch, I see now, is that the whole point is that we start we are over and over again. OVER AND OVER. AGAIN. Small mind feels duped. And vast mind is…. on vacation? Hallucinating topographic maps and listening to birds?

I’ll write and clean and sit and wait for its return.

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Saturday. 26-degrees, feels like 16. Snowflakes fell like feathers for 15 minutes and called it quits, preferring the embrace of their clouds to the dance of descent. A second pot of tea steeps on the counter, delicatas roast in the oven, buttery-garlic rice simmers on the on the stove, the sink drips into the breakfast dishes, and the radio plays a soundtrack made, I’m almost convinced, just for me.

After 13 months of unemployment, I got a job. Up early, OWL at school for 8-1/2 hours, straight home to where I’m the cook, dishwasher, laundress, healer, bather, story-teller. Looking back, I see the magical quality that shined through all the chaos and hurts of the past 18-months. And I am forever grateful.

Last month, among the madness of deadlines, I came face to face with myself, again. I wrote and wrote and wrote. I wrote through decades, started close to the beginning, and penned pages of missed opportunities, hurt and injustice, doubt and fear, but also of triumph and learning and love. I  went over the past year, a year defined by the journey through so much loss, how I worked like hell to stay in the moment, to dissolve, to be okay, to experience groundlessness and reality maybe for the first time ever, to grieve my past-present-future.

As the pages turned, my mind kept trying to settle on the metaphor eye of the storm, but I quickly realized that this was wishful thinking. That suddenly, I am on some other side. I know more storms will blow in and wreak havoc on everything I know, but this particular one, this one that I know so very well, has silently come to an end. And within the madness of paper and pen and hours, part of me craves its return because at least, in it, I know who am.

But it is not where I am, nor who I am at this moment. And certainly not what I want for the future. As I survey the landscape of this new shore I see that a good deal of the wreckage has already been cleared, that I’ve done quite a bit of picking up along that way. That through all of this, the little pieces of compassion that broke through took root and are starting to push through the earth, towards the sun as it rises.

Life only grows after falling down, kissing the earth through that dance of descent.

—–

Dedicated to M.D.A.

June 1970 – February 2011

Thank you for your courage and thoughts and words.

I wish you safe passage and travels, and a happier return.

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I light incense on the shrine in gratitude of these recent experiences and chose a lotus stick as a reminder of non-attachment, to reconnect with my Thursday yoga practice where it unfolded again and again in my heart space, rising pink and cream from the mud. Then without even a tiny bow I promptly retreat to the kitchen where I don’t have to see it or think about it or breathe it in. I chop the drained tofu as the zucchini simmers in butter. The lingering touch of kissed lips held for days fades quickly. I dig out a leftover red onion wedge, slice it and add it to the pan.

Funny how openness applies to the potential of beginnings but not to the possibilities of a short life, the arrival of an ending.

I add the sauce and tofu, stir and season, set the lid in place and reduce the heat, and walk into the living room, the air heavy with the scent of my life in motion. OWL quietly watches the PBS NewsHour from his mushroom perch at the foot of the couch, giggles at me and nods his head as I walk by. A small smile cracks in my tightness. The sweetness of sadness without a storyline, the joy of OWL’s happily crinkled nose, of coming back to the simmering food on the stove, the rising smoke of the lotus. The sweetness of Practice.

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(mountain-eagle-warrior-flying)
(into 2011)

I have not been writing.

It is December, and I think something like this happens every time this year. There is a still quiet, a silent revolution of words and ideas rumbling around with no exit, and no desire to go anywhere. I write beautiful things in my head then quickly scribble flattened words after hours of procrastination and fall asleep.

My mind turns over this year, my first year, and I see it was characterized by loss and the depth of my experience of what was lost. How I leaned in to its sharpness, the cold metallic feel of its reality, the emptiness of bed and home and speech. How I sat and sat and sat again in practice, letting the tears and aches have their place and days.

My mind wanders over the people who filled this time of darkness with the most delicious richness and texture – OWL’s warm nuzzle under my arm and his sweet sing-songs from the back seat of the car, the warmth of mittens knitted by a new mama’s hands and the cooing and laughter of her foxy little babes as we talk-cook-sit-listen, tree-shaded walks through rabbit holes with wounded animals and talks and coffees with the children running ahead or lagging behind, the rise and fall of a lover’s body next to mine in sleep, the soft coat of the cat against my bare leg, acoustic guitars melodically joining teenage voices and hand-crafted gift tags, the growing bellies of mamas-to-be, falling asleep on a boat in the May heat of Florida and hot spring swims, the ballet and dinner, late night phone calls full of tears and laughs and love….

The freeze up of loss and loneliness is not so solid after all. The lake is full of the cracks and fissures of a continuing life, a current below the surface. A slow and steady breeze winding through the constriction picks up speed.

Open-eyed in yoga, I move through mountain to eagle to warrior 3 to standing split with my hands wrapped around my ankle, finger tips gently tap and sweep the floor with grace to regain balance as I laugh out loud. My heart  fills with green grass and a sky painted golden and pink by the rising sun, a light blue sweater tossed off to the side. A lotus blooms in the mud as the sun warms my face and arm through the southern windows. I see and feel and know the openness of the coming year, and greet that mystery with curiosity. With a smile that knows the transformative power of the eagle, and that starting fresh is not the same as starting from scratch.

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