The Fleshy Parts

As some of you may know, my experience of immigrating to Canada has brought up all kinds of challenges for me around work.

What it’s made me ask myself is, “what am I really good at?” I’ve always felt that I was talented, or at least skilled, and could excel at most things. However, my unquestioning belief in myself doesn’t always translate into success. What I’ve often done, is reach out to master more skills than I can possibly manage at once, while neglecting the ones I know best. E.g., attempting to become a writer when I’ve been a serious musician for the past 5 years, leaving my guitar to gather dust while I berate myself for not being published in Elephant Journal a second time.

It’s gotten to the point where I can barely handle all my hobbies. On top of it all, I’m attempting to launch a new career, which obviously can be frustrating. And this past week, with struggles in my marriage, I felt the delicate balance begin to crumble.

Building an online presence, albeit a useful skill in searching for a job, can allow us to get away with a surface appearance of confidence, self-assurance and mastery, without actually achieving it. I’ve known this, yet it’s just the nature of the beast, that when you’re spending hours a week updating your blog, LinkedIn, and Twitter profile, you are losing time in developing actual skills. And the sneaky part is this: if you have a bit of insecurity, like me, the online presence will hold it at bay so you never have to deal with a real situation that might test your limits.

So it is that I’ve become a songwriter, yoga instructor (focusing on the neuroscience of mindfulness), Communications professional, and erstwhile trauma therapist, all in one. (And I wonder why I haven’t had the time to learn to speak French!) And despite all this, I’m still unemployed, terrifyingly close to bankruptcy.

It’s true that when one is spread thin, it becomes difficult to cultivate depth of skill. I’ve often wondered if my breadth of interest was somehow pathological in itself. What is more likely, I think, is that all these skills are facets of the gem that is me. They are also ways that I’ve learned to cope with the challenges I was given.

You see, what I’m really good at is being me. And that may not seem like much; some people achieve much greater things, things that affect hundreds or thousands of people. Me, well,… I’m an artist. My job is to express who I am.

As an artist I use everything available to me – my mind (through writing and meditation), my voice (through song), and my body (through dance) to express the tangled knot of challenges life handed to me at an early age. Like many artists, I’ve had a challenging life. I come from a family of untreated mental illness, with unreasonable expectations placed on me both emotionally, and in the level of success I was expected to achieve. By 24, I had developed chronic health issues that could only be addressed through a vigilantly tender routine of gluten-free and soy-free diet, plenty of sleep, and a stress-free life if I could manange it. My self-confidence was so dismally low that I’ve forced myself into poverty as well as the field of trauma treatment, which was so beyond my level of coping that it made me physically ill.

Thankfully, I can now embrace my limitations and am exploring the yet more tender realm of wants and needs. I spent so long believing I had to prove something, to create the most difficult life I could manage and prove I could survive it, that I barely even know what kind of music I like, or what’s going on in the news. These days I make it a practice to follow inspiring sources of news and ideas, music and creativity. I make it a practice to cultivate fun for fun’s sake, not just as a remedy to stress. I’m learning more about who I am.

I feel vulnerable admitting this; this lack of dimensionality, this history of running from disaster to disaster, while somehow in the meantime inventing yoga workshops and writing songs. At 33 I soberly look around and see my peers achieving greater things, things that I could have achieved in the absence of the hot perfectionism that burns me to the bone and takes the joy out of what I do.

I’m ready to accept help and support in re-building the fleshy part of myself, the part of life that are tender and soft; lemonade on a Sunday, talk radio shows, singing a few songs before bedtime just to fill the house with sweetness.

The light of appreciation: Equinox dance, 3-21-15

Last night’s Equinox-centered Conscious Dance Party at Yoga Village held a bright moment of inspiration for me. The guided visualizations of “becoming sky” so I could “see” (and hold space for) my sisters, really tuned me in to the uplifting energy of appreciation. While I’ve always been a perceptive person, I err toward noticing flaws and shortcomings more than I like to admit. While I only want to protect myself and others, this kind of thinking can be a heavy burden that holds me back from truly supporting inspired action.

Last night, the energy of appreciating others pierced my heart like warm sunlight as I looked around and saw my brothers and sisters sounding with heartfelt ferocity. It brought back a feeling I’d had about a month ago at another event. I was watching pairs doing contact improv, their dancing especially poignant at the moment. I thought, “who doesn’t yearn for love?” This thought cracked my heart open and I felt a new spring in my step, wishing that everyone, including me, could receive the love they need – if even for a moment. Even if it just means being fully present to another, or to oneself, which dance helps us to do.

When we can suspend the critical mind even for a moment, much of what we see around us is just love and the need for love. Last night, it showed up as the sounding of 80 people, howling at the equinox moon, howling – among other things – a howl of yearning, a howl of affection, a howl of love. I found it pretty inspiring that given total freedom, this is what we choose to express!

This dance also gave me grounding. This week, I needed a lot of it! My life is changing and I’m ever more aware of just how changeable it is. I’ve learned that my mind isn’t much use to me in that regard, as it wanders into realms of over-planning and worry. There are times to settle in, to ponder what’s important; and there are times to get up and move. Winter lifts its veil and suddenly the earth is firm, bare, ready to be trod upon. It’s time to march, to roam, to put your feet down, down until you reach this knowing: that there is nothing to hold onto in this life but the ever-changing flow of now.

Dig your feet into the floor and feel its support. Feel the lightness of surrender. Breathe in the sweetness of appreciation and let it fill you up, all the way up.

Jan. 31, 2015

sunset january

The other day, watching the sunset glowing gold and smoky violet in the sky, I feel such a deep love for winter. I suppose I’ve tried so hard, year in and year out, to love it, that I’ve succeeded… each year I enjoy the pale colors and deep rest more… I find it so very soothing. I wondered then, if we were able to love a season down to its bones… to really let it soak in, perhaps we would tire of things less easily… and perhaps come August, instead of saying how we hated the heat, we’d be letting it lie on us like an old mangy dog, knowing its time had come to leave us, and soaking it up till the last minute… because we had felt its fullness, and been taken in, taken, by its colors and its moods, as if by a lover.

What I Don’t Know

Mike, Ethereal Cloud Formations CC BY NC ND 2.0
Credit: Ethereal Cloud Formations, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

What I don’t know hovers around me like a cloud,

full of stories and tales of the mind.

But I see colors as I breathe: pink in the opening ribcage,

deep blue in the blossoming of the back.

The pathetic fallacy colors all that we can’t grasp –

like clouds, and plans, and time.

I gave up feeling with my mind.

I’d rather wash watercolor

over things I can’t yet name,

or be washed, rather, in pale hues of orange and lime.

January dreams are like seeds

that could bear fruit, or spoil.

The good part is, I think bold strokes can arise

from feeling what is felt,

but not yet known.

The buoyancy of self-love

Scarf blowing in the wind
Photo: Rachel Patterson, Scarf blowing in the wind, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

In yoga class, listening to the teacher’s lilting voice and staring up at a 100-year-old vaulted ceiling, I thought, am I entering the realm of magic? Where the wild fluctuations of self-isolation and wild, desperate clinging, give way to a finer vibration, like a silk scarf waving in the wind?

How many yoga classes I have attended, feeling strangely tense. How many gatherings I have driven to, afraid I might say something wrong. All of that heaviness disappears amidst the upward buoyancy of self-love. The opening of the heart, and the steady commitment to accepting what is happening, every single day.

Am I entering a life where the roughness I once knew, gives way to a soft flow between inner and outer, guided by a well-loved rhythm and purposeful intent? The fingers pinching the scarf, feeling the pull of the wind, holding on just so it won’t blow away.

We will melt (Osho)

Rocky ocean shore at sunset
Image: Kim Seng, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

“To go and take a jump into the sea is dangerous.  And remember, we are all men of salt as far as the ocean is concerned–the ocean of life and death. We are men of salt, and we will melt into it because we come from it. We are made by it, we are of it. We will melt!

So the mind is always afraid of going into the ocean – it is made of salt, it is bound to dissolve. It is afraid, so it remains on the shore discussing things, debating, arguing, creating theories–all false, because they are based on fear. A courageous person will take the jump, and will resist accepting any answer which is not known and experienced by himself.

“But the mind is afraid to take the jump, because mind is made of the same stuff as the universe; if you take the jump you will be lost. You will come to know, but you will know only when you are not.”

Osho, 2012. Fear: Understanding and Accepting the Insecurities of Life. New York: St. Martins Griffin. pp 89-90

I have never struggled to love winter.

birch horizontalAs an introvert, winter has always been my excuse to reach for solitude and quiet. I remember one year in high school, there was a big snowstorm at Spring Break. Everyone else was pissed because they couldn’t go outside in shorts, but I was happy to spend time indoors cuddling with my boyfriend and tinkering with the newly-minted Internet.

Spring was my least favorite. Maybe a holdover from my junior-high insecurities about showing my body again, suddenly and provocatively, to the boys. Maybe it was the sudden cold-snaps and desolate colors of March. I remember in college, pondering my dislike for spring. It was Good Friday and I was walking home from class, watching earthworms squirm on the sidewalk next to brownish-yellow grass. It was raining. I decided I definitely preferred the bold colors of fall, and the stark beauty of winter, to this drab, uncertain time.

Over time, I may find that I can learn to appreciate spring, or I may not. Spring holds that ecstatic thrill of the possibility of the coming months, the lusciousness of life.

But for now, winter is welcome, a chance to delve into the inner worlds, a chance to be a seeker of the smallest light. I appreciate nature’s beauty more each day through my camera’s lens. Noticing small things, like the color of birch bark against a blue sky, the black of wet tree branches and the white of snow, my soul is fed. It’s amazing how much beauty there still is, even now.