What comes in?

We have all seen the doorway that has served as a place to record the growth of a child though out the years. There is something poignant and universal when we view the ledger of a person thriving. Some years the gaps between marks is very small and then… The spurts are times when the child changes height, configuration and more subtle are the rapid changes in abilities and skills.
The vision I have held in my mind for these last 28 months since my old life fell away, or exploded, or imploded or was surgically removed is a vision of a caterpillar being encapsulated. Within the shell, a dissolving was going on.

The person who was became a formless mush. The sense of purpose was gone, the passion for life, the focus on the future fell away. The form of formlessness was where I floated. One day I had a vision of a self with no centre.

The centre I had held for the last 16 years was held by my concern and love for my husband, my job, and then my art. All of these fell away. So I sat meditation each day holding my grief like my baby and had the vision of a big mush of an entity with no centre.

At times I was almost werewolf frustrated and just needed the bright moon to call out to. At others I was in deep acceptance that what was happening was a process and that one day I would reform, I would feel a calling. What I didn’t know was what I would be after I passed through the process.

In April, it began. I volunteered to care for babies and toddlers at the Women’s Place. Sitting with a warm baby on my lap, having two three year old girls climbing me and touching my bracelets, earrings, necklace and saying , “pretty,” was healing. These open, vibrant souls are so present that each time I finished the session of day care I felt like I had left an acupuncture treatment… for the heart. They offer love like there is no tomorrow.

I joined choir because the director Barbara Samuels said to me, “Lean into it baby. Lean into it.” When I walked into the room I saw radiant, amazing women wearing (hold on to your door handle Kelowna residents) color. Real for sure color. Not urban camoflage that is meant to blend everyone into the same beige-gray. Purples and Golds and Coral and Greens were pure and bold. I was delighted. And each choir practice I was puzzled, challenged, stretched and could feel myself grow.

The writing in the dark experience of forcing myself to spend hours every day working on my voice became a doorway. Accepted into the Naropa Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetry Summer School program spurred me on to go the full out choice. I had given up my M.F.A. in Bellingham in order to protect my then husband from the draft. The dream of completing it had stayed with me. So now I am in the process of winding my way through the labyrinth of entry into Naropa’s M.F.A. program in Boulder.
I have never been to Boulder. I know nothing about the program but it feels right.

The shamanic practices that I have undertaken have helped to heal much of the anxiety and fear based reactions I have carried in my life. Tomorrow I will visit with two African Shamans to deepen my practice.

So as I stand assessing my life, looking at the doorway at the markers I see that April was a growth spurt. All of the work, the intention to live consciously and authentically is starting to manifest a new life for me. I feel taller, stronger, more substantial.

And what I now understand is that the “hole” in the centre of my being is a blessing. It is where all of my strength comes from. It is the garden at the centre of my physical being. It is quiet, empty and filled with silence. I do not need to try to jam another man into that empty place. I do not need to try to move emotional furniture in and make it a crowded room. It is where the divine lives.

The relationship with my body is more loving. I have worked out most days and built muscle, strength and substance. My heart is what I call “more fluffy” because of the children, the choir, the singing, the shamanic practices.

There are times when the patterns of the last 18 years are a source of loss memory. There are times of discouragement and desire for a strong calling.

There are nights when I am deeply sad.

However, I have friends around me who are on a spiritual path and they whisper sweet everythings in my ear. Their presence helps me to walk to the doorway and look at how I have grown. I am about to take what feel like big risks in the world. But I see myself as a fully formed butterfly and I trust my wings and the wind.

I am about to fly.

11 11 11 Releasing the past

My show at The Streaming Cafe looks wonderful. Saturday night was a fantastic event. Eighteen artists hung their work in the Jeffrey Wong Show which was created in a house that will be demolished soon. The conversations I engaged in were not trivial. Intelligent people gathered in a space to discuss their practice of creativity and the opportunities which can be structured in the future. We shared ideas.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AoL5bakAfO4
When I got home, I chatted with a Chilean engineer who teaches at one the largest universities in South America. Falling to sleep that night, I thought about the new contacts I had made, the new ideas that were coming to mind, the new possibilities.

at the Jeffrey Wong Show

Just the day before I had a green fire which consists of a bed of epsom salts with alcohol poured onto it. Writing the difficulties, the anxieties, the old patterns, the last fragments of my past relationship on slips of paper was the next step. Lighting the paper, I repeated to myself that which I wished to release to the universe so that I can move forward full of peace and love.
I burned the last pictures that I had held on to from my past life and released the necessity to have those memories in my present life.

mask of self

Tammie O’Reilly arranged for a group of people to see the movie Thrive. The take away line which I really enjoyed was that when a tape worm inhabits your body, it releases a chemical which causes the host to eat the foods that help the tape worm to grow. So when we have an urge to “feed the worm” by over-eating, distracting ourselves with entertainment, using alcohol, using drugs, starting with porn and moving on to sex addiction, consumer addiction, and work addiction, we are insuring that the worm grows.

The work I have been doing through meditation practice and living in silence is to focus on self. When I went to a social gathering lately, I was amazed at my ego. I was assessing others, judging them. I felt impatient when people around me hadn’t even heard of the Occupy Movement. I was cold and distant with the older man who sat next to me when there were empty chairs he could have chosen from. So I saw that my inferiority complex, my damaged self-esteem was causing me to play the inferior/superior game. My fear of men who seem to be making advances kicked in resulting in my being down right rude.

As I drove home, I was fully aware of how I could have been in the situation had I not been in ego. I would have accepted all those around for whom he or she was. I would have made more effort to ask questions, to focus on the surrounding individual’s lives and interests.
On one level, I behaved well. A little girl sitting across from me looked bored and a bit overwhelmed. I was able to engage her in conversation and give her affection. In addition, the secondary judging of myself was released. I saw what it was that I had done, released it and talked myself through the situation examining better, alternative behavior for the next time.

Gabor Mate talks about facing everything that happens to you in life with curiosity. Instead of naming things, attaching or fearing, one simply asks the question, “What was that?”
After reading The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin I put a chart on my refrigerator. So far my chart is motivating me. I have been doing over 100 crunches a day, 15 repetitions of four different series using ten pounds hand weights. After a little over a week, I am getting to the point where I am actually enjoying the process. I look forward to being firm and more muscled.

Continuing my pledge to myself to pay down my debt, I took all of my saving out of the bank and put it onto the line of credit I had to take out to pay off my ex-husband. Despite the slight feeling of fear that arose, I did it anyway. Gretchen says, “Act as if.” I still haven’t found a renter or a part time job. That will be the next part of the plan that I concentrate on in order to pull that debt down.

It has been over a week since I worked on my “blog into book” project. So far I have copied all of the text from 2008 to the present with all of its errors. For four hours tonight I worked on cleaning up the text from April and May 2008. The dyslexia is so evident. None of the images transferred but I intend to copy some over to brighten up the book.

Pheonix arising from flames

It feels so good to be having my life opening up. Meeting new people, keeping my resolutions and measuring my small steps toward a larger life is very energizing. My focus is on staying in the present while creating a better future. I continue to read, listen to CD’s and seek wisdom. To move out into the world in compassion yet unafraid of being authentic, stay in curiosity. “I wonder what the hell that was about?”

How Do We Know We Are Seeing Clearly?

What a day. Last night I started having a light flicker at the left periphery of my eye. Great, I thought to myself. Over a year ago the same thing happened in my right eye when my retina tore away from the rest of my eye. It took 53 laser shots to melt the retina to “glue” the edges of the rip.
I am trying to keep my spirits up, my house tidy around me and the long vision. Another month will find me walking, driving, teaching, making art. Patience. I tell myself. Patience.

The possibility of blindness in my left eye kept looming last night. But when I saw the doctor today, I felt better. The doctor feels if I just don’t bounce too much, it is likely to be fine. Okay. So now how do I get from room to room on crutches without bouncing? Interesting.

The only thing to do with so many restrictions was to sit down today with a sweet, thick drink and eat almost half a package of cookies. Since I don’t drink alcohol, or do drugs, I had a cookie binge. I am laying on the couch with my foot elevated and an ice bag on it. The recent full-face plant involved my foot smacking the floor. So I am in retreat, reclining with a lacy cover of cookie crumbs all down my front. It is my version of heroine chic.

blue sky, brighter day

I have BEING OUR COMPANION by Michael Brown printed out to use as a work book. Gabor Mate suggested that I would benefit from doing the exercises.

Hey. At least I can get some kind of exercise, right? I visualize an honest, healthy man coming into my life in the future. I picture myself standing in front of a group of people achieving financial strength by doing that which I love, teaching. I envision living in a major centre enjoying the cosmopolitan vitality of the Urban centre. I am surrounded by loving friends, the company of my children, being secure in the relationship with my man and exploring the adventure of being alive.
Through out this “down” time, I hold on to my heart’s desire. And my foot is feeling better after the smacking as the ice pack numbs my toes. What if I could be fully awake with no need for numbness anywhere? Wouldn’t that be a serene way to enjoy life.

interior patterns


How many times in our lives do we say we wish we could start over? Well this last retreat week with Gabor Mate, a renown specialist in addictions and self destructive behavior, has given me exactly that opportunity.
But first let there be a warning, that we might get what we ask for.

After an intensive five days of examining the interior landscape of my life from childhood on, I feel exactly like what one participant described as, ” a new born colt”. The sensation is of just laying on the ground with the placenta kind of half on half torn off.

I am not ready yet to stand, walk let alone run. I have a knowledge that I will be stronger because of the process. I anticipate that I will go farther in my life with a real sense of being present and not dream-living as I call it. But for now I am shaky, weak, hesitant and only sure that I need to protect myself as I integrate that which I have seen of my own narration of lies.
First of all, I had the opportunity to connect deeply with the terror and abject desperation of a childhood that included abuse on all levels that can be named. To re-enter the state of helplessness with the memory of no one to protect me, no one to call out to was horrifying.

However, I had many around me who were what one participant called “psychonauts.” We were there for one another. We were there to witness and silently hold a space for the suffering of what others had gone through. There was no running in with sympathy which I learned is really about shutting the person down who is connecting with his or her pain. There was no hurry up and stop making me witness your distress.

Gabor lead us through a process of connecting deeply with our feelings, speaking our truth and allowing the other individuals around us to receive our truth. To say what you know of your life and to look at the silent flow of tears from the faces of those around you, is the only way to really understand that your grief is not distorted. It helps you to own that which happened to you fully.
Gabor is an irascible genius. His sure handed- way of leading you through the forest and camoflage of the story you have told yourself is a miracle to behold. Dozens of times, he repeated to us: “That is not a feeling”. My favorite moments were when we heard a horrifying story told in a flat, toneless voice with no indication at all about what the story teller was feeling: “The hell you say,” Gabor would exclaim. It brought laughter every time because we ALL totally identified with the speaker’s mind set. How else do you choose to love when you are at the mercy of this adult. You trade off your own right to feel so that you can attach. It is natural. It is normal. And it will destroy the child’s ability to lead a healthy life.
So how did those of us who were abused as babies, abandoned emotionally as children, raised in an atmosphere of lying and tension cope? We made it into a story. The purpose of the narrative was to allow us to attach to our parents so that we could survive. But now we are on our knees with anger and grief. Our lives don’t work. Some were dying; some had tried to kill him or herself. Some used anaesthetic which the society so helpfully encourages to dull the pain.

Now was the time. Some of us could not take living in the lie that what we were experiencing was  a “normal” life any longer.
Never in my life have I witnessed so much courage. We sat hours each day feeling our way through the interior blackness and confusion to find our own truth. And all around us waited with loving hearts. No matter how outrageous and unbelievable the narrative was which unfolded, we sat still with it and received it.
What I learned from this process is how strong I am. The choice I made to continue to live and be in the world was heroic. The choice of many of those babies who were drugged, given away to unloving caretakers, left to cry alone in a dark room to keep going was heroic.
Today I am beginning to recover more strength and I am beginning to go out into the world again. But I will never be the robotic, senseless intellectual that I once was.
The curtain has been lifted. And my story has been validated. The shame that I carried for not being loved was huge. Twenty-four people formed a week of truth and now can live in the world with presence and a commitment to feel their own emotions so that they don’t project them on to others. Those who willingly opened to this process  are less likely to hurt those around us, to transfer our pain outwardly. It is a new way of being in life. The path is difficult. It takes focus and concentration. The result is that we can finally be genuine, present and loving beings. Because it is a choice that we made at Crazy Camp.
Gabor has taught us how to connect, deeply with what we are feeling in the moment. We are less likely to strike out, to feel superior because we really feel inferior or to hurt ourselves out of inwardly directed anger. We are not done on this journey but we have been taught skills.
I see myself as a colt struggling to get on my feet. But by God I will be running free with such strength as I have never had before in my life. My loving, courageous friends showed me how to be real. They sat with me, received me in their hearts and I know now, I am not alone.

Totem Child
Father flat beneath a slab in California
I am told.
Only rumors, his name never spoken,
I wear him in my body.
Never say it, nameless Shaman.
Bruised decoratively
hidden in my crib, my bed,
from eyes, from school,
waiting for the fading.
And bone deep
I wear his jewelry:
a neck ring restricts my turning vision
the vertebrate tattoed with cracks.
The fury of his hands pulled my sections
separating self-from-self
I left myself for him.
The fury of his hands
strangled me from my initial form,
jerking my body backwards
incapable of doing any more than going limp
watching my own trailing helpless legs
and arms
along the childhood hallways.
As if an afterthought, my collar bone
out of line, unattended under four year clothing
a healed shard, sticks up defiantly.
My reformed nose asymmetric, sculptured to his fist
remade me in the image
of his own abuse:
His father’s touch along his young boy’s body.
I was totem-carved
to his rage.
The family demon spirit renewed
itself in me.
I am the vessel of his wrath
rigid in an unsafe crib,
a baby listening for my maker’s steps,
coming to reshape me to his uses
his passing presence marked in x-rays
as puzzled doctors hold me up
to light.

piece for sale at Sopa Under 8 April 7th gala opening