on being with what is

i often write when i am learning about something. for some time i have been learning to get present, and be with what is in the current moment. it is much much harder than i thought it would be. it has meant noticing the ways i numb, regress, resist, ignore and deny the present moment, and asking myself why.

this being with what IS, enhanced by meditation and somatics and tarot and my woes and my family and most recently my time away from the u.s. and facebook, is such a powerful learning. i am closer and closer to living in the present moment – i am closing the gap between anticipating/observing my life and actually living it.

i wanted to share with y’all some of my practice ground of late, which has included, but not been limited to, the following:

– sometimes it rains for a week in mexico. the week i was planning to beach and scuba dive was rainy and cold. but i found that there was no feeling of anger or ‘why me, why now’ that would change the weather. so i bought tea and read books and watched ants and listened to the rain pounding on the little skylight and did rituals and booked cheap massages. and i think it ended up being much more restful than my plans would have been.

– David Bowie died, and he was only 69, which seems so very young. he influenced me more than i can pinpoint, his existence was one invitation into the creative weird life that i am carving out for myself, loving earth and space and flesh and magic and colors and travel and art and music. but he is dead. and Grace is dead. and both of them gave me a gift: turning and facing death. listening to the album Bowie released on his birthday, days before his death, is almost a trans-life/death experience. he took the truth that he was going to die and created from it something ethereal, stunning.

Grace, similarly, faced her death and said yes, let me go/come, i am ready.

i have been so scared of death, and so angry with it for showing up all the time. i have seen so much unexpected death, where i didn’t have a sense that my lost ones were ready for the change that came. this intimate/stranger modeling is such a lesson.

i also read a book by carlos casteneda that i will review in my next post – the central figure of the book is an elder named don juan who teaches carlos that death is always with us, to the left, at arm’s reach. to accept and live with that is a fundamental part of a liberation process.

when i finished the first draft of the emergent strategy book earlier this month, i journaled that i felt a new kind of satisfaction. not a desire to die, i adore life. adore it.

but i also felt this sense of having done something that made my existence worthwhile, completed some cycle of expression that i have been playing at for years. there’s editing, but the raw yawp is out.

maybe the world needs this book as much as i do, maybe it doesn’t. but i came here to do a few things…as far as i can tell so far, that includes being good at love, seeding octavia’s brood, and this emergent strategy book. i feel satisfied.

– i landed from mexico into minnesota on the coldest night of the year. as the cold touched me all over my sunkissed skin i kept saying to myself, you really love, you really love, you really love – it was my youngest nibbling Mairead’s 3rd birthday, and i haven’t been with her on that day since her birth, where i got to be her doula. the babies were all super snuggly with me and i really needed that. Mairead and i spent most of her birthday curled up on the couch, watching dora the explorer (such a deeply repetitive show – one madlib style script really….) and the little mermaid. it was so perfect.

i only got two days there, which nibbling Siobhan let me know was not really adequate to her (because she wanted to read me more books – she is basically teaching herself to read because she is brilliant), and i agreed.

but the thing i want to bring up for practice here is that my oldest nibbling, Finn, asked me on my last night there (before a seven am departure) if he could sleep in bed with my mom and i.

as usual when we visit, we’re sharing a futon that is tight for the two of us. but i can’t say no to Finn! so i say: if you wake up early in the morning, you can come down.

to which he says, ‘is that in thirty minutes?’, which should have been a clue about his intentions.

i said no, like, five hours?

he’s like bet.

so around two am he is standing by the bed tapping my shoulder. i scoot over and make room, and then move him between us. and i would say my mom and i didn’t really sleep after that, just adjusted ourselves in various uncomfortable positions with Finn in the middle.

Finn is. and i am not his parent, this won’t happen a ton in our short lives. so, i watched him sleep, i wrapped him up in the covers, i contorted around his long limbs. and then i lay there in the dark, feeling so much love for him, and for my family, and for these kids who know how to be so openly loving.

– i am getting to a next level of my grief for Grace, for which i am grateful. i feel her in me, in us. i landed in Detroit and within two hours was in and facilitating a meeting, then went to another meeting, a circle of local healers who are going to be offering our work to a fellowship of low-income students this semester. and i feel her all in us. part of ‘what is’ is that she is with us all now, in us, lesson/essence. and when i look up from looking back to find her in my memories, she’s right here.

– i gave to a white homeless person for the first time ever. i always resist it on some principle i haven’t even articulated to myself: no, you’re white. i am not a fan of this form of charity anyway. and this is black Detroit, and you are gentrifying even the begging corners? no.

but…last night my thoughts shifted. who am i to limit my compassion according to some system i didn’t create, that is so much more complex than black/white? or hold this moral or political high ground, when i can see this human being’s face, and he can see mine?

what is? right now?

it’s so cold outside. cold enough that no one would be outside if they had an inside.
and i have a car full of food and a life full of met needs and abundance.
and his skin privilege has not kept him from this corner.
and maybe he doesn’t agree with charity either. who knows.

he said he was grateful, and he blessed me, and i said the same.

– i over-scheduled my return. i knew it as i was doing it, but i wanted as much writing/retreat time as possible, and then i wanted to be fully present with family. a lot of people were waiting for me to return and do things.

so. i landed, dropped my suitcase and went straight to work. as i write this, i have not unpacked. that’s major for me.

but the whole time i kept/keep thinking, this is so good! this is my good full strange life. i planned this, i got all the time i needed, i got to be so present, and now here i am. and retreat or no retreat, i am aware that i am a relatively slow person in a fast world, and i am still making it happen.

as a result of all this Being with what Is, this week – which has also held the beginning of my year of no added sugar, and my moon, and mercury in retrograde – i am often moved to tears by the love, the rightness, of my life. not the rightness of the universe, not yet. but the rightness of surrendering to and growing the good in my life, inside of what actually is, right here, right now.

rain soaked notes

I’ve been looking for a name for what I am doing in Mexico this time. Practice Intensive feels most accurate. Creation Retreat?

In 2012 I took a six month sabbatical, two weeks of which I spent in Mexico. It was the fourth stop on the journey, but that was the two weeks where I actually slowed down, disconnected with the external world and began reconnecting with myself. I made a commitment to build some time into each year for…that. This.

It’s not a sabbatical in the way the first trip was, not even a mini version of that. I needed to Do Nothing for a while back then, and I felt burnt out and lost. I needed massive transformation.

These trips, these days, I’ve needed rest, but I’m also on my path and that feeling is it’s own source of center and sustenance.

And I still need to recalibrate how I’m spending my time every so often. What happens here is that I set my patterns and intentions for the year. Whatever comes, here’s how I want to be.

It’s a vacation destination, but doesn’t feel like a vacation, because there’s a lot I’m doing. This time, my goal was to finish a first draft of a book on emergent strategy, which I did last Friday. Which feels like…

!
!!
!!!

And so on.

And now I’m going through the rampant self-doubt work related to putting something you love with your whole being into a tangible form. Just more awareness work. And notes for the next draft.

But in addition to the writing, which has included the book and a bunch of short stories, I’ve been doing a lot of other practices. Practices I need in my daily life, which can slip away in the chaos of even the good times, much less the grieving times.

My practices here have included guided and silent meditation, yoga, Spanish lessons, daily tarot reading, journaling, creating art, reducing social media viewing, reflecting on the year I just lived and the year that’s coming, rituals, reading physical books, and a 300-word daily speculative fiction writing challenge with my Clarion woes.

It’s also included preparing for a year of no added sugars, which will begin when I return to the US in a few days.

That prep has taken a lot of forms – logistical and ritual, yes, but mostly emotional. I’ve been moving in this direction for a while, with community and family. It’s so clear to me that my sugar addiction is the next frontier, the next set of gates (yes, I’m referencing The NeverEnding Story, because that’s how I feel going through changes). I’m mostly really excited – I know it feels better. I know I can do it. I know my body wants it.

I’ve been setting up plans and support structures for handling big emotions, which are, no surprise, the consistent trigger for sugar binging. I’ve also been ritually having sweet things I won’t have for a long time, with gratitude – the fun part of the prep.

The other practices – mindfulness, quiet, returning to my body and to the present moment – all support and connect to the shift in my sugar life. And vice versa – knowing that the fuel in my body isn’t there to hook me in, but rather to nourish me, from the earth…that lines up with the kind of presence and gratitude and balance I want throughout my life.

Being public about the sugar journey is itself a practice. Like most addictions, it thrives on silence, ignorance, deception and omission.

This trip, I have noticed how the connected world is encroaching everywhere on the world of quiet, meditation, escape. This year the WiFi is stronger, more of the neighbors have televisions, news and crisis pops up daily – perhaps this is no longer far enough away.

Or perhaps this is advanced practice, like daily life. Where is my choice in all of this, how do I continue to train my attention?

I have wrestled with boundaries, feeling frustrated that people keep asking me for work things while I am on break. And yet I know it’s no one’s else’s fault. If I let myself be too accessible, I don’t get the time I know I need. Reading Carlos Castaneda is helping with this.

And turning off WiFi.

I will add that since I completed the book draft, it has been cloudy and raining. Not light drizzles either, torrential downpours that flood the neighborhood. Instead of the beach time and swimming and scuba diving that I expected to do to celebrate in this post-book week, I have done other things – reading, listening to music, all of my practices.

I realized that I can get a Mayan massage and limpias for $25, so I’m redistributing my defunct scuba budget to get rubbed on lots and lots.

I’ve had more time for deep listening, for observation.

I noticed that Bruce Springsteen is always singing to someone he calls ‘little girl’. That David Bowie does sound like an alien to me, in the best way. That when I want the music closest to my heart, I always turn back to Ella, Billie, Etta, Dorothy, Dinah, Sarah – the classic black female vocalists of the jazz era.

I’ve noticed that I can let things pass without needing to engage or correct. For example, a bunch of white people with dreadlocks were in the town and all looked at me with a lot of…hmm what was that look? Longing? Invitation? I biked away. Then the other day I sat down for a nice restaurant dinner and after about two minutes a very belligerent drunken couple sat down at the next table with a little boombox playing something that sounded like country metal. I considered my options, decided to put on my headphones and drown them out with the ethereal sounds of Gallant. I have my own work to do.

I watched a community of ants move a piece of prosciutto, and felt really blown away by how they did it. I am barely resisting the urge to intentionally leave them food just to watch them manage it all.

I have grieved for all the people who have passed while I was away, especially sweet and brilliant Bowie, who has been a beacon on my weird futurist fluid fashionista path. Even how he passed, creating a releasing incredible music til the end. Yes.

I downloaded Labyrinth the other night, having forgotten how scary it actually is. It’s scary.

I considered writing a comparative piece about Bowie’s Lazarus and Drake’s Legend. We’ll see.

I’m having my most successful experience with learning a language other than English (every other experience has ended in official failure), which is exciting. The difference between my Duolingo competence and real life conversation is hilarious though. Real life is so much faster.

I have a few more days of this intensive period, and then another big year takes off. Last year was so complex, it took a lot to survive and navigate it. Here I am, stronger, clearer. And I feel excited. And I feel ready. And I know that comes with practice.