rituals of release

these days i have noticed how often ritual is really about directing my attention, towards and away from emotions, energies, lives, futures. tonight i need rituals.

this week i am in a place i love, which i must let go of without much agency. where is the ritual for grieving other people’s homes and lands that have also held your heart? where do you whisper into the dirt: “i fell in love with you, with this curve, this ridge, this stand of birch – you changed my life…”?

tonight is my last night here, probably forever. the moon still feels full, waiting for me to release, so i write.

i am laying in the room where my youngest nibbling was born, and i remember how the light poured in that day like the sun itself wanted to see her first. still when i first glimpse her bright gold hair i remember that light, her swimming to her mother and everyone gasping, crying with miracle.

i remember that winter, waking up every three hours to go down into the cold basement in layers and layers of clothing to tend to the furnace fire. that meditation, finding the spark in the ashes and blowing, feeding, waiting…the satisfaction of the fire roaring, knowing the baby, the mother will be warm.

and in the dark outside the window, just a short walk into the wood, lay buried the bones of the infant phenomenon, the little one whose spirit often visits me here, usually in the kitchen, dashing behind me, caught out of the corner of my eye. i hope the next family has kids for them to follow.

in the morning i will wake up to the small pond, one of millions, with its particular cycle of geese, winter ice, summer muck. this pond taught me the sacred gift of catching sunrise, it is so simple, and one of my favorite views in the world. it’s summer now but i think my favorite is fall, this same swath of trees bright red with change.

the hill between the house and the pond is worn bare by sledding, and i remember dragging sleds weighted with children back up that incline.

i will miss these gardens which i didn’t work but watched burst each year with abundance. i miss watching my eldest nibbling bend close to eat broccoli like a wild deer.

how many times did we rescue ourselves from the doldrums of a long day by going for a walk up the driveway, then the dirt road, left, throw rocks in the first pond, left, climb into the creek bed, race to the rock pile, leap over the tiny stream between the next two ponds, grunt up that first hill, run the ridge past the white trees until breathless, reach the fire pit, the yard strewn with soccer balls and obstacle courses and frisbees, populated with frogs that wanted to say hello. how many times?

how many times have i made the double batch of pancakes? in this kitchen i can do it without a recipe. in this home i have been a different me, barefoot, in an apron, satisfied with the work of love and care. covered in paint, flour, dirt, whatever the children had touched before they needed to hold me, hug me, be carried wrapped around my leg, or tucked in a wrap against the back of my heart.

i remember dancing, joy, laughter, building forts and bonfires, mayday poles, a briefly functional kiln. rocking my nibblings to sleep in the dark and then trying to not wake them when everything in this house groans and sings. my nibblings’ feet hitting the floor in their bedroom half a house away, racing to climb into bed with me, my middle nibbling all elbows and knees, the oldest telling me dreams, the baby complaining about the existence of morning.

here i crafted books about my nibblings, for them, like mandalas: take my heart, destroy it.

i want the babies to remember their naked wild years here, skin to soil to sun, safe enough to climb the apple tree and venture out onto the ice, country enough to beef with the neighbor over dog etiquette.

i wonder if they will recall their bedroom full of books, their bedding piled on the floor, rejecting comfort. the safe spaces they generated for themselves and each other.

here i learned about relinquishing control, flying alongside of parents, being kind while sleep deprived, the layered summer dance of dragonflies, the soundtrack of crickets, grasshoppers.

i know why we must go. even flooded in nostalgia, feeling the perfection of this patched together house that has held my family, i know our chapter here is done. i am trusting the universe that this release will honor a plethora of destinies. grief here is truly gratitude.

i grew up moving every two years. as an adult i am wary of any effort to bind me to a place, and yet i am so grateful for the parts of my life, my family’s life, that could only have unfolded on this land.

tomorrow i will gather dirt, offer water, burn words and pray for abundant release. nothing is permanent except the cycle of change, and this place is one of my favorite teachers of how life is unbearably beautiful and ever shifting.

goodnight, sweet home.

i move therefore i am

i just completed moving out of the detroit apartment i have lived in for five years. i moved into the apartment directly above it, with my sweetheart. i learned some things during this move.

1. five years is actually a major chunk of a life. one seventh of my life thus far. so much happened in that home. when i started to let the memories come, tears flooded my face and i had to stop and catch my breath. the heart is so much more resilient than the mind. my mind cannot handle my life at all, but my heart cannot forget even the smallest instance. i remember the first time my niece siobhan visited – holding her in the dark in the living room because she wouldn’t sleep and my sister needed rest in the desperate way only new mothers know. i remember lunch meetings with charity. i remember each of the sci-fi writing salons. i remember love, heartbreak, healing, love, growth, healing, love. yoga. and learning who i was, in conversations, in that place between midnight and dawn, in that space. writing stories that i thought were brilliant and stories that i knew were horrid. needing a sabbatical, taking it, coming home, leaving, coming home, leaving, coming home – i have been the heartbeat in that little wood and brick flesh. it took the better part of a year for me to be ready to let it go.

2. i am a virgo. not that i have doubted it. but it is amazing to feel the righteousness of organization in my heart – the thrill of an empty closet or cabinet, the titillation of seeing a perfect layout behind my eyes. yes, there are other ways to do things. but it is amazing to feel the ‘right’ way like a bell ringing inside! i want to send a special love shout out to my partner because…i cannot imagine trying to land in a new space next to such wild perfection.

3. i have a thing for: matches, stationary and any other kind of paper including post-it notes, sage, sci-fi books, most other books, small decorative elephants, sentimental vhs tapes/dvds/cds, images of beyonce, unread books related to buddhism, candles that seem to have lost their wicks, emotive collages, magazines that hold the potential of collage, shoes and jewelry that i never wear but absolutely display as art, postcards, things my family members gave me, frozen homemade soups, turquoise nail polish, ginger dusting powder from lush (seriously does anyone want some of this? i took it too seriously when they discontinued this stuff, forgetting that i too would change), chopsticks, mugs, and anything that could be considered an altar item.

4. i am overwhelmed. my birthday is coming up (and all i want is to know people read this stuff sometimes, so become a member at any level if this crosses your line of sight) and there has been so much change this year – death and new life and love and health and all the biggest things. i have been pretty sure i was overwhelmed for a little while now, but the move really brought to light how deeply i can only do one thing at a time right now. i apologize to everyone who i was supposed to communicate with or do something for during this time. working to meditate, be in my body, and write daily. working to travel less, cook more, sleep deeper, breathe deeper, slow down. this home will help with each of those pieces of work.

5. it is good to shed. our whole lives become skins we wear. if we don’t grow, life can become this mess we are trying to fit into. i have outgrown the self i was in my old home. i will outgrow the self i am now with any luck.

6. i have abundance, i have a bathtub!!!, i am grateful, and that is all i actually need.

home, love, vulnerability, life

I wake for words and feelings.
I release them like rescued animals into the wild.
The moon lights up many paths.
I turn back into the warm house of my dreams,
grateful for rituals
and visitations.

i recently heard a date (ish) by when i have to move out of my beautiful detroit apartment. for good reasons, reasons i understand. but it hurts! i love this particular set of rooms, combination of wood, the way the light pours into this wide open space, and how full it is of memories. dance, love, healing and ritual. the first time i saw it was a soulmate moment, i knew it was my home. this space has been my companion through these last five years of my transformation and learning.

i heard the date yesterday and thought, ok! then i woke up last night full of grief. i walked through my house in the sharp moonlight, and just felt feelings, which this house has earned from me, has offered me.

i will land in the right next place, there are many many options available. but first i have to kiss all the corners and gather up myself in here.

hide nothing, withhold nothing. the love you seek wants and needs all of you.

this year i am working with a commitment around authentic, wholistic intimacy. in my somatic study, we pick commitments which feel aspirational, which feel like what we want to embody with our whole lives.

i have a facilitative, coach-like manner. while i appreciate the ways i show up, it can be hard for me to drop out of that bird’s eye/root system view and land in the current moment, in my own feelings.

i’ve contained or controlled a lot of my feelings in the course of my work, tucking them away or transforming them into the energy a group needs. but it can be isolating, to always be holding and never be held. love is a wondrous practice ground for this stepping into the fray, the feelings.

love isn’t something to facilitate, manage, direct. i can’t leave any of myself at the door of love and expect the experiment of it to work. it is magnificent to confess and keep confessing – not for punishment, not to determine right and wrong, but simply because i need to tell my whole truth to survive, to learn who i am in this world at this time, to be part of humans growing.

i also feel this is the major lesson from the elders who are becoming ancestors in droves right now. i feel the changing of the guard. and i notice that i feel most moved by those elder-ancestors who lived with the least compromise. it thrills me to be reminded of maya angelou’s sex work, ruby dee’s experimentation and learning around open marriage.

the more whole our elders and ancestors are, the more whole we have permission to be.

vulnerability is the least obvious path to the life i want, and the most liberating. it transforms the unknown from terror to possibility, evolves my actions from control to complexity.

since sister warrior charity hicks went into the hospital i have been reflecting on her strengths, her magic, the kind of space she occupies. one thing i keep coming back to is the immense vulnerability she regularly shows, publicly. she speaks of ‘getting naked’, of feeling the pain of being in detroit with water shut offs, evictions, winter, gentrification, emergency management and all of it – to be inside of that whirlwind and not grow numb, to keep being a vulnerable human being as an act of strength.

i have been pulling that into my personal life with my beloved, with my friends. vulnerability feels like an understanding of change: i am vulnerable to the changes of life, i know i am not all powerful, i know i can be and am impacted, i can be and am fragile.

but the liberation too – i cannot control the happenings of this multi-layered world, but i can be complex, have history and future and just show up somewhere between the two. i can feel within and through the layers. i can grieve and release. i can and must live.

and another friend reminded me today, i can just BE and not have to DO anything – which is vulnerable. when i am doing, it gives me the false sense of having some control, even if it is only of my dishes and dust. but even in that doing, that myth of my important task, my urgent deadline, my well-laid basically perfect plans – everything could change.

waiting for the bus, everything can change.

i accept my vulnerability.
i accept that there is more unknown than known in my life.
utmost amongst the unknown things is how long i have to BE.

and in fact that is my respite from terror! yes to try and understand it all is terrorizing, we live in a moment of terror for humans and for our home. and yet we can cultivate the good, with our attention, by letting it flow through us and swell between us. without trying to control or change each other, we can be vulnerable to each other. and learn.

then it becomes another radical front – to feel your life, to be honest with your feelings, to offer to each other the truth of where we hurt and what we long for and what brings us joy.

and then the possibilities burst open. i realize at any moment it is possible to just be in the present, which can be beyond good or bad, which can be that tender fleeting extraordinarily precious thing: life.

way of the healthy nomad

i mean nomad here in the sense of one who travels for food, or to make a living, and one who is home in the journey. i am noticing the things which help me stay healthy and grounded while spending the majority of my life traveling.

leave no trace behind – beyond joy.

…unless i find a place i want to return to. mark it with a pair of sweatpants or a beloved book.

then, let go of attachment to materials and plans. i am this journey.

remember the sacred space is inside – it is my body, and it is worn on my face.

that said, a little bag of items that feel grounding can’t hurt. currently mine holds a bunch of gifts including a tiny ganesha statue for removing obstacles, zen tarot cards, a stick of palo santo to clear bad energy when i am in a new space, and a print up of my favorite sutra, which i am making into a song to remember. i add my mala when they come off my wrists each night, like they are getting recharged.

the most important resource i carry is water. keep water carrier full and flowing. immerse myself in water wherever i find it, remember its all of one place, one system.

pack based on weather, such that i can layer up and down and still look fly. know exactly where along the journey i will clean my clothing. fabulous minimalism = happy style. very few people look cute with too much baggage.

the right piece of cloth can be blanket, scarf, coat, hair wrap, baby carrier and decoration. it should be beautiful.

learn practices to center and strengthen myself. practices to do anytime, anywhere. meditation, prayer, yoga, aikido, etc have all persisted for a reason.

gather up instances of kindness, always notice when a human is being with me.

cultivate compassion, there are so many mysteries.

eat what i am given enthusiastically, with gratitude. carry fruit to avoid desperation.

articulate what i need shamelessly, with self-love.

a walk tunes me into the pace of the place where i have landed.

delays are opportunities to create and reflect. or write. or meditate. or discover new music. or catch up with my loves angelina and beyonce. or chat with my many collaborators in the life. or call my mama.

and if in all of this i feel homesick, if i feel lost, if i am exhausted, ear plugs and a good book can still transport me wherever and whenever i need to go.

—-

p.s. my homey leah wrote a piece on travel tips for folks who are chronically ill – check it here!

Home is Here (repost of Autumn Brown)

(i wanted to share this gorgeous post with you all. as most of you know i spend a week of each month with my sister and her growing family in rural minnesota. here, autumn brown offers a glimpse into the living, rooting, healing and learning happening there.)

Hello good people!

And welcome spring! Maybe you noticed: it’s been awhile since I’ve sent a newsletter. For those of you who follow my writing, I apologize for the long delay. The last seven months I have been in a sort of hibernation, learning the ropes and loving the challenge of my still-quite-new job leading a young non-profit; stoking the fire in the wood burning furnace that heated my new home in the woods all winter long; and growing a new child (Mairead Irene was born on January 19th, at home in a tub, assisted by my sister, my midwife, my husband, and my mother). I was inwardly focused on growth and expansion, and I gave myself the space to fall inward, without commentary.

And as the winter wore on, I felt that my emotional well being was quite literally tested by the weather. Several snows came during the month of April; and yes, that is strange even for Minnesota. I began to have an actual, quite irrational fear that spring would never come.

And then it arrived. Yesterday I walked barefoot between long dead leaves, new grass, and sponges of melting snow, learning the outdoor landscape of my new home, a place I have never been in the spring. We are discovering that our house is surrounded by a carpet of tulips and crocuses that are just beginning to peek through the dirt. We planted our first trees: White spruce, scotch pine, and chokeberry. Mairead had her first taste of full sun, and loved it. Siobhan and Finn ran around naked, covering themselves in mud, and working hard with their father and grandfather to hang a bat box in the tree near our pond to attract mosquito eaters. We are preparing our garden, eager to get our seedlings into the ground: they grow taller every day and begin to smell like tomatoes and peppers.

Today I have that absolute sense of rebirth that I can only credit to having spent a winter so close to the land, and at the mercy of the physical climate. Surrounded by the silence of snow and dormant life, now the sounds of life return to our woods, and I truly feel them to be ours.

So I write to you now from a place of joyful understanding. I can feel myself in the balance, and always this is my experience after giving birth (I can really say “always” now, since it has been true three times). After giving birth, I become keenly aware of my own death and the future deaths of everyone I love, but I am less and less cowed by it. Death is just what is, in the same way that life is just what is. Life is painful and immeasurably sad, and then it is pleasure, release, the taste of boundlessness. Life is fear and not knowing, and then it is sudden immediate knowing. Life is hard. And then it’s not.

What I am feeling now can only be expressed as gratitude, though there is something deeper too. Something this army brat has only ever felt hints of before, but is coming closer each day to knowing: an actual place called home. Home for me has always been migrating. Home is where my family is, or home is where I’ve lived the longest. But for home to be an actual place, a piece of land with it’s own memory – that is a kind of magic I have never experienced. So here it is. My home, all around me. Home is here.

21 observations for a new day

i love days like this, uplifted as something special – winter solstice, new calendar, mom’s birthday, named in time. here are 21 current observations from my life.

1 there is no silence, but it is good to quiet ourselves enough to hear the night animals hunting, the snow melting, the vibrant pounding of our own hearts.

2 there are moments which cannot be thought through, must be felt through. this becomes more apparent as i am growing my capacity to feel.

3 i am starting to ask children the questions i really hold. their answers delight me. i highly recommend this.

4 ‘so now i am older/than my mother and father/when they had their daughter’ – fleet fox, ‘montezuma’. when i remember this, i feel such compassion for my parents.

5 it comforts me to imagine that thousands of years ago, people sensed that humans would need thousands of years to work out our worst tendencies, but longing for a compassionate resilient way of being was present even then.

6 that said, i don’t presume to understand what was known then. it makes me nervous when people speak too definitively of what someone in the past was thinking, knowing how often i am mysterious and misunderstood in this time.

7 every single day that i begin with meditation and/or yoga is better than days i don’t. writing is a meditation some days, jo others.

8 it is taking me a long time to apply that lesson to my morning routines. but i am aware now, and feel the immensity of choice in me, that any time things aren’t feeling right i can return to breath, begin again, and again.

9 dignity is becoming very important to me. i notice it in posture, in the way people meet my eyes without falling in or falling away, in the pull of gravity and dreams. i want to be of a dignified people.

10 i’m not the only one who hears music all the time inside. when i let my ‘soft animal body love what it loves,’ i am always dancing. (mary oliver, a beast among poets, wrote those words in her poem ‘wild geese’)

11 i really do hope i was foreseen, and am worthy of my time.

12 home is an internal condition, and a way of being in relationship, for me.

13 fashion is a communication of home, beauty and vision. my fashion, which i am finally allowing to matter to me and for me, was shaped by marilyn monroe, new york city, and images of the future from the past: star wars, star trek, idoru.

14 i prefer to be part of the beauty, not part of the background.

15 ‘we must keep in mind that we are not going to be free – we already are free. every idea that we are bound is a delusion.’ swami vivekananda

and

16 ‘the only way to deal with an unfree world is to become so absolutely free that your very existence is an act of rebellion.’ camus

17 complexity is liberating me. i now hold that there is an absolute freedom, some place we are all driven to, and a relative freedom, the freest we think we can get given our conditions. taking steps towards the relative freedom can move us towards the absolute.

18 i love love. it feels really essential to being alive, to risk the vulnerability and the heartbreak, to actually live in love with others.

19 i love this body of mine, part of the greater human body. the more i feel, the more i realize every cell is full of stories, and more are coming.

20 i have, so far, avoided getting so serious i can’t laugh at these efforts of ours to make meaning of our seeming insignificance. we are completely hilarious.

21 i have, so far, avoided getting so cynical i can’t feel the miraculousness of my life, and of our efforts to understand and evolve what it means to live. we are utterly incredible.

the human right to home

recently i have been experiencing the unique joy of home, when my home is in order, has the right amount of things in it and no more, has capacity for holding friends, family, laughter. when the lighting is just right and the sun filters in just so and i have to pause and revel in the clean spare beautiful lines of my home. home for me means the place where i feel safe, surrounded by beauty, the place in which i receive the world.

i think it’s no mistake that one of the oldest sounds we know of, om, is in the word home – i feel it when i am in it.

my sister and her husband recently bought a home around the corner from his parents in rural minnesota. it is beautiful, it is possible because of loans and incentives and friendship with the previous owners. it is the place my nephew and niece and the baby coming in january will grow up. home here means the house itself and the five acres of land around it, the path through the woods to their grandparents’ house.

with the state of the world right now, i have been thinking about the human right of home. in the universal declaration for human rights, the closest right is a right to property in article 17. but i am thinking of this deeper right, which may or may not come from ownership. i think it is the right that so many people around the world are trying to attain or hold onto, which i feel in the privilege and harmony of my home.

here in detroit, we are currently pressed once again to hold onto home as a vicious and quick land grab escalates. a couple years ago our mayor was rebuked for talking about ‘right sizing’ the city, because it would have meant displacing people from their homes. (the effort continues, though the words are different.) it showed that in this city people don’t think of their homes just as the buildings in which they live, but their blocks, neighborhoods, their particular part of the city with it’s histories and fertile grounds. in detroit, as in many cities, home includes sitting on the front porch or stoop, the community gardens, the neighbors who care for each other – home includes the people who fill the world around your building.

it is getting cold again in detroit, and the homeless folk i interact with most are becoming more scarce as they spend less and less time moving about the work of their lives – hustling, hunting, gathering same as anyone else. a friend recently noted that we have more vacant houses in the u.s. than we do homeless people, which i feel acutely aware of in detroit in the winter. it makes me think the rights of owning property should not trump the right to have home. home here means shelter from the elements, a safe place to sleep, to store one’s things.

there are many conflicted nations around the world, most of them with some link back to u.s. foreign policy, few as distinctly supported and funded as our ‘friend’ israel. in gaza, in palestine, there is an old struggle for home happening…palestinians holding onto home, as many have been displaced from the houses that were home and herded into ghettoized sections of land which they cannot leave without permits, in which they are brutally attacked regularly with u.s.-funded weapons. many palestinians hold home in their hands, literal keys to the homes they were moved out of, to which they long to return. home here means land and legacy.

and who is attacking them, but other people? not machines, not alien invaders, but human beings traumatized after centuries of not being able to find safe home on this planet.

when i look at israel i see that we as humans have so much to learn about addressing collective trauma. to be without home is dehumanizing – it is a violence unto itself, and increases the vulnerability to other violence. i’ve been learning that with patterns of bullying and abuse, most people who use violence to move through life learn that behavior by receiving and witnessing violence at a formative age. and that the bullies, underneath the bravado and actions of violence, still feel like victims, powerless.

in the same way it is clear that continual displacement mixed with violence has created the conditions by which the primarily european descended israeli population can feel justified in displacing and murdering the people of palestine, and still call themselves the victims. as with the violent child, steps must be taken to disarm, deescalate, resolve conflict and redirect the positive desire for safety towards a viable option. because home has to be a place where violence is abnormal, free from the tension of potential attack, where none of the children are seen as soldiers, or collateral damage.

in fact, nothing alive, including the planet, should be seen as collateral damage. i love the recognition coming out of Bolivia that home is this planet, that there can be no human rights without earth rights, because fundamentally we have this one small home in all the universe, to share, to care for, to find safety and abundance in. home here meaning source of all life, existence, the only planet capable of sustaining human life that we know of.

to me all of these things are connected – the right to home, the joy of home, the significance of safety, the insignificance of boundaries when we see how small and perfect our home truly is, and how much it relies on the homefulness of all others.

this is how i move through my home with mindfulness:

i compost, reuse and recycle in my home and wherever i find myself,
i use energy and heat sparingly,
i make and display art in my home,
i am constantly learning to simplify – which feels like post-capitalist deprogramming, finding more beauty in space than in materials,
i cook,
and i am intentional about bringing into my kitchen and into the home of my body the most local healthy food possible,
i support the boycott called for by palestinians by not having products from starbucks, sabra hummus, and other zionist companies in my home,
i don’t keep anything i don’t need and love, and i don’t allow toxic energy to build up in my home,
i sweep the floors and make the bed and fold the laundry…

all the while aware that what i have is not guaranteed to anyone yet, and is what i want for all people, is not to be taken for granted, is under attack, and is worth fighting for, is worth living for.

home mehta meditation:

may you find home
may you feel home
may you always be home

may i find home
may i feel home
may i always be home

may we find home
may we feel home
may we always be home.