grief is gratitude, fear is intelligence, truth is strategic

over this past week i have been cycling between feeling the rough emotions of this moment and feeling for my/our resilience – our capacity to recover from harm. and i have been connecting with loved ones to do both these things, to vent and move thru the worst possible case scenarios and breath into “what now”, and “where do we go from here”?

i keep experiencing gratitude for the reality-based visionaries at movement generation and their teachings on false solutions – solutions which are politically possible now, but will not satisfy/save/serve us. (for example, it appears that elections as they are currently structured are a false solution. we need a popular vote for president, and instant runoff voting, minimum.)

fear has come in waves and i am getting curious about it, finding out what my fear wants me to know. fear is an intelligence, it makes me alert to danger. its not a state i want to linger in – its a way to come into wakefulness with what is. we knew we were in danger, our data set just got more precise. the danger is intersectional. and it feels smart to feel terror and grief when the place i call home attacks me and everyone i love.

as the shock of this change wears off, i am feeling lit up about our liberation from false solutions, and lit up about futures where we don’t fear other humans. while i still feel anticipatory grief over the changes coming, i can also feel anticipation for the ways we will tell the stories of our desired future, and bring those stories to life.

i find that i am already in the right place and supporting the right work. my loved ones are supporting each other, some taking to the streets each night, some reaching out for broader alliances, all educating ourselves. we have already been working to unveil the wound and make real solutions, to make what we really need to thrive and evolve as a species and planet, politically possible.

while it is tempting to focus on ‘the enemy’, what we pay attention to grows, and we need to continue to focus on the growth of justice and liberation technologies that are not dependent on a sophomoric state within which a portion of white people are terrified of the inevitable and acting all the way out. so i am feeling for right balance between resistance and rejection of ignorance/misogyny/white supremacy and focusing on building what we need. rereading the parables to help with this understanding.

for those who claim this whole thing is just about class (i haven’t seen any “fuck poor people” or even “kill the elite” tagging since tuesday, only race/gender/sexuality/anti-immigrant slurs and threats, so…), i assert that our economic vision of an abundant cooperative localized economy is more compelling in the long run. but we don’t need to just say that, we need to live into it with the way we organize jobs and funding in our radical work. keep creating models that can stand the weight of our communities.

we need to deepen our practice of removing white supremacy from our language and norms. it is not a dark time, it is a pale time. our people are not ‘minorities’. my heartfriend anasa troutman also challenges us not to use the term ‘people of color’, defining ourselves only by non-whiteness. it’s time to be creative and specific. i am going to either use very specific language to speak of communities i am supporting now, or use the language of impact, for the broader set of communities impacted by this intersection regression unfolding in our national government.

its also a great time to stop being polite. be loving, kind, direct. but most of all, be truthful – full of the capacity to speak the truth when you see and feel it.

i remain fascinated by us, anticipating how we will move beyond reactionary rhetoric and action, to build our connections and move forward from our deepest love and longing.

if you are overwhelmed with fear and terror, find a friend, sit face to face, and do this together:

first, take turns naming your fears and/or griefs. let feeling come with them. with your hands show where the fears live in your body. mirror each other, so you both get the experience of seeing your grief on another.

second, place your hands on your bellies and take turns naming things that make you feel resilient. imagine those things filling you up. rock and roll a bit, make more room for resilience inside yourselves.

third, offer gratitude to each other for both having the complexity to hold grief/fear and resilience in the same miraculous body.

one day at a time. one brave, loving, radical day at a time.

<3

dancing with hopelessness

lately i have found myself to be a combatant behind enemy lines wherever i am in the world. the sounds of death are constant – either the current blasting or the sound of news anchors telling me numbers. sometimes the numbers are more overtly related to me – black people, people from the u.s., queer people, women and girls. other times they are less overtly mine – parents, people of a specific faith, people who speak one of the million languages or dialects i couldn’t comprehend. still human, children.

since i was young i have been blessed and afflicted with empathy, when i hear or read or see suffering i feel within me some response.

a restlessness – something must be done.
numbness – nothing i can do.
rage – why are you so evil, why are you not better than this?
shame – this is how humans spend our time, taking from each other and plotting each other’s death?

when i was in my twenties this set of feelings, sparked by what was happening in the world and fed by traumas in my body, pushed me over an edge of not wanting to be alive.

i know so many people who know what that feels like, to have suicidal memories. when i think of that time it is very gray, and, honestly, calming: if i can go, then i don’t have to keep feeling all of this. i don’t have to keep wondering if anything i am doing matters. i, i, i – who is i, what do i do/mean/need/take responsibility for?

i don’t feel suicidal now, since i walked out of that world of shadowed edges and paranoia and self-obsession i have never returned.

but our shared reality (if we are even slightly awake) is depressing. violence coming in from every direction all the time, with those in power committed to maintaining and growing power instead of learning to thrive on our miraculous spaceship. if people aren’t at least somewhat depressed and disappointed by humanity it’s hard for me to trust them.

and yet i am oriented towards solution and joy. i can feel myself fighting to lift up and move forward somehow. i am pressed to generate new strategies for moving through emotions that are larger than i know what to do with, larger than any community i am a part of knows how to hold. i love sugar and alcohol and weed as much as anyone, but my spirit has been needing more – more clarity and space to feel, more life.

my days are full of new rituals and ancient ones that have me feeling both closer to and further away from humanity at large.

here are some of the small and personal rituals that allow me to be in relationship with my growing hopelessness, to dance in real time with all that is happening.

i imagine myself a dragonfly. or an owl. an orca. a spotted cow. i let myself wander into the experience – flying, chewing, living out in the world, being wild, solitary, communal. we think reason makes us superior to everything, but when i let myself wander the experiences of other species i see there are so many ways to live without a focus on death, which seems to be the primary thing we use our reasoning to generate or avoid.

i light candles and speak into the flames the names of people and places that need light, concepts that need air, the things i need to let go of before the next in-breath, the things i can’t let go of but are too heavy today.

i also tell water what i cannot carry and then pour it into bigger water. if i am outside i find a river. a creek, a lake. lately i use my shower in this way too, i imagine it moving over me like a mother soothing a child. i imagine the cloudy heft of sadness moving through the pipes and systems, droplets to waterfalls, wetlands and deltas, into the gulf of mexico, into the ocean.

i burn sage, frankincense, cedar, palo santo, dhoop sticks, incense. i feel the smoke moving through me, cleansing, inviting a relaxation of everything in me that holds on to life too tightly, knowing i am more powerful when i am relaxed and flexible and soft.

i give time – quiet, meditative time – to tragedy and grief. i let my mind encounter the river of souls floating up out of our comprehension. when i hear something new and violent has happened, i pause. maybe it’s a prayer i whisper, an incantation, a spell – something less than words and more than breath goes up with those souls. if i know a number i set a timer and give a minute to each stranger, each possible beloved. i meditate on those who are precious to me.

i do my practices – tarot, somatics, yoga, words.

time, smoke, water, breath, practice, shapeshifting.

and healing circles. bringing myself into a circle with others, circles of two, circles of hundreds, to remind ourselves that we are also always with each other, cultivating something better than this horror, making more room to grieve, to be numb together, to be stricken and clueless together, to hold on to each other.

with several of the circles we have gathered our pain and heartache and hopelessness and actually pushed it down into the earth together. she is so big, with so much capacity to transform the toxic into the fertile. sometimes she is the only living thing i fully trust.

my indigenous story is one of physical and cultural colonization – i am cut off from direct knowledge of what my ancestors learned to use in this way, how they listened to earth and learned to care for each other, to move grief and hopelessness through the body, to live beyond overwhelming emotions. because no matter how awful this world can be, i cannot be more than i am. i face a broken world, i think my most healing offer is wholeness. i must be whole in myself, in the community i am accumulating each day.

i notice what produces a sense of release, space and good energy in my system, i listen to healers, i ask permission. i have learned from everywhere, i hope i will keep learning. i am weaving together my lineage and experience into a song that i can move to.

i am learning to dance with my hopelessness.

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.

how to have a creation retreat (advance) any time, any place

i am on a reading/writing retreat/advance in mexico, and it is so precious and delicious. i have been reflecting on what makes it so good, and realizing that the majority of elements are ones i conjure up to advance my creative work any time, any place.

the word retreat is familiar, but really it’s an advance – taking the time to move forward intentionally in my life’s work.

so, partially to remind myself, partially to spark creative time for you, here goes.

1) time.

set aside time to get lost in the work. this might be an hour, a day, three weeks, a couple of months. obviously more time is better, though some people thrive in the small window. you know what you need. but don’t postpone until you get the biggest chunk of time. think of every moment as time you are intentionally feeding your creativity. when you are hungry, you don’t say, ‘well this meal isn’t big enough, better wait for the feast’. you nourish yourself (on local grassfed organic gluten free sugar free foods, but if that’s not there, pizza or goat curry also works, feel me?). small also opens the door to large. when you use an hour well, your system starts rearranging your circumstances, wanting more.

creating with others may work well for you, again, know thyself. be wary of work dates, be honest about who you can actually create next to or with. don’t cocrastinate, it will only grow resentment in all directions.

say no during this time, to plans, lunch dates, phone calls. scheduled things with others can disrupt the flow. tell beloveds you will see them on the other side. let people root for your creator self by giving you time.

the exception to this is if toni morrison, or toshi reagon, or kiese laymon, or beyonce, or bjork calls you to go out and talk about creating things. otherwise, it can wait.

time is the first way to nourish your creativity.

2) disconnect.

the whole internet with it’s crises and food porn and subtweets and azealia banks will be there when you’ve finished creating something. the texts and emails are generally not as urgent as they seem – be as responsive to your creativity as you are to the projected world.

airplane mode is a gift from the gods-of-getting-your-life-together. disconnecting will deepen your sleep, sharpen your awareness of the actual place and moment you are in, and give your mind a little room from the words of others to actually hear yourself. turn the outer world back on only after you have completed something.

it’s not even disconnecting really, it’s giving yourself the space to connect to your creative self. prioritize that connection which buzzfeed cannot capture.

3) input.

make a list of all of the artists, writers, musicians and other creators who inspire you, who are better than you, who are part of your field. ask for recommendations from people who are familiar with your work. spend part of your time inhaling, devouring, analysing, being humbled by and filling up on the work of other artists.

i like to juxtapose creative things, listening to jay-z while reading toni cade bambara. but do it how you like. you might need to take things in on their own. but take in the intentional arts of your possible peers.

don’t only take in art that is in your field either. poetry and essays are essential ingredients of great fiction. the natural world can teach you how to describe love. genius teaches in many ways, be open to unexpected inspiration.

4) options. give yourself multiple outlets through which your creations can flow.

i am here primarily to write, but i have a sketchbook, a small notebook for ideas, a journal for personal reflection and clearing, magazines to collage, a recording app if songs come, and the device i am writing on now for actual story writing and editing.

even if you just have a sketchbook and a journal, you’ve widened the options. stories can come as sketches, charts, character drawings, jumbles of many faces, photography, poetry, freedom songs. the main thing is to have a way to grab it when the genius comes.

5) supplies.

i think of prepping for a creation advance like prepping for a sport. i need water! i need food that is quick to prepare and meets the nutritional needs of my body. i love to cook beautiful meals for myself, basic delicious stuff i can prepare on the front end to heat and eat – brown rice stir fry, quinoa and veggies, frittata, etc.

give yourself as few escapes as possible – needing to go get food can be a procrastination move.

i also need all the creation options mentioned in point 4. chargers, pens, paper, ritual items (see 6). have it all ready to go on the front end.

the inputs – a stack of books, real ones and kindle downloads. also amazing playlists that make you want to put out.

and i think we all need what i think of as the valve, or pleasure, supplies – i want my body to feel good throughout the work. wine, whiskey, weed, sex toys – ways to celebrate a good day’s work. bookend the retreat/advance with body treats, have a massage booked, or go to a sauna. the body is the creative tool, treat it well.

6) ritual.

creating is the work of god(s), so set the sacred space. i create an altar for my work, pull tarot cards about what i should be open to, and start my writing days with journaling, yoga, meditation and somatic practices. i brush my teeth, i like to smell good for my creativity.

i also tidy the space where i am going to create – dishes, bed made. basic stuff, as cleaning can become a procrastination too. but clear space leaves more room for the new things.

your ritual might be coffee, a prayer, a long run, a mantra (i think i can, i dream i do, i breathe brilliance) or sitting mindfully in your studio. it can change as you go too, it’s the spirit of ritualizing your creative life that matters. creating a practice ground, where anything can happen.

mind body earth and spirit create, it’s not just your brain and fingers. i am thrilled here to be able to swim in the ocean each day, read in the sun, write in my hammock. i know that i write more under these conditions, so i have started keeping a fund for this purpose, going someplace warm, near the ocean, in the winter. but this is rare, and i don’t want my creating to be rare. at home i put on music, turn the heat up so i can wear tropical attire, light incense, and do the ritual, noticing my outer and inner worlds before i drop in.

7) spark.

everything up until now is setting the conditions. this is the fire pit, the dry ready wood, the abundant kindling, the paper, the air, the longing for warmth. now the spark might come at any time.

i often ritual, journal, read, draw, and then the spark comes, but sometimes it comes as i am drifting to sleep, or first thing when i wake up, or as i am biking past a tree. sometimes one spark will come while i am pursuing another – good problems!

the spark receives the highest honor, everything else is secondary. i stop whatever i am doing – reading, cooking, biking, dreaming – to blow on the spark, cultivate it, welcome it.

that spark is why we are here.

an all-gender friendly post about periods, & a moon ritual recipe

since i got my moon phase tattoo down my spine a year ago, my period has come on the full moon. this is totally awesome and very different for me.

i have been blessed in terms of the level of pain i face during my period, i don’t have the monthly internal torture sessions of some folks i love. i do have a day or two of heightened emotions and some groaning discomfort. but i generally take the opportunity to rest and disconnect.

i have noticed that regardless of the gender of my loved ones, there tends to be a need at least once a month for humans to turn inward, to focus on restoring the self. and if we don’t listen for that time and try to power through with life, we can be awful to ourselves and others.

i read the red tent and got into the idea of making my period a monthly time for ritual and self-care. separately, i learned a beautiful full moon bath ritual and started learning about the relationship between moons and periods.

as far back as i can remember i’ve always loved the moon, which led to my tattoo. the alignment of my cycle with the moon for this whole past year makes that love feel reciprocal, however unlikely it may be. i feel like i soak up the reflective power of the moon, the power to orbit, to stay, to be simple, to be imperfect, to always be full but rarely be fully seen.

this past week, i decided to approach my period and the full moon with total celebration. and, unsurprisingly, i had one of the best week’s of my life.

i realized that with or without my period, the combination of things i did last week, which i am about to share with you, would make anyone’s life incredible. when i reflect i can see i have been increasing all of this good stuff in my life since before my sabbatical, and it’s working.

doing this sort of ritual once a month, even once a quarter, is deeply restorative and rebalancing without having to go away on a vacation. and it wasn’t a financially expensive week – i went for the most affordable options and lots of the activities i was able to do in my home or with my community.

i notice that when i share stuff with y’all, it contributes to the echo chamber of good behavior, self-care and transformation in my life, because y’all share back, and when we see each other in person we check in on all this self-loving, which reminds me to do it more often.

so in that spirit, here’s a recipe for an incredible restoration week (a moon ritual):

1 dose mindfulness. have a sense of when this period of restoration is coming. this is an area where surprises are no fun.

1 session community acupuncture early in the week.

7 days yoga (a minimum of 5 sun salutations, including warrior, triangle and tree poses. you can do an immense amount for the body and spirit in even 10 minutes of yoga and or stretching.)

1 pelvic balancing massage (if no one in your community currently offers this, i recommend getting a group together and taking a class to offer to each other – some places now offer variations on this ancient practice which has health benefits for reproductive processes as well as digestion and overall system cleansing.)

7 days meditation, including but not limited to:
– solo meditation as often as possible (start small, follow your breath – you really can’t overdose here).
– community meditation to taste. ‘community’ just means meditating with one or more other people.
– and orgasmic meditation of course! this method helps with cramps…and everything else 🙂

2 sessions dancing as freely as possible, ideally becoming one with the music.

1 spa day with a friend (if you are going to splurge anytime during the week, this is the place. check out my page on spas and feel free to alert me to places you know of that are affordable and delicious for all kinds of bodies).

7 days of healthy food, with local organic vegetables for at least half of every meal (and ideally protein the other half).

and water. i recently read that to calculate the ideal water intake, drink half your weight in ounces of water. i have rarely been able to drink that much but aiming for it is having delightful impact on my whole system, skin and health.

so i am lit up and rested…and i found myself immensely productive throughout the week. i am already looking forward to my next period.

do you have rituals around your moon? what would you add?