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.

when it rains, be the ocean

i am just landing home after two weeks in mexico with friends, learning what off-season looks like. i booked the trip thinking of my birthday, sun, writing, mexico, beach, reading, writing, pina coladas and writing some more. it felt extravagant and celebratory – and there is a huge amount to celebrate in my life right now.

i was reminded on my sabbatical last year that the ocean has a deeply healing and restorative impact on my spirit. i made a commitment upon returning home to get to the ocean each year as much as possible, to get in the ocean, to let my skin be in the sun.

and doing that around my birthday felt brilliant.


so i learned this year that my birthday coincides with rainy season in mexico. apparently this is true and common knowledge to other people.

and it’s true every year.

the first week, on isla de mujeres, was mostly sunny. as part of my fellowship i received a strategic planning workbook to help me develop my writing career long-term (!!!), and was able to complete most of it on the beach between ocean meditations, deep conversations, and pina coladas.

the second week was in tulum, further south on the yucatan peninsula. it was raining when we arrived at the cabana and raining harder when we left. and it rained most of the time in between. beautiful full throttle storms and torrential downpours, followed by soft slow sunsets where the sky seemed to be taking a breather, leaning her lavender grey weight into the ocean, letting patches of blue sky through.

i generally range from naively positive to fiercely optimistic, and it took a while to mitigate my expectations in the face of this heavy and completely justified rain.

(mitigation interlude:
like…ok a day of rain, that’s no big deal.
three days? cool, cool. ah, nature getting hydrated.
oh this isn’t just a few days of rain?
it’s a season of jungle rain.
every day, tho?
that sort of smoky late afternoon sun is the most we can do here?
more rain?
ah, another day in the cabana, looking at the rain.

it is lovely.)


the upside – besides that i was in mexico, walking the beach in dry moments, reading, dancing topless in the water every time the sun peeked out (yes, i would run out into the waves praising the smoky sun), writing, conversating, and reflecting – was that i learned a new metaphorical paradigm for my life right now.

it is my rainy season.

while i was gone it was announced that i was one of over 50 winners of the detroit knight arts challenge. this grant resources me to host a series of sci fi writing workshops for detroiters to elicit visions and ideas about what is possible in this city, growing the collective imagination. this, along with the kresge literary arts fellowship, means i have two affirmations from the world to pursue this growing passion for science/speculative fiction, particularly in and of detroit.

this is after a successful crowdsourcing effort to self-publish ‘octavia’s brood: science fiction from social justice movements’ with walidah imarisha – we doubled our goal.

my dad is out of the defense industry for the first time in my whole life. my parents love each other and me. my sisters are safe and loved and happy.

overall my family and friends are healthy, healing, loved, loving, learning. the babies are the perfection that they are, two of them now in school.

my health is improving daily. my relationship to my whole self, including my spirit, my food and exercise, my body, finally feels aligned with love. both what it means to be actively loving myself, and the daunting delicious work of letting others love me.

and then ridiculous over the top things also keep happening.

i got to see beyonce in concert this summer and for a moment she sang while staring into my eyes like it was just the two of us virgos sparkling in the night.

and, with no effort or investment of my own, i now have daily access to a hot tub. i, as a person who has a spa section on this very blog, can scarcely express what a long-held and seemingly unattainable dream this has been.

i just completed my third somatics teacher training weekend and am really beginning to see the ways that, in time, i am going to be able to bring this tangible healing work to detroit, to the women leaders i coach and support, and to basically everyone i meet.

and there’s so much more, amazing facilitation opportunities, major breakthroughs in how i communicate, new stories pouring out of me…

so…good, good, good, good!! but i have been feeling overwhelmed, kind of flooded by my life. how can i deserve all of this? how can i account for it? how can i stand it up next to the realities of trayvon and syria and detroit’s bankruptcy and the world of 2013?

here is where ocean as metaphor is returning into my life at exactly the right moment.

for context, in the somatics work, i have learned that when i feel i don’t have capacity for something in my life, it helps to source myself from nature. the foundation of octavia butler’s earthseed theology – ‘god is change’ – makes deep sense to me, and nature is the expression of that change i can resonate with most clearly. to really contemplate the earth, the sky, this natural world which holds every kind of contradiction and question, gives me a massive humbling sense of scale.

one of our somatics teachers showed us a history of life on earth that she learned from a guide in the grand canyon. she used her arm, starting from the shoulder. she showed the first known life, the development of single celled organisms, showing life coming onto shore, the whole process of evolution. that took her arm all the way to the wrist. the levels and layers of life growing, changing, adapting, the dinosaurs and ice age and all took her palm, her fingers knuckle by knuckle. and finally, after so much growth, came humans. and we are merely a shaving on the furthest fingernail.

we are so brand new, with all of our suffering and celebrations.

this is what nature reminds me of: there is room, and there is time. i am a beginner, it is my work to not know, and to be curious. this sourcing from that which is so overtly greater than myself, a greater mess of dirt and stardust and sunshine and miracle, let’s me breath more deeply when i come up against questions of fairness, justice, balance.

so back to mexico and the ocean as metaphor…being in the rain this past week i observed this again and again: the roads between the jungle and the ocean would flood and become impassable. it would take days for the water to soak into the earth somehow, or evaporate back into the air. and in the meantime it kept raining. the water was seeking the ocean, but it was stuck in these roads, on pavement, flooding paths. on foot we took off our shoes and waded through the warm brown swamp water. cars stopped, businesses were challenged at what to do with all the water.

but the ocean? she just received, and received, and received. she didn’t even seem to swell, just kept coming in to the shore and back out, sometimes in crashing explosive waves and sometimes almost dainty, frills and sweetness at the ankle.

what was coming to her was just hers. it didn’t care whether she could receive it or not, it was coming to her.

to try to line up my life with some sense that i, as opposed to any of the other amazing humans walking the earth and creating and wanting to do what they love and survive and sit in a hot tub sometimes, deserve all this stuff – it makes an impassable road of my heart.

same with trying to line this up with what else is happening in the world. my writing is my liberation work, it’s the space where i am exploring and reflecting and processing 15 years of political work. maybe it is enough, maybe it isn’t. and of course i am terrified about the sci-fi/speculative fiction writing itself…maybe i am gifted at it, and can produce what i dream in a way that makes others feel the futures i feel as manifest-able…and maybe i will find i am not capable. thinking too much on that is another flooded path.

my life is coming to me. it is just mine.

the rain is returning to the ocean, it is all a cycle.

last year in my grief and healing, i cried in the ocean and i tried to stand still in it, i got tossed around and thought about how destructive she is. the salt so good on my skin also meant i could die of thirst in all that water, as i felt i might drown in my hurt. that was my life too. what i could see then was in, out, in, out, just keep going.

now i see this abundance – just keep opening.

the ocean is abundant as a default. no matter what is taken from her there is more. and no matter what comes in, she has room.

i believe that humans are abundant too, regardless of how our resources appear in this materialist reality. if we can learn to receive, there is so much.

while in tulum i pulled a card from my osho deck where i am learning the tarot practice, it was for receptivity. it connected the art of receiving to the feminine, and that too made sense to me as the energy i am cultivating, bringing a balance of receptivity and listening to my work and life.

ocean is my teacher. at this moment when all i have worked for, dreamt of, conjured and longed for is arriving all at once, in ways i could not have imagined or foreseen, with new challenges and horizons embedded in the gifts, i am undulating, i am opening, i am letting it all come through me.

i am trusting that as a human, i have the capacity for abundance. trusting that what is coming is mine to receive, whether or not i understand it, just as the things that have been taken from me were mine to release.

and i don’t have to be flooded. i can be vast.