Wednesday, June 1, 2016

The Promise of Summer

The birdsong is constant, all you have to do is listen.  The sun is strident, a force on the body as heavy as gravity.  The green is relentless, creeping out from crevices too small to contain it.  And the wind carries on the promise of summer.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Hapless

It was an accident.  Freak, unfortunate, random act of shit.  But like many of those horrible events that permanently alters the course of one's life, it happened.  And much like those events, it couldn't be undone.

But she didn't know that yet.  And she plummeted into the bottomless pit of self hatred searching for a way to change that past.  She could not forgive because she still hoped that by hating she could somehow alter the course of her life.  She could not let go because she still believed that by holding on she would be able to force another path, another future.  One that wasn't based in the pain she'd experienced.

And so her journey became what it was, because she couldn't release what it couldn't be.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Face Value

There's no sense in lying, he thinks.  Who would know anyway?  Random strangers believe whatever they take at face value.  And wherever he went, all anyone ever saw was the face.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Ether

Everything is everything- that's been one of the lessons here.  And although our practices haven't specifically touched on it they don't have to because of that.  Because in everything- every element, every person, every experience, every moment- there is life.  A universal life force that energizes everything.

We are all connected- on a cellular level.  Whether we know it or not, whether we notice it or not.  My breath is the same breath that fills the lungs of all living things- even the trees, the plants, the ocean breathes.  My movement comes from the same energy that every life system uses- nutrients in, energy out.  My manifestation is the same.  My body feeds off the sunlight the same as everything in this world- all of it dependent on the life-giving light.   The same water molecules fill my body as those that make the waves of the ocean undulate.

There is no difference, not really.  When we consider the smallest, simplest components we are all made of the same things.  Not just the four elements- but that fifth element, the one the scholars talk about.  It's in us, in all things, all life the same. 

We don't have to search for it, we don't have to toil to reach nirvana, we don't have to try and strive and push and struggle to try to achieve it- it's already in us.  Just breathe- it's there.  Just listen to your heart beat- it's there.  Just sweat- it's there.  Just feel and hear and feel and smell and see- it's there, it's there, it's there.  Not separate, always connected.

We are all made of the same things.  We are all connected.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Earth

A single blade of grass.  Sand sticking to the sides of your feet.  The smell of pine needles and moss in the forest.  A small yellow dandelion.  Everywhere, everywhere are reminders of home.  My mother, Gaia, keeping me grounded and calling me back when my head gets too far up into the clouds.  Sit, she says.  Stay.  Be.

So I do...

Friday, May 27, 2016

Air

She breathed and she felt it- the life force entering her lungs, filling her body, moving her forwards.  She felt it along the surface of her skin: sometimes like the gentle caress of a lover, sometimes with the force of a shove.  She heard it whistling through her ears and howling over the bluffs towards the ocean.  And she smelled the sweet scent of the sea of it as she inhaled.

And she remembered, or made a promise to remember, that this was the connector- the invisible power giving her and the world around her life.  That this same stuff that filled her filled everything else- every animal, every plant, every part of this world she called home.  Always part of, never separate, breathing in and breathing in one unbroken loop, forever.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Fire

The sun awoke her with unrelenting heat.  It beat against her back through the open window and her skin began spitting perspiration before her mind rallied for movement.  The elements seemed to demand her attention, her action.  "I am here," it demanded.  "Get up."

As she moved through the day she felt it- beating down on her scalp, pushing up the back of her neck, filling her face with solid, heavy weight.  The weight of the sun, just as real as gravity, pushing from above rather than pulling from below.  Her skin rose to meet it and the pigment erupted and darkened.  A chemical change within her very cells as they reacted to the immutably powerful orb above.

And she remembered, always reminded, that her own sun shared these qualities.  The heat that her own body generated.  The strength of her movement, her muscle,  her core.  And she radiated outwards just as powerfully.  The sun and she, she and the sun, one and the same.

And she was.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Ocean

She had forgotten.  She hadn't realized that the memory was there until the scent crept into her nostrils again.  The salt, the rotting, the dampness.  The foam and mist and violent summer storms.  The waves and sand and crustaceans.  The tumultuous cycle of life, death and rebirth in undulating rhythm.  The rocking and bobbing of the boat, the swirling of the eddy.  

All of these lived inside of her, just as surely as her heart pumped blood.  And they followed the same rhythm.  The same violence and peace, the same cycle of life and death and rebirth, the same rocking and bobbing.  Her blood moved in the same fluid waves, a smaller ocean inside of her.

She breathed in, fully, and swallowed.  Willing her body to take in the nourishment, to consume the nutrients, to absorb.  She felt the mist on her face and begged her skin to open to it, to let it in.  She leaned back and felt the moisture turn warn with the baking sun above.  And she prayed her mantra: "Thank you, thank you, thank you."

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Dice

It was a sound Morg was unfamiliar with and it startled him from sleep, leading his body to jolt upright well before his mind could begin to guess the cause.  He looked around, straining his neck against the metal breast plate and cursing the armor he felt too vulnerable to take off while sleeping.

All around him the world gave an idyllic picture of serenity.  The birds chirping and singing, the mist on the early morning grass threatening to turn wet and warm as the sunlight began to creep, slowly, over the hill.  The pumping motion of some animal in a tree branch as it dug for insects or perhaps syrup.  Morg turned and turned, looking for the sound that had awoken him and found it nowhere.  He also found no other soldiers in camp.

At this he jumped up, grabbed his helmet and sheath, and ran to load his horse.  The other animals were still there, tied to the same tree they had been we he slept, and there was no sign of the others having packed anything to depart.  Morg scanned the scattered belongings for signs of struggle or a fight when he heard the sound again- a light clacking or something with a smoother surface hitting, bouncing and landing.

Morg ran toward it, drawing his sword as he did so, leaving the blade until he could find a stance to defend.  Down the hill he clattered, his armor rumbling like a topple of pots and pans in some poorly organized kitchen.  He jumped a large bounder and landed hard in a stone courtyard he hadn't seen and been aware of only a moment before.

"What in the gods anthems are you doing?" Lox yelled at him.

Morg straightened and looked up at the familiar forms of his fellows, sitting or kneeling or in Lox's case decidedly sprawling on the stone.  Between them was a circle in the stone, a large flat space where the grass and moss hadn't overgrown the ruins, and in that circle were cubes of bone carved with patterns on the faces.

"Oh, ignore him- you're rolling or I'm slitting your throat and taking the coins the old fashioned way," Berks said, pushing Lox with his boot.

Lox, clearly having already tasted the wine that morning, grabbed up the cubes and cradled them in his hands, blowing and then seemingly talking to the small objects.

Morg observed this with puzzlement, his brain unable to define it and sorting through a list of options.  Were these sacred objects being used to cast some circle of protection?  No, certainly not with Lox wielding them, despite his ritualistic treatment of them at the moment.

"Get on with it!" Berks called, and lifted his foot for another push.

Lox drew his dagger from it's hidden sheath in the arm hole of his armor and held it Berks' shoe- the tip pressing into the bottom and threatening to penetrate if he pushed any further forward.  He shot him the death stare, the one he swore he'd used to turn a man to stone once when the gods had still blessed him, and Berks withdrew.

Then, as if tossing aside a bone he'd cleared of me, he let the cubes fall from his hand.  Morg heard the familiar clacking sound as they landed on the stone, and then a yell from Lox as he cheered the symbols appearing on the upturned faces of the cubes, and then an angry growl from Berks and an amused chuckle from Kindl who before now had sat quietly grinning at the whole thing.

"Yes, that's what happens when you test the gods will!" Lox cried, pointing a finger at Berks whose face was rapidly reddening.

"What are you doing?" Morg demanded, finally unable to ignore the obvious question any longer.

"Following the laws of the land," Lox said dismissively and grabbed up the cubes again.

Morg looked at him puzzled.

"What, hasn't anyone told you?" Berks asked, "Always gamble near a holy site in the morning."

Monday, May 23, 2016

Open

Goal setting, while necessary and valid, can be a tricky thing.  Because no sooner can one envision a potential future than feel passion for it to happen.  Pressure for it to happen.  Expectation.  And we all know what expectations do to us.

And my logical brain wants to know why.  It wants to assign numbers and calculate likelihoods and analyze data.  And yes, if we're being perfectly honest here, it wants to blame.  My dear god does it want to blame.

But my intuitive mind, the one that doesn't feel like it's in my skull but rather my heart or perhaps my gut, knows better.  There is a quiet, gentle voice reminding me that there is a lesson in everything if I can only open myself up to it.

Not only in the moment itself- the sounds, smells, feels, tastes and sights all around me which can pull me out of that worrisome place and back to blessedly tangible reality.  But also in simply accepting rather than judging.  In asking rather than complaining.

No, things didn't go according to plan.  But what came in that plan's place? 

"Be open," the gentle whisper tells me.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Letting Go

It was a thought so long before it became a reality that to truly understand its path from the source one would have to go back an entire lifetime.   The thought, in and of itself, was nothing revolutionary.  It was, in fact, something so commonly espoused that it was found on bumper stickers, t-shirts, billboards and hit song lyrics.  An yet the action it described was so revolutionary it was almost never seen.

Let go.  That was all.

She'd said it herself a million times to people who were compulsively obsessing over issues now long past.  Ended relationships, stupid mistakes, embarrassing moments, angry remembrances.  She'd said it in the same flippant manner everyone said it, as if it were a simple, immediate thing.  As if people didn't spend years in therapy, on religious retreats, consulting with gurus trying to understand how to do it, trying to actually bring the idea into action.

And yet now, in a situation that seemed to demand she ignore every single utterance of that word, she found it to be the easiest thing she'd ever done.  Easier than breathing, easier than blinking, easier than a thousand other automatic, unconscious behaviors she'd done innumerable times.

So with a quiet, almost inaudible exhale she did.  She let go.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Fiona St.

The light was harsh and intrusive, even through his closed eyelids.  And the truck backing up seemed to make the light pulse.  Each beep was a red flash behind his eyelids, as if beating against his brain.  He tried to assess the situation- but with the pain occupying his skull he was far beyond the task.

He became aware, in a sad, slow sort-of way, of pressure on his upper back.  And underneath his left hip.  He couldn't get a good feel of anything exactly, just vague and horrible sensations.  Every investigation threatened to tear him further from the now blissful-seeming detachment he'd felt from his body before he started to awake.

He tried, briefly, to breathe deeper and fall back into the darkness.  But the light and the sound and the pain kept at him, insistent and relentless.  And with each beep, each engine turn, each yell from someone in an echo-ey alleyway he became more aware.  Not only of the pounding in his head and the pressure against him as he leaned in some awkward position but also of the quickly developing nausea in his stomach and dizziness that seemed to revolve in his head.

Before he could think he felt a new sensation in his hand- a body-part he hadn't previously been aware of.  As if something had been pushed into it, forced into his loose grip.  His eyes shot open against his will and he saw what it was- a crumpled up bill.  He heard rather than seeing the person who had bestowed it as turning his head to look threatened to topple him.  It was the sound of footsteps made by nice shoes- black patent leather with heels.  He knew the sound so well it registered instantly even without sight and his mind began to piece together the information.

He was slumped against the building in the early morning of city activity- like the bakery truck delivering flour across the street, and a business man en route to one of the high-rise office buildings had inserted a bill into his outstretched hand, thinking him a vagrant.

The scene blossomed in his mind, clear and concise.  He was a bum, or at least, that's what everyone saw.  How else to describe someone in his state- still somewhat drunk from the night before, slumped against a wall in an alleyway, probably reeking from sweat and god only knew what else, wearing clothes worn down by a hard night.  It was a scene so instantaneously recognizable his mind couldn't reject it and it sunk in.

The full awareness hit him, washed over him, drowned him.  And in the aftermath there was only one question left over: How the hell did he get this bad?

Friday, May 20, 2016

The Summer Porch

Stashed.  That was the word.  Hidden under a million objects, memories, pictures, emotions and scents.  Easily dismissed when met with the realities of the day.  Filed away in the safest, most treasured part of the mind.

Going there was an indulgence, certainly.  It wasn't productive, it didn't help her get any work done or catch up on the mountain of papers sitting on her desk.  But sometimes, just for a moment, when the sound of typing threatened to drive her mad or the endless ring of the phone up front started to drown out her own thoughts she would stop and allow herself to drift.

It began with the scent of saltwater.  Or seaweed.  Or sand.  Whatever that smell was.  She knew it better than anything else and it enveloped her completely, invading her nostrils as much as her memories even as she sat in that sterile office closed off from the world.  It was a scent written on her soul, inextricably linked to a feeling of peace that nothing else could deliver.  She followed it now, down the path of her own memory.

Next came the sounds of the street- lawnmowers, dogs barking, kids yelling at each other as they shot waterguns or chased the leader down the sidewalk.  She heard her father's old dodge idling away in the driveway as he worked on the engine, telling her brother to "turn it off" for another adjustment.  She heard her cat Missy mewing as he sprawled on the wooden railing of the porch.

She reached out a hand and felt the old wood- painted and re-painted so many times the wood underneath could never be recovered, and yet worn smooth by hands like hers grasping and sliding and sometimes holding on.  Her grandmother's firm grasp as she slowly mounted the steps one at a time, smiling as she did as if the pain in her hip wasn't excruciating.  Her brother's tapping fingers as he skipped up the way he always did.  Her mother's smooth, fluid ascent earning a groan from each step she walked.  The physical touches of her family etched onto the smooth surface.

And finally, blessedly, she opened her eyes and observed.  The window always caught her eye first, the pane reflecting the nearly blinding light of the late sun as it drooped languidly in the sky and the orange glow that illuminated and bounced and spread like ivy.  It always reminded her of a creamsicle, sometimes so much her mouth would water and she would strain for the sound of the ice cream truck.

She allowed her gaze to drift, her eyes touching upon each object and surface the same as her hand had caressed the banister.  The swing- her mother's favorite part of the house, where she would curl up with a book and Missy and an icy glass of lemonade or tea that would collect condensation and soak the pages of whatever novel she pretended to read as she looked out at the street.  Sometimes her father would join her with a beer in hand and she'd protest his dirty pants on her white wicker bench.  He would put an arm around her, which she'd initially scream at him for before relenting and sinking into the cuddle.

The sand-dollar wind chimes they'd made together one summer, after carefully and meticulously combing the beach day after day looking for the perfect ones.  For every one successfully connected by fishing wire there were at least a dozen broken, or stepped on, or found lacking upon the return home to consider the day's findings.  She'd always loved it, perhaps because of the size of the endeavor and the devotion they'd given it.

The floor, oh the floor.  Worn smooth in the main pathway by hundreds of feet scraping across the surface.  Sandy shoes and dragged beach bags.  Her father's heavy work boots.  Her wet flip-flops.  Her grandmother's cane.  The wood had originally been a deep, chestnut brown but in the center of the porch where everyone walked it was worn back, obsidian and perfectly reflective of that brilliant orange light.  As if the entryway itself were a path of lit fire.  She would stare at that spot on the porch as she sat on the railing, losing longer moments than she ever intended.

A million and one memories.  An endless list of stories and jokes and repeated dialogues.  The tapestry of her family before her grandmother died and her parents broke up and they had to sell the house in Avalon.  Before childhood stopped being magical.  She indulged in them, allowing herself to feel.

A pile of manilla folders landed with an audible thud on the already tall pile of paperwork on her desk and she startled, jolting violently and bouncing in her office chair.  Her boss didn't even look back at her as he continued his march to his office and she shot daggers at the now crumbling tower on her desk.  She sighed, resigned herself to get back to work and leave the summer porch again to regain her seat in the firm, unforgiving confines of reality, and reached for the top of the stack.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Reminders

It's possible to hold your breath without realizing you're doing it.  In the little seconds in between the sighs and exhales, we pause.  We wait.  The tension builds.  The body reacts.  And yes, eventually we breathe and eventually the body loosens.  But then we do it again- we constrict and suffer the lack of so desperately needed life.

It's a trap we fall into over and over again, unconsciously.  And yes, it's a habit.  And the instruction is SO simple: just breathe.  The easiest, most natural thing is the right thing to do.  Just breathe.

After a year of training and conscious practice I'm realizing that all the techniques I use- meditation and mindfulness and taking that so necessary pause before reacting and catching myself in my crazy thought process and letting go and all of it are the same: the easiest, most natural things to do.  The worrying and analyzing and questioning and asking is just holding my breath.  And releasing it works exactly the same way.

The trick is, we forget that we can control our breath.  It happens so unconsciously, we don't pay attention to it.  So when we don't, we tend to accept that.  "Ooopps- I'm holding my breath again."  It's easy to dismiss, and there's no blame.  My mistake, is that I DON'T forget that I can control my thoughts, so rather than just dismissing the mistake I get down on myself.

"Why do you keep doing this?  You know better!"  This is what I tell myself, as if that's gonna help.

And yet, it's no different than the breath.  When I stop paying attention, I may hold it- the thought, the worry, the label.  And the tension will return, and the body will react.  But as soon as I notice it, I can choose to let go, just like the breath I've been holding.  No judgements, no shoulds, no questions- just letting go and breathing.  The most natural things in the world.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Sometimes We Fly

The things we hold onto hold onto us, that's what they say.  The labels and descriptors- that ridiculous idea of identity.  The excuse that "this is how I've always been" or "that's just who I am" keeping us bound to old patterns, old thoughts, old stories that no longer serve us.

It's a thick, sticky kind-of stuck.  The kind that clings and rips when we try to break free.

And falling is scary- no doubt about it.  A million ways we could land, and the pain we will feel when we do.  We tend to scream and flail, as if that helps.

But freedom can only take us when we let go of the moorings, when we shrug off the fastenings and let ourselves fall.  And sometimes there is pain, sure.  Sometimes we find that we jumped too soon, missed our mark and we get some scars to help us remember where we've been and what we've learned.

But sometimes, there's not a hard bottom waiting for us.  Sometimes the wind kicks up and takes us on a wild ride.  Sometimes, sometimes we fly.