Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Return of the Dreamer

Memory returns through dreams
They stay dancing in the corners of my eyes
Not fully opened in the grey gauze morning
Chickadee clan is already darting between
Black Sunflower seeds and the sleeping Oak
They chide me for lingering inside
My cave of blankets with the dog
Her low snoring and small warm body
More real than the rumble of trucks outside
In here it is safe to let my dreams
Of a night mist valley
Where old women gambol and circle
Of great amaranthine orchids
In a long abandoned den
All sift into the heart of my wisdom
Within the fabric of this moment
A place of light begins

When I wrote this, I was in the midst of cancer treatment, keeping a weekly not so happy hour with a Cytoxan cocktail. Sleep was poor. When I slept I dreamed almost immediately upon falling asleep. The dreams were full of information I could not readily make sense of, but I wrote them down anyway. At the time, I had a passing thought to do deeper dreamwork, but I was too consumed with surviving the treatment.

Sleep once more has become phantom-like, coming and going as it pleases. Dreams are now nightmares. Wake up crying, sweating, heart pounding, wherethehellamI.  To add a layer of wtf, I experience head rushes or brain zaps as they are sometimes called.  Da doctor, he say it's "just side effects" from tapering off my medication. End of conversation for him. I am not content with the simplistic answer or to quietly accept and bear the negative impact this sleep disturbance is having on my life.

Patrice Maildoma Somé, of the Dagara people, has voiced the old wisdom, that what manifests in the body and mind are intertwined with the spirit. Imbalance in any part is imbalance in all parts. From the article What a Shaman Sees in a Mental Hospital :

"What those in the West view as mental illness, the Dagara people regard as “good news from the other world.”  The person going through the crisis has been chosen as a medium for a message to the community that needs to be communicated from the spirit realm.  “Mental disorder, behavioral disorder of all kinds, signal the fact that two obviously incompatible energies have merged into the same field,” says Dr. Somé. These disturbances result when the person does not get assistance in dealing with the presence of the energy from the spirit realm."

It is the practice of his Dagara community to assist people in crisis in a way that allows the person to integrate the experience and become whole and balanced. While I carry the Ancestors in my bones and my spirit, I have no real world community like the Dagara who "get \it". Yet, I am not without resources. Instead of being held hostage by "symptoms" I want to work through them in a way that allows this experience to be integrated into my life that keeps me moving along the path that has chosen me. My Dreamwork consists of these spiritual practices:

Journaling  I journal regularly, but now I am making a point of writing down what I dreamed as soon as I wake. This helps me ground myself back in this world and detach from the Dream Realm. Writing calms me, slows my heart rate and my racing thoughts.

Tapping  My therapist uses tapping when I am caught up in PTSD episodes. She keeps it simple and I have been able to do this on my own. The brain zaps are constant companions, so I can do this when they become more than a nuisance.

Ancestor Reverence  This has already been a part of my path, but now I am listening and watching more closely to signs and messages from them.

Self Love  This is multifaceted  and the hardest part of the work for me. I am a nurturer so everyone else comes first, often leaving little or nothing for me. Eat well, drink plenty of water and tea. One of my partners gave me a gift of several teas, one of them an Earl Grey with Lavender blossoms. That first sip fills me with a healing that spreads throughout my body and spirit. Also I am working to short circuit negative self talk as it arises and replace it with allowing and then letting go. I go outside everyday even if it rains, sometimes because it does. Many more parts to this, but you get the idea.

Explore the World of Dreams  Right now I am doing an audio book by Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Ph.D. called The Beginner's Guide to Dream Interpretation. I have other books and articles on sleep and dreaming that I am revisiting.

Here is why I am choosing to deal with this disruption in the flow of life in this way instead allowing another pharmaceutical solution.

Since I was a child, the spirits of my ancestors were woven into my daily life by my mother, aunties, uncles, and community members. This was done in the most minute of ways--I often observed small rituals and actions when I was not supposed to be "in grown folks business." My life was infused with the do's and don'ts of old time ways--don't throw hair from your comb into the yard or into the trash; don't put hats on the bed; always stand the broom up on its handle; throw some salt over your shoulder when cooking, on and on.

I remember conversations between my mother and her posse of women friends, the whispers about one particular root woman who had a hold of my father from the time he was a young boy. This was a hushed and terrible part of my mother's life until the day she died.

There was Mr. M who had the face of a deep ebony African carving with rheumy eyes and a manner as still as the middle of the night. He was able to cure the wildfire of impetigo that raged through my neighborhood one summer, creating a sulfur yellow salve that had my brother's knees looking like he'd never had the infection in just a few weeks. Even though everyone in my neighborhood was afraid of him, he was the one the community sought out when Western ways failed, and they often did.

Here I am now, 60 years old and these parts of my life are as strong as ever, informing my spirit, my mind and heart. They keep my feet pointed in the direction that calls to me. These are old ways, old wisdom and they sing to me. These nightmares and brain disturbances are side effects, but they are something more, something rooted in the ancient. Bad dreams are more than the pickles eaten before bedtime. They are full of messages and information that the ancestors and spirit beings need for us to know. So I'm listening now for what they want me to know.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Bad Ass Women

July 14th was Mala Day. Mala Yousafzai, the champion of education for young girls who was brutally assaulted for her refusal to be silenced, held a sign that said "I am stronger than fear." This slip of girl with a soft voice and a gentle face with a fierce light behind it pulled at the mother bear within me. I wanted to rise up and roar and tear apart her attackers; I wanted tear apart every human who had ever done a vicious act.

Instead I wrote a poem. And that poem awakened me to a movement of change that is growing the way  the currents of a river flow into furious whitewater. Malala is not alone in her calling. In 1976, Betty Williams and Mairead Corrigan were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts in bring peace to war ravaged Northern Ireland. There are so many others, unnamed women who have answered the call to become Oya's Broom, and bring the type of change that while desperately necessary, takes a toll on their own lives in ways we canot possibly conceive.

Consider the lives of women like Sampat Pal Devi, organizer and warrior goddess of the Gulabi Gang. Wearing their signature pink saris and carrying bamboo canes, they seek out abusers of women and children and administer their own brand of justice. They are in a word--badass.

I am certain I have not even grazed the surface in naming the women who have come into a kind of power and movement that is purely given by Grace. They are not simply courageous. They are answering an Earth song of healing that demands blood magic and sacrifice of what we of everyday concerns take for granted--safety, to lay down your head and sleep with both eyes closed, to walk out your door unconcerned for what lurks in shadows.

I am of the everyday, relative to the deep and too often bloodstained struggles these women engage in the service of Social Justice. It is a work suited to few and so it falls to the rest of us to speak their names, hold them up in prayer and praise. Give gratitude for their presence past, present, and future. For it is the women who bring peace finally. It is the women.

Toe to toe with death and destruction
She emerged warrior woman
Beauty of strength and love
Pouring from the wound
Wounded healer, a shaman
Beating the trance drum and singing
I... am...stronger...than
Your guns
Your hate
Your slipping in and out of dark
To silence and destroy
Me I am stronger than
My fear
I am stronger than yours

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Why Poetry is a Necessity

I read Poetry Is Not a Luxury from Audre Lorde's Sister OutsiderThis is not the first time. The wisdom of women now ancestors pries open my consciousness and signals meto pay attention and go deeper. Audre Lorde, black woman warrior poet wrote of  poetry as the embodiment of  spiritual journey for all women, an embodiment that is something deep, dark and ancient. Poetry, she said, is necessary for us. Not as the exercise of putting together pretty words, but as a means of knowing our true selves, and further giving voice to our profound longings. Not only give voice to them but in poetry, we prepare a birthing place for bringing forth those longings, those desires to action.

Poetry. It has saved me and confused me and kept me up into the dark hours. Poetry has kept me from the pill bottle and the precipice. It is the deeper part of my voice and it keeps me sane. When I am fortunate enough to cross a threshold into the sacred space of poetry like that of Suheir Ammad, I want jump up like Sunday Morning Amen. 

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Caring for Life

I started my day with cedar joss sticks and chants took me out of my head and into the present moment for a time. Breathing in air that felt new and life giving, I felt centered and able to go on another day.

I went to my plants, giving water and words of appreciation. Added the sound of the water fountain on my altar and did some other house work as my body allowed for it. I think about my health and its tenuous and sometimes unpredictable state and feel fully the privilege I enjoy to have adequate health care insurance and competent providers. I often forget that this is not true for so many in this land of more than any one person could ever need sitting in the hands and control of so few.

I sat here in the comfort of my home, sunshine pouring into every opening on this strange but usual winter day. I am given uncomfortable thoughts, truths to consider. That while the corruption and self interest that passes for goverment and public servants dicker about the cost and shape of health care and who is entitled to have this care,  there is a sense that health care is narrowly defined and somehow separate from care for and of life itself.

As we continue to make the unholy misery of war the daily reality for fellow humans in other places of our planet, it does seem insanity that we are so blind to the health and well being of those whose lives are forever changed by weapons wielded by our hands. Yes, the lives of those who push the button or pull the trigger on either side are casualties as well.

Sometimes when considering the damage we do to one another, I ask the Orisha how will balance be returned to us when we have fallen so far to one awful side? I am not content to chant and transcend to some lofty plane beyond the pain of human existence. Like the speaker in Marge Piercy's poem To Be of Use, I feel a need to get into the muck, hoist and bear away the dirt.

My journey presents me with the question of how do I go from spiritual thoughts and feelings to spiritual action? It is not enough that I think good thoughts. How will I convert thought to bodily experience? Before humans went so far away from our connection to Earth and to each other, creating a vessel that would hold water for the community's needs was a spiritual act of daily life. There was little separation, if any between spirit and daily living as each was entwined with the other. Now is a different time in which we are encouraged and driven to be as far removed from the web threads that inform our connection to Creation.

Our world is one that makes the pain and suffering of others a thing that is "over there" and not in our own souls. My own experience tells me that this is a lie. What is done to one is done to all. Yet, if every act of good, every act of kindness works toward restoring balance, then I can do something. Rather than list what I am doing to help, I would like to hear from others what would constitute for them an action of compassion and love to stand in the face of a world that has forgotten our purpose?

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Speak Love to Power

Today I finally began to catch up on my reading. I follow Alice Walker's blog. I could never hope to match her words, say as precisely and beautifully the truths she shares. Guantanamo is a place that holds an evil that hides within the miasma of patriotism and duty and apathy. Ms. Walker's blog shares with us through Code Pink one man's plea for justice. I am sharing her blog here because beyond justice there is always Love. This man's soul desire to be able to teach and share with his children and family the work of Love touched my own desire further this in my own life. May his words touch yours. You will find Alice Walker's blog post here.

Friday, January 31, 2014

A New Call

This blog has been absent for some time. I needed time to rethink its purpose and expression. Still I write not to gain followers. I write to stay sane. This will never be everyone's cup of tea. Perhaps some will sit at table with me to share. We shall see.