Monday, March 2, 2015

Healing Waters

Osun is the Yoruba earth spirit of the River and all fresh water. She has been my encantada for many decades now. Only now after the challenges of breast cancer, and resulting fibromyalgia has my journey with her and Earth Mother brought me to a space where I  was ready to accept the healing of her element. I ain't mad at Iya. I was not ready to accept what she had for me. I was still, in spite of my desire to let go, trying to direct the show, dictate the shape of my healing. Sometimes, well...a lot of the time I'm a hard head and as a strong Black woman, letting go feels like giving in to failure. My sistahs of color can echo this in myriad stories.

Ours is a legacy of holding up under the weight of a culture that seeks our demise in so many ways. Even now our mothers' hearts weep blood for the lives pinched out too soon. Black and brown children barely out of knee pants, as they used to say, shot to death by the ones appointed to protect and serve us all. This is not new. Women of color in this country have been the keepers of the survival of our people since our first encounters with dominant culture--aka white folks. We've been holding on as children were ripped from our arms, holding on as loved ones were alternately sold, scourged, and lynched. Holding on while entire communities were dessimated all of the people brutally murdered. Holding on as we walked from Carolina to Oklahoma burying loved ones along the way. This is not new to us. Sweet Honey in the Rock captures this holding on and holding up in their song, The Women Gather



So you see...when spirit needs us to let go in order to accept her gifts, it feels like our worlds are ending. So it is for me. I have so many heartaches and hardships to hold and most of them needed to be released long ago. Figuring out what is mine to carry and what is not is what makes the road trodding farl. I'm human, it is my nature to resist even that which will help me.

Thus, by a happy accident, did I find the doorway to Osun's healing waters. The Orisas all have unique gifts that they use to help the world and people. Osun is the current of the river, the pulse of the blood that flows through our bodies. Water is her special medicine. The Yoruba know that water from the river can be blessed in a particular way and when used appropriately is known to bring healing from physical and emotional, and spiritual ailments.

I'd given up on the tramadol and flexoril regimen prescribed by my doctor. She wanted me to come in and talk about other options and that is how I  ended up immersed in warm water, doing movements called Ai Chi. A variation of Tai Chi, the movements flow from one to the next with mindful breathing. The water supports and challenges me at the same time. My heart rate steadies, I hear Iyalode Osun sing to me and hold me in her embrace...let go, you are safe, let go...

Me, who could not walk around the block without feeling breathless and as though I  was encased in cement, am momentarily suspended in a world of buoyant joy. I picture mermaids with dark shining skin and warm laughter. I feel alive and wish to never leave this small haven of healing. Right in front of me all the time, Mother of Rivers, always with open arms if I  will only let go long enough to reach for them. Mo Dupe.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Peacemaking

Fibromyalgia is just another way to say imbalance. It's more than that, too. My body betrays me in every possible way while appearing to the world as...normal...if normal even exists and I doubt that it does. They got fibro warriors among us beating back the scourge of relentless pain, muscle and bone that succumb to fatigue that turns scores of days into quicksand. They got lots of pills for this. Cymbalta and Tramadol and Flexoril and Lyrica and Trazadone and Effexor and...the pills they mitigate mediate medicate you into a stupor of gauze and cotton worlds where life is half life and getting off the pill carousel is jonesing and tremors and pins and needles and cold sweat heart flutter. Big Pharma. Big Money. Big Bullsh-t. I'm done with War. Making peace with my body is a road spun out into moments. It is a patient path of just enough and tears and smiles and deep gratitude in the tenuous nature of the body, the infinite nature of the soul.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Longest Night

Long ago, the Celtic peoples of Northern climates gathered around communal fires and blessed the returning sun. In other places in the world people marked and celebrated not Winter Solstice, but those traditions which kept them connected to the Earth and her seasons. Many traditions honored and revered those ancestor spirits who went on into the Spirit Realm.

My own practice and heart have been shaped by my ancestor people--the Eastern Cherokee, the Yorubas, the Mozambicans, and the Celts. I live now in a place where winter is dark and cold and filled with rain. I  miss the blankets of snow from my childhood, but have learned to look to Mountain Mother and her perpetual snowy gown.

Morbid or not this time of year pushes me toward endings--and within endings are loss, fear, despair, and sadness as well as the openings to growth, love, and deepening spirit. This time  of year is full of the frenzy we humans have created and fed to distract ourselves from one another and from our world. The crazier the pace, the more inward I draw, avoiding the mall and stores, the traffic, the slack-jawed crowds.

Pulling in puts me close to the darkness of winter and the coming of the longest night. I reflect on the events and milestones of my life, now in my 61st year in this body. I touch the the griefs and heartaches, the joys and loves. I see the crest of the hill of my own mortality and the fear of death recedes faintly each time I look.

As the Winter Solstice approaches this weekend, the words of Stephen Jenkinson have presented themselves and become my meditation:

The idea of a relational identity panics North Americans because "my true inner self" is up for grabs as existing at all, never mind occupying the throne of our conscience the way it tends to do these days.

I believe, I experience that inside the kernel of our souls resides the "true inner self." It is not "up for grabs", but it is constantly seeking to find its place of belonging, its home within Creation. I can't speak for others; I  know only the limited view of my own journey and the sacred intersections I have been blessed with in 61 years.  It's  three in the morning and the fibro flare that has been rolling in for the past few weeks has arrived.

When the pain pushes its way past my ability to cope and compensate, my own mortality plays like a movie in my body and mind. I feel more isolated, more separate, more alone. The experience of "relational identity" is a place within me and without  to find balance once more. I  am not simply me, but am a part of every  human, every rock spirit, tree, flower and bee weighted down with pollen. I am mirrored in the empty eyes of the panhandlers on the corners. I am the man in a wheelchair outside of the courthouse whose face I could not see as I pressed some dollars into the jar in his lap. Somewhere in the corybantic movement of the rail thin, poufy lipped white woman who clutches her bag closer as she walks by me in the store, yes, even in her there is me in some kind of way. Is it hard to be compassionate and at peace with this connection? Of course. Still, this truth, this knowing I work to hold as the pain and exhaustion drag me about and I  can last until it passes.

It is the way of life. Nothing is easy. There is always some challenge, some sadness, some falling away, all of it out of our control no matter how large the illusion we create that we run this show. We do our best and things fall apart anyway. I reflect on these drop downs in my own life--my adult children's struggles with addiction and mental illness, how after more than a decade trying to help my mentally ill daughter get help, I had to put her out of my house because she became violent. How the suicide of my 16 year old grandson, and the wound left by his leaving aches at the least expected times. There is more but listing misery isn't my goal.

My desire is to send these words into the world as meditation and prayer, as a deep longing for that place where I  am becomes we are. So this Saturday, my fireplace will crackle, the ancestors will be fed, the house will be smudged and I will find the my threads and cast them out toward the coming year with hope and gratitude for this messy, illogical, spirit-filled life.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

The Work of Love

One of the misconceptions about a spiritual life is that it will be a life of light and perpetual bliss. I’ve fallen into that hole more than once and I continue to fall in. I start believing that because Osun has called me that I must be more wise than most. I fool myself into believing that only happy events will comprise my life. I forget that it is not my wisdom that Osun wants. It is my growth as a spiritual being. Therein shall I find bliss, and only therein.

Years ago, I read M. Scott Peck’s A Road Less Traveled. Poking around in one of the two local Goodwill stores I shop at these days, I found a pristine copy for $1.99. The first sentence of Chapter I tells me I made the right choice:

Life is difficult.
Echoing the first of the Buddha Siddhartha Gautama’s Four Noble Truths, Peck eloquently reminds us that when we accept that life is a process of challenges, trials, break-through, enlightenment, and yet new challenges and trials, we can get down to the real work of living and loving, and stop wasting our time moaning and waiting for the goose that lays the golden egg of happiness.

When my beloved *yaar moved in and he, myself, and my *rafeegh of 11 years became a tribe of chosen family. I have been polyamorous all of my life. Like many poly people, it has taken me most of my life to find the fitting and loving expression of this love-style. Living together, sharing everyday life with a commitment to wherever it takes us is my poly ideal.  We cohabitated for four years. In those years, we all faced the inevitability of change that life brings.

In defining Love, Peck says this:

I define love thus: The will to extend one’s self for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth.
To accept this definition of love means that I have to move beyond romantic notions of love. I would argue that his association of spiritual oneness with the myth of romantic love is inaccurate. I have experienced deep spiritual connection with my lovers during love-making, and during time spent in ritual at the altar. That said, his definition rings truth for me. Peck also sets as a condition of real love that it displays itself through action and effort. It is what we do that determines love, not what we profess. Love is action, not principle.

In order to love others, we must have an already established love of ourselves. There is no love, without water in our own wells to offer. If I am following Peck’s reasoning, that water must be our own will to engage in deep self-examination and accept our own mistakes, forgive ourselves, and move forward into further spiritual awakening. I think this process can be singularly our own or it can be entwined with the same process of our beloveds. It is…humbling. If you are unflinchingly honest with yourself when these moments of growth appear, prepare to be brought to your knees.

My yaar is highly sensitive, emotional, intense, spiritual, and often mercurial. He is high maintenance, so he is not for the faint of heart, and not for everyone. My nickname for him is my tempest in a teapot. When his teapot shatters, it’s best to step aside, allow him to pick up the pieces, and support him as he puts them all back together. He does this quite well.  In fact, he has outgrown my nickname as the years have demanded his growth and transformation.

Eventually, our lives as a poly tribe morphed. He moved into his own place. The whole process was messy, at times pure chaos. It felt like loss on so many levels. The change was pain filled. For a time I believed we had failed as a poly family. Not once did I ever stop loving him, but I wrestled with the necessity of this change, my own insecurities, and the complex issues and human interactions involved. At the lowest point I believed and accepted that he would never be in my life again.

The thing about change is you don't get to call the game plan or how it will be executed. You get to decide to embrace or fight. Through being open, allowing time to move us along, and a conscious choice to work through and with this change in all our lives, we somehow have remained loving and committed partners. There was damage surely, there has been heartache. There have been moments of excruciating soul searching, step offs into bad choices. Yet, because each of us has continued to choose to act in loving ways, we've weathered the seas of change.

Now I am the traveling lover packing a weekend bag. I keep creature comforts at his place, creating a space where I come "home" and live life with him as fully as possible. When it's time, I return "home" to my rafeegh.  It is worth all of the inconvenience, and complications.  The things that have deep value are never easy.

I deal with chronic pain and fatigue of fibromyalgia every day. It's a lot to manage. I get overwhelmed.  I have pitiful me parties. I cry sometimes because there is so much I want to do and just can't anymore. It is so easy to let loss trap you, so easy and tempting to let the idea of what you lack steal what you have.

I choose to focus on the fact that we all have the gift of each other in our lives still after seven years, 15 for my rafeegh and me. And there is the joy of this amazing, crazy, outside the crayon lines, magical, other kind of life I live. A life of art, music, and maybe, yes, even dance again. As my choice to eschew the pharmaceutical method of coping with fibromyalgia unfolds, I have begun to experience healing in my body that I have not felt since before the cancer diagnosis.

 There is the unmistakable pull to go deeper into this spiritual sojourn. Giving expression to polyamory in the way it holds meaning for my heart and spirit has provided me incredible opportunities for spiritual growth. I think that these places of spiritual growth are what Peck means by the real work of loving. He says that falling in love, being in love is a romantic myth. He may be right, I don’t know. I do know that real love is more than a notion. It will crumble your ego into bits. Yet, it is only after the destruction of old ways of thinking can the new occur. Much like the way Oya, Goddess of Winds, prepares places and people by sweeping away old structures through lightning, and storms, our work in love and spiritual growth requires us to let go of our notions of wisdom and rightness so that the real work of spiritual growth and love can begin.

From the Introduction to The Thief of Sleep by Shahram Shiva

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

It Takes a Village

As I reclaim my sacred space and altar time, I wanted to find a chair, stool, or bench that I could use to sit at my altar to Osun. It would need to be large enough to sit on comfortably for an hour, but small enough to remain in front of the bookshelf upon which the altar resides.

My intention was to do what I like to do--find a piece in a thrift store and fix it up. After putting that off for a couple of weeks,  I realized that this is another lesson in accepting my body and its limits. While I may be able to fit the trip to Goodwill into my spoon allotment for the day, the energy required to do the rehab on a piece is just not there.

So looking for something suitable now involves shopping for new. I've found several designs that fit the dimensions.  Now it's time to choose. While I don't have a huge following, it would be fun to have those who read this blog choose the design of my new prayer bench. Here they are:

Number 1

Number 2

Number 3

Number 4

Number 5

Leave a comment with your choice and a few words about why you like the one you chose. I'll announce the one that got the most votes in a couple of weeks. I'm excited to see what folks think.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

The Mercy Seat

One of the sacred practices that became lost for me when I was undergoing cancer treatment was dedicated and regular time at my altar for Osun. Osun is my encantada,  the Orisa that has called me, been my guide and teacher for most of my life. While I have kept and maintained her altar, spending a hour or more in contemplation and prayer, or doing readings slipped away as my ability to concentrate, and my physical stamina were siphoned off by chemo, radiation,  and the entry of fibromyalgia in the aftermath of treatment.

As the new road of my journey opens before me, and I am beginning to breathe more slowly, make choices with more spiritual purpose. I find I can begin to look around at the wreckage of illness and begin to reclaim what still serves my life. It's not always about letting go. We have to hold close the blessings, and gifts that nourish us too.

Osun's altar is often found in the bedroom or the kitchen. But I have no space in either of those rooms. Her altar sits on an expansive bookcase between living room and dining room. The relatively public area puts Iyalode Osun in the main area of my home and I love her there. But how to have some quiet and private time with her?

One of my partners, with whom I often have shared altar time got my mind shifted in the direction of being more active about reclaiming my sacred space. As I thought about his words, "...you always took everything to your altar--joys, sorrows, everything..." His words sent me back to childhood and my mother's A.M.E. church, the call to bring it all to the altar. Everyone would sing so soft it was almost a whisper, "Come ye disconsolate...where 'er ye languish...Come to the mercy seat...fervently kneel...Earth has no sorrows,  that Heav'n cannot heal...."

It was my favorite time in church, so hushed and yet so deeply reverent and unwavering in faith that whatever it was, the Creator would take care of it. It stuck, one of the few pieces of traditi Izonal religion that did. And so I,  in my own way and on my own path have regularly come to the mercy seat to laugh, to weep, to supplicate, to beg and even bargain because I am not immune from my human failings. Every time I found what I needed. Every single time.

As I sort through the upturned and scattered pieces of my life, this found thing is pure treasure to me. How I will accomplish it is not so much a problem as an opportunity to allow Osun a more firm purchase in my heart and spirit. She will show me the way.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Taking Stock

I spent a week in Tacoma General Hospital last week. A silent kidney infection went rogue and put my body into Sepsis. Been home for a week and I'm back to being able to do pretty much nothing, again.

I looked at the bottles and bottles of pharmaceutical drugs I've been allowing into my body since the cancer diagnosis

Then I had my husband bring down every bottle and box from the upstairs bathroom. 

When I look at this, I see poison. I see the root of why my body cannot heal properly. Why I'm limping along in a world between alive and dead, barely able to function. I can't place the blame entirely on Western Medicine.  I bought the snake oil, lock stock and "smoking barrel. " 

So this morning I'm assessing my state of being. There's a bag of kitty litter complete with turds waiting for this pile of pharmaceutical crap. Right now, I'm angry. At the consumer culture that makes medicine into profits, bottom lines, and way to get paid, instead of healed. I'm angry at a culture that treats the old as fodder for big pharma. I'm angry at myself for so easily swallowing the pills and the lie.

I'm not being stupid. I'm intelligent enough to know what I need to take, and what is simply junk. So enough. Enough of the sawbones' claptrap.  This morning, with the beginning of a tickle in my throat that wants to turn into something bigger, instead of the medicine chest, I'm into the kitchen and my teapot.