Tuesday, November 6, 2018

It Begins With a Call (Part 20): Grief Rituals


Our annual grief ritual is over.  Such challenging and important work! Having lost a dear friend four days earlier, I was primed.  It also rekindled the last grief work I did in June.

With some trepidation (given my experiences two years ago when I returned from heat and fire with a headache that became chronic), I headed back to Topanga for more work with the teacher.  From the get-go it was clear that this would be an entirely different experience.  No fires.  No 113° heat.  The first morning dawned foggy and misty.  Water dripped from the eucalyptus trees.  The first two days stayed cool and windy.  Even when it cleared up, the temperature stayed below 80°.  The group was a little smaller this time, and a tight community feeling developed quickly.



It did not take long for us to plunge into the grief and despair for the state of the planet.  One man, a known journalist and author, spoke at length about his research and subsequent inescapable awareness that the planet is already on hospice, that it is already too late.  How does one deal with that?  By grieving.  We all went into grief.  This week would basically be a week-long grief ritual.

This intensive is significantly different –at least for me – than previous ones.  The teacher has always focused on the need to change our thinking, to rid ourselves of “colonized mind.”  But this time, the work has gone to another level: what to do, how to be, if it is already too late.

Here was the question posed for us all:  What is the mandate for each of us at this time?  The teacher was adamant that we cannot be here only for ourselves and that none of us is innocent.  We must learn to think in terms of “we” rather than “I.”

As we deepened, a few things made themselves clear to me.  The headache, and bringing it back to the place of its origin, would not be the focus for me this week.  Something I said before but not I truly gotten – this headache is my connection to Spirit.  I came here two years ago asking for a more enduring connection, and it came, but it wasn’t in a way that I wanted or even recognized until now. 
I showed the teacher my card with Kali dancing on my neck and she agreed that this headache is the connection.  She said that it came to me for reasons I don’t understand, that I didn’t specifically ask for this, but it is the manifestation I didn’t see.


My preoccupation with my illness is the illness, she said.  It is colonized mind.  I’m no different from the earth.

I asked her what it means to carry fire.  It is the element I feel least comfortable with.  It scares me.  She advised me to truly get to know it.

We are all being challenged to live in indigenous ways 24/7.  They are not techniques.  We must change. 

As the one black woman in the circle said, she has no choice but to live 24/7 with her black skin in a racist culture. 

I dreamed that I am at a bay watching a group of boys challenging each other to go in the water.  They know or see that a shark is out there.  But there is a sea turtle not far out, and two boys jump into the water, apparently thinking that if they keep the turtle is between them and the shark, it will go for the turtle first.  Suddenly, the shark springs out of the water in the form of an eel or snake and in a flash, it flies over the small strip of beach and up the large cliff behind it, disappearing from sight.

The teacher asks what I get from this, from the shark.  I answer, “Wake up!”  Later, I think it is also a message about not buying your own beliefs about how and what things are.  I also realized that those boys were already trained to be willing to sacrifice the turtle to save themselves.

This poem came:


The Earth Is Dying


The earth is dying.
We sit in hospice, we few
who are willing
to bear witness.
People say –
My life is fine,
difficult at times,
but fine.
The rent gets paid.
There is food in the refrigerator.
The sun rose this morning.

But in my lifetime
half the creatures of the sea
have died.
The plankton is full of plastic.
Turtles eat it and are full
of plastic as well, and sometimes
they are trapped in the plastic islands
filling our heating oceans.
The glaciers are disappearing,
almost before our eyes.

You don’t want to hear this.
I don’t want to hear this.
But how will the children breathe
when the oxygen producers are gone?
How will they live
when there is no clean water to drink?

Oh, I will be gone by then,
dead and beyond caring.
But I have children,
and my children have children,
still wide-eyed and excited
by life and possibility.

We are called to bear the unbearable.
She is dying, and so
we are dying.
Will you be with Her?
Will you give Her
your tears?

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Mind the Gap



The sign on the platform
            of the London underground
                        reads: Mind the gap.
The phraseology –
            so polite,
                        so formal,
                                    so British –
made me smile
            when I saw it
                        for the first time.
Now, I am listening to
            Tibetan Buddhist teacher
                        Pema Chodron speaking
about the bardos of
            life, death and after death.
                        She says the definition
of bardo is gap,
            the in-between state,
                        transition.
And so, I recall the instruction
            on that London
                        underground platform,
revealing the most profound
            of teachings.
                        Yes.
Mind the gap.




Thursday, October 25, 2018

It Begins With a Call (Part 19): Healing, Ourselves and the World


Everything changes.  Indeed.  We went to meet our new (potential) primary care doctor.  She came recommended by our wonderful previous doc who was quitting medicine for the time being.  

There’s something disquieting about sitting in those small, white rooms with their “beds” covered with stiff white paper and metal attachments, and with nothing beautiful to look at.  I thought this doc was okay – a bit hard to tell on a first meeting.  She was basically business-like until I asked her about acupuncture, in which I’d heard she had training.  That got her animated.  But I can’t say I felt totally comfortable, either there or with her.  It’s that western medicine thing again. I’ve been desperately trying to get my blood sugar numbers down into the normal range by eating a low carb – no sugar diet.  She told me that the way to get it down to normal is to exercise for thirty minutes five days a week.  That’s something I’d never heard before and is more than I’ve been doing.  Sigh.  I can up my swimming from 25 minutes to 30 and add in two more days of something.

I left the clinic with an odd mix of feelings – that the new doc was probably fine, but that I felt not quite comfortable with her.  Western medicine facilities are impersonal.  What I’m really looking for is personal.

I’m tired of all the specialists who seem to see you as just one organ or system, divorced from the others.  The doctors, even the compassionate and well-intentioned ones, are ruled by the bean counters and insurance companies.  Our western clinics are not designed to make you feel welcome or cared for.  Just play the game by their rules and you’ll be just fine.  Right.  I would soon come to hear at the intensive, confirming my feelings and thoughts:  “A practitioner needs to hear your story and not just give a predetermined prescription.”

The upshot?  We went back to another doctor we liked who had moved to another medical group.  She’s still very much an allopathic doc, but a caring and open person who is willing to consider alternative modalities.

What is healing? 

According to Deena Metzger, what is happening in our bodies and what is happening to the earth are very much the same.  She says:
             It is no accident that so many illnesses that we are suffering at this time
             in history are analogous to social and global ills, and so in treating the
             individual we are being trained and called to bring healing to the society
             at large. (“Can the World Mend in this Body?” in Dark Matter #6, May, 2018).

The article goes on to say:
Healing is not necessarily restoring the original condition. It is not returning to paradise. Healing is helping to align the individual with the trajectory of the soul. Healing is the field of beauty through which the details of the larger purpose of an individual’s current life in relationship to his//her own history, ancestors, spirits, the present, the future, and global healing are revealed and enacted. 

This certainly makes sense in light of what I have been exploring and writing about.

My SoulCollage® card for Deena Metzger

The earth is full of brokenness.  I am full of brokenness.  What does that mean?  Can we heal our private and personal selves apart from healing the earth?  I certainly have no answers, only questions.  But maybe the fact that I have felt ill and longed for healing implies something greater than me and my body’s troubles.  Maybe something more or greater is required, not just for the individual, but for the collective.

I defer to Deena, who knows more about this than I do.  She says she had to learn that “… healing the world would be the most direct way of healing myself.”  

I’m not sure how to even begin to heal the world, even a little bit.

One more bit of Deena wisdom:  I developed a mantra: Heal the life and the life will heal you.”