Monday, May 30, 2011

Just holy


Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy!
Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy!
The world is holy! The soul is holy! The skin is holy! The nose is holy! The tongue and cock and hand and asshole holy!
Everything is holy! everybody's holy! everywhere is holy! everyday is in eternity! Everyman's an
angel!
The bum's as holy as the seraphim! the madman is holy as you my soul are holy!
The typewriter is holy the poem is holy the voice is holy the hearers are holy the ecstasy is holy!
Holy Peter holy Allen holy Solomon holy Lucien holy Kerouac holy Huncke holy Burroughs holy Cassady holy the unknown buggered and suffering beggars holy the hideous human angels!
Holy my mother in the insane asylum! Holy the cocks of the grandfathers of Kansas!
Holy the groaning saxophone! Holy the bop apocalypse! Holy the jazzbands marijuana hipsters peace & junk & drums!
Holy the solitudes of skyscrapers and pavements! Holy the cafeterias filled with the millions! Holy the mysterious rivers of tears under the streets!
Holy the lone juggernaut! Holy the vast lamb of the middle class! Holy the crazy shepherds of rebellion! Who digs Los Angeles IS Los Angeles!
Holy New York Holy San Francisco Holy Peoria & Seattle Holy Paris Holy Tangiers Holy Moscow Holy Istanbul!
Holy time in eternity holy eternity in time holy the clocks in space holy the fourth dimension holy the fifth International holy the Angel in Moloch!
Holy the sea holy the desert holy the railroad holy the locomotive holy the visions holy the hallucinations holy the miracles holy the eyeball holy the abyss!
Holy forgiveness! mercy! charity! faith! Holy! Ours! bodies! suffering! magnanimity!
Holy the supernatural extra brilliant intelligent kindness of the soul!

Allen Ginsberg
"Footnote to Howl"
Howl, Kaddish and Other Poems

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Fragmented and holy


I'm a little surprised. I just assumed this would be a creatively prolific time. My husband is overseas for business, I have been away from work, I've had few social commitments and there have been longer-than-usual stretches where I have had time to myself. And all I've felt like doing is curling up on the couch with a book, burrowing into bed with my journal or flaking out in front of a DVD.

I haven't really been doing much at all. But, at the same time, so much has been happening.

Perhaps it is all interconnected, even the contradictions.

I've been doing some deep psychological work. I've been unwell. My husband has been unwell. My daughter has been unwell. I've felt alone but I have also received some tremendous gifts, blessings, connections. I've stepped back from rushing, angsting about projects that are important to me: all signs are that I'm on track and everything will unfold in its own time. I've been thinking a lot about greater powers, feathers, the divine feminine, portents and omens. Seemingly small statements have made me very angry. I'm seeing myself and those around me as if the veil has been removed. I've been dwelling in the worlds of Allen Ginsberg, Patti Smith, Vali Myers. I've soaked in the rhythms of the birthplace of civilisation. Violet is speaking to me through all my senses. I was incredibly moved by Oprah's final episode and the way she tied 25 years of work together with the thread of worthiness. I've been wondering what it is to wear the poet's mantle. I've been dizzyingly close to panic-attack territory on a daily basis.

So maybe I shouldn't be so surprised that I haven't felt like writing much. To be honest, I don't really feel like doing anything much... it feels like there is already so much going on.

Somehow, Judith Pemell's story sums it up. She recounts her journey through a twelve step program for addiction in Stephanie Dowrick's excellent Seeking the Sacred, and reflects upon a particular pivotal moment thus:

"As we walked back across the cafe plaza I felt shattered and drained, yet light as a feather and cleaned out. They say that when you do a very deep and thorough fourth and fifth step [owning up to the pain you have caused, giving the inventory of that to God -- or Higher Power -- and to a sponsor] the period afterward is a very holy time."

Messy, busy, fragmented, violet, holy. Not much to do but go with it.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Worthiness Wednesday #9 Our bodies: worthy of love (Guest prompt by Jen Lee)


This week, we are privileged to share the deep quiet wisdom of Jen Lee: writer, storyteller, creator of indelible images. I first came across Jen's work when looking for a journal in which to confide my heart's stumblings as a new mother. Her guided journal Don't Write: A Reluctant Journal was the perfect confidante, coaxing me into sharing my deepest fears and greatest triumphs. Her Take Me With You journal then became my intrepid companion as I took fledgling steps into blogging and living my creative life.

Jen's most recent project, the Finding Your Voice multimedia resource, continues to blow me away with its courage and compassion. Not only does it offer me a safe space within which to explore the injuries that diminish my voice, it also invites me to test my boundaries and step into the space where I can be fully met by peers who are equally as talented with words and passionate about their story.


Having admired Jen from afar for many years, and buoyed by the words she equipped me with, I plucked up the courage to invite her commune with us in this little space. It seemed to me that the synergies between Jen's mission to help us find our voices and our various journeys with worthiness were too compelling to ignore. Jen graciously agreed to share her musings on worthiness and this is what she had to say:

If we're talking about worthiness, eventually we should talk about our bodies, these houses which preserve our lives. There are so many reasons why we have deemed our bodies unworthy of loving care, so many betrayals from our height/hair/fill-in-the-blank to the failures of health or physical limitations we hit like an oncoming car out of nowhere.

But as long as our hearts are beating and our lungs have breath, these bodies still preserve our lives.

That alone makes them worthy of the best care we can muster: rest, gentleness, movement, nourishing food and our gratitude as they allow us to do a hundred thousand little actions a day that we completely take for granted.

A healer was working on my body last week, and I was learning from every touch and movement: this is how to honor one's body, how to love and respect it. I felt my mind and heart mending on this point, as the worthiness of my body sparked a new kind of reverence in me.


This week, inspired by Jen's beautiful words and mesmerising images, I invite you to meditate on the ways in which your body is worthy of your love and attention. As someone who has been physically unwell for the best part of a month and is battling the last vestiges of a throat infection -- but still resists resting -- I feel that Jen's message could not be more poignant or beautifully timed.

How do you feel, in each and every fibre of your being, right now? Which places and spaces in your physical home are calling you? What are they trying to tell you? How can you transform the parts of yourself that are crying out for compassion, for loving care?

Please do share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below. (And, if you possibly can, do treat yourself to a massage this week!)

Your body is worthy of your love, and it is from this place of worthiness that you will truly find your voice.

Thank you, Jen.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

The saving word


This one was a rule that I had no less devastatingly laid down for myself, and it was this: that I had no right to be happy unless the people I loved -- especially my children -- were happy too.

I have come to believe that this is not true.

I believe instead that we all of us have not only the right to be happy no matter what but also a kind of sacred commission to be happy -- in the sense of being able to bless our own lives, even the sad times of our own lives, because through all our times, if we keep our ears open, God speaks to us his saving word.

Then by drawing on all those times we have had, we can sometimes even speak and live a saving word to the saving of others.

Frederick Buechner
Telling Secrets: A Memoir

[If, like me, you're not so sure that it's God's word you're hearing, I think that The Universe, the divine, your guardian angel, your true calling, your soul... will ring just as true here.]

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Persimmon


An unexpected gift, from an elderly gent on the bus, to my smiling little 'un. Not having heard the name before, she insisted on calling it a "person".

My Mum has a treeful at home -- which means that we will soon have an oversupply -- but not wishing to seem ungracious, we thanked the chap and smiled and waved as he alighted.

It is hard, at present, and inedible. It needs some quiet time in a dark cupboard in order to soften. Then it will be almost obscenely lush and rather nice on toast. Or perhaps the vital ingredient for a surprise pana cotta.

Until then, my little 'un likes to peer into the pantry to see how her "person" is going. She has also taken to experimenting with kisses, starting out with hard loud smooches banging on my cheek and proclaiming "That wasn't a nice one!" then getting progressively gentler until they are so delicate as to be angelic. When I sigh and smile and thank her for such a beautiful kiss, she looks at me earnestly and says, "Would you like to cry now?".

In the warm darkness of this golden season, another person is starting to soften.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Wing



A gift. A vow. A communion. A lion. A star. A horse and lightening bolt. A needle. The fox. Some ink. A guitar. An oracle. The salty air. A round belly. A hangman. A boy and a cup. A pair of milk-bottle glasses. Feathers, always feathers. A tear, one of many. A wound. A healing. The hearth. An owl. A pomegranate. The blindfold. Some onion skin. A pearl. Names, always. The holiness. The marble. The mercury. The solstice. The sapphire, twinkling green. A blanket. A sustenance. A warm velvet-skinned back. A circle, closing. An eye, opening. A box, checked. A paper, torn. A life, reborn. An opening. A time. A gift.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Worthiness Wednesday #8 Talismans revisited (Part I)


Yesterday, two extraordinary gifts arrived in my mailbox. One was a gift that I had given myself – a delicate little parcel of poetry – made by a kindred spirit on the other side of the globe. The other was a sweet, unique, and slightly insane surprise from a darling friend in honour of my birthday (which is next week).

Since receiving these beautiful treats – and retrieving them from the clutches of a highly fascinated two year old – I have been carrying them around with me with a quiet reverence. It seems to me that these talismans have a unique power that stems from three specific things:

1) They were handmade with love, skill, and extreme care and, in the case of the necklace, someone I am privileged to have a connection with.

2) They were chosen with me in mind, and are very me.

3) They arrived at exactly the right time. I am riding the wave of an intense bout of psychological work that has brought me to a powerful place. Now these little gifts will always be imbued with my memories of this time. But it’s fair to say I am exhausted, so the jolt of delight when opening the mail was just the pick-me-up I needed.

I am so grateful for these beautiful gifts. And I am also seeing that a new relationship with them may be possible.

I’ve written before at length about talismans, and have often wondered if my fascination with the special energy they hold stems partly from susperstitiousness and partly from the consumerist urge. I’ve also come to suspect that my desire to own things that represent the work or ideas or creativity of a particular person is somehow a shortcut to having what they have, being who they appear to be. Sure, this is the central tenet of consumer culture but I can’t help but wonder if it is something more than that. Like, if I have this thing, then maybe I will feel like I have arrived, like I don’t need to do anything else, like I am complete, like I am enough.

But now, as I look at these precious things through the lens of worthiness, I see a new picture emerging. One where I can graciously receive talismans into my life and see them for the love and beauty and craftspersonship that they represent. One where I also see that they will not complete me or my story – or change anything – even though they may have the power to remind me of my strength and the fact that I am connected to kindred spirits during difficult times. One where I am already enough, just as I am.

This week, I invite you to look around you and see the items in your life that are imbued with a power that speaks only to you. It could be a good luck charm, a family heirloom, a religious artefact, a book that changed your life, a lucky jumper, the mug you always make tea in when you paint, maybe even your fabulous red boots that make you walk taller and feel more confident.

How do these things represent qualities that you already have? Could it be that with or without these things, you are already enough?

Please do share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below.

You are worthy of receiving many beautiful gifts but you are also worthy of knowing that you are already enough.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Thank you, Penny


Two bottles of Veuve
Decadent degustation
Words dance off tiles' gleam

Book of love letters
Snail dances to Portishead
Women awed by life

Friday, May 13, 2011

Today


Today is about clinging on for dear life. Today is about choosing to focus on the things that are calming and "normal". Today is about seeing myself one day swinging, Tarzan-like, from vine of hope to vine of goodness to vine of joy.

Today is not about falling. Today is about knowing that there will be unnecessary suffering in the fall, and confusion that will cloud my true purpose. Today is about acknowledging that there are gifts in the depths that swirl below me, but knowing that there are safer ways to reach them. Today is about trusting that help is here.

Today is about claiming my vulnerability but not dwelling in it. Today is about keeping calm and carrying on.

Today is about washing dishes and folding laundry. Today is about playdough and lego monsters. Today is about ticking some things off the To Do list, and helping my husband to prepare for some forthcoming business travel.

Today is about the radiance of autumn leaves taking my breath away. Today is about spying the tiniest of feathers nestled at my feet.

Today is about calling my Mum to thank her for agreeing to help me out next week. Today is about SMSing my sister to tell her that I miss her. Today is about admiring my Mother-in-Law's new shoes. Today is about treating myself to a hot chocolate and almond croissant. Today is about looking forward to a night out with my bff to celebrate both of our birthdays. Today is about writing a list of all the things that are making me happy in my pretty new journal.

Today is about hanging on. Today is about getting through. Today is about gingerly tip-toeing my way towards one of the biggest turning points of my life. Today is about the kindest of patience for two-year-old behaviour. Today is about whispering to the butterflies in my tummy to settle.

Today is about forgiveness for old wounds and compassion for flawed adult behaviour. Today is about good manners. Today is about paying bills. Today is about putting gratitude front and centre.

Today is about getting there. But it is also about just being here.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Worthiness Wednesday #7 Asking for help


I couldn't have come across the quote I posted yesterday at a more poignant time. On Sunday, my back gave way. It's an old injury, an aggravation in my lower spine that flares up when I am run-down, stressed, not exercising, and pushing myself too hard. So I wasn't surprised when it happened and was able to respond to the signs quickly. I dug out my stash of anti-inflammatories and pain killers, had a hot shower and cranked up the hot water bottle, massaged the area with anti-inflammatory gel, reinstated a gentle stretching regimen, booked an appointment with an osteopath for the following morning, cancelled out of work and most social commitments for the next few days.

What I didn't do was ask for help.

And I spent the next morning in considerable pain, howling to myself, as I tried to keep our routine humming along. I wondered: where were the offers to stick to the usual babysitting hours so that I wouldn't have to lift and carry my little 'un as I got her fed and dressed? Where were the offers to stay home late or come home early so that I could have some time to rest, knowing that my daughter was safe and occupied?

The physical pain was considerable, but it was the searing loneliness that literally brought me to my knees. Where was the intuition, the empathy? Where were the people for whom I've continually adjusted my needs? Where was the recognition, the acknowledgement of my efforts to minimise everyone else's discomfort, often at the expense of my own?

Now I can see that this attitude wasn't necessarily the most mature or helpful. I know I can't expect anyone to read my mind. I know that everyone has a life of their own, including important commitments that preclude dropping everything and rushing to my bedside. I am also keen to avoid the trap of doing things for other people in order to feel "owed" something, as I know there is little joy to be found there.

I also see that I backed myself into a familiar lonely little corner where no-one gets me and no-one cares. And I can say that it didn't help me feel any better, physically or psychologically. And it made asking for the simplest of help so prohibitively complex.

I'm trying hard not to blame myself. Some of my hesitation comes from past experience of asking for help and being ignored, let down, or downright refused. It's not easy to be seen as vulnerable or scared, particularly when (like most Mums) I'm the one who has to hold it all together for everyone. I can also see how my efforts to cultivate the image of being capable and confident makes it less likely for anyone to assume I need or want help, or will even accept it.

This week, I invite you to join me in just sitting with a few questions. I suspect it might be a little painful, so I'll understand if you're not keen to dwell here. I'm certainly not recommending confrontation or blame, or overtly trying to change anything.

I just can't help but wonder if there are tiny gifts that might emerge from the pain.

What am I not asking for help with? What would this help ideally look like? What if the help came in a less-than-ideal form?
What does this help represent for me? Why am I not asking for it? What might I need to do, in order to be able to ask?
What would it mean if I asked and help was refused? What if it was given?
Have I really looked everywhere, exhausted all possible avenues for help? What role could my inner resources play?
Am I really as alone as I keep telling myself I am?

I don't know the answers to all of these questions (and some of them are HUGE) but, for now, I just feel that sitting with them is the important thing. Something tells me that by asking these things, I am getting closer to my core narrative, the one that has been holding me back for a very long time.

There's one thing I do know for sure, though. You and I are worthy of receiving all the help we need. And perhaps, by loosening the pages of our core narratives, we might find more ways of asking.

What do you think? In what ways does this resonate for you? I'd love to know.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Reaching out


We need to hold fiercely to the consciousness that we are not alone. Inner abandonment feeds despair. Sacred teachings for some of us and prayer, a spiritual community for others, a support group, honest journal writing, a relationship with God or the inner divine, however tentative: these are all ways of knowing ourselves from a place of plenty rather than depletion. And they all involve some reaching out as well as reaching in.

Stephanie Dowrick
Seeking the Sacred

Sunday, May 8, 2011

A weekend unplanned


In amongst the fever, the plaintive mewling, the vomiting, the insisting on watching the same episode of Mister Maker over and over, the fierce silent cuddles, the tiny sips of water, the intense vigil...

In amongst the major wardrobe purge, the sorting and sifting, the shelf-climbing and lifting, the untangling and releasing, the folding and bagging...

In amongst the lower back chaos, the inflammation that rendered me horizontal for most of the rest of the day, the vicious knots that gnarled my right leg into a half inch shorter version of my left one...

In amongst in the busyness and the cooking and the washing and the tidying and the reshuffling of the week's commitments...

... there was a moment of tremendous tender togetherness, all sitting together on the "big bed", variously munching on fresh bread, reading the paper, playing with puppets, reading a book, cuddling and singing silly songs.

And I couldn't help but think of this gem from Joseph Campbell:

We must be willing to get rid of
the life we've planned, so as to have
the life that is waiting for us.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Worthiness Wednesday #6 Share the love


On Sunday afternoon, something moved me to put down my book, get off the couch, go to the study/studio and get messy with paint. Up until that point, I hadn't been feeling all that inspired to do anything creative. But suddenly a voice said, very clearly, "Get up, you've got an hour: paint".

My little 'un was napping and my husband absorbed in something else. It seemed like a reasonable time calculation and there were a whole range of creative projects lying on the study/studio floor awaiting a splash of colour. Without thinking too much about it, I put the Amelie soundtrack on my iPod and pulled out my paints. And suddenly, there I was: alone in a tiny atelier at the top of a hundred creaky wooden stars in Paris, shmooshing paint around on little pieces of canvases, watching the water running over my fingers as I washed out my roller again and again. Cup of tea steaming, accordion pace urging my heartbeat. I was soaring.

That hour passed in a flash.

These canvases-in-progress form a collection that I am planning to send out for a specific project. If accepted, my artwork will be distributed a little more broadly in the world, a thought which -- like any dream come true -- is both daunting and exhilarating. But in that hour, it was not only about ticking off a task on my dream list. In the moment and the music, it became about sending my heart out into the world through my art, a secret love letter to people I will never know, a shared wish for a life worth living.

Today, as I sip my chai and munch delicately on guilt-free macarons, I can't help but wonder if sharing in this way is a powerful way of taking the practice of self-love to whole new level.

So this week, I invite you to share the most sacred and unique way in which you love yourself with the world, in the tiniest or grandest fashion you choose. Carve out an hour and do your thing, without thinking too much about it. What if you shared your poetry with strangers, in chalk on the sidewalk? What if you showed your favourite little person how to make your Nan's special hedgehog with lemon icing? What if you asked a friend to join you on an exilarating jog through your favourite neighbourhood? What if you wore a freshly-picked flower in your hair and smiled at everyone on the bus? What if you plucked up the courage to ask that shy someone to share your favourite pot of tea? What if you blogged a passage from your journal that captured a really special time in your life?

Could it be that by celebrating your self, you really do add to the sum of human happiness?

Please do share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below.

You are worthy of tremendous love, and the world deserves to see it.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Joy


Three expensive paints
The serious artist's choice
Joy in my pallet

Monday, May 2, 2011

The heart's orbit


But in the terrible confusions of love, there was an eclipse of the moon. How did it happen? Astronomers of the heart could explain it like this: I couldn't take the pain. The loneliness of being flung out of his orbit made me demented for solace. I am a stray moon, and I would swing into the orbit of any consoling planet. So the moon was eclipsed by a passing star.

I became exiled not only from him but from myself, and that was my own unforgivable sin, which I regret so bitterly now, because it was a fall from my own grace. I was fatally eclipsed, and I swung away from the truth of my own trajectory. My mind was born winged, but that was the one moment when I betrayed the gift of flight.

The best of minds stay faithful to their flight, the wise women, the world's shamans whose transformations are flights of empathy, of curiosity, of curing; whose translations are innocent; who dared to be innocent, who dared to fly, who chose their own soaring.

I was unfaithful to my own flight.

Jay Griffiths
A Love Letter from a Stray Moon

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Gorgeousness from the past few days...


* inhaling the Autumn air deeply.

* listening to this wonderful interview with Salman Rushdie on writing for children.

* a beautiful gift from a lovely friend.

* booking in for a haircut, a tarot reading, a massage.

* hearing my bff saying that she's "back".

* finding a new Pingu DVD.

* taking baby baby steps towards a dream.

* delicious French music.

* an incredible new collage inspiration.

* finding a sticker with my name on it on an old DVD case, handwritten by an old family friend who died five years ago (she used to put a sticker with my name on it whenever I lent her a book or CD or DVD, to remind herself to return it).

* taking a break from projects, sinking into reading.

* feathers, feathers everywhere.

* trying out a decadent new patisserie.

* playing on the swings in the golden afternoon light.

* dreaming, dreaming of Paris.