balance · boundaries · career · creativity · meditation · self-care

You Spin Me Right Roun’…

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I’ve been looking up meditation retreats. There’s this one
I’ve heard about for years that’s a 10-day silent meditation retreat – I
remember a guy I knew once shared that his therapist advised him against going on a silent retreat! (He went anyway, and
reported great tidings.)
But, one thing I always seem to forget until after I’ve gone
on such a retreat or weekend away is that I can effect the same kind of stillness without going so far, and without paying so much.
I remember last year, I went north to Marin to participate
in a half-day meditation retreat. The meditation itself was lovely; the grounds
are nestled into the hillside near the ocean, and there’s an organic farm and
garden you can walk through during the walking meditation part. But… the zen
talk… eek.
This day’s particular teacher stuck in my craw the whole time, so before the second “dharma talk,” I left. I felt good about having gone, being
among the greenery and the eucalyptus. I even saw a chipmunk on my way back to
the parking lot. But, I didn’t need to stay and “practice listening” to someone
whose personality shone way larger than his teachings. It was way more about
him, than his teachings.
As I left, I noted that I could have found the same or a
similar degree of stillness, just by driving up into the nearby national park
in Berkeley. I didn’t have to sit in a “zen-do” or listen to teachings –
really, I just wanted to listen to the silence, and although I can do that in
my own home, I prefer to go somewhere nature-y when I really want to recharge. 
I’m reminded of this as I look up retreats this morning: a
day-long one at the same retreat center, the 10-day silent retreat place, even
a hot-spring zen-center-meets-spa related to a nearby center.
But really, what do I want to achieve or gain or experience?
Stillness.
I feel very harried at the moment, with a lot of irons in
the fire around creative endeavors, work endeavors, and even friend endeavors.
I’ve been wanting to strengthen my relationships with
friends, form new or stronger connections, and this weekend has been the
perfect exercise in that – it’s been chock
full of friend-related activities that have been truly wonderful. But, I’m
tired.
Yesterday morning, spur-of-the-moment birthday plans were texted to
me: “Join me in Marin for dinner and a hike under the full moon.”
Um, Yes, please!
None of the 6 dinner attendees knew anyone except the
birthday boy, and we had a great time. The hike was fantastic. Epic, really.
The view over the Bay, the fog rolling in, the lights below, the reflection of
the “super moon” in the water. – That, my friends, was meditative.
But, it also wasn’t. Different personalities require
different levels of reverence, and for some people, silence isn’t really an
option. – I’d love to go back and experience it in the quiet. It was
awe-inspiring.
And, I wasn’t home til after midnight … which if you didn’t
know, is way past my bedtime. But, so
worth it!
However, I begin to feel a draw inward. I’m an “X” in the
“introvert/extrovert” Meyers-Briggs scale. Meaning, I am neither an “I:
Introvert” nor an “E: Extrovert” – I fall so perfectly between the two, needing
both in such equal amounts, that I am an “X: Right in the middle.”
So, with all of this external push (creative stuff, job
stuff, friend stuff), Anty needs a recharge. (Honey, I Shrunk the Kids reference, fyi.)
But, it is important for me to remember that I don’t need to
retreat from the whole world, put huge parameters around my life in order to do
this. It’s as simple as committing 2 hours, getting in my car, driving 20
minutes, and crunching through the soft-fallen eucalyptus leaves until I get to a spot
where I can sit – no incense required. 

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acting · change · expansion · meditation · truth

S/he had so much potential.

I want you to imagine yourself doing something you’ve always wanted
to do, but you haven’t.
This could be play Frisbee golf, visit a foreign country,
learn piano, plant a sapling. Anything.
I want you to picture yourself engaged in this activity,
noticing your movements, your self, how you’re feeling, what energy you’re
carrying.
Now, I want you to remove yourself, and in your stead,
imagine your inner most power–the very greatest power you have thumping in your
heart–doing that activity. See if you can sense or see or imagine the unmasked
self, the soul part, your unharmed self engaged in your dream activity. Again, notice their movements, their feelings, what energy they carry.
Is it different?
Is there a difference between how you imagine yourself to
engage in the world, and how, well, the world wants you to engage in it? Are
you freer, larger, glowy? Are you lighter, uninhibited, unafraid?
Maybe, or not. Maybe you won’t do the above. But, this
morning, I did. Just sort of made up the meditation, “thought exercise,” as I sat in my morning meditation, and I
did see myself differently. I was envisioning today’s audition, envisioning
myself onstage in the dress I’ve chosen, giving my monologue. And I felt the
urge to see what would happen if it weren’t me, but the me that lives under all
my cages. I will tell you, it was very different. The second one confident,
unafraid to fill the space, to be big. Not hiding.
I’m going to try to remember that part of me, because it is
always with me, when I go out into the world, and onto the stage today. That
there is only a trap door of fear that prevents me from being her. And what if,
for a few moments, I can pry it open, and let myself be and let you see what I’ve always wanted
you to see: I am more than who I’ve been.
And greater than my obfuscation.

acceptance · adulthood · change · courage · discovery · forgiveness · gratitude · grief · honesty · intimacy · kindness · love · meditation · progress · recovery · sex · sexuality · sobwebs · spirituality

Somewhere New.

For several months now, I’ve been working on a particular
area of healing. For those of you who have read the “Savage Love,” then “Savage Beauty” blogs, you know that I’ve been working on healing my relationship with
my sexuality, and my past behavior and experience in this area.
This is likely going to be a little heavy – for which I’m
not thrilled, but I’m honest – so if that’s not what you want today, I’m sure Cyanide
& Happiness
will provide some levity
today.
On my way back from the sweat lodge this Sunday, I was riding
with my friend who was running the lodge. I told her that earlier this year,
and late last year, each time I’d “go in” via meditation or shamanic journey
work to ask what I need to do next to move forward, I was presented with the information
that I needed to work on this stuff – sexual trauma and other murky stuff. I have been. Working
with my therapist on EMDR for a little bit (though I’m not seeing her
currently, due to finances), and in these other more alternative ways.
And most of all, through my thesis.
Basically what my thesis trails is a path through my sexual
history. That story parallels my mental breakdown, and my parents’ divorce, but really,
what is being excavated and brought into the light is all of that. The
“highlights” or representative incidents.
Over ages 16 through 24 (a little earlier than 16, but
that’s when it really took off with a very chicken-or-egg tag team with my drinking), is a napalm blanket of sorrow, shame, and
dissociation. When riding in the car with my friend on Sunday, I said to her
that I hadn’t “been in” to ask for a while if I’m “done” with this particular
set of work or not, and wondered if maybe I was, but/and as I found out a little this morning, there are still
some corners left to sweep.
I am grateful that I had the courage to put all of what I
needed to onto paper in my thesis. But, I’m also aware that it goes much deeper
and further than the stark, strobe-like glimpses that I give you, the reader.
And this morning, in meditation, I began to psychicly clear out some of the
cobwebs. (I just accidentally wrote “sobwebs,” which I suppose is pretty accurate
for this morning.)
In fact, I did something pretty literal to sweeping out – in my mind’s
eye, I walked through and into all those situations I remember, and
unfortunately or not, I remember quite a lot quite vividly apparently — more
than I thought I did. I walked through these times and places, into these
couplings and actions, and burned sage there. I carried this sage through all
the circumstances I could remember, and asked them to be cleared of any energy
which is no longer needed.
There are the few where there was kindness,
and the kindness will remain, but there are the many that were out of a sense of obligation, or resignation, or force; or just wanting to feel better; or just wanting to feel anything other than what
I felt. There are those that are truly tragic, and require some extra doses of
compassion and witness, instead of repression.
I don’t know what may or not come of this work this morning.
It was sort of “unbidden;” I didn’t have the intention as I closed my eyes for
meditation this morning to do any of that – but I guess the Powers That Be had
that intention for me, anyway.
One thing I asked for aloud in the prayer circle in Sunday’s
sweat lodge during the final prayer round – the one where we get to pray for
ourselves, out loud so others know what we need – I prayed for healing around
physical intimacy. And that’s where the majority of my tears came on Sunday. My
relationship with my body, my femininity, sexuality, sex, intimacy, being
present in my body when being intimate – all of this needs healing. I’d still
rather hide within my body – offer you it, but not what’s inside it; assume
it’s really all you want from me anyway, so I might as well just give you only
that out of spite – even if you in fact want more. But, hiding within myself doesn’t work
anymore. Beating myself out of my body – or having someone do it for me – doesn’t work anymore. Not being present
is painful now. And not voicing my physical needs to a partner is another way of hiding.
I don’t really know what to do about it yet. I know that I
don’t do what I used to. But I feel like I’ve swung to the opposite side of the
spectrum – from the vixen to Betty Crocker, as I’ve put it. But I know opening
these doors, clearing these wounds, being willing to treat my flesh with care,
and being willing to meet all of you with all of me are mile-markers of
progress.
I’d like to be done with this work. I’d like to declare
myself fit for duty. Maybe it’ll always be an ongoing process, maybe it’ll come
to a place of plateau. I don’t know. But apparently I’m ready to clear the
sobwebs, and arrive at somewhere new. 
growth · healing · meditation · sexuality

I’ll tell you when you’re older.

You know how frustrating that answer was to us as children.
I feel like that’s the answer I’m getting now. In mild-to-moderate panic about
the end of school in May, what I’ll be doing then, what I want to do, and where I want to do it, I’ve been knocking
on the Universe’s door, being like, HEY! Throw me a bone here, eh??
Trouble is, the damned Universe has been throwing me a bone.
I just don’t like the taste.
I’ve written here before that it’s been indicated to me via
multiple meditations that I need to do this work on untangling past sexual
trauma before I can move forward, before I can get any further information.
This, makes me mad. Frustrated. Besides the fact that when
that information was once again given to
me in a meditation about 2 weeks ago, I kicked that information in the shins. I
had a right ole’ tantrum about it. WHY?? (She asks again…) Why do I
have to do this shit – this uncomfortable, vulnerable,
honest, and sad shit. I. don’t. want. to. feel. this. I don’t
want to feel sad. I don’t want to acknowledge that I am. I don’t want to do this. 
I phoned a friend of mine who knows me well and who had done
EMDR for a whole year before, and I expressed my frustration. I also told her
that this trauma/funky relationship with my sexuality and femininity is kicking
me back… She said that I could take all the acting classes I
wanted, all the music lessons, and painting classes, but that THIS was the real
work. That this, doing this work within myself and with the help of Team Molly, is how I will move forward, and enable any of the rest of that stuff to enter my life, and inhabit it in the way that I really need, and in fact, want, to.
I pout. I say that being sad is for pussies, and I
should be over this shit, or rather that so many other people are walking
around psychicly limping, how come I
have to actually do the work? No fair. 😡
And, yet. I know she’s right. Later in that
conversation I told her, I do have a choice. This is a choice that I’m making to work through this. Not to “get
over it.” To discount it, or to continue to walk as a wounded antelope. My
sexuality began wearing a heavy cloak of shame, guilt, fear, and pain almost 20
years ago. I don’t really even know what it looks like anymore. And so, that’s
what I’m doing.
I have a vision I sometimes use of a table at which all my
disparate parts of self sit. There’s me at the head, and the smart girl, the
baker, the Vixen (who is not the same as my sexuality), there’s the goofball, the artist, and sadness who is a recent invite to the table – now that I don’t believe
she’ll infect everyone with her sadness. There’s gentility. All of these parts
of me and more sit at the table, and I’ve been gathering them from the far
corners for a few years, and there are too those who were never banished from
the table or had to hide or escape.
Then, there’s sexuality. Mired in her leaden cloak, like the
kind you wear in the dental office when taking x-rays. I didn’t actually know
until recently that all those emotions she’s wearing are not a legitimate part
of her. That shame and sexuality are in fact mutually exclusive, and that …
they can part ways.
She’s somewhere outside of the house where the table is at
the moment. Somewhere in the woods perhaps, in this sodden cloak, which she is
now, I am now recognizing is removable.
I look forward to meeting her. I imagine that she has a lot
to teach me and show me. I told another person recently that I believe that
eventually she’ll sit on my right side up at the head of the table – she’s that
important and that potent. That does not
mean that there’ll be rampant sex – that’s much of what saddled her in guilt
and shame to begin with – but that the power that comes from owning my body as
well as my voice. The power that comes from owning my boundaries
and my needs – and really really speaking up for them. The power that will come with
the kindness and mutuality and trust. The power that comes from sexuality’s
creative bent.
The chakra that is associated with creation is located in
the area of the reproductive organs. This area produces life in the literal
sense, and life in the metaphoric sense. This is a way in which I have been cut off from my own ability to create,
to own voice, to know what the fuck I’m supposed to do with my life, now, after
May, hereafter. Of course I can’t know yet. All the information is still tucked
away in this miasma of trauma and grief.
So, as I was once again
informed this morning in my meditation upon asking, “BUT WAIT!! WHAT AM I
SUPPOSED TO DO??? WHAT DO I NEED TO DO NEXT TO MOVE FORWARD??”, I need to do
exactly what I’m doing: feel sad, have tantrums, cry in my bathrobe, watch Pixar’s entire catalogue, listen to friends, admit what’s really going on, and to let myself become fully and usefully whole. 
healing · joy · meditation · self-care · spirituality

Drinking the Kool-Aid

Well, folks, it occurs to me that I’m not sure what I will
write about today. I just did a morning meditation – a shamanic journey, in
fact – and I’m a little cock-eyed and raw at the moment.
I usually choose not to do the journeys by myself, partly
because they’re really powerful, and sometimes I just want the assurance of
someone more experienced in case I come out with questions or concerns. And
partly, I don’t like to do them on my own because they are so powerful, and
sometimes I get so thrown by them, like today. It’s hard to put the pieces of
normalcy and reality back together – it’s like waking up from a very deep
sleep, it takes a while to orient yourself to where you are, and mainly, who
you are again.
It occurs to me that this is what I meant when I talked
about being in school as giving me the time to get centered in myself and my life. Not rushing to a
job at 8:30am, not being distracted by the water cooler, or exhaustion, gives me
the space to do this work.
Granted, people who work 9-5 can also find time for spiritual
enhancement 😉
I said yesterday that I’ve been doing work around “soul
retrieval,” and I’ve heard and consider this practice as a way to re-own and
integrate those parts of myself which I have dismissed or which have been
sliced away through trauma. Well, this retrieval seems to be happening more often lately.
It happened on the New Year’s retreat two weeks ago, and it happened this
morning, both in shamanic journey meditation. (I bought the CD of the shamanic
drumming about 2 years ago, and so I listen to it on my iPod when I do it on my own – otherwise, “in real life,” someone actually drums.)
It’s not for everyone. Well, that’s not true. More accurate
is that not everyone is into it, interested in it, really cares, or believes in
it. But, that’s neither here nor there. When I began this practice about 4
years ago, I wasn’t so sure it would “work” for me either, but, consider me a
believer. I’m no expert, and won’t try to explain it here, but you can look it
up. Also, my teacher’s teacher runs a school that does this work called the
Sacred Stream in Berkeley (laugh, scoff, roll eyes, or vomit if you must). I’m
not here to convert anyone, it’s just a tool that has been offered to me, and
which I’ve picked up, not “with abandon,” but with tentative, frightened,
continuous longing.
I was speaking with a woman on the phone this morning before
the meditation, and she was telling me a bit about one of her spiritual practices.
And honestly, I think it’s marvelous that there are so many. A wrench for every
nut, as they say. Or, all rivers lead to the ocean.
I actually emailed Sacred Stream the other day to ask if
they had any sort of scholarship or volunteer program that I could do, so that
I could participate in their upcoming Intro to Shamanic Journey 2-day course. I
haven’t heard yet, but several women on the retreat with me suggested this woman.
I asked why. I mean, I get a lot of juice from my
teacher/friend, why see/try someone else. I was told that it’s like the
difference between two artists, it’s just another view, instead of getting it
all from one (and putting the one I have on a bit of a pedestal, I admit). She
also said that it’s just neat to be in this woman’s presence. That she’s got
the juice, and it’s infectious. Spiritually Infectious Juice. Sounds like
something you pick up in India and ties you to the toilet for 10 days.
But, for now, I’m going to keep juicing this fruit, and
patch my soul back together one lost bit at a time – because maybe all the
king’s horses and men couldn’t do it, but we’ve got a bit more power than that on our side. 
action · healing · joy · meditation · performance

BART: BY ALLAH, RISE THESPIAN!

Hahahahaha! Hahaha! Sorry, that was the acronym that
occurred to me when I was trying to figure out how to express “spiritual
experience on a urine-smelling trans-bay public train.” And, lol, I really like
it – it makes me laugh!
In any case, I will start toward the middle, and work my way
back to that.
I arrived at the audition for the musical theater company,
attempting to still my breathing into something less hyperventilatey. I
arrived, got the information sheet, and took a seat on a plastic chair in a
long white hallway with other hopefuls. If you’ve ever sat with a group of
aspiring musical theater folks, or watched Rachel on Glee, then you have some idea of the kind of energy that
is spit balling, pin balling, manic speed balling against the very narrow
walls.
Add to this the fact that at this particular audition, the
walls were very VERY thin. i.e. we,
hallway hopefuls, could hear every single note of the person auditioning as we
sat on our “Next!” chairs.
So, while sitting, I decided it would probably be good to
get my heart rate down from 76 Tromboning through my chest. You know that
really high heart-rate feeling, where you’re pretty sure everyone else can see
this thing pulsating through your clavicle? So, I began to meditate. Because it
was the only thing I knew that might calm me down. I’d looked at my music
again, but at this point, whatever was going to happen, would happen. I knew I
didn’t know the lyrics as well as I’d like, and I knew I hadn’t rehearsed as
much as I’d like, but, there was no
more, really, I could do at this point. I even tried to read a little from a
spiritual book I brought with me, but I wasn’t absorbing a thing. It was like water slipping off oil.
So, instead, I sat. And began to breathe. “Think of your
breath as a bridge between your inner world and the outer world. Notice where
your breath goes as it comes in and goes out. Don’t try to change it, just
notice. Is it deep, shallow, cool, warm?”
And I continually came back to this line of meditation
guideposts, because it would often be interrupted with comparisons. “That
person sounds really good. Why didn’t I choose a better song? Oh, they didn’t hit that note right. Eesh, are they
really going to hold that note out.” And this, began my heart-thumping all over again. Back to the breath.
Because that’s what a lot of the hallway energy is – am I
better or worse than you? Are you better or worse than me? How to I stack up?
How do I compare? How will I do?
And, believe me, a constant chatter of comparison against
anyone, “better” or “worse,” was enough to bring me out of any sense of
acceptance of que cera cera, whatever
will be will be.
To quote what I’ve heard many times, my job is only to do the
work and show up, and leave the results to G-d (Higher Power, Universe, … or
Invisible Sky Fairy, as my great friend likes to call the Power and Calm and
Connectedness we all have within us). So, however I do in that room is really
none of my fucking business. (It is my
business to prepare more, but, c’est la vie. What’s done is done.)
There comes a moment when I’m meditating – vaguely aware of the
people going in and out of the room, shuffling through their sheet music,
someone’s mom nervously helicoptering around her – when suddenly, and
surprisingly, it all goes numb. Suddenly, my heart rate has slowed to a lull,
my breathing to a calm almost still stream, and I begin to experience the tingles that I’ve come to associate with my HP. Perhaps you’ve experienced them
– I had them at that camp experience I told you about, and when I hear a
particularly moving piece of music, or when I hear a story of divine intervention,
and sometimes even at the end of one of those sappy rom-coms when everything
swells (uh, pun intended?) and joy radiates from the screen and sops right into
my core. – Those tingles.
Suddenly, sitting in this hallway, I am calm.
It’s hard to express the depth of that moment, but you will
perhaps identify with it, and also with the near-immediate return to the more
fervent breathing and heart-rate. But for a few seconds, my tromboning heart
was still. I was moved, and grateful, and surprised, and most of all,
reassured.
On my way into the city for the audition, I had to get
copies of my acting resume printed, and was in the copy shop. I was ahead of a
woman who offered me a stapler, and I said, Sure, as soon as I stop shaking! I
said I was heading to an audition and I was really nervous. She said that when
she was 16 (i.e. a long time ago), she was going on a clarinet audition, and
her teacher said to her, Imagine you are 74 years old, and how insignificant
this will seem to you then. And though there’s a part of me that feels that
auditioning for a musical for the first time since I was 17 is actually quite a
significant and really awesome thing, she’s also right. It’s one audition out
of many I believe I’ll have. Whether it’s this, musicals, theater as theater, or none of the above, I
don’t know. And I don’t much care.
What I do know is that sitting in that plastic chair, I
knew, bottomlessly, that this was a part of my path. Showing up, doing this
righteously scary thing, is beyond significant for me, and is helping to shape
the entire rest of my life.
Which, then, brings me to the BART moment. For those
uninitiated in Bay Area public transportation, BART actually stands for Bay
Area Rapid Transit, and is a train which crosses under the bay, connecting SF
to the East Bay. It is also a carpeted train system, which means it hangs onto
every loogie, urine, spill, and foot traffic odor and stain that marks it. It’s
not the place you want to bring a hot date. Nor, in fact, is it the place you’d
imagine having a spiritual experience. But, to get back to the point.
Sitting on BART, on my way into the city with my headshots,
and resumes, and sheet music, and palpating heart, I began to go inward here.
Where I went is somewhere I know – it is an open field, surrounded by a forest.
I discovered this place the first time I said it aloud to my therapist a few
years ago, “I feel like if I step out into the light, there’s a sniper waiting to take me out.” I have
felt, for a very long time, that if I step out into the sunlight, the stream of
life, my power, my gifts, my nudges, that I will be cut down, metaphorically
gunned down by the sniper(s) who stalk those trees. That as soon as I step foot
out of the shade and into the field, BAM!, dead.
Although we’ve, and I’ve, been doing much work to dismantle
this fear, it’s always been on my radar of “Don’t step too far into your own
life, Molly. Stay small, stay hidden, stay safe.” I am mostly clear on when and
how these ideas formed, and indeed, it had been important for me for a long
period of my life to stay small, hidden, silent, and therefore safe and
lovable. I am only lovable if I am small. If I get too big or loud, I will be
quashed down.
These beliefs are very old.
So, yesterday, on BART, I found myself in that forest and field. I
stood in the middle of the field, flanked by all of my teachers, guides, and
supporters. A troop, or a menagerie, or a coven, of strength. From this place,
I invited all of the snipers to come out of the forest. I told them that their
work was done, and they were no longer needed. That, as you can see, I have an
entire community of entities to help protect and guide me now, and that their job
is now obsolete.
I swept my mind’s eye through the forest to the right, and
invited the soldier there to come out. He came forward, and I thanked him for
his service, and let him know he could now leave. And he did, through a wooden
hatch door that appeared in the grassy ground before me and my team. Down he
went. I scanned through the woods from right to left, and invited all the
troops out, watched as they lowered their guns and slung them over their
backs, in a position of neutrality and peace. I thanked each one, and at one
point it felt like there were dozens, and they just all flitted down through
the hatch with my general blessing.
Finally, it seemed like there were no more snipers in the
forest. But, I went to take a look to ensure I’ve created an entirely peaceful
and unendingly safe place for myself. And, in fact, I found one last sniper. I walked into the forest, and a ways back, he was, lying on the
ground, resting against a tree, maybe with his camo hat pulled forward over his eyes. And I approached
him, and told him it was time to leave. He nudged up his hat, looked up at me,
and said, “Are you sure?” Are you sure you don’t need me anymore? Are you sure
it’s safe to go out into the fields? Are you sure that my work at protecting
you is done?
Yes.  Yes, soldier, I am sure.
And so, we both walked out, tromping through the forest into
the sunlight of the field, and I held onto his arm, like an old friend, because
in essence, he was. And we feel kindly toward each other – even though yes,
he’s attempted to kill me, that was his only way of ensuring my safety.
We walked up to the hatch, and I saluted him, and he saluted me, and in real life on the BART train, I got a little emotional at it, at this
goodbye, and down he went, through the grassy hatch, which closed, and sprouted a flower, or perhaps flowers were laid upon it, like a memorial.
But. After this? You wanna know what I did? I went
CARTWHEELING through that forest!! I began to run and jump and sing and yell
and cartwheel all throughout that fucking forest. It was free. It was clear.
This was a safe place for me again. Or perhaps for the first time.
I was free.
Sure, perhaps it will take some getting used to, this
walking out into the sunshine, this taking the reins of my own life, this
“owning voice” thing. But, clearing out my psyche and my heart of obsolete
warriors feels like an incredible start. And after years of toeing the line,
stepping up to it and back away, don’t get too close, Perhaps now. Perhaps NOW,
I get to cross it, in cartwheels.
Amen.