Tonight I’m with Frank Ostaseski’s Five Invitations.
Welcome everything; push away nothing.
Bring your whole self to the experience.
Find a place of rest in the middle of things.
Cultivate don’t know mind.
The 8:00 howl tonight was even more exuberant than usual. Everyone’s home and it’s a three day weekend. In the past, our little town has gathered together for a down home Memorial Day parade. Little Leaguers and Cub Scouts march down the street. There are dogs, bikes, strollers, and amusement rides and music at the local park. All of that is cancelled of course, and perhaps that’s why celebration is rocking the hood tonight.
The birds have now joined in the howl, so not just the turkeys but tweeting birds and crows. People honk horns and tonight a plane flew over. The owl is waiting for dark and quiet. It’s a weekend to remember and honor, and perhaps more than ever, we’re grateful for life, love, family, and friendsas we continue to shelter-in-place.
I’ve been reading David Abram who writes of what I’ve always felt, the aliveness in this world we share, the intelligence, and here we are, each of us arranging our sails to catch the wind and be amazing and abundant as we claim the wholeness that is ours to share.
We each have a place, response, and choice when we open to this wide embrace in which we’re immersed, a playground in which we stretch, ingest, eliminate, touch, and play.
I watch my grandson on video as he learns to crawl. Delight sprays through me as I watch his legs go up and down, and sometimes he just lets go and lays flat on the floor. Through it all, he makes sounds to help the work of the play, and he looks up with a smile, because he knows it’s not just him who’s crawling and rising and falling. It’s all of us, and he’s young enough to know the truth of the oneness we share.
Memorial Day weekend is on approach, a time I always retreat to remember, and of course, this time, it’s necessary, and yet, I feel my heart reach out to honor and balance love and hope, as I release the ropes and lines of fear.
I’m reading a book by David Abram, Becoming Animal: An Earthly Cosmology. The first chapter is on how we may see our shadow as two-dimensional, but there’s all that space between. What is it for an insect when it flies between us and our shadow? What’s perceived?
He examines his shadow from the start of day until night and says this.
“For the moment, let’s venture simply this: the shadow, this elegant enigma, is always with us. Whether at high noon or at midnight, whether it stands quiet within our skin or envelops us as our milieu, the shadow is an inescapable consequence of our physicality – a disruption of the sun’s dominion, a disturbing power that we hold in common with boulders and storm clouds and the corpses of crashed airplanes. There do exist a few members of the bodily community that thrive without the dark companionship of shadows – the various winds, for example, or the pane of glass newly set within the window frame. But for most of us material beings, the shadow is a part of our makeup. Our clearest thoughts are those that know this – that remember their real parentage in both light and shadow, fire and sleep.”
I’m with thoughts of the shadow because the country I live in seems to struggle with acknowledging its shadow, with acknowledging that though there are some good things, there is also a horrific history and stampeding of the rights of the native people here and in other countries. We have a shadow.
I’ve been struggling to understand how this current government continues to lie and get away with it. The following article offers insight into how many are getting the intake that fuels how they function.
I’m reminded of the words of Carl Jung: “One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.”How do we shine a light on our shadow both personally and more broadly?
Perhaps as we walk, dance, and play with our shadow, we can see, feel, and sense all that streams between, and open ourselves to helping others see with a little more deciphering perception than before.
I share this noting that The Daily Beast leans leftwhich works for me.
Our local community has something called Next Door where people post all sorts of things. This was posted today by Amy Torrano who lives in Sycamore Park and often teaches her first grade class from her front lawn in these days of shelter-in-place. She asked Mailman Marcus for help and this is the result. We live in community, and I’m guessing these children will never forget this school day and the man who read so enthusiastically to them about blueberry pancakes.
This led me to check out the motto of the postal service.
“Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds”—
The phrase comes from The Persian Wars by Herodotus, a Greek historian. During the wars between the Greeks and Persians (500-449 B.C.), the Persians operated a system of mounted postal couriers who served with diligence and dedication.
When the firm of McKim, Mead & White designed the Post Office at Eighth Avenue and 33d Street in Manhattan.which opened to the public on Labor Day in 1914, one of the firm’s architects, William Mitchell Kendall, selected the inscription which is chiseled over the entrance to the building. You can read it in gray granite, or you can see the words come to light and life right here.
TodayI settled into my homework as assigned by David Whyte, a time and place to be vulnerable as I delve into grief.
He didn’t give a time table so I set my alarm for 20 minutes. I began to sink into grief around hunger in the world. I saw the earth from space, knowing there is enough food for all, food and shelter for all. We can save the rainforests and have transport and coffee when we balance on knowing enough.
With that, I felt my occiput, the space at the back and bottom of my skull soften and open. Thoughts dropped like balls, billiard balls.
Falling, they turned into bubbles and floating, they popped.
I felt my head emptying as thoughts dropped like bombs but without destroying, instead dissipating without harm.
Even so, there was still pressure on the lower left side of my skull. I stayed with that, massaged the area with my hand and fingers and recognized the universal is personal, and I have my own aches and pains.
I grieved the pain in the tissues around my knee, and stayed with this pressure around the lower side of my head. Was there a bottom, a place to stand, a horizon that’s new?
I saw a place that was white and flat, a place where I could plant and grow what I need and believe.
Thoughts wandered to a spider I watched today as he or she walked across the kitchen floor. I thought of placing a piece of paper on the ground and carrying the spider outside but it seemed fine in its journey and didn’t appear to be asking for or needing help. It was a rather squat spider, and I admired its eight sturdy, black legs. I thought of Charlotte in the beloved book, Charlotte’s Web, an observation of life and death and love.
Then my timer went off. What did I learn? I can’t separate my personal grief from universal grief, but I can learn to release. For some reason, I’m experiencing more physical pain these days, and that may be related to stress around what’s going on but I can allow thoughts to release and more fully breathe. I don’t need to hold on.
I had an expectation of some great revelation where my heart would break and crack, and maybe 20 minutes wasn’t long enough for that, or maybe putting judgment and expectation aside, it was long enough to know that thoughts can bind and imprison.
I can’t know what another suffers. I can touch into my own pain, my own agony over the suffering of others, and in that realize we all are one and compassion extends like the many hands and arms of the Goddess Durga, also known as Shatki or Devi, mother of the Hindu universe.
I can extend my heart when I let my thoughts pop and cleanse old forms.
So I’m sitting here debating whether to post this when a friend sends me a short video on the difference between sympathy and empathy, and I realize I can give empathy to myself.
I don’t have to say all the ways my life is fine even though it is, but I can note that sometimes I have pain and sorrow, and being with it, allows it to dissipate or not, no judgment at all.
“Empathy fuels connection.” Empathetic, I fuel connection with myself, and partnered, I plant new ways to be, and when I stand, the tissue around my knee doesn’t hurt as it did before, and both sides of my head are moving like wings, soft and free.
A friend tells me that for her shelter-in-place is boring, routine. I don’t feel that way but maybe that’s because as an introvert, I easily entertain. I feel like every moment something is hopping up to draw my attention like squirrels and crows running through and bouncing on branches of trees.
Yesterday I posted that I was signed up for a workshop with “homework”. Each day I was to bring forth a place of grief and go more deeply into it.
A friend emailed me today congratulating me on the courage required to do that, and chagrined, I had to admit I’d forgotten the assignment.
In my defense, the usual good student that I am, an exchange yesterday turned everything around.
By email I was moaning to a friend that I couldn’t touch my grandchild though I have seen him twice socially distanced, and daily we Facetime, but I wanted to touch him.
She pointed out that her grandchild was born with a rare disease, and though sometimes he could be touched often he was hooked up to tubes and monitoring devices. The child was pure joy but only lived a few years.
My heart fell into a crevice of grief for her and his parents, and all who loved him, and I thought to myself I have nothing to equal that. I know it’s not about comparison, but it is about perspective.
It’s not the same but I remember when I was going through chemo and radiation and I’d see people much worse off than I. I’d always feel better realizing I didn’t have it so bad.
One man was brought in from nearby San Quentin prison in his orange jumpsuit. He was well-guarded and his hands and feet were chained. My heart moistens even now with sorrow at seeing him taken out of the van and escorted into the building.
A few years ago my husband was hospitalized at Christmas. Staff was minimal and they gave him the best room with a view. Because it was at the end, across the hall was a man, a prisoner, from San Quentin. He looked so pitiful and it was Christmas, and the guards were outside his door, so in and out I’d go sharing the Christmas exchange. Everyone was so sweet, and those who were working volunteered for those days. The nurse who cared for Steve said he didn’t have children at home, and so it gave him great pleasure to work at that time.
Finally there was a great discussion. Since it was Christmas, could the man have a shower? The bathroom was right there connected to his room, and so it was agreed that he could have a shower. I think of it now and tears come. We were all so happy that the chains were removed and this man got to shower by himself. What a gift for us all!Certainly a Christmas to remember.
I realize that yesterday after thinking of the loss of my friend’s grandchild, I dismissed that I had anything to grieve, and yes, personally I’ve gone into the depths of grief for my father’s death in an accident etc. but maybe I’m meant to expand this out, to feel what it’s like for children who are starving in this country and around the world. What is it like to leave one’s home and travel to perceived safety and security, and be separated from your children and see them and yourself locked up?
Can I enter that depth of grief?
I’d been so absorbed in my own personal “story” which is privileged and blessed that I missed the point of the “assignment”.
It’s 10:00 in the morning. It’s time for me to sink, and open to feel new ground, and a horizon that embraces a wider world than I usually allow myself to recognize.
May I travel and open in Trust and Peace and return in Compassion and Joy.
Though I live near San Francisco, my area is called Little City Farms, and feels rural. I live on a non-county maintained road, which means we pave the part we use, and the rest is a continually devolving landscape, a receptor of water’s flow.
Saturday I walked around the “hood” participating in a patterned pause and movement of social distancing.
Ahead of me was a family with two children on foot-driven scooters. The parents and one child turned a corner, but the other, a little boy about three, dropped his scooter in the middle of the road, and ran to the far side of the road. I stopped, keeping my distance, as did someone coming the other way. He dropped his pants and unselfconsciously peed into the weeds by the side of the road. Then, he pulled up his pants, picked up his scooter, and off he went.
It was a moment, sweet and sharedwith people lined up behind me, like planes on a runway, each with distance, but able to see.
Before sheltering-in-place, families around here were busy and well-scheduled. Now I hear children playing in their yards, and I see and hear families walking and biking together.
Cars sit and batteries run down, and in this moment, I pulse softly with peace and calm, intimacy, .
On another note, this morning I read Ocean Vuong’s poem, “Someday I’ll Love Ocean Vuong”.