This is Maxi:
Maxi was a “Coton de Tulear,” the national dog breed of Madagascar, which seems to blend the charm, coat and face of a poodle with the long, low body of a Corgi.
Maxi was 12 years old when he departed recently. But this picture immortalizes him as the mascot of the Tribe of Life. Having lived in Paris many of his years, he came to Santa Fe only a year or so ago, to bless us with his presence and to indulge his love of snow!
Snow was Maxi’s color and his element…
Though he leaves behind fond family and many admirers, he lives on, for me, in this image, his most fitting epitaph, a summation of a life well-lived. Here is a creature so in his element, he appears almost literally absorbed, disappearing into pure Life and Joy, into the pure white of his origins.
Here this innocent can teach us much!
Merci et Adieu, mon petit!
Like so many, I have given too much energy this life to being everything but who I am, because who and what I am seemed useless and valueless to the world.
I have come to know that who and what I am is valuable, even when “useless”
Though part of me still doubts… and calls out
“Help me. Help me know again who and what I am, so that I may let go of all this falsity.”
My father once said to me –
in a quiet exclamation of dismay that rang through time like an accusation—
“You don’t know who you are.”
He was right, but did he know any better?
Did he know who he was? …Who I was?
What did he see that I was not seeing?
Some years on, during a tense discussion, I paraphrased back to him what I was hearing: “You mean, I am what I do?”
“Yes, “ he said, even as I felt him shaken awake and reconsidering,
silently sifting the layers of truth and untruth there.
And then, more years later, as he was losing the ability to speak,
he told me he was proud of me, of my spiritual diligence.
We had now both glimpsed who we were, who the other was and who we both are.
The knowing brought us closer, though we did not speak of it.
Speaking fell away. There was only falling into it.
…until he fell through.
…And I am left here,
Still knowing, and yet ever trying to remember,
Calling “Help me. Help me. Let it be enough.”
On the day after the election, I managed to get through the day without hearing a sound from Donald Trump. Granted, I spent nearly an hour and a half insulated by a tube of sonic barrage and headphones.
Some might think that an extreme form of avoidance, but I had to be there anyway; and truth be told, as trying as it got after the first hour, those 90 minutes of MRI bazooka drills still seemed preferable to the prospect of listening to Donald Trump for four years.
The images from the scan are mysteriously beautiful and evocative, part Rorschach blot, part x-ray, and as beckoning as those adult mandala coloring books in fashion now. I wanted to blow up, print and fill them them with sumptuous color and whimsy. It strikes me that could be a powerful healing tool, a sort of chromatic massage on one’s own neglected middle realms.
Although I have viewed these glimpses inside, I confess I can’t interpret them expertly; from what I could see, it’s quite possible I might have something more compelling to concern myself with about them soon enough, but, meanwhile…
I amused myself with the observation that, although these were images of the other end of me, some of the images seemed redolent of that constipated pout I’ve seen upon the face of the Donald.
* * *
The technician apologized to me about 15 minutes into my procedure, when he realized that the protocol for my particular scan would be an especially long one. My feet had been taped together and positioned– perhaps for optimal viewing, but definitely not for optimal comfort– upon a bolster. My hands were placed high on my heart– as if to impersonate a dead pope or pharaoh– where they tried to fall asleep, but eventually woke up again—who wouldn’t? And as the magic barrage of vibration settled sacrum and soft tissues into the hard table, the sciatic nerve began to mewl like lone tomcat contributing to general mayhem of a blitzkrieg.
I really didn’t mind it so much…
…although as we wore on toward the hour mark, I became increasingly grateful for all my yogic tools for breathing and meditation. Admonished to be very still, and aware of how the breath moves every part of the body, I meditatively focused breath into the middle and upper quadrants of the torso and encouraged a fluid, relaxed transparency in the tissues and other faculties that might subtly contract against the strafing stimulation.
I’ve long known myself to be made of sound, and I keenly felt my kinship with it. So, I did not feel so much under attack as under visitation, by alien, yet purposeful, sound-intelligences, there to help. There was no duplicity or ambiguity of meaning in the sounds, no emotional or mental content but my own. It is those distorted realms that so accost and confuse me as I move about among human sounds. So, here, amid the din, I was peaceful, mostly, and “safe.”
At times I felt like Gulliver swarmed by dozens of vocal, curious, invisible androids (…or performance artists, like Blue Man Group with voices). My body just went neutral and settled back for the show, as if it were a Pink Floyd planetarium spectacle (without the visuals).
There was the allegro movement of the concerto for six DA-DAs: DaDaDaDaDaDaDaDa complexly woven in call and response rounds…
…and there was the percussive robotic spit-off: Poit Poit Poit Poit Poit, Poit….
…and then those periodic slow arpeggios of melodious machine gun fire….
…then the pleasantly stimulating trio of revving diesel engines, which, after a while, made my muscles twitch.
There were so many more wondrous sounds I tried to remember but simply didn’t have the diphthongs to notate in my English mind’s alphabet.
Occasionally all the voices would go silent—
…Except for that one machine in the suite—a rotating electro-magnet, I imagined—which kept perfect time (and other secrets) like a metronome:
A-CHOO A-CHOO A-CHOO A-CHOO A-CHOO
… sneezing when I entered the room, and still sneezing when I exited… with my fillings still rattling in my teeth.
We really do not know anything.
…Those of us convinced this could never happen. …Those of us who think this will solve anything. We know as little as the the man who will ascend to a throne that seems more meaningless in his ascension to it.
This is a time for humility. But not the false humility that leads to complacency or hopelessness. The true humility that reminds us that as human beings we are more alike than different, and we are all in this together… In this with all of creation. Together we know a great deal, yet individually and even together, we can never know it all. We need each other. Creation needs all of us for the ongoing, messy evolutionary labor.
Each of us holds the passport of divinity within us, waiting to be validated– and stamped often– as we travel. We, none of us, need a visa for either Hell or Heaven. Both are in God; both are in us, and every moment’s destination is a choice of the Greater One, the infinite traveller who seeks to know all countries through us.
As Hilary said, graciously and wisely, in her concession speech this morning, “We owe him an open mind and the chance to lead.” We owe that to him, to those who saw reason to vote for him, and to ourselves.
This does to mean, nor has it ever meant, that we are to abdicate responsibility. In fact, this election should make it clearer than ever the price of cumulative complacency in a culture… on a planet. It is we–each of us– who lead our own hearts, who lead by example in our relationships and communities, small or large… Lead with thoughts, not just deeds. And most of us, if we are aware and honest, still struggle with primal impulses to blame, judge, exclude– no matter how subtle– in some realm of our life and psyche.
Our evolution as a species has long been three steps forward, two steps back; and so many of the redeemed have had to hit bottom first. Let us give thanks to rude awakenings for dusting off our priorities, focusing and simplifying them.
This is a call to all to lead from within, at the individual and community level, with Global and even Cosmological perspective.
Having suppressed building intuitive ill-ease with denial for a couple of days, this morning I was in no hurry to hear the news. But when the news tiptoed downstairs and insinuated itself to me and the friend I was with, my wisest self rose through the fog of intermingled numbness and sadness to meet it, with renewed lucidity, pragmatism, compassion.
We are not the first population to be faced with the oppressive momentum of primitive logic. But it is up to us to be one of the populations who respond with strength of heart, not reaction and pre-emptive judgement. This is another teaching in healing the world by healing ourselves. That’s right, it’s another F*%#ing growth opportunity, on a grand and urgent scale.
Can we make all this moment’s contrite talk of unity mean something? Can we be willing to be uncomfortable, and share the burden with the populations who already are, especially those whose anger frightens us and seems to give the planet back to the apes?
As my friend and I swallowed the morning’s news and set about digesting it, he re-read to me Thich Nhat Hanh’s timelessly relevant poem, Please Call Me By My True Names; I will let that be the final word…for now:
Do not say that I’ll depart tomorrow—
even today I am still arriving.
Look deeply: every second I am arriving
to be a bud on a Spring branch,
to be a tiny bird, with still-fragile wings,
learning to sing in my new nest,
to be a caterpillar in the heart of a flower,
to be a jewel hiding itself in a stone.
I still arrive, in order to laugh and to cry,
to fear and to hope,
the rhythm of my heart is the birth and death
of all that are alive.
I am the mayfly metamorphosing
on the surface of the river,
and I am the bird which, when Spring comes,
arrives in time to eat the mayfly.
I am the frog swimming happily
in the clear water of a pond,
and I am the grass-snake
that silently feeds itself on the frog.
I am the child in Uganda, all skin and bones,
my legs as thin as bamboo sticks.
And I am the arms merchant,
selling deadly weapons to Uganda.
I am the twelve-year-old girl,
refugee on a small boat,
who throws herself into the ocean
after being raped by a sea pirate.
And I am the pirate,
my heart not yet capable
of seeing and loving.
I am a member of the politburo,
with plenty of power in my hands.
And I am the man who has to pay his
“debt of blood” to my people
dying slowly in a forced labor camp.
My joy is like Spring, so warm
it makes flowers bloom all over the Earth.
My pain is like a river of tears,
so vast it fills the four oceans.
Please call me by my true names,
so I can hear all my cries and laughter at once,
so I can see that my joy and pain are one.
Please call me by my true names,
so I can wake up
and so the door of my heart can be left open,
the door of compassion.
Into hallowed quietude on Hallowe’en eve,
Air swollen with silence…
And river sounds…and breeze,
Twitters, caws… wings and thoughts
Animate the scene,
Which ever sinks toward stillness,
solidity and peace.
Guadalupe stands in white
And tranquil certainty,
Gazing humbly toward her heart,
A river full and free
of longing and belonging both
dissolved in Agape.
There is no gate. I enter freely. The lady in white does not look up to greet me. But buried deep inside is a voice that still dares to insist I am welcome.
I walk on the grounds, enveloped in silence and in solitude, even as I gaze upon long rows of windows made for many a man to look through. And, ah, there is one man. A bearded one in white habit and hood, pale as his vestments, stands looking down from his second story window. I cannot see his face, but I smile in its direction, offering the whitest thing I wear today; a smile of kinship and mischief, with a hint of pretense painting over where insecurity still lives. A smile that lays claim to the heart we share, shining through the echoes of a false history swathing me in the myth of unwelcome.
As I stand overlooking the wetlands and hills, with birdsong and breeze and sun alive all around me, apple tree still laden with trophies of its purpose served, why does someone in here persistently assume that all here have more purpose and belonging than I? That is the girdle of separation consciousness; the tattoo of original sin. It colors the flesh, casts shadow on the soul within, but does not touch the spirit, as our lady’s white habit reminds us.
I walk toward the apple tree and realize that if someone handed me a ladder and asked me to pick the apples, my tiredness would flee and in would rush the relief and animation, the safety and shakti, of Purpose. Instantly I would Belong here. I would be fed and flowing with the Life from which a moment before I had felt distinct, an interloper waiting to be found (and cast) out.
Why, I wonder, after all the Love I have seen, do these echoes of past wounds, of lies, still haunt me, when I know there is no one here forbidding my presence, my existence?
Guadalupe gazes down toward her heart against which she lightly holds a Merkaba star; one ray is broken off, and yet a star it still is, in my mind and in Her Heart.
As a way to move the love around, I walk up to the apple tree and greet and praise it for its perfect work. I confess to it lightly that I wish I could apple (verb) so effortlessly as it does, that my purpose was so clear. I feel my mind dilate and remind me that purpose is not a concept or a doing, but a Being, and Being is a hand held open in water, holding on to no meaning. I gaze then at the Lady in white some distance away and know I belong as Alive Mind, deep blue soul, hollowed out for the river of Being, all the colors floating by upon it before my eyes, ever down stream, changed, in ways I cannot know, by my witness.
Sunday, October 16th, would have been my mother’s 82nd birthday. I’ve made reference elsewhere to the halo of stupefaction I have customarily experienced around the birth and death anniversaries of both my parents since they passed in 2011. This year that cloud drifted forward in time, settled over me 24 hours earlier (or so), and had passed by the morning I expected it. Perhaps it had something to do with that powerful perigee moon, which was affecting emotional weather in many quarters.
Though it started without emotion, Sunday was not without poignancy. I exercised my commemorative impulse that morning by emailing loving wishes to my friend Lawrence, who shares my mom’s birthday and who became an important figure in my father’s life long after my parents shared little but a last name…and this single daughterly knot in the thread between them.
In his reply to my birthday greeting, Lawrence said that he had awoke that morning thinking of me…”and your Dad and the last time I saw you both together, with him sooo deeply smiling at you in his bed.” Emotion gushed forth, briefly, but more real, I noted, than anything I’ve felt for months, maybe years.
It felt like a validation, a celebration of a reality I feel removed from now, but which lives inside me somewhere. The life my parents gave me, together.
It somehow felt like both parents were reaching to me through Lawrence’s words. And each of us was being celebrated and blessed by the others in the triad.
Here I celebrate my mother:
How much pain she endured and yet was such a decent person.
Her Libran Dharma to look at all sides, and if there was not a cure, at least she could find an explanation.
…and her emotionality, deep torsive rancor buried deep in her joints
(until it could not be contained there).
She did all she could to provide for me, to be my root chakra.
And now I am detoxing from my root, both her indignant rage and my own,
through an anal fissure that is stubborn to heal,
that finds relief in bellowing chants to the many faces of Kali.
In my mind’s eye now, I can see the physical wound flanked by fang-marks of light–
white hot Ida and red hot Pingala.
And if I see Ida and Pingala merge,
they smelt and heal the rift between them as my parents in me;
and I become the One from the two,
able to root as the One for the first time.
“How are you? “ they ask cheerfully.
…“Oh, gettin’ along.”
Yet below there is a banshee’s jagged wail;
The convulsive kicking of hind legs
as raccoon tumbles from under a car’s wheels;
The cracking, arcing of exposed power-wire
shorting somewhere in Sushumna, and
through solid bones and plasmic organs,
through heart, brain, mind, vision;
Light devouring shadow,
which howls indignation
through all time and space within this skin;
Gelatinous being twitching in the hot wind.
This is how I feel today.
But it will pass;
why frighten the children?
“Thanks for asking.”