Monday, December 28, 2015

Reflections on 2015 and the Power of Magic

"Magic in this case is power. Not power over others, but power 
beyond 'over others.' It is the power within oneself."
 - Chogyam Trungpa
Fairy wings and wands with the friends
who taught me to be proud of who you are.

A year ago I set two basic intentions. I wanted to write and I wanted to learn from the word that kept coming to me: "magic." 365 days later I am looking back at the multitude of adventures I could not have controlled or predicted. I feel thanks for the sense of inner strength that comes with age and practice. I feel more curious than afraid about what I don't yet know. I have deep appreciation for the pervading sense of ease I feel in how I move, commit, eat, speak, and behave. Truly, there is a richness to my life that I previously could only imagine.

When the word magic choose me, I didn't know what to do with it.  It turns out, magic isn't something you do. It is part of who we are. It is our ability to create beauty in even the difficult or mundane. It is the power to give unconditional love. It is needing less and having more. It is the awe that comes from seeing our intentions become our reality. It is the alchemy of bowing our hearts and heads to what is. It is play. It is joy. It is creativity and spontaneity and saying yes to life. It is the power to make someone's day. It is the power to love the life that is uniquely yours. It is nonaggression. It is grace.
Being brave while getting the word
"grace" tattooed on my foot somewhere in Brooklyn

Some highlights of 2015:
At Nan Seymour's writing studio
  • My resolution for the year was to write. I had no idea at the time, but writing is a way of making me get really, really honest. I left my teaching job which was making me miserable. I learned to use the phrase "what I really want to say" on a regular basis. I learned how to follow the outer expression of my inner life towards a more authentic reality. I learned that when we share who we are, we connect more deeply with others. I took 3 six-week River Writing classes and listened to other writers tell their stories. I have a renewed commitment to living a creative life and following the threads of truth, regardless of where they lead or how crazy they seem.
  • In June I had the honor of going on a remarkable 9 day trip to West Virginia and Virginia. I swam in the Atlantic Ocean. I made new friends. I hiked the Appalachian Trail. I explored old coal mining towns that were nearly abandoned. I learned about the three remarkable men who were my companions. I laughed until my stomach muscles ached.
Inside an abandoned school in Welch, West Virginia

  • I traveled to New York in August and I met a woman in Central Park who read my palm and told me, "whatever they put on your plate, Mami, you can always turn it around. Befriend your shadow. If you don't have a relationship with your own soul, you'll be fucked." I spent time with friends and family each navigating that relationship with their own souls. We encouraged each other towards authenticity.
  • In late September I received a letter from my friend Swan inviting me to meditate together for 100 days. Nothing has changed my life more. Through meditation I am learning to let things wash off instead of carrying them around. I feel a deep sense of stability being cultivated within. I am growing my capacity for presence, for freedom, for peace and equanimity. The less I hold onto, the more my heart expands.

  • At a point in my life where I felt my most autonomous, I reconnected with an flame. Our relationship has been entirely unexpected and deeply fulfilling. We have a deep respect for one another as organic beings. There is a felt sense of support in our interactions. There is honesty and kindness and trust. We are relating beyond imposed expectations with a real reverence and esteem for what is alive in each other in the moment. I call him my magical fava bean rose which is to say, "you are a precious and entirely unique individual. I love you with all my heart and as such, I won't try to mold you or force you or use shame or punishment. Absolutely all of your experience is welcome. You deserve to be adored exactly as you are." The abundant laughter and kindness and kisses and even the tears are food for my soul. Often I will be cracking up and will say,  "But, Pat! I hate to laugh!" to which my lover responds with, "but you're so good at it!" Surely this business of love is way too important to take seriously.

  • And now I am closing the year in sunny, peaceful Palm Springs with my aunt Martha and uncle Andy. I am rested and cared for and encouraged. If taking in this view doesn't give a sense of possibility, I'm not sure what will.

The more I pay attention, the more value I find in each moment. Surely, there are too many to capture and the best response seems to be gratitude.

There is a power within each of us. It is limitless and is always available. We just have to be open. It is clear to me that this life is a privilege. That it is an honor to be part of something bigger than myself.  I am reminded of this quote from the poet Atticus, " 'Put your hand on your heart.' the old man said, 'Inside you there is a power. there are ideas and thoughts that no one has ever thought of, there is the strength to love, purely and intensely, and to have someone love you back, there is the power to make people happy, and to make people laugh, and to fall in love- to change lives and futures- don't forget that power, and don't ever give up on it.'"

May we move forward into 2016 with optimism and the courage to head in the direction of our dreams. May we trust what unfolds for us. May we stay connected to our power to create the conditions for love, to create the conditions for laughter, to make manifest the beautiful lives we can imagine. Sending blessings and good will for your hopes and deep appreciation for our connection to each other.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Life As It Is, or 'What the Hell Am I Doing Here'?

My friends and I at the San Francisco Airport

Sunday night I got home from an Embodied Life retreat where we practiced embodied meditation (similar to Zen), deep inner listening, and awareness through movement lessons (based on the work of Moshe Feldenkrais). The Embodied Life work is one of the most rewarding things I have ever done. It is extremely countercultural. Everything is done very slowly with an emphasis on our bodily experience and acceptance of each moment. I deeply love it.

However, lest you think I spent the weekend blissed out, soaking in gratitude and rose water, I thought it might be helpful to share my honest experience with you. I also want to say that I am deeply thankful to my friends MaryBeth and Luann, without whom I would not have attended retreat. Our connection as embodied women is a gift which I cherish.

  • I arrive at Santa Sabina. It quickly becomes apparent that I am the youngest person in the room by 20 years. There is another group sharing the retreat center with us. The median age must be 70. I think they’re Christian, but I don’t know because they are silent. One woman has a tracheotomy, one woman is recovering from a stroke. I eat my oatmeal in silence and watch old people eat. One day I’ll be old.

  • We sit in silent meditation in the dark. After 30 minutes or so, we move into walking meditation. It’s also silent. And extremely slow. It takes us 30 minutes to move 20 feet. I can’t shake the thought, “what the fuck am I doing?” After walking, we sit again, this time facing the wall. Then we bow to the ground three times.

  • I get chastised by an expired hippie named Blue for talking outside on my cell phone. Apparently I should have walked all the way to the parking lot. “They’ll tell on you, it’s against the rules,” she says, as if I am 10 years old.

  • We listen to our teacher tell us about his recent trip to Auschwitz. He talks about the pile of hair and gold teeth, about the survivors and how they made meaning and forgave and thrived. There are chills throughout the room.

  • My lover calls to tell me about a party he went to the night before. “There were so many beautiful people, and good whiskey, and dancing,” he tells me. “Cool. I’m happy for you,” I say. Silently I think, “I’d better get back so I can sit in the dark with a bunch of old people I don’t know. What the hell?”

  • I notice a woman named Barbara across the circle. She has the sort of poise and presence I am after. I whisper to her, “Barbara, you are stunning.” She replies, “and you.” On the last day I tell her, “this Feldenkrais is so not sexy.” To which Barbara replies in her gorgeous, British accent, “the word that comes to mind is potent. This work has potency, and potency is sexy.” I smile and take note.

  • I go for a long walk each day. I meet a man named Tom who was born without an arm. He’s proud of his paddle boarding business. I visit him the next two days. On the last day I tell him that I hope he’s very successful with his business venture. It feels good to talk to a real, live person who is my same age. It feels good to move.

  • My lover calls me and I share the things I am learning about. We get really excited about our shared discoveries. “Come home soon so you can teach me,” he says. “Learn all you can.”

  • One night we do our sitting meditation in groups of three. I find huge support from a stranger named Gary. I look at his still, solid belly and I know I, too, can sit.

  • On my way out the door, I slip a $2 trinket in my pocket from the gift shop. I have no idea why I’m stealing something I don’t really want. Later I realize it is an act of rebellion after spending the weekend being told what to do. I have issues with being told what to do. I have issues with being part of a group.

  • I call my mom and say, “I’m having a really hard time being part of the group.” She laughs out loud and wonders how this is surprising news.

  • My generous friend Luann brings MaryBeth and I into the airport Crown Room. We drink wine and I confess all the judgmental thoughts I’ve been keeping to myself. Like good friends, they listen, laugh, and share. I feel saved by their presence.

  • The truth is that the work of sitting and bowing and laughing and listening is really, really important. I want to dedicate my life to it. And it is not easy. Despite our best efforts, part of life is suffering. It is inescapable. I constantly find myself needing to forgive when I want to resent, needing more courage than I currently have, needing help from people who annoy me, needing to reconsider my fixed views, needing to be a little more vast, a little more loving, a little more brave, needing to try again. I am grateful for the opportunity to practice, regardless of how that opportunity shows up. Learning to embrace Life as it is, this, too, is our practice.