Sweat Lodge

I was so gratified to meet the woman I wrote about last week. I had failed at Thanksgiving not to respond to the hate-mongering chatter that accompanies every family gathering, and I felt it: Failure.

Meeting hostility with anger is useless and stupid, but what the hell am I supposed to do? I asked politely. I teased. I asked again. I got mad.

This woman explained the difference between suffering in complicit silence, and going within to meet hatred with love. I’ve been trying for 15 minutes to capture the epiphany I had in a 2-minute conversation, but it was almost funny how simple it seemed.

Of course, the practice of it will be a different story, marked by many failings, to be sure, but it moved from theoretical and seemingly-impossible to entirely practical and doable. There’s a huge difference between angrily holding one’s tongue, and actively holding a space of “non-duality,” she called it. The silence of love is not the silence of restraint. That’s a game-changer for me!

I talk about energy all the time. Everyone knows what it is to walk in a room and feel it. The silence she described isn’t passive at all. It’s energized! It’s silly now that it seemed such a unattainable concept, when, really, it’s a straight-forward product of choice and action. It can’t be mistaken for tacit approval.

Suddenly, my need to act as standard bearer seemed silly, too. It’s not as if my family doesn’t know me. If any of my nieces or nephews is different, in any way, they know there’s a safe place for them. I don’t need to do that anymore.

I’m ready to graduate!

It does hurt that I don’t matter in my family. At best, I’m a joke. My point of view is the minority, so it’s dismissed. No one cares that that hurts me. They know. They continue.

And I’m strong enough.

“I will love, even here. How can I love, even here?” I trust Spirit to answer, if I truly commit to trying a new way, and I’m ready.

(Whoa! I just got really scared again!)

I AM READY.
non-duality

****

I brought a new, blank drum inside the lodge, which was borrowed by a leader and praised by her for its tone. That felt great! It was plenty soggy and bleak-sounding by the end of 4 long rounds, but bounced right back in the cold night air.

[I also made a killer leftover-turkey casserole for the pot luck following the lodge. It went like gangbusters! Jax is teaching me how to cook. We take Mormon comfort food – primarily based on Cream of Chicken Soup – and turn it out! This dish contained organic, home-grown tomato puree and chili powder. And cheese. Lots of cheese.]

My personal drum stayed out on the altar by the fire, to soak up and sing with our prayers and come home to bless me when I dance and meditate. So far, it’s attended a Love Rally and this prayer for Standing Rock, for water, the earth, and all of us. I love my drum!

Here’s my most recent. (So much detail is missing in this grainy shot!)drum-5
13″ on wood frame with mallet
$200
Nov. 23, 2016

I have a few more color incarnations to realize before I’m finished with this design, and more drums than I can paint right now (including 2 with rawhide lacing).

****

This was the first lodge that I didn’t really go into a trance-like state. Usually, when the heat starts to rise, I’m transported to the plains in a covered wagon. I don’t know that any of my ancestors came across in a covered wagon, but that imagery is powerful for Mormons, and it would be a no-brainer for my ancestors to get my attention in that way, to signal very clearly who it was I was feeling. The first time it happened was one of the most alarming and powerful visions I’ve ever experienced. I saw the faces of the Native people my ancestors would have encountered, and recognized that they were the brown-skinned ancestors of the the people I was praying with! Then, “Oh my god, they call the stones ‘The Ancestors.’ Our ancestors are here!” It was overwhelming.

I try not to expect repeat performances of my experiences. I try to be in the now, and learn what new thing is available from each event. But it was hard not to hope for that impression again when I went to my second lodge. And they came. Again and again and again. It was the same wagon journey into Spirit at every lodge, except this one.

Abigail, my favorite pioneer ancestor, did pop to mind in the 3rd round. I smiled. I love her. I thanked her for being with me since we “met” when I was ten, and then I had a thought of Sarah, who doesn’t come to me often. I don’t feel her strongly, but I have had a sense of her quiet, and it would make sense for me not to get it. What’s quiet? I truly don’t understand quiet. In fact, quiet people scare me. I think they hate me.

But Sarah did come to mind, and I had the thought to pray around her voice. “Please come as a signal for when it’s appropriate to act differently. Help me discern between the time to speak and the time to turn inward and LOVE, even here. Come in when it’s time for me to honor the place of neither right nor wrong, and just love, fiercely, quietly.”

I’m excited to see if I recognize her as I begin to practice non-duality. I think I might. I have recognized her energy. It’s harder, but she has a distinct feeling, and I’m excited to imagine I might a foster a relationship with her. Especially if it leads to healing. Especially for my mother’s family. Sarah is my mother’s family.

not-the-end

Not The End, by Julie Rogers, depicts my ancestor, Sarah Ann, on one of her 32 crossings of the icy North Platte River to carry Saints to safety.

Tell My Story gives a detailed account of this episode of the Martin Handcart Company’s ill-fated journey to Salt Lake City. I’m really proud of Sarah. Scroll down and enjoy!

Cranio-Sacral Healing

I belong to a group on Facebook that calls and hosts sweat lodges for women. In my life, the sweat lodge has played the most powerful role in my growth and healing, and the women I meet there inspire and lift me.

Naturally, my membership in the group precipitated many friend requests. I almost never accept invitations from people I’ve not met personally. I find it disingenuous and overwhelming to suppose I have hundreds of friends. In fact, I often “cull the herd,” and end online friendships with those I may have met once, but failed to follow up the connection with another face-to-face, or even a meaningful conversation on Facebook. Often, after attending a sweat lodge where a woman is in attendance who previously sent an anonymous request, I’ll accept when I get home.

Once, such a stranger invited me to an online friendship, and “something” interested me. It’s become one of the most rewarding friendships I’ve enjoyed. It’s crazy at this point that we haven’t met! It’s been years. We have so many friends in common and connections in diverse and unrelated pursuits. I know now that Spirit was telling me to check her out.

There’s another lodge on Saturday and I think, at last, we’ll both attend. I’m so excited to meet her! She’s a healer and a bad ass. Something she wrote recently issued a challenge to me to rise above my anger, and reach across the aisle.

I’m perfectly aware of my tendency to demonize – well, Republicans, really. They threaten my safety. I’m also aware that this is the very bipartisanship I rail against, and does nothing to solve problems. But I’m so angry! Republicans created the stalemate that brought government to a grinding halt, and then reaped the rewards of a campaign that disparaged a government that doesn’t work.

Republicans are a threat to the freedom and safety of all Others.

And, of course, that’s not true. Absolutes never are (hehe). Jon Stewart was interviewed recently by Charlie Rose. He’s succinct where I am not, and made plain the flaw of vilifying the other side. I’ve been guilty myself of “creating people as a monolith,” by grouping all supporters of the President-elect as “the worst of his rhetoric.”

The only way to progress is to listen to one another, even when we disagree, and to speak with respect – not necessarily for each other, even, but with respect to the fact that most behavior is motivated by sincere belief. Our beliefs diverge, but we must not.

This friend has given me permission to print her words verbatim. I’m humbled by her response to the following experience, and frightened a little by her strength. She proves the possibilities that I’m thus far unwilling to welcome. This is the example I have to follow if I wish, not only to heal, but to retain access to my own healing gifts. I must rise above my punitive self if I’m to grow into the role I feel calling me.

Let me tell you, I can feel Saturday’s lodge already, and I am afraid. I’m grieving. I’m hurting. I’m furious! I’m angry that it’s on me to be the bigger person. I’m so sick of being the bigger person! I want to be nasty and bitter. I want to SCREAM!

So I will. With a plea to the ancestors to make my anger useful, productive, motivating, and to release me from it when it no longer serves me or my goals.

Aho Mitakuye Oyasin

*****

The Story of A Healer:

“The day after the election, I began receiving a flood of calls from (mostly) women in need of healing work. Immediately, I noticed a pattern in that nearly all of them were reporting pain in their jaw. From a craniosacral, bone energetic perspective, the mandible is the place in which we store much of our repressed anger and aggression. It’s where all the masks have been placed to hide our true feelings for every time we’ve been shut up, shut down, cut off at the throat, belittled, abused, beheaded….you get the idea. It’s our voice. It’s extremely powerful and primal and needs to move, talk, scream, roar, sing, kiss, laugh, express itself. As all life does.

“Yesterday began my sessions with woman after woman after woman. Jaws locked. Clearly stressed, triggered and fearful. Afraid if they actually express how they really feel, something extremely bad will happen. What were they angry about? The election. But as we moved deeper into the session it became obvious that their anger is about far more than Donald Trump. It’s about all that he represents and the ancient shadows he is triggering in them. In me. He mirrors the hatred and persecution Women have been horribly subjected to for centuries. I began to see how we can actually thank this man for bringing up the repressed shadows of our own hatred and anger that stems back thousands of years, with our heads being cut off for standing in our gifts, using our voice and being powerful. There is a huge generational cleansing that is happening. Sometimes the greatest healers come disguised as our darkest knight.

“So what could I do besides hold space and be a safe container for the expression of that anger, allow them to scream and roar, unwind, cry, let loose, tap into the deep sadness that lies beneath anger. Allow for the safe return of the mothering heart that stands only for love. Fierce Love. The Kali Ma, fire breathing, Creation and Destruction, you can’t stop me, type of Love.

“Then, a man came in. His first session with me. Filled with Hatred. Anger. Sexist statements. Racist statements. Everything is everyone else’s fault. Millions of dollars involved. He’s a very important man. I mean on and on and on. The ‘Dark Knight’ ‘Monster’ arrived in my room to lie on my table. As you can imagine, when facing your dragon, every trigger is up with ferocity. I slowly, at first begrudgingly, found my way into my heart center and just kept asking the question, ‘How can I love, even here?’ ‘How can I remain open, even here?’ ‘How can I be a safe container for this man, who is clearly suffering and asking to receive a session with me?’ I dropped into neutral, listened to everything he said, and allowed not a single reaction or agenda to arise. Basically I placed him in Divine hands, got myself completely out of the way, and became an empty vessel.

“Lying on my table, he continued to go on and on with no response from [me]. After about 30 min, it was as if he dropped into a deep trance. Silent. Still. Unmoving. What followed is difficult to describe but it was as if I witnessed a golden blanket of light descend over his entire body. I did not move for another hour. When he woke, he looked at me, disarmed, with tears in his eyes and asked ‘What just happened?’ I replied, ‘You’ve been kissed by the divine.’ He did not argue and rescheduled for next week.

“I see everything in terms of birth and death and the processes that come with these rites of passage, whether literal or symbolic. I can’t help it. This is my work and my medicine. To me it was as if this man died on my table as I have seen countless actual deaths. He died and was reborn.

“Of the 5 stages of grief, Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance, I’ve come to see that Denial is the one we tend to stay in the longest. Anger is the one we try to get around, repress, or avoid, yet in avoiding it, it becomes an overbearing and enormous shadow that consumes us. Acceptance is both the most difficult to reach and by far the most liberating.

“In facing the dragon and moving through all those stages without resistance or closing off my heart to the suffering of this man and our world at large, I feel completely free. I know with full acceptance, love is the most powerful weapon we can ever use. Not the fluffy unicorn and rainbow kind of love (although it has its place) but Divine love that says, ‘I will respond to nothing other than love.’ ‘No one can take Love away from me.'”

One Big Union

one big union.jpg

So excited to see this show today! Joe Hill was a labor activist and musician who was executed 100 years ago for a murder he may or may not have committed. This Plan-B Theatre original play contains Hill’s own songs, recently released to the public domain, and also highlights his work with Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, who visited him in jail here in Salt Lake, and went on to co-found the ACLU.

rebel-girl

Elizabeth Gurley Flynn was the inspiration for this 1915 battle hymn.

Plan-B is the only theater in the United States that produces entire seasons of original works by local playwrights, with emphasis on socially conscious themes and issues. It’s owned by one of my dearest friends and his husband. http://planbtheatre.org/

It’s a relevant stage experience, following a week that has seen boys at a local football game chanting, “Grab her by the p*ssy!” and a white van trolling Rose Park, a Salt Lake City neighborhood rich with immigrants, screaming, “Trump is President! Build the wall!”

Don’t mourn… ORGANIZE!
joe-hill

*****

It was amazing! Very emotional at times, as they were describing precisely what we’ve been living with this week and for the last 18 months.

I have to go to more shows at Plan-B! I’m so cheap. I always say, “Next time,” and next time never comes. If nothing else, I should be supporting my friends. The real reason, of course, is that theater transforms us! It makes us think, laugh. It gives us a break from everyday and all that that entails, but it can also light the fire of our own creativity. Above all, theater connects us. This was wonderful.organize

All Strong Women Are Called Bitch

nasty-womanI woke up Friday morning, suddenly aware that my belief that election stress hadn’t gotten to me was, in fact, a coping strategy to hide from what now feels very much like trauma! It broke my heart to see how disconnected I’d become from my emotions just to survive this shit. It was alarming, because I try to look honestly at myself and what my feelings are telling me. I was hiding from pain!

Post-election is going to be ugly, too. There will be no ideal reconciliation, or even real workability, but thank god this part is OVER. The longest, most vitriolic election in modern history. I feel like I’ve been beaten.

I ached again for the little girl who grew up in a violent home, who developed that coping mechanism just so she could breathe. I read once that Depression isn’t merely a pervasive low feeling, but the absence of all feeling, eventually the inability to feel. A person crying “the tears of the damned,” I call them, will do anything not to feel them. Not to feel. They stop being able to feel at all, even the good stuff. It’s horrible, and it comes from hiding from pain.

I would have thought that I had a special radar for noticing when that technique was creeping into my life. I didn’t see it at all! You hear the buzz words “election anxiety” everywhere, and I had perched myself above it, in very much the same way I would leave my body during violence that I thought would kill me. When I saw it – her – I ached, and went in again to be the grown-up I needed when I was a terrified little girl.

I decided that I will no longer watch any news or footage of any kind until Wednesday, and I haven’t. Of course, it’s everywhere. You can’t get away from it. But I’m not permitting the sound bytes into my life anymore. I’ll know tomorrow what happens tonight.

At one point Friday, I was praying and dancing – with my new beautiful mandala hand drum – and putting peace and healing into the meditation/energy bubble I’ve described before. I had this vision of Hillary Clinton ushering in a reconciliation era. I felt almost elated! I danced and celebrated, and put all of my love into that vision.

The next day, I woke up feeling like such an idiot! I’m so stupid! Hillary won’t be permitted to lead our national recovery. They’re going to eviscerate her! They are going to make her pay so hard! They will never stop trying to SILENCE THE WOMAN. And they want the rest of us to witness what happens when we dare to speak.

I felt like crying. I felt hopeless.

And then I didn’t. Immediately, I thanked her again. She is the only woman who could break this final fucking ceiling. Whatever you think of Hillary Clinton, SHE has opened the door at last for women to be taken seriously in U.S. Presidential races.

The United States hates women as much as it hates black people. It’s shameful that it’s taken so long for a woman to break through that insistent wall of fear and desperation. Germany has Angela Merkel. England has Theresa May, and the Iron Lady was taken seriously decades ago. Israel had Golda Meir a lifetime ago! She was born in 1898!

But not here. Never here. Here, they don’t want to hear. SHUT UP, said white male privilege to every woman and every person of color. “It is the existential fear of displacement from a world that has slowly – too slowly, for too long – been chipping away at white male supremacy.” -Rolling Stone

Hillary Clinton was the woman to break through that blockade, not because her place in history is that of a peacekeeper. That woman is a warrior! She’s strong enough to take anything they say and do to her. And only that woman can handle what’s coming after she’s elected. She’s a battering ram! And she’s willing to do it.

So I’m grateful. I don’t love her perfectly. That’s a childish world view. Politics is messy business. No one is 100% happy 100% of the time. That’s dictatorship. But Hillary Clinton is among the most honest politicians (Deal with it), and she’s accomplished things across both sides of the aisle, that make the world a better place. That has been her aim.

Unfortunately, I doubt we’ll see any of that ever again. This bipartisan bullshit is an attempt by the Republican party to bring down everyone if they can’t have their way, exactly as they want  it. It’s so dangerous. It breaks my heart.

And that’s where I come in. I have to learn my limit of exposure, and pray. Ironically enough, I’m a warrior, too. But it’s in this way that I came to my calling, which is to heal. Myself. My friends. My family. My neighbors. My world.

I can’t get bogged down by the futility of it all. I just have to believe in my ridiculous mystical bubble – and I do – and send all of my love into it. I can imagine myself into real visions of peace and cooperation, and when that sight takes the pain from my heart, I pray and pray and pray. “Let the world feel this, NOW. Let everyone who sees this in their heart send the power of their healing into the bubble, too, and make it grow!”

“Do the best you can until you know better. When you know better, do better.”
-Maya Angelou

drum

Here she is again. I love this drum so much! She is a healer! I love her voice.

Tonight, I will go to a belly dance class, and come home to work on my next mandala. In this way, I’ll hear none of the nonsense that I don’t need. It’s done.

I’ve found that the repetition of each rotation brings on a trance state, where the mind forgets its being-ness, and what’s inside comes up. I’ve caught myself putting hatred and anger into these beautiful lines and curves, but Sacred Truth stops me. I really feel like something else jumps in and says, “Not here! Not this!” So I redirect my thoughts, and pour love, joy, healing, humor, and everything beautiful about my inner nugget into these drums I’ve come to love so much. They contain prayers and magic!

Kumbaya, bitches!

womens-suffrage

I Needed That

new-moonI finally made it to a New Moon Sister Circle. It was just what I needed to snap out of it! We discussed what the new moon in Virgo might look and feel like, and my friend Bonnie said, “I’m just glad Mars is out of retrograde!”

“Is that what’s been going on?” I asked.

All of the women laughed and exclaimed. Everyone, it seemed, had an example of how she was either contrary or useless.

I’ll take it! I’m content to chalk it up to the stars and let it go. I’ve been beating myself up trying to demystify and define that months-long funk, but now I don’t feel so much pressure to learn something from it. It’s done. I’m fine.

The next day, I went to my niece’s wedding and had such a lovely visit with my family in Idaho. The reception was at my sister’s house. It was a dream country wedding, with hay bale couches covered in denim comforters, kids running everywhere, and chickens clucking and crowing in the background. I can’t think of a more pleasant time I’ve shared with my family. I got to hold my first grandniece, all of 2 weeks old and only 6 lbs!

My roommate and I went back to his ranch for Labor Day. It was a wonderful follow-up to my own family visit. His family made me feel right at home, and we spent the evening singing Broadway hits, old classics, and camp-style rounds.

Yesterday, we went to the Mountain Man Rendezvous in Ft. Bridger, Wyoming. Today, we canoed, rode horses, and I chopped wood.

Oh, and I finished my drum!mandala

on casper

Casper the Friendly Horse got a little feisty, especially when Bella kicked in front of us!

riding horseschopping wood 4

Aug. 28th, we climbed to Timpanogos Cave National Monument.stalagtitesdripping rust

Here’s one from my artist niece’s Blessingway on Aug. 12th. blessingway
5 days later, Violet arrived! ~ August 17, 2016 ~violet
On Sept. 2nd, my sporty niece married a fellow marathoner.kolten-and-em

Woman Medicine

do betterwoman medicineWhat to do about PMS? I guess those are the times that wise, powerful men must keep the communal balance. Yesterday, after the stupid office zombie pounced on my last nerve I considered the calendar and laughed. I’ll “do better,” as Dr. Angelou advises, any day now. (Non sequiter: Weak men who do not understand the rush of blessed estrogen we get on Day One, or that they, too, have hormonal ebbs and flows – haha – should date men.) Now kindly back the blank off. Thank you.