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!

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Advice I’d Have Given Myself

Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.– Rilke

I’m returning to Yellowstone tomorrow for Playmill Theatre’s 50th Anniversary. It’s remarkable that I worked on that stage half my life ago. It’s mind-boggling to consider the girl I was. I’m so glad I made it! I learned to dance in the Question Mark. I love my life!

I never thought I’d hear myself say that.

It’s symbolic, this trip, in profound and timely ways. Then, I was just out of my teens and my parents’ house. I was endlessly tortured, at all times terrified. My friends were mean girls, who, like me, used their clever tongues to ridicule others and cut them down. Now, I’ve celebrated entrance into mid-life. Really celebrated. I celebrate every day! My friends are the tried-and-true, who call on me to be my best self and help me be her. They, too, are very smart and quick-witted, but they’re good and nice and only a little wicked.

I love that this reunion takes place in my 40th year. The full thrust of the drastic shift in my world- and self-views has never been more delicious than it is now. I’m planning private time in the Park to do some healing on specific incidents that took place there on 2 separate occasions with 2 different sets of people, both recent and both catastrophic. There’s so much stain on my Yellowstone that I’m ready to let go. When I considered the praying and writing I anticipate there, I was amazed to connect the trauma of my early life to those unrelated altercations. How curious that I participated twice in vulgar, relationship-ending dramas in this place I revere as so sacred. Perhaps there’s more to each circumstance than what was taking place inside me at the time.

Growing up, horrible things were happening to me. When I reflect on my childhood, I find that most girlhood joy and sweetness reside in Yellowstone, with my Grandpa, with the cabin and the beautiful, wild earth. But in my real life, horrible things were happening to me! I felt powerless and out-of-control. I was scared to death and angry. In my mind, I’ve posited the role of savior on Yellowstone, but I let my demons live there, too!

I really think there might be something to this. I think there may very well have been tension built up inside me that was accidentally tied to that place. I brought all of me there, every time. Even as recently as 2010.

I have work to do. I’m going home to reclaim my pristine, savage wilderness.

Tonglen

I’ve just been introduced to the concept of Tonglen. In real time, my life is changed.

Tonglen instructs us to take IN suffering, injustice, rape, starvation, violence, filth, misunderstanding and heartache, and to breathe out understanding, connectedness, sameness, wellness, wholeness, a hand, love. I believe this practice can coexist with prior lessons I’ve learned on healing myself, which were to breathe in healing to the place that hurts – on the body, the mind, the spirit – and breathe out the rancor of pain.

It’s human nature to avoid things that sting. (It was a smart evolutionary trick. We’re still here.) We see all the time the disastrous consequences of turning a blind eye, but it’s what we tend to do when faced with discomfort. Tonglen says, instead, NO. Look at the perverse, hideous nature of pain. Take it. Feel it. Breathe it.

Tonglen makes me feel more related to everyone on the planet than I ever have before. We all know the alienation of fear and misunderstanding. In this life and in generations past, we have been the victims AND the perpetrators of crime. I breathe in pain, in solidarity with those who suffer right now. I breathe in pain because I know it. I breathe out relief in solidarity. I breathe out relief because I know it.

I know relief! Mine is yours. I’ll feel differently one day, but right now my peace is yours.
heart advice

Pema Chödrön

Pema Chödrön

Sideways on A Course In Miracles

I’m not a terribly ambitious girl, but when I make up my mind to do something I do it. I’ve had the book, “A Course In Miracles,” for years. It was a gift from a friend in the 90s, for heaven’s sake. I’m a fan of books on inner peace, so I kept “meaning to,” in my fashion, and finally decided to git ‘er done.

42 lessons in, I’m faltering. This morning is the first I’ve asked myself if this is really something I consider important for the entire year. The resistance I felt in the beginning was expected, according to the author, and I tend to be an adversarial person. (“That is the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard!” often escapes my lips before I’ve really listened.) So I gave it a pass and kept going.

Every morning as I read, however, I find myself confronting my former struggle against the likelihood of God as some kind of Puppet Master, who grants or withholds assurances and warm fuzzies based on our behavior. Why does any pursuit of peace and kindess toward one another have to involve any “Him”? It no longer sends me into paroxysms of panic… but it annoys me.

I like Jesus. He seems more tangible. I love him, actually. I want to be like him. Jesus wouldn’t accuse someone of stupidity just because he disgreed. I admire that. I don’t need to know or profess or even care if he died for me. Whether he did or didn’t, I expect the same thing when I die (love, the unknown). I believe in Christlike loving-kindness. I believe in acceptance. I’m not threatened by not knowing. But it does make it harder to proceed on a process of self-improvement and tolerance when it’s stated in terms of God the Father.

Now, the authors again preempted this resistance. It was one author’s description of herself (“psychologist, educator, … atheistic in belief”) and the appalling work relationship she shared with her department head that made me excited in the first place to finally begin this study. They were colleagues in a “prestigious and highly academic setting” whose acrimonious regard for one another prompted her boss to insist on a different course. They didn’t necessarily anticipate The Course, but that’s what developed.

Her method of coming by the text further helped sway me. She described it as a kind of automatic writing (though she expressly says it wasn’t automatic, because “it could be interrupted at any time and later picked up again”). I fully believe in automatic writing. I find it to be one of the most effective ways to tap into our psychic unconscious. Just as some excel at Math or sports, others’ psychic gifts are naturally more ready. I think automatic writing can be a universal baseline for all of us to connect to our own personal source (and find, as I did, our individual cheerleading squad). (“My angels”) Her experience was like mine. It took her by surprise. The language that came with it was certainly unexpected. (Although Mormons believe in angels, they’re not commonplace in casual discussion.)

At first I imagined that the scribe who took this “inner dictation” for the Course might be channeling an old spirit guide. Mediums say all the time that persons from different eras speak “thee and thou,” say, (The Course does not) or that they sometimes have to tell the soft-spoken to speak up. They even struggle with the accents of those they “meet.”

I thought, “If an atheist can open her mind to the possibility of paranormal gifts, certainly I can open my mind to the lingo she employs to convey her message. It’s just nomenclature, for god’s sake.” (hehe)

A Course In Miracles excuses the language of the lessons, such as “I am blessed as a Son of God,” saying, “Although Christian in statement, the Course deals with universal spiritual themes.” Sold! That’s me to a T. I’m a western girl. Christianity is a default. Quite by accident, and not even wanting to, I found that I’m intensely spiritual in a very unorthodox, universal way. But I feel like I’m reading the scriptures every day! Why not simply say every blessed morning, “I am blessed”?

I find that just as you are holy, so am I. Life is holy. That belief is contained in The Course as well, but when she says, The Holy Spirit,” I feel sick. In my gut, sick. For me, that one little article, capital “The,” is so alienating and sanctimonious. It actually has the opposite effect. It wholly separates me from this holy thing, and I just don’t think that’s real. I truly believe we are all connected. For me, “The Holy Anything” implies that we’re not.

I continued on, in faith that when she got past the building blocks and into the meat, it would be more “edifying,” as they say. Then I got to today. I had the thought, “I did this already.” Period. My whole childhood was hoping, reading, praying that it would occur to me like it occurred to everyone else. It didn’t. It occurred to me like it occurred to me. I can tell you the day I stepped on the path to my personal peace. (“What I Know”) It was awesome. It was hilarious. God or Whomever is funny!

A Course In Miracles is from the Foundation For Inner Peace. I don’t find it here. Others do. My friend, for example, and one of my favorite authors, Marianne Williamson. I’m willing to read on, accepting that I’ve taken this Course in another form and may drop this version at any time. I’ll keep an open mind. In fact, I want to explore that resistance a bit, in case there’s something to it I’m not seeing yet. But today, rather than simply encountering opposition, I understood that I have, in fact, already done this. And that’s okay.

I’m simultaneously reading a book by Pema Chödrön that gives me so much pleasure, hope and insight. She inspires me and makes me laugh. I didn’t know Buddhists could say “shit.” Even when times are shitty.

I’d rather know that Eber begat Peleg than read these scriptures. The Old Testament at least seems plausible as a historical document that betrays its time and place and the values of that day. A Course In Miracles seems pretentious. And boring as shit!

As for insisting others take my view, lest they be stupid, “Let me never fall into the vulgar mistake of dreaming that I am persecuted whenever I am contradicted.”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson

(… I made it 72 days and simply could not continue. Didactic bombast!)

Manifest 2013

Turn 40! Jump out of an airplane – at last! – on my birthday, April 27th… weeeee!

Go paragliding on my bestie’s 40th – June 18th… weeeee!

you are

Fit and Fabulous and Forty is living AWAKE and all the way. Here’s how I’ll do it:

Eat actual food… Learn a new recipe every month… Play with slowcooker and solar.

Lose this 15 pounds! No reason not to be my high school weight. Healthy, strong, trim. (Binge-eating/food addiction journal?)

Coffee and Diet Pepsi are occasional treats, not daily necessities. Green tea.

I am smoke free. Completely smoke free. Not one cigarette. Bright, clean, pink lungs!

Move to a place with more space, SUN SUN SUN, and cheaper rent (suburbs, gulp).

Surround myself with plants.

Write every day… journal… blog… poetry… vignettes… articles… Write every day.

Master circular breathing… Didge daily… Play with others… Meditate

Pray every morning… Angels said Leaf Pose for me… Pray every morning. For reals.

Choose gratitude every day, even the bad ones. I sit peacefully at the center of my life.

Read A Course In Miracles! A miracle a day for me in two, zero, one, and three!

Study throat chakra blockage and clearing… Heal it… and others… eventually…

Get voice coach… Learn 2 each, upbeat song and ballad… Have them at the ready.

Identify and perfect 2 monologues, comedic and dramatic… At the ready…

Audition for everything… Fail gloriously!… Relish every chance to improve and learn… Have fun! ENJOY the practice! “Thank you for the chance to celebrate my craft!” I love to audition! I love to audition! I’m so good at auditioning! Can’t wait to audition!

Invest in good headshots… ? blerg… hate to spend money… Can’t my bestie just do it?

Get one paying gig… anywhere… anything… Rebuild resume… Network… PERFORM! Love the stage again. Revel in the play and laughter of rehearsal and take it seriously.

Perform with Africa Heartwood Project… traditional chorals/ basic percussion…

Get a drum of my own.

(Re)learn guitar… Progress… My wrist is tight but fine. It will stay fine. Play through it. 

Play the piano. I have such a pretty little [poor neglected] piano.

Travel. Go to a new state. See a new country.

Cruise for the first time, possibly (friend’s June wedding if I’m not in a show)

New York for another wedding (and if so, all of New England!)

At least one old festival and one new festival

$ Oh yeah, money. I’m over it. Poverty is not this life’s sacred! Money. Thank you. $

Continue African Dance… Add Afro-Brazilian (Samba Fogo) and/or Zumba weekly…

Learn poi. 

Add three elements to hooping repertoire… PRACTICE… more fluid and dance-y-like…

Conquer blinding dizziness of  LED hoop… Use it, silly! (smaller diameter than I like)

Get my own fire hoop… ? … At least spin again in someone else’s.

Jog the steps of the Capitol at least once a week.

GET UP GET UP GET UP! I slept the first half. Now it’s fun. Wake up and LIVE!

When you joked, “… epitaph will read, ‘Lovingly gave half her life to sleep,'” you didn’t know you were manifesting the first half, did you? Get up, little wildfire. Don’t be afraid anymore to live out loud. It is what you came here to do. Get up and do it. 

“If you asked me what I came into this world to do, I will tell you: I came to live out loud.” Emile Zola                                                          

me, too… 🙂 

I only just began to understand that I can let go my Screaming Banshee and live out loud. She had a job, to protect me and insist on personal truth. I don’t need protecting anymore. Life isn’t so scary anymore. My truth is finally pleasurable. What a relief!

I freaking love 40. Happy New Year!

(P.S. Totally didn’t mean for my [first] vision board to match my bedroom. Isn’t it pretty?)

manifest!
bed

Christmas Miracle

I turned off the radio as I drove to visit my two little ladies. I said aloud, “Well, angels, now’s a good time to talk. Help me get through to [Jane]. So far, my face has not seemed to comfort her at all. I don’t care that dementia has made her angry. I only care that she does not seem to receive any benefit from my being there… so I leave. Please bring her angels in with me today so maybe she’ll recognize something familiar. I don’t know. Just… help me find a way to bring her peace. And let them both let go easily when they’re ready.”

I sat down with [Joan] first. She’s blind and a little confused, but her personality’s in full force. She’s quick, clever, kinda wicked, and pleased with her own jokes. I adore her. She hasn’t eaten for weeks but she’s still drinking, so she’s not quite active[ly dying]. But she’s slept through my last two visits. I miss her. I held her hand for 15 minutes or so. It’s hard to stick around when her roommate blares the TV. I sent her my thanks and love, and left. 

Then the long walk down the hall. I felt the fear creeping back up in me. “How do I honor [Jane’s] feelings without mirroring them back?” I prayed. “How do I bring joy without invalidating her anger? Walk in with me.” Oh, thank goodness! She was asleep.

I turned on some instrumental Christmas music and sat down, continuing to pray. I sat for about 20 minutes, longer than usual during naps, just enjoying a feeling. At last I decided to go. I quietly gathered my things, then turned back to say good-bye. And there she was. “Oh, hello!” I said, introducing myself again. “Do you remember me?”

She didn’t.

“I was just going to play some music and sit with you. Would that be alright?”

It would.

So I started over. Her garbled noises began. I felt the fear creeping up. (“Stay with me.”) Finally [Jane] enunciated clearly, “Heeeelllp! Help, heeellllllp,” over and over.

“How can I help?”

She indicated a string just out of her reach.

“Would you like the light on?”

She would. *click*
And she quickly changed her mind: “HEEELLLP! HELLLLP!”

“That’s pretty bright. Do you want it off?”

She did.

“We had a Christmas Eve blizzard all day yesterday, [Jane], and the sun came out today for the picture-perfect white Christmas! Did you know that?”

She didn’t.

“It’s gorgeous out there and it’s all the light we need, don’t you think?”

Yes.

“It is so beautiful today. Merry Christmas!”

She pointed to the closet.

“What a pretty sweater! Looks like Santa came last night. You musta been good,” and I’ll be damned if she didn’t burst out laughing! So I did too. [Jane] indicated that she’d like to wear it, but I was scared to move her. That twisted body looks like it hurts. (“Stay with me!”) I pushed her crash pad aside, sat on her bed, and gingerly tugged and lifted and wiggled and pulled until [Jane] at last wore her new Christmas sweater.

“We did it!” I sighed. “It even matches your nails. You look beautiful.”

And then the most amazing thing happened. Her eyebrows raised and she began to tell me in an excited, indecipherable whisper about this girl and that girl, pointing wildly at me.

“Me?” I asked.

“No, me!” she corrected.

“Of course! Tell me more.”

And she did. I kept praying that she wouldn’t feel patronized, knowing I couldn’t understand, when I had the thought, “For god’s sake, Christie, you’re an actress. Mean it!”

So I did. It was fun! This woman told me everything. She was so happy to tell me everything. I held and squoze and shook her hand and heard her everything. It was so wonderful to touch her! I was overwhelmed at the immediacy of their answer/ attendance. I was crying and laughing. I was playing, for heaven’s sake, and I stayed for an hour!

I thanked [Jane] for a wonderful Christmas and left to see Les Miserable with my family, my best friend and her daughter. My bestie whispered as the show began, “I’ve been waiting for this for 20 years!” We both fell in love with Les Miserable in high school: Me, the theatre geek onstage; she, the gifted flautist in the orchestra.

Les Miserable does not disappoint. See it! “To love another person is to see the face of God.” Some timing, huh? Sometimes you just have to believe in magic.

Thank you, angels. You seriously rock. Merry Xmas. Love, Xie

Angels and Hovering Between

I just found out my work friend was in the delivery room standing next to her husband when she bled out and her heart stopped. She vividly remembers the operation and all of the days following, when she couldn’t respond. It’s about a 3-hour story, she says. We’re going to dinner soon. I knew I felt the spirit with her! This place is amazing.