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!

I’m Glad I Watched, After All

And I’m glad I took a news-feed break the weekend before election night. I needed it.

If I had woken up to discover a Trump presidency, I would have been more confused than I am having watched it happen. I was resigned, if not resolved, by the time I went to bed.

There is no humor in me. Jax is trying to make jokes this morning. I want to kill him.

Instead, I’m going to marathon “Keeping Up With The Kardashians,” and disengage for as long as I can. It will settle in. The pain will subside. Only 4 years.

There will be no revolution. This was the revolution.

Only 4 years. Only 4 years.

The nice thing about middle-age is how quickly time passes.

Only 4 years.

I must be careful what thoughts and energy I put into the new drum I’m working. We need prayer and peaceful intention now more than ever. I’m hoping it will help to heal my broken heart, to focus on art and what these drums have come to represent for me. Drawing the mandala, especially, is meditation. Painting it feels like celebration.

Hopefully, by the time it’s ready to be painted I can feel joy again.

I’m so ashamed. I’m in shock. I hate my country.

I’VE NEVER FELT THAT IN MY LIFE.

trump

It breaks my heart. Absolutely rips my heart out and breaks it.

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 has accomplished things across both sides of the aisle, that make the world a better place. Deal with it.

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.

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!”

It goes in the bin with the other shit hippie chicks say, but it can’t hurt.

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

drum

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 I catch myself and stop. That’s huge. I’m developing the ability to watch my thoughts!

I want to 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 Guess That Did Help.

I woke up this morning knowing exactly what to pray and meditate on. I want distance AND forgiveness. I’ve never tried it that way. In the past, rancor meant a rift; softness, reconciliation. So far, a relationship has resulted in failure and anger. So don’t do it. In the past, that warm flood of understanding and sympathy inspired a desire to see them, to hold them. Hold that feeling in your heart. For yourself, for your family, for everyone.

Only good can come of it. I will remain estranged, and continue inviting forgiveness.

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

First Women’s Sweat Lodge

This post is the most recent from my other blog, http://dreamermadwoman.blogspot.com. It documents the shift that brought me to this creative writing space. I will continue to post there, when next I travel the globe!

This post has more to do with the wild, Western journey of this wildwesterngirl, so I wish to share it here as well. I never guessed I would one day be attracted to and adopted by a Native American practice, but it feels right and good and glad.

“Feb. 20, 2012. Of course a sweat lodge was just around the corner. I was feeling all kinds of connected. I had just transferred Wendy’s contact info from last year’s planner to 2012’s when she messaged me Saturday night inviting me to pray. Yesterday was my fourth lodge, my first with only women. They get better and better, but yesterday was some kind of magic! Wendy is an inspired leader and sister.

I feel so blessed and perplexed as to why I get to remain here to continue learning and celebrating. I passed hurdles yesterday I didn’t know I needed to climb. At one point we were instructed to simultaneously unleash our gratitude and call it to the heavens, our guides, ourselves, one another, Creator god, whomever. Without the self-consciousness women experience sometimes in the company of men, who don’t understand and/or fear our emotions, we were unrestrained, unleashing the most raucous, sobbing joy up and OUT! I laughed out loud at how uncomfortable, even frightened, some of the men I know would be at the sound of it, and became conscious of our firekeeper, Brett. When I remembered him, I sent out a blessing of thanks.

It was beautiful. I declared for the first time in my life, ‘I’m glad that I was born.’ It’s what I say to people on their birthdays, but I’ve never said it to myself. It’s quite true, when I celebrate others’ existence. Without birth, they should never have crossed my path. I’ve long felt blessed (and curious) that such extraordinary people should surround me, but I never felt the same for me. Once those words fell, the gratitude (and awe!) for having survived the abuse I heaped on myself for decades at once uplifted and defeated me. I felt sick that I’ve wasted so much time on childishess and ingratitude.

I didn’t beat myself up for long. I have some understanding of my strange journey. So it took me awhile to wise up. I’ve begun. That’s all that matters.

A great lodge. A great blessing. I love women. I love being a woman.”