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 Not A Witch! I’m Your Wife!

imnotawitchimyourwife

I’ve called my belief system “The Orthodoxy of Christie” – a play on my name and my Christian roots – for decades. I didn’t realize until my thirties that I really do believe in magic and energy. I’m a witch! A little red-haired witch with a black cat, no less!
eclecticHappy Halloween!

Here I am with my friend, heading to an early-evening outdoor festy in our ‘hood. I’m a Mormon. Didn’t you know we have horns?renae-and-me
Later, Jax and I sorta made our couple’s announcement by playing matchy, matchy. We hit 2 friends’ houses and closed the party-crawl like we did last year, at The Guthrie, a funky arthouse in downtown Salt Lake where several of our friends have studios.

hahahalloweenHahaHalloween! Love, Silver Fox and Brown Bear

Interesting Conversation

My friend and I went to brunch Sunday (after failing to win lotto tix to Book of Mormon Musical), and an interesting conversation ensued. Or maybe not so interesting. Rather ordinary, really, but my mind is ablaze with a new idea.

The conversation began when this friend confessed his fear of dying, which I don’t share. (Fear of pain, most definitely.) I’m excited to see what’s there and be able to fly. 🙂 I like it here so I want to stay as long as I can and take in the beauty, adventure and learning, but I’m so into perfect, pure love that Afterlife represents to me, I can’t wait to swim in it. I mean, fly.

As an Atheist, my friend is frightened of the Nothing after leaving our bodies. I said that, having considered that possibility, I’ve found myself still to be unafraid of death. Without consciousness, I won’t notice I’m not around anymore. What’s to regret? “But I can’t imagine it,” I went on to say. “Energy doesn’t end. E=mc2. It becomes mass and vice versa. Mass proves my existence as energy. I couldn’t end if I wanted to. I’ve been organized in some way around a fiery ball. I can’t stop being, with or without a body.”

“Yes,” he replied, “but energy doesn’t have to have consciousness when organized in other ways.” To him that’s terrifying. To me, it’s not. In fact, it’s quite exciting. It bolsters the idea that we’re all connected, to each other, the trees, the stars.

I hope I’m still sentient. If not, what’s to miss?

That got me to this: Manifestation (Law of Attraction, “The Secret,” if you must) … Do you have to have an after-life belief system in order to participate? The simple answer is no, of course, but synchronicity and intuition are so closely tied to my angels that I can’t imagine those gifts coming from nothing, existing purely as a byproduct of my resonance as a breathing thing. In fact, they feel like a very real hug from a crew of loving cheerleaders who celebrate every time I get the message.

I understand that the way I interpret my experience doesn’t apply to anyone but me. I like to say I’m Christian, because my orthodoxy bears my name. 🙂 I don’t need anyone else to believe it, and it benefits me whether it’s real or imagined. But… Interesting!

I hoped my friend could make peace with the finality of death and no longer be burdened by the worry of it in life, and added, “but I still can’t imagine it.”

Funny, ego.

Can it be ego alone that sees me as too important and vast for my consciousness to end? Well, yeah, it can! But if my ego can be wiped away in 80 yrs, then so can my ancestors, and I have one among my angels. I can’t be convinced that she’s a figment of my imagination, because genealogical records prove her existence. She started all of this for me. I had no idea what was happening, except that I was on fire! (Burning in the Bosom, Mormons call it.) My angels are not winged warm fuzzies. Abigail Smith Abbott (b. 1806) introduced herself to me when I was ten. “Hello, Daughter. We’re here.”

I know they’re real. I’m willing to be honest, though. I believe they are. Huh. That made something very clear for me. That is definitively what differentiates me from the flock I left. Mormons have to know, and declare it. “I bear my testimony.” they say. I can’t.

Happily for me, I don’t care. I don’t need sureties in order to enjoy the rich relationship I have with my angels and a loving Universe, which very much responds to the energy and thoughts I choose. I expect to arrive in 40+ years at another between-life phase. I imagine a whole lot of, “Oh yeah! I can’t believe I forgot that! Oh wow, I learned exactly what I chose Christie for. I rocked that round! Next I’d like to learn…” But I don’t know, and I love it that way. “I bear my testimony that not knowing is true.”

I dance in the Question Mark!

(Oh, and I got a ticket to the show at the evening lotto. “I get everything I want!” Manifest!)B of M Capitol resizeeverything is energyThe laws of physics apply to Atheists, too! I can’t believe I had to think so hard to “allow” that, haha!

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

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