Two More Drums

Marko has encouraged me to tell the story of each drum. I try to stuff them full of prayerful intent, and keep my thoughts focused on joy and harmony. What I’ve found, however, is that the mind wanders, and all of my buried bits come out to play. Since November, I’ve struggled with anger, hopelessness, and hostility. Injuries from child- to adulthood come to the fore and haunt me. I catch myself hashing out all my hurts. (I also got a hideous flu. My boyfriend and I fought over who took worse care of whom. Everything hurt, even my feelings.)

At first, I avoided painting, not wanting to taint the drum’s energy with mine, but I decided it could be a safe place to confront my shadow self and talk honestly with it. I felt raw and authentic and brave. I ended up forgiving quite a bit of myself, accepting my weak parts, and feeling a tremendous amount of peace and accomplishment. When that happened, I was flooded with warm, gooey thoughts and emotions, and LOVE for [almost] everyone!  It worked!

In the end, I grew to love this drum for the confrontation and healing it brought. I think it’s courageous and strong, and beautiful! And it seems poetic that I finished it on the last day of the year. 2016 has been a punch in the face. I feel challenged to look directly at my flaws and fears, then move forward with enthusiasm and optimism (and an eagle eye!). drum-7
12″ hand drum on wood frame
(with rawhide lacing) plus mallet
$200
Dec. 31, 2016

(Before it was painted, this drum sang through 4 powerful sessions of a women’s sweat lodge on Nov. 26. Our focus was on blessing the water and the warriors at Standing Rock, but we cried and prayed for world leaders to care for the planet, in general, and counter the damage our President-elect might do.)

(This particular wood frame was thin and flexible, and the drum dried into a wonky, oblong shape, which seems very fitting for 2016. )

****
drum-6
12″ hand drum on wood frame
(with rawhide lacing) plus mallet
$200
Dec. 21, 2016

After a couple of minutes painting, I pictured myself drumming with a friend who runs a “sound bath,” when this drum introduced itself. I started giggling. This drum makes my belly tickle! I think it shows, with her bright flower center and vibrant colors. She looks like Happy. In my mind, I watched the person receiving the sound bath start to smile, then blush, and try to stifle a laugh. With energy work, we often take ourselves very seriously, but the man got the giggles! And so did I. I laughed out loud painting this drum. I love its playful energy. This drum is for dancing!

[SOLD! In February or March 2017, to an artist friend of Marko’s. In fact, I was going to ask him to give it back, to keep as one of my own. I’m thrilled that she sings to someone else who loves her. I can make another. 😉 ]

Advertisements

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.'”

Korejuga

Finally!

For the entire class last week, I was trying to think of the name of the Lakota group that’s an approximate equivalent to the Korejuga, from the Malinke tribe in the region of Guinea in Africa. (Korejuga are the jesters who show up to your party and tell jokes about you ’til you pay them.) They are the Heyoka. Phew!

Among the Lakota people, the heyoka (heyókȟa, also spelled “haokah,” “heyokha”) was a contrarian, jester, satirist or sacred clown. The heyoka spoke, moved and reacted in an opposite fashion to the people around them. Only those having visions of the thunder beings of the west, the Wakinyan, could act as heyokas.

Korejuga is a really fun, challenging rhythm. It’s a little frustrating, because it’s one in which the difference between slaps and tones really makes the music, and I just don’t differentiate yet. I try not to get – rah! – with myself because I am a beginner and I get to sound like one, but it makes a difference with timing, somehow, when you muddy over the distinct voice of each beat. I catch myself falling out of sync with the recording when I practice. I do love this one, though, and I love Quinn.

Quinn is the Korejuga of my life. He likes me, too, because I make faces and swear at him, haha! When I really zing him, he calls an “Air five!” or “Air hug!” Sometimes when I go for it, I get “DENIED! Oh!” Straight out of the 90s. He’s so much fun! He’s like a kid brother and I couldn’t love him more.

Now… I have got to figure out this signal! Why is this so hard? I can alternately play and fake the rhythm, but this signal is mocking me!

______

In my first sweat lodge, my leader was Heyoka. I was confused, because this event was supposed to be so holy. There was no frame of reference for such an irreverent man. I, myself, am quite an irreverent person. Paradoxically, I also have a great reverence for spiritual things. In my own “Orthodoxy of Christie,” God or Whomever is freaking hilarious, and one of the most healing, loving, delicious things we can do, privately and communally, is to laugh. But my upbringing made occasions of gravity… somber. Not really. People tell jokes at church. The funny talks are always the most touching and human, memorable. The Bishop who made me laugh is still my favorite. But Sweat Lodge seemed to me like going through the temple, I guess. I’ve never done that, but I know how you act in there. Hushed and humble, not cackling and contrary!

I caught on to Chief Shellbone’s oppositional humor. Between one of the sessions, when he opened the door covering he bellowed, “Hot enough for ya?”

“NO!” I hollered back.

He threw cool water on me and I got street cred, haha! Aho Mitakuye Oyasin!

(Incidentally, whenever I start to “go” into the heat, I have visions of prairie people in wagons. Every time. Many of those with whom I pray here are Native. I have come to believe that my people, who met theirs while crossing the plains, are joining with us, just as their ancestors are. It’s so beautiful.)

______

Oh my gosh, I’m the Korejuga! My friends paid my way for all of my twenties. (The “’til you pay them” part cracks me up!) I’d consider myself a mooch if I weren’t so amusing. Also generous and loving. 🙂 I babysat a lot of kids for free. Lucky me.

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.”