Wednesday, December 29, 2010

I Declare Myself Now for Joy

A beautiful poem from Erica Jong that reflects my own desire to declare myself for joy this coming year...

I, Erica Jong, in the midst of my life,
having had two parents, two sisters,
two husbands, two books of poems
& three decades of pain,

having cried for those that did not love me
& those who loved me- but not enough
& those whom I did not love-
declare myself now for joy

There is pain enough to nourish us everywhere;
it is joy that is scarce…

Unhappiness is cheap,
Childhood is a universal affliction.
I say to hell with the analysts of minus & plus
the life-shrinkers, the diminishers of joy.

I say to hell with anyone
who would suck on misery
like a pacifier
in a toothless mouth.
I say to hell with gloom…

Doom is cheap
If the apocalypse is coming,
let us wait for it in joy…

I resolve myself for joy.

If that resolve means I must live alone,
I accept aloneness.

If the joy house I inhabit must be
a house of my own making,
I accept that making…

No joy-denyer can deny me now.
For what I have is undeniable.
I inhabit my own house,
the house of joy…

The soul is contagious.
One man catches another’s
like the plague;
& and we are all patient spiders
to each other.

If we can spin the joy thread
& also catch it-

If we can be sufficient to ourselves,
we need fear no entangling webs…

How to spin joy out of an empty heart?
The joy-egg germinates even in despair.

Orgasms of gloom convulse the world;
& and the joy-seekers huddle together.

We meet on the pages of books & by beachwood fires,
We meet scrawled blackly in many-folded letters.
We know each other by free & generous hands,
We swing like spiders on each other’s souls.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

My Resolution (and Resignation)

This is my resignation/love letter just sent to the Imps community:

This is one of the hardest things I've ever done...which is why it's taken me two months to write it.

There is a saying in South Africa...Ubuntu - "I am because we are."

Take a moment to really think about that. I am because we are. You and I are connected in much deeper ways then we are generally conscious of. Every life we touch shapes us. Right now I can feel how each of you has shaped me.

I don't do New Year's resolutions, but I do choose a word for the year, a sort of aspiration of what I desire to experience. This year my word is vulnerability. I desire to open my heart in the biggest, deepest ways and to experience love free of attachment to anything but the wonderful experience of loving. I desire to be vulnerable - to risk reaching out in the face of rejection...or powerlessness to help...until it isn't difficult to do so anymore; to be vulnerable in sharing my story through my writing; and to be vulnerable enough to dream and believe I can make my dreams come true.

It's a big aspiration, but those that know me best know that I've already been on this journey awhile. In 2008 my new year's word was open-hearted and a few months later I was starting this crazy business with two other women. Being a Hostess for The Impropriety Society has been a significant aspect of my journey...perhaps only second to being a mother in the immensity of impact on my life and evolution. And I suppose that makes sense since I co-birthed and co-nurtured this community with the Jens these past three years. There is much of being a Hostess that is like being a mother - including washing the dirty sheets (you do realize someone takes all that laundry home, right?).

My relationship to this community has also been like a poly relationship - I am so incredibly in love with the community as a whole and so many of the individuals who comprise it. I have been twitter-pated for you and turned on by you and heart broken by you and reborn in greater love with you. Sometimes you have taken priority over everything else - even my actual primary partner. You have danced with me, kissed me, spanked me and and told and shown me over and over again how desired and cared for that I am. You have given me my first true experience of family.

My relationship with the Jens has been a partnership stronger than any other partner relationship I've experienced. Those two amazing women have been my support in ways I can't even put into words - keeping me fed and being there in any way I needed after my mom died, including putting up with bouts of crazy grief for months afterwards, is a damn good example. Reminding me that I'm right to follow my heart is another good example.

Sometimes it doesn't matter how in love you are, you have to do what's right for you.

As deeply in love as I am with this community and my partners, it's time for me to move on and make new dreams come true for myself and my daughter. In November I resigned as Hostess so that I can concentrate on preparing to move to the Bay Area, hopefully this summer, and working towards creating the work of my heart as a paying gig. I don't know exactly what that work is, but I know it has something to do with facilitating sex-positive spiritual community - spaces where sexuality is honored as an integrated aspect of spiritual and psychological evolution. It also has something to with counseling, writing and art. I trust it will all come together as I follow my heart.

Until I move I will continue to attend events, but more likely as a guest than a volunteer. I will also help document aspects of the business and train others in the parts that I've contributed. I already miss being a Hostess and working every week with the Jens. But I'm very happy to continue making meaningful contributions behind the scenes and participate in the community in new ways. I attended the holiday social as a guest and had the time of my life!

And for anyone who might be interested, I am beginning to facilitate biweekly sex-positive spirituality gatherings in my home (these are discussion oriented, no actual sex is involved). More information can be found at the link below and/or you can email me directly. The next one will be January 9th.

Thank you for holding me as I learned to trust myself and the gifts I have to offer as a community leader. Thank you for the honor of loving you through producing events and nurturing community in all the ways we've been inspired and you've downright demanded. I am what I am, and everything I will ever be, because of you.

I love you,

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Power of Flight

Today is a glorious sunny day in Arcata, a rare sunny day with little wind. I just walked at the Arcata Marsh for the first time in a couple of months. Oh God, how I have missed everything that being in that place inspires me to feel. Perhaps it is because I have processed so much of my evolution and grief there the last three years. The land holds many of my prayers and my tears. Perhaps it is because I have experienced moments of ecstatic Oneness as the vitality of life in that place embraces my entire being. Perhaps it is the power of the water, the water that sustains all of the life that pulses in that place, the water that cleans Arcata's human impurities from the sewer system and returns to the bay as clean water again.

Tears of joy and appreciation for the blessings of beauty in my life flowed as I walked by one of the ponds and saw baby ducks diving in the water and shaking the water from their wings. This is the second generation of ducks I will witness grow into adulthood.

Today's walk was perfect for this Solstice time. While Arcata is sitting under the bright shining sun, there are dark clouds over the mountains to the east and the air is chill. I would walk under the sun and feel warm, and then walk under the shadow of trees and feel the chill creep up my skin under my clothes causing goosebumps, and then to the warmth of light again. The light *always* follows the darkness as the wheel of the seasons and our lives turns.

The smell of the earth and water fills my nose, while the cool fresh air fills my lungs.

The sound of water moving and birds singing fills my ears.

The reeds and blackberry bushes are decaying, leaving marvelous views of all of the ponds that are usually sheltered by the tall plants in the summer time.

And the dance of the birds today -- so incredibly beautiful. There was a giant flock -- hundreds of little birds -- that completely covered two of the islands in the lake. Every so often large groups would take to the air together and dance - swirling, lifting and falling over the water - sometimes in one group, sometimes in two or three, or shifting from one to two and back to one again. They would turn one direction and it would be flutters of white. They would turn the other direction and it would be flutters of black. Their spontaneous choreography, moving as one body, never ceases to astound me. Then they would return to the island and chatter about their flight, hundreds of voices in what should have been a dissonant cacophony but sounded to my ears more like a song with a hundred distinct yet harmonious voices.

And what other reason do they have to do this dance together than to share in the power of flight? What we can learn from their collaborative flying? That there is more power and joy when we journey together, lift one another up with the power of wind from our wings, and fly higher on the current of one another's journey through the air?

I think of how I am able to fly and soar in ways I never imagined because I have shared experiences of growth and transformation with others. I think of how my dance with the people closest to me powers my ability to fly in the world, whether they are flying by my side in any given moment or not. I fly stronger because I ride the currents of joy, witness and support that I share with my loved ones.

“A friend is someone who knows the song in your heart and can sing it back to you when you have forgotten the words.”

I fly higher because of how well I've been loved by those that journey with me, those that remind me to lift my eyes to the sky and remember I have the power of flight.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

I Am Enough, Just As I Am

My last blogging endeavor (this is blog number 5 in my writing life) was called The Conspiracy of Blessings. I was inspired by Rob Brezny's idea of Pronoia, which is the belief that the Universe is conspiring to shower us to blessings, if only we'd wake up to it. The blog itself was an opportunity to explore creative generosity, random acts of kindness and gift economy. I researched people actively participating in blessing others, posted links and wrote about all kinds of goodness going on in the world (there is so much more goodness than people realize!).

It started in December 2005, when I decided that I was making too many crafty things to be able to give to my few friends for Christmas (imagine how much time I was giving to the Imps and how many crafts/art pieces I could make if I gave that time to art/craft making's kinda insane how productive I can be). I needed an outlet for my creative generosity and I had come across some random-acts-of-kindness artists on the web. So as my first act of creative kindness, I put beaded snowflake ornaments I had made with a handwritten card in places around town for people to find. I put one in the restroom at Border's in the mall, one in a potted plant in Old Town, one on someone's windshield, etc.

Eventually I desired a little bit more of a personal connection with the recipients and an opportunity to give more items to each person, so I came up with the idea of sending art blessing packages to people who requested them through my blog. The blog was anonymous and I signed the cards "The Blessing Conspirator" so no one knew who I was. Over the course of a couple years, I gave away over 100 art blessings to people all over the world. I received requests from people experiencing intense stages of life, especially women in transition. While it may seem kind of frivolous -- what can a handmade doll do for someone going through divorce or cancer? -- it seemed to really touch the lives of the people I sent them to.

There is a special tenderness when someone we don't know reaches out to us with love in any form, no matter how small or seemingly frivolous.

I tell you all of this to explain how I am feeling this very moment. I find myself suddenly missing the Conspiracy. I miss blessing people in need of a little light in their lives, especially during the holidays. I have been seeing amazing stories of generosity this season -- a homeless man starting a non-profit to collect shoes for other needy people; a popular blogger giving away some gift cards to families in need, which snowballed into over 600 people giving to over 600 families within 72 hours; and another popular social networking site inspired by that blogger and seeking to continue the giving trend. I read the comments from people in need and I wish so very much that I could give them something, but I am struggling financially myself right now and don't have anything monetary to give. The only gifts I am giving this year are to my children. The only lives I'm touching are those closest to me. Is that enough?

I have been contemplating what my options for generosity are, brainstorming on how I might be able to touch a stranger's life. Yet as I sit here writing this, I wonder why I feel like I haven't been participating in the Universe's conspiracy to bless others all along? Why do I always feel like I'm not doing, giving, serving enough?

What I am is good enough if I would only be it openly. Carl Rogers

Is it enough to feel compassion and send love from my heart to theirs as I witness each story of need and watch it fulfilled by others? Haven't I already given as much of myself as I have to give this year (which is why I'm burnt out)? Hasn't the service I've given through the Imps blessed hundreds of lives this year? When is it enough? When am I enough?

" gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here." Max Ehrmann

I think this comes back to the old belief that I have to earn my place in the world through giving and service. And discomfort with being the center of my own attention. The truth is that this holiday season I am giving mostly to myself -- quiet time for reflection and rejuvenation; one-on-one time with my closest friends; a solstice gathering and spiritual connection with other journeyers in my home; an amazing New Year's Eve experience with my teenage daughter and one of our favorite musical artists in the world, Amanda Palmer (my heart longed to spend NYE at her show with the Boston Pops last year, this year she's in San Francisco with The Dresden Dolls, so I'm making my own dream come true).

Transitioning to a much needed focus on my self is a significant challenge some days. Letting go of an identity based in generosity and service and accepting what is left - me - is a significant challenge most days.

Yet each day I find new ways to give myself spaciousness and to accept that I am enough, just as I am.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Honoring The Priestess: A Story of Overcoming Resistance

"One of the favorite archetypes found in the 78 cards of a Tarot deck is the High Priestess, Key #2 of the Major Arcana. She represents spiritual awakening and development of the universal intuitive mind. Awesome and mysterious, the High Priestess sits before a veil that drapes the entrance to a temple. The temple symbolizes the higher knowledge, spiritual knowledge, the sacred truths (both personally and cosmically), or the Holy Grail that we all seek. This temple holds both sacred, universal secrets as well as the guidance required to unravel our own personal issues. Behind her is the veil between this world and the “other” world – the veil that separates that which we know from that which we long to know. She is the guardian of the occult, of hidden knowledge; the scroll that she holds represents arcane teachings – lessons that those on a spiritual path must learn. She emphasizes the essential role of the unconscious mind as a source of those sacred teachings that direct the soul’s evolution and growth."

As mentioned in previous posts, I initiated myself as a Priestess to the Divine when I was 23 years old, in the Wiccan tradition. I felt called. I have felt called to Divine Service for as long as I can remember. But I have been resisting it just as long. Tomorrow I finally live up to that promise I made 14 years ago by facilitating what I hope is the first of many spiritual gatherings and rituals in my home.

"Despite the somewhat glorious title of "spiritual superheroine" - being a redvolutionary isn't about being invincible or perfect or being "spiritual" or "enlightened" - it's about being yourself - the full messy, raw, dirty, funky, authentic lovely human self. A woman willing to be this transparent and vulnerable, a woman willing to reveal her true self in this world no madda what - is revolutionary, rare, daring, a superpowered strength - and I think it's one of the main reasons we're here." Sera Beak

Mine has been a long process of ordination -- nearly 15 years before I've finally accepted the mantle of spiritual leadership of some kind. Ordination is the sixth Sacrament in Christianity, the commitment of one's gifts to Divine Service. I have sought ordination in various ways over the years, but never taken the inner and outer transformation required to completion. I've been unwilling to surrender completely and I've let my ego have it's fun. I've been afraid. I've used single motherhood and the need to provide for my children as an excuse for not pursuing the work of my heart. I've given only a fraction of my life to projects of sacred activism. I've stayed on the path just enough to justify myself -- I am growing and evolving, I am becoming more conscious, I am making progress. Yet all along I've been dissatisfied, because I know I'm not living in integrity with what I know about myself. I am not living in the fullness of my Divine spark.

My truth is that I am so completely in love with God and so committed to the awakening of all beings that my life cannot be joyful without complete surrender to Divine Service and Sacred Activism. To be in integrity with who I am, I must admit to myself and everyone else that I feel called to a spiritual life. It's been scary to use the word Priestess. It feels powerful and presumptuous. I have been afraid to claim my power, afraid of the responsibility it requires and afraid of how others will perceive me if I presume to call myself what I am.

“Power properly understood is nothing but the ability to achieve purpose. It is the strength required to bring about social, political and economic change...What is needed is a realization that power without love is reckless and abusive, and love without power is sentimental and anemic. Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice, and justice at its best is power correcting everything that stands against love.” -MLK

Redvolutionary, Priestess, Shaman, Hierophant, Bodhisattva - all of these have called to me over the years and the implication is the same. I am driven to contribute to the awakening of the human race. I am destined to be a bridge builder between the sacred and the mundane. By my very nature I bring consciousness and healing into all of my relationships and every day life. I facilitate community experiences that encourage consciousness raising, sacred intent and transformation/evolution. I bring knowledge and wisdom from spiritual traditions to the people in my life. I use my intuition to deliver messages from the Universe to the people in my life. In many ways I am already living the archetype of the Priestess in not-so-subtle, yet un-named ways.

I realize that I haven't given myself enough credit for how the spiritual is woven into my life so completely. I am incredibly hard on myself about not being evolved/enlightened/spiritual enough, as if I have failed. Yet when I look at what I say and what I write, what I share with others, it is filled with spiritual ideas and language. When I look at how I've led the Impropriety Society from a place of love and inclusiveness, I recognize that my work is imbued with spiritual love and compassion. When I consider all the reasons I do community service, I honor that I am already living the vow of the Bodhisattva. While I am imperfect on a daily basis, I do strive to live with as much consciousness and sacred awareness as I'm capable at this point in my evolution.

While I may have been resisting obvious spiritual leadership, I have been living a spiritual life and having an impact on the lives around me. And while maybe I could have stopped resisting my full commitment to ordination sooner, maybe everything has unfolded exactly as it is meant to for the greatest potential for Love and Awakening for myself and every life that I am honored to touch. Perhaps this is where faith matters most, believing in myself and the imperfect perfection of my own journey.

On my birthday last July, I drew an archetype card for the coming year. Maybe it was always destined that my 37th year would be my year of ordination:

The Monk/Nun: The positive aspects of this archetype are: spiritual intensity, devotion, dedication, persistence, and perhaps wisdom. ...the Monk archetype may show up in the ability to be single-minded, assiduous, devoted to a spiritual path or to any great achievement that requires intense focus. In this sense, novelists and entrepreneurs can carry the Monk as readily as spiritual adepts."

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Victim

This is stream of consciousness, as I’ve just had a really important insight into an emotional challenge I’ve been trying to sort out for several weeks. I am writing my way through it.

I am having a difficult time with seeing Knight in relationship to others when we interact socially. There are multiple reasons for this that don't all come from being the ex-girlfriend, but there is much that does come from that.

I was contemplating this issue tonight because it came up with a friend who is throwing a party. I didn’t like how I felt when she brought up her desire to have him there. I was also looking for an art project to work on tomorrow night, as I had just been invited to a crafty night at a friend’s. I wandered around, looking at different art supplies, feeling out the appropriate creative expression for right now. Then I grabbed one of Shiloh McCloud’s coloring book journals, drawn to the title She Moves To Her Own Rhythm.

I started turning the pages and was immediately drawn to a paragraph that starts, “Gratitude is a remedy for self-pity.” Suddenly I realized that I have been feeling significant self pity, feeling sorry for myself because my relationship with Knight didn’t work out, partly because he rejected me as a partner due to my actions, partly because of his desire to spend more time and energy on other lovers than on me, partly because he was careless with me when trying to manage multiple relationships (and many other reasons, too), and now I have to watch him be with those other women...and more...if I desire to continue participating in tribe and Imps activities. The paragraph continues on to talk about being a victim...

“Gratitude inspires humility. Gratitude guards against self-pity. I cannot express how important it is not to be a victim. Being a victim, along with holding guilt and shame, paralyzes us and keeps us from growing. Those emotions and responses are a disease, once you let them in, they spread and mutate until you cannot even tell where they are and what havoc they are wreaking. Cast those demons out. Tell them you have no more use for them. We can become invested in our sad story and use it to control others and keep ourselves from being well. Overcoming the victim does not negate that you had to endure injustices. Overcoming acknowledges your pain and allows you to transform.

I work with archetypes as one of my tools for self and human exploration. Caroline Myss, a teacher I highly respect and that I’ve mentioned before, says that there are four archetypes that all of us contain: the Child, the Saboteur, the Prostitute and the Victim. Even though three of these have negative connotations in our current cultural understanding, all of these archetypes have both a light and a shadow expression.

In the light the Victim is the Guardian of Self Esteem.

My victim has been at play regarding my reactions to having to confront Knight and his other relationships at social events, most especially the Imps parties. Being confronted with your ex-partner seducing, playing and having sex with other women shortly after your break up is not an easy thing to do. While there are many reasons our relationship didn’t work out, I seem to have fixated on the sense of rejection that I feel. Hence the self-pity.

The self-pity, and shame from feeling that I was rejected specifically because of my shadow around emotional control, have been feeding a monster of emotional brutality in my heart towards Knight. It is so easy to demonize him. But it hurts me to do so.

I have been digging at this, feeling the negative reactions and trying to chase down the sources. I don’t like the way it feels at all. I don’t like that I left the staff party a couple weeks ago because I couldn’t bear watching him seduce another woman and feeling it as rejection. I don’t like that I’m afraid to attend the social this weekend because I will feel that way again, even though I have my own lovers to connect with. I don’t like that I want to shut him out and convince myself that he isn’t worthy of relationship with me by focusing on his shadows.

It’s like I’m trying to take my power back by wielding the power of disconnection – which is actually the most potent weapon I can use against him. He thrives on connection and intimacy. Shutting him out is a powerful way to hurt him.

And disconnection has seemed like the only way to protect myself from more heartache. Essentially that's what it's all about, trying to protect my heart. But defenses never lead anywhere good.

The lesson is that my victim needs to develop personal boundaries and a sense of personal power, but I’m not doing it in a healthy way. I need to figure out how to turn this story around to one of self empowerment.

Of course none of this has been entirely conscious. I’ve had the fucked up thoughts and feelings about him the last few weeks, but didn’t see what was really going on under the surface until now. I’ve just been conscious enough to know that I am in shadow and have taken the positive step of keeping it to myself as much as possible. I haven’t spoken to him since the staff party because I don’t want to communicate with him from a negative place. I have learned from previous mistakes of communicating from shadow.

Is it not time that our loving free us from ourselves, and that we, though trembling, endure. Rilke

And of course all of this brings me back to vulnerability and open-heartedness. The vulnerable thing is to face how I feel, to see myself fully and allow others to see me fully, to bring my shadow into the light and love it. The open-hearted thing to do is cultivate love toward Knight and compersion toward his relationships.

Another aspect of my evolution right now is learning to hold space for my own shadow rather than judging and shaming myself when I act from fear. This here, right now, is an opportunity to do that. Rather than be ashamed of my victim and her attempt to protect me these last few weeks, I am going to thank her for trying and ask her to work with me in a more empowering way. I am not powerless and do not need to seek power through attempting to diminish another. I am not unlovable because I am imperfect and act from fear at times.

Shiloh says that gratitude is the remedy for self-pity. I realize that I have stopped experiencing gratitude for Knight’s presence and impact on my life. I have stopped seeing the Divine Spark in him and the beauty of the relationship we shared. Our fear based choices don’t negate or diminish all of the love that we shared. I’ve blinded myself from his light, and the light of our relationship, with shadow. He is a bright light, he has tremendous love to share, there are so many things to be grateful for about that man. And it does not diminish me to say so, no matter the circumstances of our relationship’s end.

From Sacred Contracts by Myss: "The primary objective of the Victim archetype is to develop self-esteem and personal power...You have Contracts with people who are directly connected to the Victim archetype. Their primary role is to help you develop your self-esteem through acts of honesty, integrity, courage, endurance and self-respect."

Even now, Knight is a gift in my life, as I learn to develop a healthy relationship with my Victim archetype and find a deeper sense of my own empowerment and self esteem. While facing this truth in myself is not easy, I am incredibly grateful to have made a breakthrough and sense that I now have a direction to go in cultivating the response I desire to have to Knight and his lovers...which is pure love.