To Be Surrendered

What do you mean it's really MY fault & I've just been whining?

Surely, you jest.

Or not. Sometimes, living the surrendered path is a pain. A. Major. PAIN. Sometimes in a very literal sense. It puts me in mind of a story I heard of St. Theresa of Avila: St. Theresa was out for whatever reason one day in the rain. A carriage went by or she fell or some such. Either way, she ended up soaked in mud. When she asked God what the deal was, He answered “This I save for my special ones,” to which she then replied “It is no wonder You haven’t more.” Of course this isn’t as lovely or witty as the tale when I heard it, but you get the gist. And I can seriously relate to St. Theresa’s feelings of the moment. Like “SERIOUSLY, GOD?!? SERIOUSLY?!?”

There are times I feel like the deeper my devotion to living in alignment with the Divine, the more troubles get heaped on me, the more bs I end up having to slog through, the more I am wounded by just being alive. I could armor up against it if 1) I could remember how to do that 2) armor wasn’t so darn uncomfortable and 3) the Divine wouldn’t just send something along that completely shattered my armor to uselessness. It can be a challenge. One not meant to be got through without the Divine, but it would be nice if there were stretches of ease and relaxation instead of what feels like a constant onslaught of hardship and meanieness. It makes me wonder if the Saints aren’t all stooped over like they are in icons because of a little too much Divine TLC.

I read somewhere that the periods of utter peace and bliss come after years of really hard stuff. Surely I must be up for some kind of mid-way quietude by now? I mean GEEBERZ! I can see why so many people say “Thanks, but no thanks. I’ll stick to the normal way of living.” A lot of this spiritual stuff is ouch when you really commit. But then, committing to a relationship of any kind is going to be ouch at some point in some places. It’s all in the process of rubbing each others’ pointy parts smooth. In the process, you’re occasionally going to poke each other, make each other bleed, cut each other up. Perhaps the difference lies in that you’re both human. With the Divine, it’s not exactly clear where my pointy parts are poking. Sometimes it feels like the pointy part is all of me and I’m being rubbed and tumbled until my soul is raw, scraped out and bleeding. And I must be the world’s biggest idiot because instead of pulling away and saying “See ya!” I go deeper, begin another practice meant to take me closer to the Divine. Sometimes I wonder if my mom dropped me on my head a few times as a baby or maybe I fell out of a window or something.

There are moments of sweetness and peace. I have experienced an inner calm so still and unflappable, days were the ordinary is so heartbreakingly beautiful, days where I effortlessly see radiance in the beggar, the businessman and the sulky teen on the street alike. And it is this that tempts me to endure the hardships, to drag myself that much closer in the midst of some of the biggest storms and darkest darks. Believe me, it gets REALLY dark sometimes. Such darkness it feels surreal, the force of it pressing hard against my face; deafening darkness where I fear my eardrums will burst from its pressure. I long for human companionship and am told this stretch I must walk alone.
I am tired and ragged and beaten. (Cue those three Revolutionary soldiers limping and hobbling along the road with drum and flute – only without music. Hmmm…. Maybe cue zombies instead.) I want to quit, entirely give up but don’t know the shape of such. I reach for the hand of the Divine, name it Beloved and stumble blindly on in not-so-perfect trust, but trusting nonetheless.

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Finding Home

I think I may be the most Orthodox Christian Pagan woman I know. Okay, I’m the ONLY Orthodox Christian Pagan woman I know. Or have even heard of, though I’m sure there must be more like me – male, female or otherwise. I used to be a card carrying Orthodox Christian. Though I liked choir, I preferred chant. I loved the quieter services like Orthros and vespers; Lent was my favorite season with all its inward focus and oodles of time devoted to prayer. There’s just something about Lent that does it for me. I guess it’s that draw to contemplation and emptying…. Aw, who am I kidding? If there’s even so much as whiff of “The Divine was here” I’ll be all over it like white on rice! I don’t much care where it’s located: church, sex, trees, New Age book stores – none of it matters a whit so long as I can encounter even a small scent of the Divine.

It just so happens that the Divine has a habit of playing “Tag! You’re it!” with me in Orthodox churches. Must be some kind of crazy juju in the incense they use. Every time I get a whiff of it, I feel at once like bawling my eyes out and like I’m home. It’s a bit disconcerting at times, really. And yet, like seeking out the Divine, I find it comforting. Like it’s the one place on the planet that’s safe to let go of everything, set any and all burdens aside and have a safe haven to fall apart. Completely. Just completely crumble into a pile of rubble, seams and all. I spent about half of liturgy today with tears streaming down my face. I couldn’t even bring myself to look at the chalice without rivers welling up and flowing me blind. No particular reason, I just cried each and every time I looked or even focused my attention in that direction. The tears came from deep within me, like I have a well that needs purging and is overflowing.

The tears don’t always happen at church, but they’re pretty much a guarantee there. I’ve had experiences in other places – home, work, driving, where they have spontaneously started flowing, sometimes with an ache of longing for the Divine, sometimes when something particularly poignant occurs: a homeless person begging on the side of the road, rainbows, someone looking pinched and hurried trying to get to where ever they’re going. But church is a dead ringer: I walk in the door or even just pull into the parking lot and tears will come. I wondered briefly when the tears would stop, then realized I didn’t care if they flowed forever. Whatever it is, it’s not necessarily about me, my needs, my desires and I’m okay with that. I don’t need to have answers. My answer has become as the Theotokos’ (that’s Mary, Jesus’ mother for those of you who don’t know): “Let it be done to me as you say.” Complete and utter surrender to the Divine. Scary? Yeah, sometimes. A lot of times because I have no idea where I’ll be lead and often can’t see even where to put my feet next. It gets dark, but it’s a bright darkness; I am never alone. I make my way by trust, by faith. But then again, I found home right under my nose just when I didn’t think I was looking for it. So I’m good.

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Love Notes

All the little places where love leaks in.
We pass them by every day,
all these little love notes
from the Divine.
“See how much I love you?”
says the Divine
perfectly crafting tiny chickweed blossoms in the sidewalk
that we ignore.
“From my heart to yours!”
says the Divine
releasing a passionate thunderstorm
that we run away from
and curse.
“Something soft just for you!”
says the Divine
sending wild rabbits onto our paths
that we ignore, curse
or run over with our cars
leaving the broken, bleeding bodies
in the road to rot.
But see how much adored we are
by the Divine?
There are always more
love notes
in the trees
in the wind
in the stray animal begging a morsel
in the homeless person anticipating kindness
or just a smile.
love notes from the Divine
Who never leaves us
nor ever gives up on us,
just awaiting patiently for our invitation to dance
with
each
specially crafted
love note.

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Tolerance

We speak so much of a need for tolerance. This is a first step, yes a good step if it means in your tolerance of me you will not commit meanieness against me, you will leave me at peace to live my life. But tolerance is only the first step. True harmony begins with acceptance. In tolerance there are still judgements, still room for meanieness because tolerance can have limits. Tolerance can be grudging. Tolerance can be full of fear. Acceptance goes deeper.

Acceptance says “Yes, you are different from me or you live in ways I do not understand or choose for myself, but that’s okay. We are neither of us causing harm nor committing meanieness. We are on our own paths. Please live your life alongside mine in peace.” There is no fear or judgment in acceptance. There is no room for meanieness or harm in acceptance. You simply see what is there to the best of your ability, acknowledge it, bless it and continue on your way. The next step after acceptance is love, but that’s a pondering for another time.

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Why I Prefer to Bless Everyone and Everything

When we shout “Curse you! Curse you!” these Children of our heart and spirit joyfully run out into the world, our dutiful servants and do as they were created to do. Then, in love and joy they return home to us saying “Look what we did! We brought you MORE of what you sent us out for!” There is no refusing their gift, for this is the very thing born of our our heart and spirit; it rightfully belongs to and with us.

When we curse them, complain about them and meanly yell at them to “GO AWAY!” these are as love songs and lullabies to them. They zip out into the world, gather more curses, more meanieness, more harshness and bring it back to share with us. They are very loving, dutiful Children eager to serve. And loyal: they always return home, never empty handed. Imagine what peace, what joys we would experience if the Children we birthed and sent into the world were “Bless you! Bless you!”

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Ponderings on My Beloved

Alone in my room
I ponder
“I am my Beloved’s”
says the Lady
“and my Beloved is mine.”
I am my Beloved’s
I am my Beloved’s
I am my Beloved’s….
Except I belong to no man as yet
and no man belongs to me.
Though indeed I long for such things,
sometimes ’til it aches and
threatens
to rend me apart,
in the quiet spaces of my room
beneath the blankets
hiding from the chill,
I cannot say I belong to no one
for I am someone.
I belong to
myself
and this is a very good thing.
I am entirely, deliciously,
my own.
In this moment,
in my contentment,
alone in my room
I am my Beloved
and my Beloved is mine.

 

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Hullo, World. It’s Me.

“You’re a depressed girl,” I hear muttered in the back of my mind as I go for my morning tea. Perhaps I am that, but what I really am right now is tired. I’ve been going and going and going and holding it together for so long now. Not just the year and some since my divorce. No, I’ve been holding it together a lot longer than that. MUCH longer. And i’m tired. I’d quit if I knew how to do that, but I don’t. I haven’t even got a clue what that looks like. I do , however know how to let go. SO that’s what I’m doing. Letting go. Letting the river take everything, all of it, all of me. Letting the river hollow me out, polish my rough edges, clear away the debris of lifetimes until there’s nothing left. Hollow. Empty.

Yes, empty. Empty is good. Empty can be filled. We think of being empty as this awful, sad thing. It often is if you’re not truly empty, if there’s still old clinging to the sides, or chock full in the middle leaving no room for the water to flow. A hollow log likely does not feel sad about its emptiness, nor does a glass or vase. The things that belong there, however temporarily, would find no room for themselves if those things were not empty. A canoe is itself because the log was first made empty. A jar holds beans because it was first made empty. A lot of our favored dishes require the vessel to first be made empty. Think how yummy stuffed mushrooms or tomatoes or bell peppers are, adding their own special flavors to the mix of whatever else we stuff them with. Empty does not necessarily mean no longer itself. The empty thing must remain itself in order to function as it should.

And this is where I find myself: empty. Waiting to be filled with whatever is next. I can not keep gong as I am, so I must be emptied. I must allow the river to be my strength, to fill and overflow me, hollow me out until I am ready to be filled again. I touch myself and it is as though I feel through mittens. I feel me as one touching someone vaguely familiar, but mostly unknown. This is supposedly my face and I feel the sensation but I am somehow not inhabiting either the hands that are touching nor the face being touched. I awaken and see the world through eyes that feel borrowed. Who I borrowed them fro and why I have no idea. Oh, that’s right! I borrowed them from myself! They are mine! But somehow that information feels irrelevant. In fact, all previously important information feels irrelevant. I keep feeling nudges telling me things are not only not what they seem, but what I used to give so much importance is no longer relevant. “EEK! The world is falling apart!” I hear from so many places. “Let it. It all must fall away. Do not try to save it, love.” “But people will be hurt!” “Yes, Beloved. Sometimes birth hurts. Alleviate pain where you can, but don’t bother trying to save or stop anything. That is not yours to do and you couldn’t even if you wanted to.”

Sigh. Surrender. Give myself to the river. Allow myself to be hollowed, hallowed, emptied. DO my work. Work is holy, I remind myself, even if it’s work I don’t much care for. Then rest. Rest is holy even when I feel like I should be doing something else, something more than the nothing of resting. I am being hollowed, emptied. In this I am doing my work. I’d like to say I’ll arise stronger from the ashes, the remains of whatever I was, but I am informed that is irrelevant, though it is what people expect to hear, want desperately to hear. But I will not. I will say no such thing. I am told I will have no need of strength. It will be unnecessary baggage should I choose to hold on to it. Yes, I can choose to keep it; I can choose to keep anything I like, but not everything is useful. I am being guided in the packing of my satchel. My burdens are burdensome because they are no longer useful and are better left behind. “Fairies travel light!” I hear with a giggle. So I trust. And surrender. And will likely emerge a small, fragile thing of beauty not meant to be handled roughly. Soft, impossibly beautiful and sparkling. Resilient, yes, but not strong. Full of the river’s waters. And I am to offer you a drink from my cupped hands.

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Prayer

Prayer changes you. Not things, YOU. And if you’re not ready to be changed, keep your prayers to yourself. Hide them deep ’cause they’re sneaky fuckers who like to leak out in unexpected moments and there you go: you’re changing. Not just a little, but deep-in-your-soul changing. In places and spaces you never imagined. You can get away for a little while with surface stuff in prayers: cars, houses, money – mostly meaningless, feel-good type things – if you don’t make a habit of prayer. Once it becomes habitual, welp! That will no longer do. Your Soul starts to speak up, to assert its needs, to push you in the directions it prefers.

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Prayer is a drug. It takes over your life and before you know it, you’re praying all the time. It takes over your life. You become dependent on it, can’t imagine living without it. It becomes the air you breathe, the beats of your heart, the blood in your veins, the thing that keeps you warm in the cold and dark. It changes you. If you don’t want to change, if you’re happy with how you are or at the very least comfortable, then never pray. Not habitually anyway. Keep your prayers short, surface and mostly begging for “stuff”. Or hold onto your seat and prepare for a wild ride. But no worries. Like Neruda said: everything important remains.

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The Sacred

What makes a thing, anything, sacred? What is holy? Is it just because a few “special” people tell us “This is holy; this is sacred”? Is it only rare, beautiful things that are sacred? What about the holy in the ordinary, the common place, the everyday? It makes sense to me that the things with which you come into contact regularly would be special. After all, you see, touch and experience them all the time, which means they are in some way necessary for life. We tend to think of holy and sacred as something out of the ordinary that we set aside for special occasions, like Grandmama’s good dishes or those special shoes we think we only deserve to wear once in awhile for “special occasions”. The ordinary tends to get pushed aside simply because it’s ordinary, we see and interact with it all the time. But these bits of ordinariness to me are far more sacred than anything we could set aside exactly because they are interacted with daily. They affect our lives in more ways and more strongly than any special building or grove that we visit only rarely.

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To me, the human body is sacred, holy, a temple of the grandest design no matter the size or shape it shows up. EVERY human body, not just the socially approved ones. Now that I consider it, not just the human ones either but for now I’ll just talk about the humans. We are all inhabiting incredible temples of sacredness. We don’t behave like we are but that doesn’t make it any less true. We behave as though only some people are “worthy” of being called sacred because their bodies can do things differently than others or because they have starved and denied their bodies to the point of a kind of mental enlightenment. Not true. Every single human walking, crawling, laying about, making love, running errands, clubbing, what have you – ALL of them are sacred temples. Each body houses a member of one of the mot amazing species on the planet. Each body does the very best it can under whatever circumstances it is given and sometimes the results are astounding. But even the “ordinary everyday” accomplishments are nothing short of miraculous when observed without judgement and loved and appreciated as it is in the moment.

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Too Much, Not Enough – Old Wounds

I’ve been doing deep womb work lately. Interesting the things you find when you set about clearing more space for beauty and love in your life, when you intend to heal, to consistently move more and more into alignment with Who-you-are.img_0455 The insecurities start to pour out like a midsummer’s monsoon, flooding your life with old, long-carried hurts. They can seem to come out of nowhere and threaten to overwhelm and drown you. It would be a mistake for me to latch onto any hurt in particular; this is a sure fire way to get swept along and swirled in the flood of emotional baggage/sewage that’s removing itself. Still, occasionally I get taken in by some loud, repetitive pain as it swishes by.

A common litany sung by my insecurities is “you’re too much” and its flip side “you’re not enough”. They can sound like many things: “you’re too loud,” “you’re too weird,” “you’re too sexual/sensual/natural,” “you’re too soft/too small/too vulnerable/too perky/too happy/too exhuberant…. too, too, too it drones on – too much.

From the other side: “you’re not fast enough”,”why don’t you cook more,” “you should be more aggressive,” “you’re not a very good housekeeper,” “you know, so-and-so is faster/smarter/more successful/prettier/tidier/more motherly than you,” blah, blah, blah – not good enough. And never in the moment, never interacting with what’s actually there going on front and center, never interacting with what actually IS – right now, in the moment. High on the scale of lack, of what’s “missing”. In a roomful of diamonds, this perspective seeks out the one or two lumps of coal, ignoring the sparkling beauty overflowing the room.

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Who cares what I’m NOT? Why does it even matter? Because it doesn’t, that’s why. It doesn’t matter at all unless I say it does. There’s a hell of a lot of awesome that I AM. I can celebrate, honor and pay attention to that and let the crap keep flowing on away from me, yammering mindlessly as it goes. And this is only the beginning, the tip of the iceberg. There’s more lodged in my womb needing release. When its turn comes to be set free, the Scariest-Most-Awful-Things in there will likely blindside me and spin me for a loop before I catch myself or my Guides/Guardians throw me a lifeline to help me pull myself out of the muck. Then again, this may be the worst of it. I’m accepting of either path or of another completely different one I haven’t thought of. In the meantime, I’ve got a roomful of diamonds to play with.

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