Monday, November 25, 2013

Contemplating the West...

As I prepare my spirit-self for a ceremony that will take place in the spring, I have been mentally attending to various details, unfolding… relaxing into the open space within me and just seeing what comes. These contemplations have tended to align with the earth elements, and medicine wheel teachings, and how each one of these will manifest into the ceremony. To call this contemplation, isn’t quite right. This is free-flowing introspective practice, which opens the channels of insight. It is really a way of being - with each of these aspects.  I envision them as points of light, like sparks – around which energies, understandings and knowings – gather. For me it is a process of opening myself – growing quiet and seeing what shows up. It’s about listening, watching – waiting - and feeling the vibrations as connected things engage one other.  It’s about how knowings come to me. One point of light around which there has been much activity has been the Western direction on the medicine wheel.

The directional door through which our beloved departed ones pass on their journey to the ancestors, is in the West.  I have a hard-hard time with these passings. A very.hard.time.  When one of my beloved people pass through the western door, if we have shared a close bond. The hole left by their Westing – is like a vortex into which energy is drawn, into which thought patterns flow like the cataract of Niagara. Very recently, with the guidance and perspective of a beloved friend – immersed in his work, a wondrous enlightenment shone through my previous experience with death journeys. Three losses that have been devastating to me, my cousin, my Mother, and my infant Grandson - I am experiencing them anew. Now in addition to the very real sorrow that lives in the memory of each passing, a sense of wonderment also resides.

By relaxing into this open space in the West – and feeling the vibrations as connections are made - I have this beautiful, amazing energy flowing, the strings are thrumming with vibrations. I feel the life-rhythms. It is totally wonderful to me, that the act of Westing, passing away, walking on, crossing over - is a process by which our dear ones, encounter the moment when the trappings of this Earthly existence slide away. Societal rules, morays, constructs, and value systems are just not important any more and we are gifted – with unfettered, unconstrained existence as our essential selves. Our Isness, our Spirit gets to burst forth and move and work and flow in ways that are simply not possible when Earthbound, and clothed in the gift that is our body.  We move and engage in delightful entwinement with our Divine Beloved, how amazing is that?! So the West is a totally amazing spiritual launchpad, so that’s one aspect - I’ll call it Yin.

To balance the ethereal Yin – there is a very physical, very grounded, very substantial Yang. West is where the Earth element resides. Solidity, stability, nourishment, endurance, the sustaining force – all of this is embodied by the Earth element.
Everything.everything.everything.everything is reliant upon Earth. This is true of each element - but Earth, especially so. Earth is richly adorned with traces and pieces of all that has ever existed on the planet, in one form or another.

Earth is connected to our five senses in profound ways. If we allow ourselves the opportunity to lay very still with an ear to the Earth, we can hear the gnawing of creatures, the vibrations of beings in motion within, and on top of the Earth. We can hold earth in our hands and experience through our eyes and our touch-sensing, the dampness, the texture, the heat, the viscosity of that which we hold.  By cradling Earth in our hands, by being outdoors during planting or when it is raining, or as the frost is coming out of the ground, or by digging into the rich, sweet Earth with our fingers - we can smell the bouquet of the Earth, the complexity and the nourishment Earth holds in her particles. We can truly smell the cycles of decay and regeneration going on, in that moment. By chance encounters with windblown Earth, by sliding face first to home plate, or by doing a graceless faceplant, we taste Earth. Sometimes we taste by design – or some of us do – directly, or in particles lifted up by tender greens and fiddleheads plucked for salad that never quite make it to the house. Mom told me many times as a child, that we all needed a bit of dirt to grow. Was this a testament to the merits of randomly eaten Earth, or a witness of the life-long connection to the ground –experienced by her middle child? I dunno. Earth is sacred to me. Truly.sacred. I always-always have a bit of Earth – in the form of rocks, on my person, in my pocket. The lovely plate of rocks in the picture is on my desk at work. There are rocks in each vehicle that I drive. I have an extensive family of rocks that move in and out of my care. It is an act of sacred connection to pass a rock that has journeyed with me, to another beloved soul. Rocks ~ the most solid and substantial of Earth forms, have memory.  Pebbles, stones, rocks, boulders – carry the energy, and contain the story – of every place they’ve ever been. The planet, the ground, the soil, the flesh of our Earth Mother - the place where we connect to our sacred physical selves – this is the West and it is where we all come home.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Early Morning Barn

I wrote this piece several years ago: Each morning, I rise early, so many obligations to be attended to - before even preparing for my work day.  I prepare formula for Honey and Angel, the two baby pygmy goats I am bottle feeding. They were orphaned at three days old, we lost their Momma to a bad heat wave.   With a pleasantly warm bottle in the crook of each arm my first steps outside into the new day take me through morning mists - the morning sky holds the suggestion of an orange sunrise.  Through my ancient choreworn sandals, my toes are drenched in morning dew…a very good start to my day.Though sleep still clings to me, the familiarity of routine carries the sleepwalker to the barn.  The Eastern and Western doors are wide open at this time of year, so it is like still being outside.  As the twins enjoy their breakfast, I watch the sunrise over the distant tree line through the open Eastern door. Barn swallows dart in and out of the open doorway - stitching flightpaths through the misty morning air. Their chirps blend with the bleats of the big goats who would love an unscheduled meal, and the drowsy grunts of a pig rousing from her slumber.  Rhythmic sounds from the nursing goats another layer of sound. The sweet smell of hay, and the earthy smell of manure greet me and it is not at all unpleasant. It smells like serenity. My vantage point to greet the dawning day is an upturned milk crate, where I sit holding goat bottles.  Barn cats swirl around my ankles, a feline interpretive dance troupe - awaiting the unlikely event… that one of the goats won’t finish her breakfast, thus blessing them with milky leftovers.  The earthy smell of manure mixes with the cool morning air and the sweet smell of hay to create the distinct aroma of “early morning barn.”  The clinking of the glass bottles breaks my reverie – the goat girls are all done, and the barn-dancers are out of luck.  They seem to sense this and wander away.   Fully awake and somehow refreshed, I make my way back through the dewy grass to prepare for my work day.  These two worlds - in such stark contrast - work seems mostly like I am playing a part - not written for me...
~ ~ ~ 
*the last line - is particularly poignant for me today*

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Prove It!

Pesticide residue carried by rainwater finds its way through the leafy canopy to the forest floor and into the groundwater where it mixes with other compounds and has disastrous affects on the earth’s biosphere. Similarly issues of Indigenous identity filter down through the culture, mixing with loss of language, poverty, struggles to continue traditional spiritual practices, and conflicts between government and educational systems colonially imposed on tribal societies that are in direct conflict with traditional belief systems. The cumulative effect of this toxic cocktail is catastrophic on individuals and tribal societies.

Ask who is Indigenous / Native American / Indian, and you will get vastly different responses depending on whom you ask. The U.S. Census Bureau, state governments, federal government, and tribal societies all have different definitions. None of these definitions define what an Indian is, they define who is eligible for certain services. They cannot begin to define, represent, or describe the historical, cultural and spiritual bonds that guide me as I walk in this life. My Indigenous identity reaches into the in-articulable parts of me. All of the others are definitions - with an agenda.

Native American / Indigenous identity is very complex.   For the purpose of the US Census anyone who claims to be an Indian is an Indian. In the 2000 Census, 2.5 million people identified themselves as American Indians, representing a 26 percent increase over the previous decade. More people self-identify as being of American Indian descent than are enrolled in federally recognized tribes or can prove decadence.  

So you’ve got this totally open concept on the census, if you claim it, name it so to speak. However in almost any other place that you might be asked that is not the case - you’ve got to “prove it.”  It’s all about having “the card.” The Certificate of Degree of Indian Blood (CDIB card). If you are a traditional craftsperson you must have your card to identify your goods as Native American made. To be eligible for a certain forms of financial aid to further your education, you have to be a card carrying NDN. And only Indigenous folks of the CDIB variety, are granted permits to possess certain items of spiritual significance such as eagle feathers.  I’ll talk more about those feathers in a bit.

In order to enroll in a federally recognized tribe, you must be able to prove who you are. During the period of Indian removal beginning in 1831 extensive records were generated for the purpose of identifying Indian populations.  These records took the form of numerous Indian rolls (the Miller and Dawes Rolls for example).  “The rolls” were used for treaties, trade, land claims, allotments, removal, and many other purposes.  During this time period there were a great many Indian folk who were not willing to stand up and say, “yes, I’m an Indian!” Who can blame our ancestors for being reticent? Past interactions with the society “taking attendance,” had been marked with cruelty, inequity, deception and suspicion to say the very least.  At that time, in some jurisdictions people were arrested, convicted and incarcerated (or worse) simply for BEING Indian.  In many places self-identifying as Indian was suicidal!  It is tragically ironic that once we were asked to self-identify and were persecuted for that, to the point that people denied their own heritage to survive. Today our very identity is called into question.

While self-identification as Indian is much easier today, a person may be unable to enroll if their amount of Indian blood falls under their tribal society’s blood quantum requirements; or if the tribal society from which they descend never attained or has subsequently lost its federally recognized status. There are plenty of Indian folks walking around today who belong to “non-existent” tribal societies - according to the federal government. Although each tribal society defines its own enrollment requirements, the federal government decides what Indian nations exist and which do not. Part of the criteria for federal recognition is that there are membership criteria. Many tribes include blood quantum as one of the criteria. In this system, non-Indian is the default, and everyone is approaching non-Indianness. A family line can get more non-Indian, but not more Indian. In setting up rigid requirements for federal recognition and CDIB cards, a mechanism for defining Indians out of existence has been established.  As Indigenous people marry mixed bloods or non-Indians, blood quantum diminishes in each subsequent generation. The fewer members with adequate blood quantum, the fewer enrolled members the tribe has, when this reaches a certain point, the tribe may lose its federally recognized status.  When that happens to tribal society after tribal society, the federal government will finally be freed of an embarrassing obligation.

In exchange for nearly all of the land in what is now the United States, the U.S. Government made treaty agreements promising goods and services to different tribal societies. These goods and services included education, health care, food and annuity payments. Nearly all the goods and services were promised to continue in perpetuity.  A great many of these treaties were blatantly disregarded, but contemporary tribal societies are demanding that the federal government honour the treaty agreements and make restitution to tribal members.  If there were no federally recognized tribes, there would be no one to which such reparations need be made.

Now, lets talk about those feathers. Under the current laws only individuals of certifiable Native American ancestry enrolled in a federally recognized tribe are legally authorized to obtain or possess eagle feathers. What’s the big deal about eagle feathers? First let me clarify that Indigenous people do not worship the eagle or its feathers. Eagles are honoured and considered sacred. They represent honesty, majesty, strength, courage, wisdom, and freedom. Eagle flies higher and sees better than any other bird. Therefore, its perspective is different and it is considered closer to Creator. Our use of eagle feathers in ceremony is that of intention and focus – and honouring.  When we hold that feather, we take our highest spiritual self to Creator through our prayers. The way that an eagle feather is used might be compared to the use of a prayer shawl, or rosary. The eagle feather like these other items are tools for introspection, meditation and prayer. Have people seeking these other items been asked to prove their identity to obtain them? I’ll bet not.  The nature of Indigenous spirituality is that of interwovenness; one cannot separate the cultural from the spiritual.  In demanding proof of our political/cultural identity, we are being asked to prove that we are entitled to practice our traditional beliefs as well.

In Indigenous circles, the issue of tribal enrollment remains controversial.  Thousands upon thousands of people are unable to identify as a member of a federally recognized tribe for reasons such as lack of adequate documentation, low percentage of Indian blood, or political forces within their tribal government. I fall into that category.  People like me exist in a kind of parallel dimension, walking in two worlds, the Indigenous and the non-Indigenous, in a society that does not acknowledge or value who we are. I know my identity. I walk a traditional spiritual path, and honour traditional teachings… as we like to say “I walk my talk.” I am an active participant in a vibrant local Indigenous community. I do not need a piece of paper to validate my identity, particularly one that is issued by a colonially imposed system that is contradictory to traditional views of Indigenous identity. 

I DO resent, that my people, the FIRST people, are the ONLY people that when it comes to our identity… are asked to prove it.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Feeling the Pain... Rocking the Baby...

Today and for days to come... I am raw and grieving the loss of my beloved friend Leon. As I process this very complicated… yet very simple grief, I realize I’ve known him far longer, than I have not known him. Grieving and trying to be productive at work is a dance. I try to avoid the pain… I dance away from it... I don’t want to be a basket case there. Some of my colleagues have a “there is no crying at work” mantra.  I have no such illusions, see the box of Kleenex on my desk as evidence. Although Leon and I are not “see each other all the time” friends, we are, “pick up where we left off as if no time had passed” friends. We are "no matter how our lives twist and turn, the essentials of love and friendship remain unchanged" friends. Our daughters grew up as fast friends.  Leon’s wife, Lena, was my dear, close friend. Lena was, in fact the inspiration for the name of this blog (see inaugural post in 2009). She passed… way too young in the late 80’s. That decades old loss still has its own unique burning hurt. When their daughter Melissa came to be married, she asked me to sit with Leon at the wedding, and help with the giving away, in her Mother’s place. I was honoured to show up for her like that... deeply honoured. So no, there is no avoiding this pain, there just isn’t.

Many folks engaged in grief work, from pastors, other spiritual advisors, to therapists and other grief workers suggest that we shouldn't try to avoid the pain we feel at such a loss, but instead should sit with the pain when it washes over us, and truly feel it. Its about keeping company with the pain, while moving forward when we are able. In conversation with one of my most close and compassionate friends, he has likened it to holding a screaming baby, while needing to attend to other things.  "Yes baby... I know... Shhh Shhh" *pat*pat* [go switch the laundry with squawling baby on our hip]. Take a moment, sit in the rocker "its all right baby... there there... I know" [oh crap there's the doorbell] and on and on it goes, being present with our pain, holding it, feeling it, talking it to it, acknowledging it, as we do what we must.  When we do that, we can approach pain and loss from a place of mindfulness, a space where honouring those moments and holding the pain is what is most important.

Those moments of mindfulness and authenticity can be strung together to form a path to a sense of peace and well being… as we consciously connect with the wordless Truth at the center of all that is. This takes time… this takes intentional space giving… this takes breathing and sometimes following the breathcrumbs left for us by loving others when we feel too tight to breathe freely on our own. Some days... we just don't have it in us to be and do all of that.  Some days it's all we can do to breathe, and on THOSE days, taking three deep breaths, can be a blessed miracle.

But I think this is what happens when we invest in being in authentic relationship with others, when we love fiercely and live fully. I know folks who spend a lot of resources shielding themselves from pain, by building walls, keeping distance, and investing minimally or not at all. I believe that this diminishes our Earthly experience, at least it would for me. I for one, am not willing to trade living fully and loving fiercely for a diminished life. The pain, can be immeasurable, but so can the wonder, and the joy of being in relationship, and sharing authentic connection.

The heart that has been broken wide open by life, has enormous capacity for love. That seems to make no sense - but trust me - it totally does! The pain that devastates us through grief and loss, proves that our heart still has immense capacity to feel, that the lotus within us still blooms and thrives in its exotic beauty. The pain is proof that our spirit of compassion hasn't disconnected, seized up, and rusted over. It proves that we are still limber, still connected, and still willing to risk it... all over again.

Probably the only time I will sign a post this way:
Peace Out ~ Lynner ~

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Reflecting... Becoming... Emerging...

Tonight, my inner otter is reflecting - on my process of becoming and on what is emerging. In January... it became "suddenly" clear that I was being called to spiritual work. At that time, there were some clarifying moments, and interactions with some key people that enabled me to finally-FINALLY take my fingers out of my ears, and stop looking around the room like someone else was being spoken to instead of me.  Surely... surely, the Holy Love in the Center of All That is... wouldn't be calling a 50 something, Two Spirit, flawed like crazy, drummer/photographer/artist... to do Interfaith Spiritual work... that wouldn't happen... would it? So in a manner of speaking, I realized that "The Call" was coming in, and that it was for me.  

I was so electrified at very first, so excited, and so kinda-sorta scared outta my mind, like who in the heck was I to do this work?  As I spoke to my go-to people... my wife, the "Pastor Emeritus of my Heart", my best bud, my Pastor... my therapist... the reactions were all exuberant, and all "well DUH!"  Certainly the ways they were communicated to me were not the same - but the support, the effusive love, the offers of mentoring - were all of the same ilk. It also seems like I was the last one to recognize this in myself. At least I was the last one to consciously see the potential to be a Spiritual Care Provider in myself and name it.  

I have been reflecting and looking back, into past emails, into journals of the wordish variety and of the image-crafted variety and it looks like maybe, I have been trying to tell myself that something was about to, or trying to burst forth - for some time. One such example is this drawing journal entry. What I thought I was getting at with this piece, was not sealing myself up so tight in protecting myself from past trauma, that the light can't flow through. That was absolutely
part of the work, but what strikes me now about this piece is also, how much the face I drew for myself, looks like my Mother in some ways, and how the moon is over my left shoulder (my spiritual side), how the yellow streaming in - is a representative colour of the element of fire, how the blue that is streaming out is a representative colour for the element of water. Water and fire are complimentary, or paired elements, they balance each other. The borning of this piece came from a song by Terry Gonda entitled "Calls You." The pertinent part of the lyric goes "may you let your armour crack, and let the light flow through, may you see it streaming out, as well as into you, may you know that darkness, can never kill what's true, may you always be aware that love is here with you."  It may not seem obvious, but to me, this is a Calling On piece. Calling on things within myself, to come forward.

So where was I.. oh yeah... the phone was ringing and I realized the incoming call was for me - got it! I was so excited by the possibilities of all this... Me right.. seriously... me?  Okay.. yes... ME!  I was asked by Anne, one of my amazing people, "now what?" Okay... so now I am supposed to KNOW stuff??? I asked Anne - if it was normal not to know right away and if it was normal to be a overwhelmed, excited, and scared all at the same time, and she assured me that it was. As I sat with it, and tried NOT to actively figure it out... things began to happen.  One area of ironclad certainty as far as my spiritual work goes, is my call to work with folks using drumming and rhythm as tools for healing and wholeness. Opportunities to do this have almost surpassed the ability of myself and our drum circle to possibly keep up with, this is an excellent problem to have! I have had the opportunity to teach spiritual drum making, which was rewarding and amazing! Meanwhile, I have found a program of study that interests me, and that I think would equip me to better work alongside a spiritually diverse group of folks as I feel called to do. I hope to be able to pursue that sometime soon. 

So there's all this stuff, right, coming forward, bursting forth in me, you would think - it would be as plain as the nose on my face - but with me, its never that simple.  I have spent a good deal of my life being told in actual words, or by deeds, that I am insignificant, lesser, and someone who folks will not believe... or take seriously in one way or another. As a result of that... taking myself seriously, my talents, my gifts is not my default setting. So recently, when I was at the Philly Trans Health Conference, I attended an amazing, and transformative Pastoral Care Workshop. I blogged and touched on this a few posts back. 

It was important to me, to go to this particular workshop, although by that point I was seriously conferenced out. I did want to see the presenters in action and to support them as they are my friends, but beyond that... I was impelled to go. There was talk about the challenges and opportunities for pastoral care providers as resources for transfolk, their allies, families and caregivers. After that... we broke into some all important groups. The presenters asked folks to put themselves into the group that made the most sense to them, and they didn't really explain it to death.  I found out later , that in the intro they talked about the grouping that you could select a group that was the role you identified in, or you could role flip, or stretch or whatever - but I missed all that for my morning caffeination ritual at the Temple of the Mermaid. They did an "okay move" kind of thing and I grabbed my stuff and migrated to Pastoral Care Providers without a thought. Our group had a great discussion about what we each thought we brought to the role, about the gifts we bring you might say. From earlier introductions, I think I was in the group with a rabbinical student, 2 rabbis, 2 chaplains, one man I think was Sikh, and me. This was so pivotal for me SO huge... the automatic nature of this.  I DID surprise my own damn self! I feel like this was really really important in my becoming.  It was as though my presenter friends held up a mirror and when I looked, I saw a Called Spirit Person lookin' back at me. Like for REAL!

So in essence... since January... the phone's, been ringing, and I've known that call was for me - but now... I have picked up the phone and the conversation... has begun.

 ✌ Peace Out My Friends ✌

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Sycamore Musings

My tree - Sacred Sycamore… symbolic tree, touchstone, warrior, testament.  While young, the sycamore with her smooth tight bark, looks like life hasn’t marred or scarred her, no.  Some of us start out our lives that way, looking like all is well, as it should be.  While that may or may not be the case, it appears so to the world.  Destructive forces chip away at us, untold physical violations, spiritual, emotional, and/or psychological erosion may be altering us, but the world sees what it wants to see.  That sweet young sycamore with her tight bark, as she nears her equivalent of puberty, changes take place in her.  As she stretches her arms to the sky, and she must stand against wind and climate, her smooth skin begins to chip. With each chip that falls, a space of white brilliance is revealed.  Life is like that, as we begin to experience more and more challenges, sometimes they begin to show themselves on our physical form.  She is a determined tree, she roots deep. She stands. The patches of light and dark are her yin and yang... she knows about the dark times, and the dark places.. but says "look at THIS!" and like a great Tree Goddess flasher goes wa-BAM - and dazzles us with her brilliant whiteness so unexpected!  She is Ghost Tree... along the riverbanks, she looks haunting with her white fingers rising out of the morning mist... the spirits sit in her branches in the cool of the predawn... sharing their stories. Check OUT Lady Sycamore - Mmmm Mmmm Mmmm!  Let your gaze begin at the ground and follow her form skyward.  At the base and a ways up the trunk, that smooth bark of youth is tight.  As the trunk ascends... follow her curves... the bark begins to get patchy, pieces fall off revealing a splendidly white, fantastically beautiful underbark. The random patterns of peeling green-grey overbark, juxtaposed with brilliant white underbark is strikingly beautiful.  For the sycamore, and for me - when we seem to be falling apart, something dazzling - our Truth perhaps -  shows its radiant brilliance to the world - shining out from our inner core. I have BEEN a sycamore – I know this first hand – err – branch…

Sunday, June 23, 2013

The Re-Entry Toolkit

When human-made objects are hurled into space - crews of engineers do intentional work - in advance - to be sure that the objects can withstand the fire, and the friction of re-entry. But somehow, we humans, or at least this one, hurls hirself into situations without anything like adequate consideration of / preparations for "and then what."

This is something I need to work on with intention, but I don't know... how to go about it. I do not want to build my exterior so thick with armour plating that watching otters at play, or feeling the vibrations of ancient trees doesn't move me to tears.  I don't want to be so "safe" that the wonderment of amazing and profound experiences has no chance to permeate into my core. Hell no... I don't aspire to be "safe." Rather, I need a re-entry toolkit.  I need to be equipped, so that when I am faced with re-entering what is in most ways a much narrower world, the friction of that passage doesn't smash me to smithereens... and leave bits of me hurtling through space only to burn up or just disappear. 

I recently spent 5 days at the Philadelphia Trans Health Conference. I was immersed in a culture where regardless of how one identifies in the gender universe... regardless of how a person might express gender... in action, in speech, in carriage, in dress, couture and accouterments, or any other way in which gender might be carried by your person... that your identification and expression is not only okay, it is a cause for excitement and celebration!  In this culture, your identity is seen as a brilliant point of connection to other beautiful souls - a point of contact. Even the briefest moments of eye contact in crowded hallways routinely are moments of "YES, I see you!" 

Beyond expressions and articulations of gender being points of celebration - no matter HOW complex those might be... expressions of Spirit are treated the same way, at what I will just affectionately refer to from here on out as "Philly."  Sitting in a circle literally and figuratively with folks who identified as Muslim, Buddhist, Pagan, Christian, Native American Traditionalist, Jewish, Humanist, and on and on and on... was so exquisitely beautiful. In one specific event - when we were literally together... we sat, and had complex and authentic conversation, about what it is like to be in community with others whose Spiritual experience,  expression, and practice is different than our own, sometimes profoundly so. There are moments of raw and singular beauty in that, but there are also big hairy challenges. We talked about that openly, and held the tension together as a community. We talked about the beauty and we talked about the challenges, we named them, and we held them... together.  We entered into this experience as community, and we emerged as community. This is not the first time this spiritual community has gathered intentionally for this event... but due to a different vision in the planning, and some brilliant facilitation, there was a fire that was created in the realness of the conversations, that had not existed before.  Relationships within this community were strengthened, and others forged anew in that fire. People saw... and experienced each other differently.

Gender certainly weaves through everything at Philly - its a Transgender conference for crying out loud, but spirituality is one strand of many.  There is so MUCH programming at Philly, multiple tracks, hundreds of workshop offerings, too much to address in one writing, so I will follow the strand of Spirit because that is where I am led... that is fire around which I dance.

To be in this community, where sharing space with one another in lovingkindness was the default setting, and the exploration of physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual wholeness was what we were all about was so nurturing to my Spirit.  Whether I was in the role of a workshop facilitator, or participating in other ways... we explored so much together! We learned from each other, we laughed a LOT, we cried together, we drummed, we were outrageous, we sang, we shared amazing meals, we danced, we read, we waxed poetic, and experienced brilliant moments of transformation with one another.  I saw it... unfold right in front of me... someone sitting on the ground wounded - lifted up by total strangers in unexpected ways. I saw people experience the Sacred in ways that were startling to them - and humbling & affirming to me. 

Each of my 5 days in Philly was made of, tears, laughter, fun, conversation, insights, engagement, and realness interwoven. For me personally... more brilliant strands were  woven into my Spiritual tapestry... not just some more strands, but the locking threads.

This tapestry is woven of Earthy fibers, and sweetgrass, there are brilliant sparks woven in there too - the spark of relationship - to other folks, and to the Holy Love in the Center of All That Is, and bits of turtle shell.  This year's Philly saw a change in me - from one who might carry this beautiful weaving and when the time was right, hand it up to others to use is some amazing way - to someone who knows... that this weaving belongs to them. This fine weaving supports me - like a hammock, it allows me to relax, lean in, and stretch out. It will support me. While I am supported... I can DO THE WORK! Beyond that, this powerful piece is OF me. The interplay between my Isness, and Spirit - creates an amazing potential that is more than I could be or do on my own, because... Spirit... hammock... and I are braided together. Follow me here... the three strands that I see  woven together are... me, Spirit, and that which is the combined nature of Spirit and I which enabled the hammock to BE. So as I braid, Spirit, me, us... and so it goes under.. over... back.

That would be amazing enough, right... to have this and realize it is yours.  But... I also got myself INTO that spiritual hammock... like seriously crawled my happy-ass in there! I now KNOW that I am, by my nature... a hammock dweller.  Thanks to CP and TD for creating the space that unfolded that allowed that to happen.  The experience was breathtaking in its simplicity, this automatic thing - just happened - in the words of my dear friend "you surprised your OWN damn self!"

Yes... yes, I did and that surprise... was like - wowness!  The wowiest part of all, was that as I got into the hammock, I was not like a person who was in a hammock for the first time - violently rocking and flipping myself out on the ground with a graceless thump, I was comfortable. I just stretched out, put my hands behind my head so to speak, and it was as though, I was born to be there.... gently swaying with the other hammock-folk.

One very hard thing about amazing experiences like Philly... is the leaving... physically leaving those dear friends is one part of it, yes, but one part I have struggled with each year... is Re-entry - the topic I started this post out with.  It is disorienting, and agonizing, to go from this place of community, this place where a broad spectrum of expression, and identity, and walking, and of breathing... being supported... and seen as a source of wonder...  to being abruptly shoved back into the wider (in geography) but narrower (in almost every other way), and quite often dangerous and hateful world. It takes me probably two weeks to be able to deal with any kind of Grace. This year - it may take longer due to the profound nature of how Philly was a becoming for me.  I have recently likened this process, to birth... in the womb.. we are fed, nurtured, protected, rocked and comforted, and then all of the sudden... holy hell we are violently constricted and shoved into a place that is like a different universe, it is bright, and noisy, the rules have changed, and people are constantly poking and prodding at you, and seeing you... as they would have you BE. 

I hope that this year's experience can help me identify some useful tools that may become a re-entry tool kit. The first tool that must be included - is self-awareness.  As I have worked on my re-entry this year and tried to figure this shit out... I have tried to be fierce about self-care and self - protection, and even though the Universe threw me a big curve ball of meanness, as soon as I began, I have been largely successful I think.  I have been mindful to seek out what nurtures and feeds me, and tried to sidestep old patterns of worry about being who, what, or where others expect while I am going about that work. I stumbled, scraped my knees a time or two, but I was aware enough to reach out for a hand, and I got up.

And with that, I think I am fresh out - of words.
~ Peace and Kindness ~

Tuesday, May 7, 2013


When I was writing for OBG (Our Big Gayborhood) this was my  inaugural post - that blog is no longer online, and a few folks have asked for link, so I am putting it here to preserve it.
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The Lakota creation story has the People springing forth from a hole in the ground somewhere in the black hills. I like that idea a lot.  Maybe it is because there’s a lot I don’t know about where I come from.  A hole in the ground is as good a place as any; I’m very connected to the Earth, so yeah it works.  Maybe it is because my Mother’s origins are in the Oglala Lakota people.  The Lakota are part of a confederation of seven related tribes commonly referred to as the Sioux (except by people who are… that is). The Lakota were Mom’s people, but she never knew that.  Mom was adopted.  She was born in the early 1930’s a time of challenge, a time of great change in our country. For the Lakota, the challenges of the Great Depression were compounded by multiple cultural factors. At the time of my Mother’s birth, the Lakota were only 50 years removed from their life as a free roaming people of the plains. Indian boarding schools were still in operation.  Some of the most blatant expressions of racism in the history of our country occurred in Indian schools.  The Indian boarding school experience was characterized by the wholesale taking of Indian children from their families and tribal nations and thrusting them into an environment, where they were abruptly, systematically and totally deprived of their Indianness.  The notion was to “kill the Indian to save the man.”  In other words, slap on a coat of whitewash.  If Indians spoke, dressed and acted like white people, the “Indian problem” would be solved.  One of the most tragic aspects of this disastrous experience is that when a child would return to their home they were often estranged from the members of their tribe.  These children were often perceived as no longer truly Indian by their tribal societies and they were certainly not accepted as members of white society either.  So much for the whitewashing.   

With pressures such as these bearing down on Indian communities, it is not surprising that people often faced hard choices.   When a mixed-blood man raped my Grandmother and she discovered she was pregnant, rather than subject herself to shame, and her child to the possibility of being shipped off to an Indian school…she ran.  Grandma was “a child of approximately 16 years” when she arrived in Chicago and gave her daughter up for adoption… according to the paperwork.  She gave a false name, surrendered the child and disappeared. 

As a result, Mom was whitewashed.  This was not malicious on the part of my adoptive grandparents, but that dripping whitewash brush was in their hands just the same. Whitewashing served to rob Mom of the subtle earthtones of her culture.  It’s the esoteric things… the patterns of speech, the body language, the oral traditions and the worldview that were lost. These were not only Mom’s losses, but her children’s, and her grandchildren’s losses as well.  With the adoption by people of another culture, a coat of whitewash was slapped over the cultural gifts that were her birthright. 

Every now and again, we’d catch a glimpse. We even teased her about it!  I can look back to when I was a kid and see Mom, hunkered over a campfire cooking some freshly caught fish, looking so Indian it was startling. “Hey Mom, maybe you’re really Indian!” I’d say.  Her reply, “Ha, ha, ha, very funny… now quit messing around and bring me a plate for the fish!”

Everything happens as part of a larger pattern or cycle. Cycles of pain, cycles of violence, cycles of deprivation and despair twist together like a braid, weaving through the fabric of my People. Cycles robbed me of my Grandmother, made her bolt in shame and rage, leaving Mom to be raised by white people who didn’t get what it means to be Indian, what it means to be connected… to Earth… to sky… what the winds mean.  Mom grew… lived… aged and passed through the Western Door with no knowledge of the cycle that begat her, or the identity of her People. 

It’s rather ironic… Oglala means to scatter one's own, and Mom was sure flung far from her own people.  There is a lot that I don’t know about my heritage, but what I do know… has proven to be enough.  It motivates me.  I am driven to learn everything I can about my culture, it has provided a sense of connection that I’ve sought all of my life… it has equipped me with the tools to strip off the whitewash and dip in to the ceremonial paint of my People.

As I stand back to admire the result… I see a person… whose figure and essence are adorned with subtle earthtones… of Spirituality… of ancient teachings and traditions that once seemed lost… but were there all along… beneath the whitewash.