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 ~
~ Peace and Kindness ~