Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Franti Fever

I have been following musician and activist Michael Franti for a few years now and remain in awe of his journey, his talent and his committment to grassroots peace activism.

I recently saw him perform with his band "Spearhead" at the State Theater in Minneapolis and am still reverberating from the experience. Once outspoken about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Michael has found a new route down that path...singing about love and humanity.

His journey parallels my own in that I used to get so much satisfaction from sticking it to "The Man." I used to attend rallies and protests, write angry, verbose editorials and loved to argue about politics, international affairs and the tyranny of the US government.

At that time Michael went to Iraq and Palestine while I traveled to Afghanistan, desperate to see the war unfolding with my own eyes. I returned heart broken, aloof and despondent and began to let go of politics all together. I was in search of something deeper and more meaningful, something that would help me make sense out of the world in which I found myself.

That something ended up being yoga. Michael ironically also found yoga and began to practice with his teachers David Life and Sharon Gannon in San Francisco. I watched his music and his message change as the music in my own life was forever altered. The cracks and fissures once blown open by witnessing 9-11 and attending George Bush's second inauguration were filled in with quietude, calm and a settledness that flowed through the cracks down into my bones. My angry voice became a sweet, chanting voice. My writing became more curious rather than authoritative.

A year or two later I found myself standing in front of a set of massive speakers watching Michael sing about the common threads that bind us all together. I watched the room sway in unison as if we are at some kind of fundamentalist revival. No one sat down for the entire show and I was beaming, elated, on fire with the power of the undercurrent that ripples beneath all of our lives. He has turned madness into joy and he feeds it back to his fans spoonful by loving spoonful in uplifting lyrics and reggae beats.

He has stumbled upon something more powerful than hate, more powerful than bombs, more powerful than raging against something be it a system, mindframe or political party...he has tapped into that which makes us all human and it is undeniable. He leads by example and proves that all of us are capable of making that leap to love.

For more information on Michael Franti, his music and his connections to the yoga community visit: www.michaelfranti.com

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Following the Reverse Current

Home from a pilgrimmage to a Dave Matthews show, I walked wearily to the Knife River this afternoon in search of solace and comfort. In the Fall like midday sun I meandered down the trail feeling the breeze on my face, smiling as the already fallen leaves crunched under the soles of my hiking shoes.

I inhaled and exhaled deeply, raising my arms up over my head in an arc over and over as I walked, trying to take in as much of the changing season into my being as I could; conjuring up thoughts of transition, change, settling, acceptance.

I made my way to a favorite rock, one I often do yoga on in the morning mist while the pups splash around chomping on sticks. I had the gift of solitude today, the dogs enjoying a day in town with my roommate, and so the stillness and quiet seemed new and lovely.

Flat on my back on a warm rock below a bright blue sky I breathed until I fell asleep. I fell asleep with a lake breeze rushing upstream over my body and water rushing downstream around me. Twenty or so minutes later, I woke myself up snoring with a start, and then a smile, followed by laughter.

I rolled over on to my belly, staring at the rushing water, still sleepy, feeling held and supported. I watched the water swirl in patterns. I watched the water rushing over stone. I watched the grass blowing in the wind. I watched the clouds passing across the sky; life in motion, always changing, circulating.

I watched my surroundings and became one with them, no longer separate, and wondered what I could learn from the stone, the flow, the quiet rushing. As I looked at the surface of the water I noticed movement below it and much to my delight two large trout came into focus, following the reverse current.

The Great Ones say that fish come swimming into our lives to remind us of the value of returning home to regenerate, swimming upstream through emotional waters to gain insight, understanding and wisdom.

I watched the two fish for some time, seemingly suspended in the current, enjoying the moment and admiring their perserverance.

In order to complete our own journeys, we must understand our own histories in order to see our path clearly. We can learn from fish to leap and jump with joy at the prospect of a new day and the challenges it may bring; knowing that wherever we are, we are always on our way home.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Bringing Fragments into Wholeness

Concrete picnic table; lichen covered, splotches of gold and gray. Magical sunlight warms my skin as my ears absorb water splashing on rock.

I ponder self care.

I am learning that support people and care givers need care and support also. I am learning my thresholds and levels, my mechanisms; fear of change, fear of committment, a desire for safety; a journey of healing that is life long.

My study of trauma and its effects on the mind, body and spirit trifecta have led me to believe in my own felt sense. In order to heal we must trust the messages our bodies are giving to us; trusting in gratitude that the body is sending messages that healing needs to happen.

At times we busy ourselves with caring for others or with the tasks of daily living that at times seem never ending and we are less able to hear these messages. In this state, when healing needs to take place, we can also become easily overwhelmed.

On the other hand when the time is taken to heal, shifts happen.

I have found that by caring for myself and taking the space and time to listen to the messages I am receiving from my body that I feel calmer, less worried, less critical of myself and have a deeper sense of well being; fragments brought into wholeness.

When I am in this place of healing, expansion also happens. I become more open, loving, receptive, able to surrender. I have been told that expansion happens in so far as healing takes place; they dance in tandem, one unable to move without the other.

Allowing ourselves to have the healing we need and allowing ourselves to be in whatever stage of healing we are in is a gift we can give to ourselves. In the photo pictured I am in "Legs Up the Wall" pose, deep in surrender. Give it a try sometime and take some long deep breaths...see if there is anything your body is trying to tell you. Listen, and see what happens.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Just a Little Patience

Patience: Patience is the state of endurance under difficult circumstances, which can mean persevering in the face of delay or provocation without acting on annoyance/anger in a negative way; or exhibiting forbearance when under strain, especially when faced with longer-term difficulties. It is also used to refer to the character trait of being steadfast.

Man, do I suck at this.

Antonyms for patience are hastiness and impetuousness. Impetuousness, now that's more my style. I wouldn't go so far as to say I'm "hotheaded" which is a synonym for impetuous, but I do have a rash, impulsive streak that could use some tending to.

I often hear the word patience. I use the word patience. I try to cultivate this word in myself. Yet, I only recently realized that I have no internal concept of what the definition of patience means.

I never thought of it as a state of endurance under difficult circumstances without acting on anger/fear/annoyance, etc. I've more so treated patience as a jaw clenching means of bearing down and waiting with a furrowed brow...its been a holding on instead of a letting go.

Patience is allowing. Patience is presence. Patience is trust.

I have found recently that when I am at my emotional edge that patience is the first thing to go; there is no sense of steadfastness, merely uncertainty bound and gagged by fear. In that space I am easily pushed over the edge to disconnection, intolerance and impulsiveness.

On this sunny Sunday morning I am in gratitude that I looked up the definition of patience, wondering, what does this concept really mean? I am happy that I did. I've had one of those "ah ha!" moments in which a shift has occurred. I feel like I get it...time to put it into practice.

“The key to everything is patience. You get the chicken by hatching the egg, not by smashing it.” -Arnold H. Glasglow

Touche, Arnold.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Knock, Knock. Its Time For Your Circumcision.

Ok, not really. I was just trying to get your attention because I am in the midst of planning a right of passage for a friend that involves moving from one stage of life to the next; letting go, stepping into and embracing the change...and I think that the meaning imbedded in these rituals is awesome, beautiful and relevant (and much like a circumcision, change can also be painful and terrifying).

Rites of passage are often ceremonies surrounding events such as milestones within puberty, coming of age, marriage, birth and death. Initiation ceremonies such as baptism, confirmation and bar or bat Mitzvah are considered important rites of passage for persons of their respective religions as well.

These rituals serve a tri-fold purpose in which the person is separated from the old way of living and being in the world, spirited through a transition through ceremony and finally re-incorporation where the the person has completed the rite and assumed their new identity. Examples of this are getting a haircut in the military, black belt grading in martial arts, and going on a vision quest in the Native tradition.

These rituals are the embodiment of the circular symbol of birth, life and death that accompany each change, each small death, each stage of life we revolve through as human beings. They are the demarcation, the line that is crossed from one place to the next; birth to child, boy to man, girl to woman, woman to mother, man to father, maiden to crone, crone to death...waxing moon to waning moon, fall to winter to spring to summer, seed to plant to flower to seed, and so on and so forth.

Leaving one life stage and moving into the next once can be, as I mentioned, beautiful and yet terrifying and painful. In a culture like ours, the American Diaspora, we tend to avoid pain and resist the movement, the demarcation, between life stages. Birth can now be painless, death can be made-over, and aging can be halted, botoxed, dyed away and finally hidden in a filing cabinent for old folks before being preserved and buried.

What are the implications when the rights of passage in a society are either circumvented or otherwise removed by a culture of consumerism and the fear of the connection to the natural world and its processes?

One could posit that we are already seeing the implications in our society full of Peter Pan's that don't want to grow up and beauty queens that don't want to age, not to mention the way that we treat our elders and our environment. Wisdom is being pilfered and lost by generations of people that have outcast themselves from ritual, myth and deep symbolism rooted in nature. We remain stuck and drifting in adolescence only to have mid-life crises where we typically struggle alone to overcome the surge of instincts and emotions that drive us right to the door of change, much to the bewilderment of our family and friends.

Rites of passage and symbolic ritual held in community can be a calming, restorative and wonderful experience for the initiate even when pain and fear are present. Acknowledging and preparing for the change in life stages can bring awareness and a settling admist the uncertainty of what lies ahead. It can also work on a subconscious level which intuites and understands the language of symbol and images.

To hold space for someone, to spirit them through the change and welcome them when they reach the other side with love, compassion and understanding is an honor and an amazing thing to be a part of. How would each of us feel if we were cared for in this way through our own changing life circumstances and stages? What would the implications of that be?

In a few short weeks time, my closest friend will walk the circle to motherhood; the ultimate hero's journey, a wonderful, creative reconstruction, a new beginning for both mother and child...an adventure and the experience of the fully human life, replete with ritual and symbol to mark the passing. I look forward to observing the transformation; watching it expand in circles from the source.

And now, some words from JC.

"Furthermore, we have not even to risk the adventure alone; for the heroes of all time have gone before us; the labyrinth is thoroughly known; we have only to follow the thread of the hero-path. And where had thought to find and abomination, we shall find a god; where we had thought to slay another, we shall slay ourselves; where we had thought to travel outward, we shall come to the center of our own existence; where we had thought to be alone, we shall be with all the world." -Joseph Campbell