I am blogging over at http://www.ursulaferreira.com now! Please follow me there.
I am blogging over at http://www.ursulaferreira.com now! Please follow me there.
Thank you, Creator-Destroyer Mother, for the certainty of rebirth. I know the trial is not done, the loss not even over let alone healed, but I listened to your deep wisdom and I am alive. I am whole in my brokenness, grateful through my tears, ecstatic by my sword-split heart. I am on the path. I surrender to your power, and so step into mine.
A Lantern to the Deeply Living
I am self-catalyzing
Containing the Teacher
Reaping the sacrifice
To which I had offered
The very beat
Of my burgeoning soul.
These bloodied jewels,
Seeking the Beloved
Within the pain,
And now I have
Out of it,
But again inside
No longer am I only
For my body shines
In the light
Of the returning
And not only
Does the Child
Have a voice
But the Man,
Who contains all parts
And walks with
The Journeyer’s stick,
The Shaman’s drum,
The Warrior’s shield,
The King’s staff,
The chalice of the Priest
And the nakedness of the Lover:
I am self-catalyzing,
And so the love I draw to my open arms
Reflects that which I am ready to receive:
Great peace and passion,
The space to breathe the living air
Of my own sphere
Silver, gold and platinum threads
To bind close that which I love.
These are dangerous words,
The truth of who I am.
With the experienced innocence
Of the Bodhisattva
I speak them:
In a world where the gods are stripped
Of heart and cock
I offer the unity of these in myself,
Sometimes stumbling, often graceful
As a lantern to the deeply living.
“Running to Stand Still”
“And so she woke up
From where she was lying still
Said we got to do something about where we’re going
Step on a steam train
Step out of the driving rain
Maybe run from the darkness in the night
Singing halalala de day
Singing halalala de day
Sweet the sin
But bitter the taste in my mouth
I see seven towers
But I only see one way out
You go to cry without weeping
Talk without speaking
Scream without raising your voice, you know
I took the poison, from the poison stream,
Then I floated out of here
Singing halalala de day
Singing halalala de day
She runs through the streets
With her eyes painted red
Under black belly of cloud in the rain
In through a doorway she brings me
White gold and pearls stolen from the sea
She is raging
She is raging and the storm blows up in her eyes
She will suffer the needle chill
She is running to stand still . . .”
U2, from The Joshua Tree album
I called my mom today and she sounded really sick. I am scared. I want to drop everything and go and be with her. Her mortality is too near at times like this.
–I feel better now. Krissy [stepmom] said it would be all right if I went down for the day. I know I can’t really do anything to make her feel better, but I need to be around her. Life gets kind of scary sometimes.
She is much sicker than she wants to admit, and I am worried. Perhaps I was playing God, but I am glad Molly did not come down today. I, myself, have had to fight back the tears many times today. She has been sick since Saturday and has not eaten. She looks emaciated–her stomach looks bloated–and I could probably carry her if I wanted to, she is so thin. I called her doctor, but she is out on lunch break until 1:30. So, when I get back (I am having a bagel at Bruegger’s right now) I should be able to call again. If she won’t eat, she most likely needs an IV. She won’t like that, but I don’t care. I need to take care of her.
My reality is very acute right now. It is as if I am totally conscious of everything, and at the same time, not at all.
This is a funny thought, but, healing yourself seems like trying to get from one place to another. Just like a car can only go down a one way street one way, but a person on foot can go either, maybe healing is like that. Maybe everything is like that. So, if I don’t like the bus, or if it doesn’t go exactly where I want, do I just get off and walk?
I feel like I’m in some movie, sitting here in Cambridge in a bagel shop by the window, writing in my book. It’s the 1st day of winter, the Winter Solstice, but it’s 50 degrees out. It is beautiful. I was going to drive down the street, but it was so gorgeous I had to walk.
The sun is warm on my back. I remember once, when Mom lived with Rhonda, sitting by the window with the black cat sleeping in my lap, warm from the sunshine and listening to music. Strange how I remember such a small thing. I miss Gipper [our daschsund]. He was the best dog. He always slept at our feet inside our sleeping bags. What a goof.
Kahlil Gibran, from The Prophet
“Long were the days of pain I have spent with its walls, and long were the nights of aloneness; and who can depart from his pain and his aloneness without regret?
Too many fragments of the spirit have I scattered in these streets, and too many are the children of my longing that walk naked among these hills, and I cannot withdraw from them without a burden and an ache.
It is not a garment I cast off this day, but a skin that I tear with my own hands.
Nor is it a thought I leave behind me, but a heart made sweet with hunger and with thirst.
Yet I cannot tarry longer.
The sea that calls all things unto her calls me, and I must embark.”
It is three days before Christmas, yet it is not near at all. I am empty; I am full. Denial is my momentary specialty, yet my mother’s mortality is also quite near to me. Duality rules my life.
My mother died of colon cancer on August 25, 1996 when I was 19 years old, and my sister Molly was 15. This journal entry is from when I was 17, when it became clear that her cancer had taken a serious turn for the worse, although she wouldn’t die for another year and half. That Winter Solstice, after finally speaking with her doctor, I had to take her against her will to the hospital, where she eventually consented to surgery so that she wouldn’t die from her colon exploding in her body. Although I was quite angry with my mother at the time for resisting help–and I can still access that feeling of rage and helplessness on my part–I now possess another, more transpersonal perspective. I believe my mother carried the pain of her fragmented childhood in her pelvis, her abdomen. I believe that at the time I intervened she probably wanted to die, to end the suffering she had carried for so long. There isn’t any black and white–I don’t see myself as wrong for my interventions and my wanting her to survive–and at the same time I now have a deeper compassion for her experience, as well.
Hello Dear Ones,
I am currently in the wonderful, albeit sometimes murky, process of re-visioning my healing/professional practice. As part of that I have been doing more writing about the emotional/spiritual/philosophical heart of my work. This morning, while writing about said topic, I realized it would be beneficial to actually bring my community into my journey, instead of waiting to present a final ‘product’ to you. So below I am copying my thoughts from today, raw and unedited. Please let me know what languaging resonates with you, what seems less grounded or clear, and any other thoughts you may have. As a related note of interest, I will also be integrating all of the material from my Bhakti Birth and Bodywork blog into this one, streamlining and strengthening my efforts.
A Practice Devoted to Wholistically Supporting Somatic Healing and Life Transformation
Why the Heart? The Heart is the electrical center of the body. The Heart is the chakra that unites the body and spirit/soul. In one painting of the body and the chakras, the Heart is actually the first chakra, and our energy moves in a spiral out and around from there. In Biodynamic Cranial Touch, we reside in our heart, in our sinoatrial (SA) node, as the point of neutral and the point of balance. The SA node is the pacemaker of the heart—it is the impulse generating tissue. To reside here means that we literally and energetically pace our lives through Heart energy, through the vibration of love. It is this centering in the Heart that allows a dance, and a balance, between the more earthly energies of the lower chakras (survival, pro-creation, sexuality, personal power) and the upper chakras (language, perception and the inner senses, direct connection to Source).
Why the Magdalene? The Magdalene symbolizes and embodies the experience of the Divine as lived through the intimacies of day to day life, and through bodily rites of passage: birth, menarche/puberty, sexuality, marriage/partnership, healing and death. The Magdalene was the one who recognized, through perception and action, who Jesus was: he became the Christos (anointed one) when she literally anointed him with her sacred oils and her hair. It is not enough, in these times of change, that we see God/dess/Life/Source as only outside ourselves. In order to heal the rifts of modern alienation and disenchantment, we must recognize the Divine in each other. Fortunately, this can be simply and practically done through resources we already possess as humans. We can slow down. We can honor the body and her processes as an expression and vehicle of Source. We can touch each other with kindness and love, allowing vulnerability and intimacy to permeate our relationships. We can reclaim the passages of the body (birth, sex, death) and become the subjects, instead of the objects, of those transformational opportunities.
So what does this mean in terms of a healing practice? How does it translate into tangible work supporting people in their bodies, women and families in the midst of pregnancy/labor/postpartum, women seeking to heal and align their sexual, creative embodied selves? The heart of this work is relational—regardless of the modalities used or the circumstances under which we work, how we engage with each other (vulnerability, honesty, compassion, love) is the starting point for the healing and transformation. How the body is seen (whole, innately intelligent, sacred, an expression of the spirit/soul, vs mechanical, base and inherently problematic) guides us in how we engage and support the body. As spiritual beings expressed in flesh and blood, we long for the experience of the body, its pleasures and pains, its joys and sorrows, to be acknowledged. Through touch, through witnessing, through somatic education and personal and community ritual we acknowledge and align with the body’s deep spiritual experience. I am a writer and a doula, a bodyworker and healer, a teacher and spiritual midwife. Everything I have, everything I know, all the mystery I am privilege to witness and experience, is mediated by my body.
You are slowly letting him in.
I can do this
(You say to yourself)
He wants to see me.
The foibles I think
I wrap inside me
Instead litter my skin
Like an alphabet
Stitched on a quilt.
So I learn to give voice
To that which my soul
Requires to express:
All these mistakes I make
The wrong words
And the awkward step.
The little girl wants love
For being perfect.
The woman wants love
Because she welcomes in
And offers them some tea.
My existence is a joyful expression of the Tao.
I am the embodiment of Love’s warmth.
I am the manifestation of God’s humanity.
Nobody answers the call in a beautiful, fabulous, saintly fashion. We all kinda get bent out of shape . . . But the fact is [that] everything goes away when you get to the YES. And as you get more experienced at answering the call, the YES comes sooner and the arguing gets lesser. But nobody but nobody does it perfectly and beautifully. That’s only for the books.
Prince Wen Hui’s cook
Was cutting up an ox.
Out went a hand,
Down went a shoulder,
He planted a foot,
He pressed with a knee,
The ox fell apart
With a whisper,
The bright cleaver murmured
Like a gentle wind.
Like a sacred dance,
Like “The Mulberry Grove,”
Like ancient harmonies!
“Good work!” the Prince exclaimed,
“Your method is faultless!”
“Method?” said the cook
Laying aside his cleaver,
“What I follow is Tao
Beyond all methods!”
“When I first began
To cut up an oxen
I would see before me
The whole ox
All in one mass.
“After three years
I no longer saw this mass.
I saw the distinctions.
“But now, I see nothing
With the eye. My whole being
My senses are idle. The spirit
Free to work without plan
Follows its own instinct
Guided by natural line,
By the secret opening, the hidden space,
My cleaver finds its own way.
I cut through no joint, chop no bone.
“A good cook needs a new chopper
Once a year–he cuts.
A poor cook needs a new one
Every month–he hacks!
“I have used this same cleaver
It has cut up
A thousand oxen.
Its edge is as keen
As if newly sharpened.
“There are spaces in the joints;
The blade is thin and keen:
When this thinness
Finds that space
There is all the room you need!
It goes like a breeze!
Hence I have this cleaver nineteen years
As if newly sharpened!
“True, there are sometimes
Tough joints. I feel them coming,
I slow down, I watch closely,
Hold back, barely move the blade,
And whump! the part falls away
Landing like a clod of earth.
“Then I withdraw the blade,
I stand still
And let the joy of the work
I clean the blade
And put it away.”
Prince Wan Hui said,
“This is it! My cook has shown me
How I ought to live
My own life!”
Chuang Tzu, The Way of Chuang Tzu, translated by Thomas Merton
There is a magical thing that starts to happen in groups that meet together to do intentional work (women’s and men’s groups, workshops, etc). As we bond with each other, our group field becomes stronger and the ability to grow, heal and transform increases not by the sum of the individuals, but exponentially. Through our bond, whether it be for a concentrated weekend or repeated gatherings over time, we start to literally do our soul work together, so that when one of us speaks the truth in heart–when one of us surrenders to what actually is–when one of us acknowledges and integrates the shadow–that work is actually done for all of us.
I am blessed to be a part of two women’s groups that meet on a regular basis. The newer one began last fall, with the focus of making our way through the transformative Feminine Power material. We always do a check-in about how the last week is been, and it never fails to amaze me how rich each thread of living is that we bring to our circle. This Thursday, at the end of the meeting, I invited my sister-friends to pick a card from my Goddess Oracle deck. If you’ve ever played with divination decks you know that when the energy is right, you can pick a card or a whole reading that is just uncanny. I don’t know how to explain how it works, but my experience tells me it is not just chance. Thursday was one of those times. Each woman’s goddess–or archetype–card spoke so directly to her current state that we could only laugh in the crazy wonder of it. When we finished I lined all the cards up along the bottom of a goddess tapestry that hangs on one wall, and the next morning, as I was preparing to do a massage in the room, I still couldn’t put them away so I lined them up under the resident wooden Buddha statue.
That afternoon, while giving the massage, my eyes landed on the cards and I was struck by a pattern (I often see visuals as I think, both inside my head and out in the world). In the center was Kali/fear (each card is a goddess plus a key word):
Kali is the Hindu goddesss of creation and destruction; like a woman’s womb, she is fertile and nourishing to new life, but also like the womb she sheds what is not necessary so that we do not become stagnant. In a patriarchal world that fears women’s powers and women’s bodies, her fearsome aspects have been emphasized. And perhaps this is rightly so, for I believe she also symbolizes the power of the Earth, and the Earth is pretty pissed-off at the rampant disrespect of her body (I’m talking about what seems like an increase in natural disasters here–the Earth speaks, you just have to know how to listen). What I understood as my eyes fell upon Kali’s body, dancing wildly in the middle of the universe, was that we must start here. We must start with our fear. The shadow that we do not acknowledge wrecks havoc. But by embracing our fear, by listening to its voice and bringing into our arms that which we find ugly, shameful or inappropriate about ourselves, then we can begin to bring sunlight to the wounds.
To the left of Kali were Pele/awakening, Yemaya/surrender and Lilith/power:
Pele is a volcano goddess from Hawai’i. Like Kali, she embodies creative/destructive energy; however, her powers have not been so distorted by the patriarchal lens, and so her fierceness calls forth more of the fiery outpouring we feel when we wake up from being disconnected and disembodied. This waking up can be both ecstatic and overwhelming, exciting and disruptive. Our egos can’t control it, but must embrace the essence of Yemaya, Yoruban goddess of the ocean, motherhood and the protector of children: surrender. This is a good time to practice pronoia, to trust that something is unfolding within you and around you, and that to go with it, rather than against it, will serve to ease the way and optimize the outcome. This surrender carries us to Lilith, ancient feminine archetype of primal feminine power. Lilith was the original partner of Adam, created at the same time as him and from the same material, unlike Eve who was created from Adam’s rib. When she refused subservience (more graphic versions tell us that she refused to only have sex on her back) she left him, and her name became associated with demons who tempted men and killed children. Women have been taught to fear themselves and each other. Without honest self-examination and self-compassion, we perpetuate false beliefs about the gifts we bring to the world. It is time now to seat ourselves in the literal power of our bodies–creation and destruction, love and anger–so that we can stand on the forefront of the many changes needed to stem the tide of harm against the Earth and all her beings, including ourselves.
To the right of Kali were Maeve/responsibility, Freya/sexuality and Isis/mothering:
Maeve is a Celtic goddess, a queen and warrior who embodies the sovereignty of the land and the people. She calls upon us to stop pretending that everyone around us matters more than ourselves. Only by developing true self-love can we manifest the goodness that each of us was born to bring into the world–and no one can be responsible for that but ourselves. We must write, paint, sing, dance, heal–we must nourish our bellies, our hearts, our wombs, our minds–we must receive as deeply as we give. Maeve gives us the strength to blossom, to spread our wings and dance in the creative energies of life: Maeve gives us the power to bring in Freya.
Freya is the northern European goddess of sexuality. As a maiden goddess (not mother, not wife) she represents the woman as whole to herself, resplendent in her creative powers. These powers are magnetically attractive, and when we embody them we dance into creation that which we desire: lovers, children, gardens, work, vitality. Life does not exist without desire–think of the flower and the honeybee–and Freya helps us know that our deepest desires are part of the flow of existence. Recently I saw the documentary The Queen of the Sun, about honeybees, and I learned that the maiden queen, when she is ready to mate, flies out of the hive towards the light of the sun. She is followed by a multitude of drones (male bees), and is impregnated in flight with the sperm of these drones. I can’t help but see golden Freya, trailing her wings in the sunlight, as the half-complete desires in our hearts fly after her, hungry for union.
When the queen bee returns to the hive, she is no longer the maiden but the queen mother: Isis. Isis is the mother of all, including the sun itself, her son Horus. Her presence reminds us that we, too, require mothering, just as we mother so much that is around us. The queen bee who has returned to the nest will go on to lay up to 2,ooo eggs per day, for 2-7 years. She is the mother of the hive. However, this great mother is constantly fed and tended to by the worker (non-sexually mature female) bees. Motherhood, literal and metaphorical, calls on us to receive more deeply than we have been taught, as women, to allow. Can you imagine what we might accomplish for the good of all, if we nourished the queen bee that resides in our hearts and wombs, and the hearts and wombs of our sisters?
I begin where I am. I befriend the dark places in myself, I bring fire, water, earth and air to tend to the soul as it awakens in the body. I give thanks for the women and men who share their love with me.
Dedicated to my Thursday night ladies: Allyson, Analisa, Carmen, Jenna, Kay, Lakshmi, Lila, Sabrina, Shelly, Stacey and Stephanie.
Thanks to Amy Sophia Marashinsky and Hrana Janto for the creation of The Goddess Oracle.