Photo / Cristian Newman
I once lived in a small apartment cradled between a bay and some tall, green trees. Taped to one of its walls was a poem by Mary Oliver. I caught sight of it each time I walked from my bedroom to the kitchen.
One line of the poem took residence in my body and refused to leave me alone. I turned it within me for years, like a key.
Life moved onward past that small apartment, but every time I went on an adventure, in moments of sadness or in moments of insight, I recalled the line from that poem on the wall and marveled:
“You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.”
The concept rocked me.
To just let the true, soft, intuitive, vulnerable nature of my being love what it loved.
Through many rounds of trial and error, I have learned that a human and the world are like two magnets.
The more I trust what softens me toward joy, the more I become attuned to the interplay between my magnet and the magnet of the world. I find that what I am seeking, as the great Rumi says, is also seeking me.
Conversely, the more I resist what softens me toward joy and ignore the pull, the more often the magnets - out of sync with each other - alter and trip up the frequency of my life.
Following the call of what we love can be challenging. Joy-judgment runs rampant, as well as the perception that ease and fluidity equals laziness.
We are told, in subtle and non-subtle ways, that if we're not stressing out about shit all the time, then we are not working hard enough.
Life can indeed be stressful. For so many people living in poverty and various other kinds of hostile circumstances - it is a constant fight to survive.
When those of us who are not battling daily to simply stay alive, become less attached to the perceived clout of struggle, and more attuned with our magnet, we begin moving with the force of heart aligned power. To have heart aligned power behind our actions - that is what the world is crying for. The world is crying for both the softening and the rising. The collective consciousness needs creatures who are activated by joy and by love.
For the rest of the week, for today, for the moment, this is what I recommend:
Notice the small things that you are drawn to.
Close your eyes and ask yourself what you would do with an entire day assigned to simply following your magnet.
Notice what pulls you. What are you lit on fire about, and how can you create a life that revolves around the fire instead of a life that keeps the fire at your periphery?
I am discovering how to live, day by day, in a way that works with the magnet instead of against it. I have to constantly remind myself to take off my armor so the pull can be felt. I have to break the barriers I have forged to protect myself. I have to dissolve the pretense of self-sacrifice I’ve used to fit into a society that finds God in martyrdom.
I have to melt it all into breath.
I have to remember that the frequency of joy feeds a collective sound and that sound is space.
The world needs this kind of noise. The world needs this kind of space.
It's one turn of the key away. Let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.
Wild Geese by Mary Oliver
“You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting --
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.”
Photo / Annie Spratt
The totality of spring is upon me. Morning calls in flashes of purple iris light, rain hymns, and dew drops. I walk outside with a cup of tea and lose my sense of time as steam spirals toward a cyan sky. I listen to the bird’s trill and to the exhalation of grass. I press bare feet on wet, silken blades.
Night was good to the earth.
May invites renewal – the kind of stretching, yawning return granted after months resting in a cradle of darkness. It is easy to neglect this precious transition. It is easy to disconnect from the mystic instructions encoded in the sway of seasons. We have a million devices to keep track of and numerous accounts to check in on. We have the imposed structure of hours rushing by and the concrete vision of cities. Modern life has disavowed slowness. Modern life has crafted a stealthy concoction of covert judgments and used them to dissuade humans from reconnecting with the rhythm of nature. Over-productivity is a consciousness we subscribe to. Accomplishment is a myth and it needs to be rewritten.
We knew a secret once and the secret said:
Fresh air deepens breath, revelation rides the petal edge of flowers, mother earth is our most vital wisdom keeper, accomplishment is healing and healing is here. Healing is now.
So how do we calm the hyperdrive of our to-do mentality and release our screen-obsessed tendencies?
How do we discover a sense of connection unrelated to statuses and checklists?
How do we find slowness when basic survival may or may not demand an inherent level of busyness?
We remember breath.
Then when that little voice inside our mind scoffs and says,
“Oh that’s original, just remember your breath, have fun with that…”, we breathe anyway.
We disobey the cynic. We put faith in a deeper directive. We believe that truly profound potential gestates in seemingly simple solutions. That is the true code of nature. Her depth is revealed in her attention, her grandeur transmitted through her grace. Nature takes all the time she needs because she knows that time is space and space is spacious.
On the path towards wider listening, here is our call to action:
Choose a moment in your day when you give all of your attention to your breath, be it for 15 minutes or 15 seconds.
Choose a moment in your day when you turn off your devices and remain present with the tactile world around you.
Choose a moment in your day when you go outside without socks or shoes and wiggle your toes in the umber soil.
Notice the scent of seasons.
There is a shift and it is summoning our full participation.
It is not asking for a bucking up or a pushing out. It is a blueprint for surrender. It is an ancient map and we are long time voyagers. This dissolution is a celebration.
The flowers are waking up.
The first time I landed in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, I was 22-years-old and I was wide eyed and wonder-filled. Out the window, decisive crests of earth swelled up below a thin veil of clouds. Like water, the land had a rippling motion. I remember pressing my face against the airplane glass. I couldn't get close enough to that shock of jungle. The mountains made declarations. They were proud guardians of a crystal bay. They were emerald, amber superheroes.
Rio quickly grew my hunger for heart-centered living. Rio drew me into my animal body. Rio scoffed at my inclination toward shame and demanded that I stop shying away from desire.
Of course, like anything real and full and whole, Rio wasn't perfect. No place should be. No culture has it all figured out. No human is a master.
This city challenged my boundaries, overwhelmed my senses and asked me to refine my understanding of what it means to 'go with the flow'.
Rio for me was, and continues to be, the catalyst for soul-led activation.
Here, I've walked through my most necessary rites of passage.
I've been a girl in love, an amateur filmmaker, a thirsty dance student, a bumbling linguist,
a 33-year-old woman, a professional director, a grounded teacher and a fluent conversationalist.
Rio cradles the monumental shifts of more than a decade of my life.
As I my plane touched down two days ago, and I arrived in Rio for the sixth time, I felt swaddled in gratitude.
I was grateful to wrap my arms around Val and remember that dance class so long ago when we found a way to say - in our broken understanding of each other's native tongue,
"I remember you from a time outside of time."
I was grateful to walk down the street beside Feijao's strong, protective presence and remember the skinny 19-year-old he was when I met him at a cipher in a city park and he first offered to walk me home and keep me safe.
I was grateful to wake up to the scent of jungle and city loving and hating each other - something raw and floral - wet and loud.
Returning used to be riddled with anxiety and longing. I fretted about how to arrive and how to say goodbye. I worried intensely about the space between the United States and Brazil and the way I felt divided by two completely different experiences of living.
Returning has grown into an act of prayerful presence.
I no longer feel the need to categorize or divide any part of any world in which I live.
Everything is everything.
I know so much and I know so little.
This wise universe is made to embrace multiple realities.
And the places we love - they carry a magnetic kind of music. They call to us over and over and summon our integration. They remind us how multi-faceted the human condition is. They help us offer our name up as a blessing. They invite us to claim our part in the big, wide, wonder-filled world.
Photo / Ian Scheider
The color of my partner’s eyes is somewhere between amber and obsidian. While I try to keep myself present, while I ponder the question, to pretend or not to pretend, I focus on the ashy lightning of his gaze. If I was a tree in the desert, I’d surely be struck down.
He has a tendency to stare at me with no time limit and no agenda other than truth. It’s overwhelming to be held accountable for my own wholeness. Being whole requires courage. It requires transparency. It requires trust.
I don’t want to answer the question he’s posed, so I grin a toothy grin and blink.
“I don’t know,” I say. And then I laugh a little to emphasize how light and unencumbered I am by the heavy vulnerability of humanness.
His dimples rise to the surface of his skin. His eyebrow arcs. “I know that grin,” he states. “It’s your fake smile. Don’t bullshit me.”
The question posed was, “What are you afraid of?”
The context is, my partner and I are wildly, soul shakingly in love and I left a happy marriage to a wonderful human to be with him. The context is, my partner has been in the middle of his own divorce proceedings since before he met me and it’s more complicated than mine because he has two children. The context is, many people I care about have grown silent since I committed the taboo act of ending things with someone truly awesome. The context is, everything about all of this is complex and challenging except the truth at the center:
We love each other wholly and intensely. Our relationship inspires our personal growth daily. There’s nothing we don’t want to witness in each other and although I thought I’d be partnered for life when I married my former husband, things changed. Change happens. The heart can love deeply and profoundly and yet sometimes the soul will still need to open her palm and let it go.
I’m shattering a cultural myth I’ve unconsciously subscribed to for years. I call it thehappily ever after story. It tells us that the ultimate goal is to partner in a for-life kind of way, so that the ‘work’ will finally end. Happily will become the status quo. The pain and loneliness of searching will cease. We will be complete and we can finally chill out. The quest can end.
The revelation I’m having, as I sit with the phrase, what are you afraid of, is that the work of embodying our humanness is never over. Intimacy, whether romantic or other, invites us to look at all our fears and our projections. It invites us to own the truth if we want to deepen the connection. It invites us to figure out what the hell the truth is in the first place. It invites us to be shamelessly imperfect.
No. easy. Feat.
My partner interrupts my silence when he says, “Jocelyn, if I wasn’t down for all of you, if I couldn’t hold space for all of your emotions, then you should seriously be questioning if you want to be with me.”
I feel shaky. I feel the resonance of a fear that rubs up against the prospect of acceptance and it goes something like this: Maybe he thinks he means that, but just wait. Just wait until he sees a part of me he doesn’t like and bails.
In other relationships this fear has played out. We human creatures are not always capable of holding space for each other. I’ve been on various sides of the equation. I’ve been unable to witness my partner’s vulnerability because it brought my own issues to light and I’ve had partners who were unable to witness my vulnerability because it highlighted theirs. I’ve damaged relationships by expecting a partner take responsibility for my own co-dependent or wound-driven needs and I’ve taken on a partner’s issue as my own, until it suffocated me with resentment.
So how do we feel the fear and do it anyway? How do we stick with this brave thing called intimacy? I left a very actualized man who was absolutely down to do the work with me. Intimacy is not a simple noun. It’s complex to say the least. Love is the electric code of nature destroying and creating itself and the older I get the more awe I feel. Love is not some perfect happiness. It is a continuous dance with birth and death. The width and the depth of connection calls on the width and the depth within us and it can be tempting to shut down. It’s easier to repeat known patterns than to create new ones. But it’s the new patterns that lead to evolution and I believe evolution is the point.
I am lucky to have a very wise model of a man in my father. My father has always said that growth is about inclusion, not amputation. I reflect on his words before I take a breath. Before I dissolve my fake smile like butter inside a frying pan. Before I let my face melt into sadness. And then I bare everything. The entire messy wholeness.
“I’m afraid that I’ll never, ever get over the grief of leaving my best friend to be with you.
I’m afraid that your divorce will take years and you and I will live a half life together in a hellish limbo.
I’m afraid that after months of being with me and noticing that I am a human inclined toward emotional highs and lows, you will throw your hands up and say, Enough!
I’m afraid you won’t be attracted to me if I stop waxing my upper lip.
I’m afraid we will forever be excluded from social circles we used to frequent because our partnership is so triggering for others.
I’m afraid my ex-husband will read my writing and question the truly profound depth of love I’ve felt for him since the beginning and feel for him, still.
I’m afraid of moving too fast and too slow.
I’m afraid of running into my former sister-in-law at a coffee shop and getting a latte thrown in my face.
I’m afraid of not showing you that I love you enough.
I’m afraid of showing you that I love you too much.
I’m afraid. I’m afraid. I’m afraid.”
He is silent. My words hang in the thick evening heat and I shudder in the wake of their emergence. Then he offers me the kind of smile you offer a baby who has yet to do anything the world considers wrong.
And he says,
“I’m afraid you’ll abandon me if the legal process of my divorce takes too long.
I’m afraid you’ll resent me for the pain you feel about leaving your ex-husband.
I’m afraid you’ll think I’m weak for staying in my marriage for so many years when my marriage wasn’t working.
I’m afraid that someday, when we have a baby, you won’t be attracted to me because I’ll no longer be of use to you.
I’m afraid I tell you I love you too much and it annoys you.
I’m afraid I lose my wallet and my keys too much and it annoys you.
I’m afraid of fucking up.
I’m afraid. I’m afraid. I’m afraid.”
I will now echo this refrain - it is easier to repeat known patterns than to create new ones, but it’s the new patterns that lead to evolution. Truth telling is the first step toward creating new patterns. With every revolution around the sun, I come to the startling conclusion that I know much less than I imagined I did when I was fifteen. However, in the presence of our naked confessions, I know this:
Transparency is where intimacy dances.
To voice our fears with vulnerability rather than disguise them with defense, is how we grow love.
Being met with compassion, curiosity and grace is always, always what we deserve.
Meeting others with compassion, curiosity and grace is always, always worth the effort.
And all the unknown - the fucking mystery of loving - it is a primal, sacred storm.
So I say, let me be a tree in that holy desert.
I am rooted, I am ready.
Teach me how to be tender and how to be bold.
Conduct your prayerful power through me.
Let my love strike truth with the blazing grace of lightning.
Photo / Dan Watson
I do this strange thing in public restrooms.
I'm sure I'm not the first person to do strange things in a public restroom.
Probably not even the first person to blog about it - though that's not a rabbit hole I'm super interested in exploring.
It happens like so:
I am in a restaurant, a bar, a cafe or any communal area, (library, bank, museum, airport, hotel), where lots of humans share space and follow prescribed rules for how they express themselves in said space - and I excuse myself to go use the restroom.
Whether or not I actually have to pee is irrelevant. Sometimes I do, sometimes I don't.
A one-person, private bathroom is ideal. A multiple-person bathroom with individual stalls makes what I'm about to detail more difficult to accomplish privately.
I walk into that tiny little room, I lock that sticky little lock, I take a long, deep breath, I look at myself in the mirror and I start to dance.
I start to shake and make weird noises and flail about.
Now let me be explicit about something - although I happen to be a dance teacher - the movement that takes place in my private restroom session is not graceful or sharp or precise or high caliber. I would love to imagine that it's quirky, inspired genius - like Margaret Qualley in that bad ass Kenzo perfume commercial.
But the truth is less that and more this:
I look like a bobble head doll with glitching robot legs and a popcorn popper for a pelvis. What I'm saying is, I totally freak the fuck out.
Because after I bobble-popcorn-glitch, I can handle moving around in a public setting where appropriate expression is highly monitored. I can handle sitting in the midst of so many beings with so many feelings and so many words that hide so many feelings.
As an empathic, kinesthetic creature, my instinct is to translate perceptions through my body. And though I've just revealed something that will make everyone I know imagine my bobble-head absurdity whenever I excuse myself to use a restroom from now on, I'm certain I am not alone.
I believe we all have empathic, kinesthetic inclinations. I believe it is the disavowment of these inclinations and the shaming of our body and its expressive prowess, that creates so much sickness and disproportionate violence in society.
I believe we are desperate to translate the world and express our translations out loud.
Children translate until we teach them not to.
Have you ever seen a kid start shimmying and flapping, all of the sudden, in a grocery store?
The synthetic and the wilderness - the truth and the untruth - the human and the spirit - it's A LOT to process. And this sacred physical tool? It is meant to digest our humanness. It's not meant to be shackled in shame - it's not meant to become smaller and quieter and less noticeable. It's meant to change and grow and age and strengthen and fall apart and be messy and be ugly and be gorgeous and heal and learn and nurture and tell the story of being alive.
The story of being alive is not harnessed and expressed solely through dance or sports or yoga - although these are each fantastic outlets.
The story is channeled through our tender and attentive presence with our own physicality. The story is honored when we stand up to the myth of physical sin and fully inhabit the wise and patient vessels we were born into.
If you are at this point in my public restroom confession, it means you did not dismiss me, so I dare to ask the following questions. The label warns that uncomfortable soul searching may occur if questions are fully ingested.
Do you find yourself feeling half-spoken, half-heard or half-moved?
In what ways do unexpressed perceptions, translations and stories get locked in your body and become weights that burden your joy-making?
In what ways are you authentically drawn to tell the story of being alive through your limbs and bones and muscles?
If you're not ready to tell this story to an audience, where are all the best one-person public restrooms in your area?
How can you listen as deeply to your body as you do to your mind?
How can we support each other to move the energy through us, in ways that make us more whole and less divided?
As we forage for the answers, I offer up this final prayer:
May we cleanse the poison of repression and write new narratives where violence is not the desperate outcome.
May we design more sacred pathways for deep elucidation.
May we honor the unique creature inside of us and within the other.
May we lock ourselves up less and grow community more.
May we open all the doors to our crazy, perfect dancing.
Photo / Perla de los Santos
*Dedicated to the Rieke Elementary School staff of magical beings and superheros.
I once had the privilege of bearing witness to the divine child in action every week when I was a part time dance teacher at a local elementary school.
It’s there that I led kids into a big, open space where they were allowed to coil their bodies around rhythm and explore the limitless menagerie of movement creatures that stalked their wild, wide imaginations.
The inhibition that fueled their wonder was something I revered. It allowed them to be risk taking. It allowed them to discover essential truths and ancient myths through the vehicle of their bodies.
We enjoyed a game, my students and I, that we came to refer to as the Tell Me A Story game. It was SIMPLE in concept and PROFOUND in practice.
I asked them to tell me a story about something specific, using no words, only movement. I put on music to accompany their exploration. I began with things like, “Tell me the story of planting a garden. Tell me the story of why the sun sets. Tell me the story of your favorite pet.”
They threw themselves head first into these exercises. They wanted nothing more than opportunities to tell stories kinesthetically.
We soon entered more complex and layered story scenarios. Things like, “Tell me the story of loneliness.”
One child went to the corner of the room, sat down and tilted his head toward the floor. Another child crawled on his hands and knees toward his friend and reached out for her. A third child laid down on the ground and looked up at the ceiling as if the ceiling were a universe of endless STARS.
It always quaked me - their willingness to tap into their own vulnerability and the collective vulnerability of their parents, their siblings, their teachers and the world. Kids perceive ALL the layers.
We then delved into magical story territory. Things like, “Tell me the story of when rainbow warriors ruled the earth and the moon was made of dolphins.”
It was abstract, yet they were always able to inhabit abstract places. They were not worried how other students did it. They were curious about the interpretations of their peers, but they didn’t look to their peers to set the template. They trusted their own imagination. They trusted their own creative instinct - limitlessly.
Why, as we grow, do we disconnect from the freedom of our inner child?
Why do we block the wisdom of our non-linear instincts?
Why do we stop harvesting the beauty of a flexible mind?
Because society values clear divisions between children and adults. Because we become wounded and afraid. Because we do not want to be rejected.
We ended with, “Tell me the story of how to save the planet.”
I asked this often when I taught. I asked this often because every time they danced the answer, I learned something new that gave me faith.
Here is where I’ll make a confession:
There are times when I disavow my sense of wonder and magic. There are times when I enter into a dark underworld in which everything appears hopelessly beyond salvation. I've stored these dancing moments with my students up and I reach for them when I am drowning in my own cynicism or despair.
Their saving-the-world-stories looked like:
One girl gathering a circle of her friends and linking hands.
A boy smoothing his palms over the ground with loving attention.
Two children jumping up and down as they faced each other and giggled.
A student cradling something invisible and humming softly.
Two kids slamming their bodies into the mat against the wall, over and over and over.
There is radical insight in courageous play.
Truths that elude our serious, adult examinations of the planet, they surface like sacred shadows on the water.
To access the medicine of magical thinking, we must forget everything that divides our world into yes and no, good and bad, this or that.
We must be exceedingly present and wondrously enraptured. We must be our first selves again.
Once we communed with deep sources of wisdom through the channels of our imagination.
Before the fear of rejection restrained us, we knew a great secret.
So let the movement speak and lean in close - a revolution is sounding.
Photo / Ryan McGuire
When you meet that Mean Girl…
you recoil fast. You remember being very young and feeling very hurt by the words of others because being the young member of a species armed with free will and verbosity is a rude awakening. It is one of the first slayers of innocence.
Next you put your defenses up. Fast. Remembering being little and young and afraid is no fun and it’s kind of embarrassing and you’d rather not stew on it, so you suit up with armor and call on Friend to lend an ear. Friend comes right over to hear how you’ve been wronged.
You are aghast, you are disgusted, you are outraged and you are righteous about that Mean Girl. You clink around in your armor and bat your heavy arms through the air.
“I won’t stand for this!” you shout. “Who does she think she is?!” you scream. “She doesn’t even know me! I’m not gonna let this happen! How dare she!”
You rant and rave and grumble. Your face is red and you’ve gotten hot as hell in all that armor, so you take it off for a minute. That’s when, in your moment of repose, you’re struck with a feeling of intense exhaustion. The exhaustion is vulnerable and vulnerable reminds you of being little and being little reminds you of when you learned that people can say shit and throw shit and sometimes the shit they say and throw has nothing to do with you, but it can wound you deeply, just the same. You quickly realize you’ve reverted to the young and the hurt, so you scout a different path. Your armor is on the other side of the room.
It’s time to throw yourself a pity party.
Your eyes get steely, distant and defeated. You say, with definitive cynicism, that Mean Girl is responsible for all your problems and your pain. You predict, with devastated finality, how Mean Girl will never leave you alone. She will continue to fuck with your peace. Mean Girl wins. You have no idea how to get her and her super aweful awefullness out of your life.
Game Fucking Over.
You stay at the pity party for awhile. It’s not exhausting, but it’s suffocating. It’s like a thick net that tightens slowly around your body and pinches the soft parts of your skin. It becomes hard to breathe or feel the breeze or see the light change from day to night.
You remember, while you’re squishing and scrunching, about your ally. Friend has been sitting there the whole time - listening. Friend listened while you stormed around, furious, in your armor. Friend held your hand while you burrowed in your net of pity and despair. And Friend didn’t go anywhere.
So you take a risk.
You go back to the little, scared you - the one who lost her innocence when she realized that cruelty is a part of humanity. You feel that feeling. You feel that whole feeling until it makes you cry. You acknowledge out loud to Friend the Sad and the Afraid. Then you picture little you in the place where you first felt cruelty and you look for Mean Girl.
She’s little too. You picture little you and you feel your innocence evaporate and you remember what it’s like to fear the world and you find Mean Girl there beside you, losing her innocence and fearing the world and feeling her sadness. You stand beside Mean Girl in that place and you do the thing that is the hardest. You look at Mean Girl and you see your sameness. You see the ways you both were wounded before you even met. You see the ways you both feel so sensitive that it can be absolutely paralyzing.
Then you claim the difference.
Mean Girl navigates her wound by trying to impact others and you navigate your wound by letting others impact you.
But it’s a circle - this empathy thing - and it always leads to the same center.
Mean Girl wouldn’t lash out if she didn’t feel impacted by the world around her. You and Mean Girl both let other people impact you.
This is the dance, you tell Friend and Friend agrees.
We are trying to find the sameness and also claim the difference. We are trying to understand ourselves based on who we don’t want to be like and who we do want to be like. We are trying to do this while simultaneously remembering that we are all alike at our core because we are all human at our core. We are trying to do this while simultaneously creating the necessary boundaries we need to take care of ourselves when that Mean Girl lashes out with her super awful awfulness.
There exists a lovely paradox. Simply because someone is acting from their wound doesn’t mean you have to take their shit and simply because they are throwing their shit at you, doesn’t mean you have to disregard their humanness.
When all the armor donning and the net weaving and the vulnerable plunging is over, you sit with Friend and you feel grateful. This is what we’ve been given to navigate the strange reality of humans being humans. We have been given each other. We have been given the opportunity for connection. We have been offered the cup of intimacy. And all we're really seeking, is the courage to drink deeply.
Photo / Greg Raines
We design worlds of rooftop conversation and tree limb lounging. Our backs press laughter into hardwoods as our fingers snake together.
We are bare feet and protection.
We listen to the same songs and cry over words that spear our hearts with lyrical arrows.
In high school, we call eight times in two hours because we forget one small sentence that must be placed in each other’s care.
I want to know everything about your day and you mine - not just the line up of activity and transition, but the feelings that flood each moment, the subtle perceptions that define your uniqueness, the illuminated seconds of epiphany that reveal you.
We light our souls on fire for each other. We understand the burn of love that can blaze between women - a complete and reckless dedication, a limitless understanding, a delicious adoration.
We are not romantic partners, but there is romance in the way we honor the world together. We are not sexual partners, but there is sensuality in the way I am open to your body - how I lean completely into you when I cry, wrap my hand around your elbow when I agree emphatically with what you are saying and wrestle realization into being through hours of patient conversation beside you.
We are bandit goddess warriors and giggling girls and brave priestess seekers. We are limitless as light patterns on wheat fields.
In our tender unknowing and careless conviction we co-create navigation rule books. We rock our rule books back and forth. We clutch them as we grow from babies to children to adults.
Then one day - breath caught on the phone at 35 - startled we proclaim,
“We know less now than we did. We know less now.”
And isn’t that something to celebrate?
Isn’t becoming humbled by humanness in the arms of your friend something to celebrate?
Taking apart every story you ever told, isn't that amazing?
It's like the last piece of clothing slipped off of hip bones.
It's like the belly of a berry, bleeding sweetness on your palm.
Photo / Dmitry Demidko
We were standing at the crosswalk, my friend and I, when she told me that someday she wanted to ball hard.
"I want to have the means to support the people I love and to buy new equipment for work and to live in a house with a giant projector so I can host bad ass movie nights. "
I nodded my head and echoed her sentiment.
We'd made it to the other side of the street, and were just turning the corner, when she referenced an acquanitance who had recently pissed her off with his oblivious disregard for other people's needs.
"I bet he's just a fucking rich kid," she said. "Selfish and unaware."
Now this caught my attention. It mirrored a demon I know well. It spoke to the way I desire abundance, yet associate abundance with a lack of humanity.
I believe it to be a sticky, largely unconscious problem. I have a hundred of my own judgments around craving financial prosperity. I have judgments even as I'm writing this blog.
A small voice in me is crying out, "You have NO right to speak about the desire for wealth. By most of the world's standards - you are wealthy. You have a community safety net. You would never end up homeless. You have a roof over your head and a full refrigerator. You have never felt lack for any of these things. You don't get to talk about money and you don't get to bemoan the lack of it and you don't get to manifest more of it."
Yet a larger part of me - the part I'm trying to claim with this writing - knows that feeling guilty for the impulse to enrich my well being does jack shit to help people in need. All it does is fill up useful space inside of me where clarity and intention and power could live. All it does is paralyze me with the weight of shame.
And then I stop facing things.
Like people in greater need.
Because facing people in greater need mirrors what I am not in great need of. And that triggers my shame. And my shame summons the wealth demon. And the wealth demon is a scary, seething beast.
I was sitting on a stoop with another friend of mine. This friend lives in Brazil and does not have a bank account. At different points in her life she has also not had food when she was hungry. It was only recently that she owned her first refrigerator.
I was busy expressing my web of guilty feelings - like how I hated knowing that when I went home I would have access to things she didn't. She cut me off mid-sentence and told me lovingly, yet firmly, that she didn't want my guilt.
"Your guilt doesn't change my poverty," she said. "I want you to be prosperous and do good things with your prosperity, just like I want me to be prosperous and I want to do good things with my prosperity. Stop pretending you don't want that."
I think about her words when I feel like I should hide my secret longing to ball hard.
I don't want to hide it.
I want to manifest it and I want to do good things with it.
I want to enrich my well being and the well being of people I love and the well being of people I've never met. I want to recreate my divisive relationship with money. I want to discard the ridiculous belief that being spiritually in tune and abundant-as-fuck are somehow mutually exclusive. I want to stop associating money with evil. Money, as my wise mama says, can be a means of loving distribution. I'll add that money can also be a means of oppression. Therefore, this human created resource called money, has a tremendous amount of power and power is not inherently wrong.
It's about how we use our power.
It's about what we use it for.
I want to plug into that power and use it as fuel for freedom, equality and well being. I want everyone to have the opportunity to plug into that power and channel it towards a more equitable and conscious reality. I want to join a clan of Money Warriors who are willing to tackle the wealth demon and shake off the paralysis of guilt.
It's time for wealth and heart to form a partnership.
It's time for money to express our humanity instead of oppress it.
It's time to ball. Hard.
When I was very young, my mother told me not to be afraid of shadows, because shadows contextualize light. My vocabulary was limited then, so she explained this profound gem of wisdom to me in a child friendly way.
She flipped the lamp on and off.
"See," she said, "it's the light that makes us see the shadow. Light and shadow need each other. They are pieces of the same puzzle."
As a nightmare prone kid, her words comforted me when I woke from dreams about monsters with empty eyes and bodies made of blades. I repeated her words in my head - the shadow needs the light - as I traced my gaze across the trickster flicker of my bedroom walls.
I consider my mother to be one of the wisest women I know, yet she holds her knowledge modestly. She's rooted in a way that allows her to deliver high minded truths as if she were telling you what she ate for breakfast. I'm grateful for her esoteric earthiness. It has helped me approach the width of my own emotions with both feet on the ground.
I have fewer nightmares now, but I think about my mother's words in my waking life. I find as an adult, that everyone wants to beat their shadow into non-existence. We are all trying to attain an illusory perfection - be it puritanical or new age spiritual - we aim to scrub ourselves clean of vulnerability and darkness so that we may finally rest. We aim to rid ourselves of weakness, and in doing so, we negate the vast ocean of our humanness.
I visualize that lamp switching on and off in my childhood home when I am feeling particularly self-critical. When I experience a tidal sea of feelings because I am alive and in relationship to other free-willed humans, I remind myself that shadow contextualizes light.
I don't want to amputate. I want to integrate.
I want to consciously fold my arms around my wholeness and anchor myself in empathic grace.
I want to allow all of me to exist.
I want to befriend the beasts within, so they don't lash out of me like a caged, forgotten animal.
I want to know them instead of fear them.
In knowing my own shadows, I want to better understand the shadows of the world, so I can turn on the light, again and again, until everything is illuminated.