Monday, September 29, 2014

Anam 'Cara: Finding the Soul Friend within Oneself


On the day when
the weight deadens
on your shoulders
and you stumble,
may the clay dance 
to balance you.

-John O' Donahue

More then a few months ago, a friend in facebookland commented on one of my photos of Pax, my son, that I needed to get "Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom" by John O'Donohue. A few months after that, I finally looked it up, as it had been buried in my subconscious all that time, in the inner world that O'Donohue and the ancient Celts speak of. I ordered at that time a book of blessings by O'Donohue, but not Anam Cara. It didn't feel that it was yet the time. I have long had a strange and mystical affinity with books. They show up when it's time, or if they show up before it's time, something deep within me tells me to leave it on the shelf.

On my birthday many years ago, after being told by many goddess friends many times that I should read Clarissa Pinkola Estes Jr.'s seminal work "Women Who Run with the Wolves," the book quite literally magically appeared. I went to a recycling center somewhat randomly on said birthday and teetering on the edge of the dumpster that normally held nothing but old encyclopedias and text books with broken spines and missing pages was a mint copy of the book glinting in the sun. On another occasion, Jaguar Woman by Lynn Andrews, appeared on a common area table in my apartment building where things were left to to be swapped. These two, and other books showing up just when they did, and just in the way that they did, had profound effects on my internal and external life.

Those experiences feel like lifetimes ago and it's been more then a few years since a book has called to me in a magical way. I read the blessings book when I received it right away, and loved it, using it constantly and carrying it in my purse and then leaving it bedside. Occasion after occasion would find me referencing it, reading a blessing a loud, taking screen shots and sending the poems digitally and copying them into cards for friends. I haven't loved a "prayer" book this much in a long time.

Two days ago I heard that voice, "now." And so I ordered the original book that was sacredly recommended to me and upon opening it and reading just the first few words, which I've included above, something ancient flooded back to me. I'm sure I'll be able to better articulate just what that is as I journey through its depths. Anam Cara calling to me certainly wasn't quite as ostentatious, but it was insistent. And two days ago, from somewhere deep within me, even in the midst of another activity I heard that small voice say, "now."

I have long wanted to resume my writing, and this blog. Motherhood has blessed me and now that Pax has passed the one year mark, that still small voice is nudging me to listen deeply to the innermost landscapes of my soul, and to share some of what I find there.

And in I go....

Monday, October 8, 2012

The Wisdom of Slow and Still

Today was the first day where I truly felt the fall's chill upon waking. In the spirit of many buffalonians, who wonder how long they can hold out before turning on the heat, I mused about ways to keep warm. A friend who I haven't seen in awhile came over for awhile this afternoon and we made two different soups and homemade pesto from veggies from the veggie share I am in. We sat together on floor cushions at my coffee table, eating soup number one, drinking a glass of wine and eating some of the pesto, with me happily listening to her stories of life abroad. We made a fire (the first one for me in this new home) and before long were onto soup two, the house toasty and full of love, laughter and Clifford Brown.

There were moments throughout the day where I caught myself, as been happening more and more lately, looking in on the experience at hand with curiosity and compassion. Inside is a mix of sadness and joy, sacred solitude and time with beloved friends, but mostly there is something new, or at least long absent: a feeling of slowness.

The desire to slow down, as everything in our lives continues to seemingly speed up has been palpable for me for some time now. I would even say years. But sometimes our intentions take that long, and it's good to be reminded to be patient, and tend the fragile soil of our soul without expectation of when the saplings will finally burst through the surface.

A series of professional and personal events in recent months has further motivated the slow down, and as I approach the five year mark of moving to Buffalo, I find myself in a new relationship to and renewed commitment to aspects of what led me here in the first place. Chief among those was a desire to be slow and still.

I moved to the city that most people globally equate primarily with snow, in mid december, and at the time was not excited about the prospect of dark winter in a rust belt city. As much as I love them, I have always struggled with the fall and winter seasons, and moving to a locale where these would be more intense then less, worried me. What I found however in the early days of the first winter here, are the very things I need more of in my life right now. I had hours of time where I read and wrote and mused. I wrote songs, and dreamt of an adaptation of a book for the stage. I went for quiet walks in both daytime and moonlit snowland. Quiet, creativity poetry of life in a new place.

And as wonderful fate would have it, I made beautiful friends, and many irons I cast in the fire took, and before long my life was very full. Something many of us struggle with, and a metaphor I shared with two goddess friends recently, is the need to constantly be jumping rope in the proverbial double dutch game of productivity. The other side of our full, busy, connected lives is ever so rich, and can reveal our next move, much more then the exhaustion of constant jumping.

So tonight and this fall I long to be with the fullness of sweet space, peace and quiet in the moments that it's available. To make good on the proverbial reset button I have hit, and let that space linger as is needed, and to go within and quiet myself once more to hear when and how to move in accordance with the wisdom of life and of the earth. And to learn the wisdom and beauty of just simply being slow and still.

Thank you to dear sisters Sarah and Laura for inspiring me to resume this blog. All love.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Speech at Buffalo's Common Council Public Hearing on Arts Funding

So instead of using this Blog once every few months, I thought I would write more frequent shorter posters and also share some of the other things I've been up to. Some know that back in november, in response to a budget crisis in Buffalo where arts and cultural funding was cut to more then 33 organizations, I co-founded a group called Empower Arts Buffalo and I've been very active in helping to promote a sense of collaboration in the midst of this staggering blow. New has been promising, a well known "catalyst" for change in Buffalo the John R. Oishei foundation has stepped up to offer some emergency funds. Artvoice has been running a two month long "Give 4 Greatness" campaign, which I am involved with as an event coordinator. And now, the city of Buffalo's common council is stepping up in what may be a move that restores arts funding for the first time in a decade to the city budget. I had no idea my remarks would make the news, but below you can hear several clips of the speakers. I walked in, tired, after a long long day, but felt it necessary to add to the numbers at this public hearing, as it was also passover and a Sabres playoff game. I am grateful that our voices were heard.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Astonishment and Kula

If you click on this link it will take you to the home page for the Michael Chekhov Association, of which I am a member. 

Within moments, thanks to the glory that is email, something I have a love/hate relationship with, as many of us probably do, I was connected to three MICHA colleagues over a simple question. Jessica then asked me, "have you seen the windsor video?" I had received the email about it but had put it in the dusty folder unofficially called "i'll get to it"but as I have re- started "Finding Water: The Art of Perseverance" by Julia Cameron, again, I am paying a bit more attention then usual to synchronicity and signs. 

So I obliged, and was quite moved, and instantly reconnected with something I have been disconnected from. Yesterday, in her book, Cameron mentioned how the source of our drama and discontent as artists , or creative beings (which we all are) is almost always when we aren't doing the "work." Now for some of us that work is meditation, for others writing, for others acting... it doesn't matter, but as Cameron keenly points out, "We hear so often that the artist's temperament is restless, irritable, and discontented. All of that is very true-- when we are not working. Let us get in a good day at the page or the easel and we are suddenly sunny and user-friendly. It is the blocked artist who is such a study in malcontent. Artists have an itch that nothing can scratch except work."

And I was right under the heading of the young creative she is describing in that character, blaming all of these other people, myself and situations on my frustration and blocked-ness. But I can feel myself shifting. Saw a beautiful quote on a wall at a health care practitioner's office the other day:

Those who blame others have not yet begun their education.
Those who blame themselves have begun their education.
Those who blame no one have completed their education. 

So I have been thinking a lot of about blame, and the isolation that resides inherently within it. When we move past blame there is now room for objectivity, patience, and astonishment. Michael Chekhov said, "We must not forget that one of our greatest technical abilities is astonishment." In removing blame and guilt, we find our way back to the wonderment and joy of what we can behold and take in, and in remembering that we are connected, deeply connected. And as we open ourselves to this way of seeing, it invites more of the same, and we can feel ourselves re-programming on a soul level.

Kula is a sanskrit word that translates to "family of the heart" or "family the heart chooses." I am becoming humbly and so deeply gratefully aware of the kula I am part of. It is far reaching, and all of the members don't know one another necessarily- distant relations that haven't met, but share me in common, or others in common. We are sensitive beings, more so then we often realize, or we forget our sensitivity. What we ingest on a daily basis has direct impact on our mental and spiritual well being. 

Who is your kula? how can you deepen your connection with this people? Reach out right now  via email or phone and thank those who support you, nurture you, cheer you, give you space to grow into all that you are, honor when you are taking time for yourself. 

Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Art of the Human Spirit

I receive emails from time to time from friends' companies, galleries, etc all over the country, as many of us do. Often on a busy day, and as the email onslaught continues to gain momentum worldwide, I unfortunately delete these little nuggets of artistic breath without even reading them. When would i read this? There's so much to do! I'll never be able to see that...

But this one caught my eye, and reawakened why I joined said mailing lists in the first place. My two great passions are the arts and the healing arts, and one of my great loves, is to travel. Hence my intrigue and delight upon reading about this touring project that will be put on by the Moving Dock Theater Company in Chicago for one amazing performance as it makes its way through a few cities.

Still in Buffalo, I feel I was drawn here for reasons beyond what have yet been fully revealed to me, one of them to create bridges between the refugee and local populations via the arts, create spaces and dialogues for this vital work. As more of the world, and so many of its inhabitants become refugees, how can we help these people transition to very foreign cultures, and encourage them to share the richness of their own artistic traditions with us? Just a few of the questions with me tonight, and thought I'd share this piece for any who might be in Chicago, or for whom reading it may similarly inspire them.


Thursday, July 1, 2010

White Sails of Peace

Small actions, one at a time, that's all we need, as we walk our own individualized, yet connected paths towards inner peace.

More than a few years ago now, strange to even write that, my father gave me a "White Sails" aka "Peace Lily" or more formally as "spathiphyllum clevelandii." During the period in my life I was living in Detroit, and set upon two quests. 1) To offset the often bleak, lacking greenery landscape of this battered city with a lush green oasis inside my apartment, helping improve the air quality for my sensitive lungs all in one fell swoop. 2) To try to overcome, in my own humble way, my family's inability to keep any house plants alive. I look back on this period with great joy, everywhere I turned there were gorgeous aloe plants, spider plants, cacti, kitchen herbs and white sails, among others, and I was humming and happily propagating like mad. It was incredibly meditative and grounding to have my hands in that soil, to gently coo to the plants, to rejoice as they grew, and mourn those who did not make it. I dried my own sage to smudge the house, clipped fresh basil for pizza, and apologized and thanked grandma aloe for healing my burns. This was during a time that I cultivated hobbies. I took up knitting as well, and both my plants and my weaving brought me great peace.

And then the transitions, the upheavals that we go through continually in this earthwalk. My tenure in detroit was coming to a close, and I was moving into an indeterminate amount of time as a wandering gypsy artist. Each time I left my house, I forced myself to take something with me, to recycle, to give away... There were days it was a great joy, to look around at all that I had amassed and see which thing needed to go, why and to whom. Other days a great struggle, but I knew the outflow had to continue. I gave my plants away, eventually, to my dear friend, and many of them are still alive and well. And practicing detachment of one's belongings, although not always easy, is almost always rewarding. It reminds us that things are transient, friends, belongings, jobs, and to have faith that what we need in the future will be provided, or we will be led how to bring it into existence.

Ok, so quite the long tangent, back to the white sails. I was in love with the plant my father had given me, I remember the sheer joy when i saw the first arumlike flowers spring forth like great white cobra heads. I literally squealed. When my father passed, the plant became a strange connection beyond the veil, and it was ever so hard to part with it.

At the time of his memorial service, I remember that a family friend had gifted my sister and mother with a massive peace lily plant, not even knowing of the plant I had possessed. It started off in all its finery, lush, happy and vibrant, a poignant symbol of life, as we all dealt with the loss of my father. Over the next two years as I would go home, the plant looked less and less vibrant, I won't speculate why. As I mentioned, things have always thrived outside under the sun at my childhood home, but not inside those walls, and this plant would be no exception. I can't remember if my mother or sister insisted i took it or i offered, but somehow what was left of this peace lily traveled with me up to Buffalo. My lone plant coming to the new place I had set down roots.

And for the past two years, it has hung on for dear life, and I have not paid it the attention it needed, other than watering and finally getting some miracle grow sticks. A few months back, a friend with a green thumb, who i queried about the plant's health said, "how old is it? and you haven't replaced the soil? there are no nutrients in there!" And i cringed, guilty as charged, and thought how true that is of so many of us, still trying to get nourishment from dead soil of the self, fearful of what repotting might mean.

I cannot even count how many times I would look into the kitchen, where this plant sat, a life force exactly as old as my father has been gone, and think "i need to repot you" or "maybe i should get a friend white sail and we'll repot you together." but these thoughts remained just that, thoughts, musings.

June 16 was four years, four years?!? And today, July 1, I finally repotted the plant. I had a mystical morning and after receiving a much needed massage, found my way face to face with Urban Roots, a store I have wanted to go in since I moved here, and finally did so today. And right in the front, was a baby white sails, eager to grow and push forth those magnificent flowers. So i bought her and some organic soil and went home and gently emptied the old pot and sang to the starved roots and leaves, introduced them to their new friend and sat there so at peace with my fingers in rich earth. Who knows how they will fare, if they'll even get along and coexist, but that's part of the fun, to see what will happen, and to give them each a fighting chance.

And now I return to my day, and all the things to do that are always waiting for me, but with a different sense of peace then I have had in some time. A small action that meant so much.

Love you Dad.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Slowing the Tennis Match of the Mind

I just finished a very short, not long enough vacation, says my rational self. A deeper self says, at least you took some time to yourself, and you can already see the benefits.

i found myself, while on the short time away, observing my mental tennis. it wasn't just one match, but many, andre agassi, steffi graf and pete sampras all hammering away at the same time, with john macenroe screaming at the judge at the same time and same volume as peter connors...

but the physical distance i gifted myself from my current home of buffalo, the time in the car watching the landscape change, the vastness of the forests out the window, and then the vastness of the ocean, began to work their magic on me, and in just a few days it was just billy jean having a mellow practice match with chris evers...

i am now in the challenge of being back in buffalo, with many things looming ahead of me as i return to my schedule, but with a deeper sense that i can keep the match slow, and have the tools at hand, my breath, my yoga, my writing, music... for each of us they are different, singular and evolving, that when all resume their din at once, which is sure to happen, i can recall the breath of the ocean, or the sound of the open road, close my eyes for five minutes of vacation and return renewed and refreshed... enjoy the time between each hit of the ball, the deep inner peace that is always only a breath away.