Some cold to deep

An endlessness of gone
The long tunnel of never coming back
Totemic
Epic
Silent

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Oh Dove in Death
So many lanes from mortal
‘Twas not my cat
or a preying blood spattered bird

Aloneness in a cold place?
Was it heartbreak loss: your mate?
Did you lay down, to sleep, and deeper than you thought?
So peacefully
Drawn in
Carefully self-planted. Alone.

What caused your heart to colden?
Slowing enough, sunk into darkness
An endlessness of gone
The long tunnel of never coming back
Totemic
Epic
Silent

No pain in your eyes, nor frozen upon your body.
I feel you went peacefully into subzero night
floated on top of the snow
Maybe some cold is too deep, even for a love bird.

©TwistedTrail Music, 2016

dove-in-death

“Heal your broken heart”

When I first worked with the circle of trees in my woods, called the Harmony medicine wheel, I would buy Her gifts. This place is the seat of the Feminine on the property where two creek beds come together. I found this beautiful pink heart shaped bowl at TJ Max, and I knew immediately She would love it! So, I nestled it in her sweet spot and there it remained for about three years.

I gave my heart to Harmony
I gave my heart to Harmony

It’s made of glass, and a year ago I started noticing cracks, and since then it began to break into pieces. While sitting in the medicine wheel earlier this week, she gently said to me: “it is time to mend your broken heart.” So I dug up it’s shattered pieces.

I have felt this broken heart as an intense emotional pressure, right in the middle of my chest. It’s origins elude me, but I sense it is layered from past lives to this one. Often when I watch a movie that has sadness, loss, or harm between a child and parent, that wolf comes and sits right in the middle of my chest and grabs my throat. It happened watching Black Snake Moan with Samuel L. Jackson and Christina Ricci the other night. They are two beat up people who help each other heal through tough love and compassion.  A broken heart that never gets fixed will shatter into a multitude of pieces. It can still be fixed, but takes Will, and much more time and energy. Fortunately, I think I was in time with mine!

Mending a broken heart is not easy, nor does it come free. In fact, it is quite expensive. I costs the illusion that someone else “broke my heart.” Personally, it has always been expectations of another, or worse, the abandoning of myself to them, that has caused the heaviest of my heartbreak. It costs us our status as victim of yet another relationship that did not go the way we wanted it to. It also costs the addiction to endorphins: to being in love with that feeling of being in love. Healing a broken heart costs the infatuation with falling in love, and calls us instead to rise into love. Letting go of all these emotional structures is costly, but not nearly as costly as a heart that keeps breaking into smaller and smaller pieces. And what is gained from mending that broken heart is beyond measure.

So, I’m happy to say my heart is on the mend! And what that healed heart gives in return is an endless capacity to grow, and adapt, and love, and live a life that knows no bounds. A heart that has broken and healed has a tremendous gift of empathy for the pain of others. It has an ability to see beyond the moment. to the potential in all. Even with its scars, It holds water. Indeed an ocean will fit into a compassionately healed heart.

A mended heart...
My mended heart…

As I crawl into the proverbial bear cave at this winter solstice, healing my broken heart is my number one desire. I am grateful for the support of friends who come along just at the right moment radiating love from their hearts. And so, in the heart of my woods, a gift I bought Harmony, returns to the giver as a gift that keeps on giving. And I am open and receiving!

Harmony Medicine Whell
Harmony Medicine Wheel

Circles, cycles, ebbs and flows

Today I am reminded how life is circular. Our planet is round, our orbits are round, even if not perfect circles, the moon, my meandering creek, and even my own life’s experiences. I pay attention to oscillations around me, both seen and unseen, and wrote an article about it for Subtle Energies Magazine. Part I of [E]motion: from music to my ears to oscillations of the spheres,  is the set up to my thoughts and ideas on oscillations, to be released this spring in Part II. As I turned 50, I became aware of my own life-scale oscillations. According to Vedic teachings, we live life in 7 sets of 7 years: one set for each chakra. Malavika Suresh beautifully maps out the energies of each year in her blog  CHAKRAS: 7 YEAR DEVELOPMENT LIFE-CYCLES. At age 50, I literally started over at the root chakra, like when I was born. This second life, however, begins as a conscious human being, complete with awareness and thought, which I did not have the first time around. Unlike that first time, I find myself consciously wondering what I will do with this second life.

30 years ago today, I strapped a backpack on and set out to camp on the summit of Pikes Peak. I got a late start, and so I decided to stop at 13,000 feet and at least set up my tent. I deliberately chose this mission in order to put myself in a position of having only ME to count on. I was here to do this on my own. I did tell friends I was going, and that if they didn’t hear from me in two or three days, to send the search parties. But I had no intention of having someone else bail me out.

It was comforting to have my tent set up, and my -30 bag rolled out. I knew that at least I had shelter should the weather turn, which can happen quickly at 13,000 feet in the middle of winter. Then, with dwindling light, I headed the last mile to the top. The sun was setting as I reached the summit. I sat against the leeward side of the summit house, to stay out of the wind, for a long time watching the lights of Colorado Spring slowly begin to twinkle. It was magical. There were thousands of them. At first they were individual, and then they began to glow as a collective hive. So many people down there, and me 7,000 ft above them enjoying my solitude. It was like a dream, and I wondered if this was what the stars see when they look down upon us.

Cold started to set in. I had good clothes, an absolute necessity to survive extreme conditions, but no clothes will completely guard against winter at that elevation. The only way to stay warm is to keep moving. I got up to head back to the shelter of my tent and sleeping bag. As I rounded the west side of the summit house and walked into the darkness, I was met with a pitch blackness unlike I had experiences before. And for the first time in this adventure a wave of utter and complete aloneness consumed me. I dreamed of this vast emptiness as a child, and it was terrifying. Loneliness is an emotion. Being alone is a circumstance. The two together are a powerful one-two punch in gut-right about at the solar plexus. I remember thinking that if something went wrong, I may never be heard from again, and thought of my friends in the comfort of their warm homes down below. Still, I did not question, doubt or regret what I had chosen. I was right where I had wanted to be when I started out from Rocky Mountain Mennonite Camp that day. I was on staff there for the winter, and that in itself was an isolation. That day, I had gone from self chosen solitary confinement, to solitary confinement without guards. I had only myself to unlock the doors of whatever prison I sought to escape. I was both terrified and exhilarated by this aloneness.

The only antedate was to get moving. I knew where my tent was, and I knew how to get there. All my energy went into focus on being careful one step at a time. I had no headlamp, but once my eyes adjusted, the stars were enough light to follow the summit road back to my tent. I was comforted at least by not having to descend the boulder field with no light. I will never forget the feeling of crawling into my sleeping bag. It was like being wrapped as a baby. I was a papoose, nurtured by careful preparations. The wind flapped the tent all night long and I slept lightly, always wondering if that wind might be bringing with it weather. Finally the morning light came, and as I opened the tent, still wrapped in my sleeping bag, the moon greeted me high in the sky. It was cold. But it was also clear!

I took the long way home: my favorite walk across Sheep Ridge. That walk was not without its own challenges. The ridge sits high above the valley, and has mild ups and down, but there was more snow than I had planned on. The descent from sentinel Point took me down a steep snow covered timberline, and over snow covered boulder fields. As I post holed through waist deep snow, I wondered if there was a crack between boulders waiting to swallow me. On that day, I learned that the summit is only half way. When I finally made it back to camp, I was exhausted. And incredibly fulfilled! I had gone to the heights to be with myself, and had returned. I wept. Tears of joy, of grief, of wonder, gratitude, and exhaustion. That experience was a key to unlocking my self-determination and motivation, in a year that I spent truly getting to know myself.

For me, there is no substitute for solitude and the wilderness… and no substitute for coming out of the wilderness either. I still feel like the shower at the end of a “go till you throw” day is as good as the day itself. 30 years later, after another spell in the wilderness, I find myself returning to re-engage the world around me. At the beginning of a new cycle…a new oscillation, I am grateful for all who have joined my path, for a day, or for a life-time. No matter what part of the circle our interactions happen on, each experience teaches something new, or remembers something old. Bit by bit, a rich soul journey is pieced together and connected, past present and future. As I move into the world from a mid-life wilderness, learning from all my experience, I stand like mountain and move like water. Hello all. Nice to meet you!

12_Boot
Solo dare

In 2015, I learned to live

Ghost stance
Incarnating

2015 was like a new birth for me. This time around I felt every inch of being squeezed out a new birth canal. I entered 2015 on the verge of leaving, which you can read about here. Honestly, on that cold and lonely cliff-edge of early January 2015, lying in bed, when I spoke a commitment to stay, I did not know what I doing. Through the lens of a year lived, I can see what it was I decided to stay for, and more importantly what steps I had to take to realize that commitment.

When, by early March, I was not feeling better, all I remembered was the message that “if I choose to stay, I will have lots of help.” So I asked for help and the response, no matter what the situation, was loud and clear throughout the whole year. In short, I have never CONSCIOUSLY incarnated. I was fully incarnate when I was born, but I came in that way! As I grew up, soaked in the indoctrination of both wise, and unwise adults, I slowly disconnected from that “original completeness,” into a no-man’s-land of being neither here, nor there. At this crossroads of life and death, it was time to remember who I am, and fully occupy this body. It was time to come home.

Scan

Gazing into my own eyes, I could see an old soul in a newly occupied body, giddy with the infatuation of first love. This was energy incarnate; spirit unleashed in flesh; form with function; fecundity and frivolity; a relationship between body and soul in its original uncorrupt form. It was time to forget about occupying wall street, or town hall…it was time to occupy this temple-body, and to come home to the here and now.

Breath Universe
Architecture of a single breath

The decision to stay, I had to make alone. The ensuing journey was shared with so many helpers: the masterful reiki of Lana Maree Haas; the healing gifts of Dr. Tim Bhakta; the bioenergy work of Tracy Rasmussen that launched this whole endeavor; the music making with Brad Van Wick and Heidi Svoboda; the Dance of 5 Rhythms in Lawrence at Be Moved! and the fire-tending at Stone Dance. Perhaps the spark that lit “learning how to incarnate” was the burning of my prairie in March.

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Buddha in the flames (photo: Steve Smith)
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Dragonheart (photo by Mitch Kauffman)

The first hump was to flat out admit that I didn’t know how to incarnate! I had some clues from the past 10 years of self-healing work, however. To remember why I came here was crucial, and that task is to FEEL. EVERYTHING! Resisting the pain, the dislikes, the challenges and discomfort, made them worse. I’ve learned that choosing to ignore anything along the way just means that it will circle back around, again and again, each time with a higher amplitude, until it gets my attention. So I pay attention. To everything.

There are too many lessons from the year to narrate about, so I’ll just summarize what I gained:

  • Feel without judgment…just feel
  • If I need something ask
  • If I am lost, sit still, listen, and look around
  • The answer is usually in the question
  • Play
  • Dance
  • Move

The final most potent lesson came just last month through TUT, The Universe (Mike Dooley) when the daily message stated:

How about, Paul, no matter the temptation, you no longer think or say, ‘I’m tired,” “I’m hurt,” “I’m angry.” 
Don’t even think or say, “I’m happy.” Instead, whenever the urge arises, think or say, “I choose to be tired, hurt, angry or happy.” And give it a little time. 

Because this is how you become anything, 

The Universe

After years of trying to figure out why things were happening in my life, this simple suggestion showed another way! Trying to constantly figure out why, creates attachment. And attachment makes anything in life harder to let go of. Instead, the message was clear: just act like I choose everything, speak it, and watch how differently reality can unfold. When I started saying: “I choose this pain in my shoulder” it actually began to evaporate.

So I choose life. I choose to be here, to be now. I choose to experience everything I encounter. I choose to engage people (Thank you Z Hall and Salon-360), thoughts and ideas-especially those that differ from my own. I choose to engage my body, and dance with life. I choose to be grateful for 2015, and for the richness of experience and feeling it brought. And today, I choose to be pain and judgment free.

Peace and blessings to all of you as you experience life in 2016 wherever you find yourself in this moment. Now’s the time!

Now clock

Teetering on the edge

I understand the seductive allure of guns. When I was in high school in LaJunta Colorado, I bought a 22 rifle. I’m not sure why this was allowed in a Mennonite pacifist home, but perhaps it was because we had just moved out to the wild wild west from Ohio. I respect my parents for giving me this grave responsibility. For the most part I did target shooting of cans and bottles. Peering through the scope, I could see the target clearly. When I was setting the scope with a friend’s father, I shot a bottle swinging on a rope at 100 feet. Turns out I was a crack shot with a gun.

One day, I went into the dusty dry field to the West of our house. There were lots of beautiful little green and yellow birds in the few trees of an arroyo. I shot them. Lots of them. Maybe 20 or more. I just remember doing it and thinking how beautiful they were, but nothing more. And then, bam…another one bites the dust. They littered the ground like a confetti. I went back to the house and told my sister, in a bragging tone that I had just shot all these little birds. I was so proud of myself!

She looked at me.

Horror on her face.

And said only one word.

 

Why?

 

I did not have an answer.

 

I will never forget that look, or how I felt about her questioning look. I had that sinking pit in my stomach from realizing I had just made a mistake that I could not take back. I had committed a senseless act of violence without thought. My memory of that moment is one of shock…and horror at myself, and what I had done. Without her knowing it, just by being herself, and revealing her true feelings to me, she put a new target in my sights that has ruled my life since: the question why? I can’t say for sure, but I do not believe I ever shot that gun again.

A few decades later, as I was in graduate school studying composition, my brother asked me a similarly potent question: what does composing bring to the world? The hidden agenda behind the question was: if it doesn’t bring something good to the world, what use is it and WHY do it? Again, I did not have an answer. But I started looking for one! I am eternally grateful to both siblings for their part in these existential crises about how I want to move through the world, and about taking responsibility for my actions. I never stop asking the question: why? My siblings were the precipitants of searching for purpose and meaning in my life. And bit by bit I found it.

In the endless analysis of another mass shooting this week, John Cohen, counter-terroist analyst at Homeland Security until recently, said that one pattern these shooters is that they come from dysfunctional families and are “in search for some sense of meaning” and  “they are looking for something to give their lives cause.” You can listen to the story here. Without purpose, and a convergence of events that tip them over the boiling point, they snap, and shooting lots of people gives their life meaning. In the larger discussion this point went largely un-developed by Steve Inskeep, but I believe it is a key to understanding our cultural situation. Perhaps our consumer culture does not create a context in which to easily find meaning. Easily acquired guns are a seductive force in the name of power, and meaning in a meaningless existence without a true source of internal power.

I understand the seductive allure of guns. I also understand the power of knowing I have purpose, and feeling like life has meaning to me. I encourage all of us to protect our youth, not by buying bullet proof blankets, but by nurturing in them a larger sense of purpose, and how they fit into that purpose.  Let’s ask them questions about meaning, AND PAY ATTENTION TO THE ANSWERS. Let’s notice what is important to them, and share what is important to us. A young life whose quest for purpose and meaning is nurtured and fed by big brothers and sisters asking the right questions at the right time, is one less tension ready to snap when challenges arise. We can help each other with our purposes by reflecting what we value in each each other, in all of our interactions. I understand the seductive allure of guns. I also understand the captivating purpose of meaning. Let’s go there.

Wound dressing

There are two stages to healing a wound. First, it must be cleaned and covered. Covering serves two purposes. It protects the wound from further wounding, and it puts the wound into darkness. Darkness is the healing space where moisture is preserved in a womb-like environment for the body, mind and spirit to mend what was broken. It isolates the wound so all internal powers can be mustered and concentrated. It also keeps the wound clean and prevents spreading or worsening. During this time, the wound will begin to cover itself with natural defenses and strengthen. The second stage is to bring the wound out of the darkness and into the light, where air allows it to breath and take in healing energy from the sun. Both of these steps are equally important. A wound that is covered and never brought into the light, however, festers. That wound will grow and spread and eventually begin inflicting other wounds. When the time is right, a wound MUST be courageously brought into the light.

John Adams has a wonderful piece called “The Wound Dresser” based on Walt Whitman’s poem of the same name from 1865, inspired by the horrors of treating Civil War casualties.

“I onward go, I stop,
With hinged knees and steady hand to dress wounds,
I am firm with each, the pangs are sharp yet unavoidable,
One turns to me his appealing eyes—poor boy! I never knew you,
Yet I think I could not refuse this moment to die for you, if that would save you.”
Whitman’s poem is a story from a now distant war, and yet what inspires this blog is a young woman I’ve never met in South Dakota, who builds her way back to wholeness from the broken state of a near fatal assault. Her trauma seems to be a manifestation of life as war (see Naqoyqatsi in the Godrey Reggio/Philip Glass collaborative Qatsi trilogy). War and battle are the most overused metaphors we have: the war on terror and the war on drugs…we battle cancer and other illness, we even talk about the war on poverty. Perhaps the greatest irony is the “war on crime.” Crime itself is a war, and we fight that war with another war. One Fall, on the cover of my electric companies’ magazine, read the headline: “Time to prepare to battle winter.” War war war. Can we imagine nothing else? Is war so important to us, to pervade every avenue of our lives and society?  “Life as war” is so unimaginative. My brother Jon (Peacebuilding Global), reminded me that the opposite of violence is not peace, but creativity. Time to leave the dogs of war in their kennel and unleash the sprites of creativity. Healing is one of the most beautiful and powerful acts of creativity our body, mind and spirit can manifest!
Whitman’s poem speaks of two kinds of sacrifice: the young soldier sacrificing his life in battle over a cause, carried out through destruction, and Whitman’s ultimate desire to take the man’s place. The latter is an offer of grace bestowed upon youth by an elder. And yet no one can carry our wounds and our scars for us. We must each deal with them on our own terms and in our own time.
We have been trained many generations for war. We remember wars, we study wars and mark our history by them, and we even carry the grudges long after the wars are over. But why?
“From the stump of the arm, the amputated hand…
His eyes are closed, his face is pale, he dares not look on the bloody stump,
And has not yet look’d on it.” (Whitman)
Some wounds are so deep, that we fear to look, as if the only thing holding us together is that we survived them. What is it that causes one race to enslave millions of another? Why do we kill others to defend our own beliefs, as if the the world is not big enough for more than one view point? Why would someone assault and shoot a 21 year old woman in the prime of her life? Why? Because we have wounds in ourselves, so deep, so old, so festered beyond the physical, and so scarred over in every fiber of our existence, that we fear to look upon these: our soul wounds. Culture after culture has re-inflicted their soul wounds: the Egyptians upon Jews, Romans upon Europe, Jews and Christians upon Mysitcs and Gnostics (see John Lamb Lash “Not in His Image”) and finally, the accumulation of all those unhealed and deep soul wounds, came the hell unleashed against Native Americans in one of the largest genocides of all times, followed by the enslavement of millions in the United States. His-tory is littered with these hells on earth, but a new power to heal these wounds is being nurtured in Her-story: the warriors strength is in his tears, not her weapons. Bathe in them, and let the wind dry you off…
Justice and healing will never be served until each of us, and our societies address these deep soul wounds. Unhealed wounds worsen, fester and kill. Incarcerating and executing those who perpetuate them through violence, only postpones dealing with these wounds into the future. And we can no longer afford that because the accumulation of wounds we are inflicting upon the plant is perhaps the most dangerous of all, and one we cannot survive indefinitely.

In a vision during a sound healing for my young friend in South Dakota, the person who assaulted her came into the light. It was more than him being “found”. It was his soul wound being shown light so that it could begin to heal. In another session, I saw him lying in a puddle of his own tears, and then being dried off by the wind. The images were powerful and showed me that it is time to gaze upon our own wounds, wash ourselves with the tears that need be shed, and bring them into the open to recieve the light and air that will heal them, breaking the cycle, and launching us into “Life as Creativity” in the way it was meant to be.

Thank you to all with the courage to heal, and to those who tell the new stories.

Re-writing Dinosaurs

“Over the years, they’ve found the remains of an extinct Ice Age camel…” (National Geographic News), is not something one would expect to hear about a cave in Colorado. Craig Childs writes about his experiences volunteering at this dig in The Animal Dialogs. It’s called Porcupine Cave, and it was discovered by miners at the turn of the 20th century. Excavations have yielded specimens dating as far back as 1.5 million years, challenging long-held beliefs about large mammal movement from one continent to another. “We’re having to rewrite a lot of things because of this cave” said vertebrate paleontologist Elaine Anderson of the Denver Museum.

Caves have long been a part of our lives, from our earliest dwellings, to shaping our view of our lives in our world: from El Castillo and Chauvet Cave  through Plato, and to the present work at Porcupine Cave. I can’t help but wonder if Plato had seen some of these early cave paintings, inspiring his now famous allegory. I’d be willing to bet Jose Saramago (Nobel Prize, 1998) knew of them when he wrote his The Cave.

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We are fascinated by what we can divine from finding the old, and we love making stories up about who they were and what their lives were like. Are these 40,000 year old class art projects, or were these ancestors of ours, chained to the walls in a philosophy experiment?

It makes me wonder what archaeologists thousands of years from now will say about us. These ancient time spans make even the Native viewpoint of considering the next seven generations in whatever decisions they make, seem short sighted. Even so, that perspective builds into their lives, a gradual transition that allows for adaptation in harmony with their surroundings and with the earth. The Amish have a similar way, where they look at new innovations and technology, ask how adopting it might change their lives, and make a conscious choice to accept it or not. It may seem arbitrary to us that some use rubber tires and some don’t. The point is they are CONSCIOUS about what technology they CHOOSE, a perspective we could all learn a lot from and begin to adapt.

But what about our modern way of life that only takes into account quarterly earnings, and is carnivorous for the next gadget? I find it interesting that in all the gospels, Jesus was only moved to anger a few times. He had nothing but love and kindness for lepers, and for prostitutes. For the poor he encouraged us to help, and did so himself. He asked us to be model citizens, like the good Samaritan who helped someone he didn’t know, just because he met someone in need, and he had the resources to help. But when Jesus entered the Temple Courts in Jerusalem and saw people selling things and exchanging money, he was livid. He got so angry that he raged on the verge of violence, overturning tables and throwing things. What was the one thing that moved Jesus to rage? Commerce. 2000 years ago, Christ saw the dangers of unbridled commerce, and of putting it before humanity, and I suspect it was one of the reasons his ideas were crucified then, and continue to be crucified today. And now, we live in another dinosaur age, where the relics of inhuman commerce drive us to the brink of finding ourselves in a hidden cave, turning to stone for archaeologists to unearth thousands of years from now. What do we want them to say about us?