A strong woman is sometimes strongly fed up
(apologies to Marge Piercy)
A strong woman is sometimes strongly fed up
A strong woman is at times strongly rageful
A strong woman is on occasion deeply sorrowful
Beloved Shakti, teach me in this unbearable now about the cosmic dance of creation/destruction
We are so much more aware of destruction, so asleep to creation
Teach us in this now what we need to know
For strong women are strongly prepared to grow.
Definition of fragility
1. Liable to break or be broken; perishable; of tender frame or constitution
2. Moral weakness (Obs.)
We are like fireflies
here for a fraction of time
Yet who can resist the firefly as it glows in the dark of the night?
It is midnight. I have been awake, unable to sleep. My brain feels as though it is being kneaded by some invisible force. My eyes are so sensitive to light that I have been under ice most of the day. My ribs are aching and the muscles between them feel as if they are twisted. My legs are throbbing with pain and I am very fatigued.
I am hesitant to share my mood with Ruth, who has stayed up with me countless times while I have expressed seething, volcanic frustration. Once, I even threw everything down from her bookshelf. What can I say about frustration that I have not said before? Nothing. Certainly it is true, as Emmanuel says, that the clock strikes one every twelve hours, the sea wets the same beaches day after day and the sun rises and sets every single day. Still, as he says, it is never the same sunset, never the same pattern left by the wave on the sand, never the same one o’clock, even. And in that sense it is never the same frustration.
Why am I doing an audio journal in the middle of the night? Because so many things that one can do to empty frustration are not available to me. I cannot walk up and down vigorously. There is no chance of getting in the car and driving through the city streets peering at mannequins in shop windows looking ghostly in the midnight light, staring at the marquees, wondering who has gone to see which film, and why. I cannot bury myself in a book. It has been three years since I have been able to read. The very sight of a page full of words makes my head swim.
I cannot, in short, do anything to shift the mood. So here I am within the same four walls feeling imprisoned in my body. Forget the yogini on her mountaintop. This day after day after day of endless, infinitely variable yet deadeningly repetitive suffering in the body, calling for the most honed mindfulness, surely ranks among the most challenging of austerities.
The truth of the matter is that suffering in and of itself is boring. Suffering gets old. Oh, yes, it can teach you many lessons. It can open you to the infinite joy available in the smallest split second of relief. It can make you grateful to smell the flowers. However, beyond a point, suffering is pointless, even if it must still be endured. Personally, I am ready to write off suffering though I fully realize the absurdity of this proposition! But then, it is forty minutes after midnight and three years since all of this began.
Frailty 3 questions
How did frailty, an inescapable pre-condition of existence,
become something to be abhorred or overcome, at best tolerated?
Is the idea of frailty as moral weakness really obsolete?
Why then shame of illness, ageing, dependence?
I remember the exact moment when the truth of impermanence dawned on me - not as a concept but as a fact. It was as if the very foundation of my sense of reality had suddenly heaved and turned to rubble. Disorientation, rage and betrayal coursed through my body. If everything was impermanent how could I trust the future? How was I supposed to live?
a dry bamboo leaf
whirls to the ground
with graceful abandon
a spider’s web
combining strength and delicacy
we incapacitate ourselves
by resisting nature
cleaving to one way of being
Attachment is habit
afraid to let go
desperate to leave
I am sitting beside Christopher’s bed. Outside it is cold and the few leaves that still remain on the trees are being blown by gusty winds coming off the San Francisco Bay. The temperature is bracing and cooler than is usual for October. Christopher is lying still, looking intently at me from the corner of his eye. His breathing is irregular even though he says it is not as bad as it can sometimes be. Yeast lies like confetti on his eyebrows. Curled upon his short and tubby frame are the tubes that connect him to the respirator. He looks like an especially fetching Lord Ganesh.
I am perched on my stool, leaning forward, chin resting on cupped palms. Behind me the nurses’ station is deserted. The occasional voice is heard over the loudspeaker paging a doctor or nurse. If we did not pay attention to the words we might believe we were in an airport, so similar is the pace and intonation of the delivery. My mantra is repeating itself inwardly rather like Christopher’s breath which rises and falls without his conscious effort. Sometimes the impulse to speak arises like a sudden breeze but dissipates just as quickly for I am aware that I am here to be, to simply be. Occasionally a question unhesitatingly formulates itself. Christopher’s answers are usually short – a word, at the very most a phrase.
Christopher says that his week has been uneventful. Still it absorbs him greatly. The world has shrunk into the vastness of his experience, into the radical simplicity imposed upon him by the extremity of his situation. There is little room for anything else. Illness has freed him from the obligation to be someone in particular. It has required him to embrace non-narrativity; to set aside the delusion of a plot line that confers specific meaning and significance to every breath, to everything he thinks, says and does.
Solidity a fiction
Solidity is a fiction, separation a mirage
Everything is in continual interdependent flux
Existence is relational
shaped by processes known and unknown, seen and unseen
Form is transitory coherence
a momentary emanation in the grand sweep of time
making each thing all the more precious
Poetry in motion
Poetry in motion you called it
When your body began to move to rhythms unfamiliar
Teetering, swaying, bending into gravity
Traveling diagonally when you willed it to go straight ahead
Ataxia, MS, Parkinson’s…call it what you will
Simply intelligence embracing change
The soldier’s work
This morning I feel like a weary soldier waking to the swirling mist of another day dawning. The body is quite wrung out from all that has happened in the days before and the rough night just gone by.
The body is my battlefield. It is not that different parts of it are war with each other. It as though a war is rampaging through my body and tending it is the soldier’s work. Not fighting back. Not trying to kill the opponent. Rather, trying to discern how to live with the chaotic energies that have been ripping and hammering it into aching tenderness.
Make of your enemy a friend, say all the wisdom teachers. This has been the work of this soldier; not seeing these energies as a cruel, conquering regiment but learning to make the body an open channel so that all that must travel through it can do so with as little obstruction as is humanly possible. Breath by conscious breath, I strive to make safe passage for itinerant energies, clearing each chakra of accumulated debris so nothing stagnates and immobilizes me even further. Crown, pregma, third eye, throat, heart, solar plexus, belly, yoni, kundalini, knees and feet. On days like this it feels to me like the hardest work of all.
Beloved Oneness, I thank you for carrying me through to this morning. Drained by the intense pain of last night, I am open and full of wonder. I pray that the journey continues until there is only space, only emptiness, only light, only love. Your love, the One love.
the body narrating
a different vitality
in ageing’s cursive script
In the quietude left by the injury I could relish only one thought at a time. “The cat is on the fence.” This would take several minutes to formulate itself, like a bubble slowly forming at the very bottom of a mud bath and unhurriedly making its way through a thick, liquid medium. The mind felt rather like that mud bath. Sometimes a thought dissolved even before it reached the surface. At other times it might make it to the top but not find language. And occasionally, words would mysteriously arrive and align themselves into a sentence that could be spoken and understood. Those were magical moments.
One image I often had when trying to think without success was of the trees on Sproul Plaza at the U.C. Berkeley campus. These trees have been pruned so as to inhibit growth. The branches look like fists whose fingers have been clenched shut, knotted into an involuted gesture. My mind felt like those treesem
striving to express itself but continually hitting up against a wall and streaming back in confusion. At such times thinking felt like a once familiar activity now beyond grasp; like an amputated limb of which all that is left is memory.
The autonomous self
the autonomous self
would be unique in nature, something apart
no wonder this notion is tied to a conception
of humans superior, exceptional even
the facts truth be told are really quite other
nodes in a web might be a better descriptor
for we are connected, traversed and embedded
in bacteria, DNA, energy flows
in myriad intimacies largely unknown
A pas de deux
The things that preoccupy us, the stories by which we live
retreat when faced with unvarnished fragility
As if an elemental truth has asserted itself
and we must concede its priority
But this is merely misperception’s sleight of hand
For in birth, death, growth, evolution
in every one of life’s processes
fragility and strength are in a pas de deux
intricate, intimate, inextricable
The body as archivist
Every experience leaves its feather touch upon the deepest layer of our being. It is as though we had walked in a garden and absent-mindedly brushed against a lavender bush. We could quite easily not notice but the bodily memory endures as a fragrance.
The body is a tender archivist. It holds our memories and feelings in the hope that heart and mind will engage in the exquisite task of retrieval, cataloguing, analysis and recycling. An act of faith not always rewarded. For we are just as apt to let things accumulate, to allow the unexamined to mutate cells, clog arteries or thicken into tumors. At which point the body is forced to sound the alarm and is blamed - at least to begin with - for the resulting breakdown of normal life.
No strength without fragility
No strength without fragility
No inconsequential gesture
No life pointless
No death final
Can we imagine living in relation to this truth?