Here's a photo of a lotus flower. They grow abundantly in Thailand, and they flourish with their roots knee deep in the mud. That's a good visual metaphor, a symbol of hope for 2018. No matter how muddy the waters have got this past year, no matter how mired you feel, all that sludge is bound fertilize a few lotus buds.
2017, from what I hear, has been a year of sludge for a lot of people. But as I'm in Hua Hin, Thailand, writing this, and not the West, it's not New Year's Eve, 2017 here, but New Year's Eve, 2560 BE.
Thais are 543 years ahead. They officially follow a Buddhist calendar, so here we all are, no matter what calendar any of us follow, 2560 years after the reckoning of the Buddhist Era. And January 1st hasn't always been the New Year. Before 1941, Thai's celebrated the New Year on April 1st. Even more so, Thais still follow a lunar calendar, which means there might be 12 or 13 months in one year, or 354 or 384 days.
Those variations on ways to mark time have me thinking about time's relativity, about all the myriad cultural ways time might be experienced alongside the uncountable personal variations. I won't get all Einstein on you, but Christian mythology narrates a beginning and an end; Buddhists speak of beginningless time; and Australian aboriginals incorporate "dream time" into their thinking about their experience, giving a dimension to that "time out of time," where supernatural and ancestral beings mind their days.
Plus, the coming of a new year rouses all sorts of musings about time passing. It's a time for celebration and reflection, for embracing and releasing, for cheering and reminiscing. As "Auld Lang Syne" goes, "Shall old acquaintances be forgot / and never brought to mind?" I guess it depends on who the old acquaintances are.
Anyway, I find myself asking myself how I've used my time here, on this planet, not only this year, but in all those accumulated years since birth. This time of year brings pressing questions of how well I've lived, of how much I've learned, and of where I've invested my time. The clock is ticking. We sometimes characterize time as slipping away, as if the abstract concept of "time" is something we might fathomably hold between our fingers. We conceive of time chasing us, like waves, gentle or ravaged, or counting the lines on our skin to the tune, or terror, of a metronome. When we're late for a plane, there's never enough of time. When when we're sitting on a runway on a flight that's delayed, there's always too much.
Then there's Heraclitus' metaphor of time, "You could not step twice into the same river." Or here's another quote from the man, in various translations:
Everything flows and nothing stays.
Everything flows and nothing abides.
Everything gives way and nothing stays fixed.
Everything flows; and nothing remains.
All is flux, nothing is stationary.
All is flux, nothing stays still.
All is flux, nothing stays.
Or how about David Byrne's rendition on the old maxim?
Time isn't holding us, time isn't after us
Time isn't holding us, time doesn't hold you back
Letting the days go by, letting the days go by, letting the days go by...
Ehei Dogen, a monk from the the 12th century, offers other reflections on time. He describes the mountain as time, or you as an embodiment of time. Time itself is being, and all being is time. He starts out his Uji or Time-Being:
An ancient Buddha said:
For the time being stand on top of the hightest peak.
For the time being proceed along the bottom of the deepest ocean.
For the time being a staff or a whisk.
For the time being a pillar or a lantern.
For the time being the earth and the sky.
However you want to conceive it, chew it, feel it, may you have peace with your time on this eve of the new year.
And I must apologize. I've been a lousy muser these past few months. Time has asked me to cross time zones, more than once, and those the knuckles of time have demanded I buckle down and invest its hours earning, saving it and allowing it to flow and grow.
That said, my resolution in 2018, or rather 2561 BE, beyond the resolution to allow wealth to flow, is to keep up with these musings. At least once a month. I've fallen off the wagon, and I'm feeling it. Writing, reaching out in the dark to the lot of you, keeps me sane. Maybe the uselessness of poetry is an act of rebellion against the pressure to monetize our time? We must invest in the wealth of our spirits, our creativity.
Adieu, 2560 BE. Thanks for the mud. May 2561 be full of lotus buds.
This the first in a series of musings that reflects on poetry and ritual and the power of both to regenerate the human spirit in dark times.
In age when politicians misuse language, when speech acts mix with hate acts, when propaganda curtails the transformative power of metaphor, stories of Robert Desnos’ poetic acts in the grimmest of circumstances reminds me that poetry has the power to enchant, transform and at its best – save us.
Who Was Robert Desnos?
Born in 1900 in Paris, as a child, dream worlds fascinated Robert Desnos. He could, according to William Kullik, "drop off in a flash and speak poetry - sometimes in perfect alexandrines - to the astonishment (and sometimes suspicion) of others" (The Voice of Robert Desnois xiii). It's no surprise that in his early twenties, along with surrealists Paul Éluard, André Breton and Louis Aragon, Desnos reimagined poetry in a way that it embraced his fascination with the unconscious, dreams and the uncanny. In his Rrose Sélavy (1922), a collection of aphorisms whose title bears the name of Marcel Duchamp’s alter-ego, Desnos claimed that Duchamp had sent him a direct psychic transmission from New York. Right up until his death in 1945, the possessive powers of language haunted Robert Desnos.
Between 1920 and 1930, Desnos wrote eight books of poetry including Language cuit (1923), Deuil pour deuil (1924), Journal d’une apparition (1927), and The Night of Loveless Nights (1930), all which experimented with different kinds of register, montage and collage. But poetry was not Desnos' only art. He wrote numerous slogans, reviews, essays and radio plays, among them Grande complainte de Fantômas (1933), directed by Antonin Artaud and an adapted poem by Walt Whitman in Le Salut au monde (1936).
In “The Voice of Robert Desnos” (translated by William Kulik), a sense of the mystical, dream-like and incantatory quality of Desnos’ register, influenced by the surrealist aesthetic, comes forth. It begins:
So like a flower and current of air
The flow of water fleeting shadows
the smile glimpsed at midnight this excellent evening
so like every joy and every sadness
it is the midnight past lifting its naked body above the belfries and
I call to me those lost in the fields
old skeletons young oaks cut down
scraps of cloth rotting on the ground and linen drying in farm
I call tornadoes and hurricanes
storms typhoons cyclones
I call the smoke of volcanoes and the smoke of cigarettes
the rings of smoke from expensive cigars
I call lovers and loved ones
I call the living and the dead
I call gravediggers
I call assassins
I call hangmen pilots bricklayers architects
I call the flesh
I call the one I love
I call the one I love
I call the one I love …
In Robert Desnoss, Surrealism, and the Marvelous in Everyday Life (2008), Katharine Conley calls Desnos the most prolific practitioner and star performer of automatism," a practice he makes apparent in "The Voice of Robert Desnos." At heart, automatism, or automatic writing, means writing from the unconscious or, some might say, a supernatural source. A kind of writing without writing, automatic writers took pen to paper in a kind of trance-like state. Fernado Pessoa, author of the The Book of Disquiet (1935), experimented with automatic writing along with William Butler Yeats’ wife Georgie Hyde-Lees.
To get an idea of what the act of automatic writing looks like, Louis Aragon describes Desnos entering a trance-like state in a café: “amid the sound of voices, the bright light, the jostlings, Robert Desnos need only close his eyes, and he talks, and among the steins, the saucers, the whole ocean collapses with its prophetic racket and its banners decorated with long silk banners.”
Whatever explanations lie behind automatic writing, and there are many – from an act of tapping into the unconscious to writing from dissociation to the intervening of spirits – Desnos' talent for automatism might have led to an extraodinary act of liberation.
The Poetry of Resistence
By the 1940s, the Nazis were occupying Paris. Robert Desnos had joined the Resistance. He began publishing articles under pseudonyms that criticized the Occcupation. Using his position at French newspapers, Desnos started to pass on sensitive information to Resistance fighters. In 1944, the Gestapo discovered him, arrested him and sent him to Auschwitz. Moving from camp to camp, Desnos ended up in Terezin in Czechoslovakia, where he eventually died of Typhoid only weeks after the camp had been liberated.
But he didn't die in vain. Far from. In Mechanical Occult: Automatism, Modernism and the Specter of Politics (2004), Alan Ramon Clinton writes that in the camp Desnos would “counter psychological torture by doing palm readings that prophesied long life and good fortune” (29).
Clinton sees Desnos’ palm readings as acts of poetry. He writes that the Desnos’ readings were “remarkably accurate, at least in a poetic sense” (30). Desnos was not a trained palm reader, but his practice in automatism, a belief in the supernatural power of poetry and a talent for stream-of-consciousness word-play allowed him to read poetry in places most couldn't. Those poetic readings of the palms of his fellow prisoners gave them hope if not a sense of beauty. Amidst unspeakable violence, in those small poetic acts, Desnos' readings offered resisted the Nazi occupation of the hearts of prisoners.
In “Can the Imagination Save Us?” (2004), Susan Griffin describes the story of Desnos’ palm reading prophecies her friend Odette, another writer and a survivor of the holocaust, told it to her. When guards began to lead Desnos, along with other prisoners, away from the barracks towards what everyone knew to be the gas chambers, Desnos interrupted the somber silence and jumped out to grab the palm of another man.
Griffin recalls Odette’s story: “Oh, he says, I see you have a very long lifeline. And you are going to have three children." She describes him as "exhuberant. And his excitement ... contagious." In succession, one man after the other offered Robert Desnos their palms. He offered predictions "for longevity, more children, abundant joy.”
The mood of the prisoners, Odette recalls, changed dramatically. Apparently, the guards found themselves unable to go through with the executions. All men, including Robert Desnos, were taken back to the barracks.
Desnos’ surreal, imaginative, poetic act saved them. Could he have performed that act of poetic palm-reading if he hadn’t been practicing all those years his surrealist experiments with words?
Poetry, perhaps, is not a useless practice.
Perhaps it comes from a deepest longing to love, to live. Perhaps allows us to step outside terror towards light and regeneration.
As I publish this, the dead have counted beyond 50 in another mass shooting in America. Some leaders deny their citizens the right to health care; others, the right to vote. 72 years after the liberation of Terezin, the Nazi camp where Robert Desnos read those palms, the far-right have won seats again in Germany's parliament,
What poetic acts can you do to instil hope in situations that appear hopeless? What rituals can you take up to resist the occupation of your spirit? Whose lives might you change with something so seemingly far-fetched and radical that it infuses love into forgotten places?
I hope you've all had wonderful summers - or wonder-filled winters in the southern hemisphere if that's where you are. Or wondrous seasons of sun and rain and cloud and mountain, day and night, night and day, wondering always in all cycles of all things.
I shake off the sand of my summer mind and take stock for the return to all that is the month of September.
It's a slow return.
I've done less than half the things I set out to do in the past six weeks. The most significant thing I did was sit for eight days on a cushion and count my breath. And even that task I didn't perform all that well. I kept losing count. I kept getting lost in story. I kept running into the same conflicts in my mind that brought me away from the simple task of staying present. And if I achieved anything, it was only to realize that the mind is funny place, and I don't have half the control I wish I had.
That said, at the end of the retreat, we ritualistically tied strings around our wrists to remind ourselves of t something significant that came out of those eight days of silence. We were asked to press into the wax of the string a silent imprint of a lesson or memory. This year, I imprinted the word "patience" onto that purple piece of wax string. Patience with all things not understood. Patience with all things misunderstood. Patience with the longing to have it all make sense.
And with that patience comes the memory to slow down. It's an act that is nearly revolutionary these days. You might even say it's counter-cultural to slow down. Everything in the culture suggests it's time to get a move on. Don't linger too long with the coffee. If you have an open hour, better do something with it: achieve something, buy something. Sometimes we take that ethos into our creative work too. We tend to equate our self-worth with our production rate. We don't account for all the patience that great things require to come to light. We shun our darkness and our down days.
Sometimes, we need to push a mythic boulder up a mythic mountain. We need to keep steady with our quests and our questions, to pursue a means cross our finish lines.
But all gardens need patience, a time when nothing appears at eye level.
Look at your hand and take a moment to observe the music that goes into a turning of one wrist. Imagine your cells regenerating - all without your attention. The muscles work together seemingly without effort. Note the grace, poetry and the miracle in every slightest wrinkle and scar and knuckle.
If you're a creative person who feels you haven't "done" enough - this summer or ever - take a moment to appreciate the small creative things you do everyday, sometimes without thinking. Make a list. Make it humorous. Count your heart and your lungs as part of your ongoing creative miracle.
If you're someone that thinks you've failed at something - take Samuel Beckett's advice and make it your mission to "fail better" next time.
What will you "fail better" at today? What dance steps haven't you got right? What meals have you made that look rather unlike the image you had in your mind? Are your first drafts a train wreck? Are you not performing up to someone else's standards? Whose?
Stop measuring yourself against all those numerous, exhausting, endlessly shifting rulers.
You can't be measured.
Omelettes are made by breaking eggs. Novels are published after endless drafts and even more rejection slips. Paintings appear with one messy stroke after another.
Keep making mistakes. Keep slipping up. Keeping getting messsy. And if something divine comes out of it, some success at an uncertain hour, give thanks. Acknowledge the many hands and many mistakes it took to get you there.
Studies in creativity suggest the unconscious needs down time. Our minds need the silent hours to digest whatever they've been fed. Our psyches ask for unsupervised play with whatever material has met us through one of our many senses without a certain outcome in mind.
Feed your heart with devotion. Move your body with love. Take care of your soul today. Surround yourself with people and things who adore you, even when you fail, and adore those beings back. And if you don't get there right away - wherever you're headed - remember, it's not a race.
I remember spending many summer afternoons as a kid in the basement of my parent's house, pulling books of the shelf and flipping aimlessly through them. I treasure those listless days where the unscheduled hours gave me a self-led curiosity. Summers meant doing nothing and allowing oneself to die of ennui.
Do you know that Aesop Fable called "The Tortoise and the Hare?" Well Hare, in all his bravado, skill and finesse figures he's got it made in the race against Tortoise. But he collapses in burn out before he gets to the finish line. Or, he lets his ego get the better of him and figure he's got nothing to learn - he'll win anyway.
Whatever the finish line is for you - whatever journey it is you're on, or line you must cross, (hopefully one you've made for yourself), try a steady approach, one that allows for rest.
Your manuscript, the degree, the contract - you'll get there. Keep going. Make room for mistakes. Ask for support. Expect some failure.
And above all - take it easy.
It feels like I've spent most of my life rehearsing for loss.
Like the 13th century wandering poet-monk Ehei Dogen, to whose texts my late teacher, Michael Stone introduced me, I lost my biological mother in childhood.
You'd have thought that loss might have prepared me for every loss that followed. But Michael's death feels like salt to a wound of some core, unavoidable separation.
In the wake of death, a hollow outline of my teacher's absence stares back at me.
Numerous students, family members and friends count the beads of the mala of Michael's love, now flung to the ocean but still thread in some variation of a heart sutra, simultaneously sutured and strung in the invisible.
Where lies the separation lies between grief and love?
Where lies gulf between life and death?
In Tibetan Buddhism, the dead spend 49 days in the intermediary zone between living and dying, between one life and the next. Loved ones guide the soul through The Bardo to the next incarnation.
Is that where Michael is now?
My culture has no certain language to speak about death and fewer rituals to keep our own souls from fragmenting from a safe holding space.
I hold my heart. A pain that is peaceful at times, and at other times ravaged, pulsates through my collar bones.
I ask questions that have no answers.
Negative capability, writes Keats, is the potential for the beauty of the world to unfold in the poet's wonder. Rilke counselled a young poet in a letter to never stop asking questions, "You might one day live your way into the answers."
If any experience might teach that no certainty exists in this world, it's death. Or maybe death, like taxes, is one of only two certainties. But still, in death, so many questions arise.
Michael suffered from a bipolar disorder, one that unbeknownst to most of his wider community had been worsening. He had talked openly of his depression. His vulnerability with his own pain and the pain in the world opened up a dialogue around trauma, about how wounds initiate our intimacy with the world and our collective responsibility to one another. That eloquence around suffering led me to follow his teachings. Most of my yoga teachers up until then had denied their own pain and encouraged denial in their students.
"Don't admit when you're in pain," one Swami had taught me, "If you talk about your unhappiness, people will think yoga doesn't work."
And so I witnessed all sorts of pain hidden in forms of denial: reckless sex, assumptions that one yoga reigned supreme over another, too-certain assertions about God.
By the time I met Michael, I had one foot poised and planted in Virabhadrasana II, (the warrior pose), and the other facing the door for a quick exit.
I kept one eye on the look out for a yoga I might know intimately on my own terms. And somehow Michael's terms and mine met in a kind of silent contract to approach the world with questions rather than answers.
"How do I intimately know my grief? How do I stay alive amidst heartbreak? How do I embrace the world in its pain and its joy? How do I serve?"
Following my mother's death, my own family in ways masked its grief. I remember once my father in my early 20s showing a slides of the early days of our family. The images of my mother, once alive, now gone, invoked sadness.
Seeing my tears, my father yelled, "You're supposed to be happy!" The utterance is cultural: we often shroud expressions of grief, upset, and anger in shame.
Did Michael, like many, feel shame for his own suffering? Did he march on like so many? Did he turn to a drug to mask the pain? Was it the isolation with a wound that he felt sting? Or was it the stigma, a stigmata, a mark that he feared if he had showed the world it might wound him further? Was he embarrassed? What impulses led him to self-medicate?
A stigma in botany is part of the flower that receives pollination.
In the wake of his death, I only wish he had shared that mark with us. I wish we could have held our teacher's pain in the way he held ours.
Now that stigma pollinates the world with questions and responses.
Where we've inherited shame around mental suffering, I'm not sure.
In his 1923 book The Prophet, Kahlil Gibran writes in "On Joy and Sorrow":
The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.
Is not the cup that holds your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter’s oven?
And is not the lute that soothes your spirit, the very wood that was hollowed with knives?
When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy.
But that wasn't the poem that initiated me to walk with Michael for a while on the path of practice.
On cold winter evening in 2010, I first attended one of Michael's talk at Naada Yoga in Montreal. Tall, agile, full-beaded and gently moving, Michael reminded me, mysteriously, of "home." Now that I look back, I wonder if that feeling of "home" had been a summoning some neglected part of myself. Michael grieved the smallness of his first son's feet, ones that at the time were growing into pre-adolescence. Had he tapped into a grief my own upbringing hadn't allowed me to experience safely?
Touched by his gentleness, the way his words opened up a place in myself I hadn't felt permitted within community to explore, I felt drawn to him.
"Thank you for the light you bring into the world," I wrote Michael in an email, the day after that talk. I copied and pasted a poem by Robert Bringhurst, "Flowers of the Body." It was the beginning of an exchange of poems and words and meetings as a teacher and student that lasted seven. The last verse of "Flowers" reads:
We are the trees we plant
in the one earth of one another,
that they flower there
together: flowers we bring on the living
branch to one another,
in the darkness where there are
no other faces, shapes or colours,
no bouquets, no other
and in spite of that,
and in spite of that,
no faces, voices, colours,
no song singing itself
in the fingertips,
no tongues, no teeth,
no taut lips softening,
and closing, no
of light and fire and
and no flowers
and no hands.
He responded to say Bringhurst was one of his favourites.
Now that I read this poem, I see the prophecy in it. For every life ends in "no tongues" and "no teeth." It reminds me of "The Heart Sutra," a song that sings of the empty place where consciousness has no certain body. When I was going through breast cancer treatment, Michael's partner Carina mentioned she memorized The Heart Sutra to soothe herself.
The "no ears," "no hands" and "no mind" of The Heart Sutra at the time didn't have the same affect on me. But now I see the wisdom in it. In those threads of words I hear an unimaginable state, perhaps like the "no opening / and closing, no / unsoftening," of "Flowers of the Body" by Bringhurst. Repeated ritualistically, perhaps "The Heart Sutra," prepares the body for that state of "no eyes."
Such a place frightens me. Like most people, I hang onto life, to my physical body. I hang onto images of health, of wellness. I hang onto how Michael used to appear to us. When I watch him on video, it feels like I will see him soon.
I had emailed him the day he went into a coma. He told me I had a bell ringing job at the retreat in France. I half expect in my psyche's own denial of his absence, that he will be present at that retreat, calm and welcoming with the gentle embrace with which he ritualistically greeted his students.
As much as anyone, I have learnt ways to mask my pain and my scars.
So, in my own attempt to hold this unknown and uncertain place of "no opening and closing" that we call death, I have created my own rituals to contain the unthreaded complex feelings around loss.
What are those rituals?
Ritual readings of poems. Ritual dances. Ritual sharing. Ritual bowing. Ritual running along the ocean where in the wide expanse of sand, sea and sky where I imagine a world of freedom beyond form. If that is where the "no bouquets" of Michael's body soar, in that empty wide expanse, may it be glorious and alive, full and bright, even in the state of "no eyes."
This share is one ritual. It is one of many poems Michael and I shared through the course of our friendship. For my own healing process, my own mourning, I will continue to share these poems over time.
If you like to bear witness, please do. Or share your own in the comments below.
Que dois je dire?
Je vous remercie pour les pierres, les feuilles de palmier, l'érable, les mains qui sculptent la pierre, le soleil qui allume l'arc, les livres qui dansent, les nouveaux amis, les vieux amis, la musique, les robes et la beauté sans fin. Temps avec mon père. Vos traces. Merci.
Que dois je dire?
Avec amour, toujours,
Photos courtesy of SOUL AMSTERDAM
What's a goddess to you?
Do forces outside your limited sense of self inspire your daily life, your practice, your art and your work?
What is a muse in your mind?
Who is your muse?
Or do you have one?
Amuse: A Course in Contemplative Creativity allows you to investigate the energy of the "muse" in creative and contemplative practice.
The course encourages you to find fresh metaphors to reinvigorate your practice, to give vitality to your work, to offer new energy to your every day life.
Amuse: A Course in Contemplative Creativity gives you the opportunity to open up a little more to the unknown dimension of creativity. As artists are we completely in control, or do we co-create with agencies and influences beyond our limited perception of the self?
The course follows three cycles of three weeks. Each week, you'll be introduced to a Boecian Muse, or goddess of inspiration.
What is a Muse?
A muse might be an androgynous figure. It may be a friend, male or female. A muse might be a stranger you look up to.
A muse might be a composite character that includes the traits of many characters. It might be more like an energy, or a force of nature. It might be the ocean, a daffodil, a sandpiper. If you want, the muse might transverse species and forms like a shamanic beast.
The muses might be any energy that bring you what you need in any moment. They might offer medicine. They might offer romance. In ancient literature, the muse tends to possess a spirited, flirtatious and delightful quality.
If you need pleasure, your muse might point you to pleasure.
If you need materials, the muse might point you to the right set of pens.
If you need support, the muse might point you to the financial or emotional support you need to get your art off the ground.
Your muse might whisper in words, notes or signs.
So who are the muses of Amuse?
Let's meet them.
1. Melete or Attention
The first muse of Amuse is Melete. But if you don't speak Ancient Greek, call her by her English name: Attention.
Sometimes she goes by the name, "Contemplation" or "Meditation."
According to the mythology, Melete is born of water.
The first muse inspires the flow of attention, the flow or ideas, the flow of creativity. She moves like water. Perhaps like water, she transforms states and circumstances.
In addition to paying attention to flow states in contemplative and creative practice, in the first cycle of Amuse: A Course in Contemplative Creativity, we focus on listening.
Sometimes, the muses' clues are subtle. Listening is an art that helps us get in touch with whatever muse we need in any moment.
2. Mneme or Memory
Have you heard of a meme?
If so, you may already be familiar with the second muse, Mneme.
"Meme" comes from the same root as Mneme.
Mneme means memory.
In weeks 4-6 of Amuse, we'll be musing with our memories, investigating what memory is and how it plays out in our physical bodies, in our individual consciousnes and in the collective unconsciousness.
We look at things like limitations, rituals and "murmuration."
Melete, or Attention, influences, Mneme, or Memory. What we attend to mindfully, we often remember.
Artists must tune in consciously and continuously with the world. They must listen to the world, to themselves, to their bodies, to others.
Attention and memory, Melete and Mneme come into play in parenting, teaching, drawing, hairdressing, dancing, public speaking, cooking, gardening, performing, yoga - you name it.
In the second cycle, we lightly touch on different theories of memory. Walter Benjamin calls memory a theatre of the mind. Biologists like Richard Semon envision cell to hold memories that play out in our physical bodies and in our experience of the world.
How do the theatres of our minds/bodies meet the theatres of other minds/bodies? How does the memory of one single event differ from one person to the next? What happens when two people explore the gaps and crossings between personal and interpersonal memories?
The second cycle of Amuse allows you to investigate what memory is and how it might inspire your practices.
3. Aoide or Song
Aoide is the Ancient Greek name for the muse of the human voice. So in the last cycle of Amuse, you'll tune into your own Muse of Song.
But I like to see the "human" voice to include all the inhuman things that help us be who we are. We are interdependent beings after all. Our existence wouldn't be possible without the bees, the trees and the snakes.
Maybe you already have a Muse of Song?
Singing is one expression of Aoide. If you play a guitar, you likely pay attention to the instrument. You might memorize chords or patterns of sounds.
Once you've done a bit of work with attention and memory, you might fiddle, play, or sing more freely with your instrument.
Amuse gives you the opportunity to rekindle your musical, magical, enchanted relationship with the world.
Exactly how you sing through last three weeks of Amuse is up to you, but the guided practices and meditations give you a safe framework in which to explore your own voice.
In Amuse: A Course in Contemplative Creativity, you'll have an opportunity to dive into many dimensions of your own practice.
We work contemplatively. We'll enter into a reflective practice along with a creative practice. We'll ask questions.
I model this aspect of the course on the state of enquiry, the Keatsian mode of negative capability.
At Amuse, we honour the openness to possibility.
You might want to check out the Modern Muses page. Parts of these interviews will be available exclusively to those who register for the paid version of Amuse,
With Amuse, you can go at your own pace.
Amuse takes an approach creativity that sees it as a pleasure, a joy, a delight.
Think of a ritual that brings a sense of wholeness to you. The word "holy" etymologically comes from the word "whole." Not all rituals are religious. Are there any rituals in your life that offer a sense of wholeness?
Create a new ritual. Bring in elements of the land, things that represent to you a sense of your wholeness, your connection to the land. Use the ritual to heal something fragmented in your life.
My sister-in-law's tattoos
A post about accepting the physical body.
My niece used to have two stuffed monkeys. They were "loveys," or blankets crafted into the shapes of animals.
One of the monkeys was called "Own Monkey." I could never tell the difference between the two stuffed monkeys, but she could . But whenever I think of "Own Monkey," I think that my niece is her own monkey. She eats when she's hungry. She dances when she wants to. She seems to be in tune with her natural impulses and rhythms.
At heart, we are all our own monkeys. But sometimes we act as if we're other people's monkeys. We let other people inscribe on us the stories of our own physical bodies. And when that happens, we can sometimes suffer from lack of acceptance. There are so many cultural narratives that tell us not to deeply care for ourselves.
Although friends often comment that I take "good care" of myself. I suffer from a lack of self-acceptance of my physical body sometimes . I used to think that might have to do with getting older. Crows feet, laugh lines, and aches have emerged where there were none before. Then I pause to think, I almost always had some physical insecurity. When I was 16 it was acne. When I was 10, I was too tall. When I was 19, I was too short. At one time, my breasts were too small. Now they're too big. My hair is at times too curly. Other times, it's not curly enough.
When does it ever end? Occasionally, the skewed inner narratives of my friends come to light when I hear them talk about their physical selves in moments of despair. Sometimes a breakdown might be triggered by the offhand comment of an ex-boyfriend or by the act of comparing one's physical self to those images projected onto our psyches by our culture.
I don't have the last word on how to get over that self-criticism. I wish I could tell those suffering, "You are all beautiful," and they'd believe me. We don't criticize the shapes of trees, why do we criticize the shapes of our physical selves? When we walk into a forest, we'd hate to imagine all the birches and the cedar taking the appearance of one homogenous tree type. But we do it to ourselves.
We download an app to take away that mole or that curve that isn't in fashion this season, and we project all those alterations of our dreams onto ourselves, onto each other. Even in activities in part developed to heal our own dissociation from our physicality, as in yoga for example, competition festers and comparisons of physical posture to physical posture abound. When you look at the exercise industry, one that promotes the maxim, "love your body," you see gyms shaming the natural limitations and fluctuations of our physical selves. In his essay, "Against Exercise," Mark Grief writes:
"Fashion historians point out that women freed themselves from corsets worn externally, only to make an internal corset, as they toned the muscles of the abdomen and chest, and dieted and exercised to burn away permanently the well-fed body that whalebone stays temporarily restrained. Though the exerciser acts on his self, this self becomes ever more identified with the visible surface. Through he works on his body, replication makes it ever more, so to speak, anybody."
The physical body - what a story it is. And how many stories do we have about it? Is it your body's story, or just somebody's story? How do we get over stories that aren't working about our bodies? How do we not fall into despair over the physical self, so full of capability, so remnant of a miracle, so unknown, so made of - life?
One of the ways I've found helpful to let go of others' narratives of my physical body is to make up my own stories. I do things to experience the physical body as mindfully and creatively as I can. I try to practice ways that bring out a feeling that I'm my own monkey, and not someone else's.
Here are some small actions I've found helpful to reclaim the narrative of my own physical body. Maybe they'll help you.
1. Perceive the smallest movements of the physical self. Bring your attention to quiet details. Marvel at what you've never noticed before about your skin, your eyes or your hair.
2. Get a tattoo. Reclaim the story of your skin with your own images.
3. Look at other physical bodies and find the magnificence in them. Pay attention especially to those who don't fit the beauty trends at the moment, but don't exclude those who do.
4. Stare at one body part, for example your hand. Remember all the things it did for you today, yesterday and the day before. See you ancestors in your hand. Say, "Thanks hand."
5. Meditate and send warmth, wisdom and compassion to each part of the physical body. Take extra special care to the neglected, disowned or disliked parts.
6. Surround your physical body with a colour. You can do this imaginatively or with clothing. Choose one that you that protects and energies you.
7. Take up dance, rock climbing, swimming. or any new physical exploration. Steer clear of those that emphasize competition or encourage an obsession with the outer appearance,. Choose ones that fill you with joy. Experience the energy of your physical self in a way that is not about the static appearances replicated in photographs. Experience physical strength, the beauty of physical movement and inner physical determination.
8. Write a story of your physical body. Tell its tale from the beginning. Where did the physical body begin? What happened along the way for your awareness to arrive here in this physical form in the way you inhabit it now? Write a poem. Tell the tale of your physical body in epic poetry or in a series of haiku. Maybe it's an absurdist drama?
9. Write what you don’t like about your physical body down on a piece of paper. Then burn those pieces of papers and throw the ashes in a garden called, "Yesterday."
10. Eat some delicious food. Something with vegetables. Choose ingredients so nourishing, light-filled and energizing that you forget about your hang-ups. Prepare the meal yourself. Contemplate your connection to the land through each bite you're eating.
Enjoy what you can about your physical body. You're lucky to have one - imagine life without it? Own that monkey!