noname

photo by Laura Duldner, (c) 2014

This past Saturday night…

I climbed up onto a stage and did something I’ve never done before. I stood at a microphone and read my intimate poetry to a group of about one hundred and fifty people gathered to support Syzygy Dance Project, a project led by one of my dance teachers, Sylvie Minot, to bring dance into the jails, prisons, veteran’s homes, and recovery groups.

I read four of my poems, three of which I’ve never shared with the public.

As I sat in the audience waiting to take my turn on stage, I could feel butterflies in my stomach. As soon as I felt them, I knew I was caught up in my own mind, caught up in comparison, caught up in wondering how others would feel about, and what they will think about, me and my ‘performance’. I was out there – out away from myself. I could feel it. My thoughts were conjuring up worries about what hadn’t yet even occurred.

It’s a habit I’ve had, many decades old.

But now, when I feel this kind of worry, I know to come back to myself. When I do, I can feel myself coming back in from out there, back into my center.

As I came back to center, all I could ask of myself was to offer what I have, as it is, as I am.

It’s not even a question of being enough, because that would be back in a place of comparison.

Enough compared to what?

Enough compared to whose standards?

For me, center is simply where I know myself as I am. There is no comparison, because at center I simply am what I am.

In coming back to center, I noticed I felt a kind of joy about sharing my poetry. It was a simple kind of love, a genuine joy, a sense of impending delight. I could sense that I really wanted to do this, not for anything from anyone else, but for me. I wanted to share.

This desire to share was a wonderful feeling. It felt simple. And, I felt a kind of agelessness, with no worry or anxiety to cause time to creep in.

As I felt this desire, I sensed even more clearly something I’ve been holding back on in my life. For years.

My friends know this already because usually what we finally admit to ourselves others have known all along.

I am an artist.

I am an artist.

It’s not the label so much that is important. In fact, it’s not the label at all. When I say, ‘I am an artist’, I’m saying that I am here to create. Yes, I teach. Yes, I coach.

And, at the heart of it all…

I am a champion of Soul-expression – deep, passionate, real Soul-expression.

A champion for others, yes!

And, now, finally, a champion for myself and my own works of art.

 

To finally get to this place…

I had to realize that I can’t be in the world, doing what I truly desire to do – creating beauty – if I need a certain kind of response from anyone who is on the receiving end of my work. This is different than being in business in a way, because in business we do need a certain kind of response in order to know we are serving our clients, and in turn making a living.

But in art, the fullness of our expression cannot come through if we are attempting to please others, to change our art, our poetry, and our creations in order to get them to understand it. This is not to say we don’t have to find a way to be clear. But that clarity comes through as part of the creativity, not as something we do on the other end to try to anticipate others’ reactions.

In art, the fullness of expression must come through, and then, after that happens, others get to experience that expression in whatever forms it might take.

And here, once the expression is complete, as it was with my poems, then I could stand and share them, in tact, knowing they are whole without anyone’s approval. They are whole in and of themselves. They are creations in and of themselves. In the act of creating, I can feel this wholeness. I know when the creation is complete and full and true. I can feel it. And, knowing each creation is complete unto itself, as people told me how the poetry affected them I felt joy that they saw the poems for what they are. I felt happy because the poems moved people. I felt a kind of connection with others through the poetry.

 

In truth…

I think some of my breakthrough came from reading and working through Tanya Geisler and Lauren Bacon‘s new creation, Beyond Compare. Some of it was not new to me, because I teach this work. I teach about the Voice of Judgment and Creativity. But, their work goes deeper. I was finally able to see how much I was still fearing being an artist because of old messages that caused me to try to live up to some external standard. It was comparison in a different guise.

I am not an affiliate for Beyond Compare. I just know that it helped me see through something that’s been blocking me for a long time. Tanya interviewed me for Beyond Compare so I could share what I discovered. In the interview, I shared that I discovered I’d been hiding – hiding my creations, not only from the world, but from myself, because I didn’t think I could handle the criticism. And, I’ve been hiding from my deep longing to be an artist.

noname (1)

photo by Laura Duldner, (c) 2014

My poetry was well received. I know that’s because I received these poems myself, for me first, and because I received myself as I am, coming back to the joy, love, and, yes, delight! that is at the center of who and what I am.

If you wish to find out more about Beyond Compare, you can sign-up here. Beyond Compare will be available tomorrow, October 28th.

 

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Radiance

by Julie on October 14, 2014 · 3 comments

PeonyDarkCenterBaFoN

 

The other day…

I was feeling frustrated.

I’ve been feeling so much creativity inside, like there’s this impulse – so strong – to create. The impulse was like a river running – so strong and vital. I’ve got a few things I’m working on, so it’s not like I’m not creating. I am. Yet, I’ve always had this thought that somehow I have to express all of what I feel into the world.

It’s sort of a funny thing how I’ve thought this. I don’t know if you can relate. I can remember feeling this way as a child – that I could feel and sense and see so much that isn’t part of this world that we see, yet even though I really wanted to share what I saw with others, it was hard to describe to anyone in words. Certainly, few adults seemed to understand.

 

When I was young,

I would sit under the weeping willow tree in the back yard, whose branches swooped almost down to the ground. I felt like I was invisible within her branches. I would sit there on this little bench that ran along the fence and just feel how alive everything around me was. I felt at home there. I didn’t need to explain to the weeping willow what I saw and could sense – I knew she could sense me.

The frustration I felt the other day, I hadn’t felt for a long time. Feeling it took me back to those years as a child when I felt like I had to get what is inside out there into the world. And, that felt impossible. To feel this again was like all of this that I felt inside had to come into the world somehow through my voice, up and out of my body through my mouth and my hands and my ideas. It felt frustrating.

I wrote and shared this:

Maybe we can never really fully express the depth and breadth of the Soul into this material world. It feels like trying to open a firehose through a kitchen faucet. Such immensity. Such fullness. So many layers beyond what is evident in this world of matter. Simplicity seems to be key. Simple. open, honest expression that pulses with the vibrancy of Soul.

The words came from feeling like the only way it could all come out is if I keep it simple…like the energy itself would have room then.

 

The very next day…

I was at dance and an image flashed across the screen in my mind. It was an image of me dancing, and all of this vibrancy and intensity and expression was radiating out of me in a complete infinite sphere, meaning it was 360 degrees around in every direction.

And then it dawned on me. (Thank goodness, because the relief was huge.)

Of course.

 

All of this energy isn’t ‘inside of me’, something I’ve thought for so long as an adult. It is me. It is radiating. I don’t have to try to get it out of me and into the world. It is in me. It is in the world. It is the world. It is me. There is no separation.

 

It was such a beautiful image and such a clear insight. As I danced, I just felt it, or me, radiating. It was as if the energy was coming into me, but also then radiating back out into ‘the world’ or whatever that really is. I could, and can, feel this pulsing center into which, and out of which, life seems to radiate.

Talk about freedom. Suddenly, I felt no more attempting to force or control or wish to do something with this energy…what I can feel is simply the life force that is what I think of as me. And, I had to laugh. It was really quite funny what I’d been making up in my mind about what I had to DO with it all.

We are simply this vitality. It is always moving. Trying to DO something is really trying to control it. It knows how to move. It just moves.

 

It radiates. You radiate. Have you ever had someone tell you that? That you look radiant? Yes, there you go.

Radiance.

Come to think of it, that beautiful weeping willow was radiant, too.

 

What if you are creativity?

What if that is what you are, creation pulsing with creativity?

What if it takes NO effort at all?

What if your life force knows how to flow, and that who you really are longs to radiate?

 

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Your Body is a chalice for your Creativity.

by Julie on September 29, 2014 · 1 comment

 

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So many myths. So many road signs. So many descriptions of how to enter into the divine mystery. It is laid out for us to see. At least as much as it can be…the mysterious part remains just that, thank goodness.

Over the centuries, people have tried to understand what it takes to enter into the unknown. Whether it be the Hero(ine)’s journey, Inanna’s descent, or navigating a labyrinth, those who’ve traversed this terrain have tried to find ways to guide others through. It’s really quite beautiful.

What I’ve found through so many of these myths, stories, and guides is this: We have to let go of something in order for our hands, hearts, minds to be empty enough to receive that which is being offered to us. And, in receiving what is offered, we take charge of the seedling. We become the gardner, the attendant, the one who will love this seed into expression. It is not our task to ask that it be a certain kind or flavor. It is not our task to judge this seedling.

Nor is it ours to question our ability or capacity to be this home of nourishment and growth. We were created for this. Our capacity has been given to us as a sacred task while living in a human body.

As Creatrix, our role is to welcome the creative seed and to give it a place to burrow down into the soil of the flesh so it can be held in the nourishing dark. It must have a home as its shell breaks open and roots and wings grow forth.

Your human body is a chalice always being filled with love, inspiration, and breath. Just as we are breathed, we are filled with the creative force, a force that rises up from the base of the chalice that is the body.

As I’ve been researching how we are guided into the mystery for Writing Raw, my new online writing circle for women, over and over I see the same markers of the map into this terrain. Yes, there are different words used, or different myths that carry the stories. But the relationship is always the same. It is a relationship where we who enter must let go, unveil, or undergo initiation so that we are open and vulnerable enough to be entered into by that which is meant to come in. It is the nature of our dance with the divine.

writingrawpin02AsCreatrixAnd, that is why I am offering Writing Raw.

This relationship we have with the sacred mystery is an important one because if we are not conscious of this relationship in our everyday lives, then we aren’t conscious of the sacred, of the very real presence of love in the world as it is right now. If we are not aware of how to open our hands and hearts to what is being given – not what we want, but what is being offered – then we aren’t in relationship with our intrinsic power as human beings to be a force of good, a force that is moved by love.

It is our relationship with the sacred, with love, that needs healing. If we know the sacred, we see it in everything in our world and in our lives.

It is a great act of love to take the journey within in order to be and live this chalice that you are.

It is a great act of love.

I would truly love for you to enter into this vibrant writing circle for women, Writing Raw. We will be practicing with these powerful ways to enter into this mysterious, sacred circle of receiving so we can truly be these vessels. Take a look. See if it resonates. Reach out to me if you have questions.  Join if it feels right.

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pleasure

 

“In touch with the erotic,
I become less willing to accept powerlessness,
or those other supplied states of being which are not native to me,
such as resignation, despair, self-effacement, depression, self-denial.”
~ Audre Lorde

 

This is how I see the erotic. This is how I feel the erotic. When I feel it within, there is a natural responsiveness to life, a raw aliveness that is unbridled and utterly receptive.

This is why I feel it is so important to reclaim this word as a word that points to fullness, wholeness, ripeness; a word that is at the heart of a creative, sensual world. Because when we are in touch with the erotic, we feel alive. And when we are in touch with the erotic, we feel a natural urge to rise up for life, to serve life.

Eros is the love that life has for life itself. We are missing this in our world. We’ve come to equate the erotic with sexuality, and then it makes us uncomfortable, and we don’t want to feel this discomfort. So we end up not feeling, and when we don’t feel we can’t feel this natural response within us to rise up to protect life. We are destroying our home and we aren’t rising up in response to this destruction.

We live in this natural world that revels in beauty, wholeness, and fullness. And, it’s a world that revels in life and in death, because there cannot be one without the other. In other words, this world we inhabit is at its core WHOLE.

For me, the erotic is this ever blossoming, ever blooming and growing, wholeness – always on the verge of coming into being and always on the verge of dying away. It’s a rising and falling, an ever-present, effervescent call to itself, not for itself, but for the cycle of life.

The erotic IS powerful, it is creativity, sexuality, vitality – it is our life force.

While some might tell you it is simply porn, they would be seeing a sliver of this wholeness. But, then, isn’t that what we see these days in our world? Everywhere I look, I see us believing in a sliver of what is really here.

When I look out onto the world, I see this amazingly fecund, fertile existence. Existence that recreates itself continuously. Existence that cycles in rhythms and flow, dances in light and dark, sings its song in more frequencies than any human could even imagine.

Our bodies are fertile beds, directly impregnated by life itself. Our seedlings grow, the embryos hatch, the babies bloom.

Everything in existence feels the urge to emerge.

What I know…

There is a deep well within every woman that is untouched by cultural conditioning, home to the erotic, home to the feminine soul. Over the past two decades, I’ve been committed to find this well within, this place where I could come to know my own reflection as a whole woman.

This could be called the well of the erotic. I call this well the temple of our erotic nature. Eros is the love that life has for life itself. And, we humans seem to be out of touch with this love. This love for life itself. We are missing the deep feeling of this, this effervescent response to care for life here on our home, earth.

Our world is thirsty for this response to care for life itself, and it is this response that moves within YOU.

We need the wild, the feral – that which swims in your blood, stirs the marrow of your bones, and beats within the chambers of your heart.

We need to feel this response for life. It is medicine. 

I don’t see it so much as a doing. I see it as a re-igniting. When this fire is relit, who knows what will happen. But it is essential to light the flame again.

 

A few months ago…

writingrawpin01I heard the words, “Writing Raw” and I saw an image of women gathering from all around the world to write together, to write from this sacred well within.

There are two aspects to the reclamation of wholeness:

journeying into the unknown of the internal world with open arms and a willingness to not abandon what you find, and gathering in circle to share the words and stories sourced from this well.

 

Registration is now open…

Writing Raw is here, and I am very excited to share it with you.

We will come together for six weeks to explore together. You don’t have to be a writer. And, you might be a writer. We are using writing as a vehicle to move what is inside this erotic temple out into the world. It might simply be to your journal. It might be to share with each other in the circle. And, it might be to share with the world at large.

In Writing Raw, my job is to act as guide into this realm within, the realm of power that is good medicine.

I would love to have you join me for these six weeks. Please take a look to see if it resonates with you. If you feel the erotic urge, the pull to become the vessel for the expression of your soul into the world, come join me!

Update:
Over the next two weeks until we begin, I’ll be sharing different aspects of the circle – various thresholds we will go through to bring forth the words that want to be written. I know it will be engaging and enlightening.

 

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Wholly Erotic. Life itself is a Creative Act.

by Julie on September 16, 2014 · 3 comments

640px-La_danse_(I)_by_Matisse

La Danse (The Dance) by Henri Matisse

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Oh, those crazy messages of lack, and shame, sin and fear that’ve been whispered in our ears for millennia.

When we hear such messages over and over, we don’t just hear them, we begin to feel them in the cells of our bodies. Listening to them, you feel what they say. If they stick in our head and move down to our heart, we begin to feel what they say. Then, we begin to believe they are our own messages. Then, we begin to believe they are true.

I’ll let you in on something I’ve discovered. They aren’t ours. They aren’t true. They can be tossed back to those who first began to say them, so long ago.

Don’t listen to them. Or, if they are persistent, pretend your head is a one-room cabin with two side doors where your ears are, and let those messages of lack and shame and fear come in one door and go out the other. They won’t even know, or care, that they passed right through. They’ll just keep on going, whispering, or shouting if that is the case. Let them keep moving the way they are moving. They are looking for a home to land in, but that home doesn’t have to be yours. For them to land, the receiver must be receptive to their guest request.

Put up your ‘no vacancy’ sign.

Then, open the door of your heart to the love that is our universe, to the love that is here just waiting to fill every cell of your body, every fiber of your soul. It’s love. It’s creativity. It’s vibrantly alive. It’s wholly erotic.

Wholly erotic. That’s just it. Eros is a wholeness. It’s been sliced and diced into a sliver of what it really is.

Last Sunday,

I went to see the Matisse exhibit at the Legion of Honor, here in San Francisco. It was a beautiful, sunny Sunday afternoon. I’d just finished dancing – something I adore, as most of you know. I always feel clear and grounded, and a kind of ‘spent feeling’ after dance – like I’ve thoroughly sweated everything out that might be keeping me from being fully present in my body. It’s a feeling of deep peace and simple joy.

So, I arrived at the museum already feeling good. I love Matisse’s paintings. I always have. Something magical happens for me every time I stand in the exhibit room and look at his bright colors, thick powerful lines of paint, and the surreal way he uses white to capture light. When I am in this experience, I feel so damn alive. So alive. I feel the colors’ pulse and the vibrancy of these thick lines of paint. It’s as if the movements of his body to create the paintings come through the painting itself, as if I can feel the dance he did to create the work.

I spent about 30 minutes in the one-room exhibit and then I found the cafe. I’d brought my paper and pen to write. The cafe has a beautiful patio in the sunshine. The museum is right by the entrance to the Golden Gate Bridge, so the air is really crisp and clean, especially when the sun is bright. The light was amazing. So, I sat down to write, pen to paper, filled with so much of what I love.

And the words flowed. They flowed like honey because I felt like honey.

I’d had this image in my mind’s eye of writing right after doing these things that I love, and while being in an environment that I love.

You see, I no longer see that it is selfish or privileged to experience this love and beauty so fully. That does not mean I don’t recognize that I am privileged, that simply because of my race and class I have access to these kinds of experiences that others do not. I know it. And, I also know that to not live the joy, and the eros that is present in this joy, isn’t being in integrity.

“Service can have no meaning unless one takes pleasure in it.
Service which is rendered without joy helps neither the servant, nor the served.”
~ Mahatma Gandhi

If you don’t do what you love, ultimately, what purpose are you serving?

To silence joy, to banish beauty, to not seek out that which awakens my soul and brings her forth into this soul-starved world would make no sense whatsoever. And, it would be buying into these messages of lack, and shame, sin and fear.

If I were simply to keep them to myself, I wouldn’t be living them. But, when I infuse everything I do with this erotic, creative awareness that I am, I am then a vessel that offers this love back out into the world.

What a powerful expression it is to live our full-on, wholly erotic, creative joy. Life itself is a creative act. It is born out of the erotic. When I live what I love, fully, I bring forth love – not lack, nor fear, nor shame.

I sense that is what we are here to do. To remember this love, to remember this joy, to know, deep in our cells, we are life wanting to live not for itself, but for life.

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I’m getting ready to open the door to a new offer – a 6-week writing circle.

This writing circle will incorporate so much of what I have learned, experienced, and come to see. It will incorporate the erotic. We will see what we uncover. If you want to be the first to know, sign-up here to receive the news. I’d love to have you join me.

 

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TouchHealthySoil

 

Fertile soil rich with everything it takes for life to spring forth.  The soil must be tilled, fed, prepared, planted, watered, and acknowledged for the mystery it holds.

Life is a creative impulse moving all the way through its arc of expression. You are life. You are a creative impulse in an arc of expression. You, too contain rich, fertile soil that holds the mystery of your existence and expression.

Sometimes, in order for your creativity to pour forth, the most powerful thing you can do is lay your creation at the foot of this sacred garden within you and allow it to grow of its own accord.

Math, Beauty, and the Unexpected

My path to a degree was a long, sixteen year process. I started at a small satellite center of Consumnes River College in Placerville, California, a small circle of portable buildings right behind Raley’s grocery store, affectionately nicknamed ‘UBR’ or University Behind Raley’s. For many of those sixteen years, I took only one class a semester as I was working full-time and raising my two girls. I took my first college Path class (after years away from school) in one of those portables.

For the next ten years, I took one class a semester. And then … my husband died. It was after his death, that I began in earnest to pursue that diploma. A few years later, just before I transferred to Stanford, I took my second semester of Calculus.

I had always felt math was beautiful, but in this class of Calculus I discovered that math had an unexpected beauty. My professor was a much-older man. He had a shy and kind demeanor and was soft spoken. I really enjoyed his teaching because he taught math with gentleness, and with a clear love of the subject. And, he taught math with poetry. At the end of each class, he would pull a chair into the center of the room, grab a book of poetry, and sit down, with great intentionality, to read one poem. These moments became very precious to me over the weeks we met together.

During one class toward the end of the semester, we were studying ‘series’. I won’t explain what they are, other than to say that if you follow them all the way through, you arrive at sine and cosine. I had learned of these two formulas many years before, but to witness how they were actually derived, organically and beautifully, brought tears to my eyes. The beauty was so clear, perhaps brought even more forward by the beauty of this man’s love of math and gentle heart. I sat in my chair and the tears welled up, thick and deep in my eyes, and then they began to fall. He saw them fall. He stood and looked at me for what seemed to be a long, long time, (although in reality what was probably only a few seconds), and then tears fell from his eyes, too.

We were sharing a love of math, but also a love of something so much greater – a love of that which is the source of math, beauty, poetry, life.

I remember feeling the joy of seeing something unfold, of watching the magic that is at the heart of creation. I had no idea that series would lead to sine and cosine. No idea. None. And, voila, there they were. Unveiled.

What I really want to share here…

… and I am using math and poetry and beauty as a way to do it, is the deep, deep creativity of the universe. It’s the same creativity that is at the heart of YOUR nature.

Sometimes, the unveiling is really deep. This depth requires time for creation to reveal itself. Sometimes, the depth requires darkness. This is the process of incubation. Sometimes, as the creative process unfolds, things are in the dark for quite a while before they appear.

Just this past week, 

Maryam Mirzakhani of Stanford University was honored with the top award in Mathematics, the Field’s Medal, which is often described as the Nobel Prize of mathematics. This Venture Beat article mentions Mirzakhani’s process of incubation in reference to math and the ‘depth’ of her process.

“Mirzakhani likes to describe herself as slow. Unlike some mathematicians who solve problems with quicksilver brilliance, she gravitates toward deep problems that she can chew on for years. “Months or years later, you see very different aspects” of a problem, she said. There are problems she has been thinking about for more than a decade. “And still there’s not much I can do about them,” she said.”

Incubation happens in the dark, beneath the soil, in a sacred place.

After entering into a question, or holding a problem somewhere in our mind, more often than not, we must give that question or problem some time in the dark to allow it to germinate, to sprout, and to grow. Newborns who are too small to live on their own are placed in an incubator until their vital body parts are functioning well enough on their own to exist outside of the incubator. And, the same is true for seedlings too young and tender for the harsh sun. They must be strong enough before they break through the soil into the light of day.

 

The etymology for incubation is this:

Latin incubare, the source of incubate, literally meant ‘lie down on’; and incubation once had the sense of sleeping in a sacred place or temple for oracular purposes.

Incubation is a vital part of the creative process; so much so, that when I begin a project, while my tendency can be to wait until I’m under a deadline, if I simply begin the project, I also begin the incubation process. This beginning doesn’t have to be developed, meaning I don’t have to do a whole bunch to get it started. I just have to begin. Beginning begins the whole process if I have a clear question or problem to solve, or vision to bring about. It’s the clarity and the holding that begins the incubation process. The question is clear. The vision is clear. The intention is set. The seed can do what it needs to do in the dark, because I have done what I need to do in the light.

Great significance for YOUR creativity

Consider your creation (vision or dream). It must be clear enough to begin. It can be as simple as a question. It can be a more complex vision. But it has to have specificity. Consider a seed. You have a seed that will grow into something. It’s not a vague seed – it is specific. It will be a specific type of plant based on the seed. The seed holds the creation. Your creation has a seed, too.

Consider planting a seed. You have to till the soil. Perhaps add nutrients. Make a hole. Place the seed in the soil. Cover it so it is in the dark. The darkness is what it needs to do what it needs to do.

It is the same with your creations. They must have time in the dark. They must have time to lie down in the sacred temple below the soil so that the divine mystery can do what it does – unfold spirit into the flesh of matter.

The creative process is a Whole process.

Reason and intuition, mathematics and poetry, sunshine and dark soil underground: creativity is the continual marriage of yin and yang. Both are necessary for health and wholeness of any beautiful aspect of life.

Just as we need to honor women in the realms of math and science, we must also honor the yin, or feminine, in these realms, too. For the most part, we are taught that simply working hard on a project will bring forth innovation and creativity. But this is only half the picture. When we acknowledge the power of incubation, that which happens underneath the surface of things, in addition to working hard on a problem, and we then consciously cultivate this sacred power, we bring our awareness to wholeness and the cyclical nature of creativity.

If we truly want to be creative as a people, a species, we have the opportunity to come back into right relationship with something we have tried to control for hundreds of years – the mysterious nature of life. What would a right relationship look like with this sacred place beneath the soil, this place of incubation? What happens there beneath the soil, while set in motion by our hard work and attention, is wondrous. We attempt to explain and prove what it is, but can we also meet it with wonder? The wondrous is right in front of us, all around us, within us. While we acknowledge our hard work and smarts, can we also acknowledge the sacred, too?

To truly be in relationship with the sacred means we bring back wonder and humility to the equation. It means we lay our need to control down, and instead, listen and receive.

An understanding of a creativity that acknowledges and incorporates the sacredness of life might actually bring forth the sacred intelligence of life that could save us from ourselves.

 

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For Life’s Benefit

by Julie on August 12, 2014 · 1 comment

tuliplayers

 

We live with many powerful beliefs in our culture.

 

Life is conquerable, controllable.

We are entitled to a ‘good’ life.

What gets in the way of the ‘good’ life is a burden.

If we don’t have a ‘good’ life then there is something wrong with how we are living it.

Do whatever it takes to get over, get rid of, move past, the bad stuff…so we can get back to living the ‘good’ life.

 

But this IS the life. All of it is life.

The truth is, we aren’t entitled to anything. We don’t deserve anything. We are given life with each breath. And we live until we don’t breathe anymore.

 

Last week, my grandson received a new heart valve. He’d had two open heart surgeries in his first two years of life (his first on his first day of life). After his second open-heart surgery when he was just two, the doctors told us that researchers were working on a valve that could be delivered to the heart by catheter through the artery in the groin. It seemed like science fiction that he might not have to endure another open heart surgery when this valve wore out.

Eleven years later, this past week, that’s exactly what we experienced. He received his new valve without having to open his chest again.

His life is not easy on many levels. Multiple complications from that very first day of life have presented him with a life that has its challenges. But this life is his life. It only seems it should be different when we compare it to some damn ‘ideal’ of what life should be, a fictional ideal that is paraded around our culture on a daily basis, but an ideal that just doesn’t exist.

Yes, on the surface, some have it ‘easier’. Yes, on the surface, some have it ‘harder’. But none of those comparisons actually help in the living of one’s life. And, at the most basic level, the comparisons are not logical, because life doesn’t compare. Life just creates and lives its creations.

What does help is how we hold life. Do we see it as a burden to try to get through? Do we see others problems, or our problems as something to fix so our lives will become the glistening, gleaming perfection we’ve been told they should be?

Or, do we live them in open honesty, at least with ourselves. Do we tell ourselves the truth? Do we allow ourselves to see the messiness of human love that we are, love in a human, frail body, attempting to live as if we are perfect, while all the while denying the divine imperfection that is our humanity.

Life isn’t supposed to feel ‘good’ all the time. How do I know that? Because it doesn’t.

What I discovered this week was that I was holding things in my life as if they were a burden. I was tired of grief, tired of pain, tired of feeling as though another shoe was going to drop. A part of me wanted that easy, gleaming life. But I came to see that it was this very perspective that was causing it to feel like a burden. I was making it happen in my own mind. I was pushing life away, rather than drawing it near to me.

As the day of my grandson’s procedure (yes, they call it a procedure instead of a surgery because he didn’t have to be opened up!) grew near, I realized how damn lucky I am to be his grandmother. And after the procedure, as I sat next to him in recovery, as he slept and his heart beat with gusto, I laid my head and hand on his heart and felt the life move through his body. I felt the pleasure of being with him, the tenderness of the moment borne from joy and elation that he had a new, vibrant lease on life, that he was alive.

I touched his shoulder and kissed his forehead. And, I simply sat with him and felt grateful.

Life isn’t supposed to feel ‘good’ all the time, but it can feel real.

Life isn’t binary, a series of on and offs, zeros and ones, goods and bads, blacks and whites. It just isn’t. No matter how hard we try to make it that way, it isn’t.

Life isn’t a machine. It’s isn’t the enemy. It isn’t something to fix.
I am not a machine. I am not the enemy. I am not something to fix.

There is no good life waiting for us at the end of the rainbow.

Everything moves. Everything changes. We control none of it. All we can do is dance, open to what is here, do our best to be present to it, receive it, sit with it. We can touch it, love it, feel it pulsing, grateful to know it as it is. We can hold our life in our hands and know it wasn’t made for our benefit, it was made for life’s benefit.

This has been the greatest reminder for me…

I was not put here on earth for my benefit, I was put on earth for life’s benefit. Am I living this?

 

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Be Full of Your Self

by Julie on July 29, 2014 · 3 comments

youarethemiracle

 

One of the things I say often in the course of teaching, and often here on the blog, is that we are what we are. We cannot be anything else. We can pretend to be someone else, and we do that all the time through our words, choices, and actions. But, in reality, we can’t be anything other than who and what we are.

I mentioned this in the 5-week summer course I just finished teaching, Unleashing Creativity and Leadership for Women, through Stanford Continuing Studies, and it had a powerful effect on the women. Sometimes, okay often, we don’t realize just how much effort we put into attempting to be something we are not and could never be. That doesn’t mean we cannot become more healthy human beings, but it does mean that at the core of who we are is a soul with certain innate qualities and expressions.

We learn, early on, not to believe in the goodness of these innate soul qualities. We learn, early on, that we must conform ourselves to ideas of a ‘better self’, ideas that come from outside of us…which leads us to engage in a practice of continuing to look outside of ourselves for how we should be, who we should be, and what we should say and express in the world.

I remember some of the messages I received as a child. “Don’t be so full of yourself.” “Don’t look in the mirror – it’s vain.” “Don’t be so outspoken.” “Don’t talk about yourself so much.”

Don’t, don’t, don’t be YOU, see YOU, speak YOU.

I understand that parents want their children to be good people, and to be socially adept rather than blatant narcissists.

I grew up in the 50′s and 60′s, and if you remember these years at all you know what I’m talking about. I had two sisters and I know what we were taught. It wasn’t just in the family. It was especially strong in the schools, especially for girls. I don’t know how it was for boys during that time.

No wonder why it’s taken me so long to speak what I know, to love what I see in the mirror, and to honor the soul that lives and breathes through this female body as a soul of goodness.

Consider believing you can’t be full of yourself. If that’s the case, whom should you fill yourself with?

If you were told something remotely similar, whom and/or what did you learn to fill yourself with? If you think about the false self you portray, whom is it made up of?

If you are taught to second-guess the words that want to come out of your mouth or onto the paper, or the images that want to be painted or drawn, or the movements that your body wants to do on the dance floor, what comes out instead? And what is being kept hidden?

::

Take a moment to consider the messages you were told about who you should be, how you should act, and what you get to say, do, express. For that matter, take a few moments. Write them down. Let them roll around in your consciousness.

Then, peel them off of you. Unwrap them from around you. Some might be really sticky, almost velcro-like. If that’s the case, remove the other half of the velcro from your beautiful self and soul so that the whole enchilada floats away. As you peel them off, see them disappear into nothingness.

I do this as a deep, extensive exercise in my course, Becoming a Force of Nature, and what happens is always quite amazing. The results always confirm what I know – that we know who we are, that we know we are pretending, and that somewhere we long to remove everything that covers us up.

Be full of your Self!

Fill yourself with your innate soul qualities that are your essence. Let the goodness of who and what you are radiate out your eyes, spill onto the canvas, page, or job you do. Speak from your soul. Breathe into the world the essence of who you are.

You might find that you have a bunch of beliefs about allowing this to happen. That would make sense. We only uphold this illusional self if we believe, for varying reasons, that it’s not okay to do this. But, persist. Find the desire within you to be you, to speak what you know, to express what is in your soul.

It is true. When you love the whole human experience, you are the miracle. YOU are the miracle. Something miraculous happens when you love who and what you are, and you love the whole of your life and the whole of the world.

This is what it means to be full of your Self, to radiate the love that you are, deep, deep down in the center of you. It is to make peace with who you are and how things are. Then, only then, can love move through you as the unique expression of You.

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Screen Shot 2014-07-20 at 6.34.41 AM

 

His hands are well muscled, his fingers nimble and exquisitely sensitive to the clay in motion.

As I watch, I can feel my own fingers following the nuances of his touch, as if they, too, can sense the impulse that feeds that touch. The music settles into me, its rhythm opening me deeper into the experience of watching this man do what he does with such precision, and seemingly such love.

I wonder how many turns of the wheel his hands have guided. I see how they ripple with the clay. I feel his muscle memory in mine, and I remember moments when my hands touched with such love.

It wasn’t clay, it was flesh – a close kissing cousin to clay.

My hands touched and guided flesh in this same way. Flesh that loved to be touched, and flesh that I loved touching.

Maybe that’s why he is so digitally articulate. Maybe his fingers dance along the ridge between clay and air, because he’s touched flesh, too, just as my fingers have danced along the edge between invitation and invasion.

He knows this clay, intimately. You can see this. I wonder how well he knows flesh. I wonder if a potter’s hands become so intuitive in their touch that they know flesh and bone and blood as elements to be turned and guided and nudged, just as lovingly, just as exquisitely.

Touch is prayer in motion, and as I watch the graceful mark his muse makes upon this world, causing the rim and curve and edge to emerge, I know grace moves through hands in extraordinary ways. Images of past clients flash in front of my inner eyes, those who knew beyond any doubt that life wanted to create through their hands. They knew this as well as they knew their own names. Their hands spoke to them, much as I sense his hands speak to the clay, telling them it was time for them to make their mark in this world.

My hands are speaking in much the same way. They want more than to just tap. They want to touch the flesh of life. They want to make things – real, physical, beautiful things.

Hands want to make. They want to mold and shape and knead. They want to know how it feels as the muse anoints them as vessels, carries them over to bliss, making love to them in service to creation.

I’ve sometimes been struck by the sight of my own hands, held out in front before my own eyes, suddenly and seemingly to be hands that could belong to anyone but me. Those moments when I was nobody, and no body, in particular, but simply life peering out of my eyes, I watched my own hands touch, fingers dancing along the ridges of whatever it was they were conversing with. In those moments, I’ve witnessed the inherent wisdom in the cells of hands and palms and fingertips. I’ve seen and felt and known how hands offer the direct expression of Soul into this material world. And, heart lines move out to and through hands and fingertips, offering love in a way the heart cannot.

Each piece meticulously loved. Each expression uniquely molded. Each creation mindfully shaped by something we can’t see nor hear nor touch, but something we feel echo through our cells.

After watching hands create, is there any doubt at all in the way love persistently and powerfully demands to be expressed?

::

The muse moved through these hands to tap, tap, tap, after watching the extraordinary video (below) of exquisite artistry. I couldn’t stop the flow of words and images that came in response to being moved so deeply by the beauty in this video.

In writing this piece, I am playing with a new kind of writing experience and process, one I will share with you soon as a creative writing course offering. I will be sharing it in my newsletter…

Please enjoy this incredibly beautiful video… And, please share with me in the comments how it moves you.

 

image above is by the videographers…

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Do we dare live our sacred humanity?

by Julie on July 13, 2014 · 3 comments

OliveTreeUnderStarlight

 

We are the sum of our ancestors
Our roots stretch back to blue-green algae
They stretch to the stars
They ultimately reach the void
This history is inscribed in our psyches
Silence and solitude enjoin us to remember
Our whole and great body.
~ Joan Halifax

Listen to the audio…

 

Our whole and great body. The sum of everything that has existed is within us, each of us and every one of us.

We cannot escape this earth. She is our home, our mother, our world. No matter how hard we try to escape, with thoughts of heaven, realms of light, any place other than here, this place is we are born, it is where we live out our lives, and it is where we will die. Our bodies are made up of her. The food we eat comes from her. Our lives are spent here on her. No matter how smart we think we are, how much we believe we can control her forces, or how much we attempt to destroy her, she remains our generous mother.

Roots that stretch deep down into the humus, the incredibly rich, humus, deep earth of the ages… all the way through the center of the earth to the stars, to the void of creation.

Perhaps the way to the stars is not by escaping earth in rocket ships of metal technology…perhaps the way to the stars is through this deep rich humus, the matter that is this human earthly existence. How different is our earth from the stars? Our flesh is made of stardust. Our bones are ancient sacred sites. Our blood is liquid light.

Perhaps it is only by becoming fully human that we find the place of wholeness, the place of everything, where starlight infuses flesh, and love for everything embraces our fears. If we become quiet enough, and maybe even alone enough, we finally settle into our bones, into the depth of gravity that allows us to understand that we are part of something so much greater than our fear of ourselves…and each other.

 

Do we dare open our arms and hearts wider when there is so much violence and greed?

Do we dare live joy when there is so much suffering?

Do we dare feel the depth of love that is available for all of life when so many of us generate hate?

Do we dare remember our flesh is made of stardust and our blood is liquid light?

Do we dare settle all the way down into our flesh and bones, giving ourselves over to this one precious life?

Do we dare be here, all the way here, no longer trying to escape to somewhere else?

Do we dare plant ourselves, here, in this deep-of-the-ages dirt, paws, claws, and all?

Do we dare be fully human, infused with liquid light?

 

Do we dare be fully human, living our sacred humanity?

I say Yes.

It is our sacred humanity that will heal us back into wholeness, heal us back into earth’s family, heal us back into this web of life that stretches back to the ancestors, back to the stars, back to that from which everything is born.

It is by living our sacred humanity, here, right here, rooted in the earth, that we will remember what we truly are.

 

Image is ‘Starlight Under Olive Tree’, by MgPixel  under creative commons 2.0

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