Thursday, November 20, 2014

46 beautiful things that act like liquid gold, filling in the cracks and crevices of the difficulties that come to all of us with being born...

Today I turn 46.

I thought I would share 46 bits of beauty with you that have sustained me, that have acted like liquid gold, filling in the cracks and crevices of the difficulties that come to all of us with being born...

We all have cracks and crevices from this life. There is no avoiding that. There is no protective gear that is strong enough. And really? Would you want it? Would you want to avoid all the deep pleasure and love and awe-inducing beauty of this life that is the other side of the coin -- the other side of despair and grief and pain?

You cannot have one without the other. Period. And it all goes to making you into the unique you. It all gives meaning and beauty to your one, unique life.

Your life is one big Kintsugi. Which we will call number one on this list of 46 things.

(1) Kintsugi -- If you don't know what Kintsugi is, well, watch that video and you'll understand just about everything about why I named my dance modality after it. It is the meaning of life as represented in broken pottery.

This list will be rather random and is in no order whatsoever in terms of importance or impact.

(2) Animals have sustained me from the get go. Their love flows like gold all over the topography of my spirit. And this one, she is extra special.

(3) And this human animal...the love she has shown me for 20 years has created a space in which I could heal. And just recently she took it even further...

(4) Giving me even more space to become ME.

(5) Speaking of space. This sweet nest I live in sustains me. It is the "just right" that we are often looking for. Just quiet enough, just big enough, just small enough, just soft enough, just clear enough, just filled enough.

(6) Going back in time... The stuffed animals that lined the edge of my bed and protected me.

(7) Music. Always always always music. It spoke secret things to me about survival and love.

(8) Discovering that I could really draw and escaping into pencils and paper. Falling deep into those 1-D planes as if they were oceans of quiet and comfort.

(9) The little space in the attic in that one house that I turned into an atelier before I even knew what the heck an atelier was.

(10) Which makes me think of Gene Kelly.

(11) Swimming even when it brought this.

(12) Books. Books. Books. Books. Books. Piles of books. Books while hidden in corners and closets and under trees and under covers. Books showed me there were other ways out there to be in this world. That possibilities are only as limited as imagination.

(13) This typewriter upon which I manually typed out a first draft novel of 500 pages.

(14) The lake. I have lived so many places. I have tried so many times to move away. The lake pulls me and is my true north.

(15) My ability to tell myself stories to soothe myself through difficult situations that started when I was small when I would awaken in the middle of the night to frightening yelling. Stories were my ultimate happy place.

(16) Dance.

(17) Returning to dance.

(18) Teaching others the power of dance.

(19) Watching emotionally compelling dance.

(20) Reading about dance.

(21) Thinking about dance.

(22) Did I mention dance?

(23) Did I mention this person?

(24) And over the last couple of years, I have learned so much from rabbits! Who knew!?

(25) The deep belly laughs of my Great Aunt in response to my funny little songs and how I always knew her laughter was in response to my funny and never directed AT me.

(26) The precious moments when I got my Great Aunt to myself: Dancing in her kitchen while she made us dinner; getting to water her favorite flowers with the big blue can that I could barely carry; listening to records on her giant piece-of-furniture record player; knowing she got the M&Ms and the ginger ale and the pudding cups just for me.

(27) Her house. I can still feel what I felt like every time I walked into the front door and then through the inner door. When I visit the piece of land where that house used to be -- so close to where my studio was -- sometimes I can still smell her house.

(28) My studio. Though it's now gone to me, it was such an important part of my evolution.

(29) My first grade teacher, Mrs. Petit.

(30) Singing "I'd like to teach the world to sing" with Mrs. Petit.

(31) Singing. Singing is still this thing that I hide away mostly for myself though part of teaching for me is about singing with and in front of other people. Singing with no fear and no worry. Just letting the sound come out of me. From my belly.

(32) My brave students who would try anything I ask of them. The trust they give to me makes me strive to be even better at what I do.

(33) Soft blankets. Heavy blankets.

(34) Roller skates with glitter wheels. They are like some memory talisman. (I still have not gotten a pair...)

(35) The round school I went to for 2nd grade in State College. Just thinking about it brings up a slew of happy memories. (And then a slew of not happy but those happy are damn powerful.)

(36) My brownie uniform and all that it represents. I have ONE patch left from it and holding it is holding my 9 year old self who was so damn strong.

(37) Coming to poetry in my 20s. The reading and the writing of it. The writing of it more than anything. Learning that I am a poet. Marcy would say I am a Poet above all else.

(38) The first time I saw a picture of this, I gasped. Something about his work speaks directly to my spirit.

(39) Sitting with art, in general. Especially here. With that lake right outside many of the windows.

As I approach the bottom of this list, I can feel myself panicking that I am missing so many obvious bits of gold, but then I think how when I started to write it, I felt like HOW THE HECK am I going to think of FORTY SIX things?!? So you's all good.

(40) My devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe. She is my mother.

(41) My love of religion that started by the time I was in double digits. My insatiable appetite for all things spiritual, tradition, ritual, sacred.

(42) Pink flowers. Gardening. Fluffy peonies.

(43) Being barefoot and feeling connected to whatever environment I am in.

(44) The ceramic Christmas treeS sitting on my desk. They remind me of magical times at my grandparents. They remind me of Marcy's love, as she secretly sourced them and then surprised me, knowing what joy they are to me.

(45) The smell of cut wood. It brings a flood of love over my body and memories of my grandfather who was a carpenter.

(46) Chocolate. Espresso. Snowflakes that are so fat. Candle light. Gems. Spicy smelling essential oils. Warm baths. Walls that are painted deep luscious colors. Firmly fitted clothing. Gnomes. (Yes. I said gnomes.) My mala beads as they slide over my fingers while I chant. Each and every rosary I own and the story that comes with them. Quiet celebrations. Watching movies with Marcy -- any movies but especially ones that make us laugh so HARD. Glitter. Hello Kitty. Silliness. Jumping on my trampoline. Jumping anywhere. The gift of time at Kripalu. Cake.

I know I will think of a hundred things that I could have added to this list but alas...

The ease of writing this is one last bit of beauty I'll share today. Even in all the difficulty, all the grief, all the pain, all of this beauty kept rising and will keep rising to the surface as long as we stay open to seeing and experiencing it.

If you want to get a taste of how we create more happy, strength, and connection through the practice of Kintsugi Dance, you could join my super secret Facebook group, Inferno of Awesome. This group is invisible until you're added. FIRST, make sure you are my friend on FB, and SECOND, ask me to add you.

Monday, November 17, 2014

There is No Shame in Brokenness

My lens cover on my phone camera is cracked. I could go and get it fixed but it is making the most interesting things happen with light in my pictures. The above photo from a few weeks ago would not be half as cool if that cover were NOT broken.

Which is pretty much the idea behind the Japanese art of Kintsugi, right? You have this broken pottery that becomes way more beautiful after being repaired with gold lacquer.

And YOU are the same.

There is this whole line of thinking right now in the woo community that admitting to some brokenness is not okay, that a human is never broken, and that people who say you are broken are shit.

I agree with all of that but with a lot of subtlety mixed in.

You have a core, a ground luminosity, as they call it in Buddhism. An inner perfection. A seed of unconditional love from which you grew.

Use whichever metaphor works best for you.

THAT part of you cannot be touched by any level of awful in this life. On that level, you are truly never ever broken. On that level, you retain your innate infinite perfection.

People who play on your brokenness are definitely shit. You know the type -- they poke at it in order to create pain.

But...the reality is that none of us are going to get out of life without some brokenness.

We are fragile and precious beings. Our hearts are soft, for a reason.

Without this fragility and softness, no love can get in.

Without the possibility of brokenness, nothing that has the power to change us in the best ways can affect us.

We are not robots or mini-gods.

We are breakable.

That breakability is directly related to our beauty and it's the space from which all meaning arises.

I remember precise moments when cracks formed in my heart.

Those moments did not destroy me or kill me. I am still here. I am still loving. I am still optimistic.

Those moments, though, if denied or ignored or glossed over...they become deeper cracks. Those cracks spread if we don't deal with them as they honestly are.

You have experienced brokenness in your life.

You have cracks and fissures all over your beautiful insides.

The ways you have dealt with and continue to deal with those cracks and fissures is what makes you YOU.

Have you ignored them? Or have you filled them with the light and beauty of gold, creating meaning and purpose and a topography of fragile truth?

If you want to get a taste of how we create more happy, strength, and connection through the practice of Kintsugi Dance, you could join my super secret Facebook group, Inferno of Awesome. This group is invisible until you're added. FIRST, make sure you are my friend on FB, and SECOND, ask me to add you.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

The Many Splendid Gifts of a Near Death Experience

I got so many great shots when I was away at Kripalu this time. Bear with me.
If you've been reading me for a while, you've probably read something about my near death experience when I was about six. You can read about the experience here.

As I have integrated and come to understand the experience, the main thing I have always taken from it is this knowing that there is MORE beyond us. And that it's perfect and beautiful and nothing but peaceful. There is no describing what I felt in those few micro-seconds when my lungs filled with water.

It's a story that I tell over and over. I live with this story. It's that important to me. And I think I live BECAUSE of this story. It gifted me with...superpowers that I needed in the coming years. Superpowers that I still need, that are still evolving, that I think are about to leap to new levels in terms of supporting how I work and exist in this world. (That's a feeling I have right now. I'm not even sure what that means.)

Recently I told this story to a psychotherapist at the somatic psychology workshop that I attended a couple of weeks ago. She was asking me about my history and became intrigued and wondered how I had done so well considering.

Of course the near death experience came up because I credit it with my survival. Or more accurately, my eventual thriving.

She found new things in this story that I had never noticed, and then I brought those new things home to Marcy and SHE found something even more vital -- probably the most important bit ever.

The psychotherapist was fascinated by my ability at that age to decide to NOT TELL anyone what had happened, and of course, this then began my inclination to hide what was important to me. As a coping mechanism, this was brilliant.

She was also worried that I left my rage in that pool. Rage about not being truly taken care of. I can own some of that but I think the rage I left in that pool (and I would have never thought of this without her) was rage over my energy being stolen.

Because everything was about managing the crazy that was going on around me and defending myself from it, I shut down some vital parts of myself and I am STILL to this day trying to get those back. I'm 45 years old. I would like my energy back, please. ((asshats)) There is some rage, of course, about the extra layers of work that I have to fight through just to get to my basic level of functioning. And there is rage over unmet potential.

I am working on all of that on my sabbatical.

But here's the best stuff of all that Marcy figured out:

When I was almost drowning and getting that glimpse of the Infinite, my little mind, my sweet soul learned the difference between my Higher Self and my Lower Self. I became aware of that split. It's like I instantaneously developed the capacity for Witness Mind, which has been vital to my life ever since.

I learned that I could split myself in a way that was not disassociation but was actually helpful. I could stay present to whatever awful thing was happening and just allow that to wash over me, while at the same time, I would be watching it and have a running commentary in my young brain about how fucked up it was or how it was NOT ME.

Those are some serious skills!

AND I learned that the Higher Self is always just right there...just an inch to the left...just out of the corner of our eye...

The point being that I learned that the Higher Self is accessible.

And so my whole entire life, THE THING THAT SAVED ME, was this REACHING.

Marcy said, "You are ALWAYS REACHING for that Higher Self. It drives everything you do. It has kept you going."

Yep. Precisely.

No matter how many times I fell down or got pushed down or found myself back down the hole of depression, I LOOKED UP. I REACHED.


I am not, it turns out, stubborn. I am CONVINCED.

And not just for myself. I am also convinced for ALL. OF. YOU.

If you want to get a taste of how we create more happy, strength, and connection through the practice of Kintsugi Dance, you could join my super secret Facebook group, Inferno of Awesome. This group is invisible until you're added. FIRST, make sure you are my friend on FB, and SECOND, ask me to add you.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Mirror, Mirror on the wall...Go away!

Sabbatical. Oy. I'm on it.

And it's super freaking hard. Unexpectedly hard. What the HELL do I do with all this time!?

Part of the point, of course, is to be in that discomfort and see what bubbles up.

Part of the point is to explore options, to mull over ideas, to see what I really want to be doing rather than just running from one obligation to the next.

Last week I focused on rest, because I had just returned from a super awesome but extra intense learning experience at Kripalu. And right before that I had just closed my studio and finished up a ton of other transitions.

This has been the Year of Transitions, for sure, and I hadn't really taken any time to integrate them.

So, you know, I thought, well, how about I give it a week. HA!

By the end of that week, I could feel the craving for a schedule, a routine.

Is this a real need, a healthy need, or as they say in psychotherapy, a pseudo-solution?

I think it's possible that it's all of those things all at once.

On Sunday, I sat down and wrote out a day to day, hour to hour sort of schedule for myself.

Monday was okay. Big time resistance, but I finished everything on my list. I obeyed my schedule.

That was that. I didn't do so on Tuesday and I know I won't today because I have a couple of appointments and that always throws everything off. (Yes. I can be like a little old lady, thank you for noticing.)

I'm getting to my point here really soon... I promise...

On Monday, one of the things I did was finally -- FINALLY -- dance in my home studio space. (See above photo.)

I know this will take some adjusting. It's smaller than the studio studio, of course, including regular ceilings. You don't realize how much space-i-ness those high ceilings make you feel until you don't have them.

But my home studio also does not have the mirrors I am used to working with. I left them behind. I now have two tiny mirrors.

It totally freaked me out!

I work WITH mirrors. I look to see what I am up to, to make adjustments. They are a tool.

BUT...they also can be a means of judgment. Usually for me, they aren't. Right now? They totally are.

When I finished a very unsatisfactory session on Monday, I made plans to go purchase a good sized mirror. I knew where to go even.

On Tuesday I decided not to go out of pure laziness but it gave me time to think.

I realized I am using the mirrors right now to beat myself up. To notice this or that that is "wrong" with my body. To see that this or that in my movement is not "enough" of whatever.

It finally hit me that I needed to push myself further on this sabbatical and one way to do so was to turn the mirrors to the wall.

No mirrors for at least the month of November.

Dancing with my elders on Tuesday (one of two classes I am still teaching), I noticed for the first time that the Year of Transitions has left me slightly OUT of my body. I'm not feeling very connected. I am feeling like I am floating just a couple of inches out.

This is not good. This is me depressed.

I need to do some drastically different things to pop myself back in, to coax myself back into feeling and being fully embodied.

No mirrors is one of those things.

And I have some other experiments I'll be running that I will eventually share.

If you want to get a taste of how we create more happy, strength, and connection through the practice of Kintsugi Dance, you could join my super secret Facebook group, Inferno of Awesome. This group is invisible until you're added. FIRST, make sure you are my friend on FB, and SECOND, ask me to add you.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Go to the Limits of Your Longing; Embody Me

This Rilke is packed with smart, but I've made bold the two lines that really spoke to me the most (though each line takes turns speaking to me loudest each time I read this), and remember...these lines are being spoken to you, the reader, by God.

This God of Rilke' makes sense to me. We are made flesh to DO, to ACT, to bring ideas to life, not to sit around contemplating.

God speaks to each of us as he makes us,
then walks with us silently out of the night.
These are the words we dimly hear:
You, sent out beyond your recall,
go to the limits of your longing.
Embody me.
Flare up like a flame
and make big shadows I can move in.
Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror.
Just keep going. No feeling is final.
Don't let yourself lose me.
Nearby is the country they call life.
You will know it by its seriousness.
Give me your hand.
Book of Hours, I 59

If you want to get a taste of how we create more happy, strength, and connection through the practice of Kintsugi Dance, you could join my super secret Facebook group, Inferno of Awesome. This group is invisible until you're added. FIRST, make sure you are my friend on FB, and SECOND, ask me to add you.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Honoring -- Instead of Gaslighting -- Women's Stories

Marcy and I watched this documentary last night about Kathleen Hanna, the lead singer of Bikini Kill and just all around amazing artist.  (It was packed full of awesome and I highly recommend it. The punk scene back then has some disgusting parallels to the gaming/tech scene now -- you know, the whole "because you're a woman, we don't want you here so here's some death threats" thing?)

But it was some stuff that Kathleen said at the end that really caught me and stuck with me and it wasn't about how men treat women but how everyone, including women, treat women's stories.

She pointed out that when men tell their stories, they're believed, but women have to explain and justify and worry about how they will be perceived, and of course, she further articulated this feeling that if we tell our WHOLE story that no one will believe us AT ALL because it all just seems like way too much.

Yep. I get that. I hold back for that very reason: who would fucking believe all this crap!?

But here's what really pisses me off, the thing that is very popular to say in today's relativistic world: "Well, that's your version; there are so many perspectives..."

It's really a sick and subtle form of cultural gaslighting that has become acceptable.

How about we stop saying that to women who have been through hell and back, huh? How about if that's all you've got, that you simply shut up?

How about instead we empower women and honor their stories as they are with NO DISCLAIMERS?

How about we create a culture in which women are not afraid to tell their WHOLE story? In which women's stories are held up as victories and not some shade of grey?

How about we listen and then if we feel the need to respond, we say, "I am sorry that happened to you."

The same damn stories get repeated generation after generation BECAUSE we don't believe them ENOUGH which leads us to not taking them seriously ENOUGH which leads entire families and systems of (culpable and complicit) people looking the other way, as they mumble under their breath, "Well..that's her version."

Yes. It is. AND it's the whole damn truth.

I'm sorry if it's hard to look at it. Imagine what it was like to live it.

If you want to get a taste of how we create more happy, strength, and connection through the practice of Kintsugi Dance, you could join my super secret Facebook group, Inferno of Awesome. This group is invisible until you're added. FIRST, make sure you are my friend on FB, and SECOND, ask me to add you.

Friday, November 7, 2014

I am the Tin Man

On the grounds of Kripalu: walls and foundations of the original mansion
that burned down and was replaced by the Jesuits with the current building
I can get lost in details. Day to day. Mundane. Details. They loom large in this aspie brain that has such a hard time with Big Picture, with settling into the flow, with the idea of rest and rejuvenation...because, you know, there are details always to attend to!

It happens even when I go to Kripalu for said rest and rejuvenation.

Which is a silly story I tell myself -- the part about Kripalu being a time of r and r (though I did have a couple of days of that this time). When I go to Kripalu, it's never for anything easy and it's always about Big Learning.

Just last week, I was there and being immersed in a variety of modalities in the growing field of somatic (body-based) psychotherapy. Can you just HEAR the PARTY in that!? ((ha))

I was surrounded by therapist, counselors, psychotherapists, even a psychiatrist.

I made friends with one in particular who was quite brilliant and we got to talking. She was super intrigued by my story so she asked a lot of questions and she had some insights (one of which was huge and I'll be writing about it soon).'s the thing...these people? They love to intellectualize and that is a weakness of mine. I say weakness because I think, as Bessel van der Kolk says in an interview on On Being, that we live under a tyranny of language and that we do much better to find other ways to deal with the Big Ideas and Big Events of our lives.

But I love...smartness and theory and words. A little too much sometimes and I forget that there are deeply wiser paths to KNOWING.

There is knowing that words can never ever touch.

By Wednesday, not to be too dramatic, I was deep in an existential sort of crisis. I was trying so hard to "make sense" and to "understand" and to "neaten."

I got into that place where I was convinced I really could not go on with my work in the world until this was cleared up. What good was I for anybody else when I could not perfect my own narrative!? ((laughing at self now))

Words. I was drowning in freaking words with these people.


Thank God.

It was time for early evening yoga. I didn't want (for some reason) to go to the class being taught by my wonderful and first movement mentor. (I must have known it would help!)

I tried to go to another class. I turned into the room and saw...a teacher I cannot stand. I know that sounds awful to say about a yoga teacher, but this is someone who teaches in such a way that the first time I experienced her, I kept worrying that I was going to SCREAM (really) and I eventually had to get up and leave her class.

Needless to say, I turned around and left, and with no other good option, I ran my ass to the gentle class being taught by my mentor.

Someone was truly looking out for me that day. Putting that teacher that I dislike in that class at that moment was the only thing that would have made me go to the class I was avoiding.

Within minutes, things started to loosen in my chest. There was softening.

By the end of the class, I was crying. (She does that to me. And to everyone.)

By the end of the class, I remembered that I am the Tin Man and that I, like him, am mistaken in forgetting that I already have a heart.

In some writing about the Wizard of Oz, it is pointed out that, furthermore, the Tin Man is the most tender hearted of all the characters. When a bug is killed, he is grief stricken.

Um. Yep.

We, the Tin People of the world, seem all slick and metal-y on the outside but we are pure goo on the inside.

Navigating our way through a world like this one, we have to keep that armor on. But then we start to mistake ourselves FOR the armor.

So once I found my heart again, I realized that I don't need to ever totally understand everything that happened to me and the repercussions of it.

I don't ever have to make WORD sense of my story.

I can just feel it and be it and live it. And that is way more important than putting language to it.

If you want to get a taste of how we create more happy, strength, and connection through the practice of Kintsugi Dance, you could join my super secret Facebook group, Inferno of Awesome. This group is invisible until you're added. FIRST, make sure you are my friend on FB, and SECOND, ask me to add you.