Day 8: Bellies Are Good For …

… holding books and electronic devices and crystal balls and dinner plates and, well, basically anything you’d put on a lap desk. It IS literally a lap desk. 

I forget whether the rules of this game state that the belly has to actually be naked. There are plenty of ways for it to look weird in clothes. So I’ll probably do some that aren’t naked at some point. But for now, both, just so I don’t get in trouble. (Though who would ref me out, I wonder…)

This is my belly — slouching, sticking way out — waiting for an oil change. 

  

Bellies are good for...

It’s in!

  

Oops! it got out!

  

Day 7: Belly Over the Line

Day 7: Belly Over the Line

A baby mouse, left behind at the old workplace.

The other day at work one of my colleagues made a slightly dirty joke, and I replied in a way that made it, well, a medium dirty joke. Then when someone else made a shocked face and said I took it over the line, I told her she had a point. That is what I do, for better or for worse.

In fact I’d been thinking about this not long before. It’s true. Another friend said of me a while back that I take jokes one step past where you think they’ll go. I’m not saying there’s anything particularly good or bad about this — just that it is a true reflection of my sense of humor, and of art and life in general, I suppose. I know everything has been done before, but I do tend to look for ways to put myself into the conversation that I feel are less represented.

Part of my motivation with any creative or public endeavor is to do some things that other people might be embarrassed to do — in the hopes that maybe someone will think, “I see that person doing the thing my heart is telling me to do, so maybe it’s ok for me to do it too.” I guess this blog series falls into that category.

Well, here is today’s picture: the belly that I know and love, that I look at every day, as it looks in the mirror.

Thanks for giving me the space to share all this, by the way. I appreciate it. It’s very helpful to me. And if this is helpful to anyone else in any way, I’ll be delighted. Thank you!

The full belly Monty.

Day 6: Belly to the Altar of Song

At choir practice last night, for our check in, we had to share something along the lines of — Why do you come here? What’s the big draw?

I said something along the lines of — gospel singing, for me, is like this fully embodied worship experience that floods my heart with light until it overflows all over the freaking place. It’s the kind of worship that makes me feel like this is what I came to this planet to do.

I have been really struck ever since I joined this choir by just how embodied my singing is when I’m there. Sometimes I just get focused on my inner experience and feel my body moving to cradle my heart like a baby. Other times I’m upward focused, and my hands rise up like they’re made of helium without my consciously lifting them. And other times I’m calling out to the people there with me, stretching out to connect, leaning forward, feeling the ground beneath me and the air around me that are touching everyone simultaneously.

I feel really free to move with my singing and with my praise at Mosaic rehearsals and performances. I feel fully present and like I am growing into my truest self.

I notice these things because they’re not the norm. It stands out to me when I can take up all the space I take up and not be embarrassed. It’s not usual for me to feel like being the largest-bodied person there and fully being in my body is a place of great empowerment. It’s strange to me that I can stretch my limbs and not be concerned about who sees my naked belly.

Strange but good.

These are healing experiences for me. Musical opportunities often go hand in hand with mainstream ideas of prettiness (or sexiness), and having the body I have probably made me give up on a lot of things that I felt shut out of. Of course there

are some people who are visible exceptions to this trend, and I love them: Toshi Reagon, Israel Kamakawiwo’ole … Sometimes I imagine myself a little like them, only me. Sometimes I think of them when I’m at Mosaic.

So thanks, Mosaic, for existing! Thank you Spirit for guiding me there! I sure do feel lucky and grateful and blessed!

20150319-212902-77342364.jpg

Day 5: Om Belly Om

People always talk about the “Buddha belly,” but you know who really rocks a big belly? Sri Ganesha.

Yes, Ganesh’s belly is amazing. Ganesh is amazing! He is definitely a sensual fat guy. He loves the pleasures of the Earth, but his lack of attachment makes him light enough to dance on one toe on the back of a mouse.

I think that’s a role model worth having.

Ganesha & me

The other day I had the great pleasure of getting together with my friend Jyoti for wonderful conversation and a jam session. The last song we played together was a Ganesh chant. It was one I used to play all the time when I led kirtan in the mountains but have not done for a long time. We were nice and warmed up by that time, and we really got swinging on it. I had the strong feeling that some obstacles were really being removed as we sang (that’s one of the blessings this deity offers). Whew! Take ’em away, O Ganesha! Please and thank you!!!

This is is a different melody, but the same mantra, and the video has some awesome pictures of Sri Ganesha:

Happy chanting!

 

 

 

Day 4: Big Bellies Go Places, Too

This belly was born and raised in the country and always seems to find its way back there. I work at a place outside Niwot, which is a small town outside Boulder, Colorado. One of the best things about that location is the long driveway, really practically a private one-lane road, that I can take a walk down when I get a break. It’s just … It gives me those feelings like, “take note of this moment, because it’s really damn awesome, and I feel really happy right now.”



In the sun



I was having more of those feelings tonight, when I went to McIntosh Lake in Longmont for the first time. OMG! Where has this place been all my life? I almost titled this post “BEST LAKE WALK IN COLORADO!” Even all caps doesn’t fully express my excitement at finding this lake. I’ve had a thing for “the lake walk” (which basically just consists of walking around lakes) since I lived in Minnesota, and this one seriously came close to filling the Lake Calhoun-shaped hole in my heart. At one point the lake and the spring air smelled so good I thought I might cry. 



McIntosh Lake



So, that’s what we get up to, belly and me. 

Day 3: Dark Night of the Belly 

Now that I have done this multiple times — now that it’s moved from being a crazy idea in my head to being a crazy idea in my blog — the rush of the plunge fades a bit and I realize what icy waters I’ve jumped into …

And so thoughts about the belly follow. 

I’m so used to keeping it covered up. Not just covered, but the fabric has to hang in a certain way, or one of a few acceptable ways. Certainly no skin can show, either in the front or in the back — weirdly, I actually love being naked and am not particularly embarrassed about being totally nude in public, but having a line of belly skin shining out between the hem of my shirt and the waist of my jeans would be horrifying! 

What I am realizing is how much I keep it hidden from my own sight. I only look at it from some angles and in some moods. Not very often. When it sneaks into my field of vision and surprises me, I recoil. When someone else posts a photo of me with my belly looking compromising, I panic. I don’t like to be confronted with my belly because I don’t know what to make of it. 

And then for some reason I decided to do this 30 day project, and on day 2 I realized: Oh. Wow. This is going to make me look at my belly. And see it. 

Is it needless to say that this stirs some wicked discomfort? 

Well, I guess that’s the point, or one point anyway. Can’t hide. Gotta look at it. I can’t love it if I don’t know it. And I can’t know it if I can’t get past my own judgment and fear.

Here’s a picture of my belly at night: 



Belly at night

Belly at night



Belly Pictures

This from In God’s Care: Daily Meditations on Spirituality in Recovery, March 13:

“Inspirations never go in for long engagements; they demand immediate action.”
— Brendan Francis

God speaks to us in many ways at many times. If we are spiritually alert, we will know it when it happens. A stray thought occurs; we overhear a bit of conversation; a passage in something we are reading suddenly stands out — and we know we have connected. … The trouble is that we might acknowledge this contact only briefly, and then it slips away. The time to act passes.

And this from Netflix, description of the cartoon Uncle Grandpa pilot episode:

When a kid is sad because his favorite shirt will not fit over his big belly, Uncle Grandpa shows him that fashions pass, but a big belly is always cool.

I’ve never seen this show, I just came across this line and it stuck with me. Then today I was at the Transforming Gender Symposium at CU with Sam and we heard Amos Mac’s keynote talk — he’s a photographer and the co-editor of the trans male culture and lifestyle magazine Original Plumbing. He showed a lot of his work and talked about art and cultural activism and it was just damn inspiring. It made me want to write stuff.

Then I went outside and saw this brick in the wall that said Integrity. And it made me want to freakin’ do the things, already.

So this is the thing that came to me: 30 days of belly pictures.

Self Love is the theme of this year, and I’ve been working with the body aspect for a while, and I just decided, why the hell not, I am going to spend the next 30 days taking pictures that celebrate my belly. It’s spring and the skin cells want to be out in the air. So let ’em out! At least for a few minutes each day.

I’m practicing acting on my inspirations.

photo (3)

Integrity

 

Sing With Me

Let’s make sounds together. It’s good for you and for the universe.

Heart Song – Sufi Singing 

First Thursday of every month from 7 to 9 pm at the Althea Center for Engaged Spirituality in Denver. This is a Sufi-flavored chant gathering that honors all traditions. Everyone is welcome. Bring your voice, your harmony, your passion, your presence. If you want, bring musical instruments or a chant or a poem to share.

Suggested donation: $10 for rent if you can.

33rd Annual Ozark Spring Sufi Camp

May 22-27, Lake of the Ozarks State Park, Missouri. I am going to be there, and so will a bunch of other people, and we are going to dance and sing and pray our little hearts out all day and all night long. Don’t you want to come too? Here: http://shiningheartcommunity.org/camp/ozarksuficamp.htm

 

I hope to see you around, here, or, you know, anywhere!