What stands out

I’m getting ready for a trans choir “flash mob” performance that I’m going to be in tomorrow. We’re going to be “spontaneously” singing on 16th Street Mall in downtown Denver tomorrow afternoon. The chosen date falls just between National Coming Out Day (Oct. 11) and the Transgender Day of Remembrance (Nov. 20). We’re singing, “We are here in the memory of those who have fallen…” Celebration, pride, and grief are all somehow simultaneously present.

I was going to bring a list of transgender people who have been murdered in the US in 2016, for anyone who is interested. I pulled some articles. One account noted that back in September, the 23rd killing made this the deadliest year for transgender people since such things have been tracked. I found this list of names and short descriptions on a Wikipedia page that’s clearly lovingly maintained by someone (or some group) who cares. And here’s an interesting fact:

Out of the 23 transgender people killed, sixteen are described as black. Three are described as Latina. One is described as a trans woman of color. One is described as white. Two are not described by their race.

What can be said here?

Here’s what comes up for me: That we talk some about how fucked up it is that realizing someone is transgender is a valid legal reason for murdering them, but we talk not much about the clear fact that being of a non-white race most definitely comes into play when it’s being determined how expendable your life is, here in the US.

Right now, I am just pointing out what stands out to me. And at this particular moment, that’s all the words I have.

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So Glad

It is funny how one would spend all this time trying to figure out what one’s heart wants … And go trudging down these labyrinthine paths toward the center of one’s being, one’s deepest, most closely guarded, secret dreams … And one could finally come to a door where one least expected to find a door, but would sense the unmistakable energy pent up on the other side … And so one knocks … And the door opens …

And what spills out is a whole bunch of baggage, issues, fears, negative beliefs, self criticism … As it turns out, one can bury one’s desires so thoroughly that it can become quite a challenge, bringing them out to the light of day, once one resolves to do so. 

The attempt to make a video of me playing a song I wrote on the piano took me down a long road into a thicket of anxiety that snowballed into all sorts of self-judging non-fun. It was just not coming out in a way I could stand. So I abandoned that project FOR NOW. But I made this video instead. 

This one I kept, because I set out telling myself that – as the saying goes – I was totally free to make the worst shit in the world, and I could delete it instantly if I chose. I mostly just wanted to put something between myself and my feelings of failure. But I ended up sort of liking what came out. 

This is like a doodle. I’m playing the keyboard in the garage, singing a tune I made up to convince myself that things were ok. And it must have worked, because now I sort of feel like they are. 

Heartlandsoul.org

Have you seen? Heartlandsoul.wordpress.com is now

Heartlandsoul.org!

Why? Two reasons:

1. THOSE FREAKING ADS ARE GONE!!! (Don’t get me wrong, I understand WordPress needs to make money, and I appreciate very much all the free services that the presence of ads has made possible over the years, but I did not get to choose what they were, and most of the time they were not things I would have supported.)

2. Now I can host sound files! So, watch for chant recordings to show up here — as I complete them — which is right now a slow process. But as the old sages said, the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single URL. ­čÖé

Thanks for reading! Love to you!

AG

 

Day 29: Belly Reflections

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Today I’m writing from someplace from which I can’t take pictures: Valley View Hot Springs. I’d already planned to use this day’s post — the next to the last in the series — for reflection on this journey, and now it just so happens that I’m in one of the most wonderful places in the world for reflection, introspection, and transformation. I’m surrounded by magical water showing me glimpses of myself as seen by the fairies.

Perhaps the biggest gift of this project has been how it has encouraged me to look at myself, letting go more and more of the veils of illusion and self deception, coming much nearer to how I “really” look and am … if there is such a thing at all. This looking has brought me also much closer to acceptance of who I am. I feel more empowered ownership of the body that I’ve been given. I feel like I’ve dropped a layer of pretense in my interaction with the world. I’m not as much inclined to try to hide my belly (especially since it’s not possible, anyway!).

I think that after this experience, I may be a little less apologetic for being myself.

I feel more ready to take this body, as it is, as my starting place, and to let it express its highest potential — rather than trying to make it be something it’s not, or berating it for not being that.

There is a true beauty within me, a true joy, a precious heart, a powerful light. I’m starting to see that — and to live as though that’s true of me. As it is of everyone.

In fact I find the more I look for the beauty in myself, the more I see it shining out from all the other human beings around me. As I celebrate it in me, I want to celebrate it in everyone! It’s as though I’ve had a film of fear removed from my eyes, and where I used to see a warped and dark reality, now it seems like everything and everyone is glowing.

So that’s this picture: the reflection in the water shows the true Goddess essence, the twinkles of magic that are always there, but sometimes hidden. At least in this moment, from this peaceful place, I want to live like my true self. That sacred essence created this exact vehicle to walk around Earth in, so let me now get out of its way — let me embrace it and live it like I was meant to do! By the magic of Valley View — let it be so!

Day 22: Belly Visible/Invisible 

It’s funny how some days I feel like being way out there, and others I want to abandon the whole project and hide in bed. Today turned out to be one of the latter type of days. I just didn’t feel so much like being out there in the world of people. And I got myself back in an old mental wagon-track — that the world of people doesn’t want me to be “out there,” either. That the world would rather just not see me.

It’s kind of odd and oxymoronic to have a disappearing complex when you’re large-bodied. Most of my school years I alternated between feeling horribly conspicuous and wanting to be invisible, and believing that I actually was. Maybe I thought everyone was doing what I was doing, glancing over my body without its making a strong impression of its existence. 

In retrospect I suspect I’ve always been more present in other people’s landscapes than I thought.

Maybe I just couldn’t handle what I imagined they thought of me, so I told myself they didn’t think of me at all. 

I think it must be the same with me and my own gaze. I fear my judgments about myself, so I don’t let myself look long enough to see what or who is actually there.

But that’s what I’m trying to change. I’m trying to look with honest attention at this quirky, inconvenient, intriguing belly that’s not claiming to be anything other than itself. And then when I look at it with the willingness to see something positive — an archetypal image emerges — a connection to the Divine Mother, full-bellied and open and strong — a richness to explore, a life teacher, a secret map that was hidden in plain sight.

Nonetheless, for getting out of the way for a while (when the seeing and being seen is too much), I’m so grateful for the woods.

Trees, thank you.

More Colorado eye candy.

Day 15: Belly in the Garden

Day 15: Belly in the Garden

It’s funny–I love plants and trees so much, and I identify so strongly with them as both friends and wisdom teachers, but despite my years in the greenhouse management program in high school, I am no good at getting them to grow. There is, however, one aspect of horticulture at which I really do excel: Clearing out the dead shit. 

Today I spent the whole afternoon in the perennial garden of the house I just moved into, taking out all the old brown leaves, sticks and stems, last year’s growth. It was amazing. There were all kinds of shoots under the thick mat of dry brush — even flowers that couldn’t be seen, they were so thoroughly covered. As I worked my way through the garden, I could almost hear the new spring plants taking deep breaths as they stretched up for sunlight. Wow! I was stretching up with them!

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My belly overfloweth

Well, here’s how that gardening is like my project of self love. My brain is so full of negative talk, of self-criticizing thoughts, it sometimes gets so that nothing else can breathe in there, nothing else can grow. Indeed, like some of the flowers I found today–there could be all kinds of beautiful possibilities in there, but I haven’t been able to see them through all the dry, dead, thorny branches of judgment.

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I don’t even know what this red guy is, but it’s awesome!

Even though it’s not the right season, I kept hearing this Samhain song in my head as I pruned:

As the trees give their leaves to the chilly autumn breeze,

I too shall give away the things that I no longer need;

As the trees give their leaves to the chilly autumn breeze,

I too shall give away the things that can no longer feed me …

It was last fall, actually, when it occurred to me that if I could liberate my mind from negative beliefs about my body, then my mind would be liberated indeed. (More on this tomorrow.) And it was then that I started trying to sing from all the parts of my body that I disliked the most–the fat parts, i.e., all of them. I did this in zikr and found … that there were sounds in there that I hadn’t known existed. 

For as beat up as I got today when I waded in to the garden and started pulling stems, and for as long as it took me to clear out the patch I was working on, the process of clearing deadening thoughts out of my mind is far longer and harder. And in fact I begin to think I can’t do it without grace. 

 But luckily, there is grace. 

Last spring (was it really only a year ago?) my now-housemate hosted an Oestara ritual in which we painted eggs with our dreams for the year and “planted” them in a corner of the very garden I was digging in today. Here’s the egg I buried:

Art and Flow, the two energies I wanted to nurture.  

Two sides of one egg

 

Art, like a tree, is still growing slowly but steadily in my life. And flow–well, you know that when we release things, we create space for other things to come in, things that are more aligned with our highest good in this particular moment

Today I release a bunch of old, dead sticks. I put them in the compost pile. I let the sun and rain break them down so that their richness can return to the earth and nourish that which is ready to grow NOW!

Day 11: Ukulele Belly (With Video!)

So … On the list of terrifying things, making a video of myself singing and putting it on YouTube would be pretty high on the list. But, apparently such terrifying things are easier for me to do when I’m already … well, exposing parts of my body that I would generally consider to be shameful. ??? 

Because Hawaiian shirts go with ukuleles.

 This is me doing a cover of Eric Hutchinson’s song “Shine On Me.” EH, please don’t sue me! I will obviously never ever ever make any profit from this. If anything it will make people say to you, “Wow, you sure are better than this one chick who made a video of herself playing your song wearing a Hawaiian shirt that was not closed in the belly region.” And you can say “Thank you, thank you very much.” 

 I can tell you that watching this video (and the slightly worse one I made immediately before it) required a mad amount of stamina in the arena of self love. There are vast reserves of “ohmygod I can’t believe I look like this, I must hide forever” always ready to overflow the dam.

But on the other hand, there’s also a small pool of “yes, this is actually how I look, and in other universe I could just BE this aspect of myself all the time” in there. And a little bit of “and why shouldn’t I?” too. 

Sometimes doing scary things is good for me. It helps me to do other scary things. And that’s really all I have to say about it tonight. My brain is tired and my heart is — feely. And I’m putting this on YouTube where everyone can see it. Eek!

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.”

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In the sun

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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. 

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McIntosh Lake

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

Dealing with Feeling “Left Out”

Well, I took a lot of trips this summer and I really enjoyed the heck out of them. I got to see all of my family in the whole USA, and then I immersed myself in the worlds created by my spiritual families out in the woods somewhere, bringing back so much learning, so many insights about my path, and so many new projects that I want to pursue. In the process, I used up all my vacation days and spent all my money, so now I am saying “sorry, I can’t” to a lot of fun plans being made in my vicinity.

When my partner told me the dates he planned on going to California for our only niece’s first birthday, I got a little bummed. And when I thought about what it’s gonna be like around the holidays when he is all excited about the music he’s singing with the choir, I felt a little bit panicked. Like, sure, right now I feel like I need to scale back, cut down, and prune some things out of my life, but what about when the fun is actually happening … somewhere else? How am I going to feel then? will I be kicking myself for the decisions I’m making now?

So I guess I need to get clearer on my motivations. And I can’t put the blame for my choices on external circumstances — like whether I have a lot of money or not. (The real question, anyway, is whether I feel myself to be abundant or not.) I have this nagging fear that if I let my negative perception of my financial condition to determine my choices, I will be making all bad decisions. Really I have to ask what the voice in my heart is telling me.

And she says, “Stay home.”

I am afraid of missing out on stuff, especially social stuff. I don’t have sufficient confidence in my own social abilities to think that I will have “enough” friends, “enough” interactions with other people, to keep me from feeling isolated, depressed, sad, jealous. So really it comes down to an inner battle between two scarcities — scarcity of money vs. scarcity of friends. And if that is the level on which I deal with the issue, NEITHER choice is going to feel quite right — I will end up with a nagging anxiety that the other scarcity is going to get out of control.

What I really must investigate within myself is what I am going to do about the pressing need I feel to go within, to explore the boundaries of my creativity, to see what is there on the edge of my awareness, wanting, waiting to come through. Is it worth it to cut fun trips and social activities in an attempt to bring the muse to the foreground, to listen to what is there? It’s an unknown. What if it’s nothing? A false alarm?

Maybe I just need to trust that there will be “enough” in the future — “enough” opportunities for connection — in fact, the opportunities are really infinite. Choosing to go within now, to pare down my activities, doesn’t have to mean I will have no friends.

And loneliness, jealousy, feeling left out — these are not unproductive states, maybe. They are teachers. They will teach me to have confidence in what is within me: infinity.