Baby New Year

Baby New Year

  

Last year at work, my friend and I were trying to pick an image to go with our company’s New Year message. We both liked this stock photo but weren’t sure if it fit. 

“It totally does,” I said. “Look. It’s the baby New Year being born from the lotus.”

“Ooooh,” she said, or something like that. The concept charmed us both — the sparkles of unformed possibility bursting, no, floating, no, rising lightly and cheerfully from the flower that had finally bloomed out of the mud and the tears of the past year. 

Well, alas, our idea was vetoed by our bosses in favor of a more traditional narrative, but I held on to it in my mind. I love creating alternative mythologies, and once the story has been spoken aloud, it is in my opinion as valid as any legend. After all, every fairy tale was first made up by SOMEone before going the medieval equivalent of viral. So yes, I sometimes write my own myths and then live by their morals. I claim this as my creative prerogative. 

We did use the stock image for other posts throughout the year, and every time I saw it I remembered the baby New Year. And I decided that come 2016 I would use it on my own blog. And so I made an account and bought the credits and and downloaded my very first stock photo, and now I own it. 

Which brings me to my theme for 2016: Owning it. 

What does that mean?

2015’s theme, that is, the spiritual power I intended to claim by calling up and facing anything and everything in my inner world that stood between me and that power, was Self Love. Anyone who knows me knows I have been plagued (have plagued myself) with an ultra critical, downright mean and nasty inner voice of self judgment for as long as I can remember, certainly since wee childhood. This voice kept me living in a thick, heavy shell, kept me always tearing myself down, pushing myself to exhaustion, never able to fully receive love since I didn’t believe I was worthy, never able to really share my light because I believed I was so insignificant, so annoying, so bad at things, such an eyesore. 

I began last year finally wishing to change that, ready to let go of a way of thinking that I had come to understand was warped, dark, self defeating, unhelpful. I made the commitment to free myself from that sticky mental web in which my angry judging self held my heart captive and sucked its energy like a spider drains the life force from a bug. 

The challenges came. It was a tough year for my heart. But every time life asked me to do something that I thought I could never find the strength to do, if my deeper guidance whispered that it was the path of self love, I tried my best to do it. I took many steps into the scary unknown, following that faint and mystical light. Sometimes my only criterion for success was that I do it differently than I had done it in the past. And in this way I set about breaking habits. 

And as the year went on I noticed these habits, like broken chains, falling away. I began to feel lighter. More confident. Gradually, the balance shifted and the mean voice got quieter and the voice of my heart, my dreams, my inner knowing, got louder, until it was the first voice I heard instead of the last. I began to recognize my heart’s desires as a source of guidance, longings placed there by Spirit to help me find my direction in life. 

I’ve come to accept that this voice, this guidance, is true for me. But it’s still a little scary for me to make it the practical compass of my life, to really live by it, especially when it seems to sometimes take me in the opposite direction from the current of the “main stream,” or to go against what I perceive to be the preferences of the people around m

So that’s where I am today.  Working on owning it. Experimenting with living life according to my own quirky standards, with taking my marching orders from Spirit as I try to become a little better every day at decoding the instructions that bubble up from the depths of my soul. Just that. Living from my core, my essence. Not claiming to always fully understand the messages, knowing that at any moment I could be totally missing the mark, but trying, trying to hear, trying to hear better all the time. 

Having released a large portion of my inner self judgment, it’s time for me now to release my attachment to others’ approval. It’s time to face the degree to which I limit my choices out of the fear of not being liked. 

Call me crazy, but this feels like the easier of the two. 

When I understand that I have inherent value, I have less drive to find my sense of self worth in others’ opinions. Instead of a survival need, it becomes simply a habit. It feels comfortable, but it’s a false comfort — it’s actually just an attempt at distracting myself from the underlying anxiety, the gnawing fear that I am not and never will be connected to other humans in a meaningful way. 

Luckily, I have quit enough habits, enough methods of self distraction, to know that it’s totally doable. And I also know with both my brain and my heart that what I fear is not true; I am beautifully and indissolubly connected with all of life, and with all human beings. And I also know that — to paraphrase Marianne Williamson’s famous quote — it can be far more terrifying to embrace our connectedness, our interdependence, our strength, our beauty, our truth, our dreams, our magic, and to accept the responsibility that comes with our power, than it is to imagine ourselves small, helpless, and alone. 

So my intention, my challenge, this year is to own it. To own all of the above. To believe in my worth, my lovability, my vision, and to act like I believe it in front of the world. 

And here’s a really odd thing. Since crystallizing this intention a week or so ago, I have noticed a subtle but perhaps significant change in myself. I am normally very, very, um, VERY introverted when it comes to actually talking to people. (As a Leo I don’t have a problem being on stage performing, but as a Cancer cusp + moon I pretty much hate and fear social interaction, except with people I already know and feel safe around, and even then, it can be iffy.) Lately, though, I’ve been — striking up conversations. With strangers. And the exchanges have been — really nice. 

It’s like maybe, as I begin to let go of the fear of not being accepted, as I realize that I don’t truly NEED others’ approval when I have my own, I am less afraid of these other unknown humans walking around on earth with me, jostling egos with each other and with me, like we all always do. As I am less afraid, I am more curious. As I am more curious, I am more open. As I am more open, I am less defensive, and I allow more love into my heart. 

How funny. By caring less about whether others love me, I actually begin to experience more love. 

This understanding, like this new year, is still just a baby. I know I have many layers to work through before I really get this power of “owning it,” before I really feel it as part of me. But those sparkles of possibility rising from the lotus are so hopeful.  

I think it’s going to be a really good year.  

  

These Guys

Earlier this summer I tried on a sundress with a pattern of roses intermixed with human skulls. It was SUCH a cute dress, with vibrant neon colors and white accents on a black background, and I thought it looked good on me too. But the pattern hung me up. I imagined myself wearing it and people asking me, Why are you wearing a dress of skulls? I couldn’t think of anything worthwhile to respond. The skulls seemed too powerful and magical for me to just wear them as a fashion accessory. (I’m really not that punk.) So I left the dress on the rack, a little wistfully, wishing I COULD have found a reason to make it mine.

Well, I guess skulls must be trendy in some circles because after that day, I started noticing them hovering around me – a lot. And as with so many things to which I’ve responded at first with an emphatic no – I found myself beginning to whisper – Yes.

Finally, one day in the bead store when I was Shopping With A Mission for a specific project I was working on, These Guys – brightly colored skulls carved in magnesite – captured my attention, and I decided the, shall we say, skull archetype must have some medicine for me right now, because they caught my gaze and would not let go.

What’s different now from the beginning of the summer? I’m conscious now of doing shadow work. I’m going underground to struggle with those aspects of myself I don’t normally want to face. And I’m dragging back into the light the gifts that I’ve disowned out of fear of rejection.

When we strip away all the elements of our lives in an effort to discard those that no longer work and rearrange those that remain in a hopefully more functional way – my partner, who studies the shamanic traditions, calls that skeletalization. That’s the short code for what I’m doing these days.

Suddenly Mr. Skull seems like he might have a relevant place in my life after all.

So I bought the colorful string of skulls that felt so beautifully heavy in my cupped hand. Without even taking them off the nylon string they were displayed on, I tied them around my rear view mirror. Now everywhere I go they are nodding and grinning at me and looking out in every direction (some of them upside down) and I feel surrounded by a lovely skully energy that’s somehow so deeply loving. I feel a sense of protection on my journeys to the underworld of my own being.

I call them “These Guys” and I quickly came to think of them as my friends.

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Here’s what the book in the store had to say about the mineral they’re made of:

“Recognize non-beneficial thoughts/ideas, revolutionary ideas via imagery, passion, heart felt love, cell purification, disorders of convulsions, bones, teeth.”

Well.

I stand prescribed. Thanks, guys!

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You Can’t Go Back, but You Can Go Again

A few weeks ago I had the chance to do something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time: go back to Yellowstone National Park.

I worked there for one summer after my sophomore year. In hotel housekeeping, which wasn’t that bad.  I actually liked it.  And I also really liked the trip out there on the Greyhound, even though it was supposed to take 24 hours but ended up taking 48. It had to have been some kind of archetypal transition period for me. It all happened during the middle of a much longer period of depression, which stretched back through the college year before and forward across the next year, when I studied abroad. I had a very hard time making friends and generally functioning in a normal social way among people … and had just put myself among only strangers, very far from home, in a place where it was still cold and snowy and full of bears in mid-May, on purpose.

I don’t remember being unhappy, though I was lonely a good bit and may have been homesick  because of my fear of all the strangers.  Somehow I got through, found people willing to hang out with me and drive me places — maybe due to my roommates and all of my early contacts being missionaries, or at the very least active in the Bible studies that my roommates led.  That was cool with me! I remember it being a summer of spiritual searching even before these people entered my life. I appreciated the Bible studies and the discussions about God and morality. I was reading about God — the book God: A Biography, which appealed to my not-yet-quite-admitting-I’m-an-English-major mind with its exploration of who God would be as a person, based on his character traits as revealed by the stories about him in the Bible. I also read a short and unassuming book on reincarnation which drastically reshaped my beliefs (or call them superstitions) about what happens after death and between lives. It was called Life Before Life, and my mom had mailed it to me because it had so rocked her world after she picked it up at Goodwill for, probably, a quarter! (I mention that only because for some reason it seems that a new, mass market paperback edition of that book now goes for $439.11 on Amazon!  :-O )

I was very into build-your-own-religion in those years, even as I was trying on Christianity, particularly Catholicism, one more time. I still made up my own nature rituals. And when I revisited Yellowstone this summer, the presence of nature in its immense power and beauty struck me immediately and deeply. Strong memories came back of how I fell ridiculously in love with the aspen trees and how amazed I had been at the cold, crystal clear waters of the lakes. Especially Yellowstone Lake. Oh man … Now I have always been a fool for bodies of water, and lakes are some of my favorites. And the hugeness and the clarity of this one just blew me away. I remembered on this trip how the lake had been frozen when I first arrived in Grant Village (where I lived, which was on the shore) and how I had heard it when it cracked. I could feel the Holy Spirit’s presence almost tangibly, and I felt the life energy in the molecules of water, and all around me.

Captivated

 

clouds and lake

I would go to the West Thumb Geyser Basin — or sometimes just the shore where I was, by the restaurant and everything — and watch the silvery water. Sometimes I was the night maid, and I got to watch her at night. Can you tell I was in love?

Going back, maybe because I have since read all of those Clan of the Cave Bear books, it struck me how sacred and mysterious this place must have been to the people who lived in that area before the Europeans … the landscape of the geyser basins, the steam rising among the pine trees, the deep pools. I thought that the hot springs must have been seen as beings with their own life forces — I wished for more time to stay and get to know them again. I fantasized about sitting quietly there and tuning in to whatever the energies were, whatever whispers might be in the air.

blue pool

 

deep

 

basin view

Sitting quietly or spending a long time anywhere weren’t to be had on this trip, it seemed. Instead, we encountered an amazing abundance of wildlife! Badgers on the trail, snakes, an elderly fox carrying a dead marmot (!), the requisite herds of elk and bison, and an incredible NINE bears! We watched a coyote being steered away from the grazing herds by a few matter-of-fact pronghorns. All of these run-ins, glimpses, and outright ogle-fests were simply spellbinding.

Still, I think my favorite hour of all was the one I spent at the lake. And if I didn’t get to linger on the misty, mysterious, mystical lakeshore or wander among the pines, I now have an escape fantasy that will last me at least the next fifteen years. But hopefully it won’t be that long before I return next time.

And here are some more pictures that are just cool.  🙂

floating tree

 

deep pool 2

 

heart geyser 1

Sherlock Holmes and the Book Club of the Departed

Series 3 of the BBC’s Sherlock went off the website last weekend, but not before I’d watched all three episodes twice. I’m hooked on this show. It combines all my favorite elements: brilliant, angsty young Englishmen in enviable coats; very funny banter; irresolvable sexual tension; dramatic rhythm guitars; and a very realistic and impressive method of incorporating text message conversations into the narrative. (Weirdo that I am, that last thing may be what sealed it for me.)

As a matter of fact, I’ve never been a huge fan of mysteries, either in literature or on TV. It’s just not a genre that I can really get into, and I couldn’t even tell you why. My partner loves mystery shows, especially old ones, and now and then I sit down and watch one with him. They’re great: campy, intriguing — sometimes they even make pithy social commentary, but after an episode or two I just get bored. So something about Sherlock‘s killer combination wins me over IN SPITE OF my anti-mystery bias. I like it so much it feels like a guilty pleasure. (But really, the true guilty pleasure is my computer wallpaper featuring the lead actor’s face and the quote, “Why can’t people just THINK?” Let me tell you, we commiserate about this quite frequently.)

Lit nerd that I am, I finally couldn’t resist picking up the books. I read A Study In Scarlet aloud to Sam during a road trip a couple of weeks ago (the trip was just long enough to finish the book! Yay!). (Also, yes, I’ve sucked him into the whole Sherlock thing. He thinks I’m a little silly, but he also thinks Moriarty is hot.) We had great fun with the first book (even the Mormon interlude — Brits writing about American expansion — fascinating! to me, anyway) and thought we’d go on to the rest. So I emailed my mom to ask if there might be any of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s books lingering around the house.

See, before this ever started, way before there was Sherlock-the-show (ok, the recurring miniseries), my family has had Sherlock baggage. Well, maybe baggage isn’t the right word. Sherlock was always a presence. My grandfather, who made an appearance in my last post, incidentally, was in love with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. I don’t think it would be quite true to say that the Sherlock Holmes books were the ONLY books he ever read — he read the Bible, and some other classics, mainly Victorian from what I can gather — but he read and reread the Sherlock books over and over and over.

He hadn’t gone to college but he believed in education, was impressed by degrees and what he saw as general smartness. (My mom had that, and he was impressed by it, but they never had an easy relationship.) He wanted what was best for his small family but was often way off on what that was; he was an old school Italian-American patriarch, though, absolute ruler of his little parcel, and his word was final.

Words, words, words … He was a lectury kind of guy. He liked to, you know, hold forth. (I can’t say I didn’t get some of that from him!)  His discourses on such topics as the reason Italians eat squid at Christmas or how everybody pronounces a particular word wrong, showing their grammatical sloppiness and thus poor chances to advance in life, were generally repeated many times — like PBS shows, I suppose, there was always an encore performance. He would get an idea in his mind and insist on it — factually accurate or not. He had his own way of reasoning.

This could be why he resonated with Sherlock. He liked that the detective had so developed his capacity of deduction. It made sense to my grandfather (whom we called Nono, or sometimes No-no — improperly-spelled Italian, but perfect in symbolism) and I think maybe it gave him confidence in his own self-education, his own lifelong striving to improve his own mind. In a way he surely saw himself as a fellow traveler with Holmes. Both, in their own ways, crabby men who looked down on the majority of people around them, both idiosyncratic in the things that gave them joy — both lovers of the life of the mind, both trying to figure things out.

Then, after my grandfather passed away in 2006, those members of my family who believe that our loved ones and guides can communicate with us from the other side — my mom, my partner and I — got some more insight into Nono’s journey and personality while he was in the “living” plane.  My mom has had the most contact with him; she’s come to understand that he lashed out in anger and clamped down control over his family so much because he didn’t know any other way of dealing with the burdens of his life.  She says he’s actually very sorry, now that he can see things more clearly, for all of the hurt he caused.   For me, too, the impression I’ve received of his transformation through death is one of unburdening.  I felt him as an exuberant kid, running around and shouting “whee!!!” in the joy of letting go of materiality.  So maybe it was also the sheer adventure of the stories that spoke to him, to the boy reading a dime novel who lived inside of him.

When I asked my mom if she still had any of Nono’s books, she said it was funny I should ask that, but she was unsurprised.  She had herself suddenly gotten into the Sherlock Holmes series soon after my grandfather died, and read them all online at Readsherlock.com.  Then about two years ago, she said, my brother had become obsessed with the Sherlock books and wanted to know if she had any of Nono’s books.  As it happened, my grandmother had given them to Goodwill, so she bought a used deluxe annotated edition and sent it to him.  I said I’d had the funny feeling that when I read A Study in Scarlet, he was reading over my shoulder.  I guess maybe he still loves it and still enjoys reading it again and again!

And to add another layer of intrigue to the story, it so happens that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was a strong and vocal advocate of the spiritualist movement  in the early twentieth century.  That’s the one that created spiritual communities based around the idea that they could explicitly communicate with the dead.  These communities were apparently the target of police harassment, which Conan Doyle protested, according to Andrew Lycett in this great article written from a curious skeptic’s viewpoint.  So I can just imagine, playfully, if there is some place where souls of the formerly living can greet each other — my grandfather, upon dying, quickly seeking out his revered favorite author.  From this association he might become exceptionally good at making contact with those on the embodied side who might be actively looking for his signals.  Hey, it’s a thought!!!

At any rate, I approach reading the books as a way of learning more about him, and a chance to wonder what about his personality drew him so strongly to these stories.  It’s my way of continuing our relationship.  My mom tells me that my grandfather really wants to help us in any way he can.  I know that he loved me very much, and I feel that there’s a lot I can learn from him still.  I feel closer to him as I enter Conan Doyle’s fictional world and roam turn of the century London with my attention on the mysterious.  It’s a damn entertaining journey, and I welcome his company.

My mom ended up finding this used book online and sending it to me.  I heart recycled books.  She said it's the same edition she had bought for her father.  The original illustrations are amazing.  I love it!!!  Thanks, Mom!!!

My mom ended up finding this used book online and sending it to me. I heart recycled books. She said it’s the same edition she had bought for her father. The original illustrations are amazing. I love it!!! Thanks, Mom!!!

Finding Courage Through Surrender

This post may be a little woo-woo-sounding, but it’s about something I’ve been going through and how I’ve been dealing with it — including looking to God for guidance, and the guidance I received, and where it may take me.

I’ve been struggling with this one class. Of the eight that I’m teaching right now (four college, four ACT prep), there’s just this one that I can’t seem to get into the flow on. It’s one of the ACT prep classes that the district has made mandatory for every kid in certain schools designated “underperforming” (code for all kinds of other adjectives having to do with disparity of resources).  Most of the classes of this type that I’ve taught have been challenging but ultimately rewarding for me as a teacher, and the kids have seemed to get something out of them too.  For this one, though, uh-uh.  Even though individual sessions may go well enough, given that the kids didn’t choose to be in this class and most don’t want to be there, there’s this palpable antagonism coming from the students that goes beyond mere not caring.

I had this group before. I get them for eleven days at a time, not all in a row, and I haven’t been able to shake the role of outsider. They hated the (pre-set) material and I felt like they hated me.  Their classroom teacher didn’t seem to like me, either, and that didn’t help.  She seemed to have sized me up in the beginning and dismissed me as ineffective and not worth her time.  I tried not to take it personally, but it took a lot of emotional energy to keep going in there, to keep smiling, to keep looking for ways to get them engaged.  I rotated out to another class for a while — a great relief — but I knew I would be going back. Man, I sweated it. I seriously did not know how I was going to get through the hour each day, let alone offer the students something that would actually be useful or helpful to them.

But it turned out that this was actually a good place for me to get to.  Because when I realized I was at the very end of my power to get through something that I knew I had to get through, a light finally came on.  If I recognize my powerlessness over life circumstances, I know my only choice is surrender to God.

I was drawn to a little book of daily meditations by Hazelden called In God’s Care for a message from my higher self.  The message was this:

“A consciousness of God releases the greatest power of all.”Science of Mind Magazine  ~~ Just thinking of God as we go into situations we’re uncomfortable with or perhaps even fearful of will relieve our troubled mind and lessen our anxiety.  Carrying God in our thoughts means we don’t have to, for that moment or hour or day, feel alone.  Quite miraculously, we’ll know that God can help us handle what we could not handle alone.  Most of us dwell more on negative thoughts than on thoughts of God.  And our life is far more confused and complicated than it needs to be as a result.  To replace one thought with another is really quite simple.  A quiet reminder to stop negative thinking and remember God is all that’s necessary.  We may have to repeat the process many, many times, but patience brings the result we want.  God will strengthen us and take away our fears if we remember to remember.  ~~ I will keep God in mind today.  I will concentrate on remembering.

Whew!  Yeah.  As soon as I read these words, my heart remembered and knew their truth.  I felt the blessing of them immediately.  So I did this.  I clung to that message as to a lifeline.  The first day that I went back to this class, I concentrated on remembering that just thinking of God would release a new energy into the situation.  When I went into the school, I inwardly spoke God’s name.  In the classroom, during a lull, I tried to turn on my spiritual awareness, to sense God’s presence — and of course the presence was there, as it always is, everywhere. And here’s what God showed me when I tuned in to God’s perspective: the stress, the distrust, the shields, the fear, the worry, the isolation that these students carried.  I felt the atmosphere as one of tension, of deep, deep guardedness. I knew that I could never know what types of circumstances and home lives they had experienced.  And all I could feel toward them was compassion.

And toward the teacher, I simply felt friendliness, a new openness that surprised me, that came to me without my trying.  If there had previously been a power struggle, my end of it dissolved.  I felt no hesitation about going up to her at every opportunity and asking her for suggestions, or what she did in her own classes.  I couldn’t make her like me, but I could send the message that I liked her, respected her, and wanted to work together.  After this, the vibe definitely shifted.

Since then, I have relied on God to get me through each class. I’ve been giving it everything I’ve got in terms of teaching ideas — there’s pretty much nothing I won’t try at this point to make the class worthwhile for the students.  But at the same time, I’ve surrendered the outcome and my own will and effort to the power of God — and I’ve needed to, because finding the courage to face it continues to be a daily challenge.

Yesterday, I was still having a tough time.  As I walked into the school, I imagined God walking with me, throwing an arm around my shoulder, encouraging me.  I got through the class; the activity I’d come up with was semi-successful (which is really saying a lot, compared to past experiences!).  And as I left the class and headed out of the building, I found myself still connecting to that feeling that God was right there with me.

God as I meet God through recovery literature is a lot like God as I meet God in the Baptist church: Real. Personal. Walking beside me. Speaking in direct and unmistakeable words, right into my heart. The Infinite One who still has both the time and desire to talk to me, the lowly straggler. I guess that must be part of the Infinity. This is the expression of God that I can have a conversation with, the one that will give me guidance, straight up.

So I asked:

Am I doing all right?

God answered:

You are doing fine, kiddo. That feeling of security and warmth that lets me know when I’m hearing Spirit’s word welled up under my rib cage.

I asked: Am I doing what you want me to be doing?

The answer came instantly: Honey, I don’t want you to have to be working so hard.

I felt the beginnings of tears as I climbed the long hallway ramp, heading out of the building.  My current seven-days-a-week teaching schedule has been taking a toll, and I’ve been feeling depleted of emotional energy.

I asked: What can I do to change this? I’ve been so stuck in this rut, working so hard and not making a living wage.

God answered, gently but firmly: You need to respect yourself. All the guidance about publishing your work is part of this.

Me: (Silence; reflection.  It’s been an ongoing crisis all spring.  I’ve been doing a daily practice to “remove obstacles” between me and the sustainable and creative work life that I want to manifest.  The practice had led me strongly toward writing.)

God: And when you learn to respect and value yourself and the unique gifts I gave you, I will place you where I want you. Don’t worry about figuring out the “right” job to pursue. I’ll put you there when you have learned this lesson.

As I passed through the door and walked to my car, I noticed the warming, fresh-smelling spring air.  I reached up to touch a branch of one of the gorgeous, thick-trunked pine trees that ring the school grounds. God will place me where God wants me, eh?  I felt a smile begin in my heart and extend across my whole body.

I know I don’t respect and value myself as God does, or as God wants me to.  And sometimes I don’t believe I’ll ever be able to.  But I’ve grown in this area, certainly, over the past many years.  It’s one of my life lessons.  In my family, it’s transgenerational.  Part of the purpose of my life is to heal this wound of self-unlove that has stretched so deep and wide.  This conversation with God made me feel like I had the inner permission to take another step, or more, into self-value, which would really be a step of greater closeness to God.

pinecone

Low Strings

I learned to drum in Ubaka Hill’s DrumSong Orchestra at MichFest. I’m sure she wouldn’t even recognize me as a two-time participant (that’s peanuts — although I did have the honor once of doing vocal improv on stage with her and several other women at a concert she did at a church in St. Paul), but from her I learned how to play some basic, passable, serviceable rhythms on the djembe, rhythms which have given me much joy and have helped me to express many songs and chants. It was in those sessions in the tent on those hot August days that I began to understand myself as a drummer, and eventually to claim and own that part of myself.

I also enjoyed Ubaka’s talks on social issues and philosophies of music and sound and drumming. In one of these, she discussed the tendencies of men and women to choose higher or lower drums. Women, she proposed, often liked to play big, low-toned drums to compensate for, or balance out, a high vocal range. Through the drums they could express those parts of themselves that vibrated with deep notes, and men often sought the same balancing with smaller, higher-pitched drums. She drew the connection between the tones of the drums and the chakras, and suggested that women would benefit from playing the smaller drums too, because their sounds resonated more with the higher chakras. … A theory, and reasonable enough, in my opinion.

At the time, though, I remember thinking that I was more drawn (or at least equally so) to the higher-pitched drums and other instruments. I hypothesized that I feel the urge to fill in the high notes because of my low alto singing voice. I’ve always felt self conscious about my upper cut-off, and sometimes, while singing along with a fearless soprano, I feel a blankness where no sound comes out, and wish that I had some way to externalize that feeling, to express it in a vibration that can be heard. When I play high notes on my guitar, or uke, or on a sharp, tight doumbek (which I only wish I could play), it gives me such a feeling of satisfaction, like that pent up sound is finally being let out. The feeling in my chest is as the excess air hissing out of an overinflated tire.

The other night after I was playing the guitar for a while and leading a dance, someone who’s a good guitar player told me she noticed I play only my high strings, never the low ones. I told her my theory about the high notes and the low voice. She didn’t dismiss it, but said that in her opinion, the way I was playing did not make me sound commanding. I said I didn’t want to sound wishy-washy … ! She said it wasn’t that exactly, but she noticed the absence of low notes when I was playing.

I’m a guitar student without a teacher who takes advice and feedback and instruction wherever she can get it. I take it to heart and try to use it to improve myself and my playing as much as I am able. I consider this information. To me it feels like maybe a lack of foundation in my playing, maybe the instability of my fundamental insecurity about whether I will be allowed to play at all, and if I am, whether I will just embarrass myself. Maybe I need to just get over it.

I want to be able to play all the notes. I want to embrace and love every part of myself. I want to shake off that dang insecurity that keeps me down as a musician! So I’ll keep working on it — get knocked down and get up again (in the words of Chumbawamba — I really love that song, not even kidding). My ego gets some message that it interprets as a need for shame. I lose confidence in myself, I think I’m a total loser idiot, I sulk … and eventually I just put it out of my mind, lalalalalalala, and go back to doing the thing I love doing and being goofily grateful that people let me do it. Hm, yeah, I think a little more confidence would soften up that cycle a lot.

2012, 2013

I find it peculiar that in all the media references to the Mayan calendar business re: 12/21/12, the only aspect of the hype that any reporter or mainstream commentator (at least that I heard, which to be honest is not a very broad sample) mentioned was the supposed end of the world. I know there were folks out there who did interpret this 2012 stuff as an apocalypse prophecy, and also those who tried to scam the former group into buying doomsday condos in the remote Caucasus mountains or whatever it was. But this seemed like a fringe element to me. Far fewer people seemed to REALLY expect huge disasters than, say, at the time of the whole Y2K thing. That’s just my observation.

In my actual life, I know a lot of people who were and remain strongly invested in the concept of 2012, not as the end of the world, but as the end of an era. Or, as they might put it better, the beginning of something new. Most people I know who took the idea of something happening on 12/21/12 (and/or 12/12/12) seriously thought it would be something like an infusion of new energies into our spiritual bodies or the planet, or an evolutionary advance in the spiritual plane for some or all beings on Earth. Some also thought of it as a dramatic shift in the values or priorities of our culture(s). This shift might be a smooth and easy experience of raised energy leading to better choices, or civilizations might be forced to change their ways through difficult trials and suffering brought by the many errors of our previous ways. So in that sense some would say there could be some events that might actually seem “apocalyptic,” but they are really opportunities for humanity to realize the damage it’s doing. Imagine if the media actually reported on and discussed that! What a different tone that would be, and what possibilities for national self-examination that would bring!

Not that I have ever witnessed, at least, the US observing that the difficulties or tragedies it’s experiencing are the direct results of harm it’s done in the world and been moved to become different or better. That’s one reason I’m skeptical about all of these predictions. And I’m also skeptical of predictions that are very tied to specific dates. (Calendars change all the time. We’ve only had our since 1582. And not everyone in the world follows the same calendar.) And anything that gives an extremely specific description of something metaphysical, like the exact minutes during which the cosmic energies will be pouring in, or the precise language with which to address angels — it just feels uncompelling to me, like someone trying to insist their style is the only true aesthetic that everyone should follow. Faced with claims like these, I become a militant agnostic: you know, “I don’t know, and you don’t either.”

Still, I like the idea that maybe we have collectively reached a spiritual growth spurt, or that we are now receiving an extra potent dose of support from the Universe, or that enough humans have turned away from the dominant greed-based worldview to effect a change in outcomes. I would like to see the world at that place, and I also welcome the nudge toward personal growth and change for the better. In my more positive agnostic moments I say something more like, “I don’t know what it is, but it’s something.”

For myself, what I noticed on 12/21/12 was an immediate resurgence of personal issues (or as some would say, character defects) that I thought I had more or less licked!  First thing that morning, I dealt with an emotional meltdown, then had a few more in the next week.  I there are still rooms in my house that need to be cleaned out (which shouldn’t come as a surprise!).  I would think the message from the Universe will be different for everybody, but for me I get the sense that Spirit is letting me know what are the most pressing issues for me to work on, the biggest things currently separating me from a peaceful and harmonious existence.  I’ll be honest, this does not sound like a picnic to me — in fact it stirs a lot of fears about living without the old familiar (though harmful) coping mechanisms — but I feel willing to go there … hopefully without too much kicking and screaming.

Some things to let go of (again … and again):

  • Attachment
  • Jealousy
  • Control
  • Selfishness
  • Complaining

Some things to cultivate:

  • Generosity
  • Acceptance
  • Confidence
  • Appreciation
  • Lightheartedness
  • Friendship
  • Service

In 2013, I ask for guidance about how best to serve and help the world.  I want my life to add positive, tangible good to the balance of existence on this planet.  It is my intention to bring my life into greater alignment with the Highest Good.

Happy New Year everybody!  Love and blessings to you all!