The Thirty-Fivesies

Alert readers will notice that I have not posted to this blog since I got my new job this summer. I actually got hired on my birthday, and haven’t really had time to update this blog since then. (Apologies to all of the people who read that post and have since asked “how’s the new job going?” It’s going great, and thank you for asking!)

But since it has been so long and since it is now sort of the New Year (I mean, it’s definitely 2015, but it would be a bit stretch to say it’s still, like, part of the New Years holiday) I kind of feel inclined to look at how my life has changed since last New Year, sort of like those holiday letters that my more organized friends send, only more about the inner plane. And I sense it is going to be a long ass post, so if you get bored and quit reading I won’t be offended. In a sense I’m drawn to write as much for my own integration of the past year as for anything else. With so much head-spinning busyness over the past six months I have been in need of a reassessment: where am I right now? How did I get here? And where the hell am I going?

Well, here’s where I am in time: 35 years old. According to the calligraphy sign hanging above me at the Mean Bean coffee shop right now:

35

I don’t know if either of those statements is exactly true for me — I wouldn’t say my head is together and my body isn’t quite falling apart yet (though when it does, there will at least be plenty of cushioning to soften the impact). But I did coin a term to describe this phase of life that I find myself in:

The Thirty-Fivesies.

Sounds cute, doesn’t it? Well, that’s deceptive. It’s an ass-kicker, but somehow a happy one.

For me, at least, the Thirty-Fivesies refers to a change point, and a kind of progression from one set of lessons to the next. Sort of like an elementary school graduation. Like, it’s not like I know everything or anything, but I’m going to a new school now and the desks are bigger and the hallways are taller and longer and I can pretty much trust that the multiplication tables are committed to memory so I don’t have to keep quizzing myself on them. Oh yeah, and since I’m moving to a whole new school I kind of have a new identity, or part of one.

To use a different metaphor, the Pagan perspective tends to view a woman’s life cycle as a progression through the three stages of Maiden, Mother, and Crone. It can be hard for those of us who don’t have actual children to know when we have moved into the Mother stage, but it’s associated with a general sense of competence, of being able to tend to the community’s needs, of being someone who basically knows what she is doing and is empowered to use her creative capacity in a variety of ways — to create her own life, to create that which she wants to see in the world.

It’s hard for me to say “yes, this is me” because of my long-trained terror of speaking well of myself — one of the strongest lessons I took away from my childhood was that bragging was one of the most “sinful”, possibly most dangerous things I could do — so I am almost pathologically incapable today of saying to anyone besides my partner, “Yes, I did a good job.” But here’s the thing: that’s part of what the Thirty-Fivesies and the Mother stage and the elementary school graduation are about for me: completing that lesson, and other lessons, that I’ve been working in since kid-hood, and getting to move on to something new.

It means I’m moving from practicing self-abnegation to practicing self-value. It means that when it comes to creating my life, I’m moving from “What’s the crappiest thing I can stand?” to “What’s the best thing I can imagine?”

And without all the self-hate and self-limiting and convictions of unworthiness, who am I now?

I think it’s no coincidence that I got the new job right on my birthday. It was the first evidence of my valuing myself on an inner level, and starting to believe that the work that I do is worthy of compensation. This has only grown since then. And this is part of the graduation feeling; it’s like I’m not stressing about or pushing for it any more — I’m just creating it. On some level I’ve actually taught myself to believe in my value, at least economically. That’s shocking to me. And it tells me I’ve actually finally learned something.

So maybe there is something to that catch phrase in the picture — maybe I AM starting to get my head together.

But then there’s my heart, and gosh, I feel like all year it’s been getting tenderized — like a piece of steak getting beaten with a mallet. Though not necessarily in a bad way. Tender is good, for hearts. Open is good.

And sometimes to open something, you have to smash it.

I have this heart-and-wings pendant that one of my Sufi friends in Missouri gave me on my 30th birthday. At one point this year I thought I had lost it and felt sad. Then it came back to me unexpectedly — but with a little dent.

heartwings

Man, I should have considered myself warned.

If you know me, you know I’ve always been kind of an anti-romantic — even cynical about love. When characters in books or movies fell in love, I was of the opinion that they were just spoiling a perfectly great friendship. As a kid, I never imagined my wedding day, but I had elaborate fantasies about my adventures post-divorce. (Some of these involved moving to Texas on a motorcycle with two Shelties in the saddlebags.) Even when I did get married I was very cautious about what exactly I was promising.

This year I realized how much I have kept my heart in check.

I realized that I had developed such an over-reliance on my brain as the “go-to” source of information, insight, ideas, dreams, plans, analysis, etc. that it was hard for me to even sense my heart at all. And if I couldn’t sense my own heart, it stood to reason that the people and organizations that I loved — probably didn’t know that I loved them.

I realized that because of my fears about letting love in (or out), I’ve tried to fill the spaces with all kinds of other things, not always to my benefit. I’ve refrained from putting my whole self into things. I’ve believed myself to be unworthy or incapable of experiencing all the love that is out there, constantly surrounding me and pouring over me and waiting with endless patience for me to become willing to receive it.

So I’ve started trying to change that. I started trying to pass my communications through my heart instead of my brain. (Or at least, through both. Darn, brain, where is that off switch???)

Here’s what happened:

I asked for Divine help in opening my heart. The whisper said, ask the Angels to help you open the door. And they did. And I was overwhelmed by the feeling of light pouring in … and out.

IMG_0026

I started calling it the energy of the Open Door Heart. Suddenly I started WANTING. And haven’t stopped.

I started allowing the true desires of my heart to guide what I am seeking for in life. And it is changing me.

It means I’m more sensitive. It means that I’m less guarded. It means that since I’m allowing myself to want, I’m more vulnerable to disappointment.

I’m trying to bring my full heart to my relationships and I’m finding that this too makes me want more. I want deeper friendships, I want family bonds, I want more-than-friendships. I want to expand …

And that challenges me to, well, get out of my comfort zone.

It’s chilly in my comfort zone. It’s restrained and controlled and there is not a lot of sizzle or surprise.

But as soon as I try to stick a toe out of the bubble I realize I have none of the skills needed to create something different, and I don’t know if I am brave enough to try. I guess that’s the definition of a comfort zone. Going out of it is like — graduating from elementary school and feeling lost among all the big kids in junior high.

And knowing that at some point I’m gonna get stuffed into my own locker because I’m such a darn dork. (That never actually happened to me in middle school so I know I’m overdue.)

But what the hey. Once you graduate, you’re stuck with the new school and the new curriculum. You can’t just keep doing the same lessons over and over again just because they’re easy and it makes you feel smart. You have to reach for something new.

Last year’s theme was “Year of Art.” This year it’s going to be “Year of the Heart.” We’ll see where it takes me.

Teachers and Teaching

I have been thinking about the director of my massage school, Tom, because I just learned that he and his wife had a baby.  That might have been what put me in the frame of mind to give my chakras a good cleaning, using the Pranic Healing techniques I learned from him.  Ah, that felt great – like a spa treatment for my energy system! It perked me right up.

That got me feeling gratitude toward Tom for his teaching, and for the practices he passed on to me, along with hundreds of other Healing Arts Center students.  Now he is someone who has a big impact – and a great prosperity role model, too, come to think of it.  Then I thought about how I had responded to him on occasion – reactive and defensive when I thought he was oversimplifying a complex issue.  When I had him for a teacher, his method definitely rubbed me the wrong way sometimes.  I thought it was “masculinist,” as opposed to feminist, and the philosophy he espoused – about students becoming empty vessels so that the teacher could pour into them the water of knowledge – was, I thought, exactly what progressive pedagogy had criticized decades before.  To borrow an expression, it really ground my gears. 

In retrospect, I question these responses of mine – especially as I explore my relationship to teachers and teaching, and the meanings of my tendency toward defensiveness in general.  I begin to suspect (uncomfortably) that the “problem” has more to do with my emotional investment in believing I am “right” about certain things, and consequent identity attachment to external objects, which are by their nature insecure and unstable, than with any particular teacher’s method of teaching.  Oops.  Well, as I become aware of these stuck places in myself, these places where my attachments keep me from seeing a bigger truth, I am hopefully able to let them go, one by one.

I finally came to question even my long-held belief that the “pouring water into vessels” approach was an oppressive one.  It is usually associated, in my mind, with the use of institutions by the state to transmit the ideology of the state to all citizens, specifically through the educational system.  And while I still believe this to be a common (mal)practice, from an academic and political point of view, I have also arrived at a new location in my spiritual journey, one at which I find it possible that there might be something I want to learn about so badly that I want it to fill me, indeed, that I want to empty myself so that it can fill me more completely; and I know that it is my pre-existing beliefs that prevent me from grasping and fully understanding a Truth that is much higher and deeper than the current spectrum of my thought.

Well, may we all live and learn!

Peace to everyone,

heartland soul

New Age

***woo-woo alert!!!***  (though you could probably pick that up from the title)

Not long ago, a bunch of people I know were talking about how the actual Age of Aquarius was going to begin at 7:25 a.m. on Feb. 14, when the astrological arrangements described in the song by the 5th Dimension would be occurring. 

As someone who is inclined to give astrology some credit, I thought this was neat (and a fine occasion for some happy celebratory singing) even though I don’t get so excited by “THIS IS THE ACTUAL, EXACT TIME!!!!!!!!” type things.  I have the sense that astrologically speaking, in any cycle that takes longer than a couple of weeks to complete, you’ll be feeling the effects of the new element mingling with those of the old element for a decent while on either side of the event.  In other words, whatever day and time “the big switch” is supposed to happen or have happened, we would now be in the midst of a somewhat drawn-out transition.

Transition to what?  Astrology folks have offered a lot of suggestions, generally seeming to be based on extrapolations from the meaning of the sign Aquarius.  This Wikipedia article summarizes numerous, often conflicting, ideas about the when and what of the Aquarian Age.  Now me, as you may guess — I’m both sympathetic and skeptical.  I think “we” (the humans on Earth, individually and as a collective body, and whatever other energy flows, spiritual entities, etc. might also be co-habiting this planet with us) are transitioning into a new era of some kind.  I think this transition is quick enough to be perceived on a year-to-year scale.  I would say that it’s more of an evolutionary sort of change, i.e., we will be doing at least some things in a better way.  I’m skeptical in that I withhold judgment on what the content of those changes will supposedly be — like the militant agnostic — “I don’t know, and you don’t either!”  Maybe it’s just from the song, but people seem to hold the idea that “peace will guide the planet.”  …  I’ll believe that when I see it.

Nonetheless, my gut tells me that that’s the general direction, and a good inner compass for orienting myself by in the coming years.  Everything I think about this “new age” thing is a translation from a gut feeling — and I’ll be honest, gut-language is not always easy to translate to something that can be written down or stated clearly (in a way that can even be read by others, let alone disagreed with!)  Yet I am deeply convinced that something is happening, and convinced that I can perceive it happening!  Wacko? 

For example — one of the phenomena I see as associated with this, shall we say, larger energetic shift is a dissipation of fixed identities and bounded categories in general.  This came up in a conversation I was having with my partner, who is trans, about the current policies of some women-only spaces, which say that trans men (those who change their gender or sex from female to male) are no longer “women” for the purposes of the rule, and are thus no longer allowed to be there.  As I was making my point, I found myself qualifying, something like — “Although whatever role the women-born-women policies may have played might have been a useful one in the twentieth century, those types of distinctions are not going to be as relevant in the new era, so …” 

So?  Obviously fixed gender (and national, and racial, and sexual, etc., etc.) identities and categories have been in a state of decline in the world of theory for decades.  Many, many people have made very strategic assaults on those categories and done a lot of actual WORK to take some of their power away.  Social conditions, by their ever-changing nature, work against any category stability over time, and if, as some say, our time is “speeding up,” it will become harder and harder to see why we attributed stability to those categories in the first place.

Maybe that’s the metaphysical piece of it; it’s certainly not the only piece.  All I can say is that I have a strong gut sense that the dissolution of boundaries (previously assumed to be fixed or to have limited, finite permeability) is going to be a major characteristic of the new age.  I know this is not really a position that goes well with academia.  One of my clearest memories from any class I took in graduate school was of this classmate of mine aggressively denouncing the book Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (incidentally, a very important book to me as a teenager) as an example of the rampant exploitation of Eastern philosophy, religion, and culture by privileged Westerners for consumption and fetish.  It took me literally YEARS to chew through this incident to the conclusion that it had so bothered me because it dismissed an extremely real experience I had of connecting with my spiritual self through teachings that arose in a culture other than my own.  I am very aware of the kind of exploitation this colleague was decrying, but I felt like her critique didn’t leave any room for the genuine spiritual experience. 

Multiple people have spoken to me in the past few months about the West’s need for the East’s spiritual teachings, and from the perspective of both Eastern teachers and Western students (often teachers in their own right).  I won’t lie, I do think there is a bunch of crap written mainly for profit and/or self-aggrandizement out there, AND there’s a bunch of other stuff that’s just racist, exploitative, and/or fetishized, but I really don’t think that’s all it’s about.  I am inclined to think (that’s the phrase I always want to use when talking about this stuff, because it leaves space for uncertainty and new information) that it really is part of a needed balancing-out. 

In astrological lore, the tagline for the sign of Aquarius is “I know,” which is sometimes rewritten as “enlightenment.”  If by enlightenment we mean the refinement of our ability to perceive things as they are, and our wisdom in knowing how to act, and our hearts in their ability to live in harmony with our fellow-beings, then yes — I guess I would say that the “Age of Aquarius” is a pointer in the right direction.

Hope this is of some interest!

Peace to all,

Heartland Soul