Are you a rain grump or a rain buddha?

3 10 2009

As I slog around Boston this stormy Saturday, I am reminded that you can tell a lot about people by how they react to the rain.

There was the woman I saw on Washington Street, in the South End, darting feverishly from overhang to overhang and contorting herself as she dodged puddles.  Her tensed body was absolutely panicked it would be get.  Nervous that even a single raindrop would burst the fragile bubble of perfection and control her well-manicured nails clutch around her.  A burst that would toss her from her comfortable cocoon of illusion into the messy reality of, well, reality.  That woman needs a drink, I thought…or a good lay.  Or both.  And I wouldn’t want to be the one to give her either.

Closer to home, I saw a college-aged kid stomping in puddles as his girlfriend laughed uproariously.  Neither had an umbrella.  Their H&M outfits were so drenched that they may as well have been nude.  And they could have cared less.   They seemed to be the kind of people who have mastered the dance of life at a young age (or maybe it was that age hasn’t yet robbed them of the mastery we’re all born with).  My bet is that they greet a downpour with the same sh*t-eating grin they welcome a sunrise.

As for me….well, I used to be a rain grump.  I’m not yet a rain buddha, but I’m making progress.

14 years ago, I stopped being annoyed at rain…and started tolerating it.  I have the first Boston-to-New York AIDS ride to thank for the change.  For 1 1/2 days of the 2 1/2 day ride it rained.  Nonstop. I wore glasses at the time, which meant that I went through the entire state of Connecticut without sight…or brakes.  I distinctly remember going down a steep hill, literally unable to see what the flashing lights at the bottom meant, praying that it didn’t mean I needed to stop (because that would be impossible), and then…suddenly…knowing that a day of rain was nothing compared to a life with AIDS.  “Get over it,” I told my drenched self.  And I did.

Last year, I went from tolerating rain to revering it.  I was in South America at this magical place where the rain forest comes right up to the ocean’s edge.  I was there to spend two weeks doing deep dives with Ayahuasca.  It was the rainy season, which meant that it pretty much rained all day…and all night.  And I couldn’t have been more grateful.  There, immersed in a ritual shrouded in mystery, rain became a life savor.  Its wetness was as warm…and essential…as a mother’s embrace, welcoming me back from Ayahuasca’s vine.  The sound of the raindrops became the thread I would use to trace my way from the darkest crevices of the universal grid back to shore…or at least my chair.

I returned home from that trip forever grateful to rain.  Now, each rain shower offers  a chance to wash away the hurdles we too often let others put in our way (or put there ourselves).  A chance to wipe the slate clean.  To water the soul.

A chance to stomp in life’s puddles, celebrating the gift of being alive…wet or dry.  Shall we dance?


Of words and keys

18 06 2009

The word on writers is that we write because we love words.  That may be true for some, but not for me.  I write because I love what words can lead us to.  I see words as keys.  Keys that unlock the doors leading to life’s mysteries.  Mysteries that aren’t meant to be solved, but experienced.  To me,  words are but the means to an infinite end.

I’ve been thinking a lot about words this past week as President Obama, Democratic politicians and gay leaders have been knocked back on their heels by a community that is starting to grow tired of a words-only movement.  Weary of finding that words that promise action only unlock doors revealing brick walls.

But, I’m an artist, not an activist.  So, this blog isn’t about politics.

Rather, it’s an invitation to look at the key chain of words you carry with you.

If you’re married, when’s the last time you unlocked the door of your marriage?  To go behind the door of the word and into the room of your marriage? What’s there?  Two chairs facing a table of responsibilities? Or, a wall-less room where, as Joe Campbell says, the two selves who enter into marriage have re united into the whole self?

What does the key of your faith lead to?  Does it open the door to a “chosen” room that is bigger, better, brighter than anyone else’s?  Or have you realized that while the doors may be marked “Christian”, “Jew”, “Buddha” , “Shaman” et al, they all open to the exact same room?

And on and on the keys go.  They key for your career, your hobby, your politics, and on and on.

What do you DO with all those keys?

Are they your keys or did you just pick up the ones society says you should have?

Do you even know which doors they open?  Or are you one of those folks who just like to carry around a big key ring because you hope it will tell a story of how very important you are?  Hoping that just the fact you carry the words “married”, “religious”, “executive” with you…that those words alone will be enough to get you through life.

And, even if you know the doors they open, when’s the last time you went in?  In other words, do words open doors for you….or close them?

Finally, when’s the last time you borrowed someone else’s keys? What would happen if President Obama, a black man who can’t hide who he is, traded keys with a closeted gay man who not only CAN hide, but DOES hide every day?  What would each find in the experience that is the other’s room?

You can tell a lot about a life, a people, a country by unlocking the doors behind the words we use.  Perhaps we should do it more often.

In praise of darkness

2 06 2009

“I’ve got a really dark cloud hanging over my head,” I said when my husband how I was doing this morning (aren’t you glad you don’t live with me?!?!!).

“I’m sorry,” he said (the standard, socially mandated response to such a comment).

“I’m not,” I replied.  He looked at me as he increasingly does (as if I’m crazy) and went off to work.

But I’m really not sorry I have this dark cloud following me around—much like that old Peanuts character.  (And don’t worry, this post isn’t an invitation to a “pity party” as my mother would say.  I mean I’m all for navel-gazing.  I just prefer to gaze at my own navel in private.  I know…how very un-Facebook-ish of me!!

Nope, today’s post is about why “darkness” has such a bad rap.  Or, rather, a call for it to be valued as much as “lightness”.

To me, there’s something to be said for the Eastern way of looking at darkness as simply one side of the same coin.  A coin that can’t be whole without both light and dark, without yin and yang.  For the record, “darkness” to me is a catch-all for death, anger, fear,   hate…all those very human emotions that we lock away in the basement of our souls.  So, if you follow this belief, you see that hate makes love stronger, that it is death that creates life, and that fear empowers courage.

Now, of course, all of this is a bit unusual for a Texan.  Where I come from it’s just dadgummed impolite to exhibit darkness (Texans tell someone who’s house is on fire that their garden is coming along nicely).  And it’s really unusual for someone living in Boston.  Emotions?  In Boston?  Towards politics or sports, hell yeah!!! Show emotion to each other? What are you crazy!?!?!!!  How very un-Puritan of you!!

Actually, it’s a bit unusual for an American.  We seem to be a Stepford country when it comes to darkness.

Economy in the shitter?  “Why yes,” we say in unison, “but, me, I’m fine.  Just read my Facebook updates….my vacuous, numbing Facebook updates. Look for me on Twitter…so you can see how, every minute, I’m just fine. Really.  Fine.”

And President Obama increasingly looks like our Stepford-in-Chief.  Dark clouds simply are not allowed over his White House…or his country.  Largest bailout in history (following several other large bailouts in history)?  “Tough times ahead”, he says–but let’s not dwell on that.  Let’s go to New York for a date night or invite NBC News in for a two-hour puff piece on the interior of the White House.

What?  You say perhaps we should spend two hours on exactly what it means for the American taxpayer to go into the car business or the banking business?  What are you crazy?  Where’s my remote?  I need to catch up on Susan Boyle and Jon and Kate…now THOSE people have troubles, not me!

Now, I’m not saying we should dwell in darkness or wallow in it (I’m a little Irish, but not THAT Irish).  We shouldn’t cling to the dark…the same way we shouldn’t cling to the light. We should keep moving—because life keeps moving.

Writing this, I remember one of my many favorite scenes from the movie “Cabaret”.  Liza Minnelli is walking down a Berlin street and hears a train coming.  “Oh hurry, darling,” she says to her companion.  She runs and runs and runs until she’s under the bridge the train passes over.  As it passes, she lets out a blood-curdling scream (this was before Liza found other ways to release stress!).   And then she just laughs and gets on with her walk.

Everyone in America needs to find a bridge right now.  Not to jump off of, but to go under and scream as the train passes overhead.  We need to express the darkness whenever we feel it–for our country, our marriages, our careers, our dying or dead loved ones, our lives.  Express it.  Scream, shout, punch a pillow, jump around.  Whatever moves you.  Just receive it–fully and with gratitude–and then, give a smile and get on with your day.

Yup.  I’ve got a dark cloud over my head today.  It’s gonna be a damned-good day!

A moment to turn in

18 05 2009

“Seek and ye shall find.”  In so many ways, Christ’s words have been my mantra these past three years as I’ve struggled to, first, find my footing and, then, respond to the call that came at the most inconvenient time in the most inappropriate of places (in others words, at the perfect time!).

It’s a call so many wonderful souls I’ve encountered along this path seem to be trying to answer.  They’re not–we’re not–alone.

Several years ago, the New York Times had to create a separate best seller list for self-help books because they were squeezing out traditional fiction and non-fiction.  Obama was elected because he had the audacity to hope (and we voted for him because we had the audacity to “hope” that he’d wave a magic wand and make all our troubles disappear–requiring “them” to change, but not “us”).

Yes, we are a nation of seekers.  There are two problems.

First, the answer lies not outside.  It’s not in a new president, in a self-help book, on TV or at a yoga retreat.  It’s within us.  As Rumi says of lovers (“Lovers don’t finally meet somewhere. They are in each other all along.”), so can we say of seekers.

And, second, it’s not “the” answer, either.  To  paraphrase Osho, Christ’s answer worked for Christ; Buddha’s worked for Buddha; Muhammed’s for Muhammed.  They sought…and found..their own path.  It is only because so few do that we hold them up as saviors, prophets and the like.

We each carry our own answer…”AN” answer, uniquely, wondrously ours.  Sure, Christianity, Buddhism, and Islam carry clues, tips and directions to seeking our own truth.  But why in the world would you abdicate to someone else–no matter how wise (or popular)–the most fundamental gift of your life:  to create and live your truth?

Are we put here simply to re-trace the footsteps of someone else.   To live a “Groundhog Day” of Spirit where it’s the same scene, the same lines over and over.  Really…don’t you think God, the Spirits or whatever deities you believe in are a bit more creative and original than that??

I do.

That’s why I’ve come to believe that the “calling” of three years ago wasn’t some grand summon to THE mountaintop.  Nah, it was a call to let go of all the “stuff” society tells us is important..the bills, the politics, the drama we create to keep life intellectually stimulating (and dreadfully dull!).  To let go and dance my own footsteps.  Laughing at the realization that they are footsteps that wash away as soon as I create them, but my footsteps nonetheless.

Anyone wanna dance?