In Your Own Language

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“Don’t use the phone. People are never ready to answer it. Use poetry.”

 Jack Kerouac

For some time, I couldn’t call myself a writer. Then I did.

Same is true for poet. Now I do.

I’ve come to see something about writing. And poetry. When I first began to write after graduating from Stanford, my writing was – as you might guess – academic. But, I was 45 when I graduated, and had a lot of life in the rear view mirror. I wasn’t new to life. Academic writing served me there, but as I began to write about my life, my words felt clenched, tight. I slowly began to unwind my voice, to free it, to soften it. I began the journey of writing, and it has been a journey.

The journey of writing is so many things. For me, it’s been part of this long journey to discover who I really am, to discover what is inside as well as outside, and ultimately to discover there is no distinction.

The journey has taken me to many places, places that I’d hang out at for a while. Hanging out gave me the chance to settle into a new writing style, really a new writing freedom – plateaus on the long way down and in.

Lately, I’ve seen how I, and many, many women, learned to translate our native, mother tongue into a language that is more acceptable in this masculine-centric culture. My writing journey has been to come home to this mother tongue, my mother tongue – the language my own soul speaks.

Perhaps it is poetry. Perhaps. I say that because I don’t even really know what poetry is. I don’t know the rules. And, I don’t need to know either. I know it by feel. There is spaciousness in poetry, and there is room for you to read my words and have your own experience – whatever that might be.

So, yes, I am a poet. A poet of my own language. As you are a poet of your own language. Isn’t that truly the only way we can really tell and write the truth? In our own language?

::

writingrawpin01How do you come to know this language when you’ve been taught to speak ‘the’ language your whole life? You listen. You listen within. You go within, open your inner ears, open your inner eyes, touch with your inner fingertips, taste with those taste buds that line your heart’s walls and tumble down the sides of your round and supple belly.

You wade into the deep waters inside your inner temple, waters that hold the elements
of creation, waters that are creation.

You write, raw, the language of your own Soul. Every Soul is a poet. Every Soul. It is up
to you to know what poetry means for you.

If you’d like to take this journey with me, join me for the next round of Writing Raw.

We begin the week of January 12th and our circle lasts for six weeks. The early-bird price of $295 ends Dec 31st.

It is not simply for writers. It is for any woman who wants to know the deep feminine within, who wants to explore her own body and the body erotic, who wants to hear her own voice spoken aloud in a circle of women, without judgment, without critique.

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Deep-Bellied Places of Woman

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gorithefairone

Deep-Bellied Places of Woman

 

i listen with awe to

the sound of women’s souls

painting their lives in

words across the page,

each voice different

as she spills her heart into

the moon’s sure embrace.

 

i drink in the brew and see

the rock-solid foundation that is

woman taking shape again

across this land,

meeting mother earth’s

undulating curves

ragged peaks

soft, still waters

with her own.

 

mother earth has missed

our honest voices,

out truth-telling,

spoken in spite of unspoken

yet so-very present

threats of harm

if

we dare tell the truth of our lives.

 

she is hungry for this

bedrock of soul

to lie up against

the outline of her body,

her soul.

 

she has missed us knowing her this way.

she has missed us knowing ourselves in this way.

 

we are remembering, together.

always, together.

 

(c) Julie M Daley, 2014

 

written during Writing Raw, Fall 2014

 

:::

 

Writing Raw, Winter 2015 is now open for registration, with an early bird price until Dec. 31, 2014

I would love for you to join us. The circle is already forming.

image is ‘gori, the fair one’ by anurag agnihotri on flickr under cc 2.0 license.
no changes were made to this beautiful image.

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Being With: Reflections on 9/11 and Sandy Hook

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What I am going to share here is based solely on my experience – what I’ve experienced personally. As we come to the 2nd anniversary of Sandy Hook (tomorrow, December 14th, 2014) I’ve felt a strong urge to write this. These are my reflections.

 

As many of you know,

I worked with people directly affected by 9/11 for over three years, from ’03 – ’06. In the first year or so, I coached a large number of family members who’d lost love ones in 9/11 as part of a larger program they were taking, which comes out of the same core program I teach. Then, during the second year, I taught a couple of those courses and continued to coach.

Following these courses, I was hired to design and teach a dating relationship class to women who’d lost their spouses/partners in 9/11. Over eighteen months, along with my colleague Julie (yes, two Julie’s teaching together), I had the truly lovely experience of working with these women to discover a way to bring a new loving partner into their lives while also still grieving their loss. It is not true that we have to put our grief away in order to date again. We can find a partner who is willing to enter into a relationship with us even if we have experienced major loss.

Over the time I worked with these many family members, I found we as Americans to be supportive and truly desiring for there to be healing for these families. In fact, there was so much public attention around 9/11, many of these family members had a hard time finding a way to grieve privately – something we all need when going through the grief of traumatic events. We need our privacy, while also needing to know we are part of a larger community that is holding us firmly in love and respect.

During these years, 9/11 was still very much in the news, not only news of the American response to the attack, but also news about the family members and things they were beginning to do in the world.

When I would speak about my work with people in general, people engaged in conversation with me about it. There was a willingness to talk about it. It had affected all of us in a profound way.

This past Winter and Spring, along with two other women, I had the incredible opportunity to teach the same course again, but this time to people directly affected by the tragedy at Sandy Hook School, in Newtown, Connecticut. It was the first time the course would be offered, and I was asked to join-on because of my experience in teaching this material to so many diverse populations over the past twelve years. I won’t share anything about the experience of teaching there. It is too private, too personal, and requires a great deal of respect and confidentiality.

What I want to speak to is the difference in how I experienced our response to this event as Americans compared to our response to 9/11. It feels vitally important to do so.

I remember when I first heard about Sandy Hook. I was preparing to be on a Mastermind group call. We all got on the phone together, but I couldn’t continue. I almost couldn’t speak at all, the shock was so great. I excused myself from the call and sat down and sobbed. The shock and grief hit me hard, like I know it did for many Americans and many others around the world. What happened at Sandy Hook was something horrendous – so many very young children being killed in such a violent way. Still to this day, it is hard to truly think about what happened with full consciousness. I can only imagine it, based on what I have heard and read.

So as I prepared to teach, I began to really sit with the whole experience, not only what happened that day, but how we as Americans had dealt with it since that day. I first knew I would be teaching prior to the 1st Anniversary of Dec. 14th, 2012. I began to watch how we as a country spoke about this event. I noticed, especially as I mentioned to others I would be teaching, a marked difference in the responses to Sandy Hook versus the responses to 9/11.

I’m not here to compare them as better or worse. But I want to talk about how they were, and continue to be, different. I’ve thought a lot about why they would be different, based on my own experiences and reflections. Obviously, in many ways, 9/11 was a much larger event. More people were killed in 9/11. And, our largest city was affected not only by the deaths, but also by many injuries and fallout from the towers falling, as well as the ongoing fallout from illnesses and trauma. I understand this. I am not comparing the two events on scale. I am comparing them because they are two events I’ve been involved with on some level, and because I’ve noticed things simply from my own perspective as an American and as a human being trying to make sense of how we continue to turn our hearts away from the level of violence we experience here in our country.

In 9/11, the perpetrators were from the outside. They weren’t ‘one of us’, which made a clear distinction where to put our care and attention – on those affected by the attack. We could do this because those affected could be marked distinctly from those who were responsible for the attack. The event was horrendous, yes, and we drew a clear line of distinction between who was ‘bad’ and who was ‘good’.

With Sandy Hook, though, the person responsible was not only one of us, an American, he was from the community of Newtown. Suddenly, this dark, horrendous event was not outside of American soil, it was right here in our backyard, right here in our own culture, right here in our own family.

In 9/11, we could focus our anger and outrage on ‘others’, but with Sandy Hook we could not. There was no other. There was a barely-adult boy who was one of our own.

I noticed how people responded differently to me when I would speak of the work with 9/11 families versus the work in Newtown. Our faces tell a great deal.

But what I truly noticed was how quiet our country has been about the entire event. For the first few weeks, we heard a lot about it. Then, we went quiet. At first there was great outrage, then there was little. I know not everyone has been quiet. There are mom’s groups working to dismantle the power that gun lobbies have, as well as the many groups that have helped to bring healing to Newtown, one of which was the center that hired us to teach. But the media and our politicians, as well as most Americans do not talk about it. I think this points to something important, not only collectively but individually.

When we can point the finger at someone else, it is much easier to be actively vocal about things. We can look at them and ‘other’ them so that we create a firm separation of us vs. them.

But, when we have to look at ourselves, it becomes much harder to accept. Whether it is our country collectively, or ourselves individually, to do the deeper work means we must come to look within ourselves, and within our own culture. This is where many of us tend to shut down, because we don’t want to see what we are capable of. We don’t want to see the darkness that lurks right underneath our noses. We’d rather ‘other’ each other, believing it will solve our problems if we just grow more armor, more separate, ‘securing’ ourselves behind beliefs that somehow separation from each other will keep us safe from some imagined possible transgression in the future, or from a past hurt we’ve never been able to truly look at.

I never spoke about this with anyone during my stays in Newtown. That wasn’t why I was there. But, it’s been on my mind for a year, and in my heart. There is a very important learning here for us – very important. Every situation, every person, can be a teacher if we are willing to learn.

And, it’s not just what happened at Sandy Hook. It’s happening over and over and over here in our own country. Whether it is one of the multiple school shootings since Sandy Hook, or the recent events in Ferguson, NY, and Cleveland, or any of the other violent events in our country, we must begin to talk about what is here right in our own backyard. We must begin to talk about how we treat each other, and in turn how we defend ourselves so aggressively against each other. And, we must talk about shame and silence.

The healing we can offer each other is great. It is powerful. And it is needed. But it won’t happen if we can’t talk about it, if we can’t see that what is ‘out there’ is also right here in our own backyard; if we can’t see that everything outside of us in others is right here within ourselves.

I believe with Sandy Hook we felt fear, but more importantly we feel shame and guilt. It’s like a cover of silence descends over the event, a shutting down, a turning away.

Shame is a nasty beast. It causes us to go silent. It causes us to defend. It causes us to separate. It causes us to shut down, to lash out, to vow never to trust. I know. I’ve done a lot of personal work with shame, as have many of you. Guilt does the same things.

The funny thing about shame and guilt is that we go unconscious. For the most part, we don’t even know we’ve gone unconscious. We don’t realize how we’ve not talked about, nor faced on a deeper level, that which has caused us to feel shame, guilt, or fear or whatever else we might be feeling.

Think about it. How hard is it for you to think about Sandy Hook and what happened there? And how might that difficulty be affecting not only those affected by the event, but also your personal ability to heal as well as our collective healing?

And, when we won’t look at something, what are we making more important than creating a culture safe for our children, a culture of peace?

Is our fear of discomfort in facing what feels like a mountain of things we don’t want to see or feel keeping us from being who we need to be to create this change?

What are we valuing over life itself?

What matters is that we need each other. Life isn’t easy. We are vulnerable as human beings.

I know, after working with so many people over these years, that we heal, we create much healthier families and communities, when we open to each other and ask for help and give help. When the larger community we are a part of acknowledges it has our back, that it knows we’ve suffered and that it is here for us, we feel held and can heal. We are reminded we are not alone. Whether this larger community is our own family, our friends, our town, the country in which we live, or our global family, it is the same. And in this way, the larger community heals, because when we offer ourselves to others we heal, too. We grow, too. We transform into more compassionate and kinder people, and a more compassionate, kinder nation.

To do this we must stop and be present to what we’ve created as a society. Together.

When will we be with the hard and difficult feelings?

When will we begin to ask the hard questions that can lead to transforming the culture in which we live? 

When will we be with each other?

The time to create community to face these things is now. It is too much to bear alone. That’s why we have each other. We cannot do it alone.

 

 

 

 

 

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Life is Breathing Us Awake

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Weaving

Since the Ferguson’s Grand Jury decision not to indict Darren Wilson, I’ve been reading, watching, listening. I’ve been taking in all of this information, thinking that if I just take in enough, somehow I’ll understand.

And then, I stopped. I suddenly felt so full, as if I’d eaten this huge meal and knew I needed to digest it. I’d filled myself up. And in doing so, I realized why I had writer’s block for the past few weeks.  I write from my heart, and instead I’ve been swirling in information. So, I let it all settle.

Diane Arbus, the world renowned photographer, once told her students, “You must learn not to be careful.”  I imagine they were learning how to see, how to listen to the world through the lens, and she was advising them to take risks to become the photographers they were meant to be. I see our opportunity in a similar way, here in our country.

We are learning. We must learn not to be careful…so careful we don’t enter into conversations, we don’t listen deeply to others’ stories and even listen for what is under their words so we can hear what is in our hearts. We are experiencing a huge upheaval in this country. We cannot afford to sweep it back under the rug. We must address this. And, we’re going to mess things up along the way. That I know. It’s what we do when we are learning. But we let our hearts be our guide, we can do this.

For the last twelve years, I’ve felt this internal tug, the call of the Feminine. I truly haven’t known what I’ve been doing or where it would take me. And yet, deeper than all of that doubt was the knowing that everything that was happening to me was taking me closer and closer to what is real within. And, closer and closer to a lived knowing of our interconnectedness.

The feminine holds everything, loves everyone. She doesn’t discriminate. She weaves and connects us all together. She is the weaving. As the feminine rises, as She awakens, She is trying to weave us back together…to wake us up to this beautiful, vast, numinous Mystery that is at the heart of our existence.

 

Then, while digesting,

Life proceeded to show me what I was really longing to know. Something Oriah Mountain Dreamer shared on Facebook led me to read this interview by Tami Simon of Sounds True with James Finley. Finley is a master of the Christian contemplative way. As I read these words from Finley, I was stunned…

“… and then the big life-changing event for me, which was a little thing- It’s one of these things: I was at the monastery, and Thomas Merton gave me permission to spend some time alone in an abandoned sheep barn, and I would go up into the loft of this abandoned sheep barn, and the doors of the barn were always open and looked out over this meadow. It was in Kentucky, it was very hot, and I was walking back and forth, saying the Psalms. The experience, to me, was that what we tend to think of as the air is literally God, that I was walking back and forth through God, breathing God. There were no emotions connected with it. There were no images. It was like a matter-of-factness to the divinity of air.

I don’t know how else to say that. It was just that I was walking back and forth through God, breathing God. And it was clear to me that, no matter where I would try to run from God, I’d be running away from God, in the God that I was breathing and was sustaining me. And this air, this oceanic God that I was breathing, knew me through and through and through and through as compassion, just endless compassion without boundaries. It was just-I know no words to describe it.”

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…stunned because this is exactly what I experienced in India in 2006. Walking along the river Ganges in Varanasi, I had the same experience – I was breathing in God because God was in the air – God was the air, God was everywhere. And in this experience, just after experiencing it, I used the word God to describe it, which for most of my life I had not. 

As I read James’ words, my entire body shivered with this memory, and as I looked out into my living room where I was sitting reading, I could feel that I was swimming in God…inside and out. I had the experience, again, that there was no need to run toward, or away from, God because everything is God. There was no more looking for God, or for Love, because everything is Love. Everything. Inside. Outside. No more distinction between the two.

I stood up to look out my window as the sun was beginning to rise over the city. Everything outside my window was God, and not the God that I learned as a child – a man on a throne – but God as Life. Inside and outside, everything was God.

I suddenly felt compelled to go outside, to walk to the park to see the sun rise…to stand at the top of the steps to witness it.

Within minutes,

Dec0114Sunrise01I was standing atop the many steps as the sun began to peek through. I recalled what Oriah shared:

What would it look like to give my heart/myself away
in love with every word, every sentence, every story?”

And, as I stood watching this sunrise unfold over the next
fifteen minutes, I could feel how the Mystery, this Great Love, was giving itself away, offering itself as this gift of a sunrise.

With each breath, I was offered this gift. 

Everything given. Everything offered completely, given away completely.

No taking was necessary on my part, because it was, and always is, given, offered completely, wholly, holy.

I walked to the local cafe for tea, and sat outside on the bench watching people pass by, and the most remarkable thing happened, but not remarkable at all, really. My heart was blown open and as I looked out my eyes I knew God was watching the world through my eyes. I could feel the love of Life for Life, for each person, each being, each particle, each cell. There were no fireworks, no bells and whistles. There was only Love for everything being witnessed. There was no me, no them, no separation, yet there was still my humanness experiencing this profound Love for everything I was taking in from this spot on this bench.

“Infinite Love that gives itself away with every breath.” 

Infinite Love being given with every breath.

“The experience, to me, was that what we tend to think of as the air is literally God, that I was walking back and forth through God, breathing God.”  

Infinite Love being received with every breath.

And then, two days after this profound experience, I heard the news, and saw the words, over and over and over,

“I can’t breathe.”

“I can’t breathe.”

“I can’t breathe.”

 

We are both givers of this Infinite Love and receivers of this Infinite Love.

And yet, we learn to choke this Divine breath from another.

We learn to leave each other, dying, alone.

Life doesn’t give itself away to only some. Life gives itself away to each one of us, to every being, to all of Life.

The path of the sacred heart, the path of Love, is not about not being angry. Anger is the fuel for change. Anger that rises up out of the depths of this great Love that breathes us is one of the most powerful catalysts for creativity if we feel it within ourselves and listen for what it underneath it. It can be the most powerful creative impulse. I have been feeling mine and I know it is fuel to help us make change in the world. 

I know of one powerful being who threw a righteous fury in a temple when He could no longer take the injustice.

How do we move forward?

As Oriah wrote,

“What would it look like to give my heart/myself away in love” with every choice I make?

And these words from my good friend, Megan McFeely, who recently wrote this powerful piece:

“I believe we are all empowered…our work is right inside us. An evolutionary impulse is living through us because life demands freedom for all. It is our birthright and we have the power to act.”

“Life demands freedom for all. It is our birthright and we have the power to act.”

This IS ‘an evolutionary impulse’. Life is trying to weave us back together.  

Life is breathing us awake.

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