What if Eve was simply letting the soft animal of her body love what it loved?

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jody
A while ago, I wrote about sin in The Courage to Sin. That writing was long and laborious. I felt as though I was giving birth to a 100 pound yam.

It’s not the most comfortable topic for me. All of my writing boogie monsters come out when I even get close to having a thought to blog about it. There are a lot of people invested in maintaining the idea of ‘sin’ as a way to keep us on our best behavior. But boogie monsters or not, the shame is here and I know I have to write about it.

This is a picture of Jody – a beautiful big horse whose gift it is to help heal. Jody taught me something profoundly beautiful about the sacredness of our animal bodies.

I’m coming back again to a big piece of shame that’s been stuck in my body for way too long. This is shame that stems from projected sinfulness, meaning sinfulness that others believe is true about women and the world. It’s shame that has to do with sexuality and sensuality, with the power of women, and with women’s joy and passion.

This shame is dark and sticky. It feels as if it resides in my chest, covering over my heart, and even making its way down into my solar plexus and belly.

The shame keeps things pretty darn stuck. It causes me to think twice about using my voice, about writing what I feel called to write. It leads me to be really cautious and careful, to stay away from taking risks.

This shame borne out of projected sinfulness is a ploy used to keep women in check – to keep us small, silent, and dutiful.

It’s not like this is the first time I’ve met it face-to-face. But, this time is different. I realize that in the past, there were many ‘reasons’ to listen to it…but upon closer listening I’ve found all of those reasons aren’t reasonable. They are about as reasonable as the very idea that’s been passed around that women, like Eve, are sinful.

The more aware I become of the shame that is stuck in my body, the more clear I am that a) it is not mine, and b) I don’t want to carry it around any longer for those who decided long ago that I should.

 

I mean, why would I? Why would I go along with such a cockamamie story that tells me I should feel shame about who and what I am because I am a woman?

 

In the past, I’ve circled around the shame, mucking up in the shame, trying to figure out where it came from, what it meant, and what I had to do to get rid of it. That worked to a point, but now I see it’s more helpful to back up and look at the whole picture. This isn’t remorse or guilt or something I am feeling because I did something to hurt another. No, this is cultural, religious, systemic and toxic shame that comes from this fishbowl I live in.

Dr. Brené Brown writes that shame is “the intensely painful feeling that we are unworthy of love and belonging”.

Well, in the story that holds Eve was bad, the same story that constantly tells us women we should feel shame for what we are, women are seen as unworthy of love and belonging.

 

The question is…to what world do we want to belong? Do we want to belong in a story that holds that women are sinful? Or would we rather belong in a story that holds that all of life is sacred and holy?

 

Mary Oliver wrote:

“You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.”

 

What if Eve was only letting the soft animal of her body love what it loved?
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I’ve decided that’s how I want to live my life. Shame be damned. I am a soft animal and I know what I love.

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The Undoing

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alba a settembre
alba a settembre, by francesco sgori

Don’t just do something, stand there! ~ Rochelle Myers

Reverb10, Day 04
Prompt
: Wonder. How did you cultivate a sense of wonder in your life this year?

::

In the creativity course I teach, one of the most important ways of being is to ‘Pay Attention’. It is one of the keys to living a creative life.

Standing there.

Being still.

Coming to our Senses.

::

For me, in this body, in this life, the real wonder of it all is that I am alive. That I exist at all. That this body breathes on its own, that the heart beats on its own, that thoughts come and go on their own.

Wonder doesn’t need to be cultivated. Wonder is present when I stop trying to manufacture things with my mind that already exist in a much more real way.

It is the doing, the trying to make things a certain way, that get in the way of the direct realization of what is already here. Like Grace. Wonder. Awe and amazement. Humility. Love.

If there is anything I do, it is the undoing. The unraveling of efforting, the trying, pushing to make it happen.

It is to stop, stand still and receive what is being showered upon us. Right now. Right here. With a wide open heart and body.

When I do, wonder is already present.

::

So here is the paradox. There is a doing, but it is an undoing.

Recipe for Wonder.

Time: None
Ingredients: None
Skill level: You must be a beginner. If you’re not, remember you are.

Stop.
Stand Still.
Look.
Listen.
Feel.
Touch.
Sense.
Taste.
Smell.

Feel your feet on the ground.

Allow This to hold you.

Open your heart.

Open your body.

Receive.

Know whatever it is you know, deep in the cells, down in the body.

::

The Queen of Wonder, Mary Oliver, says it all:

When it’s over, I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.

~from When Death Comes

Image, alba a settembre, courtesy of  Francesco Sgori, under CC2.0

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Body and Place

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Place.

As I’ve pondered this word (today’s blog challenge prompt is ‘The best place’), I’ve thought of many places I love:

walking in Tilden Park (I live across the street from this wild heaven)

on the dance floor on Sunday mornings at 8:30 in Sausalito with 149 other sweaty and passionate 5Rhythms’ dancers

sitting on the floor in a puppy pile with my three grandchildren, 2 great-nieces and 1 great-nephew on Thanksgiving

doing yoga in my sister’s (the one and only Molly Fox) incredibly physical, and joyously lyrical yoga class

listening intently to my clients on our coaching calls as they share the most intimate details of their ‘one wild and precious life‘ (prostrations to Mary Oliver)

sitting in meditation with the most amazing teachers Lynn Barron, Amma and Adyashanti

simply being with Jeff, the man I share my life with.

I am struck by these things:

how crazy fortunate I am to be living the life I am living

and

how integral being in my body is to the ability to ‘be’ in any place and ‘know’ how it feels to be there. My body is my doorway to place, because I experience place through my senses. I drink place in with my eyes. I touch place with my heart. I feel place through the cells of my body.

and

The ‘best place’ to ‘be’ in is in this body, this sensuous female body that feels deepy and loves completely.

Now, don’t get me wrong. It hasn’t always been the best place to be. In fact, for many years I wanted nothing to do with this place. I stayed way up in my head, or at times, was nowhere to be found even in the vicinity my body.

Now, after much ‘work’ and lots of great body practices, I know differently. This female body is divine. Not just mine. All female bodies are divine.

I remember being at and Adyashanti retreat when he was speaking about the divine nature of all of life. As I listened, I had an epiphanic experience (fancy way of saying an ephiphany, because I love the word ep⋅i⋅phan⋅ic). I suddenly knew, in the embodied way, that my female body, and all female bodies, are divine. We bring life into life in a myriad of forms. Our female bodies are gateways to this amazing thing we call life. If we are in our bodies, we feel deeply, we connect with the earth.

As this was satsang, when the time came for people to share experiences or ask questions, I raised my hand, was called upon, strode up to the mic, and said, loudly and clearly, “I just got that this body (pointing to mine) is divine”. I suddenly heard a chorus of female gasps arise around the room. I obviously wasn’t the only one who had missed this message growing up.

So in wondering about place, I now see, and taste and touch and hear and feel, that body needs to be in conscious relationship with place, any place, to know it.

As Mary Oliver writes,

Wild Geese

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting–
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

This post is part of Gwen Bell’s Best of 2009 Blog Challenge
Day 11: The best place. A coffee shop? A pub? A retreat center? A cubicle? A nook? A BODY!

Image credit: Place of Healing, by Mara on Flickr

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Mary Oliver

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Just a few days ago, last Thursday evening, I was lucky, lucky, lucky…I got to experience Mary Oliver in person in San Rafael. It was my good friend Megan’s birthday and she invited me along with her.

Mary Oliver is an incredible poet, and having the opportunity to hear her read her own words was one of those amazing moments in life. She is simple yet profound in her ability to articulate the experience of being present to the beauty of life. I found her most engaging as she shared poems about her important relationships: the one with her late beloved partner of 40 years, and the other with her dog, Percy. She is a master of speaking from her heart, in writing and in person.

I am currently re-reading one of Mary’s latest books, Thirst. It is a beautiful collection written after the death of her partner, and opens to two new directions in her work: grief and her discovery of faith. This book looks at sorrow as an opening to the awakening of faith. It reflects my own experience of the profound way that grief can move a person into the depths of the heart, which can bring about an opening into a new, very personal, relationship with life. Pick it up and be prepared to be amazed.

Amy Lenzo, of the Beauty Dialogues, was there, too. We were hoping to meet each other in person, but it wasn’t to be. The place was packed, every seat sold in advance. You can read Amy’s account of the evening in her post in the Beauty Dialogues.

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Lovers of This Place

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“I walk in the world to love it.” ~ Mary Oliver, the fantabulous poet.

I received this quote recently and fell in love all over again with the world I live in.

spiral.jpgThe next morning, a sunny spring Sunday morning, I decided to take a walk in Tilden Park. It’s right across the street from our house, so I simply have to step outside and I am there. I took my new camera with me, my new/used D200 that I bought from my good friend Jenn Lee‘s husband, Bring Ng (an amazing photographer if you are in the market for one). This was my first jaunt into Tilden with my camera and I could feel my excitement.

I hiked up into our favorite path, a loop that goes up towards Inspiration Point, and then back down hill until it reaches the creek and meanders along the water for some distance. As I hiked, I kept hearing this quote from Mary Oliver over and over in my head. “I walk in the world to love it.” As I walked, I could feel myself settle into the surrounding landscape, dropping down into the deep peace that was waiting there for me.

fuzzy.jpgIt was early in the morning, about 8:00, so there were still many pockets of cold air, especially in the shadiest spots, while just around the corner the sun would be blazing and a balmy breeze would blow across my face. In those balmy breezes, I could smell the fragrance of each mini-world I came across.

The sun was coming through the landscape, lighting up nooks and crannies I had never noticed before. I could feel a kinship with the world I was immersed in, feeling a kind of deep peaceful love that comes over me when I hike.

As I hiked up to the top of the trail, I came to my favorite spot, a bench that looks out over the tiny valley and out across to Mt. Tamalpais in Marin. My partner Jeff and I love to sit here in silence, enjoying everything that presents itself to us. The bench is dedicated to David and Irene McPhail. I remember to thank them for this place to sit and appreciate the surrounding beauty.

As I approached the bench this time, loversofthisplace_01.jpgI noticed once again the plaque on the back. How perfect. On the plaque was the statement, “Lovers of this Place.” I didn’t miss the serendipitous tie-in with the quote from Mary Oliver, “I walk in the world to love it.”

So I sat down in silence and drank in the beauty of everything presenting itself to me in this rich moment. I wondered what it means to be a lover of this place, this world we live in. What does it mean to love the world, to be a lover of this place we call life and earth and community?

What is it to be fully sensuous, to rest in one’s awareness of everything presenting itself to be experienced? How difficult it can sometimes be to not push certain experiences away, while grabbing a hold of other better ones.

To be a lover of this place means to have a loving relationship with all of life, not making demands on the moment if it isn’t what pleases you. It doesn’t mean simply letting the injustices prevail, but rather loving the world open-heartedly so that you allow it to come to you, allow it to unfold before your eyes, ears and heart. It it then that we can be truly responsive and responsible to the world, to each other and to ourselves.

What does it mean to you to be a Lover of this Place?

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