Tag Archives: letting go

Crossing The In Between

You carry me
A child in your arms
Through an open door, a crumbling ruin
Remnants of an old self where once I lived

Glancing back, there is only a shadow
Of the one I once had been
Fading as the sunset settles
The landscape still

And then … …

Hush, the darkness descends, encircling, enfolding
The quiet complete, I am safe in your keeping
Dissolving into the soft peaceful presence of you
Heartbeat of earth, soil of silence

I wait to sing the songs of sleeping seeds
Stirring as seeds do, gently
In their slow, motionless unfolding
Rooted firmly in our unconditional belonging

Turning toward the light
Without eyes to behold the dawning sky
Reaching, growing up toward the unknown
Without hands to hold out to find the way

Only your eyes
Seeing with such compassion to every moment of my waking
Only your hands
Holding me tenderly, shaping me whole

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The Place Beyond Forgiveness

I have forgiven me, but that has not been enough
I’m still haunted, at times just looking in your eyes
For me, the fact that I’ve grown is irrelevant
I remember; and I ache to erase, all of it

Breath catches, frozen in mid motion
I relive it in an instant, a wave of yesterdays
This time, I force myself to trace the river of shame
Trembling with the effort of owning what I did

Perhaps I can finally be at peace
The way you have made peace, and love me
The way you have always loved me
You stand in the doorway, a light against shadows

Try to find the grace in the sorrow, you say,
The gold in the grey
Some compassion for the one that you were
In a moment where all was forgotten

I search for the goodness I might have learned
Gather a harvest from tears
You meet my eyes before I shut them
With open eyes I watch the wounds begin to heal

Can I hold space with you, you ask me then
I fear allowing myself something kind
Attempting, regardless, to meet myself gently
You step behind me, quietly enfold me in your arms

With the trust of a child, I let myself be seen
I am present without judgment, perhaps for the first time
I am shifted into spaciousness, now enfolding us
And the light shining through me is mine

The Shadow Side of Joy

Last night I was visiting family, and we decided to watch what would turn out to be one of the most suspenseful movies we’ve seen in a long time. Why? Well, the major problem turned out to be that nothing went wrong.

First of all, three very young children set out to maneuver a rickety homemade raft across a lake … and none of them drown. There was a very old, arthritic dog … that didn’t die. Two of the lead characters, an African-American man who used a wheelchair and an able-bodied white woman who lived in the deep south … did not experience any challenges or conflicts in their evolving relationship, and fell madly in love within three months of meeting each other. Disagreements, when they did arise, … only brought people closer together.

The longer the banal plot line of the story stretched without a crisis, the more agitated we became. Then it happened: our groaning complaints about the lack of riveting action (I.E. terrible stuff befalling people) turned into hesitant, nervous exclamatory pleas for an unknown and obviously hostile future to please not dump its doom onto these people whose lives were so precariously prosperous. “Oh god, I won’t be able to handle it if that dog dies.” “Those kids are going to drown, I just know it.” “Someone’s going to get their heart broken and be emotionally shattered.” “I can’t take it! What if…” …

I sat there eating popcorn, reflecting as if from a distance on how absurd human beings, including myself, can be. (I admit to feeling just as threatened by all that good fortune, which was obviously going to turn out to be too good to be true.) What a fascinating phenomenon, to expect vicarious terror to temporarily take us out of ourselves, only to realize that we are terrified to feel joy. Suddenly, the movie seemed far more interesting, not because of what was happening in it, but because of what was happening to us. The characters’ happiness grew in direct proportion to our misery. Our own fears prevented us from sharing in their happiness.

We know life is ephemeral, that time is fragile, that change is inevitable. We’ve been prepared, to the best of human ability, to respond in a crisis of tragedy. But we barely recognize the crisis we experience when we are surrounded by love and truly feel at peace. We grow up expecting the next shoe to drop, the next tragedy to hit.

At least I did. I remember a particular day when I was about to graduate from Stanford. I felt completely at home in myself and completely content where I was. As far as my twenty-two-year-old self was concerned, I could be a student with this wonderful group of friends in this beautiful city, living in the space between the potential of a dreamed future and the lived experience of launching it, for the rest of my life. I was caught in an experience of pure joy at what was the case, this very moment. I loved it all. And then someone reminded me of the impending changes I would soon be facing, that all my friends would leave and that there were many rough, gnarly, tragic, and potentially devastating moments to come in my future, and I was an anxious terrified mess for months afterward.

That person was absolutely right. I probably don’t even have to tell you of how, in those subsequent ten years, I have lived through strained awkwardness, gnarly situations, terrible grief, gnawing loneliness, discrimination, pain. I could go on, but adversity befalls every life. The question is not, ‘how can I prevent suffering from ever happening?’ The question is, ‘Why let the fear of inevitable, yet unpredictable suffering silence my laughter, stifle my wonder, strangle my joy, stop me from reaching out in love and cause me to withdraw and close down instead?’

Why, indeed. Bitterness is child to a constricted soul who shies from the vulnerability needed to love and be loved, out of fear of the risk of being hurt. People who can’t experience their own joy because they so fear the potential immanent loss of the good all around them, come to resent and compete with those who seem to be able to fully take in moments of connection and contentment. And how can you author your own life if you allow yourself to be ruled by the tyranny of anticipation and your current fictions about the future?

You can’t, of course. You might be so worried about the possibility that something might happen to your kids that you fail to fully be present as you tuck them into bed at night. You might be so afraid of losing a dog or a cat that you only realize after they’re gone how you could have fiercely loved them, but held back instead. Most of us don’t ever fully realize how many beautiful, vibrant, cherished moments we miss while we’re preoccupied with fears of what isn’t there.

We learn to embrace–accept, acknowledge, attend to– the shadows of our soul, our inner children, our false beliefs, the fragmented rejections we sometimes glimpse in the mirror. And yet I am left wondering, long after the movie ended, what would happen if we learned to hold a compassionate space for the shadow side of joy. I wonder about the freedom in finally being seen, the strength born in a person when the risks in reaching out are worth every second of being fully alive.

The Place Without a Name

A hundred yesterdays stacked behind her
Alone but for the memories there
And possibility’s children, yet to find her
The moments unlived, unborn, are there

And the purple fog beckons from elsewhere
Along the path she was just on before
The in-between, vast silent shelter
Tomorrow is an open door

The space between howls as if the wind of wonder
Swept vast across a cold and barren plane
But there is only stillness, question marks to wander
In neither world, the place without a name

She stands at the threshold of a foot fall
Slowly uncertainty uncoils, stretches, those searching eyes hardly tame
Time will tell the story of us all
She will, and will not be the same

Further Transitions _ A Villanelle

I grieve, though I’ve never lost what’s mine,
Struggling to accept what I wish wasn’t true.
I long to let go, still afraid of what I’ll find.

Too many people choose smallness, forgetting how to shine,
So while I’m in this world, I feel most at home with you
And I grieve, though I’ve never lost what’s mine.

Why embrace life’s sorrows and joys, equally in kind?
Getting hurt has only made me more mistrustful of the ones I knew.
How can I let go when I’m afraid of what I’ll find?

Hush, you say, you defend against illusions when you’re fine.
But, I’m trying to hold back waves of tears from overwhelming me anew
With grief, for I’m sure I’ve lost what’s mine.

Perfect as I am? The idea blows my mind.
What about all the wrong turns and mistakes I should work through?
I long to let go, still afraid of what I’ll find.

If I leap ahead, cross beyond the line,
Where will I land, strangely beautiful and new?
I’ll surely grieve, though I’ve never lost what’s mine.

The loss is of all I need to leave behind,
Even if its time and purpose long since flew.
I long to let go, still afraid of what I’ll find.

Uncertain change initiates its eerie whine
At the standstill. I remain, not sure just what I’ll do.
I grieve, though I’ve never lost what’s mine.

Knotted threads of broken patterns continue to unwind
And the nets that kept a sense of safety number few.
I long to let go, still afraid of what I’ll find.

I don’t know where I belong, both embodied and divine.
Bridged in between, I wander, a missing shade of blue
And grieve, though I’ve never lost what’s mine,
Longing to let go, still afraid of what I’ll find.

As I Crossed Over: Caoilte’s Experience

It was winter cold, the morning I returned to her. The night was cresting a wave of a darker sea, brightening slowly with patches glimmering brighter than any sun. The light filled every span of sky, until I felt it filter through skin, it was, and was not mine. Boundaries seemed to dissolve, around me, around all I could see from where I was. With quiet curiosity I felt separation fall away, while keeping whole the one I knew as I.

***

The murmur of the surrounding voices, growing sharp with concern, began to fade into a song whose melody I once could follow, but to whose chords I could no longer belong. Why did they weep, my fiercest friends, when I was still here, tinged fair against the depth of sky, shining out all I had ever been? Could they not see me, holding out my hands to them, set free from the bindings of age? For a moment, uncertain, I remained, bewildered, torn, unsure which way to turn.

Then, in fully fledged joy, I leapt between silences, having glimpsed the threshold of a door, and then I knew: the cause of their keening, the body huddled on the floor that once answered to my name. I tried, but could not shout to make known I was there, the same. For a moment I wondered if I might remain alone, if I would wander the in between of worlds as I had done in other ways the whole of my life.

And then, suddenly you were there, grasping my outstretched hands in yours, as strong as I tried to remember you. This time we would not let go.

I forgot if there were other things I knew, lost as I was in the light-song of you. Joyful tears sparkled in your eyes, eyes like the bright moon, eyes of my love, I dreamed, mere dreams, to see again. Laughing then, you pulled me into your arms, effortlessly carried me, though between us you’d been so much the smaller of the two.

I did not know how to speak in such a new form, but love never needed words. Together at last, we crossed the bridge of light woven with a thousand stars. I’m here, you’re here, and the felt thoughts blend, both of ours.

For there is now no moment to separate us in time, no sequence of nights and days, no leaving behind. No veil, only mist, that parts to the keen eye, with the colors of belonging, an eternal tide, a dance we’re wandering, life into life, and ending in beginning, we do not die.

There is no death, only change. Playful time might rearrange as we let go of what was never ours to own and emerge, as if from the cocoon of a denser, more solid world, into the vibrant song of being, which we have always known. In joyous abandon, we leap into the arms of those who wait for us, united once more, finally come home. We cross the bridge of becoming, Brilliant and bold, and dance the patterns of the light. In us, there is life.

Hill of Tara Part 1, Ireland, 2015

I step off the large tour bus. Mom, very tired, stands to my left. In front of us the hill of Tara rises, and even closer than that, clumps of tourists, families and groups of friends, mill about. We are an odd blending of strangers and companions, all with stories of our own, dropped here from around the world to visit, for all our myriad of reasons, a part of our heritage.

It is a beautiful summer afternoon, the sun shines radiant but unobtrusively through the clear, blue sky, its rays dancing a compromise on the cool breeze, as if seeking, in midfall, to defer deferentially to already ensconced patches of shade.

A cacophony of conversation drifts up the hill over endless neatly mowed grass. Grass? At Tara? When did this happen? The question intrudes on my thoughts and I’m not sure who it’s from. All I know is that, when I was here before long ago, the place was mostly dirt, and grass in the form of neatly kept lawn was conspicuously absent.

To see the place once more, but without eyes, haunts me, taunts me with visions which will remain unconfirmed, cheating me out of an intimacy I once shared. I can walk but cannot trace the contours of the landscape with my eyes, and for a moment I am grief stricken, like someone who can behold but never touch the one she loves.

The metal gate would have been absent of course. so would the bus that dwarfed the distances I might have once traveled by foot. Would I recognize those footpaths now, or would they be permanently lost to me, covered over by time and transformation, deforestation, and fresh green grass? I have little time to ponder, for now the woman with the calm, high voice who will be our guide for the next hour issues us through the gate and we begin our ascent.

Part of me recognizes what I am doing as quite normal and routine, exactly the kind of sequence of events that occurs during a mass tour of an ancient site. And we had had no choice about the large tour group, either. Our trip to Tara is part of a larger tour of the Boinne Valley, including Newgrange, which we visited earlier. The neolithic stones are only accessible through booking a tour with the visitor’s center. What else might I have expected?

The answer comes unbidden to me, unannounced, almost a surprise. For we entered Tara without challenge or ordeal, no statements of pedigree, degree and right, status or reason for business. And I remembered, from somewhere deep within, how such a display of worthiness was required if a person wished to even remotely be considered for the welcoming. And here we are, without trial or travail. My surprise, I realize, is not at the details of the memory, but my unnerving feeling of culture shock.

And “Now watch your step,” warns our vigilant tour guide, in a tone of voice that conveys her desire to avoid a repeat of some prior mishap. “The grass is slippery and wet, and the ground is uneven.”

Of course it is, I think to myself. The first thing I notice, with a pang of sadness, is the absence of the great wall. The open grassland unsettles me, any trace of a protective embrace now long since eroded away. We walk past two stones, which our guide explains are all that remain of an ancient rite of kingship. It was said that these stones were placed a specific distance apart, and that a potential king would only be allowed onto further initiations if he could drive a chariot between the stones without touching them. I felt the two stones, the aspiring king would have had to be very skilled indeed to accomplish the challenge.

I am grateful when mom is too tired to walk with the rest of the group, and we fall behind. I need distance, and badly. Besides our feet upon the now grassy earth and the birds chattering in sporadic song, the occasional caught phrase from a fellow tourist up ahead, the wind whispering its opinion now and again in low, hushed tones – the place is silent, silent.

No one lives here. No horses whinny impatiently in a stable, no king’s servants hurry by with provisions, wash buckets, hay bundles, or cooking pots. No last minute commotion to repair a building. No children hollering and playing in the dirt. No pits for fires, no conclaves of brehons, no bards with their harps, no druids preparing the ceremonies of Samhain. No shouts from the now absent walls. No buildings in fact, except for a church, constructed in 1822.

It’s a very interesting church, but while I am appreciating its existence and contribution to the long history of this place, I am left grappling with the elusive transience of uncertainty forged through the passage of time. Time and its remnants seem to emanate from this place from every age, from the stone age to the present, clambering for their own share of loyalty, of recognition, of honor. In the midst of the iconic passage tombs with their transparent mystery, the allure of the Christian era crossing the minds of those from the middle ages to modernity, casting its shadows over the past, Tara from the second century CE seems to have fallen into obscurity. To the hand or the eye mapping the surface, the time I walked this world as Mairin is almost forgotten, or else shrouded in the misunderstandings and messiness of myth.

We walk on. My feet take to the landscape almost effortlessly. True to our guide’s word, the ground is quite uneven and slippery. Mom stumbles, and instantly I catch her fall, perfectly poised on the ridge of a dip in the landscape. Farther on she trips again. Again, I compensate without thinking, immediately placing us solidly on the furrowed plane of the hill. “Don’t worry, this is what sighted guide is for,” I joke, grinning at her, “So that I can ensure you don’t lose your balance.”

We laugh. “You’re doing pretty well,” she admits and I wonder, should I tell her that I am fairly convinced that I know my way around?

I decide against it. Mom is pretty tired after all and I feel she might need a break from conversation: she’s been describing landscapes and standing stones to me all day. Besides, I don’t know where my brothers are, and if either of them overhear, I’ll be hard pressed for a decent explanation. In fact, I’ve yet to figure out an adequate explanation that satisfies myself, though I can feel myself teasing out the story from my bones, as if patiently completing a one thousand piece puzzle.

Just before we crest the top of the hill, it is plain to me that I do in fact have some sort of instinctual memory of the place. Toward the top is a very steep portion, and forgetting mom’s fatigue, I bound up the steep incline like a dear in the dark, slowing down only because I am still holding onto mom’s arm, and I can’t as well drag her with me.

I want, so badly want, to run, to race up the rest of the hill, then race down again, several times, until I’ve exhausted myself. But I don’t have Allegro or my cane with me, and I can’t run with a cane anyway, doing so is the equivalent of sprinting with a big stick, and that has other potentially hazardous consequences (usually for other people.)

So I do the next best thing, what I have always done when I long to be able to move gracefully in a world that doesn’t allow that without vision: I take a moment and imagine, in vivid sensory detail, what it would be like to move fast on my own. Then I let go of the desire. I’ve done all I can with it.

Mounds within mounds. Age packed onto age. Standing atop it all at the summit, where everyone with the eyes for it are looking out over three fourths of the whole country, history sings to me from far beyond who I was, far before who I am now. As I stand, the energy of this place captivates me, courses through me, a raw reverberation of remembrances. I am centered in their radiance. As if a tree, rooted, I pull up a current of change that seems to seap out of the ground through the soles of my shoes, traveling like sap through a tree trunk, until I am not sure where the soul of the land ends and my spirit begins. That is when I remember.

From the Ground Up

The day somberly takes shape beneath
Comings and goings of many errands,
While I sift through shadows
For lightheartedness.

It’s got to be here somewhere.
Where did I leave it last?
Did I put it down, distracted,
Now failing to recall it’s location?

I am not unhappy,
Just strangely subdued,
Humbled by a shifting,
Unsolid world.

A prism of full spectrum feeling:
Beautiful and bold,
Soulful, sharp and fleeting,
Soft joy changing gently.

I interact with others,
speechless somewhere inside.
So moved I am paralyzed,
Returning to the present one breath at a time.

It feels, sometimes,
As if I might dissolve entirely
Eclipsed by a greater, more vivid,
More elusive star than the sun.

Standing on the edge, frontier of my self,
I marvel at its intricacy,
How it completes the puzzle of being
Love, fragile and hesitant.

That line drawn in the sand
I’ve been staring at for hours?
I know I will cross it,
But for what reasons and what time and in what way,

Enfolds itself in mystery,
A crane born from a paper sky,
A question mark with the power
To permanently alter who I think I am.

Transparent as cascading water,
All I sought to hold onto
Becomes fluid.
I am struggling with nothing.

The stars reflected
In the pools of possibility,
Collected in the land’s lost hollows,
Shine almost forgotten.

I gather them in cupped hands,
Hand them out where they’re needed.
This light I share with everyone,
It isn’t mine.

All I’ve held certain
Gets turned on its head
In the blink of an eye,
And I am fumbling in a once familiar landscape.

How am I? Indeed.
And yet, almost inconceivably,
Regarding myself like a child
Has never been easier.

So much room to grow and stumble and wonder,
A space so heart-breakingly forgiving,
It is impossible to fill it
With tears or awe or terror.

Only trust lives here,
The kind that leaves you shaking,
But somehow still safe.
A kind of ground zero:

Where we try ourselves at being,
Over and over and over,
Without judgment,
Without attempting anything.

The ones who continually catch us,
Whether we plummet or fall flying,
Rock us to our foundations
With the caring attention given to newborns.

So that in the moments we let go,
Suddenly we wake
And briefly remember our origins,
Imprinted as they are the heart of us.

Demeter’s Fire

Six months old she is
When I begin gathering her in my arms,
To gently rock her
Within the flames.

I stand by her fiercely
Every night, with love,
Sweep away the ashes
Of the no longer needed.

With ardent joy I watch her change
As the outer shell dissolves,
Her eyes take on a charcoal grey
And raw and radiant, she burns to live.

Stop, stop! her mother cries
Tearing tears from raging eyes,
Her fervent passion rivals mine,
Equal, by the love with which we’re both defined

What are you doing to my child?
I am seeing to her being wild.
Bone deep the memories I set alight,
To the song of the soul I sing each night.

I do not deliver death on one so small,
The smallness itself is all that dies.
Who questions me, when there’s only love behind
what to you appears, at once, harsh and strange?

I, born of eternal light divine,
I lit the wisdom in the child’s eyes,
Set smoldering, her limits, to shine her light free,
Turned resilient and bright all she can be.

Do not tear her from my arms
As with Demeter of old,
Do not misunderstand
Healing in unfamiliar guise.

Do not be mistaken
By what you’ve been told.
Though tried, she will rise
Brilliant and bold.

I know, for I too am self-made
And could not help but recognize
My kindred, spark which can’t be tamed
Which as well within myself resides.

Let me hold her,
Until she knows her name,
Until trembling, leaping
Through a waking world, she flies,

And with our ones
Who stir the sleeping,
Though she’ll not see
Her world the same,

She’ll be as the sun
Is to the dreaming
Rekindling the hearths
No one thought would blaze again.

Then through this life, let me carry her,
These trials, triumphs to the wise.
There is no loss here undertaken,
She is opening her eyes.