Tag Archives: strength

Dying to Live

Surrendering all I have to hold
I am finally held fast, safe in your arms

Falling free from every familiar foundation
I am firmly rooted, your enduring love, solid ground

Without a mirror of my own
I am slowly recovering pieces of restored reflection

Finding myself radiantly shining
The light in me revealing vast seas of deep shadow

Solemnly, I sift through memory’s rubble, cities of shame
Struggling to recognize my strengths, strewn among ruins

My grief turns the soil for each seed of growing
I have watered them all with my tears

Tattered wrappings, every wound unwound
Each emerging, red and raw, soothed in silence

Undone, unraveled, unwoven
I have only the whispered hintings at wholeness

With tender care, I am turned transparent
Trusting and trembling in the dark of unknowing

Now the reverent hush of stillness
Rest in the soft light, gentle, mending

Now passing through the sunless shelter
Pursued by my panic, though always protected

Now crossing the burning sands
Rekindling resilience, forgotten flames of anger

Now stirring as storms and streams
Leaping through lightning, relearning languages of laughter

And together, we will fly on wings of sorrow and solace
Grey and green

The Morrigan

Waiting, watchful
Beady eyes,
Cold, coal crow,
Follows me.

Harsh her piercing
Grating cries
Cah, cah, calling me
I run, terrified to turn, to see.

But it is time
For battles to be won,
Reclaim the sovereignty that’s mine,
Declare independence … my own.

Red veils fall
On stark terrain,
The stretching past
The road before,

Survey the ground,
Bide your hours,
Face it head-on, don’t back down
Fight for all you’re worth.

She will lead you where you’re bound.
Demand what’s yours,
And then break free.
The other side to our path. you see,

To shine, star bright, across the sky,
You must not be afraid to burn.
Strike a kindling of flame, the old to die:
In time, this balance, you will learn.

Waiting, watchful
Beady eyes
Cold, coal crow
Follows me.

Harsh her piercing
Grating cries
Cah, cah, calling me
When I turn around, what will happen? I wait to see.

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.

Sleepless Night

Why does the fog come
With sleep lurking at its edges?

It descends on me,
I never ask for its cloying hands,

Lifting me slowly, unnoticed,
Until I emerge somewhere on a path of wandering,

Not knowing how long or for what reason.
Perhaps I was not strong enough yesterday:

I did not go on marching into my future
Without heed of my exhaustion.

Still, rest mocked me through the night,
There was no respite for waiting.

Sleepless, I read about imagined people whose sorrow
Sifts like silt somewhere through my DNA.

The people might be fictional,
But the history happened.

Why revisit hungry eyes, pleading faces
Filling the void, frozen in fog?

I already relived them before,
Angry at my helplessness in the face of time.

I can do nothing for two hundred years ago
To quell their desperation and my own.

Their hands, their eyes, their words
Sound and look and feel like mine.

Flailing through this mist of many origins, I cry out,
Searching for you, needing you here.

You come, soul sister, Take my hand,
Touch the top of my head as if consoling a disconsolate child,

Showing me how to feel passed the sadness,
And return to myself, steady and grounded.

I fall asleep at dawn, enfolded gratefully in your arms,
The song of light wrapping us in peaceful calm.

Humming Bird: For Everywoman

Humming bird says no words
She just whirrs around the world
But have you ever stopped and heard
Her song for very long?
With a flutter you can soar
Beyond the things you’re looking for
So hover close once more before she’s gone.

What kind of flower do you dip your hours into?
Do you, too, long for a lean-to you can lean your burdens on?
Are we just the creatures that grace your sky with music,
Or do you cherish all the seeds we’ve sewn?
Do you cherish all the seeds we’ve sewn?

Be seen, don’t be heard.
It’s a child’s rhyme she’s memorized
But have you ever listened to the voice she could not share?
And now she sits at the table
Holding hands with men around a circle.
No longer spins their clothes in circles,
Wash clean like a prayer.

What kind of flower do you dip your hours into?
Do you, too, long for a lean-to you can lean your burdens on?
Are we just the creatures who grace your sky with music,
Or do you cherish all the seeds we’ve sewn?
Do you cherish all the seeds we’ve sewn?

She’s a creator, a conceiver,
She’s a mother,
A believer in what’s right and wrong,
A woman who’s seen strength take on her name.

She was a humming bird,
She sang, and once her voice was heard,
Well there were always those
To second guess the way she sees her world.

She’s not the same as you,
There’s something different.
She can’t build the world like you,
There is something different.
She’s got a different point of view,
She’s got cycles you don’t share
And it’s not nearly the same, the same at all.

So humming bird, says no words
She just whirrs around the world
Oh have you ever stopped and heard
Her song for very long?
With a flutter you can soar
Beyond the things you’re looking for:
How will you know the thing you’re looking for when you never could be sure?

What kind of flower do you dip your hours into?
Do you, too, long for a lean-to you can lay your burdens down?
And are we still the creatures who grace your sky with music,
Or have you noticed all the seeds we’ve sewn
Have you noticed all the seeds we’ve sewn?

Where were you today when she
Whirred her children gone, when she
Took back all of the colors of her own?
You were out discovering that
You, too are a hummingbird
And just as fragile, small, and hard to see as her.

You picked a flower to dip your hours into,
To make sense of the burdens buried in your down.
You wished, just for this once, that you could bear her children,
That there were just some things you could leave out.
But, there are just some things you can’t leave out.

So humming bird say no words,
You’re just a wing-span from our world
And have you ever stopped and heard
How strong we sing our song?

We are the same as you
There’s nothing different.
We both have to gather food,
There is nothing different.
Watch the fledglings fly away
Of both our colors they are made,
And the nests are strained with change today.
We’ll be the same after all.

So humming bird says no words
Oh humming bird says no words
Humming bird, she whirrs and whirrs
Oh she’ll be heard.
Have you ever stopped and heard
How strong she sings her song?

Strong we are and strong we whirr,
How strong we sing our song.
Strong we are, and strong we were,
How strong we sing our song.

***
You can listen to a recording of this song on my blog’s soundtrack page. Enjoy!

The Danger of Silence _ The One-Many (OM) Project

“It was the three things we lived by,” said Oisín: “the truth in our hearts, the strength in our hands, and fulfilment in our tongues.”

Next up in the One-Many Project is Clint Smith’s TED Talk, “The Danger of Silence.” From TED.com: “We spend so much time listening to the things people are saying that we rarely pay attention to the things they don’t,” says slam poet and teacher Clint Smith. A short, powerful piece from the heart, about finding the courage to speak up against ignorance and injustice.

Watch the talk!

I’ve included the transcript in entirety as it’s short, beautifully written, and to the point.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in a 1968 speech where he reflects upon the Civil Rights Movement, states, “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies but the silence of our friends.”

As a teacher, I’ve internalized this message. Every day, all around us, we see the consequences of silence manifest themselves in the form of discrimination, violence, genocide and war. In the classroom, I challenge my students to explore the silences in their own lives through poetry. We work together to fill those spaces, to recognize them, to name them, to understand that they don’t have to be sources of shame. In an effort to create a culture within my classroom where students feel safe sharing the intimacies of their own silences, I have four core principles posted on the board that sits in the front of my class, which every student signs at the beginning of the year: read critically, write consciously, speak clearly, tell your truth.

And I find myself thinking a lot about that last point, tell your truth. And I realized that if I was going to ask my students to speak up, I was going to have to tell my truth and be honest with them about the times where I failed to do so.

So I tell them that growing up, as a kid in a Catholic family in New Orleans, during Lent I was always taught that the most meaningful thing one could do was to give something up, sacrifice something you typically indulge in to prove to God you understand his sanctity. I’ve given up soda, McDonald’s, French fries, French kisses, and everything in between. But one year, I gave up speaking. I figured the most valuable thing I could sacrifice was my own voice, but it was like I hadn’t realized that I had given that up a long time ago. I spent so much of my life telling people the things they wanted to hear instead of the things they needed to, told myself I wasn’t meant to be anyone’s conscience because I still had to figure out being my own, so sometimes I just wouldn’t say anything, appeasing ignorance with my silence, unaware that validation doesn’t need words to endorse its existence. When Christian was beat up for being gay, I put my hands in my pocket and walked with my head down as if I didn’t even notice. I couldn’t use my locker for weeks because the bolt on the lock reminded me of the one I had put on my lips when the homeless man on the corner looked at me with eyes up merely searching for an affirmation that he was worth seeing. I was more concerned with touching the screen on my Apple than actually feeding him one. When the woman at the fundraising gala said “I’m so proud of you. It must be so hard teaching those poor, unintelligent kids,” I bit my lip, because apparently we needed her money more than my students needed their dignity.

We spend so much time listening to the things people are saying that we rarely pay attention to the things they don’t. Silence is the residue of fear. It is feeling your flaws gut-wrench guillotine your tongue. It is the air retreating from your chest because it doesn’t feel safe in your lungs. Silence is Rwandan genocide. Silence is Katrina. It is what you hear when there aren’t enough body bags left. It is the sound after the noose is already tied. It is charring. It is chains. It is privilege. It is pain. There is no time to pick your battles when your battles have already picked you.

I will not let silence wrap itself around my indecision. I will tell Christian that he is a lion, a sanctuary of bravery and brilliance. I will ask that homeless man what his name is and how his day was, because sometimes all people want to be is human. I will tell that woman that my students can talk about transcendentalism like their last name was Thoreau, and just because you watched one episode of “The Wire” doesn’t mean you know anything about my kids. So this year, instead of giving something up, I will live every day as if there were a microphone tucked under my tongue, a stage on the underside of my inhibition. Because who has to have a soapbox when all you’ve ever needed is your voice?

The Challenge to Value Myself Over What Others Might Think of Me

I was inspired to share this experience after reading many heartfelt, courageously written recent posts from my blog friend, Alienora.
I spend a lot of my spiritual life in challenges, most of which I haven’t shared. But in different ways I think we all have to deal with this one, sooner or later. I’m still in the middle of it!

September 3, 2014
To Those in the Otherworld Who Walk Their Journey with Me:

It is Wednesday morning, and I am feeling strangely cut off, like somehow I dropped the thread I was winding through the maze of my journey, and cannot find it again. I am exhausted. My bones ache, as if I have gone a long, long way. I worry I am falling back asleep, and then I might fail or be forgotten. I do not know the word I need to live by. I only know the word yes, not yes to doing more and more, not yes to pleasing people. It is yes, I am.

Lately growth for me has not come with trying, working hard, demanding more from myself, pushing limits, proving I can do what I originally took to not be possible. I have, in the course of the challenges I meet, done every one of these things. But then I can’t do more or I fall apart, or I am frozen in fear, or I just can’t keep going: and then I grow.

I grow because I open and unfold across the barriers I built to continue my false sense of security. I grow because I can no longer maintain the dam holding back emotions, they spill over the sides of the space within which I wish they had stayed. . I give up the need to be in control. I let go. I let myself be seen. And I let change take me by the hand, as if I am a weary child, whispering hush through the dark shadowy bits of mind I might have otherwise disowned. I dissolve into endless belonging beneath coming and going. Suddenly I am not lost but at the center of the labyrinth of living. I grow.

This particular morning, I am trying to rid myself of the belief that what others think of me is often more important than being true to myself. I am terrified to say the wrong thing, to confront anyone and create conflict, but definitely could wait a bit longer before accepting this. I think of ways to hold myself apart from past and potential criticism so I won’t get hurt. I think of the defenses I’ll need to build so I won’t feel small when people try to minimize my ideas or cut me down. I wonder whether I can get away with using indifference as a shield against taking what people say personally, at least occasionally.

And then I realize, unfortunately with an even greater sense of alarm and terror, that if I did this there would be no way for you and I to reach each other. It would plunge me into the invisibility that is my greatest nightmare. The possibility is inconceivable to me, like self-imposed exile. It is a choice I will never make again.

Once, I was so hurt that I cut myself off from any world, and lost sight of my own identity. It was the year I started grad school and my parents were separating. I almost never found my way back home. I know what it is like to allow the desertification of the forest of soul. I hid myself even from me, thinking this was a form of self protection. I almost died inside before I admitted how my refusal to live consciously was only a brutal form of self-betrayal.

Earlier this year, life again began to draw me toward that edge over which we fly or fall. There, unconsciousness called alluringly, louder than the din of my over occupied, overwhelmed mind and raging emotions that were threatening to engulf me and pull me in. I lost myself in sleep, dreaming for hours, unwilling to take the covers away from my face or get out of bed. But that was not the end of it, because the stillness I knew to always be with me, in which I learned my worth, in which I came home to myself, called my name. I heard your voices in the silent cry, I remembered looking into your eyes, and found I was enough.

I came too in the midst of a crowd. You all stood with grave, stern faces, devastated by what I had almost done. And you said, “There is nothing we would have been able to do had you chosen not to return.” That was when I promised you, and perhaps more importantly myself, that it would not happen again. And it has not. It cannot.

Etched into my mind is the picture of the six or so of you I could see, incredible sadness searing lines across your faces. And I understood that had I chosen once again to simply go through the motions, we would search for each other and see nothing, you would call my name and I wouldn’t hear you: all because I would have imposed separation on myself. And so once again my world turns upside down, leaving me dizzy and disoriented with the effort of ridding myself of false beliefs, determined to stay present.

Shaking, I tear down the defenses, I break the facade of indifference, relieved that now, there is nothing between us. But there is also nothing between myself and uncertainty, and what others think of me is quite beyond my control. An icy cold runs through me. I start to cross my arms in front of me to ward off the cold, but remember in time how it will help me instead to stand in the way that reflects how I wish to be in the world. I feel like standing is an impossibility, but somehow it continues. Still, I reach out. This is the only way I know to be fully alive and live with the authenticity that comes from not letting the opinions and talk of others destroy my sense of worth and self compassion. And we all know I could use a bit more of both when it comes to this world, when, inevitably, someone won’t like what I do or say, and might even reject me.

being able to do this in my own world is the whole point. I try hard not to think about that now, though, because when I do the world spins around me in 360 degrees, and I’m reaching out again, this time literally for balance.

I can’t recall a time when reaching out was harder. Ironically, as I stumble through and decide I am probably failing, I worry about what you are thinking of me. Of course, this only convinces me that yes, most likely I really am failing. Moving beyond concerns of judgment—yours and mine–and that I’ll be found seriously wanting, is like walking through a hurricane. When I try and move through physical space, the room spins around again dangerously. I bump into a few walls. But Silently, spent of doing, I reach out. And for a moment I am there, knowing how it feels to love myself fiercely, no matter what this world’s reaction may be.

It’s only one short moment. For today it’s enough. I decide that, tomorrow, rather than “try,” I will instead just be. I will accept where I am even if I wish I had learned more quickly, and surrender to silence. I’ll open the door that habit and fear have implored me to leave alone, to find my way through a room littered with the tears and isolation, invisibility and insensitivity that haunted my childhood.

Beneath the insecurity I face, I know that, when you see me, your eyes will be kind. You have been here before. If I fall, you will, gratefully, say nothing in the moment, just help me start again. There are many things I know I’d rather not confront, but they are the guardians to the gates, the keepers of the keys I need, in order to be free to say what I long to say, to be truly who I am. And that is what this is all about. It is all I’ve ever needed to be. I start again.

Brené Brown: “The Power of Vulnerability _ The One-Many (OM) Project

I’ve decided to continue posting, when I come across them, the words and work of others who, like myself, are committed to living and articulating the interdependence of life, and how and why we should live by, among, because of, and even sometimes for each other. If you know of anyone doing related work, let me know and I’ll include them! This is my passion: not only what I am learning from my spiritual companions, but what I’m writing my dissertation on. I’m calling this, in honor of my own experiences, and yes in order to keep my inner word nerd happy, the One-Many or OM Project. We are all one among many, but never separate from each other.

No one walks alone, so I am including the words of those gone before, who walk their journey with me.

The Message From My Ancient Kin:
“Child, the way has not been clear, but Change is always in the making. Even now, each voice that hides inside, could burst at any moment, and from the heart of every silence, rend from it the truth it yearns to cry. This silent cry, breaking in waves upon the world, floods the landscape in its pleading, still aching to begin, speaking wordlessly within. Be that voice, speak your truth, embody that spirit that is all that you are. For our world is starving for love, is yearning for meaning, to hear the song of every life. And our children need us to live life fully: how else can we leave them their beginnings, or guide them to live by the wonder shining out through their eyes even once they’re old? We have always belonged. We need to remember. Our lives are but a single thread. This is love that holds us, even if it can’t be heard or seen. Our raw moments of connection are the knots tying us together, and it’s from the strands of our own song that we spin the story we become into something beautiful and strong, part of the fabric pattern of the world.”

And now here is another OM person and an inspiring TED Talk which she gave in 2010.

Brené Brown: The Power of Vulnerability

Listen to the talk or read the transcript here:

In Brené’s words:

Connection is why we’re here. It’s what gives purpose and meaning to our lives. This is what it’s all about. … (W)hat we know is that connection, the ability to feel connected, is … how we’re wired

If I roughly took the people I interviewed and divided them into people who really have a sense of worthiness … a strong sense of love and belonging … and folks who struggle for it, … who are always wondering if they’re good enough … . There was only one variable that separated (them.) …(T)he people who have a strong sense of love and belonging believe they’re worthy of love and belonging. That’s it. They believe they’re worthy.

These are whole-hearted people, living from this deep sense of worthiness.

What they had in common was a sense of courage. … It’s from the Latin word cor, meaning heart — and the original definition was to tell the story of who you are with your whole heart. And so these folks had, very simply, the courage to be imperfect. They had the compassion to be kind to themselves first and then to others, because, as it turns out, we can’t practice compassion with other people if we can’t treat ourselves kindly.

And the last was they had connection, … as a result of authenticity, they were willing to let go of who they thought they should be in order to be who they were

They fully embraced vulnerability. They believed that what made them vulnerable made them beautiful.
They didn’t talk about vulnerability being comfortable, nor did they really talk about it being excruciating… They just talked about it being necessary. They talked about the willingness to say, “I love you” first, the willingness to do something where there are no guarantees…

Let me tell you what we think about children. They’re hardwired for struggle when they get here. And when you hold those perfect little babies in your hand, our job is not to say, “Look at her, she’s perfect…” That’s not our job. Our job is to look and say, “You know what? You’re imperfect, and you’re wired for struggle, but you are worthy of love and belonging.” … Show me a generation of kids raised like that, and we’ll end the problems I think that we see today.

This is what I have found: to let ourselves be seen, deeply seen, vulnerably seen; to love with our whole hearts, even though there’s no guarantee — to practice gratitude and joy in those moments of terror, when we’re wondering, “Can I love you this much? Can I believe in this this passionately? Can I be this fierce about this?” just to be able to stop and … say, “I’m just so grateful, because to feel this vulnerable means I’m alive.” And the last, which I think is probably the most important, is to believe that we’re enough. Because when we work from a place, I believe, that says, “I’m enough,” then we stop screaming and start listening, we’re kinder and gentler to the people around us, and we’re kinder and gentler to ourselves.

Persisting Within

Trust, the very core of truth,
Can never die.
No human being thinks she is, she knows she is:
Know you are, and be it.

Wake each morning to pull your world-worn body out of bed,
Your spirit knows the way and soon will rise within.
Take comfort, love radiates outward, onward;
Walk your path and climb each tree to see beyond,
Know you will, and be it.

Be the tree, so strong, so sturdy, green,
Be the rock, defiant immortal being,
Be the sheltering wind;
Be that everlasting force which drops a leaf or lifts a bird in flight.

Run and run and run and never stop,
But when you stop:
Trust the very core of truth.
Go East, unbind your Present,
Know you can and do it.

This is how it is:
The struggle and the peace,
The battle and the rest.
Rest in peace and struggle in battle,
And though you live a thousand deaths, yet you will never die.

For always there are healed weary, whom despair, so cautious, passes by.
If that is you then be the tree,
Through which the lightning strikes a hard intense rewakening.
Love all, find all, feel all.
Trust the very core of truth.

Your spirit is an undefeated spark,
Just look at the sea, the waves refuse to leave the water,
They hurl themselves against the sand
And though they crash,

They’re never lost.
All things survive the storm,
All things move on,
Look within, you know you can, you’ll do it.

To All My Relations

August 28, 2011

On this small road winding through, it’s one step taken at a time. If my mind doesn’t remember the way, the blood in my veins pulses with knowing it, and the knowing of it courses through me fiercely, like I might burst with it, might fragment like broken pieces of wood, scattering.

I want to cry, I want to shout, I want to close my eyes, dream away the dark, dream until even my waking hours are of nothing but hope. I want to run, run and soar across this landscape howling with abandon, my voice flinging what eerie wails of sorrow and the sudden shrieks of joy only the earth beneath my feet and the sky above have cried.

I want to hold small children and comfort them, I want to stand in the middle of a field under a radiant sun, a warmth that could quell the chills that come with changes. I want to stand on a cliff so I can feel what it’s like to teeter on the edge of falling and not make a sound. I want to dive into a mountain pool, reassuring the water by my body turning cold that I am living, so my warmth can try to melt the icy past that causes me to freeze sometimes, even now, then rush to the surface, calling upon the wind to give breath to all that needs saying.

I want to know who I am and who we are, I want to hear my own songs echoed in others’ voices. I want to recognize myself in what others tell each other, I want to tell you my dreams. But most of all, I want to tear all I know apart until I come to the heart of the matter, speak softly, flail like an abandoned child, laugh until tears come to my eyes and the earth shakes with me, and hold you as if we were dying to live.

I say I am powerful, for I have made choices and will make them again, and I want to mold myself into words, spell them through my own motions, dancing them over and over, until, springing into action, I am whole and freed of standing still.

I say I am an ocean, for there is so much living within me, because I am gentle and strong, both crashing waves and tide pools hosting young. I am water, for I cannot be contained, I am the fires you lit on the hills, for I burn to rekindle the dreams we have lost, to leap into what is to come. I am drifting leaves, I am the cry of ravens and the lost and the found. I am the wind, for I will not stop rustling between the trees and around the faces of our children until I have carried all our tears and all our songs around the world. And I am the landscape that calls, that calls, which is why I must answer, speak for myself.

Strength is not just the courage of facing death, or hardship, or loss. It takes courage to love, to feel your own joy and the happiness of others engulf you and sweep you away, out of your own cocooned fur lined shelter you call your head. It takes strength to walk the path of those who have gone before, to weep with those whose despair has never left them. It takes strength to lie still, giving into another’s touch, to another’s dreams, and even to acknowledge needs of my own. I only hope I have that inside, when it is my turn to grow up, take my place in this world. And first I will return,and then, and then, and then, I cannot even imagine what will happen next. What will happen next?

Perhaps nothing will happen. Perhaps I will simply sigh with relief, or find nothing at all. But that will just mean more choices, more wondering, more wandering… and for a while now it has never been an easy thing to call somewhere home. It is all I long for. It is worth searching for who, for what you love, even if you never find it, even if you don’t know what you’re looking for.

Trees do that: witness, become part of, the passing of generations. Why not us, then, rooted as we are to the earth, our hands reaching, many leaves reaching across many branches for each other, silently guiding us back to our beginnings.