The Silent Language of the Holy

There comes a time, in every spiritual practice, when your own gunk (or ‘shit’ as we sometimes call it) begins to come up.

When I wrote Morning Pages (a practice developed by Julia Cameron in her book, The Artist’s Way), there came a time when, after sitting down and writing three full pages of what was in my head, I realized it was all ugly stuff.

Anger at my mother.
Frustration with my job.
Turmoil at home.

Those themes, and others, filled my pages for weeks and weeks.

Not knowing what was happening, I quit writing Morning Pages.

Several years later, as I began to meditate regularly and with consistency over time, the same shit would come up while I sat.

I’d breathe in and then breathe out.

And then I’d get all pissed off at my mother.
Or work.
Or the state of the world and how poorly we treat each other.
Sometimes fears or frustrations would rear up.

Having been down this road once before, I decided to get curious, rather than getting freaked out.

I found several good resources and writers who informed me: this is the way of the spiritual path.

When you enter into practices that help you calm down, connect with yourself, and become reflective, eventually your shit shows up.

And it shows up because you have created the time and space to work with it.

Which seems a bit ironic to the newly initiated: “Awesome! I’m getting all spiritual! And calm! And accepting! But, wait, ’cause…fuuuuuuuck! All my shit is chasing me! How does that work?!?”

This stuff that shows up in your spiritual time- it’s the stuff your spirit needs to work with.
It is the work your soul needs to do to heal or to be free.

You can avoid working with it- you can quit the practice, you can quit spiritual development, you can find another practice (over and over again) to avoid getting in the dirt with yourself. You can stay pristinely spiritual for as long as you want. (Your whole life, if you like.)

But if you want to get anywhere- if you want to grow- you will eventually have to confront the ugly that comes up.

 

Today in my ecstatic dance practice, for the first time, the ugly started to come up.

When I dance I often close my eyes and see colors. (It is ecstatic!)

Today, on one side of me, was a beautiful light. It was an oatmeal sort of color, beigey-white. But it was lovely and warm and actual light (not opaque like real oatmeal).

On the other side of me was a blue light. Deep navy. It was more opaque, but also filled with light. Like a navy blue curtain with the full sun behind it.

As I began to dance and turn towards the oatmeal-colored light, I started to sob.

I don’t know why. I only know that there was a deep sadness brought up by the light and how my body moved in that moment. The twist of my body, the color of the light; the tears flooded.

And so I kept dancing and crying.

My logical mind tried to pin it down:
Did it have an old memory tied to it?
Was there a person associated with it?
Was someone else feeling this?

There were no answers. There was only the fact that I felt this light and needed to cry my eyes out.

If anything, this need to cry felt very old and deep.

It was wordless. And it was a part of my holy practice.

It was something utterly sacred that needed to be expressed and experienced.
And it had no words.
It had no form, other than my body and my crying.
And it was holy.

 

a cloudy sky with dappled sunlight

 

This experience reminded of another reason why sex is sacred: there are so many moments in the midst of lovemaking when our body needs to move a certain way, or we crave a particular touch, stroke, or sensation. We desire to move and to be touched in a way in which our logical mind does not understand.

The spirit is asking for release.

There are times when a lover touches us in a certain way and we want to cry, or laugh, or howl, or surrender- and there is no reason for it. It is something energetic – perhaps our spirit – finding its way out.

I think this kind of experience might be especially true and poignant for men. We women, so connected to our bodies, given so many words for our feelings- we have other ways to let things out. But men, they have limited avenues for expression. Their body is a container for so many things, hidden. And in sex they can relax the mind out of its logical stance. They can twist the body and have it touched – physically, emotionally, and spiritually – in ways that allow for true release and expression.

That is the holy of holies.

 

After dancing and crying today- crying about what, I am not sure; just something that need to be cried- I was kind to myself. I went and laid on the bed and finished crying. I let my body go as soft as I could and just breathed.

I let it be, in the quiet.

I don’t know what happened, only that it felt finished.
There came a moment when it felt finished, and I let that be, as well.

I finished my practice, went about my day, and wrote this to you.

Perhaps it will help someone. Perhaps you.

 

 

2

A General Theory of Flirting

Ohmygod, I love a good theory. I love to look at things, find patterns, and then see if I can explain them by a theory (of my own, or someone else’s, creation). Fun!

Theories are gorgeous to me because they explain things and leave room for little ‘what ifs’ (well, the good ones do, anyway). They are both steady and flexible. And I like that!

Anyway…on to today’s post.

So, as I have been discovering my sensual self (and there’s more on that to come!), I have started to think about how sensuality and sexuality are connected. And how they are not connected.

Many, many people only find their sensuality through the sexual doorway.

My sensuality coach helped me figure out that sensuality is its own land, and I can get there without sex. (Which might feel like a big ‘duh!’ for you, but was a surprise to me. Most people, I think, only encounter their sensuality through sexuality.) So, the point is that sensuality and sexuality are connected, but they aren’t the same.

But as I was thinking about where the two overlap, I started thinking about flirting.

You remember flirting, right?

It’s that fun place where you smile or wink or giggle as an expression of your happiness with life?

It’s an opening to joy, when you get down to it. But we also use it as the opening for sensual and sexual expression.

Think of it this way, you can flirt with anything: babies, dogs, the barista, a beautiful work of art.
But, quite often, we flirt with sexual intentions.

– – – – – – – – – – – –

I was cogitating about flirting as part of expressing my sensuality.

I wondered, “is it okay to flirt just for fun?”
“If I’m bringing out my sensual self, is flirting a workable way to do that?”
“what does it mean if I flirt with a woman?”
“what does it mean if I flirt with a man?”
“what would my husband think and feel if I flirted with someone else in front of him?”

And that last question made my brows super furrowed.

What would it mean to flirt with another person to whom I might be attracted, if I’m already partnered?
Is that even okay?

I talked with my husband about it.
He (brave man) admitted that it might feel weird to see me flirting with another man, even though he knows our bond is strong.

He was pretty sure he didn’t feel personally threatened, but more that our relationship might be threatened if I flirted with another man.

We started to pull this idea apart, because it made us both curious.
What was it about flirting that was so potentially threatening?

– – – – – – – – – – – –

What we came up with was this:
in modern American society, flirting has the potential to lead to fucking.

How’s that for a theory?

It goes like this:

If I flirt with another person,
and because flirting is so heavily connected with sexuality
then I might be signaling sexual interest (not just general joy)
which might lead to attraction
which might lead to interaction
which might lead to fucking.

I know it’s kind of a long step between those last two points, but I hope you understand the space and the steps between them.

Part of the theory is also this: that flirting will inevitably lead to fucking.
There’s no way around it. If you flirt, chances are, you’re going to fuck.
One nearly always (and perhaps, instantly) leads to the other.

And so, if I’m not allowed to fuck other people (that’s one of the rules in our marriage, anyway)
and because flirting could lead to fucking
then flirting is threatening to my marriage.

So I shouldn’t flirt.

It’s weird, huh?
And maybe it isn’t true for everyone, but I bet a lot of relationships operate on this theory.
If you look, you’ll touch; so don’t look.

– – – – – – – – – – – –

There is some research to back this idea up. In her book, Sex After…, Iris Krasnow talks about hook-up culture and how that is conducted- as efficiently as possible, via text.

If you want to hook-up with someone (and for those of you in Gen X or earlier, ‘hooking up’ means sexual relations of some sort or another) then you text them with a general question, like “what are you doing tonight?”

And if the person answers the text, you’re likely to get laid.

That’s all it takes! Answering the text!

(I think this is crazy, can you tell?!?)

I can see where people get the idea that if you flirt, you’ll fuck.

 

oil painting of one young man flirting with two young ladies, who are seated on a bench near a bowl of apples

Nice apples, wanna f-ck?
(It’s an old SNL joke…)

 

What this theory leaves out, of course, is that flirting can be perceived as completely innocuous.

No harm intended.
Just an expression of one’s fascination and inspiration with Life.
A wink of mystery; a wide grin; a little rub of the arm in thanks for an excellent tea latte.

Flirting can just be a little drop in the pond of sensuality.

 

I asked my husband, could he see it that way if I flirted with other people? (Men people.)

He said he could, but that it would take clear communication from me, and I would need to understand that maybe he might need a little relational reassurance the first few tries.

That seems fair.

– – – – – – – – – – – –

An interesting point about all this, for me, is that some of the most spiritual poets flirted all their lives.

They flirted with the Divine.

(Not a few of them made love with the Divine, but I don’t think that is the same as fucking. Although, I’m not sure on that, either!)

Some of them flirted with women and men in their community.

Some of them flirted with their patrons for decades.

(This I do not think is crazy.)

Imagine this: flirting and sending poetry and gorgeous, magical letters to each other for decades.
Never consummating (although it did happen for some).
And yet, all the while, being the vessel for the joy that is flirting.

Decades of joyful flirting.

Flirting that did not lead to fucking.
Flirting that was satisfying in and of itself. 

That sounds like fun to me.

– – – – – – – – – – – –

I think flirting is a great practice for developing your sensuality.
I think it’s also a great practice for figuring out where the line between sexuality and sensuality is.
I am guessing I will have to cross back and forth several times as I enjoy and practice flirting.

I want to see if I can prove the theory wrong.

To flirt just for the joy of it.

 

Wanna flirt with me? Leave a comment and let me know what you think of my theory!
Or contact me…ooooh, fun!

 

 

4

The Tale of the Turtle Bone

I live in a part of the world where people worship the Sun. They go to the beach as often as they can in the summer. They turn all shades of brown and wrinkly. And they genuinely enjoy it.

I do not enjoy the Sun with that intensity.

I like that it’s warm.
I’m glad the growing season has arrived.
But I don’t want to be out in it all day.

(I prefer the rain.)

So, this past summer, I kept envisioning a place where I could take my family and there would be sunny space with some kind of water and also an area that was shaded and full of trees.

I still took the kids to the beach a couple of times. (Bleck!)

But, at the end of the summer, we visited a state park that – tah dah! – had all those things I had been wishing for.

I felt so excited when we found it- finally, we could all go to one place and everyone could have what they wanted. I did a little happy dance.

Another great thing about this park was that it had hiking trails. I dig a good, woodsy hike.

Ferns.
Old trees.
Muddy spots.
The dark, earthy smells.
I love it all.

So, we went hiking the first afternoon we were there and we came upon a fire pit out deep in the trail.

Only, it wasn’t just a fire pit. There was a turtle carcass in it.
Burned to white on the shell, the bones, everything.

 

 

Turtles are one of my totem animals – meaning it holds a special symbol or energy for me. I have loved them (and frogs!) since I was very little.

I could not help but wonder if the turtle had been dead before it was burned, or had some cruel kids tortured it? I tried not to think about it.

Instead, I walked all around the carcass – looking at all the different bones. How some had cracked along particular lines. How some had been dragged away by other creatures. How the vertebrae remained almost complete- and how interesting it looked; like a braided rope.

 

A carcass of a burned turtle.

 

Turtle bones, sitting atop a piece of burned shell and with a moss-covered stick nearby

 

I could have hung out with it for hours.

As it was, I probably spent 15 minutes there, and the kids were getting restless.

I stood and looked out to the nearby pond. I imagined the turtle living there.
And I said a small prayer to it: thank you for your sacrifice,
thank you for letting me look at you,
thank you for living so long.

As I was about to walk away, I saw a picture in my mind of myself holding one of the bones (I don’t know what part it is exactly, but it had a specific shape) and felt a gentle whisper to ‘take the power.’

Now, in all honesty, I am very intuitive, so I definitely listen to the voices in my head.
But I don’t always trust them on sight.
I prefer a few other clues so I can verify the intuitive nudges.

I also felt uncomfortable disturbing its grave.
And I didn’t want to set a bad example for my kids.

At the very same time, and in complete contrast, I also knew that there would be something really, truly powerful about having that turtle bone near me. I can’t tell you why or how. Just a calm knowing, down in my gut, that it would be a powerful item for me to have.

I didn’t pick it up, but as I walked away, I could feel the bone in my hand.

 

I wrote earlier about how I believe everything happens for a reason.

I also believe that, if we pay attention (if we begin to find and create our own language of symbols) the Greater Field of Life will guide us and speak to us through those symbols.

Ted Andrews wrote a very helpful and popular book on the topic of animal symbols called Animal Speak. In the book, he goes into great detail about the symbolic meaning of animals. He looks at their physiology, their ancient symbology, their mating habits, all kinds of stuff- and what those things might be offering in terms of spiritual guidance. He believes that animals can be messengers from the gods (yes, just like the Romans and Greeks did).

He writes about the turtle:

As a group, turtles are more ancient than any other vertebrate animal. There are around 250 kinds, 48 of which are found in the United States. Turtles are usually distinguished from tortoises in that tortoises are landbound. Turtles live in and around the water. Every turtle has at least one characteristic that makes it stand out, and which usually has great symbolic significance.

A great deal of mythology exists in regards to the turtle. In the Far East, the shell was a symbol of heaven, and the square underside was a symbol of earth. The turtle was an animal whose magic could help you unite heaven and earth within your own life. A symbol of the turtle was an invitation for the blessings of both heaven and earth.

Because of its great age and its slow metabolism, the turtle is associated with longevity. Long life and groundedness within life is part of what is associated with the turtle. It does not move fast. It is as if, on some level, the turtle knows it has all the time in the world. Turtles can teach us new perceptions about time and our relationship to it.

Turtles have amazing survival skills and strategies. They hear well. Actually, they sense vibrations in the water through their skin and shell. Turtles are also able to distinguish some colors, and they do have a sense of smell. Turtle totems hold the mystery of awakening the senses – both on physical and spiritual levels.

Turtles carry their home on their back. Contrary to depiction in cartoons and such, turtles can not leave their shells. The shell is actually the backbone and ribs of the turtle. It serves as home and shelter for it.

Turtles are omnivorous. They eat insects, plants, fish, amphibians, and even small mammals on occasion. They are opportunistic. To the Native Americans, the turtle was a symbol of Mother Earth and a reminder that she provides for all of our needs.

It you are drawn to turtles in your life, it is time to get connected to your most primal essence. Go within your shell and come out when your ideas are ready to be expressed. It is time to recognize that there is abundance out there for you. It doesn’t have to be gotten quickly and immediately. Take your time and let the natural flow work for you. Too much, too soon, can upset the balance. Turtle reminds us that all we need for all that we do is available to us, if we approach it in the right manner and time.

 

Given that I have been grappling with my own sensuality, it would seem that this turtle bone might be a helpful reminder of my commitment to integrate my sensual self. And also a symbol of moving ahead with the work we do here. Of course, I don’t know the answer. But the bone still pulled at the edges of my mind, like a small child in a tug-of-war.

Some First Peoples tribes call this kind of interaction a call to the animal’s ‘medicine.’ Meaning that the energy of the animal, or its sacred qualities, can be borrowed to help a human (or tribe) heal. Perhaps it is time for me to hold my own turtle energy.

 

Last week, we returned to the park with the turtle bones. I took a hike, by myself, and went to find the ruins again.

They were still there, with one notable change. The bone I had seen in my hand as I left the first time was now sitting atop the shell. I am quite sure someone placed it there- a human. But to me, it was on offering.

I took the bone into my hand and looked at it.
I turned it over and felt its rough and smooth edges.
I sniffed it. (Yeah, I did.)

And I put it into my pocket.

I stood a few more minutes, listening to the sounds, and seeing the changes only a few weeks had made in the landscape. Beautiful Autumn had arrived.

And now, the bone sits next to me on the desk.

 

Turtle bone sitting on a turquoise colored desk with other office paraphernalia.

 

I don’t know what magic will come from it.
I look at it every few moments and turn it over often.
Perhaps it has no magic.
But I think we have to wait and see.

I do think it is meant to be with me.
When it is no longer meant to be with me, I shall return it to the Earth.
To everything there is a season.

Perhaps I answered my own question back at the beginning of this post: the earthiness I love which was all around me when I first found the turtle bones.

Maybe this is the guide to the season of my own earthiness.
A return to my animal nature.

 

 

0

Why You Can Your Trust Life

Despite having regular communication and a relationship with the Divine, I still doubt.

I will entertain the possibility of just about anything.

Angels?
Beings of light?
Energetic properties of crystals?
Suuuuure.

As long as you show me some proof.

I like a little science with my spirituality.
Theorize anything, but show me how it actually works.

I have a tough time extending faith in most situations.

And when there is no ‘proof’- I tend to doubt.

[Of course, the ironic thing we know from research is that the person doing the research influences the outcomes of the research, simply by thinking about it. So, what constitutes ‘proof’ is not always replicable or verifiable.]

 

On top of those two somewhat opposing ideas- believing in the possibility of everything, but also wanting proof- I also believe that everything happens for a reason.

Which is a very faith-full idea.

To believe that everything is happening for some reason is pretty brave and also completely ridiculous.
What could the goal of all this life possibly be?
I don’t even know, dudes.

But I do know that everything that has happened to me had lead me to…my life.

What I chose yesterday has lead me to today.
And today’s pretty okay.

In a bigger sense, every time I stopped for a yellow light,
or hit my snooze button,
or took all day to finish my homework
got me to the day in 1993 when I saw my husband for the first time.

All those insignificant things I did, or felt frustrated by, or which ‘kept me’ from doing something or going somewhere on my personal scheduled timeline- well, they turned out fine. They lead to this cool thing of seeing my husband.

Did I have any idea that’s what they would lead to?
Fuck no.
Not one clue.

But it turned out all right anyway.
And I can point to those things now and think, “Thank goodness all that (stuff) happened. It brought me to this moment.”

 

stoplight in blurry focus

 

The same has been true of some pricelessly shit moments in my life.

Ten days in the hospital with intractable pneumonia.
Got me real clear on what I wanted to do with my life.

The early loss of a first pregnancy.
I was overjoyed when our first child was born- he was truly precious.

Having diabetes.
I take excellent care of myself because I want to live as long as I can.

And Life has lead me to all these places.
Whether I wanted to go or not.
Whether I even knew I was going or not.

It has all turned out okay.

And so, asks you, what if it doesn’t turn out okay?
I’m not entirely sure how to answer that.

Rabbi Harold Kushner wrote an excellent book titled, When Bad Things Happen To Good People. In it he says that random stuff happens. Random shitty stuff. And, moreover, that the random stuff has nothing to do with God. Life happens – good, bad, ugly – but we are capable of dealing with it (and God can help us do so).

In her equally excellent book, When Things Fall Apart, Pema Chodron – a Buddhist nun and abbot of Gampo Abbey – tells us that life is basically groundless. That all of life is basically random- there is no rhyme or reason. But if we can accept that life is random, we can then emotionally drop into a place of compassion for ourselves and others. We are all traveling this strange path called life and we can offer solace to one another, whether experiences are ‘good’ or ‘bad.’

 

a forest in the daylight with a dirt crossroads

 

Using these perspectives of “life as random” can help us sift through the experiences of life and see what is worth letting go. In other words, do I keep the difficulty that makes no sense and causes me trauma? Or do I let it go and focus on healing and enjoying life?

The idea that life is random directly opposes my belief that there is a reason for everything. As I write this, though, I think they are complimentary tools. One can support the weaknesses of the other. Yin and yang.

When something random happens, I can choose to let go of looking for some meaning (asking the age old question, “why? why? why?”) and move on. When there is no meaning to be found, I can accept an experience as being random and keep going with my life.

Either way, Life becomes trustworthy again.

 

I do believe that we can trust our life. It is an act of faith to do so. (Sometimes a giant leap of faith!)
But if we cannot extend faith to ourselves then we will live in turmoil.

We all wish we knew the future. It would be so much easier to trust our life if we knew.
But it is possible to trust that what is happening now will serve something we can’t even imagine (in the future).

Believing things happen for a reason is a positive act. And we can have faith even if we don’t know what the faith is for. That is the nature of faith, after all.

 

 

0

Shortest Wedding Ever

As an interfaith* minister, I get to perform some interesting ceremonies. They are traditional in function: wedding, baby blessing, house blessing, memorial. But they are never traditional in form – which I love.

I have performed more than 30 weddings at this point, but yesterday I officiated at what was, by far, the shortest wedding I have yet done.

From the time I put my car in park, to the time I started it and pulled out of the lot, it was 10 minutes.

That included everything:

  1. filling out the license
  2. walking to the spot
  3. performing the ceremony
  4. walking back.

There was no fluff.

The ceremony was really heartfelt and lovely, it was just short.

In this ceremony, I finally got to say some important things to the couple (they were a bride-and-groom set, although I have done same-sex weddings, too). Wisdom from my own marriage- and watching others fall apart. It felt good to be able to offer them something of value beyond performing the ceremony.

I am including the ceremony below. Because I think it says a lot about marriage and what we want and need to hear on our wedding day.

Of note: This couple needed and wanted to get married with a very short ceremony and on short notice, but they also wanted a more detailed ceremony in a Faraway Land in a few months. There are references to both in this ceremony (don’t want you to be confused!).

 

Shortest Wedding Ever – Text

There are lots of reasons to get married. And today we gather for one of the most common reasons: practicality. Now, that doesn’t sound very exciting, and maybe it isn’t. But the fact is, practicality is a big part of real love.

And it is real love that has brought us here today. If it weren’t for the fact that you – Man and Woman – were able to live together, share space, care for one another’s pets, communicate and support one another, we wouldn’t be here. You’re standing on a solid foundation of love and support and that is something to celebrate.

So, let’s just celebrate the fact that you’re solidifying this foundation today. In the near future you can have an amazing wedding that truly represents you and your love. Today, we celebrate real love, next steps, and taking care of each other.

Now I am going to ask you to turn towards one another, and hold hands. You are going to share vows with each other to solemnize this wedding.

 

Man, repeat after me:

Woman, I marry you today
So that you may have love and safety
Both within my arms and in the world

I promise to remain true to who I am,
To help you remain true to who you are, and
be honest in my love for you.

I will love you and care for you
with my words and my actions.

 

Woman, repeat after me:

Man, I marry you today
So that you may have love and safety
Both within my arms and in the world.

I promise to remain true to who I am,
To help you remain true to who you are, and
be honest in my love for you.

I will love you and care for you
with my words and my actions.

 

[BREATHE.] <—sometimes I have to give myself directions so I don’t talk too fast. :o)

 

I want to take a moment and talk about something that is important- whether you get married today or some day in the next few months.

A lot of people don’t get married because they are afraid marriage will change them. But the fact is, you are the ones who determine what your marriage will be.

Society has an idea of what marriage should be. But, you might have noticed, that doesn’t work for a lot of people. Getting married today doesn’t mean you suddenly have to become a wifey, nor does it mean you have to become husband-ish. What you have done so far has worked- keep doing it.

If you stay true to who you are, as individuals, and true to your relationship, you will have a successful marriage. What you have done in the past two weeks- encountered something new, figuring out what you needed, communicating about it, and supporting each other in getting those needs met- that’s marriage. You already know how to do it. And you already know how to do it your way. Keep doing it your way.

Marriage doesn’t need to change you. But it can deepen you- if you keep being who you are and keep supporting each other.

Okay, off my soapbox.

Woman and Man, you have made vows to one another. You are now married in the eyes of the law, in your own hearts, and by your daily actions with each other.

And so, it is my right as a minister, and also my great privilege to pronounce that you are husband and wife.

You may kiss!

– – – – – – – – – – – –

That was it. They kissed and they went home. And it was just perfect for them and what they needed. Ritual can be a powerful force for good- and that is the joy of being a minister.

 

*Interfaith spirituality looks at all the places where different religions and systems of belief share things. It might be perspectives, it might be rituals, or texts or holy days. It sees religion and spirituality as more of a puzzle, to which we all share a piece- and if we can be compassionate and kind enough to listen, we might all have a better idea about what ‘God’ really is.

I graduated from The New Seminary- where they focus on helping students learn about many faiths (at a moderate level) rather than one faith very deeply. I took the course as more of a personal development thing, but ended up very interested in the deep value of ritual. So I got ordained as part of the process. Interfaith is probably the only path that has really nourished me spiritually.

 

 

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