Whole unto Ourselves

White Bleeding Hearts  ©Angela Warner

I had an epiphany earlier today.

What I realised is that part of the reason we cling so desperately to the idea of soul mate (and twin flame, for those of you familiar with that term, regardless of how you may want to distinguish it from soul mate) is because of Separation Consciousness: We feel so keenly the separation from the Divine when we incarnate on Earth, and this feeling of separation engenders an unmatched desperation for reunification with the Divine Love Source from which we emanate.

We need to know we’re not alone in this world.

A grand part of our journey on this Earth, however, is to learn how to feel the Divine within us so that we know with immovable certainty that we’re whole unto ourselves. That there is nothing wrong with being single — you’re not half a person when you don’t have a partner. That’s like saying there’s no difference between being alone and being lonely, when those two states of being are worlds apart from each other. You can be lonely in a crowd and be completely satisfied and at peace whilst alone. The entire notion of ‘our other half’ is as much an illusion as this feeling of separation we’re immersed in. It is all part of the Maya that the Buddha spoke of. It is Illusion. And a really damned convincing one, at that.

This, of course, in no way means the idea that having a partner or partners to share it all with is not desirable. For the most part, we humans are communal creatures. My point is more that we need to take a look at ourselves and realise that we don’t need completion — we are already complete. And if we’re constantly seeking somebody to complete us, it’s not going to work out the way we’d like. Looking outside of ourselves for what we need to discover within us will always leave us wanting more.

So the next step would appear to be a move from feeling separated, lonely, and broken to feeling whole and perfect just as we are. How does one bridge that gap? Like everybody else, I’m working on it, but some things that come to mind as really, really having a positive impact would be the following:

 

Body Positivity.
Realising that your body is perfect no matter what it looks like, no matter what it can or can’t do is, I believe, the first core step towards recognizing your wholeness. Your body is perfect because it allows you to exist on this planet. Give it the love, appreciation and gratitude it deserves.

And for this, I’m giving a much-needed shout out to all the beautiful fat women in the world who have internet connections and are posting amazing articles and blog entries, writing books, making fantastic videos, and taking gorgeous photos celebrating their journey towards self-love and self-acceptance in the face of so much outright societal hatred. All y’all are amazingly inspiring and you have my sincere and heartfelt gratitude for putting yourselves out there like that. You do humanity proud. I have benefited hugely from all the fat-positive, body-positive everythings I’ve come across. Thank you.

Adding to this link love is the best NSFW body-positive blog I’ve ever come across: Diversexity. The owner of the blog writes, “People are amazingly diverse and within that diversity is more beauty than any ideal could possibly bring.” And she shows that with her collection of images, pages and pages of humanity in all our sex-positive, body-positive glory.

And lastly, Olympian athletes. If you really want a range of peak-performance ability and associated body type, take a look. We all have different abilities and appearances.

You don’t have a soul. You are a soul. You have a body.
C.S. Lewis

 

Creative Expression.
Once you start to get the idea that your body is fucking awesome and can do all sorts of amazing things, you may have an easier time understanding that using it to create more awesomeness is a necessity for the sanctity and sanity of the soul.

This is one of the primary things we are designed to do. We are designed to create. It is fundamental to being human. I have more to say on this in a later post.

There is no one in this world who can do the things you do. There is no one in this world who can draw, sing, or dance the way you draw, sing, and dance. Write, drum, make music. Build buildings that no one thought to design. Learn how to tattoo. Develop recipes and variations on themes. Create the most fascinating Rube-Goldberg device ever. Go forth and express the wholeness of who you are because it will unleash within you the joy you are made of and that will flow out into the world, enriching and inspiring us all.

 

Celebrating Mistakes.
So… I have to talk about this one because I know so many profoundly creative people who contend with mental illnesses of all sorts, along with mild to severe anxiety. I don’t feel like I can paint with such broad brushstrokes without addressing the realness of how we mentally perceive ourselves and the world around us.  Even if it’s a completely inadequate nod, such as this one. I’ve struggled with depression myself, so I know whereof I speak. It’s like this.

I’m linking creativity and mental illness with the idea of making mistakes. I don’t know how many times I’ve seen how often the artist suffers for her art and how it’s all rubbish if it’s not perfect.

Making mistakes is part of being human. How we feel about those mistakes will tell us how far we have to go in our journey. There is no judgment here, by the way. This is not a more-evolved-than-thou tack I’m taking because my journey is not yours. There is no better way or worthier way to get from point A to point B; it’s completely individual. Progress is sometimes direct and sometimes meandering across lifetimes. It’s. All. Okay. Ooohhh… there is so much here to unpack and untangle. Eventually, I’ll write about it all. Muahahahaha!

This idea of owning our mistakes and not letting them own us is, in part, inspired by a blog I came across the other day called Fumblr. It’s a celebration of academic failures in the humanities (as opposed to the sciences, where they write it all up already and publish it in journals so that people can learn from their mistakes).

This article, as well, really helped me realize the importance of recognizing the humanity in making mistakes, forgiving those mistakes, how we hold people accountable, and whether the implementation thereof needs to shift a bit: The Mistakes We Don’t Forgive (But Maybe Should)

 

When we come more fully into the understanding that we are not mistakes, that our bodies are not wrong, that we all miss the mark and that expressing that which is within us is fundamental to being human, we move ever closer to embodying the notion that we truly are whole unto ourselves.

 

You are not a drop in the ocean.
You are the entire ocean in a drop.
Rumi

 

 

Yoga + privilege: a much-needed acknowledgment

“When you say ‘your thoughts shape your reality’ or ‘this person is just angry at me because they are carrying this or that attachment’ we are minimizing all the systemic factors that shape people’s experiences. We are minimizing forces like racism, sexism, homophobia and importantly for the yoga world – ableism. Without intending to, we are being condescending and dismissive. We are causing harm because, without even meaning to, we are reinforcing our privilege.”

Calling for Community Care: a reflection on whiteness, privilege, connection and spirit.

 

Thank God someone is finally saying something about this. I DO believe our thoughts create our reality. On. One. Level. Which doesn’t at all dismiss all the other systemic factors that limit freedoms. Both can be equally true; it’s not one or the other. One person can have a debilitating condition and let it limit them. Another person can have the same debilitation and instead use it as a springboard to new levels of joyous life experience, and everything in between. Two single queer mothers of colour trying to make ends meet can have two very different experiences depending upon both their life situations in relation to capitalism, racism, ableism, sizeism, sexism, homophobia *and* how they react and respond to those limitations on an individual level. It’s everything all at once and never all one or the other. By not acknowledging the systemic limitations that very much do exist in this world, we devalue other people’s experiences, even erase them, and in doing so, we deny them their humanity.

The ‘this person is angry at me because they are carrying this or that attachment’ line of thinking is pretty much straight up a way of dismissing the other person’s perspective and abnegating personal responsibility for compassionate conscious communication. That attachment may exist and may be responsible for creating an angry response to something a person said or did but we also have personal responsibility for what we put out into the world. Off-loading blame is a crappy way to live in this world. Using spirituality to eschew responsibility for one’s actions is just… wow. It’s completely antithetical to what spirituality is. Spirituality is extra-ego. It’s the state we strive for as spiritual beings having our human experiences. Part and parcel to being human is contending with ego and learning not to let it rule everything we do.

Anyway, this is just my off-the-cuff reaction to the little bit that was quoted. Go read the whole article — it’s completely worthwhile and really gets to the core of the matter far and away more thoroughly than I do here. Really, it’s something that’s needed to be said for a long long time, so major kudos to Andrea MacDonald for getting the white-, able-bodied-half of the conversation started (‘cuz it’s not like people of colour, etc., haven’t yet noticed this yoga/privilege issue, y’know. Just sayin’).

Thanks to S, for posting the article and quote on FB.

The Beauty in Aging: Love

I’m a sexually liberated woman, finally – at age 80

This is an absolutely beautiful piece of writing from Laurie Lewis. She talks about an expanded definition of sexual liberation in the most poetic prose. An expanded definition of love.

What I really liked is that I dared look at the comments and they were all positive! The one I most enjoyed was this exchange between a commenter and the author herself, the contents of which lends a greater understanding to the article itself.

When I looked on Laurie Lewis’s website, I came across the loveliest poem. My brain already does that with words and I’m less than half her age. I wonder if that’s normal…. Maybe it’s because my children are still young. Maybe I’ll discover a heretofore unknown intellectual cohesion once they’ve grown a bit, only to revert to this level once I’m Lewis’ age. A bell curve of accessibility. A life lived on a sine wave.

Redefining Love

10 things you might not know about love
By Barbara Fredrickson

This article from CNN is just a teaser for Fredrickson’s new book, “Love 2.0: How Our Supreme Emotion Affects Everything We Feel, Think, Do, and Become”. She couches these 10 things as lessons she has learned while writing the book.

Full disclosure: I agree 100% with what she states here in these lessons. I first read this article back in January or February and then again a couple of days ago when a friend posted it on the Book of Faces. I agreed with it the first time and nothing has changed in the past few months to alter that. I haven’t read Fredrickson’s book, but I’ve got it on hold at the library, so, soon.

There are two things that strike me most about these lessons. The first is that I’m completely enamoured of people who are able to find physical, biological evidence of something we generally perceive as intangible. It brings me joy. What? It really does! And no, I haven’t read Molecules of Emotion by Candace Pert, yet, but it’s on the list. I have read The Heart’s Code by Dr. Paul Pearsall, which I really enjoyed, despite the leaps of logic in several places. He could have used a more knowledgeable editor to point out some flaws in his arguments (or should have listened better if they were pointed out), but there’s a core element in his research that supports some of what Fredrickson lists in these 10 lessons, namely the link between love and eye-contact and the synchrony of biological functions when love is shared between individuals. I’ll be interested to learn whether she cites any of his work in her book.

The other thing that I really appreciate about Fredrickson’s 10 Lessons is that in presenting her findings, she makes love completely and utterly accessible:

“Love, as your body experiences it, is a micro-moment of connection shared with another.”

“In reality, you can experience micro-moments of connection with anyone — whether your soul mate or a stranger.”

“Love is a biological wave of good feeling and mutual care that rolls through two or more brains and bodies at once.”

This reminds me of a few things Amanda Palmer said in her TED Talk. When she worked as an 8-foot bride, and people dropped in money into her hat or her jar, she would offer a flower and “some intense eye contact.” She then says that she had

“the most profound encounters with people, especially lonely people who looked like they hadn’t talked to anyone in weeks, and we would get this beautiful moment of prolonged eye contact being allowed in a city street, and we would sort of fall in love a little bit. And my eyes would say, ‘Thank you. I see you.’ And their eyes would say, ‘Nobody ever sees me. Thank you.'”

Here we have anecdotal evidence outside of the research of both Pearsall and Fredrickson of eye contact and the emotion of love. Here we have that “micro-moment of connection shared with another”.

When I first heard Palmer’s talk, this part really stood out for me. Anything that makes love more accessible and more universal and not something über special and SCARCE hits me where I live. It speaks to me in a way that resonates so thoroughly as to be unable to deny its inherent truthfulness. Love is a micro-moment of shared connection with someone, no matter who they are. That person on the subway you’ve never seen before and will possibly never see again: your eyes meet theirs for a couple of heartbeats, you both smile, and you both feel brighter, lighter for that moment and a bit thereafter. And it’s an experience you can think of forever after and it can bolster you, lift your spirits. That’s love, plain and simple.

On a personal note, I find it curious that there are certain friendships I have where I feel comfortable telling the other person that I care about them, even care deeply for them, but I don’t want to say that I love them, even though I know that’s exactly what it is. It’s as though that word holds too much baggage and expectation, when it’s just honest truth.

There. Is. So. Much. Cultural. Baggage. Surrounding. Love.

What I find interesting is that the blog post that has, far and away, gotten more hits than any other I have ever posted anywhere is the one entitled, The BS We Believe About Love. It’s still getting looked at over a month later. People are ready for a shift in perspective with respect to how we think about love, and the brilliant article by Justine Musk that I link to in that post really addresses a lot of the baggage we have associated with Love, up to and including the idea of a Soul Mate.

In Fredrickson’s 10 Things article, she writes, “In reality, you can experience micro-moments of connection with anyone — whether your soul mate or a stranger.” Here, Fredrickson is referring to our cultural definition of what a soul mate is — that special person you connect with so well as to believe this person completes you, is your other half, etc.

In her article, Musk references Caroline Myss’s definition of soul mate:

A soulmate is the person who makes your soul grow the most.

A soulmate, she added, could be anyone. Anyone. A lover, a spouse, a friend, a family member…or even an adversary.

I love that she includes adversary here because it’s important that we consider this with respect to people who’ve helped us grow. I would add to Myss’s definition by stating that if love can manifest in a shared micro-moment of connection, then a soul mate can be someone who makes your soul grow the most in that moment, or at that particular time in your life. Someone who provides some sort of insight that really launches you forward on whatever path you’re on. If love can be shared between anyone you can connect with, even so briefly as a shared micro-moment of connectivity, I believe that, as a corollary, a soul mate is anyone who helps further your growth in a profound way but not necessarily “the most” overall. It could be a single positive or negative comment from a teacher, a squeeze of your hand from a nurse during a moment of need that sends you on a cascade of realizations about how connected we all are, a friend who finally accepts your help thus releasing all the pent up assistive energy you’d been holding onto for far too long… It could be all three of these things and so much more.

We have this notion that soul mates are one in a million. They are golden needles in The Grand Haystack of Interpersonal Relationships, the holy grail of quests for each of us. And I won’t buy into it. I can’t. This cultural concept we have about soul mates creates an emotional environment of scarcity and lack, deprivation, depression, profound loneliness, ill-placed expectation. And it makes me believe that we’ve got it all wrong. I really love what Myss has to say about soul mates, but I’m taking it a step further.

If we can have one-night stands and accept those as reality, if we now know that that moment of shared eye contact and mutual smile with a stranger on the street truly is a micro-moment of love — if we can “fall in love a little bit” with an absolute stranger, then I believe we also have the capacity to accept the notion that someone can be our soul mate In That Moment. A shared micro-moment of growth through connectivity.

What this means is that we can have multiple soul mates across the span of a single lifetime. Myss’s definition already removes soul mate from romantic love, but it’s still limited to whomever makes your soul grow “the most”. What about, “the most” that year? Or that week? Or that day? Or that era in your life? Or on that matter that’s been a sticking point for you for the past 3 decades that you’ve finally been able to work through? Challenging our socio-cultural definition of soul mate creates an opportunity for us to expand our definition of both love and connection to the world around us. Both are made more accessible and universal.

Does this, then, cheapen and diminish the concept of soul mate? No. Not inherently. Let’s return to one of the 10 Things from Fredrickson’s article:

8. Don’t take a loving marriage for granted.

Writing this book has profoundly changed my personal view of love. I used to uphold love as that constant, steady force that all but defines my marriage. While that constant, steady force still exists, I now see our bond as a product of the many micro-moments of positivity resonance that my husband and I have shared over the years. This shakes me out of any complacency that tempts me to take our love for granted. Love is something we should re-cultivate every single day.

If love needs to be re-cultivated each and every day, at every opportunity, then this dismisses the idea that if we fall in love with someone then that love will last forever. Divorce statistics and breakups prove this already, but there’s a part of us, generally speaking, that really REALLY wants to believe that love lasts forever between two people, that, if once, then happily ever after. The marketing geniuses at jewelry stores really exploit this romantic ideal and to our collective psycho-emotional detriment. Never mind song writers. And Don’t even get me started on fairy tales and Disney. Not here, not yet. I’m saving that because WOW. I want to be able to do it justice and I haven’t done nearly enough research there.

Love is not a thing that automatically lasts forever between two people. “Love is a biological wave of good feeling and mutual care that rolls through two or more brains and bodies at once.” It is something we can fall into, the way we fall into step with one another. The way we can be on the same wavelength. The way we can work harmoniously with each other, finding resonance in what the other person thinks and how they express themselves.

It does not serve us to believe that having multiple soul mates throughout our lifetime cheapens and diminishes the idea of what a soul mate is. What it does, instead, if we really look at it, is lend itself to an aura of absolute gratitude for all those people and, yes, even animals, who have helped us grow, expand our perspective, help us advance on our path, and become more ourselves. Conscious awareness of all those micro-moments, all those moments of tenderness and trial, all those opportunities for growth bring us closer to Love.

Love is so much more than we believe it to be and so different in many ways from how we think of it. It is what helps us grow emotionally and spiritually. It is what helps us live longer, through boosting our immunity and health. It is what makes us feel safe. It provides innumerable positive feedback loops that echo throughout our lives and radiate outwards towards others.

The biggest cumulative lesson in all of this is becoming consciously aware of all the ways love touches our lives, all the different guises it comes in, and all the ways that we confuse it for what it isn’t.

Fredrickson is spot on when she chose the title for her book: Love 2.0. We’re ready for a newly expanded and updated version of Love. A new definition. What’s actually happening here, though, is not that love is changing — we are. Love isn’t getting updated, we are collectively evolving toward a more expansive vision. Love will always be what love has always been. We’re moving towards understanding that much of what we called love isn’t love at all. We’re moving towards understanding that love doesn’t have nearly as many limitations as we’ve placed upon it. It’s far simpler and far more pervasive and expansive than we still have yet to imagine. Slowly but surely, we’ll get there. Together. With shared micro-moments of love nudging us onward.

International Congress on Medieval Studies 2013: Sessions, Commentary, and Bookses

Kalamazoo Cherry Blossoms

Everyone calls it the Zoo, and I suppose if you’re staying in the dorms and/or eating in the dining hall, if you end up at the book exhibit during lunch time or between sessions, then I expect it can be rather zoo-like. But I managed to side-step all of that. It felt like a regular day on campus to me. Only without the anxiety I usually associate with school.

So! I loved it and I want to go back every year FOREVER. Yay! I feel even more that I have found my people. I now consider all medievalists family. Dysfunctional, like every other family I’ve ever known, but family nonetheless. Doesn’t mean I’ll like all of you, but there’s a recognizable kinship.

The rest of what follows is just an outline of where I went and what I bought. Mostly as a record for myself.

 

Thursday:

10am: Medicine in Medieval Iberia
Sponsored by Ibero-Medieval Association of North America (IMANA)
Comments: omgomgomg: Medical Cosmetics? An Ekphrastic Approach by Cristina Guardiola was SUCH a fantastic paper. It wove together the disparate-seeming fields of courtly aesthetics and medicine. Loved. It. So. Hard.

1:30pm: Bos Motz: Well-Chosen Words in Occitania
Sponsored by Société Guilhem IX
Comments: Cha-ching! I loved all of these papers. The first one gave me excellent leads for one of my research projects. The third one was an exquisite bait-and-switch with the best sort of poetry that I So Wanted To Be Period-Authentic. And written by a woman. Y’know, I like pornographic lesbian poetry a lot less when I know it’s written by a man. Go figure. And the second paper? speaking of pornographic. oh yes.

For the record, if you can read the following and we don’t already know each other, feel free to introduce yourself. 😉

A vos volgra metre lo veit que’m pent
E mos colhons desobre’l cul assire
Eu non o dic mais per ferir sovent
Car en fotre ai mes tot mon albire,
Que’l veit chanta, quant el ve lo con rire,
E per paor que no’i venga’l gelos,
Li met mon veit e retenc los colhos
(Bec, Burlesque et Obscenité, p. 171) PC 461, 35

3:30pm: Troubadours and Philosophers: A Roundtable on De nobilitate animi
Sponsored by Société Guilhem IX
Comments: Must email the person who did the second paper because he made all kinds of interesting points.

 

Friday:

10am: The Medievalism of J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter Volumes
Organizer: Carol R. Dover, Georgetown University
Comments: So. Freaking. Cool. I have an all-new appreciation for the obsessive, expansive extent of Rowling’s efforts. Little things like Hermione’s name being a feminized form of Hermes, aka Mercury. The periodic symbol for which is HG… Hermione Granger. I remarked to a friend that there needs to be a compendium elucidating all the hermetic, linguistic, classical, medieval, folkloric, etc. references that Rowling makes because it’s all just so mind-blowing. I’m pretty certain Carol Dover is organizing something like this, but not specifically a compendium. Just a book of essays, iirc. Still, I would so buy that. And this is where I learn the difference between being a fan of something and being a geek about something. I am a fan. Were I a geek, I’d be writing paper proposals and submitting them to Dover for acceptance.

1:30pm: Book Exhibit!
Yay! Whoa, holy crap, books! And all.that.amber……

3:30pm: Last Things
Sponsor: The Lollard Society
Comments: These are not the themes of death I was looking for. I now more fully appreciate all those ridiculously specific paper titles. I got terribly excited about the first two papers, the first being on Care of the Self and the second being What We Talk About When We Talk About Death, except that each was on specific texts and bodies of work about which I neither knew anything nor cared to. Alas. I skipped out about five minutes into the second paper and went to:

Performances of Marie de France
Sponsor: International Marie de France Society
Comments: two performances and I missed all but the last 5 minutes of the second one. Boo to that, but what I saw I liked. Alas, ’twas my biggest disappointment of the entire trip. I still has a sad.

Note: Just to give a frame of reference for how ridiculously extensive this conference is, by this point, there have been 352 sessions slotted into a total of 7 start times (there’s an evening session on Thursday that I didn’t go to). Pretty much no one gets to see everything they want to see. Suck it up, Buttercup. You’re still in Awesome-Land. 😉

Saturday:

10:00am: Somatic Identities in Medieval Iberia
Sponsor: Ibero-Medieval Association of North America (IMANA)
Comments: Well this is completely fascinating. I now know that the quality of narrative associated with dark (non-white) skin in manuscripts is highly contextual and can reference a highly moral, wise, upper class figure, as well as a debased, sinful, sexually immoral being. Nice. O_o Also, I now have an additional research topic regarding the feminine embodiment of Christ. Caroline Walker Bynum and I have some quality time to spend together.

1:30pm: Astrology and Magic
Sponsor: Societas Magica
Comments: Standing room only by the time the papers started. I remain utterly disinterested in anything related to Judaism in the Middle Ages. Even Marla Segol’s lovely paper on Cosmogony, Astrology, and Power in the Late Antique Yotzer failed to inspire the least bit of pique within me. I keep trying and it keeps not happening. With all the Jewish friends I have, I can’t help but feel guilty about this. Enough already! I don’t need the Jewish guilt on top of the Italian Catholic guilt I have already managed to divest myself of. Sheesh. 😉

The paper I came to see? “High Times: Astral Magic and the Curious World of Psychoactive Substances in the Picatrix” by Daniel Attrell, Univ. of Waterloo. OH HELL YES. Suffumagation. Entheogens. Hermetic correspondences. And it left me wanting more. I suppose because I’m not new to this topic. At the end, I felt a deflated sort of, et alors? But everyone else seemed pleased and he did do really well. It was just, I suppose, that I’m not a beginner and was wanting something a bit more in-depth. Guess I’ll be needing to get a copy of The Picatrix myself. I’d not heard of it prior to this conference.

The third paper attempted to make assertions about the types of people (social status, etc.) using the Picatrix by what types of spells were contained therein. The problem with that is that the text began as Arabic, was brought to Moorish Spain and translated into Spanish. It was thereafter translated into Latin. So attempting to discover too terribly much, I think, would be quite the challenge. Particularly since it is likely not listed within the text when each addition and edit was made. And in the recopying, there are typically changes made, things left out, things added. It seems too enormous a task. However, the presenter did provide an interesting breakdown of the types of spells contained therein, which was useful to learn.

3:30pm: Mystical Gets Physical: The Bodily Element in Female Spirituality
Sponsor: Magistra: A Journal of Women’s Spirituality in History
Comments: The second paper was interesting enough. It featured a slide of a 14th century codex related to Beatrice of Nazareth. In Belgium, of course. Beatrice, that is. The codex had an illustration of the lance wound of Christ that was absolutely fascinating. I so wish I had the time to do more research on this topic. It’s just completely riveting for me. The third paper was the best, though. The presenter, Carol Heffernan, spoke about the erotic and sensual nature of Julian of Norwich’s descriptions of God and it just completely drew me in. As well, her paper tied together elements of the second paper, elements from the second paper in the first session on this day, and the core of an argument I’d been making over lunch with a friend just a couple of hours prior to this session, I’d apparently walked into synchronicity-land again. I was just floored by it all and went up afterwards to talk to her and tell her how very much I enjoyed everything she’d wrote about. Anything that fuses the sensual and erotic with the spiritual and the medieval is just so completely up my alley y’all just don’t even know. She said she felt like an interloper because she usually deals with Chaucer and the bawdiness therein, and here she was giving a paper on the devotional eroticism of Julian of Norwich in a session lead by a Benedictine sister. I was thinking, “I know that feel, sister. I know it well.” She was very relieved to know that several of us were thrilled with her paper.

5:30pm: This is when we go to Fetzer to stake our claim on seats for the 8pm session of the Pseudo Society. Wherein I laugh so hard I can’t even breathe. I bruised one of my knuckles from pounding my fist in hearty approval on the table. Jesus, it was awesome.

10:00pm: The Dance. Fucking Fantastic. Except I canNOT dance to Jay-Z and Kanye West’s music. What the shit is that? And I really only managed to seriously get my groove on during half of one song I didn’t even recognize. But the showing off was met with approving compliments from a couple of people, so that was ego-stroking enough. Next time, I will know how to do the Electric Slide. That is my homework.

 

Sunday:

8:30am: hahahahahahano. SLEEP.

Got to the Book Exhibit for about 10-ish and scored a veritable butt-load off books. A Gargantuan Butt-Load. Because 50% of already-marked-down books, glory glory hallelujah!

 

Precious Bookses
Lark in the Morning, Kehew, ed.
Ennobling Love, Jaeger
The Old French Fabliaux: Essays on Comedy and Context, Burr, ed.
Ermengard of Narbonne, Cheyette
The Romance of the Rose, Dalhberg
Le livre du duc de vrais amans, Christine de Pizan
Dante’s Inferno, Hollander, transl.
Astrology in the Middle Ages, Wedel
The Song of the Cathar Wars, Shirley, transl.
Memory and Re-Creation in Troubadour Lyric, Van Vleck
Love Words: The Self and the Text in Medieval and Renaissance Poetry, Regan
Catherine of Siena, Noffke
Erec and Enide, Raffel, transl.
Cligès, Raffel, transl.
The Writings of Julian of Norwich, Watson

All for a glorious $135.00.

Zoo Books 2013

Notes from the train

On May 8th, I took a train to Windsor, on my way to the International Congress on Medieval Studies in Kalamazoo, MI. This part of the trip was 4 hours long, so I managed to write a little between reading and prepping for Congress. What follows is what I wrote while riding.

_____

I’m on a train!

My, this seat is terribly uncomfortable.

A few minutes later, I find myself wishing for seat belts. I like the secure feeling they give me, wrapped around my middle like a life-saving hug.

I am in 9C. 9D is a woman attentively working on her tablet, sorting email, shoe shopping. People are chattering as they settle into their seats and she’s looking around periodically, intently searching. I ask if she’s looking for someone and she says no, she doesn’t understand why people have to have conversations loud enough so that everybody else can hear them. She finds it terribly rude. Ooookay, I reply. I hadn’t even noticed the woman on the other side of the aisle a few rows back having a phone conversation. I will be quiet as a mouse next to Type A seat companion.

_____

I have pulled out a work of fiction, perfect for the 4-hour trip. Helen Marshall’s Hair Side, Flesh Side. A collection of stories with threads of the middle ages woven through.

I typically don’t read fiction, but this spoke to me for several reasons. I discovered her book at a table at the Bazaar of the Bizarre. Two tables covered in books. A man by the name of Peter Chiykowski had a comic book he’d drawn and self-published displayed for sale. Flipping through the pages, I was moved to laughter by his sweetly cynical wit and his artistry.

We began a conversation and I don’t remember how it came up but he mentioned the middle ages. I perked up. No, that’s inaccurate. What actually happened is that every ounce of my attention suddenly shifted to him, like thirsty plant cells opening up to receive life-sustaining rain. Even in a town as middle-ages-rich as Toronto, I remain starved. Granted, that has more to do with my own life than it does with the shortcomings of this fine city. I asked if he had gone to U of T. He graduated from Dalhousie and is doing writing and publishing now. I was in the MA program at CMS at University of Toronto. When I said that, he said I should check out Helen Marshall’s book. She’s in the PhD program at CMS and this is her first book of short stories. She focuses a lot on manuscripts –> hair side, flesh side.

He said all the right words. CMS, manuscript, newly published writer. I have a train ride in the near future to get me to the International Congress on Medieval Studies, I think to myself. There and back. This would make an excellent way to pass the time and beg off on all the other stuff I “should” be doing.

I hand over $20 and bring home the book.

_____

On finishing the first story, I feel like I got the wind knocked out of me. It’s as touching as it is horrific. The second story leaves me amused and intrigued. With both endings, I am left wanting to know more about each of the characters, more about the world they live in. It is all very compelling for me. I’ll pick this thread up later.

_____

Coming into London, there is a man who has started to seize. An announcement comes on asking if there is a nurse or a doctor on the train who could come to this car. There is a doctor. He ascertains that the man is likely diabetic and is seizing from a lack of medication or sugar or both. He wants to test the man’s blood sugar and give him some sort of medication. The man, dopey from sugar-starved brain, refuses. On stopping at the London train station, EMTs arrive. They don’t really find him any more cooperative, but he’s able to be led off the train. Thankfully, this is where he wanted to get off anyway. We are all grateful it wasn’t any worse.

_____

A little while outside Windsor, a man behind me sees me working on my macbook and asks if I have a charge cord for an iPhone. I don’t. Suddenly, 9D perks up and offers him the use of hers. She IS human. That’s heartening.

Pulling into Windsor, on time, despite the delay in London, the first leg of the trip is done. Now for a car ride to Kalamazoo.

“exploring mind/body dualism”

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Hysterical Literature: The Orgasm as Art by Clayton Cubitt

 

When I first clicked on this Hysterical Literature link,
I was piqued. Obviously. What could possibly be more
awesome than wonderful women reading books they love,
dressed beautifully, recorded in black and white,
being stimulated to orgasm… It ranks high
for this woman-loving nerd.

And yet, when I sat there, having read
the description of the project,
looking at the still of Teresa, I felt shy,
hesitant. Like I didn’t want them to be so exposed
and so vulnerable in front of millions of people,
even if it was just three people and a camera in the room,
at the time. I sat there like a trespasser feeling like
I should walk away from this voyeurism.

But then curiosity won out.
Curiosity nearly always wins out for this cat.
And I’m so glad it did.

There is such similarity in all their experiences.
The fight to maintain composure,
the determination to continue on.
The interplay of control and release
focus on the words
focus on the words
breathe
words
the breathless oh my god
finally giving over to the body is incredible.
Listening and watching their breath move through them.
I was swept up in Alicia’s reading of Leaves of Grass,
likely the most beautiful recitation I will ever
have the pleasure of enjoying
I found myself laughing when they laughed,
felt giddy and breathless right along with them
watching their fingers spread stiffly, tension coursing through them,
then grab pages, clutch book, claw table,
hand to face, flushed, such a beautiful union of
the intellect, the unbelievably sensually intimate
and, of course, the humour, because
the whole situation is awesomely ridiculous.
Hysterical, one might say. I cheered for Solé,
raised my arms in the air and cheered.
And Amanda’s question at the very, very end was perfect.

It all finishes with wide grins and laughs
and is such a wonderful contrast of genuine humanness
to the slick, pre-packaged voyeurism of conventional
pornography. For me, I found a marvellous sense of
connection watching these women.

A highly pleasurable experience not to be missed.

NaPoWriMo Success!

I did it! I managed to write and post 30 poems in 30 days. That posting part is important because I’ve always been so covetous of my work. Even now, I think, “but but but some of those poems had the potential to be really good!” And maybe I’ll rework some of them and find somewhere appropriate to submit them.

Do I feel accomplished? Most definitely. I have a few friends who are pretty into NaNoWriMo and I’m just so not a fiction writer. I’m really not. The demands of character development and story arcs, story cohesion and tying up loose ends over pages and pages of text… it’s enough to make me wet myself in terror like a neurotic yorkie. I work best in snapshots and symbolic language. I don’t like needing to make complete sentences and I enjoy the ambiguity of phrases maybe possibly running into each other and blending or maybe not.

I received the loveliest compliment on my writing yesterday. A wonderful friend wrote to me and said, “You have a talent for capturing complicated spaces in such a tiny, concise handful of words.” Seriously the best thing anyone has yet said to me about my writing ability. Makes me feel so good!

And I’d like to take a moment to thank Alexis Yael for inspiring me to actually go through with this. She’s been an online friend for close to 10 years and she has always been super supportive of any writing endeavours of mine. This April, she offered a NaPo-oriented e-course called Poeming Into the Now and, while I didn’t sign up for it, she added me to the facebook group and I’d peek in every once in a while to see what others had written so that I could get inspired. I think the one poem that came as a direct result of one of her prompts was the pantoum, Immersion. I’d wanted to write a pantoum ever since I first saw that my friend, Jackie, had posted one some months ago, before I’d even gotten back into the writing thing. She’s another wonderful writer who has really been integral to my getting where I am now: I have a website! I have a real, honest-to-goodness chapbook! I am enjoying a successful completion of my first NaPoWriMo!

So thank you to both Alexis and Jackie. I am so grateful for your support and the talent you have shared with the world.

And thank you to everyone who has taken the time to read what I’ve created here in this nuanced little corner of the web. Muchas gracias! Moltes gràcies! Grandmercé! Merci beaucoup!

Now to write and write and write. It feels good. Happy Beltaine! Happy May Day!

Journeying at Home

 

Tonight, I used the above track for journeying at home for the first time outside of organized ritual space. It’s been a very long time since I’ve journeyed in a ritual space in someone’s home, but this past year, I’ve had the opportunity to journey 3 times. Twice with a local shaman and once, quite recently, with visiting Finnish shaman, Dalva Lammimäki. It is becoming more apparent to me that journeying is an activity I need to weave into my life more thoroughly.

The above track was not enough for tonight’s work and, just as it was ending, I was instructed to start it from the beginning as there was more work to be done. Serendipitously, the creator of that track is offering, as of yesterday, the day I discovered it, an hour-long version of the track for free. The link to that download is available on the youtube page and here. I had already downloaded it prior to beginning my journey, but I chose the 30-minute track because I had wanted a shorter experience. Hahahahaaa, I got what I needed and I needed an hour.

I won’t be posting all that I experience in my journeywork, as that’s far too personal. Some of it will leak out into poetry because the symbolic language is potent and inspiring. But there are some bits that are worth sharing in the context of regular blog writing.

During this journey, the image of a woman flashed before me. I determined that she wanted to be known as Octavia. I then thought of Octavia Butler, who bore a resemblance in name only, and, doing a google search afterwards, I came across this beautiful quote from her:

 

Octavia Butler

 

 

I’ve been semi-consciously working on understanding more about interpersonal relationships:  how the actions of one person affect so many, as well as how, within friendships or even just in daily life, we catalyze change for each other. We learn from each other in every single thing we do or don’t do, every single thing we say or don’t say. Our unfulfilled expectations teach us plenty, if only we observe and listen.

Another element that appeared for me during this journey was Wasp. Not WASP, but the insect, Wasp. This makes for two journeys in a row and I needn’t wait for a third appearance to light a fire under me. When I sense that an animal wants to work with me, the resource I find myself going to most frequently is Wildspeak. Ravanari, the author, has done extensive work, shamanically, in order to write out descriptions of various animal energies, as well as the art she has done to accompany many of her interpretations. I find the whole package quite stunning and compelling.

The takeaway from what she’s written about Wasp is that I could stand to have more organization and productivity within my daily life. Yes. I see this so thoroughly. So I will be doing what I can to work more with Wasp energy. I have a mental backlog of several blog posts I’ve been wanting to make, as well as piles and piles of books and articles to read through for research purposes, with topics ranging from herbalism, homeopathy, and healing to parenting to the origins of Courtly Love in the High Middle Ages and other things related to how we perceive love. I’ve also been getting nudges to create a Vision Board, which I may end up doing as a series of art journal spreads, since I don’t really have the wall space to make something big. And the results of a Vision Board lay more the act of creating and then letting go than focusing on it and consciously attempting to direct life such that the items on the Vision Board checklist are crossed off, one by one. Plus, I can work with smaller spaces more easily than with larger spaces, putting more thought and creativity into each spread.

I have ideas already, now to bring them to fruition. Intent is not simply thinking of doing something. That will never get the job done. No matter how much you intend to eat that sandwich in front of you, it will never get eaten until you pick it up and start eating it. No matter how much I intend on writing frequent blog posts, it will never happen until I sit down, begin writing, and then post what I’ve written. Intent is inextricably intertwined with action.

Productivity.

And now to assist with that: sleep.