A Walk in the Woods

I walked through the woods for three weeks. My feet met dirt in four states from Vermont to New York. I found many things: mountains, grass, salamanders, mud, happiness, sadness, peace, conflict, life, death. Then I found a few more: contentment, perfection, paradox, grief, love.

It took me a week to open. I had been looking for the zipper, the hole, not knowing the shape of the invitation. After that I cried every afternoon, tears of one hundred years of grief streaming down my face as I walked, step after step, tear after tear, fear after fear, hope after hope. Now, now, now.

I sang songs until I knew no more, then my heart sang its own song, of the symphony of life through which I am threaded. What an unspeakably beautiful, ever-changing symphony.

This love lives me, breathes me, and will lay me down to die.

Integration

Over and over again, known meets unknown in now’s infinite possibility. This constant merging of past and future is especially salient today, having finished the last of three 4-day workshops comprising SAS (a 6-month circling training led by Circling Europe). I have a familiar high, characteristic of multi-day awareness workshops, having been continually kept at my edge and shown enticing options for greater freedom. Perceptiveness: sharp. Confidence: high. I feel supple engaging with whatever comes my way, effortless in my expression. In relation, I ask, bask, cut, and dive, rediscovering bliss in every direction. I feel powerful, opening and being opened by others.
 
Yet there’s a niggle; too easily I might return to how I was before, and lose all momentum. It feels akin to sliding a cake into the oven and thinking my work is done. I want something more than a memorable story about feeling good. I’ve experienced a similar high after each of the workshops. First weekend: this feeling will last forever! Second weekend: how do I make this feeling last forever?! Third weekend: spellbound, teetering on the edge of integration, ushering what I have learned into each moment of newness. Now is the only opportunity. If I wait, all will be lost, and I’ll have to start again from scratch. If I don’t take action to change the habitual structure of my daily life, it will erode this newfound freedom.
 
The inquiry becomes: how do I craft new patterns that keep me alive and aware? There are community-level supports that these workshops provide; dishing out and receiving a high level of challenge, the communal effort in illuminating inter/personal dynamics, the demand (co-created) for each to engage fully with themselves… Without this constant community, how can I create an environment that fulfills a similar purpose? To work I go, integrating, integrating, integrating.

The Thin Line of Belief

Photo by Janko Ferlic

I’m scared I may be less smart than I think I am.
But for better or worse, how smart I am is not dependent on anyone’s thoughts. I may be wrong, right, in-between, or off the grid.
Isn’t it inconsequential whether we agree about how smart I am?

And yet, I’ve seen myself shrink from those who insinuate I’m not quite as bright as I think I am. I still contract, though with less defensiveness now, at the suggestion that I’ve erred. I won’t let someone in if they believe something about me that I don’t think is true. To what end?

This feels like an invitation to live based on what is true, rather than my thoughts about it. What is it to live unchained by thoughts and expectations? Slowly, I clear dust off the lens.

And here lies the fork. Can I stay clear in the face of my own and others’ beliefs? Will I allow myself to see what is, right now? Will I let my belief system be dismantled by reality? Or will I lie to myself, over, and over, and over again?

If Gandhi is right, and my beliefs become my destiny, I’m looking at a fragile destiny if I leave my beliefs unchallenged.

Querencia

Photo by Daniel Bask

I accidentally arrived an hour early to yoga this morning. My mind was whispering to me softly, “allow us this time to sit and be present, we really need it“. My meditation practice had been sporadic, and it was hard to start out. My mind was overbearing, latching on to each thought and getting toted away by the breeze.

I finally settled into my breath, and sank into a state so relaxed my body barely needed oxygen. My breath was so slow it felt as if it could sustain itself on nothing. I was so far inside myself, or rather, filling my whole body and beyond. It was wonderful to sense that place, that space of peace and acceptance within.

When I got lost aboard a runaway thought train, I would gently detach. At one point a voice spoke inside that simply said, “it’s okay, I accept you“, in a tone so much more gentle and loving than that in which it usually speaks. It made me gloriously sad that it wasn’t like that more often, and determined to give it the chance to emerge continuously.

There’s a spanish word, querencia, which refers to a place where one feels safe and at home. It’s used in bullfighting to describe the area of the ring where the bull goes to recoup, where he feels strongest. Barry Lopez describes it as “a place on the ground where one feels secure, a place from which one’s strength of character is drawn—a place in which we know exactly who we are—the place from which we speak our deepest beliefs”. 

All too often we wrap layers around ourselves as a shield against the harsh realities we may encounter, and we hide our spirits from ourselves along the way. This leaves only the hope that one day, the best of who we are will manage to slice through and say to us tenderly, all the strength that you need is inside you, and it’s been here all along.  Inside us all we have a querencia, a place where we can repair ourselves and find the hope and strength to carry us nobly through life.

A favorite poem, to close.

“Graduation”

He told us, with the years, you will come
to love the world. 

And we sat there with our souls in our laps, 
and comforted them.

~Dorothea Tanning

So it goes…

In one of my classes, Continuity and Change in Modern Jewish HIstory (I also wonder why they try to make class names as long as possible), we often talk about Jews in the diaspora returning to Palestine/Israel. And each time I write a sentence referring to this, I have these two voices in my head arguing about whether to write “came to” or “went to”, only satisfactorily settled with “immigrated to”. I’ve been here for about three months now (which coincidentally is the point at which homesickness usually strikes, so say the internet experts on various message boards). The word “home” has slipped out once or twice in reference to the dorms here, and I feel relatively settled in, but I’m light years away from belonging.

However, I have become more Israeli in a very important way, and that it regarding my sweet tooth. They have these things here called “krembo”, which are kind of like huge mallomars. Israelis pretty much claim them as their own (although this is not really true, I’ve done extensive research and they seem to have a version in most countries, albeit with different names), and based on research, every Israeli eats approximately 9 each winter. They’re only sold from October to February, making them quite a commodity. They melt easily. I’ve put up some picture of the process, just for enlightenment purposes.

Besides krembo-eating, I have also been crocheting up a storm! Since its gotten pretty cold here, its been great to make something useful. One of my roommates asked me to teach her as well, and she’s in her room now churning out meters of scarf. Thank you to my 3rd grade teacher for this skill!!

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