Dance With Death (part II)


Then came Serena.  I took a few thwarted stabs at going to dance with her.  But then I was being mommy trying to dance, not Athena The Star.  I have lived six very sobering years, culminating with the past two and a half being the “Grand Finale”.  The Grand Finale of my old life.  My old self.  The irony, people, is that I ALREADY HAVE DIED.  A thousand times over.  I just haven’t left my body.  I am not ready to do so.  OH!  That reminds me of my Epiphany about life and death.  I’ll tell you in a sec!

(One element of this blog is my spontaneous comments on The Art of Writing.  Authentic writing requires TRUSTING THE MIND.  My Original Mind burst in and grabbed the wheel, hot to tell you about something other than what I was talking about… and if I was to be a “good girl”, I would have silently made a note or just pushed it aside and kept going.  But as the AUTHOR, I am incharge.  Let all the other Suckas follow the boring assed rules!  Author=AUTHORity)

Can you feel Edith Piaf’s impassioned voice boiling over behind these words?  It is… and it is touching my insides as they must be touched!  She transmits a depth of longing, experience, strength… that touches a world in me- wide awake and aching for S P A C E  and light.  She is singing me alive and I am writing you alive and YOU are______ .  It’s a fractiling domino chain of pressing wine out of our human struggles.  Does it get any better?!  Yeah.  If I was at the beach.  Or making transcendent love.  Or riding a horse.  

So in these recent grueling years, I would not have imagined that I was becoming what I most wanted to be (a clarified version of ME).  It felt like the farthest thing from what I was becoming.  My soul was withdrawing from this world because my experience sucked too much ass.  It was like walking through a looooong, daaaaaaark tunnnnnnnel.  I entered it through the portal of ecstatic dance six years ago, and last sunday, POP!  I finally made it to the other side.  Out into the light of intimacy and WHOLENESS.  And I am NOT going back.  I am SO fucking prooud of myself for the deep work I have done that I didn’t even realize `I was doing.  And this could be YOU too.  You might be sitting over there with your face melting off in the sweltering heat of your alchemical container and everything looks black and sludgy and you are thinking to yourself WHAT THE FUCK… Take heart my blossoming warriors, ambassadors and bearers of The Light.  You can TRUST in this alchemy.

My bounty of Ananda friends love to tout that “the joy is within you”.  And I confess that in my moments of “dark night” (most of my life), I have really hated to hear that, because then it’s like what the fuck is wrong with me for not having access to my own damn self????  But now that I am reclaiming my life and my Self, I am living this joy daily.  I feel it now.  It’s like a soft, breezy melody of my own soul, swelling inside me,  flushing me with prismatic glow.  Maybe I AM made of joy after all.  Haha.

But move over, Spiritual Polly-Anna!  Life sure ain’t all lovenlight.  `How many moments have I been cruising along in my sporty little joy bubble and an unwieldy wave of fear rushes in and knocks me on my bony ass.  Waaaaait, I asserted in my last blog that I was RIDING the waves.  Doh… well… I don’t know exactly how to metaphor-ize my experience… all I know is that I am going along fine and then in a lightning flash, I am on my knees, grappling for the highest course of navigation.  It’s usually body sensations that set off the alarm bells. (or Serena not listening and asking why twelve thousand times) Actually it’s more like the bell that sounds at the start of a boxing match.  And then I step in the ring, my bare chest glistening, a trail of blue gatorade still lingering on my chin.  Bobbing.  Weaving.  Jabbing.

Ok I went too far.  But it’s a wild experience to move so swiftly between joy and fear or anger.  Maybe it will make me so dizzy that I will lose my grip on duality once and for all.  I will only feign faith in the transient world of form.  THIS will be my emergence as “Our Lady of God-Drunk Grace”.  The woman I was born to be.

Or maybe I am just hopped up on some questionable sauce… But this is my prayer.  If I don’t make it that far in this life, guess I’ll just keep chipping away on my next galactic adventure(s).

Fuck that I didn’t come straight home from dance and WRITE IT ALL DOWN.  (In fact, while we’re on the subject, FUCK that I didn’t come straight home from EVERYWHERE and WRITE IT ALL DOWN.  My stories… they are a hopelessly swift waterfall spilling into an abyss.  On sunday, the dance was still throbbing in my veins, my cells, my nutrinos!  And now it’s… toilet water in the bay (time for a refreshed metaphor.)  

But here is THE climax moment of my whole dance:  It was toward the end.  As I was moving, I flashed on what my spirit guides told me- to call this cancer journey my “Dance with Death”.  I let the idea filter down through layers of my consciousness as I spun and shimmied and slithered serpentine.  The light was ON.  And I got that “dancing with death” is actually the equivalent to dancing with LIFE.  The yin-yang is not just a cool symbol.  It is a universal truth.  I realized that I am one of the privileged few… (maybe) who was graced with direct experience.  I am no longer regurgitating cheap universal wisdom.  I am paying my own way to WISDOM and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

When I was a child and a young adult, I suffered for not having the EXPERIENCE to match the wisdom of my soul.  And when I reached inside to find the book that I am meant to write… all I got was a blasted DIAL TONE.  Deep down I knew this was because I had essential experiences yet ahead of me, which would ripen my wisdom such that it would just fall on your head with a splat.  Fuck the strained, fabricated shit.  

Life wants FULL SURRENDER from me.  Full fucking surrender.  She told me this directly.  When I asked Giordano months ago to take Forest overnight, he refused.  Then, when I had (actually) let go, BAM!  He whisked Forest out of my bereft arms.  I feel a similar process happening with my writing.  I was desperate to “succeed” at my Art.  A desperation born of feeling “not enough”.  Like if I don’t realize my Gift in this life, I FAIL.  But the sheer beauty of having my life threatened is the realization that just BEING here is enough.  “Let the soft animal of my body love what it loves”.

Ah but the secret paradox is that from my current perch at the edge of the abyss, I am rediscovering my worth.  My edges have become softer (not to mention my gooey tootsie roll Center.)  I am genuinely content to flow through my days on winds of ineffable grace.

AND.

That said, I keep writing, because I MUST.  Because it feels so damn GOOD that it MUST be what I am here for.  And now for the moment that Athena Grace toots her own horn!  I have been getting some BITCHIN feedback lately.  I am some peoples’ Favorite Writer.  I move people.  And my writing has its own Life and Plan.  I just need to keep showing up and being receptive.

Can I approach Life and Death with the same depth of faith and surrender?

This is my aim.  By now it is no secret that I WANT TO HEAL and LIVE… but… do I have the ovaries to genuinely and wholeheartedly put mySELF and my LIFE in God’s hands?  I know that’s a dumb question on some level, because there is no other place that my SELF and LIFE could ever be.  It’s a matter of internal orientation.   Like that I can just go on tending my garden of joy, beauty, peace, sensuality, creativity, friendship, etc…. While doing all that is shown me to do to restore my body’s health… and let whatever comes come.  God I want to feel that free.  Not to suffer about what will happen to my kids if I die, or why didn’t I become a hella famous writer.  (Not just famous among my facebook friends and token random strangers.)  

No matter when it’s my time to leave this wacky spaceship, I want to go out blazing with PASSION.  I will be writing and dancing and making love and peeling back the endless folds of my enchanting (and deranged) emptiness.  Self, I promise NEVER to abandon you again.  If you say “GET THE FUCK OUT”, I will listen.  

God help me.

Athena Graceland is morphing into new dimensions of HALLELUJAH!!!
Yeah, I’m in love with video now.  My intention is to raise YOU up!!!!!

Are you ready to explore new frontiers of ecstasy, delight, gratitude and wonder?

If so, you have come to the right place!!!

Let the SHRI resound through your sweet slice of infinity within!!

 

Breaking Up and Stalking Joy

Two pm and the sun finally smiles upon Oakland, California.  But it’s not a sincere, unabashed smile… Nah, it’s the vindictive, effortful smile of one who slogs along with a steel heart thumping from a cage a thousand miles below sea level.  There’s a rumor going around that the season we are currently steeping in is named summer… but I’m not convinced of that.  August in the bay area is a frown waiting to happen if you ask Athena Grace LMNOP.  I want to get back in my pajamas, turn on the heat and luxuriously suck hot cocoa through a twisty straw as tangled as the human psyche.  Actually, come to think of it, august in Oakland is the perfect month for breaking up.  Cold, grey, oppressive and generally distasteful.

Yeah, Mykael and I are breaking up.  But we’ve been tiptoeing around those jagged, rigid and aggressively final words.  Instead we’ve been using such terms as “diverging paths” or “parting ways”… but come on… at the end of the day, the results are the same.  I am going to live in Kauai for an indefinite amount of time and feel a wellspring of enthusiasm for the opportunity to be a single woman (for the first time since I can even honestly proclaim womanhood) and he is going to live “in our friends’ tool shed”, as he so dramatically loves to put it, and create stability for himself.  Is it really a tool shed that beckons him from the visible horizon of his destiny?  Shrug… I’m just gonna stick with the theatrics and say, “Heck yes, it’s a tool shed!”

Now remember, I have earned my LMNOP from the highly acclaimed, cosmically accredited School of Mostly Soft Knocks… but my learning did not include a crash course in the art of breaking up.  In this realm, I still feel like a floundering fledgling.  Last time I broke up, I was concurrently enrolled in a new beginning (left my ex-fiance for Mykael), so I didn’t have to be fully present to the arduous ripping apart process.  I have to say, it’s about as much fun as a trip to the dentist.  But a mostly benign trip.  Not like a cursed root canal… just a heavy-handed cleaning and a flossing that floods your mouth with the twangy flavor of blood and leaves your gums sore and tender for days afterward.  But like a visit to the dentist, it is a necessary evil and is actually an investment in wellbeing and longevity.

We are still on good enough terms… and we still share a home.  But we just don’t bend over backwards on a regular basis in service of the happiness of the other.  (Mykael just came into my bedroom and commented, “That stern blogging look…”  Curious, I asked him, “What does it look like?”  He made a face like a cross baby getting ready to poop in its diaper.  Wow, who knew!  My secret is officially OUT.)  Yeah, so we’ve allowed our lives and schedules become radically mismatched.  We no longer share meals and I don’t cook for him anymore.  He has flaked on our rock climbing dates twice in a row… and we don’t generally share all of our inner processes and micro movements through moment to moment, day to day life.  Sometimes this is easy and natural, and sometimes it makes me ache.  Our hearts only bloom toward one another occasionally, when it feels safe… which is more of a lottery than anything else.  The space of our relationship is analogous to having a shower that only produces warm water some of the time.  You can only hope and pray that when it’s time to get clean, it will steam.  And if you are enlightened enough, you can also learn to appreciate the bracing vibrancy of a good dowsing in frigid waters.  Heck, you might even begin to enjoy it, by closing your eyes and pretending you are standing on a picturesque mountain top under a waterfall of crystalline alpine snowmelt.

This is what spiritual big shots mean when they say that you can not always control circumstances, but you can always control your relationship and attitude toward them.  I’ve been working pretty hard to keep my mind and my heart lifted to All Pervading Goodness these days in the face of… all of it…  Sigh… But I must admit that I have some very unflattering grooves into which I slip.  When the little girl in me feels threatened, damn-shazam does she make a mess of snot and flames and sharp fingernails.  Trust me, I am doing my best to take good care of her…

The other day, during our mini-vacation in Sausalito, Mykael and I were sauntering along the waterfront after a delicious late breakfast.  It was soupy and cold outside which set the stage nicely for the dark cloud that swept right in and shrouded my heart.  In an instant, I was flooded with cold, damp melancholy.  I panicked.  I did not want to feel this way.  But of course, the more I fought it, the more I was on my knees at its mercy.  My eyes desperately swept the external scapes searching for any shred of redemption.  I watched vacuously as an asian couple in fancy clothes posed on the pier as a photographer snapped stiff, constipated shots of them.  Naturally, the woman was way underdressed in her little black, strapless cocktail gown and matching heels.  Mykael guessed that they were honeymooners.  Usually promenading through a scene like this would have been a source of plastic enchantment for me… but not so under the weight of my spontaneous ache.  It comes every once in a while when I am just wanting to sink into the silken space of happily ever after and all I can find is a flawed moment with a man who is mostly pretty cool but our stupid dreams accidentally smashed one tragic afternoon.

But stay tuned, this story has a happy ending, dang it.  You know how I told you that I have this inner coach who gives me perpetual tips on how to navigate life and my inner-space therein?  Well, this mysterious someone that might be me and might not, invited me to sink deeper into the precise experience I was having on that foggy, Sausalito Pier, and there, it said, I would be able to taste the All Pervading Joy.  A quiet joy, independent of emotions and circumstances.  It was subtle… like rose petals amidst a heavy mist.  But I could not deny this whispering joy.  It was a glimpse of my Home.  At last.

This is the sustainable, understated joy I stalk in every moment of my existence.

Amen.

My Pilgrimage to Ananda Part III

It’s another one of those mornings where I don’t want to write.  I’m feeling flooded with emotions and overwhelmed by this all too familiar experience of being crushed under the weight of my own recklessly tangled dharma.  Every  night that I have slept here at Ananda, I have had disturbing dreams one after another, waking up numerous times with my heart pounding.  I came here to release.  I came here to heal and contemplate.  Apparently I have been doing a good chunk of work at night.  But this morning, I hit a point of overwhelm.  My heart was as full as a well fed tick and tears kept slipping out and streaming all about my face in sadhana.  Lately A Course in Miracles has been preaching all about how only joy is real.  Pain and sorrow are not real.  So every time I rub elbows (and every other imaginable body part as well) with my pain and sorrow, I wonder what I am to make of those seemingly intense strands of aching moments.  Will I ever be healed enough to just be a god damn fountain of ever-new joy?  Is it self indulgent to succumb to all this grief and devastation?

I don’t remember if I mentioned this before, but I could not find my emotions at ALL for the first half of my twenties.  I had buried them is such a deep safe chamber inside of me, to sort out later when I felt grounded and safe enough.  That time came.  And because I had been without them for so long, my emotions became the most precious delicacies to me.  Now when they come, I feel whole.  But… I also wonder if I’m stuck sometimes in indulgent eddies of sorrow… Lately I have been feeling called from the inside to practice continuously stepping into gratitude, presence and joy.  But where does that leave all the shadow-strewn nooks and crannies of my heart and soul?  Must shine light on them.  Must love through them.  Easier said than done.  God, it seems to be taking a lot of WORK right now to be awake and on duty.

As I wrote all that, my mom was puttering around in the kitchen fixing herself a late breakfast. Today is her day off from working in the Crystal Hermitage gardens.  Something about my mom is that she incessantly hums.  I think it is so dear.  Sometimes I can hear her coming before I can see her.  She is a fountain of faintly gurgling song.  I trip out thinking that probably she will die before me and I will live a portion of my life without her nectarous humming and her irritating little habits, her stories of day to day existence and the people she knows.  Something else I have come to love about my mom is that she can’t eat anything without spilling it down her front.  It used to drive me crazy, but now it tickles and delights me.

I didn’t really intend to go on like that about my emotions, but it was so present inside me, that nothing else could find its way out.  If I didn’t express it, I would have just collapsed under the immense weight and opted not to write.  Let that be a lesson to you.  If you think you are having “writer’s block”, which is just an old wives tale any way, just write about what’s most true for you in the moment and then shazam!  You will be amazed at the energy that’s freed up!

Now I’m ready to tell you the exciting news.  The night before last, my mom got an email from the head Swami, Kriyananda’s assistant, Lakshman.  He informed her that the Hallowed Swami had given her a spiritual name (upon her request) back in march, but for some reason she hadn’t received the email.  He forwarded the original email sent by Swami Kriyananda.  Kriyananda had informed her that he couldn’t get down and funky with her first choice, Aria… but that he felt that the name Sumitra was a great fit for her, and if she would receive it, he offered it with his heart-felt blessings.  Sumitra.  She rolled it around inquisitively on her mind’s palate.  Sumitra.  Getting a spiritual name bestowed upon you at an ashram is as big a deal as starting your period, getting married or being visited by a Santa Clause who only comes once in your entire life!

Immediately she plunged into the world wide web to research the name.  First she discovered some long-winded explanation about how Sumitra was a modest supporting role in the Hindu Epic, The Mahabharata.  This did not seem to please her.  So she searched on, learning that at its most simplistic, the name meant “Good Friend”.  Still she expressed distaste.  She did not feel that “good friend” encapsulated her.  I could feel her deflation.

Good friend.  As we lay in the warm darkness of her bedroom, nearing the cusp of slumber, I let the meaning sink below the surface of my mind, into the dark depths where concepts drown and alchemize in their own time into richer soul wisdom.  Good friend.  I told her that honestly, at the end of the day, I couldn’t see anything more valuable than both BEING a good friend and HAVING good friends.  All the rest of the stuff we value in life is mere jingle bells and penny whistles.  Then I thought of my favorite Sufi poet, Hafiz.  He mostly refers to All Pervading Light as “The Friend”.  And reading his poetry, one can just tell that his tenderness and intimacy with God is sheer potency.  It is the kind of food that could sustain entire multiverses for Eternity and a day!  I ASPIRE to have that kind of a bond with God.  No REALLY.  I have to say that again, because I want it SO BAD.  I yearn to feel infinitely saturated by my friendship with the One.  Doesn’t that sound like the BEST thing EVER?  (Sure Athena, you just keep right on a-knockin’ from the Inside…)

I suggested that she contemplate her relationship to friendship… really chew on it and suckle the juice.  Not long after that, I was abducted by a tall, dark, handsome Sandman.  When the morning breathed fresh light into us once again, she loved her new name, Sumitra.  Oh… her *obsolete* name (wink) is Susan… So you can see that it’s a natural stone’s throw from her original sonic invocation.  Spiritual names are that which we grow into.  When we first get them, they seem baggy and awkward.  It is time and experience’s loving hands that sculpt our very beings so that the names glovishly hug our truest essence.  I can not think of anything better to refine ones self to fully master than a Good Friend.

They say that it has only happened one other time that Swami Kriyananda has sent someone their name and it has not gotten through to them.  My mom wondered why her naming was postponed for four months.  Shrug.  Who knows… but if I was the center of the Universe and I had the power to say, I would declare that it was so I could be present for this illustrious rite of passage in the life of my Beloved Mother, Sumitra.  I feel blessed.

Amen.