Haiku for Uvalde

No comprehension
In these life’s ragged moments
Empty in the void

Hear the mother hen
Squawking distress heartbreak grief
Skunk’s hunger sated

Loud rolling thunder
Image fading too slowly
Empty weeping arms

Handcuff mothers’ fear
Protecting children dying
More guns men laughing

Peace found within fields
Memory of loving days
Mountain heart endures

Back from Bedlam

Apropos, I suppose, I woke up this morning with James Blunt’s “You’re Beautiful” running through my head. The song appeared on his first album Back to Bedlam (named after a famous psychiatric hospital in England). Of course “bedlam” is descriptive of my anguished frustration and confusion as to “how can this keep happening” — these senseless murders of young children. With the tune playing through my mind as I came out of sleep, I was also well aware of the counterpoise necessary to rebalance myself after giving permission for that one voice to blow off some steam and heed the call to get loud.

I reflect that thirty-plus years ago, when I was 40, I started training in kung fu. At first it was simply a disciplined way to get exercise, but as I moved into the art, it became one of my deepest psychological journeys.

Early in my training, I was tasked with learning a series of moves: a straight punch to the face, an elbow to the chin, and knee to the groin (all with full control because that, in essence, was what we were training to have:  control). I performed the move — quite well, I thought — with hardness. “Look at my warrior strength!!” my ego beamed.

My sifu stopped me and said, “Good, but now I want you to do it slowly and softly.” I looked at him, and I said, “Well, I can’t do that. That’s not who I am,” so ingrained in this persona that who “I was” was hard and strong and direct. But he was not going to argue with me; he gave me the choice to do it slowly and softly or to get on the ground and do 50 full-body pushups with my partner kicking me in the stomach on each plank. I kid you not, but without hesitation I dropped to the ground to do that instead of having to be soft.

My sifu, not expecting that to be my choice, stopped me. In essence, the choice changed to “do it soft and slow or end your training.” Because I felt “it” happening, I wanted to argue that I could not do “soft,” and I told to him, “I will cry if I have to do that.” He said, “That’s okay.” I replied, “No, it’s never okay to cry, especially in kung fu.” He chuckled and said, “It’s always okay to cry.”

A higher, wiser Self stepped up beside me (I now recognize it as the Spirt side of Mind/Body/Spirit) and “held” me while I went through that controlled move. And I cried. “Again,” my sifu said. Again, I did it softly and slowly, and I cried more deeply. “Again,” he said.  And I sobbed as I touched feeling so scared and vulnerable in allowing myself to be soft. Through the following seven years of training in kung fu, my challenge was to learn to “yield,” to honor my yin energy, to find the balance between the yin and the yang. I achieved Brown Belt rank before arthritic issues at age 47 (probably the physical manifestation of years of hardness) ended my physical training.

Though most people move through life disguised and dressed in one persona (mine at that time was a hardened, closed-off warrior superwoman), if we become aware, we recognize we all have different voices, or selves, within us, each of which needs to be recognized and honored in order to free ourselves. It was during those years of training in kung fu, in my search to rebalance myself, I was privileged to be introduced to  a wise woman and practitioner of Voice Dialogue, a process through which a person learns to identify and become aware of these different voices or selves in order to become a more balanced individual.  Though far from practiced in the process myself, I recognized its importance in helping me achieve an emotional equipoise in my life.

Back in those days of kung fu, I had to learn to listen to this young, weak child that was never allowed to cry and that had to wear armor to get through life. Not only had that armor ceased to serve me, it had become destructive. Through kung fu — and Voice Dialogue and shamanic work, and eventually meditation — I got in touch with my world of archetypical energies that all serve me when in balance, but also can be destructive or hindering when one outshouts the other.

The Lover’s voice in James Blunt wrote and sang those beautiful songs. “You’re Beautiful” is an incredibly sad song about unrequited love, expressing the intense emotions of James Blunt when he saw his girlfriend with another man and he didn’t do anything about it (in the official video he jumps endlessly off a wall, down, down, down to …?).

Yesterday my Warrior ranted and played the bagpipes and banged on the drums of frustration. This morning, my Priest sat in silent meditation. In the bedlam of our “modern world,” I continue to listen for and await the voice of wisdom and spirit to illuminate the way.

May peace and love find us all and be the loudest voice and the brightest light to show the path forward in the bedlam of our world.

How Practical is Imagination?

The word “practical” has several definitions which I “imagine” must be taken into consideration in answering this: likely to be effective in real circumstances or feasible; suitable for a particular purpose; realistic in approach, et cetera. Imagination is the faculty or action of forming ideas or images in the mind; or the ability of the mind to be creative or resourceful.

Keeping that in mind I absolutely know that at times my imagination is ridiculous, though I feel in those circumstances its purpose is to amuse me, or if I share it with others and if they listen, my hope is it triggers them to join in the crazy journey for the fun of it or to create something “out of this world,” maybe like Neil Gaiman does in his novels.

Imagination is an absolute necessity, and hence practical, in multiple practices, particularly in self-discovery, personal growth or mental health. For me, and others who engage in such practices, imagination is key to Gestalt therapy, shamanic journey work, and hypnosis. How many times have I descended that dark staircase, come to a door, and opened that door to discover what’s behind it — or what’s in my consciousness or unconscious.

My imagination has brought me misery in the form of worry — will my addicted children survive their addictions; why won’t my romantic partner answer his phone; will we survive the existential threat of climate change?  — but worry serves no useful purpose (though it can be an impetus to seek a solution), and I’ve learned to let worries hover in the background and get off the ride pretty quickly these days.

But imagination can have more practical value than just regurgitating concrete facts, which perpetuate a certain reality that is not serving anyone. John Lennon’s Imagine is the perfect example of instilling in every human’s mind that there really could be a world without countries, no religion, no war, no possessions, no greed, no hunger. With that seed planted, people might start actually contemplating that their clinging and regurgitating “my country, my religion, my whiteness, my possessions, my, my my” is in fact causing all the problems in the world and they might start contemplating a different world, and within that contemplation they see that the world really could BE AS ONE. Imagine living with less. Imagine sharing all we have, knowing there will always be more than enough for everyone if everyone shared. Without that seed planted, that shift in thinking, no changes will be made by me or anyone, so, yes, my imagination in that regard is very practical for the survival of humanity.

Imagination is absolutely necessary in order to read a novel, or even to listen to  classical music, but even modern music engages imagination. Though your imagination didn’t create these things, without an imagination you cannot take an author’s words and walk with them through the scenes and emotions depicted. Whether images are formed in listening to music or whether it’s simply emotions that have been stirred, the catalyst for either, I think, comes from imagination. The journey never starts without imagination. I know people who claim they just cannot read a novel, and they don’t. I know them well enough to see they dwell in a very concrete world, focused only on what they can see and touch, and they lack the ability necessary to be able to transport themselves into a world of imagination.

I believe imagination is the fuel to sexual excitement, with or without your lover, in just about every instance. So its practical purpose there is to ensure the continuation of the human race.

But of course, imagination is the key to the creative process. Imagination is the creative process. It is, for me, an idea or thought that frees itself from the conditioning that attaches itself to the thoughts that chatter in circles through my mind, plowing the same old, now infertile, ground. Imagination is creation in both its initial thought and in what it produces. It is both the seed and the chicken as it’s both a process and its end product. It’s the seed that brings a novel or film alive and takes us all on the journey in the non-concrete world, like Leo DiCaprio’s movie Inception.

It’s the inquisitive, imaginative mind that questioned beliefs: is the earth flat; does the sun revolve around the earth; will taking a bath cause disease; how do ants form such straight lines; how do bees find flowers or make honey; or what was the reason life split between plants and animals; or can mankind fly light years away to another galaxy? It’s the imaginative mind that thought up safety pins, paper clips, hairbrushes, paper, printing presses, photovoltaic cells, and, yes, nuclear bombs. It’s the imaginative mind that finds solutions to problems; it can conceive of a better way of doing things, leading scientists to new theories or discoveries that can serve (or destroy) mankind as those ideas are brought into the concrete world.

I don’t expect everyone or even a few to follow my fanciful flights of imagination, i.e., I am a Spoon, but I find imagination practical in regards to my life. Without an imagination I would not have benefited from my shamanic practice, hypnosis, therapy, or any other paths I’ve walked in search of undoing old myths that protected me when young but hindered me as I grew older. Without an imagination my creative writing would be nonexistent, nor would I have benefited from the fanciful thoughts of so many writers. Without an imagination, I would not have dared step off the ledge into the full slipstream of life, sailed the ocean, had adventures.  Without an imagination, I honestly don’t believe I would have found the peace and happiness I have in my life today because I would have believed the unhappy world in which I was born and raised was the only reality permitted; without my imagination, I would not have striven to let go, to surrender old, unskillful thoughts and imagine a more perfect world.

Just imagine.

Rainy Day Poetry

Tap the water table beneath your feet
Roll down the mountains in relief
Feed the ground and clutch the air
Smell the wind that blows so fair.

Ride the oceans, touch its depth
Climb up mountains, feel its breadth
Search deeply through tangled roots
Reach even higher for tree’s fruits

Feel the rain or hear it tap
Or warm by the fire against the coldsnap
Hear the talk of branch on bough
Release all tension in your brow

Yes, it’s cold and gray and dreary
Suffer not for you can be cheery
When wrapped in the songs that nature sings
Bringing all things beautiful on its wings