You Cannot

 

You cannot coerce a woman who keeps her own counsel.

You cannot control a woman who finds pleasure in the forest.

You cannot silence a woman whose voice is her own.

You cannot banish a woman who knows where she belongs.

You cannot command a woman who has charted her own course.

You cannot defile a woman who belongs to Something More.

You cannot cheapen a woman who knows the value of her own life.

You cannot punish a woman who knows the cause to which she owes her allegiance.

You cannot limit a woman who knows her soul to be without bounds.

You cannot steal from a woman whose treasures are beyond your reach.

You cannot own a woman who knows her worth.

You cannot possess a woman’s body who knows her wildest nature.

You cannot demoralize a woman who answers to a higher call.

You cannot impose falsehoods on a woman who has touched the Truth.

You cannot subjugate a woman who knows the power of being a woman.

You cannot…

 

Missing

 

I am missing the desert.

I miss the simplicity and the directness of living on and so close to the land. I miss aligning myself with the rhythms of the natural cycles. I miss the uncomplicated actions and procedures of tending to my most immediate and real needs. I miss the urgency of living with strong intention. I miss the vast spaciousness of time out of time. I miss the honest efforts of living simply. I miss the like-minded camaraderie and company of other women who had chosen as I had chosen. I miss knowing the immediacy and the importance of this, and more.

We were told that as hard as it was to spend four days and nights out on our own in the desert seeking guidance, that the real test would be coming back into our lives and finding ways to live our vision directly into the world. They were not wrong. As hard as the experience was, truly one of the hardest of my life, there was a clarity about it all that struggles to find itself an easy and permanent home in the midst of the noise, distractions, expectations, and obligations. A part leftover from those days that yearns to give over to everything that was discovered and known.

Where is all of this leading? Perhaps to the knowing that we are best served to notice, and to deeply tune into what it is that is missing from our lives. To allow ourselves to feel it all the way down to its root. And then, to do whatever is within our power to remember, and to re-instate what has been lost to us. And to the world.

But of course, that would require that we are in a position to even have the space to pause, and to listen for more than the relentless, insistent inner and outer drumbeat of doing. Always doing.

Being Seen

 

We all want to be seen for who we are. At its very core, this is not about winning a personality contest. It is not about laying out your credentials for others to admire. It is not about garnering fame. Nor is it about amassing a fortune or ego gratification. Instead, it is about being recognized. And in that recognition, finding your true place in the world.

What we are talking about here often involves being known beyond what we can see about ourselves all on our own. Therefore, we cannot always go this one alone. We need help. And this is exactly the place where it gets so very tricky. For many of the distortions we hold about ourselves have taken place in the taking in and believing of false and warped reflections we have gotten from others over the course of our lifetime.

This is what can leave us unwilling or reluctant to count on others in this way. We can take this in many directions. Maybe we wall ourselves off trying to do it all on our own. Maybe we over-rely on others opinions of who we are. Maybe we go to the wrong sources over and over again; either in our minds, or in the relationships we continue to create. Any way we do it though, either by closing off or going after the wrong things, will always leave us off the mark somehow. That mark being, the Truth of our existence.

Inside each and every one of us is the Absolute knowing of who we are, and why we are here. But after years and years of the wrong information, we learn to forget. And to distort and manipulate. And to settle for lives not even close to being seen for who we are.

Like following bread crumbs through the forest, having no idea where we are going or where it will lead to, we begin this journey of self-discovery by tracing ourselves backwards towards that original truth; with the starting point being right now. As in, is there a place in your life where you feel dissatisfied around how you are being seen, or the place you hold in the world? Is there a part of you that not only yearns for something else, but actually knows there is something else here for you? How is it that you most want to be known, and therefore seen, in this world?

This is not a job description. It is not a way of gaining acceptance or having your worth externally validated. It is not a way of making money. It is not about forcing someone to see something about you. It is the inward essence and the outward embodiment of what lives deep inside of you; looking for a way out.

When was the last time you felt truly seen by another? An experience that felt complete unto itself. A reflection you could see in another person’s eyes when they looked at you that had nothing to do with what you could do or give to them? And if this has not been available to you, do you have any idea why not?

When I was in the desert living in circle with 12 other women, I had daily experiences of being seen. It filled me with such strength. I felt supported in ways I have often denied myself, or did not receive in my first communities growing up. And it all began when I made the commitment to myself that I was going to allow myself to be seen for who I most am, and who I most yearn to grow into. This was not an easy thing to do. It meant putting myself out there. It meant being vulnerable. It meant admitting that I wanted to be seen for what was most extraordinary in me.

Being seen for who we truly are is not one of those human wants that would be nice if we got it, but that we could muddle through without. No. Instead, this is one of those central, core human needs that gone unmet will leave us resorting to the wrong things, while traveling the wrong avenues, to get those wrong things; in the end leaving us unseen and unknown to both ourselves, and the world.

Find Your Hunger

 

Today, I was looking over notes from the time I spent in the desert fasting. What really stuck out for me this time around was, “Find your hunger.”  What that meant back then was to be with everything that I was hungry for. It was scary to feel that level of need because of how exposed, and therefore vulnerable, it left me.

It was also heartening because of how real, and how very true it all was. To admit what we are hungry for is both an exposure, and a possibility. And while most often we associate hunger with food, what I am referring to here is the whole human experience of want and need. An experience that holds the potent possibility of taking us all the way from deprivation and desperation to fulfillment and assurance. And then, back again.

For the past three years I have been teaching a form of sacred, conscious dance. Every single time I teach this, enormous waves of fear and resistance flood my being. My mind goes absolutely nuts with all kinds of thoughts. This is the last time I am doing this. I don’t want to do this anymore. Nobody wants this. This is a waste of my time. You’re putting too much into this without enough of a return. On and on it goes. This despite the fact that I feel so alive when teaching. This despite the fact that I feel deeply connected to self, other, and Spirit during this time. This despite what an amazingly creative and satisfying outlet this is for me.

After reading “Find your hunger” something around the resistance I feel to teaching this form got cleared up for me. You see, one of the things I am most hungry for is to be in community while I am deeply established in my own experience and connected to Spirit. I yearn for a palpable and visible interconnection of self, other, and All That Is. I long to be with others in a deep, present, soulful, real, and raw way. This is what I am hungry for. And when I teach this dance form, it opens me to the possibility of receiving what I most want. Which in turn, exposes me to the possibility that I may not get it.

I think that in the psyche of every human being our deepest needs stand right next to our deepest fears. And often we get them so tangled up that it seems that maybe it would be preferable to not put ourselves in the position of saying what we most desire and need. That somehow it would be better, safer, to listen to the fears around the impossibility of us getting what we want. The fears of rejection or humiliation. The fears of us not being worthy of getting what we need. The fears that what we most need and value may not be available, or honored.

Personally, I am seeing that one of the things that our world needs most is for all of the starving people to step forward, without blame or shame, and reveal to all what they are most deprived of. To stand fully and openly in their longing, so much so that the power of raw, real human need becomes an undeniable call to be heard. And responded to. Can you imagine how our world might change if real human needs became the guiding force for what we put our attention and resources to?

If you see yourself as starved for something vital to your well-being, could you be courageous enough to name it? Could you be daring enough to ask for it? Could you be bold enough to know that you deserved it? Could you be wise enough to see that with your deepest desires met, the world gets fed?

Being

 

When people ask me what it was like to spend four days and nights on my own in the desert, I sense from both them, and myself, a kind of expectation around providing a story; some start to finish tale of adventure and peril. Surprisingly enough, while there are lots of “stories” to be told, not only am I not inclined, I see that any story that I could tell would not come close to the most astonishing parts of the experience; that being the way it changed me. More to the point, returned me; to myself and to the permission to just be.

What continues to surprise (while simultaneously carrying such a natural and familiar feel to it all) are the invisible, yet palpable, inner shifts that often defy words or explanations. As a matter of fact, none of the most noteworthy of changes seems to require recognition, validation, or proof from either others or myself. And while I can feel tectonic-level shifts within, there is this quality of nothing to do, or work on, in the midst of quite a lot happening.

This is new to me. As someone who loves to articulate the inner landscape and work on it, as well as being subject to the historical belief that she needs to write a dissertation to prove that she gets to be here and know what she knows, this new way of being brings with it a sense of ease that miraculously happens without the usual effortings on my part.

Looking back on the desert experience, I know where it came from. It came from doing nothing. Literally. For hours and days on end. And while not easy, out of the “nothing” came the gift of knowing that I have a right to just be; without explanation, apology, or trying to convince myself or anyone else of anything. This is every human being’s birth right. The right to just be without needing to earn it or prove it. This is something built in by Existence itself, and it is ours for the taking.

This completely flies in the face of so much of what we believe, what we have been taught, and how we live. Nonetheless, it is true.

Look to your life. Where do you busy yourself as a way of earning your place here? Notice where you think you have to keep up a certain way of presenting yourself or doing so that you will be OK, accepted, safe, guaranteed something, or included. What would it be like if you regularly allowed yourself to do nothing? For starters, and a very rich start at that, you could watch what comes up in your mind to even entertain the idea of doing nothing.

 

Two Hawks Dancing

 

While away several weeks ago, spending every day in the deserts of New Mexico, a mantra of sorts organically arose during the days I was out on my own. And while it took some time to get there, after the dust of my habitual mind states had settled down a bit, this is what came in: It is everywhere. It is in me. It includes everything. It is always available.

I walked my steps to this. I breathed this. I returned to this when my crazy mind went crazy. I opened to these truths as fully as I could. And in a relatively short period of time, It was not something I experienced as being separate from me. More to the point, I was It. “It” being Something Far Greater than me, yet including me somehow. It knew me. Considered me. Responded to me. Was aware of me. Was me.

Out there on my own, without my usual distractions and agendas, I was able to live that in a way that was immediate, visceral, and magical. Completely aligned with It, every prayer was answered, every yearning was met, every fear was allayed, and every deepest hope was known.

So, perhaps you will not find it a surprise that I am left wondering how it is that I will bring the woman back from the desert who not only knew, but embodied the magic and the mystery of knowing what she is inseparably a part of. And how it is that she will meet up with the modern woman who lives in a world that does not so naturally orient in that direction.

As I was wondering about this one morning in practice, I saw a shadow moving over the land, and peeked out to see that it was a hawk flying over head. Right behind it came another hawk. They soared together in the most magnificent dance; spiraling, descending, ascending, and moving in a kind of unison that defied the rational. When one finally broke off and flew away, the other followed. As tears came to my eyes, the phrase, “Two Hawks Dancing” came to mind.

In that grace-filled moment, I knew, as reflected by what I had just witnessed, that the worry I had about weaving the desert woman into my life was unfounded. Based on what I had just seen with how the hawks moved together, I knew in my bones, that the desert woman would do a dance with the modern woman with ease and agility; where one or the other would take the lead, and that lead would change depending on the circumstances, and in exactly the right way and with exactly the most precise and exquisite of timing in how each showed up. There was, as I had feared, no division, no choice to be made about who to be. Or how to be in the world.

When we are present to more than our version of how things need to go, our addiction to busyness, or our ingrained, unconscious habits, knowings, affirmations, and guidance can be found and reflected in the observation of, and the experience of, absolutely anything that is around us. Or in us. Because, It Is Everywhere. To be tuned into this possibility requires a level of attention, care, openness, and trust. Most of all, it requires a kind of slowing down, almost to the point of stopping.

What would it be like to hold a question, or a wondering in your mind, while you sat quietly and openly? Would you be willing to allow whatever arose in you or around you to serve as guidance? For in truth, is this not what we are all so hungry for? Is this not what we are in desperate need of at a time in our history where far too many of us have turned our lives over to something outside of us? Something or some number of things decidedly not superior in intelligence? And that does not carry our best interests at heart?

When in doubt, look to the Natural world for a clear and connected reflection of who you are, and what you need. Suspend what you think you know about things, and what they stand for. Instead, see if you can open to what something might stand for in light of your question. See if you can let something stand for other than your preconceived ideas of what it is.

And then, let yourself be with the alignment that comes when you can feel that all the way down to your bones. No matter what your mind might say. No matter what you can or cannot “prove” to anyone.

 

Not One Thing More

 

For thousands of generations, human beings have evolved with the natural world. The light/dark cycles, the turning of the seasons, the very pulsing of the earth’s electromagnetic field. It has held us. It has grown us. It is imprinted in our DNA. It is what we pass on to our offspring. It is what we historically not only leaned into, but fully embodied, knowing without a shred of a doubt where it was that we came from, were inseparably a part of, could count on, and would, ultimately, return to.

I recently spent two weeks outside in the deserts of New Mexico. I slept outside on the ground each night. I ate all of my meals outdoors. I did my morning practice outside. And I gathered, shared, and communed with a circle of women under the expanse of a southwestern sky each day. So, perhaps, in some deep cellular memory kind of a way, it is not surprising then, though it has been to me, how much of a transition it has been to go back to living more inside, than out. It is as though I was returned to something I did not even know had gone missing in me, and I am fiercely, as well as worriedly, reluctant to lose track of it again.

It is strange to be feeling this way as much of the experience of being outside during that time was most definitely, not comfortable. Whether it was spending time under a tarp with the relentless heat or winds of the desert, day after day. Or the efforts to eat; whether to keep food alive in a cooler that sat in 90 degree weather, or what it took to keep a camp stove lit in the wind. Or how it was to climb out of a tent in the middle of the night to pee; careful to not startle a rattle snake or step on a scorpion. Or all of the additional calisthenics it took to do yoga and meditate while in a fleece coat, hat, and gloves, still being chilly, with bats circling over head, at the start of each day.

As I write this, it sounds like nothing I would want to be a part of. Yet, I was; “comfortably” and gratefully so. Why is that? And why would I be missing all of that “discomfort” so deep in my bones that it sometimes hurts just to think about it? And why is it that every day since getting back, I am left wondering how it is that I can keep from closing myself back in?

Despite any “inconveniences,” what I miss is how naturally in tune I was moment by moment with my entire being; sights, smells, and sounds sharpened to the point of animal knowing. I miss the relentless simplicity of living without unnecessary distractions or senseless activities. I miss the ease and the straightforwardness of living that arose from tending only to real needs; leaving me intoxicated with the Source of that experience.

I miss how as sure as day followed night, the intense heat would give way after sundown, gifting us and the land with the much needed and yearned for coolness. And I miss equally how the morning cold would be transformed into a brief, momentary warmth that would leave you grateful for the heat, despite the fact that in a few short hours, you would curse that very same heat.

I miss all of the actions and the routines that had to be established to make it through a day; ones that were so vital, necessary, and attuned to keeping a human being alive and in community. And not one thing more.

I miss the truths offered up each day by the environment that had absolutely nothing to do with me. Nothing to do with  my plans, needs, wants, or inclinations. It left me with an unexpected ease around how much bigger, wilder, and wiser Nature is than my own personal agenda; allowing for a kind of natural surrender, liberating me from all of the managing, hoping, and anticipating that normally goes on in my modern day mind.

In the end, I went from a visitor on the earth to an inhabitant. I deeply, deeply miss that way of being, and am left wondering how it is that short of moving out of my home and into the woods, or experiencing some apocalyptic disaster, that I can live closer to what I discovered in the desert. One thing that I have brought home and am experimenting with is the choice to be outside without agenda. Time spent in nature that is not goal-oriented like going for a run in the woods, tending to the garden, gathering herbs, or feeding the chickens.

Instead, and of the utmost importance in returning to the truth of my nature, time to just be. And not one thing more.

Hunger

 

I am just back from fasting for four days in the desert as one part of a much larger experience of self-discovery. While it may seem horrific and insane to go willingly without food for so many days, I will tell you that while I experienced extreme levels of physical discomfort, hunger of the body turned out to be only one part, and perhaps, most importantly, the least part, of a much larger revelation.

Beyond physical gnawing, sickness, and cravings, beyond emotional crutches and confusions around food, there came the most unexpected waves of soul hunger; wrenching,clawing, and desperate pangs for primal needs known deep within, but often left unspoken. Or worse yet, unrecognized.

For all of the material abundance and unfettered access to food so many of us experience in this nation, we are a culture famished; literally starving to death for what matters most. We, who throw out upwards of 40% of the food we produce, spend day after day deprived of the true nourishment that human beings require to live whole, connected, and well. Things like clean air, food, and water. Things like a human pace in our daily doings. Things like authentic connection. Things like being valued for who you really are. Things like acceptance, safety, dignity, and respect. The list is both endless, and unmet in too many ways, and for far too many of us.

Day after day, and sometimes moment by moment, when the physical sensations of food deprivation felt unbearable, leaving me unable to move, I spoke my hungers into the desert floor. When I felt as though I could not bear it for one more second, I let pour out of my mouth my physical, emotional, and soul hunger; all of the things I was ravenous, and literally, dying for. All of the things I needed to feel nourished, sustained, and at home in this world and in this body of mine. I prayed my hungers. I wailed them. I screamed and whispered them all. Peace. Justice. Equality. Protection of children. Reverence and respect for all Life. Healing. Recognition of the Sacred in the day to day. On and on it went, seemingly without end.

To be human is to hunger. And to know the feel and the scope of real hunger, at any level, is to live honestly, authentically, and guided by the Truth of Existence Herself. Unfortunately, we live in times where our truest hungers are being sidetracked, obscured, and forgotten. Unfortunately, we live in times where we have come to fear, deny, and escape from the very ache that would set us right.

Try it. Step outside and speak to the trees or the sky everything you are starved for. Or whisper it into your pillow before you fall asleep at night. At first, it will break your heart. You will feel ruined by the intensity and the seemingly impossible hope that any of what you must hunger for could be sated. But once the sorrow clears, a great conviction, clarity, and commitment, in a world lacking all three, will reveal itself. And it will remind you of who your are, what you stand for, and what you know to be true. Despite the ache. Because of the ache.