Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Awe...

"The miracle of life waiting in the heart of a seed cannot be proved at once."
~~Kabir

I am learning to wait. I blogged about my issues around waiting, and how often my waiting has been frustrating and to no avail. You may also recall me telling you about the healer lady who told me that I've been a very good sperm in my life, going after things, but that I needed to learn to be the egg, to learn to wait for things to come to me. Well, I'm learning. And guess what? Amazing things are happening.

I have some general intentions for what I want to see happen in my life, but they are more about what I want to feel, experience, the kind of people I want to be around; more than a laundry list of things to accomplish before I leave this life. It is much more gestalt than concrete. I am trusting life to unfold the details. I am astounded at life's little miracles. I am in awe at how things can come together with very little effort on my part and how when I'm trying to make things happen, they often backfire, cause me or others pain, or just generally leave me feeling empty. I am learning to continually clear the space in my mind and heart for the dreams I have to come to fruition.


“Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.”
~~ Rumi

I am in awe of this life. Complete and total awe.

tall penguin

The Divine Feminine

Growing up, I had a love/hate relationship with the feminine. But mostly, it was hate. I knew few women that I could relate to, let alone admire. Of course, my almost-loathing for the feminine was a reflection of a deep loathing for myself. It is only in the past couple of years that I have reclaimed what it means to be female and to see the value in the feminine. I have been blessed with women in my life who I admire and respect and deeply love; the foremost of these women is me.

Of late, I have gravitated towards books about spiritual women, wanting to see what the female experience of "enlightenment" looks like. I blogged about this here. I just finished reading Rita Marie Robinson's book "Ordinary Women, Extraordinary Wisdom: The Feminine Face of Awakening". This book was incredible to read. I found myself nodding a lot as well as smiling and laughing out loud, crying and otherwise responding with a silent yes! Finally, women I could relate to. Women I could respect. Women I could aspire to. Women just like me.

I was browsing recently through a second-hand bookstore. I often choose books intuitively. I will scan book spines until one appears to jump off the shelf. And then I'll read the back, smile and take the book home, knowing it was meant for me to read at that moment. One such book is "The Feminine Face of God: The Unfolding of the Sacred In Women" by Sherry Ruth Anderson and Patricia Hopkins. This book, written, in 1991, chronicles the journey of many women as they define for themselves what spirituality and the divine mean. It is an inspiring look at the sacred feminine in everyday life.

Again, I feel as if I'm being given a profound gift through this book. The gift of spending time looking into the lives of women whose experience mirrors my own. I feel at times these women are sitting in my kitchen discussing life over a cup of tea. And we look into each others eyes knowingly with a silent yes streaming from our hearts. As with my naming ceremony this past weekend, I feel a coming home occurring, as if I am sinking into my own skin, feeling oh so content to be here, to be a women, to be me.

This one quote from a woman interviewed for the book struck me:

""I felt I wasn't very far along," a former student of Tibetan Buddhism told us, as she described leaving the teacher she revered. "I felt I never would get anywhere on my own. But then something arose in me, a trust that something in my life itself was the teacher. And I thought, 'It isn't a tradition that's going to get me where I need to go. And I don't have to become a nun or live in a cloister either. There is a gnosis, a direct inner knowing, that is driving me. It's not somebody else's tradition now; it's mine, and I have to follow it.""

I have blogged often and much about the ongoing experiment I call my life. And this is how I live now, with this direct inner knowing, this sense that I must lead my own path, that I will not rely on anyone ever again to direct my life, that it is mine and mine alone. I remember a moment last summer where I sent out a wish into the ether. I asked to be able to experience life directly. I was no longer content with thinking about life or writing about life or analyzing it from the north shore, I wanted to get into life directly and feel it without restriction. And life has obliged my wish. It is raw. It is mucky. And it is altogether wonderful.

tall penguin

Monday, September 29, 2008

Naming Ceremony...

This past Saturday, September 27th, I officially moved in to my new first name, "Anya". Having been born the first time around near sunset, I wanted my second arrival into the world to be at the beginning of the day. So it was decided that I would hold my naming ceremony at 7:01 a.m. as the sun rose. As the fates would have it (fate often has other ideas), Saturday turned out to be an overcast, drizzly day. But it didn't matter. I was up with the sun to commemorate my new beginning.

My brother, and two of my closest goddess girlfriends, Ganga and Deena, gathered with me and my chaplain friend, Milton, on the beach. I took a moment of solitude before we began the ceremony. I sat on the rocks, waves crashing at my feet, and faced east towards the rising sun. I pondered the journey my former name had given me, what I'd learned through it and thanked it for its support. My mind flashed with memories of places I'd been, people I'd known, all that the past signified. I gave it over to the Divine asking that space be created around all that was, so that it could still inform my future without hindering it. It was a letting go into the great mystery of life, allowing that which will be to unfold as it will.

I walked back along the beach to my friends, who were lighting candles in an enclosure. A blanket was spread out on the ground, kept from blowing in the wind by rocks tacked down at all four corners. We formed a circle. Ganga began the ceremony by leading us in the chanting of three OMs, thought to be the primordial sound of the universe, followed by three Shantis.

My friend, Milton, the chaplain, then lead the ceremony with these words:

"'I call on all who stand in witness of this ceremony to honour the sacred sound bound to this person’s name, to foster the dream bound within it and nurture the colours revealed in it’s sound. I give into your care the name Anya. We dedicate ourselves to her nurture, may she ever walk in gentleness, peace and love.' (Song of the Circle)

We are gathered here today to celebrate not only a new name for this person, our sister, our friend, but we do so surrounded by the four elements that bring life to us – and are the foundation for a new beginning. We stand on the warm, soft earth that gives us stability, we breathe in the clean air that brings clarity of mind, we stand beside the rolling waters that give us adaptability, and we share the warmth of the fire from the sun that activates our intuition. We stand here together surrounded by these gifts to honor one more gift, our kinship and friendship with Anya – and to offer her the gift of our support as her brother and friends.

For what is in a name? . . . It is the embodiment of the person who carries it. When we say the name, the person comes to mind. It is not just the person though – it is who she is, what she cares about, what makes her laugh and what makes her sad, how she has helped us through our lives, and how we have helped her, all the times and emotions and words we have shared. It brings to our minds – this is what she believes, this is what she does, this is how she looks. So simple is a name – yet so complex, for once known – simply saying it – even thinking it - brings to our minds all the delights and joys and happiness of knowing who carries that name.

We are here to be part of re-naming you – you are now known to us and to all the world as Anya –a special name chosen by you. Be proud of your name and make it proud of you.

A new name is born, a life is changed, the first step taken on a new path. We are here not only to witness this happening, but to pledge our support and love to she who carries it in her mind, in her heart, in her spirit. We are to honor this special person in our lives – our Anya. Do you all so agree and pledge to do so?"

My friends supported their pledge with a resounding YES! I cannot even put into words what it felt like to look around this circle of ones so dear to me and know that they've seen me through so much in this life and held a sacred love for me, so deep, so real, so pure. The greatest and most profound gift I received during this naming ceremony was the gift of being seen. As I locked eyes with each of my friends and my brother, I was struck by the awesomeness of the connection we share; the deep, penetrating unconditional love and support we give to each other and the vision we hold to be the greatest grandest versions of ourselves. Tears of joy slipped down my cheeks.

Next, I took three crystals and gave one each to my brother, Ganga and Deena. I asked them to infuse these crystals with the essence of who they are and when ready, to return the crystal to my waiting hand along with a pronouncement of their wish for me this day. They each did this in turn, folding the crystal in my palm with their intentions for the new Anya. As a symbol of moving forward with my new name and carrying these three souls and their gifts to me wherever I go, I closed my hand around the crystals and stepped over a line on the ground declaring "I am ANYA!" At this point, I was all smiles and felt my heart do a little dance.

I then read the following poem by Rabindranath Tagore, one of my favorite Indian poets. This is my prayer to the Divine as I move into this new life:

“Thou hast made me known to friends whom I knew not. Thou hast given me seats in homes not my own. Thou hast brought the distant near and made a brother of the stranger.

I am uneasy at heart when I have to leave my accustomed shelter; I forget that there abides the old in the new, and that there also thou abidest.

Through birth and death, in this world or in others, wherever thou leadest me it is thou, the same, the one companion of my endless life who ever linkest my heart with bonds of joy to the unfamiliar.

When one knows thee, then alien there is none, then no door is shut. Oh, grant me my prayer that I may never lose the bliss of the touch of the one in the play of the many.”

The chaplain closed the ceremony with a Light Invocation where we bathed ourselves in Divine Light. I felt lifted, inspired and loved.

Afterwards, we sat on the blanket and listened to Ganga sing in her beautiful angel voice songs of power, songs of bliss, songs of enlightenment. She sang one of my favorites, "The Butterfly Song", whose chorus echoed through my mind and heart the rest of the day:

"Fly high, fly high like a butterfly
You were meant to spread your wings.
Fly high, fly high in your heart, in your mind
You were meant for greater things."


I then took to the beach and danced around while Ganga sang some more. We took pictures. We laughed. We cried. It was wonderful. And although the sun never made an appearance, my heart was alight with the radiance of love.

Milton asked me to choose a Memory Stone from the beach to keep as a memento of the ceremony. He also chose one.


It had always been a dream of mine to wear a sari. On my last birthday, I was given some beautiful silk sari fabric by Deena and my brother. It seemed only fitting that I would have this fabric made into a sari for my naming day. And so it was. I ventured down to Little India in my city and had a sari tailored for my special day. Deena learned from the Indian shopkeeper, a friendly lady now affectionately known as Auntie, how to wrap the sari for me. We bought bangles, earrings, a bindi and some mehndi and put me together for the evening.

Saturday evening, I donned my sari and stopped in at the bookstore where I work, before heading to Little India for dinner. That little bookstore has had a profound influence on my life, in ways I don't think I'll ever even fully comprehend. Everyone at my ceremony, with the exception of my brother, I had met through that bookstore. Deena was a co-worker. Milton and Ganga were once customers. Ganga is now my co-worker at the bookstore. My dear manager, Shahadat, who is like a father to me, declared me "Indian Barbie." I felt like a princess.

There is more to this story (isn't there always?). There were so many serendipitous occurrences, things that came together for this ceremony so beautifully and divinely. But they are best told over tea. Words on a page sometimes just can't express the full range of an experience.

Thank you all for sharing in this day. I have carried you all with me with each breath. Namaste.

tall penguin

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Professional Dabbler

I've been doing plenty of painting lately and not so much writing. I'm still journaling but not doing so much of the kind of writing I've done on the blog over the past couple of years. I don't know why. It is what it is.

I'm really enjoying painting. There's something very visceral about the feel of the paint sliding across the canvas, much like my love for the glide of a medium point Papermate pen across newsprint. It's almost sexy.

Right now, the greatest joy in painting is the exploration of color. I find myself smudging, smearing, mixing, blending, and otherwise making a mess of various colors to see what they do together, much like a child finger painting to get a feel for what the medium can do.

The backsplash over my kitchen sink is now dotted with a rainbow of paint smatters, which I'm sure my landlord will not appreciate when I move out, but I figure it's all fair considering the squirrel incidents and the lack of squirrel-proof window screen in my humble abode. I also now have a kitchen wall full of artwork from myself and my friends. It looks like a Kindergarten classroom and I love it.

Creation is an interesting thing to watch unfold. Working with paint feels different than working with words. Words feel very concrete, like there's only so much you can evoke from a string of letters. Paint feels like it has this depth of emotion that gives me an opportunity to get to layers of feeling that I often can't access with language.

I think there's also the benefit of my allowing myself to be a "beginner" with these visual arts. Not considering myself an artist allows me to create art. Once I think I'm supposed to know what I'm doing, creativity falls by the wayside. Funny how that works. I like being a novice. I like dipping my hands into new things. I've spent so much of my life starting over after major change. I guess I've developed a pretty strong inclination to starting fresh again and again. Perhaps Jack-of-all-trades will be my claim to fame. Nah, I'm going to call myself a Professional Dabbler. I like that.

tall penguin

Friday, September 19, 2008

Go Ask Alice

The sun woke her as it beamed across her face. Autumn, just around the corner, had not yet made its full glory known. While the nights were cool, the days still felt balmy. She laid there squinting. The image of a man appeared through the glare. She could not make out his face but she knew he was smiling. He offered her a flower, which she clutched to her chest. She breathed it in. Nothing. It smelled like silence.

The man drifted back into the sunlight. Now, there was sound filling her. The steady beat of a familiar melody. It rattled around her soul like a fly trapped in a jar. "Remember what the dormouse said."

tall penguin

Friday, September 12, 2008

On Suicide...

I have had suicidal thoughts through most of my life. I don't even know how the idea of suicide as an option first entered my consciousness. I recall watching my mother worry over my older brother's teenage depression, concerned that he would one day take his life. My experience with my first boyfriend, who I met when I was 14, plunged me very viscerally into the world of suicidal thoughts. I remember many late night phone calls. “I’m going to kill myself tonight,” I would hear coming through the receiver. I would spend the next four years with the worry and sense of responsibility I felt to keep him alive.

After that period of my life, suicide became kind of a default setting in my brain. It was always on the table as an option when the going got tough. Perhaps it goes back even further to hearing my mother utter these words almost daily, “I just can’t take anymore.” She always seemed to teeter just on the edge of this life, one foot in, one foot out.

At the age of 19, I got married. I recall doing the suicide dance with my husband on more than one occasion. I would lock myself in the bathroom with a bottle of pills threatening to overdose. Looking back, I didn’t want to die, I just didn’t know how to live. I didn’t have the skills to deal with the stress I was feeling, nor the words to ask for the help I really needed. These suicidal gestures were the actions of a five-year-old packing up all her belongings and stating to her parents that she’s leaving home. I was that child for a very long time.

Some time in the past couple of years the nature of the suicidal thoughts changed, as did the depression that precipitated them. Rather than being hooked into any one event, there was a malingering existential angst clouding my world vision, a desire for death coming from the deep question of life, “Who am I?” I would look around at the life I had once called mine and wondered “How the fuck did I get here?” And by extension, “How the hell did any of us get here?” I would flip on the news and sink into a core knowing that humanity was in deep trouble, that this world we’d created while basking in our own glory was sheer madness. I longed for death to escape from my part in the collective insanity. I would spend days in bed not wanting to contribute any further lunacy to the morass, attempting to sort out who this “I” was and how she could move about life in an authentic way.

These suicidal tendencies I encourage. These wonderings and musings I respect. Where I used to think, “Why are so many people suicidal?” now I say, “Why aren’t more people suicidal?” Why aren’t more people waking up to the illusion we’ve collectively rested our laurels on? Why aren’t more people questioning the status quo? Dammit, why aren’t more people wondering how to leave the Matrix?

Last summer, when I hit the darkest point of my young life, I thought about death daily. For the first time, it wasn’t about escape. It was about finding truth, finding something real within my soul that had become saturated by an illusory existence. Almost everything I had held up as “me” was gone. There was pain. There was suffering. The ache in my heart went on for miles. I could have forged a river around the planet with my tears. I holed up in my apartment and really felt what I’d been running from my whole life. Grief, disappointment, anger, rage, despair—suffering in spades. The details of the story became meaningless. It didn’t matter who did what, or to whom or when. It was just this intense, raw emotion rising its way up through the core. And it was real. Finally, something real.

Almost a year ago, I hit a turning point, a fork in the existential road, where I made a conscious choice to live, to choose life every day and do my best with it. Over the past year, I have sunk deeper and deeper into the knowing of this moment as the only moment there is. There has been an unfolding into who I really am, a still place that we all share. And it is enough. Finally, it is enough.

tall penguin

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Some Photos...

I've been wading through my Iphoto and cleaning up shop. I've whittled down 6000+ photos to just under 3000 and there's still more letting go to be done. I wanted to share a few photos with you. Doesn't matter when and where they were taken, I just like them.

tall penguin




Creative Chaos...

A writer is somebody for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.
~Thomas Mann


So, I haven't forgotten about the book, you know, that thing I keep talking about writing. It takes up a fair bit of my conscious meanderings. It is also producing an inordinate amount of gastric acid in my stomach these days, as I attempt to figure out how to birth the damn thing. I stumbled across this site recently and have sent the woman an email asking about fees, process, etc. I just realize how completely in over my head I am, how completely overwhelmed and inept I feel. I know if this thing is gonna be born, I'm going to need some help. We'll see where this leads.

Ever since I decided to call myself a writer, the writing has come slower and with much more agony. In a state of complete block and frustration today around not feeling able to write, I decided to get out my art supplies and paint. I don't consider myself a painter and so I can paint quite easily. I can churn out all kinds of stuff, some of it might even be considered good, but that doesn't matter to me. I'm not a painter.

Ahh...but the writing. Yes, the writing. The writing confounds me. I am a writer. So why can't I write goddammit? Once I put a label on who I'm supposed to be, my body seems to do a little shut-down. Who am I to think I'm a
writer? Who am I to think I'm anything in particular at all? And what is this writer beast anyway? What does it mean to be a writer? I write. But so do most people on the planet. I hate these labels. I hate these boxes. I'm not a writer. I'm just a girl who occasionally puts her pen on the page and stuff comes out.

So I painted, and apparently, as you can see from today's entries, giving myself permission to not write has allowed me to write. It's bizarre the little dances we do with the mind, how we can shift its focus and voila, the longed for thing arises out of the ether. No wonder so many artists smoke, drink and are notably a bit disturbed. The creative process is a complete pain in the ass.

tall penguin

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Playing with Fire...

I used to be afraid of fire. A pyrophobe was I. I've always seen it as a metaphor for being afraid of my own anger, my own internal fire. As I embrace joy, I am also learning to embrace rage and oddly enough, my fear of fire is dissipating.

I have spoken here about my experiences smoking pot. When I first started, I couldn't light my own joint. I was too afraid of the fire. I would have to rely on a friend to light it for me. This past Spring I bought my first little glass pipe, and graduated into using a BBQ lighter to light up. It kept the flame far enough away from my fingers to make me feel safe using it.

Today, I ventured into new territory. I bought my first lighter and played with it until I could light my own cigarillo (did I tell you I've fallen in love with cigarillos?). I only burnt myself once and can now get the damn thing to light within five tries. And every time I succeed, I do a little dance of joy...Wahoo, I've created fire!

So, cigarillos. I've acquired a taste for Captain Black Sweets. I don't smoke them often but when I do, I quite enjoy them. There's something very powerful about smoking that I never understood before. It's a sort of fire-breathing-dragon-I-don't-give-a-fuck-what-you-think-of-me kind of thing. It almost feels as though I'm giving a fire-tipped flip of the bird to everyone I see. I wonder if this is what people get addicted to. Maybe it's not just the nicotine. Maybe it goes deeper than that.


An amazing thing starts to happen in one's life when you realize that you're not the story your mind weaves. You suddenly realize that you can go out each day and make up your own story, that you can play with life in a way you never did before, and that so many of the things you judged others for (like smoking) can be fun in moderation. That it just is what it is. No more, no less. I like living life one moment at a time. It's really made every little bit of it so very precious.

tall penguin

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Actions vs. Words

It has been said that actions speak louder than words. I think one of the first and greatest mindfucks we receive as children is the realization that the adults around us often say one thing and do another. The cognitive dissonance created by the "Do as I say, not as I do" modeling of our parents, authority figures and other mentors of our early life leaves patterning that is not easily undone.

I recall, as a child, being very aware of the gap between what I saw adults do and the words they spoke. It was confusing and frustrating. Inevitably, I learned the lesson well. I suspended my intuition about what I saw, instead choosing to believe words. And I would suspect that this is where my deep loathing for language arose. I could neither master how to hide behind my words, as the adults around me did, nor could I figure out how to speak my truth and match it with action.

Of late I have watched this pattern unfold around me, feeling its effects quite acutely. I sit back and watch adults, including myself, say one thing and do another. It is maddening. And I wonder what it takes to be honest with each other. Perhaps it first requires us to be honest with ourselves. We have become so used to using language to mask who we really are, hiding behind words as if our very lives depended on it, that we now believe our own rhetoric.

I believe it was Maya Angelou who said, "When someone shows you who they are, believe them." Yes, I'm learning this. Painfully, yet gratefully.

tall penguin