Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Far too in love for practical purposes

I would uncover my love gently,
the way hesitant clouds unveil the moon.
The way your body hunches forward wisely,
protecting it's secrets
until relaxing into a touch that's safe.

I would display my love slowly,
the way roses creep into bloom
with sharp, precisely-placed thorns
for those who carelessly seek entrance
without an invitation.

I would pursue my love cautiously,
stalking her
as the leopard treads lightly for miles on padded feet
sniffing the air,
in no hurry to pounce.

I would gradually expose my love's shape,
trimming one by one
what branches obscure clear lines of passion.
Often stepping away for fresh perspective,
not afraid to put down my pruning shears
and leave it for days at a time.
Tall trees grow slowly.

I would study my love with humility,
in awe of what moves within me.
Poignantly aware of that which I did not produce.

Wherever I choose to look,
without or within,
I am confronted by miracles
set in motion through forces unknown.

My love is a miracle.
Much bigger than me,
a ferocious tide
whose waves
into every clinging
place of my body,
crashing again and again
into unrelinquished doubt
and the illusion of control.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Developmental Movement Trauma Therapy?

Hoping for feedback on this one... I know there's a lot of people doing great work in the fields like Somatic Experiencing, Feldenkrais, BMC, and other modalities involving developmental movement patterns and/or trauma therapy. Also, please comment if you have had a similar experience, would love to dialogue and grow the understanding of how to dismantle patterns of 'trauma' (a.k.a. outdated -and now unhelpful- anatomical/neurological patterning?) and experience more ease and freedom of movement!

What happened: while lying on my back, I was exploring the squat - bringing my legs in and out of a squat position without any weight and trying to sense on the most subtle level possible.

I was doing this because I keep running into the same problem in many different movements I'm training, from Haitian dance to acrobatics: when my feet are even slightly turned out, my knees don't track over my toes. My knees are much less externally rotated than my feet are, and the discrepancy increases A) the more I externally rotate my feet and B) the deeper I bend my knees. (Squat.)

So today I went for a developmental movement approach, lying on my back. I realized that when I progressed through the full movement, my feet ended up hanging out in an external rotation but there were a lot of muscles in my legs keeping my knees rotated internally. (Same as when I'm vertical.)

So I slowed it down and went smaller, and found that without any movement at all I could let the knees fall out to the side, but as soon as I began to draw the legs up a whole bunch of muscles activated and turned the legs in.

The interesting part: going super super small and drawing the legs upwards a millimeter at a time, while maintaining 'full' external rotation, brought on spontaneous crying and shaking. I would move a tiny bit, cry and shake, relax, calm down, and move and tiny bit more, and start crying and shaking again.

There wasn't a specific memory associated with the crying and shaking - my mind concocted a few different plausible scenarios given my life story, but I'm not sure any of them were legit.

I'm curious about this - any thoughts? One thing I notice is that to maintain the external rotation all the way up the leg to where the femur sits in the hip socket requires not only a relaxation of the muscles that normally keep my legs internally rotated, but also an activation of some (glut?) muscles that I hardly ever use, or at least not for that purpose. So if there is some sort of outdated protective patterning that's locking me into an internal rotation, describing healing as an 'activation' may be just as valid as describing healing as a 'release.'

I mention this because I tend to think of 'trauma' as chronically held tension that needs to be let go of - too much tone. But maybe traumatic events can occur that leave bodies with patterns of too little tone? If the bodymind associates a certain activation and resultant movement with something painful or scary occurring, then it makes sense that the bodymind would avoid that activation for the sake of protecting itself... right? People who know more than me?

Planning on sticking with this particular exploration every morning for awhile. As I encounter more interesting things worth writing about I'll share them too... I don't have the resources to formally study these things, so I'm doing my best with the DIY approach.     :-)

Wednesday, July 30, 2014


Tuesday, August 29th - almost 9 months since my return to the US. Almost 9 months since enacting my decision to come back and strive for home, almost 9 months since my surrender to reality that was also my triumph over my long-standing pattern of disassociation.

My epic journey of self-realization was not what I thought it would be. Nor was my return, nor has my new life been since coming back.

In 2011 I left Chicago on a hunch, on an intuitive pull towards the unknown with a heart full of hope and head full of half-baked ideas about destiny. In 2012 I left for Australia, having been graciously invited to participate in a $25,000 training program on the agreement that we would work it out and I would pay when I could.

I went for so many reasons, not all of which are knowable, not all of which are worth analyzing. I went because I felt broken. I went because I was suffering from PTSD, (although I didn't realize it at the time) and sensed that the form I was studying offered a way forward. I went because I needed to be around a teacher who had ascended Maslow's hierarchy of needs up through self-actualization, and I needed to know what that looked like, felt like, sounded like... I needed to know it was possible.

I went because no matter what anyone else said to me, my life had never felt real. I had never felt fully in it, had never felt completely invested in the reality of my day-to-day existence in a way that trumped the potency of my soulfull imagination.

What I learned: I learned you can't neglect the needs of the body and live on spirit alone. I learned that chronic bouts of weeping, migraines, and acute social anxiety are not indications of communing with a higher power, they are symptoms of PTSD, extreme isolation from friends, family, and community, and chronic stress over not being able to meet your basic needs. I learned being broke all the time sucks. I learned that sustainable self-actualization and regular creativity are impossible (for me, anyway) when I don't have anywhere to live. I learned that spiritual fulfillment is not found in the clouds or in solitary prayer, but in the trenches of daily life and the mundane regular of our most prosaic relationships. I learned that borrowing money from friends is terrible for my self-esteem. I learned I can't do it alone, that what I thought was a call to 'prayer' (a.k.a. 'weeping') was often low blood sugar, and tat the small kindnesses of strangers mean everything when you feel alone.

I learned that when you feel alone, someone reaching out means everything. I learned I can't live on just a dream, and more importantly that dreams are not realized in one instantaneous moment of tremendous effort - dreams are extended through the patient tending of a lifetime.

I learned that there are men and women in te world who has risen through the ranks of what it means to be human until they have reached a level of sustainable, creative self-actualization and are spending a significant amount of their time in a flow state in such a way that it benefits those around them... I learned that safe challenges are helpful in reaching in this point, so that mistakes can be made without the whole thing collapsing around your ears. I learned I want to be one of those people.

I thought I was fulfilling some grand calling - I thought that to GO was the act that would transform me into someone who would then return (or not) and live out my purpose.

What I've learned since coming home: Making $14/hr (or less) is hard. Getting $189/month from the government for food is helpful. Nannying is hard work when you really try to do a good job, and there's days when I feel as if I'm doing an absolute shit job of being a care provider. I've also learned kids are unexpectedly resilient, and that O probably haven't screwed them up too badly.

I've learned that being in a relationship with someone who is different than you is a constant challenge - it's temptingly easy to bond with someone who supports my pre-exsisting patterns instead of challenges them.

While I was in Australia and I was running on dream-fuel, I imagined that every day was charged with supernatural significance. I poured my heart and soul into the TaKeTiNa training, and achieved levels of self-actualization (musical proficiency) I had never even come close to before. I believe I did this in a remarkably short amount of time, possible only because of the intensity level at which I was living. The experience of feeling into my own potential in that way was profoundly satisfying at a level of my being that runs far deeper than any needs of the body.

Simultaneously, I was stressed and depressed. Living my life at such a high intensity level took a toll on my mentally, physically, and psychologically. Although in many ways I healed old wounds, I also re-traumatized myself. I was feeding my imagination massive doses of sufi poetry (and other esoteric writings) on a daily bases and attempting to systematically dismantle my ego-self while homeless, jobless, and community-less - not the best conditions to achieve self-realization.

Since coming back, I have turned my attention to those needs lower on Maslow's hierarchy: job. Community. Sex. Companionship. Responsibility to others and recognition of meeting that responsibility. In the 9 months since coming back I have made a lot of progress in all of those areas...

...and yet my creative self-actualization moments have dwindled. Spending so much of time investing in 'career,' (laughable to call my 3 jobs at $14/hr, $16/hr, and $18/hr a career, and yet they are the start f mine I suppose) my relationship with my partner, trying to build community, etc., has not only reduced the amount of time I have available to put towards creative practice, it has watered down the quality of the willpower I'm able to summon when I do sit down in front of the instrument.

There are nights when I'm telling myself to practice because I know it's what I want, and yet instead I end up watching NetFlix. My mind is full of images of people who have had a clarity of purpose from an early point in their lives and have pursued that purpose with dedication... images of men who inspire me. Reinhard Flatischler. Ido Portal.

My mind is likewise full of sobering thoughts about our current collective environmental/economic situation, and I wonder about the likelihood of ever making enough money to pay for the training I received, much less continue to study the work I want to do? New-age dogma nonwithstanding, more people today are out of work, broke, bankrupt and homeless then there were 10 years ago. Our debt has grown. Social services have not kept up. American quality of life has decreased, and by all appearances will continue to do so. I look at this and wonder: "Does it even make sense to try and participate in this mess?"

And yet, I have made progress: next month I'm moving into a movement-based house with 6 other people, essentially co-founding a somatic arts-based community. 9 months in my parter and I are still together, which (despite my ever-present resurfacing doubts) marks the most successful romantic relationship I have ever had. I'm about to become a HS fitness instructor, a job I would not feel sufficiently qualified to take on were it not for the abysmal job done by so many people already in that position. I'm also a social mentor for people on the autism spectrum, and although the organization I work for is far from the cream of the crop that position marks a step up on my resume.

When I left, I imagined the world was misguided and I was right... I imagined I would fix it. By going, I learned I was misguided. There's a very good chance that the world (by which I mean humanity as a collective) is too, but I'm not sure I'm entitled to make that judgement call.

When I left, I thought that if I could only touch what Rumi touched when he wrote his poems, then everything would be ok. By going, I learned that just because I can touch that doesn't mean I understand how to help someone else. Just because I can touch that doesn't guarantee that I'm going to be a good partner, or care provider, or fitness instructor, or social mentor. Just because I can feel god doesn't mean the people around me can, and if I have to isolate myself from everyone in order for god to show up then I'm probably off-track.

This is hard. Life is so much to balance, so much to strive for... such a tender blend of effort and allowing, of relaxation and penetration, of peaceful silence and stormy confusion. Each day swirls through weather of feelings sad and generous, narrow and bold, in ways unpredictable and easy to mis-read.

My skin becomes pebbles, then rivulets of water - petals, then turns to unfeeling dust. My eyes bulge, dry and glaring and then tomorrow they rest easily on their sockets, taking it all in with a smile.

There is noting simple about this, and I cannot possibly fight it all - it is too big for me. Cumbersome and unwieldy, my ideas about life and my desire for the rainfall of truth to put and end to the drought of summer's doubt weigh my body down, and yesterday's prayers are no longer enough.

It's no longer enough for me to pray, I am not content with abstraction - I insist on embodiment. You know? Then show me. Words are not sufficient, it must be felt for truth to exist at all, and I hold myself accountable. The same standard. Hafiz says something like: "Look at the sun in the sky, every day giving of itself and never once saying: 'You owe me.' What it must take for a love like that to keep shining."

It's fucking hard, and I'm railing against the miserable incompetence that makes it so - the unjust straws drawn which put me and so many others in unhelpful economic positions and limit the time we have to nourish our dreams each day.

When the love we give to give to the dreams of our hearts must be carved out between bites of bitter disparity, sometimes even the sweetest flavors turn sour. There's moments when so much ineptitude staggers the mind and the lack of awareness presents too good an opportunity for my ego to pass up, and I blame it all on someone else.

There have been so many days since coming back (so many days since my declaration that I would find my life's purpose here on the ground, with this world as it is, or not at all) that I have forgotten that this journey is mine. It's not up to anyone else, not anyone else's responsibility but my own. Nor can anyone steal the sweetness of well-deserved peace, when indeed I've arrived into such a temporary pocket of sanity.

I may long to have started years ago, I may wish for a past that didn't include the trauma it did... I can regret my PTSD and slow start to engaging society on it's terms, but no matter what that does not shift responsibility onto another.

This journey is mine. I've chose it thus far, and I'm making harder choices now - choices I avowedly disagreed with 5 years ago.

There's so much I don't know, and that's not likely to change. Being willing to risk my attachment to my on precious certainties is a willingness I'm working hard to nurture - sticking it out in relationships that force me to re-evaluate my conclusions is a fucking bitch. But I've been proven wrong too many times to think I know what I'm doing anymore.

In so many ways, it was easier in esoteric-land. When I could fence myself in with narratives of spiritual superiority, I could justify my lack of participation in so many areas of life. No more fences now, which means the neighbors dog is shitting on my lawn and my garbage is stanking up his.

Being in the world is hard. It's also amazing. I long for a clear and true path through the quagmire, and know that if such a path exists a) its different for everyone and b) we make it ourselves.

I'm trying. The hardest part right now is feeling empowered - is feeling that I'm making choices I want to make, as opposed to ones I'm being forced to make. Feeling sorry for myself is a bit of an addiction, and not a helpful one.

Going forward, I'd like to feel more empowered, and feel sorry for myself less. (I'm thinking more working out, more physical activity... maybe some martial arts.) I'd like to let go of some of my desire for things to be other than the way they are, and focus on doing what I can do with what I have.

I'd like to take more responsibility for my choices and my emotions on daily basis, especially in my most regular/intimate relationships. I'd like to surrender the last vestiges of my pattern of spiritual escapism and focus more on the brief time I've got here before this body expires... there's a lot of tools in this world that are helpful. I'd like to put them to better use.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

If I told you the only thing standing between you and the life of your dreams is how you choose to touch the world...

We arrive at each of our ever-evolving definitions of self through our relationships.

I use the term 'relationship' here as broadly and inclusively as possible - my connection to the guy who just cut my hair is a relationship, as is my connection to the woman asking for change outside of CVS the other night. I have a relationship with my mother; I also have a relationship with the nameless (nameless to me, but not nameless to his friends, family and those whom he knew and cared for) 28 year-old Afghani man who was beaten to death at the Pontianak detention center in Indonesia this week.

The only significant narrative of identity it is possible for us to create is this:

"Who am I in relation to... ?"

Every other narrative is superficial. Our brainbodies are hardwired for relationship - relationships are the vital data our supercomputer minds devour as they endlessly define and redefine what it means to be, what it means to do, what it means to live and breathe and think and act.

Our possessions? Immaterial. Cars and clothes, no matter how expensive or how much we personify them, don't provide the living reflection/response needed to activate within us that cascade of a cell-speak which results in a deeply felt experience of self. Instruments and homes may come closer, as instruments do respond to how we touch them and homes may be a gestalt of living and non-living places that change over time... but I believe another conscious, living being, (plants included... and if you want to get all hippy/trippy, why not the stars and the ocean, too) offers us our supreme self-definition opportunity.

Yes, tree-hugging is fun. I'm an advocate. And it's also very safe, as the tree is highly unlikely to say:

"Ew, you smell." or: "Fuck off don't touch me." Or start crying in your arms. (Depending on how many mushrooms you ate, I suppose.)

Other people, more than any other huggable thing, challenge our self-understandings. Other people test us. It's our relationships to other people that give us a chance to consciously define who we're going to be, or unconsciously allow our identities to be created for us.

In relation to that woman outside of CVS, I chose to be the guy who gave her a dollar. I'm also the guy who didn't want tto analyze that decision too much, because earlier that day I had avoided eye contact with a man asking for money outside of Walgreens, and it was partly my earlier avoidance that prompted me to give this other person money.

I feel challenged by the reality of my relationship to every other human being on this planet, especially the millions who are suffering. Who am I in relation to the less fortunate is a question I try not to ask myself too much, because it's hard not to feel like I'm letting them down, like I could be doing more.

I try not to look away too much, either. Although if I spend too much time thinking about other people's pain I get overwhelmed and forget how to take care of myself, and that's not helpful.

I think the closer we get to home, the easier it becomes to relationally self-define. Who am I in relation to my co-workers when they show up late, or when I show up late? Who am I in relation to the kids I babysit for when they lie about their homework or tease and bully one another? These questions are more specific, offering us a more limited (and therefore more navigable) palette of possible answers: Do I choose to complain? Do I choose to pretend like I'm not feeling anything? Do I choose to listen respectfully, even if I don't like what's being said, and then respond by acknowledging my emotions and communicating my preferences without putting the responsibility of my emotional state on the other person?

I also think the closer we get to home, the harder it becomes to consciously self-define in this way. The more intimate our relationships, the more vulnerable we are. Thinking about the suffering of millions of people I don't know and feeling abstract grief is one thing - choosing to love, care for, and expose myself to someone who is suffering is something else entirely. And no matter who we choose to love intimately, they will inevitably be suffering at some point.

The closer we get to home, the more diligent we need to be. Many of us see friends and co-workers every day, leaving those relationships wide open for unconscious reactionary patterning. And that's ok, because it's bound to happen - but it we practice our relating the way we practice our jumpshot we have the opportunity to transform that patterning into something we find more beautiful.

Rumi said: "Let the beauty you love be what you do." So let's let the beauty we love be how we relate. Let's notice how we respond, verbally and non-verbally, to other people. Do our own responses make us smile? Do we feel satisfaction and pleasure (or even delight and joy?) in observing how we choose to speak to strangers, or friends?

What does delight you? What sort of beauty uplifts you, and makes you feel glad to be alive? Do you like spontaneity, humor, flirtatiousness? Compassion, silence, listening, or strength? Tenderness? Chances are it's not just one quality - it probably depends on your ever-changing feeling-state. Whatever the best medicine may be for you in any given moment, know that you can provide that to yourself. You can give yourself whatever it is you feel you need, but the only way you can give that yourself is by giving it to someone else.