Monday, November 18, 2013

A Past Life Remembered

She was an elderly woman to have such a young child.  This child had been born at the very end of her childbearing possibility.  She was a poor, Tibetan widow.  He husband had died a few months before the birth of this last child.  Her other children were adults with families of their own to care for.  She could not ask them to take on responsibility for this damaged child.  He had been born with a cleft lip and he was also very slow to develop.  She knew that his mind would never develop normally and he would be unable to make his own way in the world.  She was sick.  She knew she was very sick and soon to die.  She thought about how to ensure this sweet child’s survival.  He was sweet.  His spirit was whole and bright in a damaged body and mind.

She decided at last to take this young boy to the monastery.  She knew that he would be allowed to live there and be of some use to the monks.  He could perform simple tasks.  He wanted to be helpful.  The sweetness of his spirit would surely be recognized by the monks.

She explained to him, over and over, that he would live with the monks when she went to rebirth and that they would certainly be together again in another life and that she would hold him, warm in her love, for all of his life.  She wasn’t sure how much he understood, but she knew that he was certain of her love and that he took that fully into his heart.
She and the boy traveled for two days to reach the monastery.  It took her to the limit of her endurance.  But she had to see him safe before she could let go of this life and this sick, painful body.  She explained her situation to the Abbot of the monastery and kissed her son goodbye.

When his mother left, the boy was shown the long stone hallways, lit with candles.  He was given a little cot in a small alcove off the kitchen.  He was to help the cook in any way that he was asked.  He liked to set the tables with bowls and spoons for each of the monks.  He loved using the broom and the mop to clean the stone floors after each meal.  He was rarely spoken to.  But some monks looked deep into his eyes and smiled at the light inside him.  He loved this more than anything else in his life.  He felt seen and known in those small moments and it filled his heart with the love that he had known from his mother.  Other monks refused to meet his eyes.  They ignored him as if he were an inanimate object.  That made him feel so alone.  He tried to engage those monks, but they avoided looking at him.

One of the happiest moments of his life happened one summer day when he was helping an old, wrinkled, bent monk who was working in the garden.  He was helping weed the vegetables as he had been shown to do.  The old gardener picked a ripe, red globe from a vine and held it out to him.  As he reached to take the offered gift, the old gardener smiled at him and looked so deeply into his eyes that it warmed his heart completely.  He felt the joy of being seen and known for the goodness that he was.  He felt happy to be alive in this moment.  He held that moment in his memory and he remembered it at nights before he fell asleep and relived the joy and warmth of the smile and the recognition he felt from the old gardener.

He lived for many years in the monastery.  He did the simple tasks he was assigned and took satisfaction in being a useful member of the community.  He especially enjoyed hearing the monks chanting and it brought a feeling of ease and peace to him.
At the end of his life, he was lying on a cot in a small, stone cell.  It was dark night, but there were candles all around the room.  Two monks were with him and they chanted beside him for a long time.  At last, he felt the light of his life force being pulled up and out the top of his head.  It felt so blissful.  It was the best thing he had ever experienced—the light being drawn up and out into the universe.  This life was over.

Veda for the Poplar Grove Muse

Monday, November 11, 2013


A sky so empty it’s full.
And my now-grown child’s long-ago question from the back seat of a mini-van: how can you feel something you can’t touch?

Today, having left Bloomington for the northern shores of Lake Michigan, I creep to the edges of things. Seeking rest, my mind wanders busily off and comes back.  I look up, look down the curved stretch of beach and in a dizzying moment of exposure to the elements, think it’s a teeter- totter world. 

Another word for teeter-totter is see-saw -- an Anglican version of the French,  ci-ca, literally translated, as This-That.

On a playground of my youth, we spent recess on long red boards across from one another. We learned to move up and down on a fulcrum, pushed with our legs, felt in our bellies the effects of weight and effort.  Physics before there were formulas.

Push too hard for a thrill, and you get bucked into the air.  Step off before your partner is ready, you send them hard to the ground.  We learned the power of plummeting, of holding on, of scootching by inches to find the perfect balancing point; the this and that of collaboration, cooperation, trust.

These lessons continue well into adulthood.  I know I’m not alone in a quest for the right balance of things, and though I cannot exactly achieve that balance often, I can feel it every once in a great while.

I cannot touch the emptiness of this sky, yet as I listen to wind across the water, as I take in a great emptiness above me cupped in the flaming colors of autumn, the blue lake stretching to the horizon and a smaller version of me contained therein, I feel the comfort of containment.  With very little effort, I feel a momentary weightlessness.  Here, so small in the large world with forces of nature in their own moment of unforced perfection, I FEEL what I cannot touch. The bigger thing.   Held in the Mystery.  A direct line of connection to the empty sky above. 

There’s an equilibrium to this.  A balance of empty and full.  Getting away from my daily routine helps.   I see it.  Next week I’ll need to remember that I saw it today.  

See-Saw.  Teeter-Totter.  Most days, and the whole rest of my life is an up and down ride. My longer-term stability depends on the moments I listen to the wind, feel without touching the real gift of emptiness and look for signs that remind me ultimately that there are instances, however rare, of perfect balance, if only we look and listen and feel our way into them.   

BLR  for the Poplar Grove Muse 

Monday, November 4, 2013

When someone else's finger goes inside your nose

When someone else's finger goes inside your nose, it leaves a permanent impression.

Catherine stood over me with her latex glove pointer finger inside my right nostril.

"I never force the nose work," she says "I just wait for it to open."

I could hear the clock ticking, feel her finger sliding deeper into my nostril.  I wondered if she would reach something painful, or sweetly discomforting.  Her finger just kept going in.  I imagined  her finding my brain up in there.  When it didn't go any further she just stopped.  At some point I opened my mouth to breathe out.

I'd always been taught that a finger in the nose is not a polite gesture, but I've found Rolfing is not much concerned with politeness.

Since June, I've been receiving the Rolfing 10 series as part of the initiation or prerequisite to attend the Rolf Institute of Structural Integration in Boulder, CO.  Flash back to my first session, undressed taking laps around the table.  Laying curious, asking..."are you pulling on my intestines?"  Yes, she was.

"If you like the nose work you're a natural Rolfer." 

Catherine slid her finger out of one nostril and into the other.  I giggled.

Rolfing is a form of bodywork and way of seeing that works with the human form in gravity.  And the form is worked directly on through connective tissue.  Its been around more than 50 years and many people that I talk to have either received some Rolfing or knows someone who has.  It's been interesting to navigate the stories of people who have received the work.  Some people I'd talked with in the beginning reported pain or aversion, that it felt like too much.  I've never felt it to be the case in any session, even when the Rolfer did have my intestines.  Curious what feels like pain to some.

It's hard to communicate the essence of a fundamental change while in it.  I feel like a vitally different person, and it feels wild that I appear as the same person I was to anyone.  The loudness of my voice has changed, I can feel my legs, and differentiate the vertebrae of my low back.  My morning walks feel like I have taken awareness into a whole new person's form.

It occurs to me that I will soon be putting my fingers in other people's nostrils.  And in other people's mouths.  I will soon be looking at the human form in a new way and using my fists and elbows to work and move flesh, and tissue.  I will be putting my hand in people's armpits and backsides.

And I can't wait!