The Breath of Love

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I was 16 years old and cycling home on my sit up and beg bike that I had painted gold. I was on my way back from the fruit and veg shop near school and, with pocket money just spent, my wicker basket was laden with a seductive selection of fruit and veg. I had decided I was going to attempt a cleanse, my first. The intention to simply eat just these for a few days. Yes. I believed I was going to be cleaned. I was going to be less heavy. Become purer. Not going to be weighed down anymore. Pedaling, headily, towards my romantic destination of self-improvement, an image of health, abundance and greater worthiness ahead of me.

 

This. At 16.

 

I look back now and think, What the fuck?

 

Home life was shit. Abusive. Destructive. Depressing. I internalised it all. As children often do. I could feel an overwhelming sense of carrying other’s load, their baggage and I really didn’t, didn’t want it. I wanted to be clearer. Lighter. More deserving. I was going to be Not Me.

 

Maybe then Life would change. Maybe the planets would align and the nightmare of growing up in the shittiness would transform. It would all have been a dream and my parents would step up and come forward with love. With wanting. With acceptance. Oh yes. One pineapple. One melon. Several raw onions later and all would be well.

 

You get me?

 

And then? You guessed it. It didn’t happen. So I tried again. And again. And again and again. Stopping eating. Stopping going out. Stopping all I could in a secret bid that this would change and purity would come along and save me.

 

How many years did I keep this persistent fantasy alive? That somewhere along the way I would eventually discover the very best version of myself. One? Two? No, my friend. Probably closer I’d say to 25. Yes. 25 fucking years later and I began to twig, maybe all the counselling and the healing and the cleansing and the exercise isn’t going to come up with the goods. Maybe, just maybe, I don’t need to change. Maybe, without my blood stream being clean as a whistle and without me delving to the deepest depths of my being, I don’t have to undergo some miraculous transformation and I can just show up and accept myself as I am.

 

OK. So maybe I wasn’t as wholly manic as I might intimate about this whole shebang. I did learn many valuable nuggets along the way. And I did face some wholly crapping trauma that had paralysed me within for years. And somewhere along the line, facing some longstanding somatic inklings and visceral rememberings of sexual violation in early childhood, helped me find the courage to begin discerning, learning and owning what was mine and, most significantly, what was not. This and introducing the word AND to my lexicon (my parents did their best and they deeply hurt me), enabled new movements and understandings, flexibility and inner-tenderness to grow.

 

And then, in the last year or two a new phrase came upon my horizon. This seeming insane suggestion to consider what if what I am doing right in this moment is enough. Can I sit with the assertion that actually, yes, it is quite magnificently just that?

 

Not maybe. Not can I slip some sneaky judgement in there and put myself down. Not lace it with self-doubt and too familiar self-criticism. But can I say to myself, in earnest, Yes, it really is?

 

I am learning. As many of you know. And, as many of you know who too are learning this, it takes TIME.

 

So from an eternal quest for purification to simply being with what is, can we do it?

 

There are several souls on this path over the course of the last few years that I have found both solace and nutrition to draw upon as I navigate this radicalism. Matt Licata, a heart-centred psychotherapist writes a wondrous blog and his words strike resonance and learning within frequently. Maybe, he posits, there is nothing wrong with us in the first place. Maybe there is no urgent healing that needs our immediate address. Maybe it’s simply presence itself to the gamut of this big chunky life in all it’s shapes, colours and dimensions and our willingness to FEEL IT ALL is all that is required. And maybe, crazily maybe, we are perfect just exactly the way we are. No need to change not one single thing.

 

Wild, eh!

 

And then too there is Joanna Watters, who’s teachings I find similar kinship and immensity in and whom one day I might dedicate this blog to and rename it “I love Joanna!”, for this is not the first nor second nor I believe third post I have written about my time spent contemplating and cherishing her offerings.

 

I was fortunate to return last week from a three-day retreat with her. It was called, For Love and within which, twelve of us sat with our hearts pulsing in their glorious vulnerability and rawness, feeling our way through and filling, as much as we could, ourselves and each other tenderly with love. Three days of beautifully held inquiry. Three days of falling into love. Three days of standing up in our honesty and drinking it into the soft tissue of our being. As much as we possibly could.

 

I thought a lot in this time about receiving.

 

I thought a lot in this time about digestion.

 

I thought a lot in this time about the movement of the breath. The inhalation. The exhalation. And the space and the impulses between each. This is something I ruminate on a great deal.

 

Joanna encouraged us, as she cradled the space and we did for each other, to breathe into any pain arising. Any hurt. Contraction. Fear. Anger. She posed to us the notion, What if love is unrestricted feeling? Less the happy ever after, more just this as exactly as it is right now. Everything. What if all of this irksomeness is simply the generosity of Life’s endless invitation to meet Love’s wound? No more casting to the realms of “positive” and “negative”. Instead just listening in to the tightness in your chest. The recurrent lower back pain. The depressed circuit of thoughts in your mind. The fear of not getting it all perfectly “right”. The resistance, oh the crappy, mighty Resistance…..

 

And we sat, each day, feeling and loving in more and more keenly to everything we are inclined to hide and shove away. Yes.

 

I realised through this process, as I remained in attendance with my breath, for me there appeared four stages. I was struck initially by the power of my exhalation, as I chose not to run, to digest the stuckness, discomfort, rage, fear. I watched it’s ability, without me getting in the way, to transmute the all ickiness through it’s own seeming volition.

 

Big juicy WOW.

 

Then, from ‘digestion’, arose effortless ‘expression’ (translate from previous effort with a big E, release) and from here, before inhalation, or as I came to consider ‘ingestion’, there was a moment of ‘reception’, of being ready, very naturally, to receive. Welcoming what I might for a moment deem as Other and letting that just be. Just simply watching this rhythmic circle and allow it’s fullness, rather than sitting in the appearance of rejection, opposition and separation.

 

Hmm? Yes. Reception. Ingestion. Digestion. Expression. Of breath. Of love. Observing the tides, observing the affirming ebb and flow. Pausing the urge to control and reconfigure it into something more apparently pleasing.

 

And I thought of my endeavours, pretty much three decades ago, to purge myself of all of this. And I thought of my early dalliances with Kundalini yoga at the age of 20, and the beginning of understanding the value of meeting pain rather than turning away. But still my internal drum banged on in a blind ache to transcend and become purer. And I thought of how very un-alone I have been in this pursuit. So many of us unwittingly chasing this image. So many pulling under the illusion of our unworthiness.

 

It takes courage, I know well, to sit in the seeming shadows. But today, maybe it takes less or simply less effort, as today I’m not trying to change and alter them or, even in fact, designate them as such. Rather maybe I am discovering a new prowess to feel into as much as I can and allow the Breath of Love to digest every corner and every crevice in every cell and every single fabulous bursting heartbeat.

 

Can we revive ourselves back to being with simply just this? Yes, I believe we can.

 

Image: KM Schmidt

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When Age Nudges Time in the Water

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York Hall Swimming Pool, Bethnal Green, 1996

 

I would swim at York Hall three, sometimes four, times a week. 63 lengths of the 33 metre long pool, equaling a mile. Racing up and down, feeling the endorphins vibrating through my system, my breath easy and powerful, my leg kick germinating in my belly. Massaging my psoas but this deep full potency then I only knew in body, not my mind. Followed with a good 30 minutes of play in the 3 metre deep end. Somersaults, floating, yoga stretches, lying submerged on the bottom. Discovering the possibilities of my body in the water.

 

And there, afterwards, would be the regulars, especially those in the mornings. Post-swim, standing naked in the showers, washing hair, chatting in the female changing rooms. That image, of women, some young, many old, has never left me. So at ease they felt, time after time. Seeing their bodies, their different shapes, different ethnicities, different times in their lives, all communing in an open, relaxed space after each had enjoyed their swim in the water. Such a rich, powerful and buoyant memory to hold. Decades seeming irrelevant. Time seeming to merge.

 

Topsham Lido, Devon, 2017

 

It is the eve of my birthday. I turn 46 tomorrow. I have taken myself for a swim whilst the kids are occupied, one at school, the other off and under the weather. The weather of the day itself is mixed. Warm, some sunshine but mostly grey by the time I get in the pool. And I swim and swim and swim.

 

My swimming is different from those days back in Bethnal Green. In part from having trained and taught in the Shaw Method many moons ago; an approach to swimming mindfully using principles of Alexander Technique. It’s more intentful in slowing down, savouring the length and grace of each stoke, more meditative in quality. And too it has changed from a myriad of experiences over the last decade. Motherhood has effected my relationship to swimming, largely because the opportunities to spend endless hours in the pool, for myself and those I was teaching, have not been the same as they once were. Also, too, health has had an enormous impact. Asthma being the primary factor.

 

Possibly because I used to swim so much, the regularity and levels of fitness I had, I was asthma-free between early teenage years right through until my son was born. But asthma, bloody fucking asthma, thereafter took it’s toll big time. Like chicken and egg, I knew getting back into a regular routine would help my breathing but without such free time, getting to the pool as often as I needed, prohibited this natural opportunity to help my breathing get back on track.

 

And, although spending time connecting with and in the water always comes up trumps, swimming these last years hasn’t had quite the same impact as it used to. My flow has often felt far more effortful and consequently, sadly, slightly less enjoyable. I still dig deep from being in the water yet I have had a persistent background niggle niggling in the background. Like a sleepy shadow I have carried around on my shoulder.

 

And then, on Friday, whilst letting thoughts flow mid-front crawl in Topsham, something occurred to me. Shit, I thought, the lithe young woman who knocked out 60 odd lengths several times a week is turning 46 tomorrow. My body has changed SO much over these last two decades and it ain’t the same as it once was. I know this in yoga. I know this in dance. I know this in running. How the tone of my movement has altered. But, for some reason, I didn’t twig this in the water. At all.

 

I’ve long seen the water as a mirror. It reflects and feeds back to us effortlessly. Grey areas, those of resistance, it is easy, I find, to witness these points, especially our emotional body, in the water. Like a magnified, homeopathic dose. Why, I wonder, did my ageing, my evolving, I not recognise in this space?

 

Suspended in time, it would seem, maybe it’s easy to unhinge our beings from age. In the immediate it bears no relevance. Buoyancy eases mind, body and heart harmoniously within the fluidity of the water. So met. So held. It’s urges us not to run. Not to attend to the possibility of incessant worry that creeps beneath the skin of being ageless or not. Of being forever young. We can never be this. Ever. But in the water’s caress, in its timeless surrender that kisses the soul, it is easy to forget.

 

Just as the dance of age, in those moments, appeared immaterial to the bevy of seemingly contented souls post swim at York Hall all those years ago.

 

So what happened on Friday? Whilst experiencing my effortful and denser-seeming-ness and then acknowledging my changing body, in acceptance, in fact in excitement, something significant shifted. The lengths I swam thereon started to flow super dynamically once more. Embracing how I am now, as opposed to how I was then, lifted a weight. Less body, more of mind. A weight that had, I now realise, had an edge of the punitive. Why aren’t you swimming like you used to? Get a move on girl, get a move on!, it quietly and frustratingly roared.

 

No, I said on Friday. I am what I am. I love more and more my older and slightly wiser self. My body is fuller. Curvier. Sexier. It is powerful and strong. And, whilst the world would like to call me to renounce this, No, I do not want to waste my energy trying to do so. And then I pondered, is it possible for us to allow what was to be what was and not of now?

 

I think with time and softness, yes we can.

 

And so I continued my swim, each stroke growing clearer, more engaged, more purposeful, as of old, as I swam my changing self closer to the day celebrating my birth.

 

Yes. On the day of 8th July 1971, I came hurtling feet first into the world ten minutes before the moon swam at it’s fullest. It has been full this year on this day too. I feel it’s conversation in my bones. Those that are feeling the texture of age and connection to the ancients. Time here, as in the water, feels increasingly transcendent and fluid, reaching far back many moons and to those to come as well.

 

Much to ruminate on.

 

Hello Moon and Birth Day Salutations to all you fellow Cancerians out there and Waterbabies of all ages. I hope it’s been speaking to you too!

 

Image: Source unknown

 

 

 

 

 

For the many….

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I don’t want to fuck you up

Said the mother to the child,

Said the next,

And the next

And right on down the line

Till all the mothers cried,

We don’t want to fuck you up!

Yet, said the first,

And the tremor continued,

I’m scared I will

 

And she turned to her sisters

Who nodded by her side

And sighed,

I would love you to grow

Sweet dear child

Without a beast inside

But, in her lament and woe

Whispered,

I just don’t know how

 

And then her sisters

Took her hand

And placed it on her heart

And ushered,

Listen

Listen here

Here lies wisdom

Here lies the path of trust

Beyond your fear and doubt

 

And they held her sorrows

In their hearts and mind

And beckoned her to

Follow the road of

Loving deeply

With the knowing

Here she shall, we shall,

Truly find

That these seeming monsters,

Some sleeping

Others calling loud,

When tended with our wonder and listening

Will come back home from the wild

And rest instead inside us,

And our in children too,

Purring

Melting

Glowing

For these shadows

That come a creeping

Are really pots of

Gold

 

 

Image: Caitlyn Connelly

 

Where Might Be The Dreamer?

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These days are ones of rumination. Today I drove to see a dear friend, surrounded by immense landscape, feeling my heart burst. I felt a slow pulsing orgasm within it’s chambers as my being sank deeper and deeper into the earth’s holding. And, with this wonderful soul, whom I know of new but can eschew with a great many questions as if of old, we talked and inquired and pondered and imagined. It was a very fine few hours and we spoke of both being drawn for different, as well similar reasons to living in this part of the world, here in Devon, that we inhabit.

 

Hmm? I thought and posed the notion to her:

 

What if we weren’t drawn here but were instead taken?

 

I headed home that afternoon inspired and stimulated, considering this question alongside many other thoughts from our morning together and those recent from the last couple of adventurous navigational months. I started to consider the cultural focus we create within our lives to obtain  our personal dreams, the seeming unending impetus to attend on actualising them and the positing of our power in achieving them, or not (aka failing). And then began to wonder this:

 

What if our purpose is to surrender to the dream that is living us rather than aspire to living the dream?

 

What if our power lies not within our dream but instead of seeing that we’re within the dream itself?

 

Are we able to rouse ourselves to the reality that we are within it’s wings rather than it’s core is within us?

 

Can we wake up from the sleepiness and realise the dream is in fact wide-awake and is in continual process of being actualised already and know that we are all but simply vessels of it’s extraordinary unfolding?

 

Is it possible to discover the capacity to participate fully but not get ourselves in the way?

 

And can we reframe to understand that dreaming is not of the future but actually of now?

 

I arrived back home needless to say fuelled to write. My solar plexus was pulsing on fire.

 

BOY!

 

I love stealthy conversations. I love the opportunities of being “taken” to them. I love really not knowing. And too, there is one thing that I’m learning more and more these days which is this; the grand significance of GRATITUDE for being part of this humongous, bone-cracking, gob-smacking, heavenly, mighty Dream.

 

Amen!

 

Image: Eugene Delacriox

The Lioness’s Whisper

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Halfway between
Fullness
And emptiness
Sat the Moon
That afternoon
That we began to
Purr
Into
Onto
Each other

Feeling into our feline-ness
Was the invitation
Whilst Love’s centrifugal force
Curled it’s way
Around us
And through us
Leaning on,
Leaning into
The other
Until Other
Became One

In flesh, in heart,
In bone
Softening, yeilding
As we do
As we can

Tears falling into
This calling
Two dozen, maybe more,
Statuesque Women
In Spirit and the Unknown
Awakening
Together
Our prayer to
Each other
In this
Magnificent caress
Of deep
Embrace

Thank you All

Listen,
As the tenderness of this
Heart Full
Whisper
Roars
On
Image: Iva Troj

 

 

The Gentle Heart of a Sorrow-Full Soul

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There are some moments in life that are rare.

Rare and full of gold.

Some happen upon us. Others from seeking and searching. And there are gems that occur when generous souls, with their love and compassion, hold space and enable us to dive deeper into the crevices of our being.

Grow the Grown Ups 2017. One moonlight night. One stone circle. Two listening ears. One beating heart. One dancing desire, shared with my youngest, to sleep right here. Hello.

Yes.

This journey of navigating my inner-landscape isn’t new. And I am realising isn’t just of this lifetime.

This journey of tuning into the whispers of my ancestors has long too played a steady, burgeoning role within my curiosity and enquiry. I am unsure whether it played one for my mother and grandmother however, my suspicion is both they and my aunts as well carried the secrets that have been begging to be heard.

Hello.

One balmy Tuesday afternoon. One large group of men and women, handsome in spirit and courage. One one helluva rockin facilitator and a pathway into our calling. Us all, I do believe.

Joanna Watters, we meet again. It’s been two years since my family and I first attended the programme. Two years since we landed back in London trying to reintegrate into the incessant beat of the incessant city. Now two years on, myself and son and daughter, here again with your glorious team to indulge in love’s incessant request for us to be ourselves. In magic, in beauty and in wonder.

Hello.

Love kissed her sweet lips on mine throughout the week. Reminded me of my ability, my prowess, my humility. I love YOU, she told me and, these days, thankfully I’m learning how to not shy away.

Kindness also, gentle and sweet, found her way, as I lay on the somehow maddening sloping floor of Centre Fire, whilst Joanna’s lilting voice guided each brave soul in it’s spacious walls into tender relaxation.

What feels like a lifetime ago in young-ness. What feels like innocent inquisition of 30-year-old child self. I used to try with all my might to crack open this dark nook inside.

I felt it in my earthing and, boy, did it make me feel cross. Tap. Tap. Tap. Bang. Bang. Bang.

I know you’re in there, craving to see light. I know there’s something. Rotten and raging. Blocking my way…..

Bang. Bang. Bang.

I’m not surprised now my fiery determination didn’t work. Such attack in my perseverance.

What the heck are you talking my friend?, you ask.

Well. Let me begin.

As I lay there that Tuesday afternoon, feeling into my rhythms and bones and meeting the gnarly rooting that runs upwards to the left of my spine, I asked myself this;

Who is wanting to be seen?

And with Joanna’s soft purr reminding us to allow love to illuminate the way, the twisted contorted root started to emerge into form. Yes. Really.

And here I bore witness, as form emerged into dimension, a woman. Old. Hunched. Heavy hearted. Wizened.

From somewhere I spoke, Hello and welcomed her into my presence.

Hello, Witch. I realised. Now I see who you have been. At last.

It was wonderful not to run. Not to hide her back from whence she came. To give her space, breathing space to simply be in my eyes.

And as time, which felt like days but most probably well a minute or just seconds, I realised that beneath her cloak of sadness, for she seemed so heavily sorrowful, there was something divine within.

Yes! Beneath where she had been cast. The mad one. The crazy and wild one. Insane and not of this world. Was in fact one wondrous beatific sensuous heart.

WOW.

Her sorrow, I learned, was from this casting. Castigated because of her dance with the stars. Her prayer to the earth. Her knowing of the power within the bowels of love and the magic within the guts of the universe. And the scorn, mistrust and fear she was met with threw shadow and doubt within her own pulsing chambers. She ran from her wisdom and hid in the rain. Waiting. Wanting. And stirring the deepest grief and bewilderment she had ever known.

Whilst I hold space for this sacred being whom I have carried for so long, I see how my mother and grandmother had carried her too. I expect those before along my maternal line also knew her shape and voice and, somewhere, her persistent request to be seen.

I don’t know if my wide-eyed darling girl will inherit this lineage too but I do know this. Now I need no longer cower from her presence. This frightened old witch I will give instead the space to play, make merry and be seen in joy, in warmth and in love.

And, I think instead, she may in fact become our friend.

Welcome.

We will, Witch, Daughter and All, sleep in the stones once more.

I promise.

Image: Anne-Julie Aubry

In the Waterscapes of Becoming

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What happens when you touch the edges of the universe once again?

 

What happens when you meet the start of creation once more?

 

What happens when your love affair with a majestic teacher is rekindled and all the old hurts re-surface?

 

No edges. No beginning. Love ever eternal.

 

Ah yes, Water. Hello.

 

10 days. 10 days with 12 strangers. 12 strangers who came together around an old dining table trying to make one helluva comprehensive shopping list for the week ahead, between a morning’s float and an afternoon’s return to wet cossies. Stressed. Finding our feet. Communing in ways not quite yet known how they would unfold.

 

10 days. 12 strangers. One old house of old stories. One pool.

 

A pool of many tales.

 

A request for builders tea. Another for peppermint. More requests, a pinch of earth and a night full of laughter, glorious and sublime, bursting. Film footage of all the misdemeanours and merriment, capturing the child, the wise one and the fool within us all.

 

Sleep? It didn’t really happen.

 

But!

 

Conversations. Many. Rich meaty discussions on the intangible nature of being. Where is it? What is it? Like hungry wolves, chewing, spitting. Munching on blood. If only we could. Trying to make goddam sense of that which flies away the very instant we ask it to swing by.

 

I loved them all.

 

I loved the feasts, night after night. Mightier and mightier, in taste, love and care they grew. Each from the heart. Beating it’s way into mouth watering delights.

 

Day 2, whilst trying to rest, I felt the surge of other’s movements through my body.

 

Day 3, 8am over breakfast, tears starting to roll down my cheeks, as two wonderful women told of the loss of too, too young souls.

 

It had begun.

 

Connecting. Feeling. Tapping into each other beneath the skin.

 

My tears didn’t stop. Describing ourselves through found garden treasures, in delicacy of words, my heart trembled with each whisper shared.

 

We watched wild fire and pain and fragility of our humanness float to the surface and not once did we run. Brave, courageous Water Warriors.

 

In the shades of our rainbow, in our shades deep within, we rose to meet each of those tumbling. Unfailingly we stood.

 

In landscapes of luminosity, I faltered and fell into the depths of my roaring.

 

And I fell. Boy did I fall.

 

How can it be to touch into the expansiveness of spirit and land without attachment? This I do not know. But I am learning.

 

I started to thread together pieces on this rambling path. And in doing, days into our communing, I hurt those around. This I did not mean to do. I am sorry. This has been a long journey coming.

 

I talked to God and the Underworld. And found my reflection; she who bears unconditional acceptance.

 

And I talked and I talked and I talked.

 

This, a very long-time waiting.

 

And the words, This is perfect. Everything is perfect, from another, as old shock ran through systems, as more tears began to fall whilst tender hearts collided, are the words I will take home.

 

Thank you. For within the mud, shit and rawness, truly everything just is.

 

I have landed back, here, still swimming. My sleep is long and deep. I am still amongst the stars and floating. But communication with another has caused a shadow. Again I’m sorry if you felt betrayed.

 

12 strangers. 10 days.

 

Poems of every expression. And of mine you may think I am mad.

 

But I thank you again for this sharing.

 

A privilege it was to have gone diving with each of you side by side in the waterscapes of this becoming.

 

Image: The End of Land