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Eleven Practices – Dream it!

June 13, 2010

Dr. Pinkola Estes advises:

dance it, sleep it, ask to dream it
write down what you dream and see if there is any resonance or intelligence to match what you are working on. Write all dreams down or otherwise annotate them by writing your associations to each noun, verb, adjective over the top of the line, then read your dream back to yourself, using the associations instead of the original nouns, verbs, adjectives. This will bring you depth and ideas about your ONE THING. Tie what you learn from your associations to your ONE IDEA. If nothing fits, leave it for later. It’s like fabric scrap; you might be able to use it later. My experience with the unconscious in myself and my analysands is that unconscious doesnt always offer materials in order. So save back whatever is left over. And write whatever you care to or can, down. Note them in some way. Our memories can only hold so much archetypal material at a time.

After the death of my father I began to work with my dreams. I have always been a prolific dreamer and vividly remember dreams going back to when I was a young child. There were several recurring dreams that I used to have and I worked on them briefly in my twenties – but I didn’t have the depth or breadth to really let them work me. During the five years that I worked with Salmon Boy – I faithfully recorded, danced, drew, imagined, created, and acted out my dreams. Going back to that gusher of creativity I found that I had dreamed many years before it happened many of the emergent possibilities that I am now living.

I am not dreaming about my one thing right now – but I have in the past.

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Eleven practices – write it

May 25, 2010

If you write and you haven’t experienced Natalie Goldberg’s writing down the bones, consider it for those times when your writing practice needs some outside mojo to move it along. I know there are many who swear by Cameron’s morning pages – but that has never been something I was drawn to do. Maybe because I am not a “writer.”  I write to figure things out and to remember and to process, but I am not a “writer.”

So this next step from dr. e. which grew out of the Dangerous Old Woman first set of oral teachings is to take that one thing and write about it. I thought about this a bit… and not being a writer… it didn’t grab me… but then the part of her practice that is about writing five true things… that practice feels similar to the gratitude practice that I revert to when things feel too happy or too sad or too much… Five True Things? That I can write. And I was drawn to that already. But now – combine this idea of five true things about the focused one thing – and it all begins to click into place.

My one thing is persistent! I have been ignoring it and it has been nipping at my ankles. I ignore. It nips. I deflect. It chest slams me. I get distracted and go off to read something unrelated and it brings me a teaching story with the theme that I am avoiding…

I am avoiding this theme because it isn’t familiar, popular, agreed upon, or seen by others in the way I see it. I have written and written and written about it… and discussed and shared and argued and wondered about it… and read and read and read about it… but I haven’t made it a practice to write Five True Things about it.

I think “it” would like that. I can see it smiling as it sits over there in the corner licking its whiskers.

And you? Are you doing any focus work right now?

And if you haven’t yet wandered over to SoundsTrue to see the new offerings by dr. e. , check them out… they are feasts for the soul… they contain provisions for the journey… my saddlebags are overflowing.

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Eleven Practices – Small Manageable Bites

May 23, 2010

Take one thing/ idea/ symbol/ mythic aspect. Keep it manageable, not global. Refine it down til its manageable. Take only one part of the whole. If that’s too big a bite, take part of the part. Then, gather ideas, thoughts, dreams, daydreams, facts about your one thing.

Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes

Focus… narrow and diffuse… When I read Goddesses in Every Woman by Jean Shinoda Bolen, I was fascinated by her discussion of diffuse awareness. Women who are mothers know this well. We can be doing lots of different things and being quite productive in a trance like state, and the children are playing contentedly and not needing us. And yet as soon as the awareness shifts from diffuse to focused – like we sit down to pay bills, or write a letter, or answer the phone… the children sense that the field of awareness has shifted and suddenly they need us urgently and desperately and they are tugging at our pants leg.

Once I became aware of that interconnectivity I was endlessly fascinated that my son could sense my change in focus even when he was in a different room. I think this ability to shift between the two states of being is what makes women so successful at all we take on… and I think it is what at times can make us so annoyed with our partners who have underdeveloped diffuse awareness!

Just this morning I was talking to my husband about feeling like I am a spider in a huge web of interconnectivity. One small movement in the web, and I am instantly aware and seeking to trace the vibration back to its source. Is it something that needs my attention? Is it something I want to know more about? What is it? Does it just need to be filed away for future experience? I do this constantly and effortlessly and yet I do think at times there can be an exhaustion in the intense alertness and awareness that feels so familiar, I don’t even notice it. This is the antithesis of One thing. This is all things all the time all at once.

So this second practice… makes me think about the one thing… THE one thing, the ONE thing, the one THING and how at times in my life when I have done this one thing practice, I have been immensely productive.

I am no closer to choosing my one thing (and as soon as I say that – I hear the words YES YOU ARE!) so I guess I should say I am equivocating about the one thing… and reluctant to make a commitment to it.

But it is a “one thing’ I have been intrigued by and has been a thread through much of my writing here.

So… I am waiting… continuing to compost – metaphorically, and literally!

I have found a new source of free manure blended with saw dust. I have been spreading it in the community garden and plan to let some of it cook and cool in my home compost pile. And as the heat burns through all that needs to die… and as it cools and the worms move in to do their slow work, I will be paying attention to how the outer mirrors the inner mirrors the outer process of heat followed by cooling.

Having identified your one thing? Is it too much? A big gulp not a small bite? How does it need to be reduced so as to be manageable? How many times have you (or me!) not started because the one thing was too much, too big, too unwieldly so we stop before we start. And what would happen if that one thing was reduced to a manageable thing that got the best most focused part of you?

This done, there is then the action part of the work – the gathering. I am really good at gathering, but I tend to gather everything about everything and then get overwhelmed. And I like that way of gathering everything about everything… and sometimes it would be better to gather with more discernment, about one thing instead.

The one thing – in small manageable bites.

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Eleven Practices

May 22, 2010

CHOOSE ONE THING to concentrate on; keep it small: one symbol, one aspect, one archetypal facet, one aspect of a dream, etc. That is your portal. Keep it. Return to it daily.

Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes

I have had two weeks off… TWO WHOLE WEEKS… and in that time, much has been accomplished… and surprisingly, I have taken a lot of naps, zoned out while weeding and realized I was not weeding anymore – just sitting, rocked for hours and hours staring at the embers of a fire, and also just sat still, very still for long periods. Plants have been transplanted, meals prepared, laundry done, the sacred and the mundane of life woven together in such a way that I am surprised when it is midnight and another day is done and I am still awake.

I have been intensely focused for three full years – with a small break last summer – but other than that, I have been on a straight path where side paths beckoned, paths with no path called me, and yet to reach this internal goal, I had to keep feet on the path and butt in the seat… and now… suddenly, it is over, and I stand at the threshold and instead of leaping out the door, I am hesitant. My feet are now accustomed to walking on the path, and they are not sure how and where to step.

Prior to this particular journey, I had several daily practices of writing and creating and art making and processing and one by one they fell away as the PATH demanded more and more and more of me… and now I find myself wondering which, what, how, and if to reclaim any of those daily practices and what they will look like.

To complicate and enrich this quandary is the enormous slug of new material from Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes. Her Mother Night series is now out on CD. Her Dangerous Old Woman opus first round will soon follow. And between those two works, there must be something like more than twenty hours of oral tradition… dense with meaning… and so filled with possibility that is almost feels paralyzing.

Which brings me to this teaching from dr. e. Choose one thing. I haven’t decided what the one thing is or if I will choose one thing… but just knowing that there is some way of ordering and containing the abundance feels valuable right now.

And you – if you chose one thing? what would it be?

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Feasting on new ideas

May 20, 2010

In 2005, I spent a solid nine months commuting – 45 minutes up the interstate and 45 minutes down the interstate. During that time, I listened to all twelve sessions of the two volume Theatre of the Imagination. As I remember, each tape was about 45 minutes a side or maybe that isn’t how it was, but I do know that it took time, lots of time, and the changes of the moon cycles and the earth cycles for me to digest, percolate, and absorb the richness of the feast I experienced through those teaching tales – truly it was Story as Medicine. I have listened to parts of TOI since then – but it has never had the deep feel it had when I spent that time in deep contemplation.

And now, five years later, I am once again about to begin a period of commuting…

Up and over the Blue Ridge and over to the Piedmont several times a week, ninety minutes each way from now until December. I have mixed feelings about spending my life energy in a car. Yet the opportunity calls me and the opportunity is on the other side of the mountain.

When I was younger, it was fairly easy for me to make a decision. I had a better sense of “choose this” and if you don’t like it choose something else. And now… I still believe that… but there is a subtlety that makes choosing more difficult and if I am honest, there is a sense of being over half a century on this earth that shifts things for me. Time moves more slowly now and more quickly both.

The exuberant energy that carried me to my middle passage visit to the Swamplands, slowed and deepened into two four year cycles of depth work. And as I come out of the second cycle of depth work, I am moving more slowly and deliberately weighing things differently now. So the decision to commute was a difficult one to choose.

Part of what made me choose this is that I have just had two six week sessions with Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes. Her Mother Night series at SoundsTrue and following that the first of her epic opus The Dangerous Old Woman. I now have twelve sessions that are each about two hours long. A FEAST of heroic proportions. And I find that I can’t sit still and listen to the sessions. Yet… with a commute… with hours on the road each day… yes… that was part of what shifted the balance into choosing the distant opportunity.

So now, after a week of rain, the sun is out – metaphorically and literally – and the garden is calling me.

And you? What is your process for decision making? and has it changed as you age?

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The boy is back in town…

May 1, 2010

It took nine months or so to incubate a baby boy in my womb – that first trimester of feeling so tired, unsettled and sickly but also excited – the middle trimester of being super energetic and HAPPY – and that final gravid trimester when the reality of the coming change sets in.

Now, eighteen years later, I am preparing to re-integrate this man-boy back into the household after nine months of college! That first part of the first trimester of adjustment – his and ours – the middle trimester of HAPPY – finally figuring out college and learning to take full advantage of it – and then the third and final trimester where the reality of grades and evaluations and responsibility and future sets in.

An adjustment is looming for us!

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Under her fullness

April 28, 2010

Last night, around 10:00 PM, as I walked out of the building and crossed the Quad, there she was, just climbing over the buildings and casting moonshadows over all of us – the students rushing to and fro, the trees who have stood many winters, the kissing rock, all of us bathed in her cool light. It was magical.

The search is ongoing and things pop up and things disappear and opportunities materialize and connections are made, and I am trying as much as possible to embrace the mystery, the unknown, to trust that fate and destiny will form a divine union and deliver me to the exact place where I am meant to practice my emerging craft. The waiting is hard. I should have some closure from a couple of positions this Friday.

And I am giving myself permission, if the right placement does not appear to take the summer OFF!

That sounds appealing, but it delays a lot of other things and I am ready to close this chapter of my life and move on…

I got home late last night, so missed the first part of the Dangerous Old Woman gathering, but I think she told the tale that I first heard from Angeles Arrien about the African Woman, somehow I think I heard it as the Nubian woman? I searched and searched for that and was able to trace it back to Helen Luke (who I just found out was a partner in analytical practice with Robert A. Johnson!). I am just beginning my explorations of Helen’s work – and am fascinated with her generativity – writing an autobiography at 70! Helen received the story directly from Sir Laurens van der Post and I am eager to hear what magic dr. e. has worked into the story.

What teaching stories are you working with right now? in your own life? or with others?

I love this synchronicity – this is the next story that I had chosen to work with and just started telling it again and scheming and dreaming about an Expressive Arts activity around women making necklaces and instead of going into the forest to encounter the Baba Yaga, they go down into the river to encounter the ancient woman and lick her sores and receive her gift.