Tag Archive: art


Perspectives


Back when I was a beginning henna artist, I thought I was awesome.  Everyone looked at my work and said so, and that I should start a business doing henna.  I knew I wasn’t quite ready, so I fooled around with it some more for a couple more years, and then decided to start a business.  About the same time, I got pregnant with my daughter, so that didn’t last very long.

A few years later, when I had more free time, I started doing henna again, though just for myself.  Again, my friends were adamant that I was good enough to charge money.  I agreed and began my business once again, armed with better art books from The Henna Page.  It wasn’t terribly successful, but mostly because of the environment in which I was working, which had way too many henna artists in it already.  Most of them at about the skill level I was.

All this time, I had been involved in a virtual community at the same website where I had been buying my art books.  They had an annual conference in Las Vegas that I was just dying to go to.  I planned on going in 2006, but it just wasn’t in the cards.  I kept buying better henna art books and practicing, though.

Finally, in 2007, I was able to go.  It was awesome.  It was the first time, I was able to spend time with other henna artists.  Despite the relatively large number of henna artists in my city, none of them would talk to me.  They were all fiercely protective of their business and saw any attempt at outside communication from another artist as an attempt to steal it.  This wasn’t my intention, but they were still tight-lipped.  Understandably so, though, as our town was still overrun with mediocre henna artists charging way too much money.

In Las Vegas, however, I had the chance to watch some of the world’s best henna artists do their art.  I learned all kinds of tips, trick, and techniques.  While I did very little art while I was there (I was too embarrassed to do so amidst the company I was in), I was soaking in the knowledge around me.  I went home with a full head, and got to work.

My art skill increased by a factor of five, I shit you not.  After Las Vegas, though, I looked at every single thing I had ever drawn before, and it looked like ass.  I was embarrassed to have charged money for it.

I feel similarly about my book project at the moment.  I’ve been reading a small, but potent, book called The Memoir Project: A Thoroughly Non-Standardized Text for Writing and Life.  It’s only around 100 pages, but each one is a carefully cultivated garden of words intended to pass on its bounty to the reader, in the hopes that they will also be able to find the thrift and beauty in their writing that will ensnare their reader at the beginning and carry them to the end.  I’m not quite done with it, but I’m already sure that I’m going to rewrite my book, probably more than once.  What I’ve produced thus far is called “the vomit draft”, and while it contains everything that will eventually be contained in the final product, it is not worthy of other eyes yet.

Which is why I’m so embarrassed to have already given it to some friends to read and edit.  I was stuck, though, and foolish enough to think that I had something mature enough to warrant the sort of attention I was asking to be paid attention to it.  I think I was also really proud of what I had done and wanted to show it off.  I mean, I had written, over about a decade, 100,000 words detailing the length of my life.  It was quite an accomplishment, to be sure!  It wasn’t one to share so intimately with others quite yet, though.  I wound up creating a second draft that was 40,000 words shorter than the first because I removed things from it that really belonged in their own book, or at least as a separate appendix.  Then there was a third draft that contained edits I and my husband had made.  Now I’m on a fourth draft.  And if that book I’m reading is any indication, there could be dozens of them, some of them complete rewrites.

This pretty much kills my goal of being done with this project by the end of the year, unless I’m able to do some incredible work over the next few weeks to a couple of months.  I do need a deadline, though.  If I don’t have one, it will never get done.  I’ll have to make a project outline and divide the entire thing into segments with their own individual deadlines, and then glean a tentative final deadline for the whole project.  Dividing it into smaller segments will also make it easier to work on.  Right now, it’s so big.  I keep looking at it as the whole book.  I have to break it down into smaller parts.

I also need a goal for the project.  Why am I doing this?  Just for myself?  For the family?  To help others?  Just to do it?  For publishing?  If so, do I really have aspirations for serious publication?  Like, getting on the bestseller list sort of aspirations, or self-publish on Amazon sort of aspirations?  I suppose all authors want to be successful.  Who wouldn’t want to do a book signing at the New York Barnes & Noble?  Will I be disappointed if my aspirations aren’t met?

I know I want this book to be helpful to others.  If there is a message to my story, it’s that you don’t have to be defined by your past.  That it’s possible, with enough muster and work, to break the cycles of even generations of severe dysfunction.  So many people think that they have to do things a certain way because the people before them did things a certain way, that they are locked into a particular course, but they aren’t.  Not if they don’t want to be.  They have to want it bad enough to do the work, but it is possible to carve a new path away from the rut of stagnation and death.  It also takes patience, because it takes a long time to carve that path.  Sometimes I look back and it seems like that rut is still right behind me.  Other times, though, it has long faded into the distance.  A mere happy shadow against the horizon.  I want to give other people the hope that they can have that happy shadow as well.

And if healthy people happen to be interested in my story as well, then that’s just fine, too.

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Buddha’s Bumpy Noggin


My first real exposure to Buddha was at Bookpeople, the bookstore I worked at in Austin, back in 1995.  Sure, I had seen pictures of the Buddha before, but I hadn’t seen a statue of Buddha or held a Buddha or anything like that until I had that job.  I was interested by the images and statues in which his head was covered in small bumps.  I wondered what was up with that.  Well, now I know.

The bumps are the Snail Martyrs.  The gist is that Buddha sat down under a tree to meditate one day.  It grew very hot and the snails passing by noticed that Buddha’s head was going to scorch, so they crawled upon his head to cool his scalp with their slimy trails.  I know, how kind!  :/  While I could not find the link despite a lengthy search, I know that there is a source saying that there are 108 snails upon Buddha’s head, the shells of which he kept upon his head following their deaths in honor of their sacrifice.  108 is a sacred number in Buddhism and other faiths in the area.

There are, of course, many variations on how Buddha got the spiral knobs upon his head, but the most common one is that of the Snail Martyrs.

Here’s a much different take on the matter:

http://nandakumarr.blogspot.com/2006/12/hair-or-shells-buddhas-coiffure.html


It seems to me that there are probably as many ways to pray as there are people on the Earth.  We also seem to group together according to how similarly we pray, I’ve noticed.

When first I asked the question of myself, “How do I pray?”, the answer was, “I don’t.”  Immediately followed by, “Bullshit.”  I don’t think it’s possible for someone who proclaims to feel spiritual energy as readily as I claim to, not to pray.  There must be some way that I pray, however subconsciously.  I need to expand my definition of what “pray” means.

At its most basic, “praying” is whatever method I choose at that particular moment to try to speak to God.  I have used many methods of prayer over the years.  There’s the regular verbal kind that most people think of, of course, though I don’t see that as the most fulfilling, personally.  There’s the musical kind of prayer, with which I am the most familiar.  I can play saxophone, flute, and a variety of hand drums, and any of them has felt more like praying than any words than I have ever used.  There’s the artistic form of prayer, with which I was intimately familiar for several years until I tried to mix prayer with business and turn my art into a way of living.  That turned out badly on both fronts and I have only recently begun to use art as prayer again (due in no small part to Spiritual Nomad).

Gardening is a form of prayer to me, as well as a form of meditation (so is fishkeeping).  In fact, music and art are also forms of meditation to me.  Maybe that’s why I have found both meditation and prayer so difficult whenever I have tried to pursue each one individually.  I think something needs to serve both roles in order to be a truly fulfilling exercise.  In any case, yes to gardening and fishkeeping as forms of prayer and meditation.  They’re also the things that put me into closest touch with my primary aspect of God, which is Nature itself.

I also pray like a scientist, which is something of a paradoxical notion in our society.  Science and God seem to be mutually exclusive in America, and perhaps the Western World in general.  I see no difference between the two, though, and am constantly frustrated by the world’s attempts to keep the two separate.  We could do even more amazing things if we stopped trying to keep the two things apart.  To me, a tornado is not just a series of mathematical equations that describe atmospheric shear, turbulence, potential energy, and wind speed.  It’s one of the most powerful forces on the face of the planet and almost certainly ranks up there with the other great meteorological forces of the solar system.  Yes, it may just be an artifact of rising and sinking airmasses combined with the Coriolis effect, but that does not diminish its power or beauty nor the feeling in my heart when I see one (though to date I’ve never seen one in person: I’m not sure I need to to appreciate its grandeur).  If I had to call a single place on Earth my temple, it would be The Sky.

Two other forms of prayer and meditation: cooking and baking.  Each is slightly different.  Cooking is more intuitive and is open to the “dash of this, bit of that” method of kitchen things.  Baking is less forgiving and is more like chemistry to me (probably because it is).  Both demand healthy helpings of love for optimum taste.  If you can’t taste the love, I didn’t do it right (read Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel for an excellent fictional treatise on the magic of food).  There’s a great deal of peace and calm that come from slowing down enough to really enjoy the processes of cooking and baking.  If they’re hurried and are done only for the purpose of physical nourishment, there’s not so much energy in that.  We don’t usually enjoy those meals very much.

A form of prayer and meditation that I am remiss in not mentioning yet is karate.  It’s difficult to describe the seemingly conflicting energies of force and calm, but there’s a push/pull kind of thing going on that is like waves lapping on a shore.  There’s a rhythm at work that will break me if I work against it, but propels me if I don’t.  Karate’s very much like yoga in that way, which is yet another form of meditation and prayer that I very much enjoy.  It even involves a bit of prostration, which feels a lot like bowing in karate and is calming to me.  It is enjoying these two very physical forms of prayer that makes me want to explore yet another physical way of praying and meditating: dancing.

Dancing scares me in much the same way that singing does, though even moreso.  If I am frozen into silence by the sound of my own voice, I am petrified to stone by the thought of moving my body in a rhythmic way.  I’m not sure what about dancing is different from karate and yoga, though I’m guessing the former is much more freeform and less rigid than yoga and karate forms.  And I do have trouble operating without guidelines, which is what dancing seems to demand.  Rules and dancing seem diametrically opposed, even though I don’t dance (yet).

So those are more hidden forms of prayer for me.  Dancing is also there, but I haven’t used it yet.  Unlike the form I am currently using: writing.  If writing is prayer, I pray at least every other day, if not more.  The more I write, the more I want to write, and the more I like what I write.  I use it so often that it now defies description, unlike other more obscure forms of prayer that aren’t hidden to me, but are less well-used: exercising and running.  When I do those things, I can feel the rusty bits fall off the cogs and can see down the path to where they can take me, but I do them so infrequently that they never gain any momentum.  That’s going to be one of my goals this year: practicing my more physical forms of prayer as often as I can.  Of all of them, I feel they’re the best for me in all aspects.

Other ways that I have prayed before are by using mudras in yoga and meditation.  Mudras are essentially meditative or prayerful hand gestures.  There are tomes filled with the different ways the Hindu deities as well as Buddha will hold their hands, each signifying something different.  I’ve also read Tarot cards, though that is another method that doesn’t get used very often and probably should.  It’s not such a hard thing to draw a card a day to meditate upon.  Along those lines, astrology can be a form of prayer for me if it’s done as a daily reading.  It’s a way of opening myself to whatever the energies of the day might bring.  Over time, it’s just a generally good method of keeping myself “open”.  Which is a good thing for someone who gets really rigid sometimes.  I also very much enjoy walking meditating/praying.  I can do this with or without a labyrinth.  It’s all about putting one foot in front of the other and nothing more.

Perhaps my most powerful method of prayer in the past, has been to do nothing.  Others would call it meditation, but either the descriptions I have read of meditation fall as short as my own do, or I’m getting to a place that neither meditation nor prayer can reach by themselves.  I have to be in the right space to do this, and when I am in that right space, it happens automatically.  I have experienced this in fleeting moments, all in Nature, but every one of them perfect wells of peace, calm, and oneness.  I have wished I could bottle those moments and take them with me, they are so perfect.  And they are why I yearn to travel to the distant and isolated corners of the world, because that is where those moments happen.  In a Texas field devoid of sound save for the blowing wind.  In a car bespying distant, purple-hued mountains for the first time.  On a plane to a new place and seeing a lightning bolt jag from the sky to a spot on the shore left blazing by the light.  Driving through ancient, wet, green forests, or the endless expanse of the desert.  They just happen, like striking the edge of a singing bowl and reverberating for days past their experience.

Perhaps I have not been as bad at praying as I thought I was.  🙂


When we last left our intrepid spiritual traveler, her altars had just reassembled themselves. Since then, I’ve just been letting them occupy their space and sink their energy tendrils into the house. I’ve also continued to work on my spiritual scrapbook like a madwoman. I don’t know what it is about that particular project that I find so appealing, but I really like it. My first scrapbook is over 75% full already: about 60 pages. I have another designated exclusively for a set of Buddhist and Hindu greeting cards I bought at Half Price Books a few years ago but have never used. I’ve sliced them in half for easy gluing and saved the backs for their descriptions.

There’s still a table full of altar-y stuff in the yoga room. It’s everything that hasn’t yet found a home elsewhere in the house. I’m leaving it there so my husband can pick through it and find things for his own altar space. I also wasn’t entirely sure what to do with it all. I can identify a few things that I don’t want any more, but most of it I like and want to keep. Most of it will go into a big plastic bin except for a few things that just really want to be out.

As usual, I’ve gotten stuck on another bit of the Spiritual Nomad instructions. Since the first week, I’m supposed to have been doing breathing exercises/meditations for a few minutes each day in front of my altar spaces, whether empty or full. I haven’t done any yet. I think it’s because the word “meditation” or the phrase “breathing exercise” instills anxiety in me as I remember past attempts to do these things and how frustrating it was. I’m bipolar. It’s a daily effort to keep the inner dialogue quiet enough so that I can function in the rest of my life. Sitting down to do nothing but listen to my breath is akin to putting a megaphone from that dialogue’s mouth to the rest of my mind: it’s deafening.

So I’m trying to abandon the whole “listen to my breath” thing since that clearly doesn’t work for me. I’m going for a quiet conversation, instead, since shutting everyone up isn’t really an option. Not for now, anyway (I can see how it could be possible after a very long time of increasingly quiet mental conversations, though). Seeing the exercise in that way lessens the meditative anxiety, but not completely. There’s still that whole sitting still thing. I’m currently a bit of a large girl: sitting still for a long time isn’t very comfortable for me. I guess I could always sit in a chair instead of on the floor, or arrange myself differently on the floor. Laying down is always nice.

These are all excuses flung up by some even farther corner of my mind that really does NOT want me to do anything even remotely resembling meditation. It gets really angry when I try to come up with ways to get around these excuses, essentially poisoning my meditation practice with a lot of inwardly directed hostility. After a few sessions of that, I give up. Seriously, who the fuck wants to sit down with themselves and end up feeling like they’ve just had a horrible fight with someone? Which in essence, you did?

Little wonder, then, that I don’t think too highly of meditation. Monkey mind, my ass. More like an 800-pound gorilla running amok in my head. Plus my authority-driven mind is yammering at me that I’ve ruined the whole thing by skipping parts or doing them out of order. “You idiot, you’ve reassembled the altars before meditating in front of them for exactly seven days while standing on one foot and bleeding out a chicken! You’ve got the mixture all WRONG! The fabric of life itself is torn asunder!”

*sighs at self*

If I get nothing else out of Spiritual Nomad, it’s to lighten the fuck up and be more accepting of my particular bizarre flavor of Otherness Acknowledgement, which doesn’t like words and in general regards them to be flimsy human constructs that always fall short of truly describing their subject, as though they were mere shadows projected upon a wall, a la Plato. Which is an odd perspective to have as a writer. As such, it is the rare mantra that doesn’t feel completely forced (Sheila Chandra‘s “Om Namaha Shiva” is just such a mantra) and it’s difficult for me to come up with words to go along with a spiritual activity that don’t sound completely silly to me.

I know I’m just trying too hard. All of the non-verbal exercises have been extraordinarily helpful: I should give the others more of a chance instead of subverting them before I even try. All I have to do is sit down and light a candle and some incense, for heaven’s sake. Those are things I *like* doing! I should stop trying to ruin them with a lot of overanalysis. Then maybe it wouldn’t make part of me so angry to try to meditate or pray.

Clueless, Part Two


A while back I wrote an entry called Clueless about my inability to tell when people like me and want to be my friend. It’s not that I don’t have a lot of friends, it’s just that in some part of my mind I assume they’re there merely out of habit rather than desire. Which the rest of me knows is just fucked up and somewhat insulting to the people who do call me their friend.

It came up again the other day when someone very stressed out by finals said that they missed spending time with me and my daughter, and I remember feeling somewhat surprised that someone actually missed me, other than my daughter and husband. I mean, if people are my friends, then of course they would miss me when I’m not around or if they haven’t been able to see me for a while. It would be stupid (and again, insulting) to assume otherwise.

I don’t know why I do this, really. Enough time has passed between now and when I was incredibly insecure in my early 20s that I think I shouldn’t feel this way any more. I have achieved what I had sought for so long: to have a stable and long-lived community of friends, something my parents were never able to maintain. They couldn’t help but to offend people eventually, and the people they didn’t offend were just as fucked up as they were.

I need to work on appreciating my own worth. I’ve solved many other of my baggage issues, which is a fucking miracle considering how much of it I was hauling around. Seriously, if mental baggage had to be carried in something physical, I would have occupied an entire FedEx 747. I’m down to a small two-engine plane these days: just a few bags. One of the last ones, though, is the one marked “Poor Self Esteem”, destination code SOL. That’s a tough one. I have a mantra that I tell myself when I think I suck:

“I cannot suck.
I am surrounded by intelligent people who would
not spend time with someone who sucks.
Therefore, I cannot suck.”

It’s my personal Dune fear mantra (which is another fabulous one: I need to memorize it). I’ve told it to myself enough times that I think I suck much less than I used to, but it still needs tattooing on the inside of my eyelids, along with a Zen koan I recently read:

Let go or be dragged.

Amen. Perhaps I should see the baggage as being what’s in motion, rather than myself, and it’s dragging me along. Or flying the plane. That seems dangerous if I want to be mentally healthy. I wouldn’t let someone who’s delusional drive me around in a car: I shouldn’t let tenacious negative delusions drive my life.

Speaking of delusions, news on the headmeat front is fairly positive lately. I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned that the lithium went away last year (thank the gods) along with a couple of other meds that were causing skin and breathing problems (I like air, I’d like to have as much of it as possible, thank you very much). They were replaced by Lamictal and Ritalin, of all things. I used to think that disorders that “required” things like Ritalin were a bunch of trumped up hooey made up by teachers who just wanted a quiet classroom. I know differently now. Ritalin lets me focus and think. Without it, my mind meanders here and there, like that dog in “Up”.

“Squirrel!”

Recently I’ve added another: Saphris. Which unfortunately is incredibly expensive. Like $13 a pill (FUCK ME SIDEWAYS!!!), but unlike the other drugs in its class, it doesn’t cause severe sedation or weight gain (which is a misnomer: these drugs don’t cause weight gain, they cause uncontrollable munchies). Fortunately, it’s pretty new so the headmeat folks are still drowning in samples.  If I can float on samples for another year, I’ll be able to actually afford it since we’ll be done paying off an old debt. And I’ll probably keep taking it, because it’s outstanding at shutting off the constant mental chatter and musical jukebox going on in my brain (you only think you know what an earworm is like). A good friend calls it the Mental Dinner Party. Sometimes the guests are all happy and enjoying their meal and conversation. Other times they’re really angry and are throwing dishes and wine glasses at each other. Or knives, if it’s a really bad day (those are just analogies: I do not throw things at people). Saphris makes everyone get along.

Don’t get me wrong, I still get angry. But it’s a normal-in-the-way-others-get-angry sort of thing. It’s hard to describe how to tell the difference between good angry and bad angry. It’s a mental quality that’s impossible to tell someone about unless they’ve experienced it. It’s the difference between being in control, and being out of control. And the latter is very frightening, let me tell you. I’ll take anything that puts a lid on that happy horseshit.

On that note, I’m going back to working on my spiritual journal. It’s the most fun I’ve had creatively in a very long time.

I Can Hear Again


My altars reassembled themselves yesterday.  My next Spiritual Nomad task was to put three important things back onto my altar.  Since I had so many of them, I decided to put three things back onto each one of them.  That started a chain reaction I was unable to really stop.  As I placed the deities back where I needed them to go, the other things that needed to go with them became undoubtedly apparent, so I went ahead and placed items that shouted “I need to go here!”  I should also add that this process was kicked into motion by the arrival of our Hekate statue.

She’s even prettier than I thought she’d be!  I set her on a bureau to await the process of altar placement.  There was a mirror behind her, which enabled me to see both sides of her at once.  It was a magical moment and started the ball rolling.

So I spent about an hour setting the altars back up, first with their deities, then the other items.  After a while, I discovered I was standing over the table of Things, and nothing was speaking to me any more.  I realized it was because I had had too much stuff on my altars before I disassembled them.  What’s there now is exactly what needs to be there, with the possible exception of the family altar, which is on a good table, but in a bad place.  So I need to figure that out.

The energy of each altar is so much cleaner and clearer now without all of the extra stuff, and also because they focused themselves in the process of reassembly.  Previously, the altars were kind of muddled, with a bit of this and a bit of that thrown in, spiritually speaking.  Buddha had a place on nearly every one of them, and Lakshmi and Ganesha were also frequent altar attendees throughout the house.  This time, there are very clear energies associated with each one.  There’s the main shrine in the yoga room which still holds Buddha, Kali, and Shiva, but they’re arranged completely differently.  There’s one source of fire, not five.  I picked a different Buddha, the one made of clear lucite (also my first and oldest Buddha), and placed it in front of my Himalayan salt lamp.  It’s beautiful.  On the other side, Kali stands with Shiva before her.  Again, it’s really beautiful.

Lakshmi and Ganesha live on the family altar that still needs complete reassembly.  Buddha also lives on the dining room table along with a small singing bowl.  Hekate has her own place.  Quan-Yin in the form of an incense burner and Buddha in the form of a candle holder live on the kitchen windowsill along with a potted bamboo: this is the only altar that automatically has all four elements and needs nothing else.  It represents home and hearth, being in the kitchen.  I still have Buddha and Ganesha on my small computer altar.  Removing obstacles and staying calm are both good things when I’m on a computer.  I can’t seem to get away from having Buddha in multiple places around the house, but that’s okay.  He’s where he wants to be.  And I gave Erzulie her own space.  In the bedroom, of course, being a love goddess.  My divination tools also live there.  Her space needs further arrangement, but it’s definitely hers.

There’s a small luck altar on the top of a small drawer unit next to Hekate’s altar: it’s made almost entirely of Ho-Teis (the laughing or lucky Buddha for the rest of you: rub his belly!), of which I had six!  I also made a giant space for the hubbie to make an altar, something that he has not had since 1996, for a variety of reasons.  I went through the box of miscellaneous altar and other stuff and separated the wheat from the chaff, so to speak, and then separated his stuff from mine and put it all in a box for him.  Hopefully he’ll be able to re-establish his own sacred space, although I know for a fact that one of the reasons he’s never reassembled his altar is because I’ve imbued the house with so much spiritual energy and positive chi: it was almost superfluous for him to have his own.  Not that I tried to take over the house or anything.  🙂

Last but not least: the protection altar by the front door consisting of Bast and my dragon, which holds a protective energy I imbued into it a long time ago.  Cats were long regarded by the Egyptians as guardians of the house, and of children in particular.  I like having her by the front door, just as one of my own cats might greet me when I return home (they’re more like dogs than cats sometimes).

This is what’s left post-altar reassembly:

image

It’s made of candle holders, incense holders and burners, boxes, jars, bottles, and a few other miscellaneous items.  A few still need placing on an altar, since I really want to have the four elements represented somehow on each one, and incense has the benefit of being both Fire and Air.  Earth and Water are a little trickier, though I do have quite a collection of really nice rocks and rock slices.  Having all of this stuff together, I can tell which things are going to Goodwill (or a friend’s house) and which ones are staying.  Few of these things have any spiritual significance: they were just extra things that wound up on the altars because it’s hard for me to get rid of my pretty tchotchkes and the altars were the only places to put them.  I think what I’ll have to do now, if I want to keep the good stuff from the pile above, is make a box for the garage and then rotate items out from the house when I get bored with them.  It’s kind of a nice problem to have, having too many pretty things.  🙂

I think what has been the most wonderful things about tearing the altars down and then rebuilding them, is that I can hear God again.  Her voice is right there, in different tones for each altar or energy I’ve established.  And yes, God is a She to me, because I’m a naturalist and I think of the Earth as being female (which is not to disparage very necessary male energy in the world: I just choose to associate with the more feminine aspect, which is no less powerful than the masculine).  Her voice was very clear as I tore them down and placed things together, and even clearer when it was time to put things back.  It’s very nice to hear that voice and feel that energy again, and reminds me of my favorite spiritual experiences in the past.  There’s been a lot of flashbacking as I’ve handled each item and cleared it of stale energy.  And of course, there was a lot of that as I recalled when I got each item and who gave it to me, if pertinent.

In any case, if the goal of the exercise was to make the voice of God a bit clearer, mission accomplished!  And that voice gets a little clearer with each exercise I do.  Right now I’m working on a spiritual journal, which will be filled with images and quotes that remind me to stay connected to my own spiritual energy.  It’s already one quarter filled!  Once I got started, it was hard to stop.  It’s such a fun activity!  I’ll take anything that puts me in touch with that comforting energy again, which has been so long absent.  Welcome back, Dear.


Something that almost no one knows about me is that I like to sing, and that I have a really good singing voice.  I used to sing with a choir, but that kind of singing didn’t really touch me deep down, though I thought the songs were lovely and I enjoyed singing them.  Also, my voice was not drowned out by the others, but was part of a greater whole in which my own voice could not be individually sussed out.  I liked it that way.

I’m so self-conscious that I’m even afraid of expressing myself when I’m BY myself.  I sing in my truck when I’m driving all the time, but the music is usually loud enough that I either can’t hear myself very well, or my voice is part of the music, like when I was in the choir.  My voice reduces in volume automatically when the music’s volume goes down.  I’m afraid to hear myself for some reason.  It’s the same reason I can’t dance.  There’s something about that kind of free and open expression that makes me very afraid.  I think it’s because those kinds of expression must be full-on.  You can’t be fettered by self-consciousness or doubt or anything else negative in order to do those things to their fullest extent.  And for whatever reason, I am severely hampered by shyness and fear when it comes to things like dancing and singing.  I can do them to a certain extent when I’m inebriated, which makes me understand why so many performers are substance abusers.  It’s the only way they can get up there and do their thing.

I really want to be the kind of person who can dance and sing and not worry about what others think, including myself.  I wish I knew why I scrutinize myself so intensely to the extent that I can’t sing and dance just with myself.  That seems stupid to me, but the part of me that is afraid to do those things doesn’t think it’s stupid.  It thinks I just don’t understand, and I don’t.  Maybe that’s some other suppressed aspect of my childhood trying to free itself from time’s chains.

I also think it’s because I’m afraid of the attention that I know I will get if I express myself that way.  I know I can be amazing, and it fills me with fear to imagine having people watch me or hear me in that way, no matter how much they’re enjoying it.  That part of me wants to be free, but I don’t know how to let it go.

Singing and dancing aren’t the only things that I can’t or don’t do because of my own severe self-consciousness.  I know how to play some instruments very well (or at least I used to), but I was never able to fully develop my playing skill because I was afraid of other people hearing me, and after time that seeped into my own mind, making it difficult to even hear myself.  Maybe that fear of dancing, playing, and singing is just a manifestation of the same scrutiny I put my art through.  So much so that even now I look at pieces of my art that make others gasp, and all I see are mistakes.  I can’t see the beauty through my own perfectionism.

Also, when I think about what it might feel like to dance and sing, I want to cry.  Like there’s something inside that will be unleashed by doing those things, and I’m afraid of what it might be or for others to see it.  Maybe that’s that last ball of sadness that still lives deep inside me.  I used to think of my sadness as a bottomless well from which bad feelings were constantly upwelling.  I feared they would never stop and I would have to wallow in my past for my entire life.  Well, in recent times, I’ve begun to see the bottom of the well, or at least know that it’s there.  Writing down my life story had a great deal to do with that.  Seeing it all laid out and dragged from the proverbial closet put a lot of things in perspective.  So did drawing out the path of my life as it related to spirituality, my first task from Spiritual Nomad.

But there’s still this knot of sadness whose nature I can’t quite put my finger on.  I suspect it’s not based in anything but habit.  It’s the manifestation of the soldiers I stationed around my soul in order to protect it from bad people and bad things.  They’re very good at their job and have done it for so long that they can’t see anything but their original orders, like that Japanese soldier they found hiding on a Pacific island who would not deviate from his orders until the Prime Minister of Japan ordered him to stand down.  They also praised him for his tenacity and patriotism.  I’m trying to do the same thing with the guards in my mind.  Their job is done now.  Danger has passed.  But they don’t know what to do with themselves now, and so that ball of sadness sits there, very well guarded by now misguided mental soldiers.  Until it’s gone, I will feel choked.

I wish I knew how to tell them to stand down.  I wish I knew what to tell them to make them feel that their job is over but that they are appreciated.  That their protection has become a hindrance in the absence of ‘war’.

That they are keeping part of me caged.


Yesterday I wrote about getting stuck on this one aspect of Spiritual Nomad: stripping down one’s altar. Seeing as how I have at least five, that was a confusing thing to figure out which one I should pick, or if I should strip ALL of them. I went with the latter choice. I cleaned up the yoga room so there would be space to put everything (wahahaha! as I would discover), and then one by one went to each altar, removed each deity, and lovingly cleaned it with a cloth dampened with a bit of wood polish and then a dry, soft toothbrush to get into all of the little nooks and crannies that are always on statues.

Before I did that, though, I took a picture of each and every altar and all of the surfaces that have nice things that *could* be used on an altar. There were more than ten places in the house! I had no idea there were so many. I’ve just gotten used to them: I’m surrounded by deities no matter where I go in the house. I didn’t know how many until I put them all in one place. Holy crap. There are multiples of each deity with the exception of Hekate, who really, really needs her own statue (I want this one: http://www.goddessgift.net/hecate-miller-RP-HEC.html), seeing as how she’s the patron goddess of our house. We also do not have a statue of Hestia or Hathor, who are goddesses of hearth and home, one from Greece and one from Egypt, respectively.

Who we do have is this: Lakshmi, Ganesha, Quan Yin, Ho-Tei, Kali, Shiva, the Green Man, Bast, Dragon and Turtle Dragon, Lucky Cat, Catrin y Catrina, and La Virgen de Guadalupe. Wow! With everyone standing side by side, I couldn’t help but notice that the figure of Quan Yin is almost identical to the figure of La Virgen de Guadelupe. I’m willing to bet that happens a lot between the deities of the world. Take Buddha and Jesus. Both left a mundane life to pursue higher spiritual goals. Both preached peace and love as the path to wisdom and freedom. I imagine it goes on and on. I don’t know enough about the actual people, Jesus and Siddhartha, to be able to do any more comparison.

I also gathered together all of the candles, wax and oil, and cleaned them off as well. I have a lot of really pretty stuff after all these years. I’ve accumulated these things in waves. I’ll acquire a bunch of things, then get rid of some. Then I’ll get another bunch, and I’ll refine the collection again. So on and so forth. I’m really happy with what I have. Putting everything all together, though, I see a few things that I realize don’t jibe with everything else in the house that I really love. Some of the items I touched yesterday positively radiated with energy, particularly as I gently cleaned each one off with the soft toothbrush, which seemed to be scrubbing away not only years of dust and dirt, but also muddled chi.

The chi of our house is generally pretty good, as evidenced by how many people come here and say, “I love your house, it’s so peaceful.” But even good chi can get confused with itself and wind up in a tangled mess, like a pretty necklace that wasn’t stored carefully. So I felt that I was removing the cobwebs, so to speak, and in doing so revealed each statue anew. I held each one and carefully considered it as I cleaned it, especially their faces. I remembered where I had gotten each one, or if someone had given it to me, who it was and what they meant to me. Most of them had good memories associated, though a few had unhappy memories attached to them. Not because of anything that happened regarding that actual object, but because the relationship with whomever had given me that object had dissolved in the ensuing years.

Regardless, each received the same careful attention. When they were all lined up on the table, I surveyed the entire collection as a whole. I have never put all of my statues in one place like that before. The energy was so interesting, but not disharmonious whatsoever. It was easy to tell which things didn’t belong any longer, though. Those things are no less sacred: they just don’t match up with the energy of everything else. So I will try to gift those things properly so that they have a home where they will be properly loved.

Today I tackle everything else on the altars. The deities took the most time since there are more of them than anything else. But there still remain the incense holders and burners along with any other significant objects that live on the altars, like my triquetra medallion for Hekate or my skull mala beads from India. A cool thing from yesterday was rediscovering my ankle bells! They were around Lakshmi’s neck. She was happy to have them off, though. They had gotten very dirty with dust over the years, and as I took them off and cleaned them I could feel her energy build and even out, like an engine reaching its sweet spot. She is nearly as important a goddess around here as Hekate is. She deserved special treatment. 🙂

As an aside, I can’t help but notice that every time I finish a 750 Words entry, it takes me to an analysis page where it tells me my typing speed, how long it took to write, and other mundane statistics. But it also tells me what sorts of things I was writing about and how I felt, along with telling me if I was focused on myself, others as a whole, or another person specifically. I notice that as I write about working through Spiritual Nomad, the observations of my posts have been much more positive and extroverted than usual. Instead of being a mix of all kinds of good and bad things (often more negative than positive), they’re definitively upbeat. I think I should take note of that considering this is the first time I have truly focused on my spirituality in a very long time.

Rekindling


My karate dojo had a silent auction fundraiser last night. I brought my henna and glitter stuff to do body art for donation, even though I haven’t done either of those things in almost two years. I was a little nervous. I was worried I would suck after such a long time. A feeling that wasn’t made any better by my small practice design I did on my own hand, although I doubt that whatever I did would have made me happy. I’ve been suffering from a misperception about my art. Everything I do looks like ass to me, no matter how much other people love it.

It was nice to do that again, though. I only drew on or glittered a few people, but it was nice to be able to give something beautiful to someone and have them appreciate it. I worked for donations only. One of the things that killed my passion for henna two years ago was that I had been trying to monetize something that really is a sacred art to me, and to the people in the countries who use henna. I’m not a big believer in being rewarded or punished by a higher power, but in this case I do feel that, according to my own personal standards, I was suffering the consequences of trying to turn a sacred art into something that was NOT sacred.

So I stopped doing it altogether, and I’ve missed it so. I really have. There was a peaceful sensation to doing henna on myself that I had lost due to subverting that sacredness. I had lost my religion, so to speak. Well, last night I feel like I found it again in some small measure. Even though all I can see are the mistakes in the design I drew on myself, I once again feel a sense of fascination with the results of the bizarre plant that is henna, which is green but leaves a deep red stain. I love that dichotomy. And I love the ever-changing nature of a henna design. It’s different every day, like a living tattoo, albeit a temporary one.

I also rekindled another dormant desire, the one that made me want to go to karate class. The last time I was in class was the beginning of November. I had gotten my advanced yellow belt not long before, and for some reason I just wasn’t motivated to go to class. A few weeks turned into a few months, and I decided that I was just taking a hiatus from karate for an indefinite time period. I knew I would want to go back at the right time. Which seems to be now. I was very inspired by the black belt demonstration at the auction. I was reminded of what I liked about karate.

Now I just have to get over my self-consciousness at my woeful fitness level, larger size, and rustiness. I have inspiration for that too, luckily. I have my own past experience which tells me that I really can lose a lot of weight, it just takes time. I also have other students at the dojo to inspire me. One lady in particular has been busting her ass since she got there a couple of years ago and has lost an amazing amount of weight, about the same amount that I need to lose. Now, I don’t want to focus on losing pounds so much as I want to focus on being fit and healthy. Nevertheless, to be truly fit and healthy, I need to drop about 50 pounds to get myself to around 195. That’s the weight at which it becomes easier to find clothing that fits and at which I do not feel physically hampered by my weight or size. I can do yoga easily. I can do hard exercise without feeling like I’m going to die. And I feel better about myself, which is just about as important as the physical health benefits.

So tomorrow, I’m taking my karate stuff with me when I go to work, and I’ll split my shift so I can attend class. I’ll probably stick to the white belt classes for a few weeks, but then I’ll expand to other classes. Especially kata. I really love kata, and I have at least two new ones to learn from my promotion back in October. I also love the mental strength that comes with karate. I felt a lot more confident when I was going to class regularly. Once I get my class rhythm back, I’m going to work hard to keep it. I really do want to get my black belt someday. Then I get to play with staffs and break things. 😀

Bad Feelings


I got a letter from a large insurance company the other day informing me that they had a policy for my grandmother that might possibly be something I was the beneficiary of.  I raised my eyebrows at it in surprise.  I had remembered finding the policy (from 1934) in her folder of important papers and put it in the growing stack of Things I Ought To Do that sprouted after my mother, and then my grandmother, died.  Then I remembered why I never dealt with it.  I didn’t want to deal with the morass of paperwork that was very likely going to accompany the task of proving family lineage.  An easy task in thought, since I am indeed the last person who actually knew her that was also related to her.  A difficult task in practice due to the fractured nature of the family and the fact that my mother had her name legally changed in the late seventies, which is going to snarl the proceedings mightily in the absence of that paperwork.

I first need my mother’s death certificate, a task that will either be super easy, or a serious pain in the ass due to not knowing exactly which name is on all those records.  I may have to file that request two or three times before I get it right, and I’ll have to pay for every one of them.  Easy or hard, getting that will be accompanied by a lot of bad feelings given the nature of her death and because I have to utter the name and think about the horrible man that she lived with when she decided to shuffle herself from the mortal coil.  I have to think about the inequities of our country’s social service system, which would have essentially made her live under a bridge for two years before granting her the benefits that might have saved her life.  I have to think about our own relationship, which by then precluded any good feelings whatsoever: we hated each other.  I hated her because she was abusive and selfish, and she hated me because I refused to let her forget it or behave that way around me anymore, particularly since I had a brand-new baby only months old who was too important to be tainted by that bullshit.  Mom flat out told me not to offer her any help anyway, so I didn’t.

Following her death, her charming husband shunned my sister and I, dumped her ashes in his backyard, and later gave away the rest of her possessions, leaving us nothing, not even a coffee cup, to remember her by.  I let him know just what the rest of us thought of him and tried to move on.  It was the one and only time I’ve had the opportunity to tell someone to shove a red hot poker up their ass.  Hopefully it isn’t too difficult to see why dealing with anything regarding my mother’s death got shoved to the bottom of the Things I Ought To Do pile.

Fast forward five years.  I had had the blessed opportunity to actually spend some time with Gram after dangling the prospect of a visit in front of her since Mom died (don’t taunt old people, they don’t like it).  I spent several days with her in May 2007 and then again in September, when I brought the whole family out and she got to meet her great-granddaughter.  I didn’t know it would only be a year later that she would die.  In fact, her last year would take her away from her beloved cabin in the canyons of Orange County, though it was really for her own safety and that of the other people who lived there.  She just didn’t move fast enough to escape a brush fire.  Specifically, this one, the Santiago Canyon Fire of 2007:This fire would come within a single mountain ridge of utterly decimating Trabuco and Holy Jim Canyons, where Gram and her neighbors lived.  She went to stay with friends but her health precluded her ever living there again.  Less than a year later, she died in her sleep.  She was 85, just a few days shy of her birthday.

Memories of the Santiago Fire haunted me, and fire season was rapidly encroaching, so I knew I had to get out there to save what was in her cabin as quickly as I possibly could.  A couple of weeks later, I flew out and her dear friends Doug and Scarlett got me out there and later helped me pack up the UHaul that I was going to have to drive back to Texas.  Alone.  For 1700 miles.  First I would have to clear out the cabin of a woman who had been raised during the Great Depression and never.threw.anything.away.  And I do mean anything.  I had laughed and teased her about it when I had visited before, but all of those extra sheets, towels, paper bags, and other things actually came in handy.  Given the circumstances, I was reluctant to get rid of any of it anyway.

I still felt bad about it all, of course.  I had been unable to come and visit her again as I had wanted to, and Gram was one to hold a grudge.  I felt it was my duty to preserve what was left of her with as much dignity as possible.  These were important things, if not to the world, then to me.  They represented a family past that I had never, ever been privy to due to the fractured nature of her relationship with Mom.  It seemed the entire family was filled with women who were difficult to get along with.  I wouldn’t know anything about that.  *looks around and whistles*

Miraculously, and I mean that completely, the loads of her belongings were jolted down a 5 mile pitted washboard dirt road in the back of pickup trucks, packed into a UHaul, and then driven from Rancho Santa Margarita in California to Austin Texas without a single thing breaking.  Not even the three massive mirrors or the fragile glass and pottery.

And so began the long and arduous process of first, finding a place for it all somewhere in the house or garage, and second, going through it all, as it was all packed in boxes and Rubbermaid trash cans (one of the items about which I could hear her saying, “See? I told you so, that’s useful!”).  I found a pair of red canvas shoes that apparently I had worn as a baby.  I found her letters and pictures.  I found so many things that were wonderful to me but useless to anyone else that I did nothing but go through her things for the next two months.

Then I crashed.  There were so many questions in those boxes amidst the photo albums and books.  It became overwhelming after a while and I just couldn’t bring myself to go through any more of it.  Even today, there are a few boxes and a trashcan in the garage that still need to be gone through, which I’m sure Doug would love if I would get around to that, as he is now the owner of her little cabin in the canyon and they hold papers relevant to it.

I also found the aforementioned insurance policy, and knowing that I would have to drag all that bullshit about Mom back up from the bottom of the Things I Ought To Do pile, I did nothing about it.  I came to the proverbial screeching halt.  Now I have to start my engines again and try not to let it all bother me, too much anyway.  There’s just so much there, the mad and the sad and the disgusted and the raging and the depressed and so on and so forth.  Like a bubbling cauldron that no one in their right mind would ever want to stir.  But I have to.  If I want those last questions answered and those last connections forged, I have to.  It’s not even about insurance policies anymore.

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