Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Is Your Anahata Ajar?

Chakra is the Sanskrit word for wheel. In traditional eastern thought, energy moves through the human body’s seven main chakras, situated roughly along the spine. When the chakras are open, they “spin” life energy throughout the body, keeping us in balance. When a chakra is blocked due to stress, trauma, illness, etc., energy gets “stuck,” causing physical or emotional imbalance.

My recent road trip to Aberdeen led to this meditation on chakras. The trip was my annual pilgrimage to be a guest teacher, give a reading, and visit with my friend & fellow poet, Portia. I had to leave from there to meet Ray in Milbank, where his 70’s band Small Howard was going to play a benefit for the Catholic school and let me sit in on a few songs.

I had a wonderful time in Aberdeen—first year I’ve gone when they DIDN’T have a freak blizzard. Then, on the way to meet Ray, I stopped at Blue Cloud Abbey outside Milbank, just to look around. I wandered the grounds and ended up in the san
ctuary, a mammoth, cavernous long stone room with an arched wood ceiling and marble floors and columns. I made sure no one was around, then I did something I've always wanted to do: I sang in the sanctuary. I sang an old Sufi dance hymn that echoed in every corner of the massive room. By the time I finished singing and stopped to light candles on the altar of Mary, I was weeping like a little girl.

I don’t think my sobbing had anything to do with religion, sin, guilt, etc.; I’m not Catholic or a follower of any religious tradition. I think it was vibration—the echo in the room and in my bones suddenly, unexpectedly, tripped open my Anahata, the Heart Chakra. Tradition says that opening the Anahata can release emotions connected with past traumas or it can cause a sudden rush of love & compassion. I just know I wasn’t thinking anything that made me cry—I was just suddenly crying.

I ended up back in my car, crying most of the way from Blue Cloud to Milbank. And I know this sounds weird, but I am so grateful. I’ve believed this for a while now—music is the Great Trigger for me, the thing that can briefly crack open, or blow open wide, my Anahata. I feel it when I sing with bands—if the song is right and I can feel it in my ribs, I relax, feel a sort of spontaneous joy. I sometimes feel it at funerals, too, where it’s always the music, not the sorrow, that makes me cry.

So today I’m working on a poem about Saint Cecelia, who sang to God as she died (miraculously, since she lingered on a few days after two unsuccessful and one successful attempt to behead her). And I just know her Anahata opened, too.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Split-Pea Easter

I’m making split pea & ham soup today, which I see as a perfect metaphor for Easter.

I don’t know if Jesus was the son of God. Maybe he was only a charismatic guy who started a sweeping cult
at a time when poor locals were being taxed out of their homes and harangued by an invading “civilized” culture. Variations on this “savior” theme have happened many times since, and keep happening, all over the world.

I don’t know if Jesus was crucified and rose from the dead. Maybe Jesus studied, as some theories go, with Eastern yogis, and he knew how to stop his heartbeat & breathing, how to pull himself out of it three days later. Or maybe, as others have suggested, the Biblical sacrifice/rebirth theme is a later Christian re-vision of many pre-Christian traditions that tell similar stories.

I know for sure that it’s like the wandering murderer, the Misfit, said about Jesus in Flannery O’Connor’s story (O’Connor kept peacocks, BTW) “A Good Man is Hard to Find”: “If I’d’a been there, if I’d’a known, then things woulda been different.”

But because I don't know, Easter is my reminder that the life Jack Blizzard tried to stifle all winter is on its feet again, basking in the sunlight of longer, milder spring days, blowing Jack a big fat raspberry; that we have come through the long dark and have been stirred to life again by the amazing Cycle, and that the Cycle is pretty
darned reliable; and that every sacrifice we make for each other—giving up a parking space, paying a son’s phone bills while he figures out how to move under his own power, passing a kid in English class who’s barely making it, because you see a spark that desperately wants to be fanned into a fire, putting $5 in the homeless guy’s coffee can, laying down one’s life to save another—every sacrifice lifts us ALL up a notch.

Back to the soup metaphor…I know this bothers some folks, but I don’t think the OPU (Organizing Principle in the Universe) cares whether I believe in the Jesus story or not. I think the OPU just goes on stirring the Cosmic Soup, adding perfectly seasoned broth, perfect organic carrots & celery, perfectly lean ham, perfectly green split peas. And if we’re AWARE of the cycle of birth/death/rebirth working in our own lives, if we’re GRATEFUL for the sacrifices we’re able to make and those others have made for us, if we live the next 364 days believing in THIS, then we won’t be that one pea-shaped, molar-cracking rock in this otherwise perfect Soup. Happy Easter.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

April is NOT the cruelest month...

It’s April, a good month, no matter what crotchety old T.S. Eliot (scary poet in picture) says. It’s National Poetry Month, Easter Break at the University of Little Town, time for spring cleaning, and time to get the garden ready. So, in an effort to multi-task like a big girl, I’ve written the following poem to: (1) honor National Poetry Month; (2) take a break from grading; and (3) clean the academic cobwebs out of my fried little brain. The poem has nothing to do with gardening, so while you read this, I’ll go outside and play in the dirt…


There are certain things you must say
in any academic presentation
meant to stir the philosophical
fervor of a circumscribed audience.
In this postmodern conservative
hegemony, tacitly agreed-upon
ideas must be carefully expanded
and articulated vis-à-vis the resurrected
scholarship, indexed and archived,
of any reliable postcolonial ethnocritic
negating the Eurocentric socio-historic
interpretation and incorporating
the semiotics of interpretive punctuation
combined with standard academe-ese,
then vetted against any known ideas
in the same or similar literary traditions;
hence, a satisfactory Q & A.
Be sure to interject the plausibility
of linguistic fluidity as a rationale
for using words like dang or buttwad.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

The Dark Bubble

A good friend of mine committed suicide in 1976. Brent Bosley. That guy had the best Cheshire grin I’ve ever seen. Within the last few years, my son and I each lost a good friend, both suicides—Ike’s was quick & unexpected, Dave’s stretched out over years. I recently heard about another suicide, a young veteran, and maybe the unshakable trauma of war had a hand in his decision to leave this incarnation. But I’m starting to wonder if the suicides, the epidemic of depression, even the planetary energy of fear might be an unexpected result of this culture of immediate gratification we’ve created over the past couple of decades. We want everything now, we mostly get everything now, and just maybe, we’re losing our ability to see beyond NOW.

I started wondering about this when Ike killed himself. He was 20, a gorgeous, smart, talented, funny young man we’d known since the boys were 6th-graders. He was so good-natured, the kid practically glowed. We’ll never know if Ike chose his exit because of a bad breakup with his long-time girlfriend, because of struggles with drugs & alcohol, or because of unresolved childhood/identity/self-esteem issues no one knew about (maybe not even Ike).

I know I’m again oversimplifying. I know suicide doesn’t have just one reason, cause or explanation. And I know that back in the day, people killed themselves. Like Brent, who decided it was easier to gas himself in his grandma’s garage than to face his own shame/guilt and his mom’s daily ridicule over Brent’s beautiful sashay, his love of silk kimonos, and his longing to study ballet. I wish I could have convinced him that the very next weekend, we’d be arm-in-arm at the Barrymore in our kimonos, laughing it up until expensive red wine spurted out our noses.

I wonder, back even further when folks expected to weather hard stuff, expected to do without things and to have to plan long-term because nothing was instant, if people had better time/distance vision, if fewer of us got caught in the dark bubble that won’t let us see past the pain of

I believe that if Ike had been able to look
BACK over time, he would have seen a thousand people who adored him and needed him to be around. He would have seen joy in his life, like the time the boys boarded off the garage roof into piles of leaves, laughing so hard they peed. Or the roadtrips to the Omaha skatepark. Or the delicate thread that connected his heart to his mom’s. And if Ike had been able to look AHEAD, he would have known that however lost or tired he felt in that one moment, or the next, or even the next, he could push through to find more joy, more days of feeling found, helped, rested, loved, of being absolutely irreplaceable in the years to come.

You can’t tell people that. You can’t say:
This is the darkest moment, but it won’t be dark forever, and you’ll have more dark moments, but they’ll pass too, and all the moments that aren’t dark, the ones you don’t believe are coming, they’re why you need to stick around. Don’t think NOW. Think back. Think forward. You can’t say that to someone in the bubble; they can’t hear you in there. It’s the ultimate Catch 22, I guess—all you can see is NOW and you need to see past NOW—you have to live to know that living is worth it.