Sunday, October 14, 2012

Zelda at the Car Wash

And then there are those moments when I just really miss my son. And my practice and all this time on the battlefield tells me to hold steady, to be still and instead I jump up and down until my own weight shakes my house. I take off my clothes, rub earth and blood all over my body,  tell the practice to fuck off and go-for- broke in the madness of another level of heart opening. There are venues in which manners and my commitment to hold space for others is essential, is priority, is service and I can and I do it with grace. But do not be fooled. I am and will always be a work in progress.  The moment I think I have some new insight, some kindness, some understanding, some knowing... something new shows herself. It is the size of a cubic centimeter, a small little window into this human heart of mine. So I follow it.

I am a bit skeptical of people who are impressed with my "grief work".  There is nothing impressive about it. Grief is death. Death is messy. I am messy. All I know is that staying in it carries me to a new level of awareness, but each level is its own legend of Zelda. Remember that game? The one where you begin the game with a small shield and then a sword becomes available to you only after you enter the cave... so the awareness (the weapon) is always met with a challenge equivalent to your resource. As you move onto new levels, the game doesn't get easier. What starts out as a cave turns into underground labyrinths. You are frickin fighting for the Triforce of Wisdom. The final level is Death Mountain where you don't stand a chance unless you have acquired the silver arrow.  Then there is the Princess of Zelda... enter new relationship and good god... I'm just saying'... it gets more complex.

Someone who shared how"impressive I am" asked me a few months ago if I have done a lot of processing around the loss of a child. She is a prominent grief therapist in the Bay Area and this converation was over dinner so I felt that she could handle a bit of my skepticism.  My first answer to her question was more questions... " do you always refer to people's children as articles instead of pronouns? Can you please ask the question again referring to "my child" instead of "a child? I can only speak for myself".  Then I asked her to elaborate on what she meant by process. She meant process kind of like a car wash. You pay to have a machine clean off all the messy as you drive your car through and come out the other side kind of sparkly. These weren't her words exactly but the simile fits her meaning of grief process. 

Here is the thing with "grief process". Only parts of us are mechanical. My opinion is that our work is to transform the mechanical parts of ourselves not fucking wax them.  Otherwise we are just adding layers of habitual response when the faculty of grief is to penetrate the layers, to peel back the levels, to enter the labyrinth well equipped because we have done the work. Time doesn't give you silver arrows, only the quest does.

Grief is not a process with an end result. I am not a conclusion or a consequence. I am interested in being a refuge, a safe place to be with death, to be honest with how she has her way with me,  but this is not a place that has a finish line. This is a place that has seen women flip cars to save their children... and if we do want to wash them... we do it ourselves in cowboy boots,  bikini tops, and our collected quiver of arrows.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

create a little ruckus with your rakusu

I have no idea what it means to grieve properly. Even if I did I would do it improperly. I have no idea what other people experience when they loose their children. Even if I did I would only have the high aim of being present for their stories. I do not know the world of suffering. I have been well supported as I make my way across this groundless landscape.  I do not know how to be helpful to other mothers who will be asked to enter a battlefield with their babies on life support. I do have a relatively lavish sense of style when it comes to warrior armor and I am devoted to being a subordinate to bereaved mothers. But I follow their cadence.

The warrior wear that looks good with grief is more grief. Grief and her radical way of fucking with time. Grief and her sneaky way of hiding in our lungs. Grief and her cunning side-kick shame. Grief and her brilliant way of bringing us into deeper relationship with our own mortality . Grief and her companion Praise. When we are willing to wail,  our heart songs can be found there. Grief and her way of worshipping life. Grief and her ability to speak every language. Grief and her amazing ability to take us out of rational mind. Grief and the magical realms that show themselves as doorways into the Mystery. Put that kind of impenetrable armor on and see who shows up for battle.

You don't go to battle with Heavy Weights like death and expect to come though it unscathed. You do show up ready for warfare regardless of knowing that you are always going to loose. It's a kind of turf-war with reality that we engage in when our mad love of life needs us to defend her. Here is the secret... the armor that serves us in battle will start to feel very heavy if we are not willing to take it off during ceasefire. The armor that protects us can also destroy us if we hold onto it too tightly.

I just completed my first year of chaplaincy school at Upaya. I am in an environment of big hearted humans committed to being in the realms of insanity. Part of my commitment to stand on their shoulders is to make a rakusu. It's a kind of rendition of the Buddha's robe that I have to sew and wear in my willingness to serve as a chaplain. Rakusus are worn around the neck of Zen Buddhists who have taken the precepts. It is said in legend to resemble the rice fields seen by the Buddha while walking on pilgrimage.  It's a kind of warrior wear. One option was to sew it out of all black fabric. Another option was to sew it out of a collection of fabrics that are meaningful to me. I chose to sew my rakusu out of Max's baby blanket. This meant dying it black.

Let me just be clear. Max's baby blanket is the blanket that I held him when we thought he was going to recover. Max's baby blanket is the blanket that I held him in when I knew he wasn't going to stay. Max's baby blanket is the blanket I held him in as he left his body and the same blanket he was wrapped in when we gave his body to the crematory.

This was my armor for many many months. I wore it for every ceremony. I wore it the first time back taking the seat of teaching yoga.  I wore it to speak with Max's dads.   I wore it to get my blood drawn so I could donate my breast milk. I wore it to the frickin' bank. I wore it talking on the phone to other mothers who had their children on life support. I wore it to bury Max's placenta.  I wore it when I interviewed to get into Upaya. I wore it to sleep every night. And then one day it was just time to cut it up and dye it black.  It was time to turn Max's baby blanket into this tangible form of ceremony. The only way I am able to truly serve other mothers is to transform my story into a sword that travels with me. It cannot stay in its form because getting stuck is not an option. The armor that serves us in one situatian will only save us when we are able to discern when to put it on to go to battle for others.

And so it is.

LET (all that) LOVE IN


Sunday, July 22, 2012

Transfer, Transition, Transformation

Max's dad will continue to fill up these pages. Our story has felt simultaneously too robust to capture and too fragile to share. This blog has been devoted to the voice of women while intentionally trying to stay bigger than gender. It feels perfect to share this piece below on July 22 from my grandmothers kitchen in SD. The bigger picture is always more clear from a distance. The blog below is also posted on a new blog set up by our yoga studio to continue a conversation about practice, this path, transition and travel.

 Here she is:

 This is another stage of severance with reverence. Joel Tessier is the new owner of Warrior Won School of Yoga. Context is the set of circumstances that form the setting for an event. And although at this stage of the game,  a change of ownership to the yoga studio feels relatively subsidary, the back story is significant. This is less the story of my relationship to owning a business, moving a business, and selling a business. That story looks a little like this. I never really figured out how to run one well. I am and have always been a much better yoga teacher than a business owner.  I have lots of ideas,  less follow through. I detest stability and security and would rather eat nails than play it safe.  And although these qualities make for a venturesome and bold life, they do not totally compliment running a business. This is a story about rescue, resentment, going to the zoo, hair gel, the denying force, autonomy, partnership, love, loss, barefoot running, silks, lifting way more weight than we thought we could ever handle, and what we continue to learn about staying in relationship...even when you want to poke each others eyes out with a plastic fork.  This about loving each other a tAhousand different ways. This is about watching Joel give his breath and CPR to my son so that I could be Max’s mom for eight days and learn to be his mother this lifetime.  This is a story of Joel not leaving Max’s side from the moment he handed his trembling little body to the paramedics. This is a story of moving into Kapiloani NICU and learning to be parents in an environment where you cannot save your children. This is about Joel only speaking to Max in French because that might be the secret language he needed to stay. This is about Joel trusting my decision to let Max go.  It is a story of wanting to support each other but not wanting to sleep with each other. This is about moments of feeling completely isolated from each other because we grieve differently. This is about yelling at each other, because we are meanest to the ones we rely on.  It is a story about me learning to trust that men can rise up, show up and follow through. It is a story of me wanting to walk away from Balancing Monkey after selling the house and Joel inviting me to ask bigger questions about what ways I want to serve our community and the teachings.   This is about me changing my mind a hundred times and Joel consistently accommodating my inconsistency because he believes I have something valuable to offer.  This is about feeling not good enough, not chosen, and then seeing the reflection that we never leave each other.  It is a story of parenting our spirit child and believing that sharing a yoga studio would be one way to nourish creation.  It is a story of me having to compromise after I spent six hours hanging aerial silks at the Crossfit Gym without asking.  I thought it looked modern and chic.  Joel thought it looked like an Arabian nights themed high school prom. I called it the denying force. He called it victory.  This is about running barefoot around the Big Island on Max’s one-year birthday because no matter what, Joel will always be Max’s Dad. It is a story of me meeting Lani, loving her and seeing Joel happy in a healthy relationship.  This is about me knowing deep in my heart that I have other work to do. It is a story of me telling Joel that the next decade of my life will be devoted to grief utilization and serving women who have lost their children . This is about me becoming a Chaplain and Joel becoming a better  business owner.   This is about Joel being committed to  a thriving yoga studio so that I have a place to return to teach and we all have a place to practice. But mostly this is a story about two simultaneously arrogant and humble warriors who are committed to saying “yes” to life with a certain vigilance about trying not to capture it.  It is a story of Warriors Won. I know in my heart that the yoga studio will continue to thrive as a community with a deep love for practice and for each other. As Warrior Won makes this move to new ownership by a man who has supported us from the sideline these past two years,  I invite you to stay rooted in practice and each other.  Our love of yoga and journey on this path is in our bones and independent of anything outside of ourselves.   With all of this said,  I deeply appreciate you supporting me and the yoga studio all of these years. Your practice fed me. Your practice housed me. Your practice carried me through the loss of our son. Your practice built Warrior Won. Your practice is putting me through chaplaincy school. Your practice will give Joel a new challenge. Your practice will continue to give me a place to return to and share all that we are constantly being asked to grow into. Pranams Warriors, Pranams Monkeys, Pranams Warrior Monkeys. I love you. Thank you Joel for housing us, believing in me, and rising up to support the ways I wish to serve. I am committed to our story continuing to nourish the whole. Love, HH

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

when your best friend gives birth to a son

I was actually having a 9pm picnic at Coconut Island. Six hours earlier we had gone for a long walk together.  The only way warriors walk these days is if one of us is too pregnant to run. We prefer running. We are predictable in our way of really wanting to feel our bodies. Another offering death at the dinner table makes is a steady reminder to run while you can and even if you are past your due date... at the very least put on your big girl pants and walk up a great big hill. So on Tuesday, June 12 Master P, her unborn son, and I walked up Kuku'au.

Master P is a book end. She was the last warrior with me to hold Max's body. She took his body from my arms after he had left it and delivered him to the nurses. He imprinted upon her chest. She slept in the blue shirt she was wearing that day at Kapiolani Medical Center for many months and keeps it next to her bedside on the occasions when she needs to be reminded of the work we are here to do. She selflessly served as my cognitive function so that I could just be Max's mom and stay in the medium of in-between worlds during the 8 days he was embodied. While I pumped my breast milk, she rubbed my head. When I received Max's ashes and had to put them in the car, she put him in a seat belt in the back and cried with me the entire drive. She fed me. She housed me. She never once felt sorry for me. She gave me a map for the brand new landscape of a mother who lost her son, called me a warrior, helped me craft my weapon and encouraged me to slay the bullshit and hand out high fives. When I say things, like "I think Max chose us because he knew we would do the real work of the heart", instead of thinking I have gone bat shit crazy, Master P simply says "I think so too". During those moments when I would have preferred to curl up in a dark corner, she put me back in the water on a long board.  I would not be doing the work I am doing at this moment if Master P was not in my life.

Master P being pregnant and having a son 15 months after I lost one was both in the same breath,  very normal and extraordinary. Both of us are fully aware that life in all of its robustness, in all of its tenacity, in all of its laboring to actually get through is radically precious. I think it is why Master P, without missing a beat asked my midwife, April to deliver her son.

So this is how we did it. With the amazing support of April and Rich Pierce...Master P gave birth to Cooper Kai Awesome Pierce at 11:27pm in the horse troff on their lanai in upper Hilo. I got the whole thing on video. A hundred other babies have been born in that tub, each one a miracle. Cooper was nothing shy of a marvel. Master P had the kind of delivery that can modestly be chalked up as "perfect". We knew Cooper was going to stay and still there was a smile of relief when he made it through. His small private victory was also a colossal moment for all of us.  There was nothing but Joy. The sadness of knowing that our boys will never ride waves together had nothing to do with the awareness that they will, indeed never be far.

This is what we keep learning over and over again, grief will move you if you allow it. It will move you deeper into your heart. It will move you away from trauma. It will move you into a place of really LIVING, of celebrating the new life all around, of feeling the pulse of life wanting to live its fullest expression. Here is the thing, you cannot rush it. Grief has it's own time warp. It is different for all of us. Grief will demand everything of you, it is sticky, it is insane and it is also medicine for the whole community if we use it.    It will move you into a place of pressing your best friends sacrum while she has contractions over the tub. It will move you into a place of making her a placenta milk shake twenty minutes after she delivers a beautiful baby boy. It will move you into a place of spending the first night with mom and baby in their bed, the three of us all snuggled together, mom and I taking turns poking Cooper to make sure he is breathing.  We are so wildly and perfectly human, both warriors of the heart and mothers having no idea what we are doing. Thank god for April.

Master P.  Thank you for letting life move you. April Thank you for midwifing life through both of us. Rich Pierce Thank you for being the most supportive husband on the planet.

To Breast milk all over the place.
I love you.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Death Manifesto from Eureka Valley

I found a long piece of wood in the desert during my time with the school of lost borders (which if you get a chance do go be with them... holy hanuman GO).  I wrote this on April 22 with a ball point pen on that long piece of wood of which I hand carved a spear with my knife.  There is a certain sharpness that I own.  I have added a couple of sentences... since one thing time does offer is a bringing us closer to our own death in all of the forms that takes.    I offer it to you to take as you like from the vastness of the Eureka Valley of California from the great big quiet in the spaces in between breaths where Max and his marble players praise all of us, all of it, all of this as holy.

death manifesto from two valleys north of death
Dear Friends, Lovers, Lovers of Friends, Lovers of Life’s Mysteries and Warriors of the Heart. Please do get comfortable. I know. I devoted my entire life to teaching how to be present, steady and open in the radically uncomfortable but the desert taught me how to take a seat in the shade. Life will bring plenty of heat, plenty of windstorms. When they do come please do offer the gift of asking for help. It will change your life for the better.
Love is not about getting what you want. Love is not about getting what you want.  Love is not about getting what you want. And yet love with your entire being. Love radically and way too much. But whatever you do please do not try and capture it. 
Remember God, Your Beloved, or Your Big Bird.  or whatever it is that brings you into deeper relationship with your heart's longing. 
Cut in line and then buy everyone behind you a cup of coffee. Your beauty is your broken so please accessorize your scars by sharing your story.   Donate your breast milk even if your babies die. And when someone tells you that you have capitalized on your baby dying, give them a hug. They need it. 
 Love your work in a way that you would do it even if you were not getting paid for it. Eliminate the word “should” from your vocabulary. Get to know the invisible plane that is always conspiring to totally support you.  Coincidence awareness is learning God's language, so pay attention. 

 Be shameless, unapologetic,  unstoppable and totally vulnerable. When the waves look scary, paddle out. When mother ocean tells you it is too big out there, catch the next wave in. And yes, go heal a broken relationship and then release it. 

Use big words incorrectly. Make up your own punctuation. Take off your underpants. Write your advance directive. Drink sunshine.  Please just tell the truth. Hoarding it, concealing it or skirting it is both cowardly and time consuming. Truth always works its way out.  Go for a run. One day you will not hate it.  Divorce your grudges and then marry yourself. Invite all of the Bodhisattvas to your wedding including your mother. 
Our stories teach us where we have been, who we are now and all that we are becoming while simultaneously inviting us to outgrow them.  we are only here to grow. Replace the word "intention" with the words "compassionate action", you can intend all you want and still be a bastard. Note to self... sacred wounds are not sacred if they continue to hurt the people you love especially yourself.
 Give life all of you. None of us are making it out of here alive.  Please stay too intense. When your body does go it will have been very well used.  Please tell “hope” to fuck off and send someone flowers and a random thank you card instead. Let devastated, broken open and impossibly happy share the same smile. 
Even in the moments of impossible sadness, please do keep your sense of humor. 
and keep letting love in. there is nothing else. 

Friday, March 30, 2012

Fear is real, So are treasures

For both Max Ka'hanu Bumblebee Heintz's Birthday and Re-birthday I have been in desert landscapes with huge rocks. This morning I drank my cup of coffee on a great big orange stone sofa next to a juniper bush full of bumble bees in Joshua Tree National Park. One sting will kill me. Instead of moving away,  I just lay next to them. There is nothing to run from or toward.  Just this. Just this. Just this.  In my hands The Tibetan Book of the Dead and right there on page 39 is Rilke, “Our deepest fears are like dragons guarding our deepest treasure”. Yes. This path can be a tight rope of reckless and fearless. Reckless would be stepping into the juniper. Waking sleeping dragons is not my work.   I am interested in the fear that guards the treasure, and for that I am a student of the dragon slayer. My greatest fear as a mother was loosing my child.  One year ago today I held my son as he left his body.  Fear is real, so are treasures.   None of us stay. Some of us stay longer. My experience is that while we are here,  we are here to love.  I am bias. I am Max’s mom, but the amount of love that poured through his eight days is jackpot style.  What one year has done is reveal where all that gold has been scattered, planted, transformed and transcended.  Thank you for sharing your golden sprinkle Max stories with me.
I have been in ceremony for a full year. For many months there was a deep sense of urgency to gather all of the treasures Max was offering. I would pull all nighters downloading his teachings, afraid that I was going to miss something. I believe it was my way of transferring the neglect that accompanies the loss of your children.  By the way... this is one of the reasons there is such a charge around TIME for grieving parents.  More "time" equates to more abandonment. Of course your children are in the realms beyond time and space where abandonment is impossible. But this is not totally obvious at first. The umbilical chord is still pulsating. Not only is the veil thin, my experience is that it barely exists. Max was right there. The only thing that scared me was him leaving again. I am now anchored in that impossibility. At this one year mark, what I realize is that I have been growing wild fig tree roots. The madness of my willingness to stay totally in it has grounded me so deeply in his teachings it would be like being afraid of the fig tree bearing tangerines. Impossible.  Max only stayed up with me all night because I needed to stay up all night. He does not need me. He likes my company. I am his student, and like any great Guru what is being offered is the transformative quality of a relationship with our own heart. It is my journey.   This has been one of the most difficult pieces. Max loves me. He uses me as one vehicle to share his teaching. He has many vehicles. But he does not need me. He is pure LOVE.  Love does not need.

I remember at times wishing I could be in relationship with my dead baby instead of my Heart Teacher that I was a vagina portal for. I was wearing a red Angels baseball hat when I realized that was never going to be the case. The former more devastating but more finite and less work. I could have chosen that path. There are really great books for that path. That path usually looks like this: "denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance".  That path just never resonated. My path is one of studentship to my own heart.  I am lucky. I have a teacher. We each have a unique path to that place. We make offerings and meet extraordinary teachers along the way. Max left for me to go the next level of the heart.  For me the question has never been “why”.  The question has always been “what now?”. So this afternoon we went for a walk in that big Mojave Desert with those peculiar spiky, twisted Joshua Trees and those huge monzogranite jungle gyms and here is what the earth shared when I asked “what now?” “Heather, Small human amongst these big rocks.  Even these small hidden rocks have big patience. So small human be in the big patience. Be in the big beauty. Keep walking the path.”

Thursday, March 15, 2012

You do not bury Placentas... YOU PLANT THEM

me following in the footsteps of warriors

On Saturday, March 3 four warrior women made another offering of their love to plant Max's placenta with me. It has almost been a year. The umbilical chord was so full of life it was nearly pulsating. The rich smell of fresh blood and the crimson color that is women was mesmerizing.  I gave birth. I gave birth. Max is such a great big Being that sometimes I loose track that he actually came through me. I did give birth to him and his placenta. I have held both.

The below is my experience of how warriors serve a mother when she says it is time to bury the placenta of her deceased baby. Here it is.

 you load up your warm clothes and get in the car with her.
 you trust her instinct that she knows exactly where to go.
 you hike to the top of a mountain.
 you nearly fall off the side of that mountain following her to the perfect Koa tree.
 you get down on your knees and dig in the dirt with her.
 you rub the earth all over your body.
 you examine the placenta with such precision that you actually feel the flesh that held her son in her uterus.   you place it in the earth with a song.
 you let your tears roll down your cheeks and nourish the offering
 you smile when the mother says "you do not bury your baby's placenta YOU PLANT IT. I can feel the earth breathing"
 you look her straight in the eyes when she tells you "something in my cells has shifted... it is a feeling of re-birth."
 you look up at the sky and feel your own heart lift to meet Max.
 you share with her your own experience of what you fear most and then share how you love more radically because of it
you walk down the backside of the mountain not saying anything but holding hands in the sunshine
you place your hands on your own pregnant belly and know that nothing is certain, that life will moves through us, and as mothers and all we can really do is love our children
you drive back down from the mountaintop knowing that life will never be the same and yet we love the ordinary... the magical ordinary

This is the path of the warrior... let them see it in the way we walk

walk on through, again and again, blood may be planted for beauty to bloom, get the earth all over you, walk through

all love

Monday, February 13, 2012

Please stay "too Intense"

Max and I have moved out of his chamber.  Max's 3 glittery M A X letters came off the wall. I would feel like I am leaving something behind but by now I know that we always are. Sentimentality is a very slippery slope. Places are like people in the way that they carry a certain energy, but hold onto anything to tightly and you will squeeze the life force right out of it.  I am living in 300 square feet. I call it the "Bamboo Tube", not much wiggle room except for the narrow passageway to the light.  I like it this way. Intense containers with no place to run.

I suppose I too am an intense container or so I have been told.

People say the most incredible things to me. It is all well intended, or not... it actually doesn't matter.  Please don't waste your time trying to figure out if people are well intended.  I am more interested in how we walk and what actually comes out of our mouth. At this stage in the game it is all grist for the mill and yet I have learned something that I believe is worth sharing.

Very clear people have said to me, " Heather it has to get easier, nothing can be more difficult than loosing a child".  Although endearing, "getting easier" is not Max's teaching. Here is his basic teaching, "love is radical, love is our birthright, love is not an economic equation, love doesn't get you anything,  and yet the act of loving and ripping open is what we are here to do,  be both shameless and vulnerable, stay triumphantly heartbroken and accessorize it with red lipstick and heels." Of course there is the advanced course in playing planetary marbles but let's stick with the basics.

This practice of staying open and saying "yes" is not bias. Staying open is saying "yes" to life. But saying "yes" to death is also Max's teaching. Things will end. Love will kick your ass. You will loose it. Sometimes love is a moment, a month, a marriage, or a total miss, no matter we get a taste.  My teacher Max is all love and no bullshit because all that "love" means to my teacher is that you do it anyway. Trust me we are going to loose it in the form that it found us. So when it finds you, when it comes knocking on your door, make room, write your love haikus,  move the furniture because it has a tendency to flood, make friends with it's container but please remember that love is only a current a content of sorts that has no bias for it's container.  The best we can do is become a vessel and let it move through us.

Here is the new piece and one that has taken me a few weeks to understand,  an incredible part of loving is also knowing when it is not. Please listen. Vessels must have valves. They are vital.  Saying yes to life does not have to mean saying yes to everyone or everything. Discernment is the most powerful weapon a warrior can hone. Letting love out is as important as letting love in. Listen to your instinct.

Sharpen your skills.

And please do stay "too intense".