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