Body Love

I had a startling revelation a couple of weeks ago.

I, the creator of a blog called embodied experiments, have not been fully embracing my own embodiment.  In fact, I have been blaming my body for some things that weren’t my body’s fault at all.  For years.

If you’ve been following the blog, you know that I had an intense childhood, and that one of the intense things I experienced was incest.  And very early on I heard and embraced the truth that “it’s not the victim’s fault.”  Only, I didn’t realize that I’d already put the blame somewhere, and that I hadn’t only assigned it to my perpetrator.  I didn’t realize that some part of me had decided that everything that happened was because my body was wrong.

We teach what we need to learn, and I can see how I had to become a fierce advocate for full embodiment in order to dredge up enough ferocity to turn and look at the truth – that blaming my body for the trauma I experienced has been blocking me from my own full embodiment for all these years.  That if the relationship between my consciousness and my body is a marriage, we’ve been sitting in marriage counseling on opposite ends of the couch, my body pleading with me to look at her, embrace her, make love with her…and my consciousness sitting stone-faced; angry and untrusting, full of blame, unable to see her as anything other than a betrayer.

Our bodies love us.  It’s kind of a radical truth in my world right now.  Our bodies love us, and they long for us.  They want us to fully inhabit them.  They want us to partner with them in the trinity of inner-marriage – where body exists, consciousness exists, and self exists as the dance of the two together.  And I know I’m not alone in having a story about my body being wrong.  We all have our own reasons; we come to it in different ways…but I think most of us have something like this hanging around. Continue reading Body Love

Ease and Grace

Hello, dear readers.

It’s been a long absence, full of busy-ness and body-ness. I’m working on a post for you all about my relationship with my body, and new ways I’m finding to engage in body-love and self-care…but while I finish that up, I am beyond thrilled to present to you: the very first of the previously promised guest-posts!

This post was written by the fabulously talented Amy Lee Czadzeck, author of the poetry chapbook “Small Gift”. I’m honored to know her, inspired by her journey and creativity, and deeply moved by her words, here:

Continue reading Ease and Grace

Happy Earth Day!

Good Planets are Hard to Find, Don't Blow It

Today is Earth Day, 2015.

You will be inundated, today, with posts and emails urging you to hug a tree, plant a tree, sign this or that petition to save the planet, protest fracking and pollution, and probably buy some fancy, earth-friendly product that is on-sale today, because what’s a holiday without a sale, at least in North America?

I’ve decided to join the inundation of Earth Day posts, but in a slightly different direction.  Today, I want to remind you that you have a piece of the planet that is your very own.  A portable piece of Gaia; a little slice of Shakti, as my teacher’s teacher would say.

You have a body, and it is distinct from the planet, but not separate from the planet, just as you are distinct from your body, but not separate from it.

My invitation to you today is to celebrate Earth day, and to include as part of that celebration an outpouring of love to your own skin and bones, whatever that looks like for you.  Maybe it’s about preparing a delicious, wholesome meal for yourself.  Maybe it’s about letting your body move freely through space – dancing or walking.  Maybe it’s reminding your body of its connection to the Larger Body of the Earth; lying on the grass; walking in bare feet.  Maybe your relationship to your body needs some tending; you might consider asking a friend to give you a hug or a massage; you might give yourself a foot rub.  Or make a gratitude list of all the things you’ve never thanked your body for. Or write a letter to one specific part of your body.  The possibilities are endless.

Whatever you do, the invitation is to make it a Love-Fest; a Celebration.  Your body is what sustains your aliveness as an incarnate being, just as the planet is what sustains our aliveness as manifest reality.  So on at least this one day, let’s remember that through our bodies we are directly connected to the planet, and that is so, so amazing.  Let’s remember that having a body is a gift; that the intricacy and complexity of the human form is mind-blowing.  Let’s remember all the pleasure and wisdom that our bodies offer us, and let’s celebrate not only the earth, but also our own embodiment, which is our connection to the earth.

Happy Earth Day.  We inhabit one planet; let’s love it.  We each get one body; how will you choose to love yours today?  Let me know in the comments below!

Crying for Challah

I make a lot of challah.  The retreat center I live at often engages in a specific process involving challah, and I’m lucky enough to sometimes get to be the chef for the weekend, which means I’m the one responsible for making said challah.

I could probably write a whole book about challah, and maybe someday I will.  It’s a truly magical bread, and the making of it is a potent process.

Sometimes I cook with friends; sometimes they make the challah; sometimes I do…sometimes we create it together.  Sometimes the kitchen is full of chaos and noise while I’m kneading the dough and braiding it.  Sometimes I’m happy; sometimes I’m sad.  Every challah is perfect, even the imperfect ones, and every challah-making experience is a ritual in its own right and comes with its own challenges and lessons.

Continue reading Crying for Challah

Transition: New Home, New Stories, New Life

Wow, note to self – blog about welcoming the void, and the void appears…it’s been almost two months since my last post, and they’ve been months of going inward, certainly, and then moving outward into my life in a new way; a time of transition.

I engaged in a delicious, ordinary, everyday ritual: I moved.  I sorted through all of my possessions – touched everything I owned – and released most of it, passed along with gratitude to someone who will use it.  It was, for me, joyous, even in the difficult moments.  And there were difficult moments as my system processed so much change all at once.  But the bumps were all navigable; I felt so ready to let go of what was no longer needed.  And in the letting go, I could feel the return of all the spanda, or life-force that I had tied up in maintaining a bond of ownership with those things.  I felt energized from it, and it was a good thing, too, because transition takes energy, and I needed every drop I could get.

I’ve moved in to a cozy little bungalow, on-campus at the retreat center where I’ve studied and trained and cooked and led, and above all, healed and grown for the past seven years and change.  I’m here to continue to do all of those things and more, in the form of a six-month internship, a program that has been referred to as “personal-growth boot-camp.”  I’m so excited.

I’ve been here for a couple of weeks now, so I’m settled in, and the work has begun already, by which I mean I’m coming face to face with the stories I tell about myself and the world, and am undergoing the same process I went through while moving, only this time it’s on a different level – instead of sorting through possessions I am sorting through perspectives, and releasing the ones that I no longer need.  This, then, frees up the spanda I had tied up in maintaining the perspective, which I can use to fuel more aliveness in my life, or to fuel a new perspective on something.

This is not always comfortable.  The tricky thing about perspectives is that we tend to identify with them; we internalize them until we believe that they are part of who we are.  I think we each have one true Perspective – one essential Perspective, that is  – the Perspective of our very essence.  I think that one Perspective really does define us; it makes us who we are.  This larger Perspective is unchanging and cannot be released.  The smaller perspectives are the ones that I am talking about.  They are invented as attempts to explain the nature of reality to ourselves when we lose true Perspective.  By nature, they are partial.

Okay, it’s all very abstract, so I’ll concretize it a bit.  Here’s one of the ways this process of perspective-shedding has looked:  I used to tell a story that I hated winter and that I couldn’t stand the cold or the grey.  This was a limited perspective – it was connected to the idea that I am somehow separate from nature and it’s rhythms and cycles and seasons.  I told this story for so long that I had begun to identify with it – to think of it as “just part of being me”, and so I strengthened it by never having the appropriate winter gear and refusing to go out in nature in the wintertime.

Well, a couple of months ago, my Teacher’s Teacher came to town and I had a session with him, and he told me I needed to move my body outside every day for 45 minutes at least.  Now, the thing is, when the Teacher’s Teacher talks, it’s worth listening to.  Not because he’s an enlightened being who knows what’s best for you, but because he’s usually right, and he’s been at it a lot longer than you, and he wants what’s best for you, and you respect him and his wisdom.

So I’m working my way up to it.  I started with getting the right winter gear. Abundance Herself showed up in the form of some beloveds in my life who knew I was trying to befriend the season and were very generous.  Then I decided to start with 5 days a week, because this is a big change from “as little contact with winter as possible” and I want to ease into it.  I also didn’t keep time at the beginning, and let myself start small – 10 or 15 minutes at a time.  Soon enough, I made it to 45 minutes, and am enjoying every one.  It’s such a gift to be able to walk under the trees (almost!) every day, and I’m quickly finding myself falling in love with winter.  My walk is becoming a touchstone for me; a place I find inspiration, or comfort, or grounding.

And I’m not telling the story of “I hate winter” anymore.  I’m walking – literally – into closer connection with the natural world, which is tied to true Perspective, the only Perspective that can see the Oneness of it all and the Manyness of it all at the same time. And I see now I’ve landed back in the esoteric.

Anyway, it’s shaping up to be a transformational 6 months.  Because the program is so intense, it’s unlikely that I’ll have time to blog every week, but will do my best to post at least once a month.  I’m really looking forward to this journey and seeing where it takes me and sharing some of the learnings along the way.

I think it’s pretty awesome that, just about 6 months after saying “Hell Yes” to my life and posting my very first blog, I arrived here, which has felt like my life saying “Hell Yes” back to me.

Well, that’s my 2015 so far.  How’s yours going?  Comment and let me know!

Welcoming the Void

Well, we’ve settled fully into winter, here in the Catskills.  Right this moment, I am blogging from a friend’s guest room.  I came over to (what else?) make a pot of soup, and got caught out by an icy rain that pretty much ruled out the option of driving home tonight.

The transition from late-fall to winter, in my judgment, happened on Monday.  We’d had snow, sure, but it had been the light and fluffy kind, and the sun had been shining, and there wasn’t much ice around, just snow.  And then on Monday, everything was grey.  And wet.  And…bleak.  It suddenly really felt like winter.  Driving home from the bank on Old Route 17, I passed three crows in a triangle – one on either side of the road, and the third on a branch extending out above me.  Crows, in my world, are associated with Dhumavati, who is a crazy-cool Tantric goddess.  She is, among other things, the goddess of the void.  Of nothingness.

Driving past those crows and looking out at all the grey, and the dripping-wet-ice-cold-bleak-and bleary world, reminded me that winter is the time of the void.  The time for going inward.  The time for stillness, and quiet, and letting go of what needs to be let go.

I do not always welcome winter, or its arrival, and I do not always welcome the void when it arrives.  But this year, I am embracing the chance to settle into the void…welcoming it like an old friend.  It’s been a big year, overall, and a big several months in my life, in particular.  I never dreamed, when I finished my memoir early this year, that before the end of the year I would have listed it online for sale, and experienced the wonder of people reading it, and interacting with it, and being impacted by it.  I never dreamed, two weeks ago when I was idly toying with the idea of blogging about Bill Cosby, that I would have something I wanted to say to the world, and work to be heard, and reach over 1200 people with my words.  I never dreamed, a year ago, that I would be getting ready to pack up and move out of the apartment I’ve called home for nearly four years, and move into a six-month intensive community life experiment.

I have risked-in-the-world more this year than any year previous.  I’ve become more embodied – more connected to the whole; I’ve nurtured my connection to the rest of the world and watched it grow.  And it has been, on the whole, a grand experiment.  And it has been a long year, and a lot of hard work, a lot of shedding of old habits of hiding and isolating.

And now the winter is here.  And it’s likely that the pace of my life won’t really slow down much – it might even pick up – but I’m going to make sure I make time for the void.  To let myself meander nostalgically through my memories as I sort through my belongings and pack in preparation for my move.  To gaze at the empty spaces on the walls when I take the artwork down, and feel the empty spaces in me, the places that ache where some things used to be, but are no longer.  To stand in the middle of a snow-covered field and gaze out at the blank expanse, and feel my own sense of spaciousness, the freedom to move; the room for newness to emerge…the excitement of a blank page or a blank canvas.

I am looking forward to being with the nothingness of winter…to mourn the dreams that have passed, and nurture the ones that are growing.  Because the nothingness is what contains all the potential for newness…the ashes of old dreams nurture the seeds of new ones.

Winter always makes me think of grief, and this year I have more reasons than usual to dwell on the topic.  I think there’s something truly beautiful about really giving yourself space to grieve, and grieve fully…whether you are grieving a loved one, a dream, or any other loss…I think something beautiful happens when you let yourself have your grieving process.  Something grows from it.  Something strong-yet-flexible, silver-colored and quiet and wise gathers itself in your soul and manifests something new, something that could only have grown from this particular pain.  It’s the promise of hope, hidden inside the seed of sorrow, just as the entire structure of the oak is hidden within the acorn.  And just like the acorn has to break open for the tree to emerge, so our hearts have to break — we have to fully experience the void — for the hope to reveal its shape.

Sometimes, the void feels like my own deepest abyss, and all that nothingness feels cold and hard and cutting, like an icy wind.  And sometimes, the void feels like a sanctuary…a place of quiet, and rest, and gestation.  In reality, I think the nothingness of the void is like space – like you could stare at an empty spot of sky, seeing nothing, for ten years straight, and never realize that in the space where you couldn’t see anything, millions of galaxies were dancing all along.

As this winter begins, I am embracing this perspective on the void – as the nothingness that contains all the potential for everything there could ever be – and I am smiling at its arrival, ready to listen to the hush of the snowfall, and feel the tiny cracks of the seeds breaking open, deep beneath the soil…ready, even, to let my tears fall, knowing that they are there to water the seeds.

Outside the “Rapist Box”: Bill Cosby, Woody Allen, and my Father

There’s been a lot of hype all over the internet lately about Bill Cosby and his alleged crimes.  This post is not about the question of whether or not he committed them.  If he did, it is tragic.  If he didn’t, the accusations against him are tragic.  Either way, it affects a specific group of people, and none of them are me, which probably makes it none of my business.

What I am interested in is the cultural response to the story.  Over and over I have seen people wondering whether it’s still okay to love The Cosby Show, or to laugh at Cosby’s stand-up jokes.  It seems that, if Cosby is a rapist, it casts a pall over everything he has ever produced, and has every chance of ending his career.  “Did it have to be Cliff Huxtable?” asks one article, while another asserts that “these revelations cast America’s once-favorite sitcom dad in terrible light.”  Netflix, TV Land, and NBC all jumped the sinking Cosby ship within a matter of days, canceling shows or pulling reruns.  Theaters began canceling his upcoming appearances.  “Run away,” says the mainstream media, “we don’t want to be seen to associate with an accused rapist!

It reminds me very much of the reactions early this year when the accusations against Woody Allen took center stage.  People who loved his movies suddenly seemed to be ashamed of that love, or to feel the need to never watch them again.  In fact, a personal appeal from the alleged victim, Dylan Farrow, asked for exactly that: for people to stop celebrating Woody Allen’s films.  It’s as if the overall cultural response is to say, “Well, if someone is a rapist, that means nothing they’ve ever done can be enjoyed or celebrated, because that would be supporting them, and supporting them is the same thing as supporting rape, and we certainly don’t support rape.”

Again, I’m not interested in arguing about whether any of these allegations are true or not.  There are plenty of articles out there arguing both sides of all these stories.  I am interested, primarily, in the cultural response to the phenomenon of rape. 

My interest in this issue stems from my own personal history. Continue reading Outside the “Rapist Box”: Bill Cosby, Woody Allen, and my Father