Rising From the Asthma Gods’ Hungry Pit

The scary, mechanized, Hindu, Baby-Doll Deity is a piece by Michael deMeng.  I thought since it had wheels, all the Asthma gods and minions should, too.

The rising Venus has a lot of air-born helpers.

Venus holds a sprig of licorice, the root of which is helpful in treating bronchitis.

The Tarot Queen of Clubs can mean motivation to take charge of one’s health.  While I need a two hour nap afterward, I started back to water aerobics class this week.  I’m hoping I don’t see any rusted pick-up trucks on the bottom of the pool.

The Tarot Star indicates a time of recovery.

Every mythological resurrection needs a Herald.  I really like this cynical Highlander, piping Venus out of the Pit.

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A New Myth

Collage art, handmade greeting cards, vintage

A couple of weeks ago in meditation, we read from one of Don Miguel Ruiz’s books, The Voice of Knowledge.  Here’s the passage:

  • There is a conflict in the human mind between the truth and what is not the truth, between the truth and lies.  The result of believing in the truth is goodness, love, happiness.  The result of believing and defending lies is injustice and suffering—not only in society, but also in the individual.
  • All of the drama humans suffer is the result of believing in lies, mainly about ourselves.  The first lie we believe is I am not:  I am not the way I should be, I am not perfect.  The truth is that every human is born perfect because only perfection exists.
  • We humans have no idea what we really are, but we know what we are not.  We create an image of perfection, a story about what we should be, and we begin to search for a false image.  The image is a lie, but we invest our faith in that lie.  Then we build a whole structure of lies to support it.
  • Faith is a powerful force in humans.  If we invest our faith in a lie, that lie becomes truth for us.  If we believe we are not good enough, then thy will be done, we are not good enough.  If we believe we will fail, we will fail, because that is the power and magic of faith.
  • Humans can perceive truth with our feelings, but when we try to describe the truth, we can only tell a story that we distort with our word.  The story may be true for us, but that doesn’t mean it is true for anyone else.
  • All humans are storytellers with their own unique point of view.  When we understand this, we no longer feel the need to impose our story on others or to defend what we believe.  Instead, we see all of us as artists with the right to create our own art.

The task in meditation that day was to hold the question of what stories we believed about ourselves and to relax our grip on them.  The exercise was meaningful for all of us, but I came away with a new piece of Work to practice.

I saw that I define myself by my illness.  And I wondered what might happen if I stopped telling myself that story.  What would happen if, instead of identifying myself as bipolar, I said, “I’m Fine?”  Not “fine” as a term to flip off when people ask me how I am, or as a way to barricade myself against prying, but saying “I’m fine” as a mantra of truth?

Loki, Tom Hiddleston, The Avengers

Loki, God of Mischief

Under all the symptoms of the illness, under the worry about money and the angst of relationships, there’s a core part of me that is perfect.  The core is whole, sound and centered.  It is where I experience love and compassion, where I find courage, where joy sparks.  The bipolar disorder is weather storming around the core; a hot, gritty wind that obscures the view and causes mischief.

When I believe that I am fundamentally fine, the illness loses power and substance.  I can see it as the mischief-maker it is.  Like the Norse god, Loki, it causes chaos—serious chaos—but it is not the whole story.  Loki is a lesser god in the Norse pantheon, and bipolar disorder can be a lesser player in the entirety of my life.

At least that’s the story I’m telling myself these days.  I’ll see how the myth plays out.

Winter Solstice

The World Tree

by Carol Singer

Surely, deeply, a holy Tree grows in your heart.

Ancient wisdom is there in a touch of its bark.

Its joyous leaves catch Heaven’s light,

The roots are strong with Earth’s own might,

To keep you through the longest night

And lead you out of the dark.

∞ ∞ ∞

The longest night of the year.

For those of us with bipolar disorder, this day is more than simply the beginning of winter.  It’s a reminder that even the darkest nights end, the deepest depressions, the craziest mania.  While in the dark, we can’t see an ending, we can’t feel the Earth turning and tilting.  But the Universal cycles continue nevertheless.  Winter Solstice reminds us of the turning and the promise of Light returning.

An image often associated with Winter Solstice is Yggdrasil, or the World Tree.  In Norse mythology, it embodies the concepts of renewal, it’s branches reaching into Heaven, and it’s roots into the Earth and Beyond.

Today, I invite you to take a moment from your day to mark the Solstice.  Remember yourself with branches reaching into the Divine and roots deep in the safe, warm Earth.  Standing tall in the dark, feel the moment of Light returning.  Feel the promise fulfilled.  Breathe, and be at peace.

Waiting to Exhale

This weekend our spiritual group will gather in Minneapolis to study with our teacher via Skype.  I’m thrilled for so many reasons.  First, I love all these people.  We’ve gone through workshops, intensives and Teacher Training together.  We’ve shared deeply, laughed and cried, and helped each other in times of crises.  This is my spiritual community, the folks who get me.  When I’m with them, it’s like exhaling after holding my breath under water for a long time.  Such a relief.

Second, even though Melanie won’t be there in the flesh, we still get the benefit of her electronic presence.  Everyone needs a teacher, someone who plants markers along the path, someone who will point out those markers when the way gets treacherous and dim.  I started working with Melanie in 1999, several years before my mental break and the point where my life changed so drastically.  If not for the work she did with me on awareness and energetics during those early years, I’d be dead now.  More than any doctor, therapist, medication or hospitalization, Melanie gave me the tools to deal with being bipolar.  I’m so very grateful to her.

And while I love the people I’m going to be with and my teacher, the sheer joy of going on a road trip almost eclipses them both.  It’s been a year since I’ve spent the night out of town.  Driving an hour to “the big city” for the day breaks my budget, so anything more than that is something I don’t even consider anymore.  I love to travel, but I’ve gotten used to my smaller life.  As my friend Deb says, “It is what it is.”

Thanks to my meditation buddies and the other folks in Minnesota, I can still participate in our training sessions.  Tonight, I’ll stay with my friend Barb, and in the morning we’ll pile into her van with the other folks from meditation and hit the road.  Ahh!  There’s nothing like getting the dust blown off!  I love to watch the landscape roll by.  This time of year, everything will be greening, farmers will be in the fields, calves and lambs will be scampering in the pastures.  When I used to travel on my own, I’d load up the CD player with my best singing tunes and yodel to my heart’s content.  We won’t be doing that in the van, but thoughtful, meandering conversations will stretch our voices and hearts in a different way.

Living the bipolar life can weigh a person down.  Sometimes I feel like Sisyphus, condemned to roll my own boulder up Hades’ hill for eternity.  But, today, the burden is lifted by the people I love and who love me, by their support and generosity, and by the chance to stretch and learn among other seekers.  I get to quit struggling for a while and just watch the road open out before me.  I get to exhale.

The Magic

ψ ψ ψ

Shaman

We sit cross-legged on the desert hard-pack

our knees pointing in fleshy arrows

East

and West.

Your headdress ripples in the air’s hot breath

lichen

feathers

bone and blood.

“Child,” you say, one finger stirring the red dust between us.

I tremble

and the wooden husk around me cracks.

A three-year-old’s laughter bubbles up from

forgotten safe-keeping

and wets the parched earth.

“Mother,” you say, your finger carving circles in the soft mud.

I rise from the stiff petals to gather in the laughter

and take, instead, a child.

Like cottonwood seed her hair drifts across the breeze

to kiss my cheek.

She fits snugly on my hip.

“Woman,” you say, your eyes bright in our thin shadow.

The ground shudders

and I feel the pulse through my feet

up my thighs.

The pull of Earth and Moon echoes deep within, joining me

to the ancient Seas

to the Goddess.

I step out of the broken hull, stoop, and touch the heaving ground.

Corn springs from the mud at my fingers

shooting across the moist land unto the horizon.

The child laughs

and chews a tender leaf.

“Heroine,” you say, cornsilk now added to your headdress.

The child’s arms circle my neck as we turn

and walk into the welcoming corn.

October 26, 1990

Myth-Making

Yesterday at our meditation group, we talked a bit about personal mythology.  Story, our own personal stories and those of our culture, shape us and run like invisible programming in our daily lives.

John Rowan, in his book The Transpersonal—Spirituality in Psychotherapy and Counseling, says:

To live mythically… is to seek guidance from your dreams, imagination and other reflections of your inner being, as well as from the most inspiring people, practices and institutions of your society.  To live mythically is also to cultivate an ever-deepening relationship with the cosmos and its great mysteries.

He goes on to say that…

… in the ancient mystery schools, one is required to die to one story, one myth, in order to be reborn to a larger one.  [One must] give up a smaller story in order to wake up to a larger story.  Giving up one’s myth may be difficult.

We tell ourselves stories all day long—the story of our childhood, the story of how we fell in love, the story of our failure, the story of our triumph, the story of parenting, the story of our career, the story of what we believe to be true and constant in the world.  With each telling, we filter, and refine, and mold the story to fit our perception of who we think we are.  This is my story, we say.  This is who I am.

The thought of changing our story seems impossible, ridiculous.  History is fact.  My religion is the truth.  My political ideals are the correct and proper way to function in the world.  But, if we look closely, we can see that most of our stories are simply beliefs about what we perceive.  And perception is fickle.

Like every good hero in myth, we must be willing to give up our stories in order to grow beyond their limitations.  It is a death of sorts.  It requires tearing down personality and opening up to mystery.  Difficult, scary work.

I am not my childhood.  I am more than an American.  There might be many paths to God.  My dreams and imagination inform me.  I am not done—I am becoming.

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