the bone gate

Before exploring the invitation in this gate, I’m going to back up a bit to explain where all of these metaphorical, archetypal gates are coming from. The paradigm of these gates of passage come from cultural anthropologist, Angeles Arrien, who distilled these common thresholds from the perennial wisdoms contained within cross-cultural stories, myths, and songs, shared with her by elders. These are the passageways through which we all pass in order to develop fully into wise people, who contribute to our communities (not to be confused with achievement or consumptive based contributions) and live deep, fulfilling lives — a rather countercultural perspective in a country which leaves many of us feeling that aging means only decline, or at the most a time for being put out to pasture for play.

John O’Donahue suggested that Arrien’s contribution to the work of spiritual integration and transfiguration of the elder person is a vital one, stating that if persons were to ‘take this book up, work with it and act on its invitations, it would lead to cultural change’. At the very least, it would transform what is only seen from the outside as decline and despair , when many of us know that the gifts of aging — grace, perspective, compassion, the power to love and to receive another, integrity, and depth — are greatly increased on the inside precisely because of the way in which a long journey of life teaches and deepens us.

Admittedly, these brief brushes with each of these gates, within such a short span of time, is not doing the work. In these posts over the last few weeks, since finding this work, I have mostly reflected upon how the outline of the gate feels as my fingers trace its rough outline. Some of the reflections are retrospective– oh yes, I remember passing through that particular fire or opening. Some are more of a brief exploration of the theme and how I am experiencing it in the present moment, or a naming of what has been rising in these days for a spiritual clean-up of residual debris. Still, it was fascinating timing to me that this particular work dropped into my world at just the time that the image of crossing that bridge for the last time arose in my subconscious.

Are we called to work all the gates at once, such as this? I think not, but rather to identify perhaps where we are journeying at any particular passage of life (as if we can ever really see that forest when we are walking through it) and open to its invitation and its gifts. (otherwise, do we not then atrophy after all?) And to acknowledge that this is not a linear journey nor a hierarchical at all, nor is the invitation once and done.

The next gate we are called to explore, then, is the Bone Gate— which contains 4 bones. The Backbone (the willingness to stand up for what we see) . The Funny Bone – the ability (and perspective) to not take ourselves so seriously, perhaps . The Wishbone– the ability to grasp and hold onto hope rather than despair. And the Hollow Bone– the ability to let go of control, to let mystery flow through us rather than trying to control the Mystery.

Though these are all connected, like the skeleton upon which the metaphor is built, it is this last one to which I am most drawn today— which of course is related to the ability to not take myself so seriously, to see myself and others with me on this human journey with compassionate humor— and which of course is ALSO related to the ability to hold onto Hope– which of course…. we are a seamless whole after all!

There is a deepening trust in Love (or God, or the Universe, or Life, or Mystery or whatever you call it) carved within us through a long enough life. We see the ways in which Love had our backs or was up to something, which we can only see from this Longer Perspective, and which we couldn’t have imagined from (nor can we even now) our small vantage point. (Jeremiah 29:11 anyone?) How often was it that the thing you desired so intently turned out to be too small, after all? Or conversely, the thing that you didn’t ask for at all brought to you the greatest gifts or growths? And yet, even when Mystery reveals itself in all of its stunning beauty, we soon forget… that pain leads to birth, or the closed door leads to a vast opening. Too often we return to fear rather than Love.

I think we drift into fear more when we experience empathy for another’s pain than we do our own, especially if that one is particularly beloved by us. I recently read this quote from Ram Dass

When you respond from your human heart’s point of view to another person suffering, and your heart is open, you experience incredible pain. So then most people respond with their intellect and they pull away when they get in the presence of suffering because they can’t handle it. However, if you keep your heart open it hurts like hell, because when you start to appreciate that the “they” are “us” and not just “them,” then you can’t intellectualize it anymore, you can’t pull away.

Then there is another level of reality, where all that suffering is a route to awakening, one way or another, and you see there are no errors, and you are then faced with the paradox.

Compassion then becomes the ability to embrace both planes simultaneously, so that you have an equanimity in you that comes from allowing it to be what it is, and at the same moment allow your human heart that is wanting to do something about it, reach out to do so.

It’s the balance between those two things where the fullness of spiritual compassion arises – it’s where you don’t judge, just because the world is not understandable to you. Your human ego part of you has to get out of the way, and you’ll find that when you get that balance working, you are very effective in doing what can be done. You start realizing you can’t take away all the world’s suffering, while at the same moment, there is a way in which you see that you are a part of the machine of healing and compassion.

So you see, this is not an apathetic nor a passive experience of Trust in the Mystery, but a deeper ripened awareness that we are not responsible for making Love appear, but for letting it flow through our lives, getting out of the way of our need to control (or our desire not to feel!) out of the way. Beneath it all is a deeper ‘appreciation for the perfection of the Universe’, of which we are a part — no matter how it looks right now.

And so we become Hollow enough— stripped of our specific smallish desires to not feel, to not see, to not experience, stripped of our beliefs that we know, stripped of our hubris about rightness and wrongness, stripped of our ego’s need for certainty or control— for Love to flow through us into the Life around us.

Oh, these beautiful, beautiful bones. Rise up.

The Rustic gate

Rough blue door hidden

Each morning

night’s curtain

opens on a new day.

You are invited

to join the great opening.

Open your ears.

Open your heart.

Open your eyes

to the sacred path

you travel every day,

the path of the hours.

Greet the hours

with joyful awareness.

Greet the hours

with faithful presence.

Greet the hours

with a reverential bow.

Greet the hours

with a sacred pause.

Reverence each hour

as a small stepping stone

on your pilgrimage

through the day…

~ Macrina Wiederkehr

At first I read this one as the ‘rusty’ gate (perhaps an ironic slip of the brain, as there may be some truth to my allowing the entrance to this room in me to harden a bit?). The Rustic Gate is instead an invitation to look at how one is living creatively, generatively.

Oh no, I thought at first, not again that old search for the ‘What am I called to DO?’ It struck me like that angst filled striving/ achievement/identity seeking that was so much a part of midlife for me. (you know, the old ‘what do you plan to do with your one wild and precious life’) A search that came up empty, because I was focused on finding that thing that the overculture might value as a worthy.

“How shall I BE?’ is where I landed in that shedding of ego. A way of being that really doesn’t matter ‘What I Do’ so much as the quality of attention that I bring to it. (which is what Mary was saying after all) Certainly, there are specific realms of being and doing that I am drawn to because of the unique way that I am put together (by both nature and nurture), as are you, which I might list or name, but none of those external forms is really the ‘work’ I am doing here even when I am in the midst of doing them.

I came upon a talk by Eckhart Tolle. He was speaking to a group of persons who were fledgling practioners (coaches, therapists, spiritual directors), addressing what seemed to be their concerns of ‘Do I have the skills, am I ready, is this truly my calling, am I good enough’. He quietly dismantled those outer fears of possessing or acquiring the ‘right stuff’, inviting his audience instead to embrace allowing a deeper presence to flow through those outer forms.

It doesn’t matter what you DO. It ‘matters’ that whatever you do you allow Love to flow through you, to incarnate in whatever form you offer it.

Eckhart went on to talk about ‘Frequency holders’, many of whom are largely quiet, mostly unnoticed. Once upon a time those of us who felt such a calling may have entered a monastic community to ‘do’ this kind of work, though that’s not (nor was it ever) a requirement for living a life of attention to the presence of Soul seeking entrance. We can do that as mother, or carpenter, or painter, or doctor, or miner, or pilot, though certainly many of the cultural offerings for doing life also hold the potential for being out of alignment with being a bringer of compassion and love.

Rather than donning the robes that once set us apart, we can hold that place where spirit flows in a more ‘anonymous in our midst’ way. This feels in alignment with the Who that I am here and is really not dependent upon me wearing certain clothes (code for inhabiting certain roles). We can always allow Spirit/Love to flow through the roles that we are given. It matters not entirely what they are. The real work is often hidden behind the surface of that door.

The invitation is merely this. Not to define ourselves by such small ideas such as “what do you do (often followed ‘for a living’), but instead how we are living/spending our lives in ways that allow Something More to flow through the unique form (skills, passions, interests, gifts) that has been forged in us though a lifetime of being human.

Equinox blessings

May we find in the earth’s wisdom the balance between light and dark that we also seek, as we turn toward this season of our lives.

May we, with her, feel the warmth of the sun on our flesh, thawing what has lain dormant and waiting for its touch.

And May we notice all that is pushing to life in us with the same sense of tender delight that we do in the redbud, the skunk cabbage, the spice bush outside our doors .

the ‘black and white’ gate

The invitation is this —

Heartbreak happens to all of us. As Mirabai Starr says, “Heartbreak is part of the path of holiness.” When we face heartbreak in mid to later life, standing at The Black and White Gate, we have the chance to develop new levels of discernment, both about ourselves and about others.

Here, we are humbled in some way: we are wounded, betrayed or lied to by someone we have trusted. Teacher-author-elder Rosalie Heart calls the ones who wound us “our shadow wisdom teachers,” because what they ultimately end up doing is forcing us to be clear about who we are and what behaviors we don’t want in our lives, whether coming from others or from ourselves.

This is an incredibly challenging gate those of us on a spiritual path must all, in some way or another, confront. Having said that, it’s as important to keep in mind that this gate offers an incredibly important gift to a late life seeker. The betrayals of our lives sharpen our skills of self-honesty and discernment, skills that are essential for true self-mastery. It prompts us to pay attention and into taking an honest inventory of the person we have become.

Here, having dropped our masks and personas at the earlier gates, having leaned into listening to the wisdom of our bodies, we must make another clean sweep and drop our games, strategies, manipulations, and all other overt and covert means of making things work out the way we want them to work out…and finally surrender to what is real. Even the blame game must go.

Some of the time the betrayal or deception that brings us to our knees is self-deception, but more often it happens because someone we trust will mirror betrayal for us. Or at least wound us. Perhaps they reveal to others something we told them in confidence. Perhaps they reveal something of themselves that would have been a deal breaker if we had known at the start of the relationship or friendship. A betrayal can be unconscious/thoughtless; it can even be well intended, or not. What matters is that it shatters the trust we had placed in another in a way that causes us pain and struggle.

Let’s pause for a moment to remember that the heartbreak we feel when this happens is “part of the path of holiness.” The realization that we are the only ones we can trust completely not to disappoint us doesn’t come easily. Most of us wrestle with that for a time before we can not only accept the truth of it but also make a commitment not to disappoint ourselves and find the way to carry that out faithfully. None of us is perfect.

After some period of distress and upheaval, both internal and in whatever relationship has been wounded, we come to “profoundly grasp” that we are the longest relationship we will ever have and that it is our earnest spiritual and psychological work to befriend ourselves completely. To make sure that we don’t betray ourselves ever again. No one else can do that for us in the way we are called to do it for ourselves.

We begin to ask questions rather than blame, questions such as, “What were the signs leading to this that I missed? What did I deny or talk myself out of? Where did I give away my integrity or re-write my parameters or boundaries to convince myself that something like what happened was acceptable? How did I let myself down, and how do I support myself in not doing that again?”

As Angeles says, “We may be reduced to ashes for a time, but in time, we see that we’re also given the strength of the phoenix to rise into a clear truth that represents who we have always been at the heart of us, one who isn’t afraid to stand that ground.”

The Black and White Gate, challenging as it can be, is a passage of initiation, not of victimization. “I will love myself through this, just as I am, warts and all, with an open heart and no holding or turning back.”

Meredith Jordan, LSEP

While coming to acknowledge our complicity in our own self-betrayal is complicated for any of us, it is much more challenging for those of us who were betrayed by another, groomed to not trust ourselves, at a young age. While I no longer see myself in anyway as a victim, loving very much who I became because of ALL of the experiences of my life, it took me a long time to come to trust myself, my intuition, my judgments, my perceptions as reliable. ( actually still working on that)

It took me even longer to understand why I later betrayed myself, allowing things to happen to me that were unacceptable, and to forgive myself for that shame. I blamed only myself for that self-betrayal, not placing appropriate responsibility on the one who planted those seeds of confusion and shame in me. For me to find self-compassion and to heal, I really needed to put the responsibility for a time on the other, the adult in my life at the time, a pedophile teacher, who first confused me about boundaries and about who I could trust (definitely and evidently not myself).

One of the tasks of the young adolescent is to ‘assign status’ to persons and things in their lives— not in an heirarchical way, but in a ‘this person can be a trusted advisor, this environment brings me alive, that cause is important to me’ etc. When that trust in one’s assessment is violated by another who breaks the moral boundaries of their role, the young person can struggle for a long time trusting her instincts and this can lead to difficulty setting boundaries (saying ‘no’ to what feels unsafe, recognizing coercive behaviors, knowing what is true for her, intense fear of repercussions).

I honor that this young one in me learned at a very young age that , on one hand, she could really trust no one but herself completely (perhaps not so healthfully) and that she figured out how to survive (and eventually…. many years later, to thrive) On the other hand the self that she trusted was quite confused about what was a violation and what acquiescence was required of her in relationships, so yes, she betrayed herself for a long time, and experienced the deep shame of that.

It is only recently that some of that shame about how I allowed myself to be treated as an ‘adult’ has lifted, and only then by fully appreciating the roots of it. I realize this is not what the author is talking about here. She is speaking to the fully grown adult in us (the adult at mid or late life), who perhaps in ‘looking for love in all the wrong places’ betrays herself and her integrity, or deceives herself, until she learns that she must look with honesty and compassion at herself first, learn to truly love and value herself and find the source of All Love within.

Seeing myself clearly, with deep compassion, while painfully acknowledging the shame I had allowed to be done to me and to become a part of my self-concept, was indeed like passing through fire– painful and heartbreaking. But placing the responsibility squarely on the shoulders of the adult who betrayed that trust, rather than the young one who was confused by that misplaced trust, was the healing compassion i needed to rise from those ashes.

Now I am being invited to see more clearly the ways that I may continue to betray and deceive myself, the ways I may continue to flay about seeking love, perhaps inappropriately seeking attention and validation from others that I ought hold for myself; for instance, the ways in which i may continue to unconsciously ‘pull the victim card’ — pouring myself upon others in order to gain empathy or even esteem.

Or the guarded self-sufficiency card, which is a different mechanism altogether than is the authors suggestion to take responsibility for one’s own choices and behaviors, to not put upon another either blame or the need to take care of you.

Or conversely the exposing too much of myself (in order to get OR give something?) in places where it has not either been proven to be safe or welcome (exposing either myself to being taken advantage of, or the other to what is not theirs to carry).

Or trusting what has not yet been shown to be trustworthy, turning a deaf ear to that inner voice. With self honesty, looking at my choices and the motivations (and lingering needs/ wounds) beneath them.

Important side note: To those who read here, please know that writing is the way that I process– this path reveals much of my self to my self. I have often been told through the years that this ‘processing out loud’ , so to speak, is healing to others in some way, and so I continue to make these posts public. I do sincerely believe that open hearted, vulnerable sharing like this helps heal the shame that so many of us carry when we believe we are the only ones. Our shared humanity heals and makes us whole.

But it is not meant for attention, or for you to carry, or to fix, or to feel sorry, or conversely to see me as someone worthy of your esteem. If this open-book processing begins to feel like a burden to you, please step away. You have your own work to do, after all. You don’t need to do mine!

That is the beauty of a blog, in my opinion– it is not intrusive. It does not enter your space. You are welcome to step away, or to come inside at your own will.

These pages alone do all the holding that I need. They stand in for myself when I am needing a little more visible support. When I am needing to see myself more clearly, or hold myself more dearly.

YOu know the way writing is… a dig for buried treasure, an attempt to make visible the hidden, to ex-press the unknown. And in the end, doing so only partly, for so much of us remains ineffable, uncapturable by mere words, a mystery even to ourselves, and I suppose that is as it should be for sometimes it is true that ‘I think too much’

In mystery then,

Love to you all

silence and invisibility

silence as a weapon — the silent treatment; the silence that ignores; the silence that ignores pain as if nothing happened, that leaves the other questioning; the silence that forces feelings into shame; the silence of gaslighting; the silence of dismissing in disregard, scorn, or contempt; (the modern day incarnation – the silence of ghosting); the silence of abandonment, exile, or ostracizing; the silence of swallowing, stuffing; the silence of fear; the silence of control; the silence of the voiceless; the silence that threatens;

silence as nurture — the silence that holds more than words can; the silence that listens; the silence of vastness– interior and exterior; the silence of wisdom; the silence beneath the noise; the silence that attends to the still small voice; the silence that expands – the carrying capacity of the heart; the silence that witnesses (not at all the same as a silent witness who refuses to speak to injustice) ; the silence of nature (well, wordless, but not entirely silent); the silence of deep friends when words are not necessary; the silence of spaciousness; the silence of sinking beneath the thinking mind to something more real; the silence of peace; the silence of honoring another’s voice;

you know the difference when you feel it. when you are being silenced vs when you are being valued. when you are entering something vast and nurturing vs something small and constricting. when your heart is opening vs closing off.

dear heart, what would you add to this list?

invisibility as weapon— the looking right through, the blank stare, the distracted ‘listen’, the pretense that all is well, the elephant in the room, the forgotten, the marginalized, the broken connection, loneliness, aloneness, silence

invisibility as healing – the realization that you are not your body; the honoring of intuition, of ways of knowing other than material, of energy, of sacred essence, of spirit, of the unseen (presence), the feeling of being enveloped when ‘nothing’ is there, prayer, silence.

and to this one? what would you add?

the same words, different meanings– not so much in the way we were taught by our elementary school teachers, but entirely different experiences. you can redeem what has been done to you, claim it for good.

these are the gifts.


“One writes not to be read but to breathe…one writes to think, to pray, to analyze. One writes to clear one’s mind, to dissipate one’s fears, to face one’s doubts, to look at one’s mistakes – in order to retrieve them. One writes to capture and crystallize one’s joy, but also to disperse one’s gloom. Like prayer – you go to it in sorrow more than joy, for help, a road back to ‘grace’.” ― Anne Morrow Lindbergh

white picket gate?

“If you do nothing than be a kind and caring person, in my eyes you are a person worthy of acclaim. We should celebrate your accomplishments and honor your name. Most of us know the reason why. It is not easy to follow a spiritual path. It is not easy to live in a compassionate way. There are many sacrifices to be made, many obstacles to overcome. A holy life is an aware life, disciplined, intentional. So, if you achieve that I would say you are a great success’ – Bishop Steven Charleston

This quote hearkens back to Mary Oliver’s Summer Day for me, the way it speaks of a well-lived life being not about achievement but attention. For Mary, that was a rapturous attention to life, gazing with wonder and Love, befriending with curiosity and compassion.

I have long since let go the idea that I was here to’ accomplish’ something (by those worldly standards). I once thought that would come after the children left home and space would open for me to discover what the gift was that I had for the world, only to have nothing, of material substance that is, come to fill that opening. Through years of angst I finally came to understand, deeply so, that purpose here has nothing to do with achieving. So I suspect that much of that blessed stripping of ego at midlife was done.

But as I stand at this later juncture of life, (do these gates of passage come round again, like the proverbial onion?) and ask myself ‘what are you planning to do with your one wild and precious life?’, I ask myself now what is preventing me? What is keeping me from running headlong into that field of flowers from my previous post–to ” deeply inhale…with much to gather here to giveaway, to fill the hearts of those I’ve yet to meet, with fragrance’— a field of flowers I suddenly see as reminiscent of Rumi’s field ‘beyond ideas right doing and wrong doing’.

The invitation at this gateway … this gateway of shedding again in order to deepen… is to ask myself (you might too?) what are the masks I still wear, the roles I still play, which derail me from simply dwelling in this space of gentle beholding with Love, from seeing through eyes of compassionate wonder? From smiling with tenderness or delight? What are the clothes (the roles) in which I am still entangled, which encumber my freedom to simply Be Love? From letting go, from inhaling deeply this fragrance?

The questions posed are these:

  • What faces have i previously worn?
  • What is real and true now?
  • What have i outgrown?
  • What is time for me to release in order to move more deeply into this next stage of life?
  • What faces are ready to retire in order for the face of my true nature to shine through?
  • What are the obstacles to overcome, the sacrifices to be made ?

Some initial responses as I look at myself honestly are these: Particularly in light of the rightdoing and wrong doing of Rumi’s field, is there a judge in me (the all-knowing mother archetype?), one who knows what is right or wrong for another, which often gets attached to my deeper desire to share and connect? (conversely, when does that harsh judge in me rise up to chastise me for daring to speak!) When does sharing one’s own experience become overpowering rather than empowering, about telling your truth rather than validating theirs? After all, there is a difference between ‘talking at’ and ‘sharing with’ (I have already recognized that ‘knowing things’ can be a protective cover for being naked and vulnerable, and can be a trauma survival response, but is this true about me? or is the ‘know-it-all’/ ‘who do you think you are’/’you read too much’ an old way i was put in my place and a way it was overlaid with contempt… and is this the mask that is yet clinging?)

But I also struggle with knowing when to share what I see. Is this a self-silencing that comes from an old place in me that was silenced or belittled for daring to speak? (I wonder how on earth does the prophet, for instance, ever speak for what s/he sees without invalidating what the other (opposite) feels? How does she stand for the trees when there are those who will say they need fire? )

(And though i do NOT feel this to be a call in me at all, it is ironic for me to notice, compassionately, empathetically so, that the prophet is also most often the introvert, the introspective, the one who takes it all into herself in the quiet and hears the cries of the earth? How is it that she, the unwilling one, is the one called to speak, at what expense(sacrifice) to herself, and how does she do so without hubris, but with Love )

There ARE so many perspectives, so many worldviews, so many meaning-of-life constructs, seemingly so many different ways of being human (at least on the surface of life). Where is that field beyond? Beyond the right doing and wrong doing, beyond the ‘all-is-not-well’ to the ‘All is Well’. Is that the bridge over which I am beckoned to cross and remain? A bridge that moves into silent beholding.

I take in these words of Thich Nhat Hahn

“You cannot transmit wisdom and insight to another person. The seed is already there. A good teacher touches the seed allowing it to wake up, to sprout and to grow.”

In this field, then, we are called to be water, and sun…to bear beams of light that whisper ‘grow’.

When is it appropriate to share one’s own journey, and when is doing so dishonoring of the other, of their process of coming into their own wisdom and truth? When is silence golden? Mary ‘pondered these things in her own heart’. There is a kind of wisdom in that. A wise women recently reminded me that she kept them ‘for herself’, not ‘to herself’. A huge shift in those 2 little words — for and to.

Done to. Done for.

And yet, and yet, how I have been blessed by others willing to share. Sometimes, if I am honest, and you know that i am brutally so here, this is a lonely place. The blank stare. The lack of response. The ‘I don’t get it’ that feels too much like disregard. The aloneness of being — not misunderstood so much as not understood.

And this evening (perhaps it is merely fatigue) I note this sadness in me, that there seems to be no place to pour all of this…and sometimes I am just overflowing with it , with all of this goodness , with all of this light…can it be just for me? .

What is for me alone?

What is gift for another?

Ok… so that was a long stream of consciousness digression to try to unmask whatever it is that keeps me from being Love. How would you name this for me? Is it wounded ego, a wanting to be seen more so than simply seeing? A desire for intimacy, the kind that really understands and honors me, rather than some purer seeking to understand?

Is the deep sharing for which I yearn, and the place in which to do so, not at all so much about wanting to be right, or to be seen as ‘wise’, but merely about a longing for communion, to share with others who see what i see?! To be standing in that field of wildflowers and have the person beside me in awe of it too. I do long for a place of deep sharing, but shared silence can be as deep. There are not many in my world who can go either place with me.

Ok. Ok. Ok.

When is silencing the self the right thing to do? What is true silence?

For too many years I assumed the role of all-knowing mother, a role I have long outgrown and wanted to retire, a role that is really only ever intended to be short-lived, when the child needs the parent to be the one who knows for them. I can see how that connects to the rambling above …. but even ‘good, nurturing mother’ keeps me bound in some ways. And I can’t help but wonder if shreds of the victim, of trauma survivor, still cling..

And I wonder here, where is the line between shedding and integrating? Do I take this sadness, my aloneness, my yearnings, my experiences, my traumas, my nurturing mother, my knowledge, my deepening wisdom—-all of these things that I ponder— into my own heart, as did Mary, digest them so that they become me, grow me, expand my heart of compassion. Take this scroll into my mouth and fill my own belly with it. Eat this bread. Drink this cup. Let it become me.

the silver bridge

the invitation was to view it as a gate, a silver gate, this passage through and into something new, a foreign land of sorts where i don’t yet know the landmarks nor the language, though I have caught glimpses of its beauty. but i saw it first as a bridge before i learned the name she’d given it. it had beckoned me, draped in old man’s beard and long haired vining tendrils, twisted mossy roots to line the path to cross for some time to the other side.

the final stretch to its foot, seemingly so short, but taking so long (was it the slowness of travel or the did the looming magnificence of the bridge make it appear at times to be closer than it was?) appearing then disintegrating. could it be that it was not the bridge retreating but me? for it seems that integration/dissolution was the work required when my feet were seemingly mired. once buried bones reclaimed for strength. bits of flesh let go in the stripping of those tattered shreds i once wore so elegantly on the other side. clothes that no longer fit, in which i was entangled, which i still perceived as necessary…. for warmth, for protection, to be seen as love.

i thought i’d left those clothes behind 20 years ago!!! and perhaps i did– the heavy garments, the boots now mired in muck, but the undergarments clung, covering the vulnerable, the precious.

i didn’t know i needed to cross naked.


as in freed from the need to cover. as in free from pretense. as in free from clinging to appearance or to fear, to definition or dependency, to shame, obligation, need or enoughness.

but oh, the knife that cut me loose at last was sharp, sharp as the one that cut Jane’s heavy apple, her dried strands of autumn iris. intense as that painful thrust of the hunter’s knife as he plunges it to loosen the heart.

to loosen the heart

to Love.

so now i stand on the other side, freed and gazing wide eyed into the what next? a jump? a plunge? a flight into an abyss? do i stand before some unknowable emptiness? nay! stepping off the other side feels more like an immersion in a floral landscape, a deep inhalation, with much to gather here to giveaway, to fill the hearts of those I’ve yet to meet, with fragrance.

silver? nothing so sparkly as that…

perhaps it is my hair.

buried treasure

you thought that you were digging up the dead, long forgotten, put to rest, at peace. no longer haunted by those memories.

you believed it to be a mistake to poke that bear, that her fierceness would destroy you with one swipe of her protective claw

you were told that to visit the past is to be stuck there, that you can’t change it anyway, nor will we ever grow wise by living in the past



and i am not at all saying that rumination about or yearning for what once was is good, nor letting those visitations mire you with shame and regret. if that is how you are revisiting, stop. gaze at yourself in the here and now. Fall in Love again.

but i can tell you this. that when you are ready, those memories have gifts. gifts that you need to be whole, to move forward into wisdom and grace.

that bear is ready for spring, she has given birth to triplets, ready to emerge and see this beautiful planet for the first time, eyes full of wonder, spirits at play, hungry for life.

and there are jewels buried with those skeletons, laid across their chests, embedded in their eyes, cradled in their upturned palms, lining the delicate curve of their scars, filling their teeth. adorning the robes in which they were laid to rest. my god, how lovely she was.

and wise.

you’ve been measuring her by distorted standards, you see. you believed her trajectory shot down prematurely? buried alive? oh no, my love. she was following, even then, something deeper, listening to what you couldn’t see.

and though you didn’t want to disturb her peace, she was willing to rise, waiting in truth, to adorn you with those jewels.

adorn you with grace.

skeleton ghosts

Dear one

A turn of phrase ran across my field yesterday– “skeletons fell out of my closet”. This morning, in a completely unrelated, seemingly random reading (as I’ve mentioned here before, a friend and I are taking one chapter a week out of David Whyte’s alphabetically arranged exploration of everyday words, entitled Consolations), the word ‘Haunted’ was the title of the essay. Now, what do I think of that?

It seems my belief that, once healed (or believed to be so), certain life experiences can be laid lovingly to rest, never to be exhumed again, might have been false, or at least premature. Perhaps I mistakenly believed that to have certain memories revisit me meant that I would also to go back to the same feelings I once had about them. Feelings of loss, feelings of grief, feelings of regret, feelings of shame, feelings of being a victim, feelings of betrayal, feelings of abandonment, feelings of failure. So, despite the profound healing I believed I had done (and had indeed done); despite the deep acceptance, compassion, and love I had for myself; despite my felt sense of awed gratitude for the ways that I had been deepened and grown by those experiences; despite the feeling that all those parts of me had been fully integrated into my Being Love; despite my belief that we cannot live in the past, it seems that didn’t mean that we are not at times called to revisit.

There might just be something precious laid to rest with those bones. Some valuable bit of ourselves that we buried along with the pain. Perhaps something is still clinging to them– a striving to prove oneself worthy, the fear that is in bed with, and embedded within, that striving — which keeps us entangled in old patterns, not entirely free to allow ourselves to Be the Love that we are.

And although these particular ghosts were not summoned by me, but by another, it feels like grace, this invitation, to have given them an audience at this stage of my life, to welcome them home, perhaps, or to lay them more peacefully to rest this time. I hadn’t realized the invisible hold they still had on me. The feeling of release, however, since their visitation has been palpable. Though it felt similar in the middle of those dark nights of remembrance — the pain in my body, the heaviness of shame, the depths of despair — their emergence wasn’t at all for the purpose of dragging me into that dark but releasing them into the light.

The word forgiveness is rising in me now. I know how trite this will sound, because I know how it feels when it’s talked about before your arrival at this gate, but if I am going to move fully into this stage of life which is about Giving — whatever has been bestowed upon me to Giveaway through the course of this lifetime, whatever Grace or Compassion or Love or Wisdom — I’m guessing it must be freed For-Giving. Freed from fear, freed from need — need to be seen as good enough, need to be understood, need to be accepted or forgiven by anyone other than myself— freed from striving and performing and perfection . Perhaps a final forgiveness of self, one that these skeleton/ghosts can receive, at last, as authentic and true, know it deep in their bones, so to speak, is what is being asked of us when they rise, or fall, to revisit us one last time. For while we may have believed that we forgave them from our perspective, they may not have received it from theirs.

And we release them at last for Good. The relief is profound. Almost all of a sudden, a lightness is felt in body and spirit, as this part of us comes fully to rest. (or does it rise to take its honored place inside of our flesh?)

One day, perhaps you too will be asked to pick through the bones of your past life, with tenderness and compassion, to find the jewels amongst them– the way that your soul was at work, the ways you were grown, the ways that even there your authentic beauty and gifts were being expressed and refined– and to lay those bones to rest at last, expressing to them your deep gratitude for carrying you through to where you stand today, and forgiving them for all that they suffered.

And may you also find Grace in the passage.

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