Over the past year there have been so many gifts of travel and experience for which I am grateful...even the one that felt like a walk through shadowlands has proven to be a gift of balance and remembrance. A remembrance for whom it is I am praying when I chant that "ALL BEINGS be freed of suffering and the causes of suffering." Lest that become a rote idea that is based on my imaginings, I drove into San Francisco riding the bliss train on Thursday night, nature wanderer naively thinking that the light protects us when we ignore our guidance system....the one that told me, i don't know much about the city...but this does not look like a place I should park my car with everything I own.
Doesn't matter why i did it, in some ways I would like to think it was my observer mind telling me that what I would experience in the Timberline District was a lesson in compassion, in living what I describe as the choice of happiness. Over and over I say this while I am sitting near oceans, jumping in rivers, and climbing mountains, and how does my little medicine heart fare when I have to stare into the fire of poverty, concrete, and technology as God.
My voice told me to take my little cosmetic bag that has travelled with me from coast to coast, across oceans, around the globe but still some grounded place inside held me still. I glaced carward several times and then set out on a walk my bright smile and open face attracting attention from the homeless, the downtrodden, I tried to take a cue from the stone faced numb walkers who pass me and the journey along the middle line between the affluent and the street people begins with $5 and a man who will forget my face in 5 hours and come back up to me with the same story line as my friend Mag bleeds and brushes glass from my seat cursing the system for perpetuating this animalistic need to smash the windows of good people...but that is a whole journey from now.
We turn the corner...I can not look away. Not from the people pretending not to notice nor from the people who beg...some for money, others for drugs and alchohol and still some for the look of humanity that tells them they are still alive...so says our night guide to the diner who walks shoulder to shoulder with me and philosophizes with me about CS Lewis and the Shadowlands.
I hear people snicker about the smel and turn to see the source...i remember my days of wandering homefree...by choice, nothing but my backpack and how the moment I hit the city I was stricken by the impossible task of finding somewhere to pee. There isn't one for the outcasts...what choice do they have when there is no tree to duck behind, no dirt to dig a hole...I realize that my past has shown me things only experience can teach.
I watch as shoppers exit stores many bags in hand and I think of India and Mexico...seeing our country has become no different as the separation between those who have and those who do not widens. I think...you really have to "own it" to live here and indulge in excess of need. I have been on shopping sprees as of late...and what have I given and how many earlobes do I have...in that moment, I imagine I am in sync with my vehicle, I think about how the disparity must boil up inside and for a moment, I drop into a still place that understands why some lash out...is this the moment my window is smashed..perhaps. but there are more streets to travel, GPS on the fritz, blisters oozing...my barefeet now bound in city boots.
I pass by those curled in balls sleeping on sidewalks and I remember my night in the Cierras of Mexico at a Huichotle village -3 I curl in a ball wrapped in my only shawl and breathe deep yogic breaths to raise my heat before being called to the fires outside and I remember the gratitude I feel as the first ray of sunshine hits my face...i look around...there is no fire here and when does the sun rise above the shadows of the buildings?
i tell Mag to put the GPS away and talk to people who point us in the right direction...two blocks. Is it a mistake that i will then make it out of the city at 3 am with no phone, no GPS just prayer and instinct two turns to the ramp?
We round the corners, meet my philosopher, eat at a diner and then via uber, a cyber phenomenon that drops cars at your doorstep, we arrive at my car...busted window, phone stolen, computer gone...i won't realize until i am driving that no...I did not put my jewelry bag in the back...it is gone. I feel my spine relax down, all my energy sinks into my pelvis...gone...it is the surrender of what is...to the temporary...emotions of all kinds circle us in that moment of frantic realization Mag's momma bear protective instinct is to rage at the city, society, mental disease. She is right. We have become passive and blind and what can we do to instigate real change? She challenges me to rise up inside, to react, to be upset...but i can't.
I surrender. It is the last of my things since I began my shamanic journey during saturn return 12 years ago. Since then I have lost husbands, homes, cars, friends, careers, parents have survived cancers, I have travelled the world and in that moment my attention drops to my medicine bowl I fill after walks in the woods or at oceanside. It is filled with eucalyptus buttons, mugwart balls, lilacs, cedar, big sur jade and a himalayan crystal.
Mag looks at me and challenges me to burst out of my shock telling me in two days it will hit me...which it does...the shattered window a metaphor for the cracking of my heart. But for now, I look at the bowl...untouched...carefully avoided...not at all overturned, I look up teary eyed at Mag and tell her...but Mag...we have so much.
She shakes her head knowing that everything I own fits in this car...that she too has lived this way...Mag i shake my head yes knowing what I have experienced can never be taken from me, the people who have gifted things to me are imprinted upon me and that is what strikes upon me later as I realize it is all gone in the physical. And yet I feel deeply into the truth that I have so much...that I am grateful for all they have left me.
All of my masage and medicine things are in the back of the car...my prayer cards scattered and only 4 things gone. it feels like a miracle and even I know that in the scheme of life everything we lose comes back around in some form or another...and in fact this very morning a love filled friend will quietly hand me a small container with a few beautiful things to refill the empty...just before class I will cry again. Tears of gratitude and I will feel so much love.
The same tears I cried as I crossed over the bridge and saw Donner Lake to my right. I give thanks that I have somewhere beautiful to retreat to, that I have love and friendships, that I have a choice, a clear healthy mind that has chosen prayer, joy and health and that I always no matter what, have a home to retreat to.
And as I drive off from the city, I hit the freeway and watch as the sun rises purple and blue over the marshes and water birds skim the cattails. i watch as the sun rises and I finally cry the sad tears. I cry for endings, I cry for suffering, I cry for rage and war and then I cry until i break through to laughing and my heart squeezes and I cry for the great loves of my life who were once animated at my side and are now memories and still images on computer screens. I cry for our temporary existence and the rapidity with which the first thrid of my life has passed and for the second time my spine relaxes and all evidence of ego, strength, and denial melt into the tender place of humility, feeling and acknowledgement.
That today as i rose from bed, the pines green in the light, I remember the many lives there are to live and dedicate my morning practice to those who know only one way and do not see the way out. I pray and imagine that somehow the soapstone from Mokulumne Hill, the amber, the indian silver, the Huichotle beads are connecting someone separated from the Mother to the energy of earth, to color, to the love that gave them to me.
And i remember the mala given to me by an Indian guru that was passed from his teacher and his teacher and his for generations and i remember that those who walk with me are in my blood and i come back to my medicine...I come back to my heart...and though in the middle of emotional turmoil I put down my cedar bag to let go into the bliss journey of self adventure and grand opportunity shining joy...i pick back up my bag and give my attention back to the cedar medicine that says, love is the key. Our heart cords most important. And I will read from my ex that authentic love is the walk through the shadows and i will come back home to myself and the ordinary magic of nothing but aspen leaves fluttering in the wind, birds awakening at dawn, slow walks by lake and in forests with friends walking dogs, and I will remember what I have known for years...what happens when we stop moving travelling and journey far from home...is more still...it is the unfolding cycles and days...it is the watching of children over years...the friends who knew us when...
And I come back to just me and the realizations, the strange appropriateness of lessons, and my shadows that when faced still have moonlight and stars, to feel me back to place in my heart that is home.