Saturday, September 26, 2009

Contemplating The Enigma...




I. The Early Motion

The poet stands at the center of the universe contemplating the Enigma. He draws sustenance from the masterpieces of the past.

Studying the four seasons as they pass, he sighs. Seeing the inter-connectedness of things, he knows the many ways of the world.

He mourns the leaves torn away by the cruel hands of autumn; he honours the fragrant tender buds of spring.

Autumn frost sends a shudder through his heart; summer clouds can make his spirit soar.

He learns to recite the classics; he sings in the clear fragrance of old masters.
He explores the treasures of the classics where form and content join.

Thus moved, he lays aside his books and takes the writing brush in hand to make this composition.

WEN FU
The Art Of Writing
by Lu Chi, 261 A.D.
Translated by Sam Hamill





I have been trying to write a new piece on this blog for weeks now. I started several, but none were right. I mentioned last time that this blog is not updated as often as the others because it is so important to me, I have to swim fathoms deep within myself to find the right words, and, like the game where a handful of colored stones are thrown into a deep pool and one must dive in to retrieve the one perfect stone, one goes deep and surfaces again, gasping for air, catching one's breath, and then dives down again. It is in this way that I approach writing this blog. I think I went through nearly ever single stone before Wen Fu helped me to surface.

This blog, Maitri's Heart, is, in it's way, so secret, so hidden, it is as though with each post I am reaching inside and pulling my heart out of my body to lie on a platter before you.

This is my heart ... watch it beating ... put your hand on your own chest and feel your heart ... our hearts beat as one ... write your truth Maitri, write your truth, write your truth to help others...

And so, like a novitiate who kneels, finally, to take the solemn vow, I have taken the vow of silence, and with it the vow of words. From the deepest part of me, I give you my heart, that all of our hearts might be connected as one.

I have realized, in these past painful months, that my coming out of the cocoon, as I've written about, wasn't a loss of any kind, but a preparation. The time ahead of me will be fraught with change, and like the novitiate about to take her solemn vow, I am about to step over the line from whence there is no turning back. I have been preparing for this since the day I was born.

The Enigma.

Why would a small, frightened child, who lived in a complex world of confusion, abuse, love, hate, secrets, things dark and hidden, and more, find her only true connection in life when hidden underneath a large grove of golden yellow forsythia bushes, a little spiral note and pen clasped to her chest, and only then, only when the words found their way onto the page, could she breathe, could she speak, could she say the words that no one could hear. They lived on the page alone, but they kept her alive, and so they have for fifty-five years.

One of my earlier memories was when I was about ten years old. The nuns at the school were very concerned about me and knew that something was very wrong, but knew not what. They told my mother that I should be taken to a "doctor," meaning a psychiatrist. I was painfully shy, withdrawn, and yet I could be a social butterfly. My nickname for myself was chameleon. I could change colors to fit in anywhere, but I was never truly seen. I learned to protect myself from very young. I learned to slide down inside the pen where no one could see me. I could hide inside the barrel of the 19 cent Bic pen and only come out when there were more words to write. I would not have survived without those forsythia bushes, the little red spiral notebook, and the Bic pen.

So my mother took me to the psychiatrist. He told her that I was an extremely sensitive child, and that something had happened to me, or was happening to me, but he knew not what. (Sexual abuse was not talked about or dealt with in those days.)

He had me do ink blot tests. I remember those, doing those, but I don't know why I had to take them or what they meant. There were other meaningless tests, and I was sent home with the "extremely sensitive" diagnosis to a land where a little girl was abused, and secrets were kept, and presents were given. Money and presents kept me quiet.

I have had trouble with money all of my life. It's the only way I had ever been soothed. For most of my life I could walk into and out of the most expensive store in the world, and all I would carry out with me was a pen. A new pen, another chance at life.

Abused children need lots of chances.

My childhood, the abuse, the mystery, the secrets went on in time, and the chameleon perfected her shape-shifting color-changing life until no one knew her at all.

This may be why I have spent the better part of forty years in therapy, more in than out, and now, I have settled into "maintenance," that place where all of your "diagnoses" are known, after much shuffling of medications the ones that work and make you look like a sane person most of the time have been prescribed and are taken, and life goes on as it will, one way or another, for the rest of one's life.

The diagnoses...

Bi-Polar Disorder, Type 2 (The more depressive rather than the manic side of things); PTSD Type 2 (The kind treatable but not curable. Looks like I'm on some kind of "2" jag.); Borderline Agoraphobic (I love that, when I'm not a 2 I'm a borderline...) meaning that I can go out sometimes for brief periods, but it takes it's toll, I rarely do it, I arrive home near panic, and may not leave the house again for a week or two or three, depending on what needs to be done in a critical sense. Then there's the Borderline Personality Disorder. Apparently that's not prevalent for me but it is there. I think it has something to do with my chameleon youth, and the fact that I left my body so often to go somewhere else so that I didn't know what was going on, that sometimes I had trouble re-entering. Rocky landings, dontcha know. (Do not let this lead you to think that I am Sybil or something, amongst all of my stone soup ingredients, or diagnoses, I do not have MPD -- Multiple Personality Disorder -- though if you asked the pugs they might beg to differ.) And to top it all off I have a pretty severe anxiety disorder.

Aren't I something?

The meds and wonderful doctor keep me on track and if you met me you'd likely not think I was anything out of the ordinary. The thing we don't realize is that we are all out of the ordinary, it's just that nobody knows what ordinary really is.

Besides the above hodgepodge I have a near Mensa I.Q. I have a huge heart. I am a very gentle, sympathetic, empathetic person, and a natural healer.

I am an artist whose art grows out of her body and other natural things and found objects, and parting with a piece of it -- they usually take months to make and are quite complex -- always feels like losing a body part. That's if I can bear to sell a piece of my work at all. It suddenly came to me, not long ago, that having no body in my early life (because I had left it to survive) and having taken somewhere toward middle age to realize that I had one (even though I didn't know what to do with it, and gained a lot of weight just to keep it tethered to the earth, but now, finally, am seriously losing weight and shocked to see that my body does not just float off and disappear like a helium balloon...) I can be alive. I can have a body. I can be safe. What a surprise. And I can hold on to the special pieces I create if I need them to feel whole.

I try to balance this by working on things that I love that I can sell. I handspin complex art yarns on old fashioned hand spindles. I clean, dye, and spin pretty well all of the yarns I use for my big projects, I make jewelry out of stones that have healing powers, even if the wearer doesn't believe in such things it doesn't matter. Love, spirit, and good intent go into every piece of art I create, and that, most of all, is what is meant to be felt.

And so... and so I am 55, and this year I was ordained as a minister, and though I can and have performed a wedding, and have spent most of my life teaching out in the world, the older I get the smaller my world looks to everyone else and the larger it looks to me. You see, I am no longer a novitiate. When people think of cloistered orders, nuns, monks, or the hermit in a cave on a mountain, they imagine a lonely existence. Something perhaps hollow, empty, and somehow lacking. What most people don't realize is that to do the work of your deepest soul you need silence and solitude, and more, it is the most deeply fulfilling work that you can do.

I am many, many things and the one thing I won't, will not ever again, do, is hide any part of my life, even if others find it distasteful, confusing, or even frightening. I'll give you a list. It is all true, it is all a part of who I am, I am proud of it all and comfortable with it now, I live in my own skin comfortably, and I believe I was meant to go through everything that I have in my life so that I could open my hands and my heart and my eyes and, quietly, from my cloistered world, help heal others with my words. I am no longer a novitiate. I have bowed down on my knees and taken the mantle, and I walk in the world, now, as...

* A woman

* A child of abuse

* A child who was loved

* A child who was misunderstood and frightened

* A chameleon child who was many things to many people but only one person to herself

* A married woman, now an ex

* A woman was thought to be a heterosexual all of my life (it was always sketchy to me), which a husband of nearly 30 years, three children, and the first of who knows how many grandchildren might belie, but...

* I am a lesbian. I am a lesbian and when I came out and said it out loud I felt whole for the first time in my life. People said, "Don't tell anyone." I said, "I have kept secrets all of my life, and I'm not keeping this one. I am a lesbian, and finally at home in my own skin, and though, barring a very few brief relationships, I have been alone almost ever since coming out, it does not make me any less a lesbian.

* I was raised Catholic, have spent thirty years or more as a serious student of Buddhism, I was ordained by a Christian minister, I am an interfaith, non-denominational minister who can perform any and every kind of alternative wedding imaginable, but will no longer perform another ceremony until all are afforded that privilege. I open my arms to all paths of spirituality that are based in love, kindness, non-judgment and an open heart. I am a minister who seeks no title. I've tried, but it keeps feeling awkward. It's because I'm meant to live a cloistered life, for the most part, and give from my heart to all that I meet and anyone I can reach, and my name, Maitri, is enough. My name says it all. I am, on paper, Reverend Mother Maitri Libellule. I have used various forms of that title. I went back to Maitri. I tried Mother Maitri. I kept trying on different clergical hats and none of them fit. I look better in my flamingo hat.

"Maitri" is the Buddhist teaching of loving-kindness and compassion, and at its core the teaching is about the need to have that kindness and compassion for ourselves first, because without that we are an empty well, and we have nothing to give to another. I took the name Maitri legally five years ago because I meant this teaching to be my life's work. I don't need a title. I am simply Maitri, except on legal papers where I have to use my last name. I shall be spending the weeks ahead changing every single place I used my "Rev." title back to simply Maitri
. I really don't need anything else.


This reminds me, fondly, of Colette. While I have a library of books on spirituality including the Bible, Buddhist texts too many to count, numerous books on Native American Spirituality and just about every kind of spiritual practice you can imagine, the book that I call my "Bible" is Earthly Paradise, the collected writings of Colette. This is not sacrilegious. No, the writings of Colette have taught me and led me to all the places, the most deeply spiritual, sacred, and pure places, that things can be found. Love, a ripe piece of fruit, the garden, a small child, words, letters, animals, friends, everything was sacred to her. She has been my greatest Muse, as a writer, a minister, and a woman. Everything was sacred to her, everything was holy.

It is in this book, decades ago, that I first read something that would come to be an important stepping stone in my own life, but I couldn't possibly have seen it then. Colette wrote, in the 1920's...

"So, it came about that both legally and familiarly, as well as in my own books, I now have only one name, which is my own."

Colette, she became Colette.

Maitri. I have become Maitri, and it is both who and what I am, both legally and familiarly.

I was born in April, 1954. Colette died in August, 1954.

My mother was born in July 1926. She will soon die as I pass through the portal and take a turn down the road that will be the rest of my life. It will not begin until my precious mother dies. She leaves me, as Colette left me, a legacy, and now I carry much with me into the holy chapel of my own making where I will dedicate my life to one of service, and I will use the tools that I have been given in this life of mine. Love, faith, the natural world, and all of the wonders and mysteries that are always just beyond our grasp, and give us a reason to keep on living, so that one day, we, too, might experience the Enigma.

I would like to leave you, here, with a couple of paragraphs from the editor of Earthly Paradise, the amazing Robert Phelps, who took a lifetime of writings by one woman who lived more than eighty years, and whose book I am never without. Phelps wrote of Colette...

"But she also knew -- perhaps the word is 'trusted' -- that to be born sentient and watchful is a daily miracle: that the paradis terrestre, the earthly paradise around us, is as wondrous an index of heaven as any we shall ever know; and that to abide here, even as an exile, for seven or eight decades, is a blessing -- because it is a chance to watch, to 'look for a long time at what pleases you,' and to find 'un mot meilleur, et meilleur, que meilleur, a better and better word,' with which to secure it for others.

"And when we, in turn, watch Colette watching, we realize that, along with love and work, this is the third great salvation, or form of prayer, which we have been given. For whenever someone is seriously watching, a form of lost innocence is restored. It will not last, but during those minutes his self-consciousness is relieved. He is less corrupt. He forgets he is going to die. He is very close to that state of grace for which Colette reserved the word, 'pure.' "

I have contemplated the Enigma. I have watched winter turn to spring, spring to summer, and summer into autumn. The leaves are falling from the trees as my mother prepares to shed her mortal coil, and I shall spend my life being watchful, always looking for a better and better word, with the spirits of my mother and Colette around me. They have served me well, words, the life rafts that have floated me this far downstream. I imagine they will take me the rest of the way...


3 comments:

Shinade aka Jackie said...

Maitri,
You are such a wonderful writer. I could picture the yellow of the Forsythia bush so vividly.

Please, please...consider using at least one of your blogs to teach writing.

I know people will pay. Lainy, from Malaysia, has a post up today speaking how many on EC that are ESL writers need to improve.

Way back about three years ago I had a friend who did start a blog and offer a course in writing and she was very successful. She made some bucks.

I think she charged $25 for each go around. A course was like 6 weeks or so!!

I would so love to learn proper grammar. I have a million words in my head and have no clue how to write a proper poem!

Also, feel more positive today. I am not going to let the other complainers drag me down anymore.

I have left before twice and each time come back due to the loss of so much traffic.

I think a great deal of those leaving will return eventually too.

Happy Monday and a bucket full of love for you!
Jackie:-)

Sugar Cribs said...

wow long poet but great

Jude said...

I felt very sad for the little girl, but I'm happy for the woman you are. It takes a lot of courage to open your soul to the world and tell all of your secrets, bless you Maitri.

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