On the Search for Home

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There’s no place like home.

Richard Cohen wrote the following in the April 3 NYT.  I’ve copied the full text here as I know lots of folks who won’t read ‘mainstream’ media of any sort and I think this everyone should read and ponder what it means to them.   What home means to me follows.

LONDON — In a fascinating recent essay in The London Review of Books, called “On Not Going Home,” James Wood relates how he “asked Christopher Hitchens, long before he was terminally ill, where he would go if he had only a few weeks to live. Would he stay in America? ‘No, I’d go to Dartmoor, without a doubt,’ he told me. It was the landscape of his childhood.”

It was the landscape, in other words, of unfiltered experience, of things felt rather than thought through, of the world in its beauty absorbed before it is understood, of patterns and sounds that lodge themselves in some indelible place in the psyche and call out across the years.

That question is worth repeating: If I had only a few weeks to live, where would I go? It is a good way of getting rid of the clutter that distracts or blinds. I will get to that in a moment.

In the essay, Wood, who grew up in England but has lived in the United States for 18 years, explores a certain form of contemporary homelessness — lives lived without the finality of exile, but also without the familiarity of home.

He speaks of existences “marked by a certain provisionality, a structure of departure and return that may not end.”

This is a widespread modern condition; perhaps it is the modern condition. Out of it, often, comes anxiety. Wood does not focus on the psychological effects of what he calls “a certain outsider-dom,” but if you dig into people who are depressed you often find that their distress at some level is linked to a sense of not fitting in, an anxiety about belonging: displacement anguish.

Wood describes looking at the familiar life of his Boston street, “the heavy maple trees, the unkempt willow down at the end, an old white Cadillac with the bumper sticker ‘Ted Kennedy has killed more people than my gun,’ and I feel … nothing: some recognition, but no comprehension, no real connection, no past, despite all the years I have lived there — just a tugging distance from it all. A panic suddenly overtakes me, and I wonder: How did I get here?”

Having spent my infancy in South Africa, grown up and been educated in England, and then, after a peripatetic life as a foreign correspondent, found my home in New York, I understand that how-did-I-get-here panic. But Wood and I differ. He has no desire to become an American citizen.

He quotes an immigration officer telling him, “‘A Green Card is usually considered a path to citizenship,’ and continues: “He was generously saying, ‘Would you like to be an American citizen?’ along with the less generous: ‘Why don’t you want to be an American citizen?’ Can we imagine either sentiment being expressed at Heathrow airport?”

No, we can’t. And it’s that essential openness of America, as well as the (linked) greater ease of living as a Jew in the United States compared with life in the land of Lewis Namier’s “trembling Israelites,” that made me become an American citizen and elect New York as my home. It’s the place that takes me in.

But it is not the place of my deepest connections. So, what if I had a few weeks to live? I would go to Cape Town, to my grandfather’s house, Duxbury, looking out over the railway line near Kalk Bay station to the ocean and the Cape of Good Hope. During my childhood, there was the scent of salt and pine and, in certain winds, a pungent waft from the fish processing plant in Fish Hoek. I would dangle a little net in rock pools and find myself hypnotized by the silky water and quivering life in it. The heat, not the dry high-veld heat of Johannesburg but something denser, pounded by the time we came back from the beach at lunchtime. It reverberated off the stone, angled into every recess. The lunch table was set and soon enough fried fish, usually firm-fleshed kingklip, would be served, so fresh it seemed to burst from its batter. At night the lights of Simon’s Town glittered, a lovely necklace strung along a promontory.

This was a happiness whose other name was home.

Wood writes: “Freud has a wonderful word, ‘afterwardness,’ which I need to borrow, even at the cost of kidnapping it from its very different context. To think about home and the departure from home, about not going home and no longer feeling able to go home, is to be filled with a remarkable sense of ‘afterwardness’: It is too late to do anything about it now, and too late to know what should have been done. And that may be all right.”

Yes, being not quite home, acceptance, which may be bountiful, is what is left to us.

 I’ve never known home.  I’ve lived places, sure, but there has been no physical space I’ve felt deeply connected to–at least in a positive way.  There are still places where the associations of the past make me vomitous, sweaty & shake in fear when I drive past the exits on I-495.  And there are places where I’ve laid my head for a while and felt comfortable enough to put art on the walls but I’ve never really known home.

When I was in Georgia a couple of weeks ago, Duane Marcus of The Funny Farm, asked if part of my Traveling Light is the search for home.  I think it is.  For me, it will be a place I feel safe, comfortable, wanted and can express myself without condition.  One that will feels as if I’m an active part of a larger community, not merely a citizen of a particular zip code.

Until then, I stand in the knowing that my place of deepest connection is within the heart and between each breath of others.

Where is yours?

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Traveling Lightly to the Blackfeet Nation

Traveling Light has officially begun. Helena, Montana the aim.   It was merely the first stop in Big Sky Country but it’s still two thousand four hundred and ninety-eight miles from home.  The urgency was such to get here that I drove the whole thing just under three days as soon as I had enough money to make it.  Until now, I’ve felt the need to keep my reasons for Montana being the first bit of the Traveling Light adventure close to my chest.  I needed to protect one person’s anonymity, to evaluate the calling to engage with a particular organization and its place on the planet, and to keep looky-loos, nosey Nancies & hokey healers from creating interference for the ultimate reason I’m here.

Although this apparent connection to Montana began the morning of January 12 this year, it really began for me in May 2008.  On a date I can’t quite remember, I had my first vision as an adult (I talked a little about the childhood one here). In a period of time where I felt physically threatened and unsafe on a multitude of levels, two years before the healing gift and work with spirit as I know it now began, this trip to Montana truly began.  While driving to a therapist appointment of all things, a male Native American face appeared before me on my left for several minutes. His visage was stern and ferociously protective and, in that moment, I felt safer than I had in months.  He didn’t say a word but didn’t need to for me to know his presence wasn’t a figure of my imagination or stress-response to a threat.  I later thought (or hoped, maybe) that I could find who he was in the historical record.  I could not, though, discern who it was at the time. I did, though, find my protector on the afternoon of January 12, 2014, as I tried to put the pieces of this mystery together. Complete with the hat I saw him wearing was this man: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aatsista-Mahkan.

Not entirely unlike the vision that led me to Connecticut, this calling (and connection to 2008) began with a non-mystical or -metaphorical call as I was making this year’s first trip across the country  helping my best friend move from New Joisey to Seattle.  A person, another healer dude, reached out for help on January 10.  Our initial interactions were first limited to texting and the decision on both our parts that in-person work was necessary.   However, on Sunday the 12th, things changed course with a remote session to address an immediate need.

During that couple of hours I was ‘plugged into’ this other sensitive soul, the sensations that flooded through me opened the avenues that took me to Helena, Feathered Pipe Ranch, and, now to the heart of the Blackfeet Nation.  The lovely man, another super-sensitive empath, who initiated the rolling-across-the-country-in-a-blizzard-of-blowing-snow was being directly effected by an energy mass that was ground-based but human-related (and, y’all, you don’t have to believe it for it to be true). They spoke (by not speaking, actually) clearly enough for me to know without any other information exactly who and where they were and why I was reached in the wild way I was.  And, one of their brothers settled in beside me.  Although I didn’t know who he was at the moment of contact–it was hard to miss him getting comfortable as he sat down beside me.  An hour or so later, I learned that he was Pat Kennedy, a Cree elder with distinct connections to the Feathered Pipe, the healer I was connecting with, and the Blackfeet Nation.  My discomfort in the travels of the past couple of weeks has been mitigated by knowing he has not left my side since that day.

Part of an article from the January 27, 2014 Great Falls Tribune will fill in part of the blank:

On the morning of Jan. 23, 1870, a combined force of 347 U.S. Army regulars and civilian volunteers attacked the winter camp of Chief Heavy Runner. The operation’s commander, Col. Eugene Baker, had been ordered to find a different band of Blackfeet, led by Mountain Chief, to “strike them hard” and to arrest five Piegan warriors wanted for murder.

Baker’s scout told the commander he had the wrong camp, but it made no difference. His men had made a hard four-day march in subzero temperatures and were ready for blood…

Baker’s official report listed 173 Blackfeet killed and 140 captured. Other witnesses placed the number of dead closer to 220, the vast majority being old men, women and children, many sick with small pox.

After the killing was over, the soldiers burned the tribe’s belongings, then left the survivors behind with a small supply of Army hardtack and bacon.

More Blackfeet died in the following days, either succumbing to their injuries or freezing to death in the bitter cold.“It was our 9/11,” said Mike LaFromboise, culture/language chairman for Blackfeet Community College. “It’s the same traumatic experience we experienced today as they did back then.”

So, 144 years later I am in Browning, Montana, in the Going to the Sun Inn not-so-eagerly awaiting tomorrow’s 40+ mph winds and the blowing snow that slashes at your face in the same.  I’m going to go to the place where I’ve actually been called for quite some time and I’m going to listen to their hearts.

Any time I have any doubt about why I am where I am, I’m reminded to stay the course in some fashion.  In Saturday’s sweat, that was the message—“Patience.  Stay the Course.”  Sometimes, though, when I feel alone in all this or I think things are quite clear enough, I get pissed.  Royally so.  Yesterday, while frightened about what laid ahead and experiencing emotions not entirely my own, I yelled at the rafters (seriously, the rafters), “”SHOW ME!! Just fucking show me something I can understand!!!” Then I got in the car and drove the three hours from Helena to Browning. And, no, the rafters didn’t respond.

And while I moved up the highway, riding parallel to the Rocky Mountains majesty, I wept. I wept a lot.  I cried for me because I’ve no  idea what this is about, only that I must.  I cried because I don’t understand why I’m not frightened when by all measures of grown-up sanity, I should be quaking in my boots. I cried some more for me–what the fuck is happening in my world, why am I going, what if I’m wrong, how can I be wrong, why do I have to do this alone?  I cried for those who no longer can cry for themselves or others.  I cried for those who have been beating the drum in my heart.  I cried for a healer who is afraid to reclaim his power & is holding onto fear like a lifeline.  For a people  I’ve never known but always known.  And, over and over again I said out loud: “I’m coming.  I’m coming. I love you. I’m coming” to no one and everyone in particular.

The tears only lasted 30 miles or so.   When a reassuring hand laid on my head (Pat’s, I like to think) and I no longer felt alone and anguish morphed to stillness, the sobbing subsided.  Three hours later I landed in Browning, the home of the Blackfeet reservation.  I  made a stop at the local community college’s library, got the data I needed and asked for a cheap place to stay.

There’s not much of a seque here but I need to backtrack a month to January 18.  I had an appointment with a friend who ‘just knows’ in a way I highly respect.  (Simon‘s a cool dude who works the magic and plays with spirit in his own unique way.  You might want to check him out.).   He, without having any information beforehand, confirmed everything I’ve written above and also told me to be on the look out for a dude with a scar across his face.  He described the scar in detail.  Guess who is the proprietor at the warm & toasty Going to the Sun Inn?  Ayup–the man with the scar.  I asked to be shown.  I was.

And, I’m here.  Maybe to do nothing in particular.  Maybe to do something specific.  I don’t know.  They only thing I do know is that they called and I came.  So tomorrow, I head 60 miles east if Mother Nature will open the way and I will respond to their call.  Lao Tzu reportedly said, “loving someone deeply gives you courage.”  It is this love, the deepest, the love for which there is no real emotional definition in the way we think we know it,  the kind that needs no other explanation and requires no return that has given me the courage to come this far.  To them and theirs that have come before and after:  I’ve come.  I love you.

The Drumming of a Heart

If you put your heart against the earth with me, in serving every creature,
our Beloved will enter you from our sacred realm and we will be so happy. – Rumi

This began calling me 16 months ago:

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Beginning the weekend of October 2012 and through a period of nearly two and a half months, I thought I was going to die  (a very different experience than wanting to die, by the way!).  I drove myself to the emergency room quite sure that I’d had a series of heart attacks.  I experienced what physicians initially identified as heart palpitations that were so strong they would jolt me from a dead sleep into an upright, frightened, ‘shitballs’-shouting state.

At the ER, there was so sign of anything untoward and I was assured after several apparently bright medical minds reviewed my ECG and blood work, that I’d not had a single heart attack, never mind a series of them.

But the not-quite-a rhythm continued. It scared the shit out of me multiple times a day.  I often described it to others as an orchestral timpani that, unprovoked, without an emotional or physical trigger, would make me feel as if my chest wall was being cracked from the inside out; that my heart might be beaten out of my chest.  The urgency and repetitive nature led me to the University of Virginia’s Cardio-Pulmonary unit and a not-very-fashionable heart monitor that I wore for a month.

I recorded upwards of 30 ‘incidents’ a day, sometimes as many as 50, because the pounding was incessant, loud even as it echoed in my ears and mind.  This was not like any palpitation I’d read about or heard about (because you know, everyone had to tell me their heart stories, right?).  After a month of recording heart-breaking, I waited to go back to UVA.  I went.  They looked at all the EKGs submitted.  They looked at me.  They looked back at the monitor and readings.  Looked back and me and said, “Well, there’s nothing wrong with your heart.  We don’t see anything unusual here.”

WTF?  Excuse me?  How could there be nothing wrong with my heart?  I say, “Well, if it’s not my heart, what is it?” Them say, “We don’t know.  We need to start at the beginning.  We’re going to send you to another department for a full workup.”  Riiiiight.  I’ll skip the bit about what happened next and leave it at the fact I was not thrilled with the service, skill or insight that I believed a teaching hospital should have.

Once the immediate fear passed, I put on my thinking cap and decided that the issue really was one of a real-life, unromantical (my word, thank you) broken heart.  During the week before the ER visit, I had begun writing about my abusive childhood, diving into reaches of my mind & body to share my experience with others.  I thought it entirely possible that my body was telling me it wasn’t ready to find and deal with old wounds.   At the same time I was beginning the remembrance endeavor, I learned that my partner of a couple of years had been making plans of a future with me while lying to his adult children about my role in his life.  The truth that came out ripped me in two.  A body remembering significant physical and emotional pain and a metaphorically stomped love?  Broken heart, indeed.  The pieces seemed to fit.  Sort of.  The intense, persistent nature of the drum-heart beat abated.  The frequency diminished back to the ‘normal’ for me over the course of a few months.

I’d long felt and shared with others that I’d, with regularity, feel the heartbeat of another within my own–that was my normal.  To me, it was a comforting sort of thing–to profoundly know my interconnectedness with key people in my life.  I knew when said partner was thinking about me; I knew when someone was communicating with me in a standard telephonic or electronic fashion before I received the actual words; I knew my experience of the world wasn’t just freaky but had a deep, deep meaning.

This, however, was not that.

Oddly enough I was connected to a two other people who had the exact same issue.  One had previously been directly connected to me.  Another only tangentially via a common acquaintance.  We knew there was some sort of thread but couldn’t identify it.

Last week, while I was helping a friend move across the country, ‘it’ was identified. Clearly, profoundly & with a sense of urgency that has morphed my world once again.

I have been called.  I have been called for 16 months and didn’t know it until 4 days ago.  I (and another who will remain unnamed here until-or if- he chooses to go public) have been called by those lost long ago in, at the time, an unprecedented act of violent slaughter of humans, the earth that holds their presence, and by the person who now is their vessel.

The interconnected nature of what has transpired in the past few days with my own past, including my first vision in May 2008, is beyond merely ‘striking’.  The ties to living people, the energies of those (particularly Sai Baba) who reside within this Ingrid-package, my previous ‘knowings’, and a Cree elder who has been at my side for the past 5 days,  are leading me to spend what looks like most of February in the frigid West.

In Traveling Light, I mentioned that this year’s healer-on-the-highway travels were not entirely altruistic, that my heart is looking for a home.

The drums are calling me home.  They are calling me home: to a physical space, to a special relationship with the spirit of First Peoples lost and alive, and to put my heart against the earth.

 

What ifs and why fors…food for thought.

The other day I was struck with a string of questions.  They didn’t necessarily emerge from any real, in-depth thought.  Not things I’ve been ruminating on but they just came in a burst.  A rather long one but what are you gonna do?  Turn it off?  Methinks not.  So I put pen to paper and let it flow.

Here’s what came:

Why is it that some have such an issue with what I’ll call “just knowing” of the instant kind?  We eat like instant oatmeal, instant communications, quick meals, quickies (oh, c’mon now!), and what not, right? So, why the particular issue w/ this thing called enlightenment?  Is it because we’ve perceived it as something so special that it was attainable for only a few?  Is it because it’s not understood so therefore it cannot be?   Why is it, particularly in this age where instant gratification is sought, appreciated and expected does it seem so strange that one could see/know God, the Divine, the Essence, the Source, or themselves in one moment?

Why is it that this enlightenment or higher state of being is deemed inaccessible but for years of study or suffering, or so “special” that it can only be bestowed upon another by some Sri or Swami Justanothershmuckingituptananda?

Why is it that superfluous language is used to set us apart as some “thing” special–>particularly those of the persuasion that we’re not “just human”?

What if the whole point of this thing–this experience for which there really are no words really, truly is NOW?  Not just the being present in the moment but NOW as in this life. Here. Now.

What if our soul didn’t come back time after time until we ‘got it right’?

What if this is ‘just right’?  Just here, just now, this breath and this lifetime?

What if this is it?

What would that change for how you experienced life if you knew this life, this time was the ‘getting it right’?  Or, that this time, this life–this time in life was ‘just right’? Just the way it is?  That you are ‘just right’?  The way  you are?

Would it change your perception of past lives?  St. Peter? Pearly Gates? After life as you believe it now?

What if we all really are “just human”?   Ordinary, fleshy, brilliantly messed up humans with all the trimmings?   What if the Ascended Masters, Saints Galore and the hosts of Angels we call upon aren’t ‘out there’ surrounding us invisibly to be channeled by ‘special’ people really aren’t?  What if, because we are all connected, those qualities that we’ve projected upon these otherwise ordinary dead dudes (and dudettes) and imaginations really is simply within us all and ‘channeling’ Metratron (or whoever)  is nothing more special than speaking Truth?

Would that change your perception of you?  Your brilliant self?  How you do your ‘spiritual’ business?  How you see the psychic that does your readings? Your priest, padre, shaman, guru?  Your neighbor? Would you write your own book?  Would that change how you separate yourself from others?  Would that change your sense of your own simple, extra-ordinariness?

What if this ‘spiritual’ stuff that we think of as outside of us really isn’t?

What if it is us?  What if it is ‘just life’.  Regular, everyday life? What if knowing this is enlightenment, being ‘awake’ and engaged?

And, what if it is available to you instantly?  What if, in an instant, one breath, one sunrise, one ka-ping upside the head, one exhale you could really, truly experience the connection we have with all things, all people?  Conscious of the connection with what we choose to call Divine?  What if, in that instant you became Conscious and awoke to your own ridiculously fabulous, gloriously fucked up, magnificent, magical, amazing self? And knew you were ‘just right’ just the way you are?   What if realizing yourself is just that simple?

What if those of us who happen to be here and now w/ these “Gifts” really aren’t all that special?  What if we just happen to speak the same thing spoken by sages and mages since time began and more people can hear us now?   What if none  of us channel a damn thing that burbles out of our mouth?  What if, because it is Truth that we ‘just know’ and that everyone can ‘just know’, it isn’t that special?  What if that all we do is, well, do.  And, what if,  we realize that since we are all connected that we are responsible for more than just ourselves when we let things burble out of mouth?

What if you knew that in each breath, another was breathing with you?  What if, for a moment or two a day, you realized there was another heart beating in time with yours?

What if that is the message and it’s that simple?

What if the simplicity is that we can all ‘just know’ God, ourselves, and our connections to each other in a moment and that is all that it is about?  What if we can do it by just being here, in this lifetime, in this breath, now.  Being just a ridiculously extra-ordinary human.  By BE-ing.  Period.   No guru needed.

What if?