Manly Men

Fury men

Ok, I admit it.  As I travel I have a little game since I am a big movie goer.  I see where the cheapest movies are and hands down they are in Oklahoma.  So is the gasoline for $2.35 a gallon.  First run, big screen, movies are…wait..wait…$5.75. In Denver they are nearly $12 for one ticket, Asheville, NC $7.75 and in NYC $15 and up.  And in Oklahoma you can get popcorn and a drink for under $6 compared to the usual $13.50.  But, movies won’t keep me here for much longer as I wander back to Denver for the holidays and family.

 

But I have seen some movies lately that have shifted my consciousness.  Interstellar being one which won’t let go and tonight I am seeing St. Vincent with Bill Murray.   But, for the moment I want to speak about how my relationship to men is changing because of an uprising of movies… about men.

 

One of the most tragic stories in the history of our planet has to do with men. Yes you heard it hear from one who has spent thirty years speaking to women’s empowerment, raising one voice for women of abuse and delving into the history of terror for women which continues all over the world by the hands of mostly, men. So, this is a big moment for me as I come into my own deeper realization that we ALL have been brutalized at the hands of the Patriarchy whether it be religion or governing bodies, husbands, employers or terrorists.  Men have suffered, as have women.

 

Men designed, supported and have lived by powerful beliefs since the beginning of time with regards to what “manly men” are, why war is necessary, why bravery and courage and fighting the good fight is at the heart of what men are required to emulate. Men grew up thinking about the hero, the warrior and living under authority that was not their own. As a result, most men simply learned to soldier through life with no idea of what really lurked on the other side of this dysfunctional set of rules for being masculine.  Still in the most current dictionary the word Manlycarries a heavy weight:

  1. Having or denoting those good qualities traditionally associated with men, such as courage and strength.
    “looking manly and capable in his tennis whites”

What is wrong with this picture?

performing, providing and protecting became the most important part of what made a man a man, which morphed over the centuries, as any imbalance does, into a toxic reflection of the masculine that took on the mask of control over, power hunger, greed and a disrespect for anything that is not…all of the above. But, what about the human condition that is innate which men were encouraged to exorcise from their self-concept, namely, emotions, creative and spontaneous dreaming, and anything that seemed to scream the feminine, as in intuition as power, emotional intelligence and compassion for the most part, all aspects of our humanity which were not in the game of being a man.

 

Today, through the widening crack in the system, we are hearing some clear thinking and feelings on this subject as they spill out into our collective conscience. And, at the front of the line for telling the truth of what men have endured in the attempt to adhere to the “real man syndrome”, is the movie industry. Hidden and not so hidden in the fabric of the movies that are coming out in droves this fall, is the untold story of the patriarchal underbelly and the price being paid not only by women, but by the men themselves who have fought for their country, for families, for putting meat on the table and for simply doing what authority says in order to get ahead and be the norm. But the norm is not normal. These movies not only hint at the corporate rape of men’s souls, the pressure of being the provider, the soul crushing reality of all war, but they expose some of the most vulnerable truths that men never really talk about.

 

This underbelly of the patriarchy is fraught with guilt, shame, emotional pain, fear and suffering that the soldier from war arriving home with a life long case of PTSD is simply a mirror for. The men who were trained out of a large part of their humanity are equally pained by what lies buried and seemingly out of their reach and far from the light of day: Their inherent lovable-ness, their soulfulness, their feelings and their fears. Personal suffering that is hardly measurable, that has no way of being addressed, creates anger and depression, suicide and alcoholism and men litter relationships with brokenness, heart attacks, stress reactions and lack of intimacy.

 

There are at least four movies that stampede onto the screen this fall and winter and are couched in what you might think as being a “guy movie” but under the surface you are witnessing a revelation of the inner life of men. I am not talking about any of the Hangovers, The Interview, all the Seth Rogen movies and the plethora of wanna be cop movies since they just keep men Dumb and Dumber. But Fury with Brad Pitt, the up and coming Unbroken by Angelina Jolie, The Railroad Man with Colin Firth and The Judge with Robert Downey Jr. and the impeccable Robert Duval are stories of men who did what was expected of them in war, in work and at home and paid a horrible bone crushing, life sucking price which the women in their lives inherited.

 

Men brokered their own deeper humanity for towing the line and for fear of not being one of the boys.   These movies eek out themes of the loss of love, the powerful bonding between men that can only be expressed by the short hugs or the slap on the back, the cold war between fathers and sons who cannot express emotion and the inability to be fully themselves are rare confessions from men in movies. And we as the onlooker with popcorn in hand, rarely get to see these themes unfold in all its pain.

 

As stories go, this story is the one story that our society needs to look square in the eye since things are changing and they will not be returning to “normal”. Men and women alike are crying for balance within and without between the masculine and the feminine and in the long run the shift that everyone is heralding on our planet has, at its heart, the crumbling of the patriarchy in all is dysfunction and abuse of spirit. Movies start consciousness moving outside the box, whisper the unspeakable, leave us breathless with visual brilliance in a moment that captures anguish which cannot be expressed any other way than with flying body parts. Then we watch the inevitable as Brad Pitt takes all the suffering of war and buries it deep inside just as our fathers, brothers and lovers have, only to create suffering for the generations that follow.

 

We have spent decades in the arms of a feminist movement that has made clear how ravaged, and how brutalized women have been from the beginning of time at the hands of the patriarchal model, but it is now time to have the conversation that is so needed regarding the wounded warrior, the brutalized man, the man who has been denied his soul.

 

I am inspired by the list of “man movies” that should become the most important “chick flicks” to see. So in the service of story telling I want to review all of the movies that I have mentioned here, not to give anything away, but, to coax you in seeing violent and harsh movies as a way to more fully understand the darkness of the patriarchy and what men have endured. I will add a new post for each movie to the Screenplay section of my website, starting with Fury.

Navigating the Times

life-in-denver

Having left the Rainforest of North Carolina and headed west I’ve landed in the middle of the country.  I can’t say that travel through Tennessee and Missouri was the least bit interesting and at one point I just wanted someone to please beam me up and out of the sandwich I had become on I 40, as I crawled along with packs of sixteen wheelers for nearly ten hours.  Crossing into Oklahoma, well, was a relief, as the trucks moved on toward Little Rock and finally let me out of what had been an interminable prison of fumes.

 

Sunsets.  The best part of Oklahoma especially as they light the sky and on the horizon are mechanical oil wells pumping away with their black silhouettes like ancient dinosaurs still roaming the countryside.  But once here, I remembered the years as a child on my grandparents farm but also remembered why this is not the state for me.  The simplest way to describe my being the one to feel so alien here is to say that the mindset is overall…confining.  Enough said.

 

I came to Oklahoma to house sit  for my sister and hunker down to serious writing.  But it took about a week to recover from packing, moving, packing some more, storing the last bits of my stuff, packing the car, saying goodbye to people I love, and then listening to my beloved cat meow for over a hundred miles.  I have made this nomadic choice before but this round of simplifying my life in order to create more financial freedom and just more room in general for shifting my focus to my life as a writer, has not been easy.  Age? Maybe. A very hard year?  Maybe.  But that’s not what I really think the difficulty has been.  Each of us has our own personal stories we are living but on a global and cosmic stage that exerts a powerful influence on each and every one of us.

 

I believe that navigating the prevailing winds of change on the planet takes great focus, greater personal energy and impacts all of us at a deep level.  Yet I keep orienting to life’s changing landscape as if it were twenty years ago when none of the challenges that currently impact all of us had revved up to the peak we are now facing.  And so much of the shift all around us is …mysteriously unseen.

 

From ever-increasing electromagnetic assault, fear pollution, cellular change at a powerful vibrational level to inner tension from financial stresses, relational endings, health concerns, lost jobs, and the nagging questions of “why am I here and what am I doing with my life?”, these issues, energies and questions are epidemic for a huge part of the population.

 

These shifting inner and outer tides are no more prevalent than with those who understand that they are “old souls” on the planet for the umpteenth time.    So, why is this the case?  Is this collective phenomenon pressing on the old soul community harder because they have more tools or a greater commitment to change or transformation?

 

Is it because the shift that is brewing on our planet is simply requiring that old souls who have incarnated now are more responsible to lead the way out of one collapsing paradigm and into an emergent one of love and inclusiveness?  Or is it that old souls are being pushed hard to shed all attachment of any kind, especially to lifestyle and constrictive or uncreative work in the world, so that they are unencumbered as freedom and mobility becomes a necessity in our lives?  Yes.  The answer is yes to all of the above.

 

So I confess.  As I was swept along in between these loud, lumbering behemoths barreling down the road, containers full of mail, milk, food, tech, cows, horses and cars, I thought more than once, “What the hell am I doing?”  And I have thought that many times as I drive from Oklahoma to Colorado.

 

Jumping into the unknown does not give you wings to soar above the fear or an endless measure of faith to overcome the doubt.  In fact, taking a leap of faith because you cannot do anything other than jump, assures you that you will have a daily practice of quelling the doubt and fear, talking yourself into a few more uncertain miles until the Universe very predictably leads you into all the magic and the moments, the people and the places that you know instantly are why you jumped in the first place.  Then you get up and do it all over again.

 

So tomorrow I will be in Denver, the Rockies looming in the distance with their first snowcaps. I look forward to being back to where I lived for eight years and crossing over the border, on through the town of Limon and then the vast vista of the high plans, the rolling sagebrush, and the cloudless sky stretched out before me. When I get there I will breath in the cooler Colorado air and simply say, “So, what will today bring?”  I say that most every day now.

 

 

 

 

Back on the Road Again

sarah conner terminator

I am about to be on the road again as a Gypsy. Willy Nelson nailed it with the lyric about bands of Gypsy’s in his song, On the Road Again, which I find myself humming as I pack a few more boxes here in Asheville, NC. But, I relate a bit more to Linda Hamiton in the Terminator when at the end of the movie she is alone and pointed west going into a storm. Very dramatic don’t you think?

Like in all time warps, I awoke to having left my life packed in boxes three years ago to hit the road right after my mother died, but suddenly had gotten a little sidetracked in intention. Now I am resuming the journey, which started for me in Tulsa Oklahoma in 2011.

A Case for Becoming Sidetracked

What does that mean. We say sidetracked as if it is not an intended path. We say it like it has been a diversion, a mistake, and now it is time to get on the Right path. Well, I think this is a misconception. All paths lead to one path. Life. And when we look at a “sidetrack” as a mistake we miss the truth that these detours are just that, a detour.

Haven’t you ever taken an unexpected detour and where you saw a house in a new neighborhood you loved, a stray dog you picked up and he was yours forever, a breathtaking vista that you would never have seen…without the detour? You are changed and then resume an intended direction all the richer and wiser for it.   And maybe the detour slowed you down, maybe it avoided an accident. Detours are part of our path. For me the last three years have been a breathtaking detour. But I did not know it.

First Flight

“In 1903, Orville Wright piloted the first powered airplane 20 feet above a wind-swept beach in North Carolina.” 

What prompted me to leave my life back then, say goodbye to my friends, my therapy practice and all my stuff, opting for a car full of the simple basics and my adoring and patient cats, Snow and Hazel, was nothing short of a miracle whispering in my ear one night: “Fly Maya and find out what truly makes you happy?” After 30 years as a psychologist, a wife and a mother, I was not sure I knew any longer. So, I set out to find the answers.

Like all of us, I made plans. I had a map of all the stops I wanted to make. I made a commitment to following the “signs” and to listen to coincidence and see where the road would lead. And like you may have heard me say before, “If you want to make god laugh, tell him your plans”. Well, I have no idea who said that first, but in my life I found out exactly what that meant in about one week of travel.

Mulder Scully Simpsons

The X-Files

“An X-File is a marginalized, unsolved case involving unexplained phenomena”. 

I have shared the saga about why I took my car off the road and stayed indefinitely in Asheville, NC after only ten days with Oklahoma in my rearview mirror. Nothing sexy, just that my driver’s license expired and I had to get a new one. I went to the DMV and short of them taking scissors and cutting my license up in front of me, like they do with credit cards that have been revoked, my license had been “cancelled” indefinitely due to a little, insignificant, pain-in-the-ass detail that the Social Security Administration could not fix.

I thought to myself, “no-brainer, I can make this happen and get back on the road in no time”. So I hunkered down with my daughter Jessie in her apartment, which was wonderful although she got more time with me than she ever wanted.. More time with her beautiful spirit was a great gift for me. But, with regards to my driving out of Asheville, I am here to tell you three years later the glitch did not get fixed.

Lawyers could do nothing no matter how much money I spent, the government did not care if I had to walk to the nearest ER with a heart attack, two appeals to court got dismissed and my unusual situation got stamped and filed in what I came to know as “the gray files”, back in some official’s pitch black closet that no one ever looked in again. I felt like the X-Files, Scully and Mulder would have been stumped too as my case just got buried since the governing officials didn’t want to take the blame for anything which fixing the glitch would have led to. So, as citizens, our freedoms become expendable at this point.

What Happens When the System Does Not Work?

TV News, the D.A., the Mayor and the Governor of Colorado said, “Their hands were tied”. What does that mean anyway? So, I took matters into my own hands and this summer I am now legally driving with a shiny new photo of me smiling on my brand new driver’s license. But, the road to getting that license is not only another story, but, a carefully guarded secret. It sort of involves meeting a strange man smoking a cigarette on a back alley somewhere. Well you get the picture. I am happy to share the solution with anyone who is “Gray-Filed” in life.

With all obstacles come opportunities. And as I slogged through the bureaucracy of a broken system, grounded in NC, I met Richard Gannaway from AOMusic and knew that my reason for becoming sidetracked in Asheville was to meet him, to hear the music of AO and to feel the certainty that I would become a core support for making a new album, for getting future films made and seeing this extraordinary magic of music change the hearts of people around the world. So, for these last three years I have been doing just that, as well as working on a project with the renown singer Miriam Stockley, which has been an immeasurable gift in my life.

My life, love and work for AOMusic, with Miriam, and with the angels I met in Asheville has changed me entirely. And in the process of being part of this richly creative process I began to notice some things that disturbed me. I became tired although my creativity ran high, I found myself suffering from a weariness that I could not explain. I started to have a long bout with insomnia.

Then sometime later I became ill, had a car accident, become dampened down by a shadow of some kind that I couldn’t shake. I was soul searching about a dozen times a day to see what could be the cause of my electrical plug pulling out of the socket of my life. My heart started feeling like it was getting a little dimmer. But I was doing work I loved, I was creative, I was with people I loved. What was the problem?

“The crowning fortune of a man is to be born to some pursuit which finds him happiness, whether it be to make baskets, or broadswords, or canals, or statues, or songs.”

― Ralph Waldo Emerson

sasha and jess black and white

Out of the Mouth of Babes

One day I was on the phone with my daughter Sasha, having a heart to heart. Now, you need to know that unfortunately for her, all too often this translates as Mom in her giving-advise-mode, which I experience as some kind of hostile take over of the wiser version of myself who knows better than to give unsolicited advise to my grown daughters. But, I did it anyway like a crazy person and what happened next changed everything.

As I was on a Skype with Sasha, who is 30 going on immortal, and we tried to hear one another over the thunderstorm bouncing off the Blue Ridge Mountains on my end and the cement floor coffee shop she was in with whirling blenders and a cacophony of voices blasting through her headphones on her end, that shoe you never want to drop, did. I was met with a stern stare burning right through the computer screen, since she could see that I was about to rev up into one of those Mother Lectures we all know about. I paused.

In the pause, while I am grappling with what should or should I not say, I see an older girl, black horn rimmed glasses making her look scholarly and like an authority on life, lean up close and personal and say. “Well Mom, I think all we can do to help each other is not tell one another what to do, but maybe you just might think about leading by example”.

Ouch.

I heard her like an arrow to the heart makes you sit up straight and get that you are in a life changing moment.   My daughter had the only really wise thing to say. “Lead by example, don’t try to fix anyone”. Ugh.

The Accidental Life

I think I was staring at the screen for a long time after the Skype ended and then I did what any good mother would do. I imploded with the truth of what she has said.

I plummeted briefly into that place of feeling like a total failure with her, with everyone, in life. A failure with myself. The next three days I went off the grid and encountered revelations one after the other. I looked long and hard at my overworking, over-caring for people, worry about money, giving myself away in love or in the need to be perfect. I had become the energizer bunny for everyone, but myself. It was exhausting.

Then I did the bravest thing I could do and got up out of my chair and went and looked in the mirror of my own life. And all of a sudden my depression, exhaustion, and my accidental life came clear to me:

I had been living the dream, but it was someone else’s.

When my daughter confronted me to lead by example what she truly meant was “Mom what about your dreams, what about that book you were writing, that movie you wanted to make and what about that life on the road you didn’t take?” She was all too right. I had found the most amazing people and projects full of love and nobility, all the things that I love and live for. But, the projects were not what my soul came here to do. My soul finally just got exhausted trying to tell me.

This was about one month ago and I have pushed the pause button on my life entirely. Not without guilt, but with a bit more courage than usual to do hard things. Disappointing people is one of those things I hate doing. But, for three years I have put a part of myself on my own “Gray Shelf” and forgotten to check in with the part of me that hit the road to find what made me happy in the first place.

I have surveyed all the work I have been doing as an entrepreneur, a producer, all the people I help, all the commitments I have made to shore up other people s visions, and asked if I loved what I do. The answer was this: I love the people and the projects but I do not like who I have become in order to live inside someone else’s dream.

Impulse or Inspiration: The Thin Line

im·pul·sive

adjective \im-ˈpəl-siv\

: doing things or tending to do things suddenly and without thought : acting or tending to act on impulse: done suddenly and without planning : resulting from a sudden impulse

in·spi·ra·tion

noun \ˌin(t)-spə-ˈrā-shən, -(ˌ)spi-\

: something that makes someone want to do something or that gives someone an idea about what to do or create : a force or influence that inspires someone: a person, place, experience, etc., that makes someone want to do or create something: a good idea

When you take a dash of impulse, a pinch of inspiration you come out with the recipe for Faith: Faith is belief that is not based on proof The word faith is often used as a synonym for hope, trust, or belief.  This is the engine of my life.

So, with one deep breath I stopped it all in order to get back to that basic, all important question, for every person on the planet: What truly inspires me and am I allowing all of who I am to shine? The answer? Stories inspire me. Movies inspire me, listening to people share their stories inspires me. I am a writer. I want everything that I do for myself and for work in the world to be about writing.

Wow, that was a long overdue relief. But, with awareness comes that thing that makes us all stumble just a little: Action. Now I had to recalibrate my life, reassess my work with AOMusic, downsize a dozen other commitments and put myself out to the world in a more authentic way. Right about now I started sleeping better. My energy came back, and that dimmed heart light went from a 15 watt bulb to an outdoor floodlight.

The other surprising recipe goes like this: A dash of feeling liberated, an ounce of courage, and watching all the dots connect can in fact just… piss you off. Just when I thought I was to the other side of this massive wake up call, I was seized by the need to go out in the dark and get into my car and scream.   As soon as the door closed I started yelling at God, the Universe, Spirit, my parents, myself and anyone else I could yell at. About everything.

And what came of emptying my reserve of pent-up emotions was a new certainty: That all that procrastination, workaholic, exhaustion, worry and fear was simply the by-product of not believing in myself. This was the real epiphany.

This was what my daughter was trying to tell me. I finally looked in the face, my habit of tying my star to someone’s dream no matter how amazing the dream was, because I did not think…I was good enough. Husbands with big jobs, little children, and clients in need, colleagues who I thought were more talented than me were always in the front seat of my life. I sat there in the dark for a long time. I was waiting for the tears to spill over and never stop. But, they didn’t.

“Fuck it”, I said. I felt energized, motivated and excited instead. This usually goes hand in hand with when you align with your soul. I got out of the car and sat in the clearing and listened to the Cicada’s as they tuned up for the approaching rising Blue Ridge moon. And in that quiet after my storm, I heard myself say only one word out loud. “Yes”.

Yes, I will be all of me, yes I am enough, yes I will simply risk over and over again, yes I will have money, yes I will…lead by example. Yes, my daughter is right. Then I said what I had tried to say for decades. I said, “I will be writer I am, tell the stories I have been given and I will make my living as a writer. I will write my own story. I will heal my life”.

Enter the Sledgehammer

sledge hammer 2

There is another saying that I have coined that goes something like this: “If in your heart you feel the truth of a dream and set an intention, sit back and watch the Universe line up behind you to make it happen”. I forget this all too often.

Suddenly, the phone rang and I left the buzzing of the forest and went inside to answer it. It was a friend who wanted to talk to me over coffee. I set a time. I then went to the computer and found two emails from friends who said they needed to share some feedback with me. Hmmmm.

For three straight days eight random people approached me saying the exact, verbatim, remarks: “Maya I don’t know why I am telling you this, but, stop helping everyone else, write your book, sell your screenplay, believe in yourself”. It was staggering and as clear as the Universe knows how to be when using a cosmic sledgehammer.

Beware What You Wish For

I put out that what I wanted was to write my story and make my living by writing. I posted on Craigslist, I sent emails, I shared my clear intention with friends. That was on a Sunday. Five days later I had three inquiries to coach people on books they wanted to write, signed contracts, received money, closed a ghostwriting deal in Denver, started my blog http://www.mythotherapy.com and three other people have approached me to be their writing coach. I then dug out my unfinished books, second draft of a screenplay and began collecting what is ten years of writing. I am a bit breathless over the whole thing and it is not stopping. I guess that when god is finished laughing at your plans, she gets to work on miracles.

Then I decided to pare down my life to the basics once again, let go of my paradise apartment and get back on the road. If I had not been sidetracked by life I would never have come to this place…in myself. The road is where I can see the signs better, where I gather stories, live simply, stop paying rent and utilities and spend that money in the service of writing, discovery and growth.

So, my tiny apartment in Asheville is nearly packed. My two cats are now one since sweet Snow died in the spring. I am getting new tires, hugging the best people in the world here in Asheville and pointing west for an indefinite road trip. And funny, my first stop is back to Oklahoma. My future will once again be full of couches and the good will of great friends. I will let you know where I will be stopping in case you want to have a cup of coffee and… I have a front seat if you want to come along

“We live in a world where bad stories are told, stories that teach us life doesn’t mean anything and that humanity has no great purpose. It’s a good calling, then, to speak a better story. How brightly a better story shines.― Donald MillerA Million Miles in a Thousand Years: What I Learned While Editing My Life

jump off cliff

Quack or Quantum

Originally posted on Mythotherapy:

oscar winner

Those who tell the stories rule the world.” –Hopi American Indian proverb

 I have been a psychologist for over 30 years. Carl Rogers was all the rage when I went to study for my graduate degrees at Harvard University in Developmental Psychology. The year was 1980. America had imprinted on our favorite therapist through the Bob Newhart Show, and it was the decade of the Rubik’s Cube, Cabbage Patch Kids and Bill Cosby. So, when it came to being a shrink, Carl Rodgers was a next great step forward from Sigmund Freud and the movie What About Bob.

What I took away from Carl was a process called “mirroring”. It goes something like this: “Oh, what I hear you saying is that you feel like throwing your cat out the window”.  At that point the client throws the tissue box at me. This approach rapidly became a tool…

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A Lost Art

date on cellphone

“With life as short as a half-taken breath, don’t plant anything but love”.  Rumi

A gift we often overlook in life is the gift of presence.  Being fully present with our own soul, our body, and our thoughts is hard to achieve in a society of abundant distractions. With skyrocketing technology, we scatter our life moments like seeds on un-fertile ground, never staying with any one moment to cultivate, nourish and add to the soil of our lives, enhance our relationships or till the rich ground of our hearts. Without being fully present in our lives, nothing we do fully grows and flourishes.  Without love and without great attention, true intimacy is not possible.

Enter the cell phone, the iPad, texting, and instant accessibility.

What has happened to us?  Why are we so seduced by the incessant buzz of cyberspace, the interruptive three sentence texts that take us out of one conversation into another disembodied one?  Could it be that the availability and desirability of every kind of impersonal communication from email, cell phone, text, chat and dating online really in the end serves to protect us….from intimacy?

And more truthfully can these endless illusions of connection be a new addiction? What is it about having several conversations at once that even suggests anything of substance?  Once drugs and alcohol were the favorite barriers to being fully present but now…. it is far more powerful to have the best iPhone and the newest way to say very little and never have to look a single soul in the eyes.

Dis-embodied relationship is simply easier, less risky, less exposing, safer, and far more superficial. And it is delusional.  We imagine what others look like, are feeling, the intonation of their words…we just imagine it.

I wonder sometimes if I am the only one who finds my heart sink or my blood boil when someone asks me how I am and I venture out into an answer, weighing how honest or vulnerable to be and then leap, say something, only to look up from my courage to see the person who asked the question in the first place, staring down at their lap, clicking away a text to some unknown and uninvited person, as they smile over a private moment?  In that instant I feel thrown overboard and floating in an ocean of relationship entirely alone. Unvalued, disrespected.  The person then looks up and scrambles to remember what we were talking about and I sink back into my chair, accepting defeat and making small talk.

Am I the only one who wants to walk out of a restaurant when my children answer the phone in the middle of an intense conversation, or interrupts my train of thought to text a friend.  Has anyone noticed that conversations are now far more short bursts of thinking than long lingering conversations that lead to creative and passionate connection?   Am I the only one who in that instant feels a twinge of being utterly unimportant an that I am loosing out on something precious?   I doubt I am the only one.  But our culture is making this not only acceptable, but the norm.

The newest generation if adolescents who have grown up with a phone at their ear and a computer to spell check their term papers thinks that they know what relationship is but in reality they are totally unable to be fully present and intimate with other human beings. Because they are never really fully present with their own thoughts and feelings for more than an instant.  We are growing a culture of separation and alienation with all of our connectivity of technology.  We are forgetting about basic human interaction on a physical plane and we are getting used to it.

Today I had a business meeting with a colleague.  I took time to schedule it in my busy day, to put important time into making sure we covered the necessary agenda and looked forward to being productive and creative with someone who is very important to me.  First my colleague was 15 min late, and then there were six unrelated beeps and texts that stalled out our conversation each time.  I slowly became angry and finally got the courage and said something about how unacceptable the interruptions were.  I was met with anger and sarcasm.  In the end my desire to have my colleague be fully present with me was met with criticism.  I went home feeling very sad.

What was I sad about?  I was sad that to want full presence and attention from my colleague and require respect and presence when I am speaking with him was met with disapproval, anger and belittlement.  How did I come to be the one who is in the wrong?  When did being fully present become a “problem” for so many people and why does my wanting it make me the odd person out?

I confess.  My kids might say it is my age.  But, I think maybe not.  Old fashioned is not always un-evolved.  There are some basic tenants that follow through life as true generation after generation.  They are the tenants of being human, and in the end technology is making us forget how to be human with ourselves first and with others by way of not being present with self.

Tenant #1      Our five senses are required for true intimacy and connection.  Eyes meeting eyes, the tone of ones voice, the touch of a hand, body language, the smell of someone, appearance and the all-important smile.  These are the bedrock of intimacy, of truly knowing someone and they are necessary ingredients for the chemistry of love that cements a bond to even have a chance to exist.  Without the sensory connection to another, we cannot thrive but only live a relationship of the mind.

Tenant #2      Dis-embodied words have little impact without tenant #1

Tenant #3      The language of love and connection must be physical.  The physical is the soil that relationship roots itself. To be physical one must be fully present with tenant numbers one and two:  Fully present in our bodies and our mind as well as fully present with our words.

The incredible movie “Her” took the theme of intimacy and relationship and posed the question: “what is essential to have a vibrant and loving, fulfilling relationship.”  Was a relationship with a computer operating system somehow better than the ups and downs of living with someone and being fully present?  This movie explored some of the most basic themes of being human and being in love.  Of being vulnerable and having meaningful connection.  Yet, our culture is creating every opportunity to make sure that we never cultivate true connection and that we loose the art of being present fully with another person.

So, I left my experience today remembering what is truly important to me:  I want eyes meeting eyes, I want full attention so trust is created, I want the body language, the engagement, the energy mounting and creativity spiraling into new ideas and smiles being abundant without the beeps and clicks and eyes darting to the phone in anticipation of…what…what will be missed?  What is missed is the moment. What is missed is being fully engaged with self and at least one other human being who is sitting right there.  I don’t want to look at my watch ever again wondering when my friend, my colleague, a date or my children will take the time to be fully present with me and will turn off their phone and scoot the chair in and simply be there.

Today I didn’t even bring my phone with me.

In the end, I am probably going to piss a whole lot of friends off.  So be it.

 “Life is available only in the present moment.  If you abandon the present moment you cannot live the moments of your daily life deeply”.  Thich Nhat Hanh

Failure to Thrive

Power of Human Heart

 

“When all your desires are distilled

You will cast just two votes:

To love more

And be happy”

Hafiz

 

When I was studying Developmental Psychology at Harvard I was fascinated with research that was being done about a babies inability to thrive emotionally and physically when they were not touched or picked up.  Some children simply die.  Others developed physical complications and later emotional issues.  So, in the world of psychology, that seemed perfectly understandable to me.

But, later in life the question that has great relevance for me is “what about the spiritual implication of a failure to thrive?”  I had noticed over the years that animal behavior was centered on the pack, the flock, the herd and the school of fish.  Animals rarely choose to be alone.  Those who were not part of the community were either picked off by predators, developed deviant behavior, became malnourished or simply died.

What if the fabric of all human existence is exactly the same?  A core of like beings who move like a flock of Starlings, who work together like Dolphins, protect each other like Elephants and who in fact truly cannot thrive without one another?  So then, what is to be said about the American Dream of the Nuclear Family as the ideal? Who came up with this idea in the first place?

Who decided that families partitioned off by fencing and personal property, who don’t interface on any regular basis is healthy?  People each in their own rooms behind closed doors, and now rarely eating at the same table or divided even further by the TV, the cell phone, computer or X-Box 360?  What if in fact the emergence of this kind of growing alienation was designed to do just that:  Create isolation and a failure to thrive for human beings?

I read the book about Anne Frank.  I was astonished that more than a dozen people could exist in one tiny space for years and survive the fear and unknowing that was part of the Nazi regime.  Then I thought:  Maybe they survived because they were together.

How many people do you know who are truly thriving?  What does that really mean anyway?  To thrive means to grow vigorously, be strong, do well and prosper. This is not about money and things, status and position.  At a deeper level to thrive means living a life that is inspired, happy, content and filled with meaning.  And at this I balk.  I hear myself say that this is not what most people are experiencing most anywhere.

A year ago I made a decision that I was not expecting.  I decided to live alone for the first time in my life.  I had had community around me in one form or another for six decades.  Family, roommates, partners, intentional community, schools and colleagues.  But, when I moved to Asheville I decided to create a life of extreme solitude and moved to the tip top of a mountain in the forest.  I called my new home  Hobbit House.  And it was.  Minus the other Hobbits.

I had the lush of nature, the silence, the extreme beauty and the precious solitude I craved.  My soul felt full of inspiration.  But, I noticed that gradually my body was changing and so was my emotional life.  I began to feel physically weak and lose muscle strength.  I felt “blue” far more than was understandable and even and inexplicable kind of nameless despair.  Keeping my center was harder and staying to task was more effortful.

And then it became clear to me that although I am no longer a baby, the Failure to Thrive is not isolated to babies, but is a truth about us as a human species.  We are meant to be connected. Physically, emotionally and spiritually.  We are meant to be together for far more than just social reasons.  We are physically meant to be with one another of “like” in order to power our immune systems and to balance our nervous system and be healthy.

But the stark truth about why we are communal beings is that our hearts depend upon it.  The heart is a battery of sorts.  It generates the largest electromagnetic field in the body.  Our brain is dwarfed by the power of the heart.  But, like solar energy panels, if you put one panel in your yard to power everything electric then you drain the panel fairly quickly.  But if you connect many solar panels together you harness and generate a huge force field.

Humans are no different.  We are a network of energy sources that when connected can produce energy for healing and increase personal potential and power.  We can create greater clarity, focus and intention.  We can move mountains.  But, to see this as a fact, we first have to understand that humans are a spiritual matrix of energy.

I think one of the reasons people all over the world felt so moved by the movie Avatar was that they recognized a truth we are all on the verge of understanding:  That when we are connected to Source and then to one another, there is unlimited power and potential.

There was a scene in Avatar at the tree of ancestors where each of the tribe first sat on the ground and then connected their tales to one another and in a heartbeat a grid of energy was illuminated.  I call this entrainment.  Entrainment is to fall into synchronization with a rhythm until the whole is calibrated to the same beat or the same frequency.  This is why there is research now on how hugging someone for more than 30 seconds results in the hearts synchronizing.  We need to entrain with other hearts to proper and to thrive.

I see a chiropractor who practices what is called Network Care, developed by Donny Epstein.  Network, being the operative descriptive.  There are four to eight patients in a room and each are attended to by the practitioner who does not manually adjust the body, but moves spinal energy.  The experience then becomes one of entrainment, where the strongest system pulls all systems to it.  Total strangers entrain in a matter of 30 minutes and all moving toward health and healing.

So, if we are all one and if we are universally connected there is a reason for this.   And we have interrupted the order of things.  I believe the reason we are all connected is to keep every living organism thriving.  But more so, I believe that the heart depends upon other hearts to open and stay open and to be the power source that it is meant to be.  When we are not heart connected, we fail to thrive.  Our battery, our generator of love and compassion and joy looses juice.  I felt that keenly in this one year alone.

And in this knowledge is a secret key to our survival as a species, to the healing of the damaged immune system of the planet and for the regeneration of love and compassion on our one home called Earth:  The key is to intentionally connect.  To tear down the fences, demolish the ticky-tacky suburbs, come out of isolation and from behind the blue screen of the TV and demand a new way of living.  We all need to take the risky leap of creating intimacy and togetherness and a life of inter-dependency, of gardening together, of cooking together, of praying and singing and dancing together.  Of pooling resources, giving things away to those who don’t have what is essential, to coming out of hiding behind technology and to really embrace life together.  To become warriors of the heart.

There is a reason that the ‘powers that be’ have systematically annihilated all indigenous people and heralded the necessity of technology and individuality.  That reason is clear and has almost been achieved: To cut all of out from the herd so that we do not thrive, do not gather, do not carry one voice for change or have power and so that we do not love.  And if we look at society at large, we see everywhere people who are like the Elk, alone and not part of a herd and family, who is either eaten by predators, alone and malnourished, or has developed deviant behavior.

But, these powers have not succeeded.  Not yet.  Not when we still can break down the barriers to each of our hearts and entrain on joy and love.  This is the power they cannot harness.  This is more powerful than money or greed or force.

So, after this year of living solitarily I have learned that I certainly can meditate more, I can write more, rest more and enjoy nature more than I have in the past.  But that is not enough.  I need hugs and laughter, I need discourse and dialogue, I need cuddles and cooking and being shoulder-to-shoulder and heart-to-heart with other people like me.

So my 2014 Resolution?

To Create a Grid of the Heart.

Toras of the heart

 

A Christmas Day Story

Christmas image

I have been off the grid for many months now.  My gypsy wagon currently hitched to a new life here in Asheville, North Carolina.  The reality of being on the road is that life unfolds in totally unexpected ways which I am now ready to chronicle.  Today is my first post since last May and it is particularly auspicious that it be on Christmas Day.  I hope you enjoy the story and that you will comment on how your day has been.

Merry Christmas, Maya


Welcome Home  
By Maya Christobel

 “To see things thousands of miles away, things hidden behind walls and within rooms, things dangerous to come to . . . to see and be amazed.” 

Life Magazine Motto

Today I was amazed.  The day did not start that way.  In fact it was shaping up to have the potential of being bleak and unnerving. It was Christmas day.

I woke up to silence.  No one clanking in the kitchen, no children giggling, just the low whirl of my air purifier and the soft purr of two of my best friends tucked neatly under my chin as I crawled out of bed in flannel wear to face Christmas morning totally by myself.  The cat lady at 63. I was feeling a bit pathetic.

I threw open my door to the patio that leads into the woods and a blast of crisp 17 degree air woke me with a startle as both cats swiftly decided not to go outside after all.  Glassy swirls of snow drifted through the trees.  I threw on my shawl, slipped into my UGGs and walked to the edge of the woods.

With all the leaves in piles, the naked trunks of a million trees allowed my eyes to see past more than one range of Blue Ridge Mountains.  I breathed deep and heard myself say, “Well this is going to be an interesting day”.

Living on the top of a mountain with no one very close and no real contact with cell phones is such is a retreat, a refuge, a place where you are creative.  The silence catapults you into the best of who you are.  But when you miss family, cooking, laughing and hugging it feels a bit more like a sentence.  I was on the fence as to how I was feeling today.

Earl Grey Tea with coconut milk, an extra pair of socks, a left-over chocolate chip pancake and I was ready to sit at the computer to write.  But, Facebook came first, since I was assured that on Christmas morning there might very well be far more substance there than usual. I tend to rant about the mundane sharing that goes on out there.  But today I was right.  Gratitude, poetry, family photos, Christmas puppies, smiling children, songs, videos and just a pile of love, littered cyberspace.  Two hours later I was full.

I had wondered what I would do without family for the holiday. Friends were away, my daughters in Colorado, my “AO music family in St. Louis”, and me, what would I like to do to celebrate the day?  A blank canvas stared at me, my paints which I dug out of storage neatly stacked next to brushes I had not used in years.  A blank Word Document sat blinking at me from my computer screen.  Oh, the pressure.

So, I did what anyone with writers block does:  I checked out when the movie I had been waiting to see for months started.  “The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty”.   It was playing at my favorite blockbuster Regal Cinema in Biltmore Park.  And it was playing at this little hole in the wall theater down the road.

I had never been inclined to go to the Beaucatcher Theaters since number one, I just hated the name, which for some reason, screamed redneck North Carolina to me and in fact I was a bit of a movie screen snob.  This translates as “the bigger the screen the better”.  But I just spontaneously decided to go to Beaucatcher.  Hmmm.

I quickly checked my emails and sent one to my daughters.  Suddenly I received one from my landlady who was vacationing in San Fran.  Renee was letting me know that the house down the hill had been broken into.  Now it would take a lot for someone to hike all the way up the mountain to break in to the house down the road.  And I am one woman living here most of the time.  This was just the corker.

I decided to turn on the stereo and play music while I was gone.  But all of a sudden I just looked around and thought to myself.  “Who gives a shit if someone wants what I have in my tiny efficiency apartment”.  So I left a note instead.  It went like this:

If you are here to rob me then the door is open, I cooked Christmas dinner for myself last night, it is in the fridge, so you are welcome to it and anything else I have is …yours.  Please just close the door behind you and do not let my cats out.  Merry Christmas

I left the door unlocked. Then I left for the movie.

I got to the tiny theater with a half dozen other souls at 11:30am.   We were all doing something that most people were not.  When I got out of the car to go inside, a family of about six people got out of the car next to me and we all walked to the ticket window.  We chatted and we wished each other merry Christmas.

I had no makeup on and had just tossed my hair under a winter hat and worn gloves, since I knew the heat would hardly have had time to warm up the theater.  The family sat in the row right in front of me and about four other people were scattered around.  The smell of popcorn felt comforting in some odd way since, in all reality, the movie theater…is my church.

The soundtrack dazzled me, the larger than life faces with piercing blue eyes, the script and the wonder of this special little movie made me laugh as loud as the family near me.  It was the medicine I needed.

It was a movie about hope.  About defying the odds, about plowing right into the middle of your worst fears and finding…yourself.  It was a movie that described my last year to a T.  I call 2013 the year of disillusionment.  In spades.

It has been a year of being cut off from the source of my own hope.  I am a woman who has made best friends with coincidence and serendipity and made a religion out of doing the unthinkable.  Up until this last year it has proven to be the only way to live, full of amazing adventures and the Universe, at every turn, confirming which path and what direction my life needed to take.  But this past year, things became, quiet.

Countless veils of illusion about human nature, the state of our planet, the music and film industry and friends who suddenly behaved like enemies, became my bill of fare. Allowing myself to see past the illusion and recoup the magic has been an unexpected and difficult journey.  I began to lose heart so I have hunkered down here in the mountains into my “chop wood, carry water” mode, knowing, hoping, that “this too shall pass”.  But Christmas alone was a real cake topper.

The movie was a Technicolor injection of love and hope that was perfect for Christmas day.  That would have been enough.  The Universe does not need to do much to help me recalibrate my heart.  But, the Universe had a special Christmas gift for me in mind.

I was the last to leave the theater.  I watched every single credit for three-legged dog trainer and hair stylist until there was nothing left.  I slipped my gloves on and pulled my hat down over my hair, my eyes red from laughing till I cried.

When I stepped out into the hall the family of six were waiting there.  Millie the mother asked me how I liked the film.  Nelson the film aficionado of the family, working as a film gaffer in NYC, asked a few questions but I really could not hear the conversation.  All I saw were these smiling faces and angel wings spring forth as a bear sized boyfriend smiling next to Millie reached to shake my hand and close friends of the family circled all around me in the hall.

Then one of those short, perfect, destined conversations ensued that went something like this. “We need to talk, come visit our new motel called Peaceful Quest Retreats”, I knew we were supposed to meet, isn’t this basically magic?”  My heart said a resounding YES!  I was missing my family so very much this day.  The Universe reminded me how large my family really was.

Who were these people?  Why did we all go to the movie at the same time?  Why didn’t I go to the poshy Biltmore Park? What is it that makes a total stranger feel instantly like a long-lost family member.  What is it in a twinkle in the eye or a caring smile that is the Universe laughing its ass off and telling you that all is well in this world?  The magic is everywhere,  purpose marches forward uninterrupted, and even if you get lost in the woods, there are always the cosmic breadcrumbs.

So, Millie Facebooked me before her Christmas dinner, I looked at photos of her magical retreat in Asheville that she purchased three years ago and said she was called to come to Asheville, just like countless people I know here.  The calling that no one can really put their finger on but each of us have just gone and moved here to find out why.

I went home filled with the wonder of it all. Wonder and awe are my elixirs in life:  The magic of destiny that keeps me going through countless disillusionments, barbaric wars and horrific loss in the world.  Millie and her lovely family was not only a B12 shot for my soul, but a personal invitation from Spirit to get back on the horse and keep riding.  Even when the future is so uncertain.  Now Millie is part of that future.  Yesterday I did not know she existed.

I got home and sat in the car for a while.  A red Cardinal that frequents my patio sat on the table.  The note for the ‘possible thief’ blew in the breeze still stuck to the door and I could hear the music I had left on inside.  Welcome home it said.