Photo / Annie Spratt
The totality of spring is upon me. Morning calls in flashes of purple iris light, rain hymns, and dew drops. I walk outside with a cup of tea and lose my sense of time as steam spirals toward a cyan sky. I listen to the bird’s trill and to the exhalation of grass. I press bare feet on wet, silken blades.
Night was good to the earth.
May invites renewal – the kind of stretching, yawning return granted after months resting in a cradle of darkness. It is easy to neglect this precious transition. It is easy to disconnect from the mystic instructions encoded in the sway of seasons. We have a million devices to keep track of and numerous accounts to check in on. We have the imposed structure of hours rushing by and the concrete vision of cities. Modern life has disavowed slowness. Modern life has crafted a stealthy concoction of covert judgments and used them to dissuade humans from reconnecting with the rhythm of nature. Over-productivity is a consciousness we subscribe to. Accomplishment is a myth and it needs to be rewritten.
We knew a secret once and the secret said:
Fresh air deepens breath, revelation rides the petal edge of flowers, mother earth is our most vital wisdom keeper, accomplishment is healing and healing is here. Healing is now.
So how do we calm the hyperdrive of our to-do mentality and release our screen-obsessed tendencies?
How do we discover a sense of connection unrelated to statuses and checklists?
How do we find slowness when basic survival may or may not demand an inherent level of busyness?
We remember breath.
Then when that little voice inside our mind scoffs and says,
“Oh that’s original, just remember your breath, have fun with that…”, we breathe anyway.
We disobey the cynic. We put faith in a deeper directive. We believe that truly profound potential gestates in seemingly simple solutions. That is the true code of nature. Her depth is revealed in her attention, her grandeur transmitted through her grace. Nature takes all the time she needs because she knows that time is space and space is spacious.
On the path towards wider listening, here is our call to action:
Choose a moment in your day when you give all of your attention to your breath, be it for 15 minutes or 15 seconds.
Choose a moment in your day when you turn off your devices and remain present with the tactile world around you.
Choose a moment in your day when you go outside without socks or shoes and wiggle your toes in the umber soil.
Notice the scent of seasons.
There is a shift and it is summoning our full participation.
It is not asking for a bucking up or a pushing out. It is a blueprint for surrender. It is an ancient map and we are long time voyagers. This dissolution is a celebration.
The flowers are waking up.
Photo / ivanovgood
It happened like this:
Our hands ripe
Our eyes focused arrows in the dark
It happened like this that we walked deeper into a passage through the center of the earth
The earth that is also the star that is also the nothing that is also the everything
It happened like this:
Our steps dancing
Our breath patient
It happened like this that we stood before a waterfall of memory coming from her, from the rock of her, water like ribbons dripping, like tears bleeding, like truth chanting
The chanting that is also the purging that is also the pain and the pleasure in the body
It happened like this:
The stone shone, became liquid form between us
The dark matter
The light matter
It’s all the same matter
And we forged it like owl eyes, like wolf cries,
like the intimate watch of woman and the ready stride of man
It happened like this:
As we left the inside place of mystery
As we wandered back into the biting, blazing day
It told us to pay attention
It told us to pray and listen
It told us to honor the code of union
The true kind of union
The everyone can be in this kind of union type of union
And we shook because it was hard
And we shook because it was beautiful
We shook because it was free
Walnut amber eyes, find me finding you
Between the loving gold of your gaze
I am learning the power of my unchecked essence
Raven feather hair, dusted on each side with salt colored strands
You were a father first
When I was holding new places, you were holding new babies
Both our memories tender, textured by wonder
Made reverent by the great unknown
My cheek pressing into the warm presence of your skin
You don't need to speak and I know you love me
I feel it the same way I feel my exhale weightless between nothingness and miracle
You don't need to speak and I know you want me
I sense it the way I sense a creature in the forest
I knew you when I was eleven, fifteen, twenty-two
We grew up minutes apart
We attended the same schools and shopped at the same grocery stores
You swam the edges of my wake like a shiny finned myth
Like a crystal wolf
Like a soft chested owl
We didn't get closer than a few sentences and a long, patient smile
The universe knows a time outside of time
She keeps it for us willingly
while we struggle with our mind
with the illusion of running out
She taps her foot against the wheel of endless returning
as the dreaming deepens
She whispers a sweet chant
as the sun hums daylight
as the waking wakes us
as the moon finds darkness
Space for everything
Space for everything
Photo / Tofros.com
It is a heavy bear who lumbers past your only passageway
Watch closely, for an opening in steps
Just when you think there's space,
the bear makes pace with speed and tears through air like desperate wind
You arrive at the same moment
Now you must look bear in the face and be honest
How often do we find the eyes and see?
See this heavy animal we've hired
I knew a memory, standing there with bear
A map simple, folded, waiting
What once was light had turned to music
Photo / Soren Astrup Jorgensen
If love had no name I'd turn circles instead
In the grass, sockless, I'd play my toes like typewriter keys across soft March soil
and the child would look dumbfounded in my direction before asking,
"What are typewriters?"
Is there nothing that remains?! I'd think, but not say, because children have ears
and the soft muscles of my sides would stiffen and my eyebrows would knot
and I'd forget about love circles while my bitter outrage engulfed me,
while the present hum of sunlight made patient pleasure of the afternoon,
while love whispered gently, in no hurry to be heard,
Nothing remains. Indeed, nothing remains.
Photo / Emry Gencer
Branches remember roots with the unhurried attention of a zen cat master
They don't look from the task at hand, even as they breathe through tendrils of veins flooding light
The task at hand is spring
Each leaf opens an infinite kindness, unhesitating
Branches make brave bends in their being for the sake of life's return
All this human busyness and fixing
All this talking and trying to attain the thing beyond the thing
It is the last page of a false story,
no characters were trees
Photo / Torsten Dettlaff
It can be told
The blue light splintered our form
The heron wouldn't perch
The lightless match lit, when we were only shadow
But we remembered nothing
We gave up, though you told us not to
Can you understand?
We were so tired of not sleeping
The first time I landed in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, I was 22-years-old and I was wide eyed and wonder-filled. Out the window, decisive crests of earth swelled up below a thin veil of clouds. Like water, the land had a rippling motion. I remember pressing my face against the airplane glass. I couldn't get close enough to that shock of jungle. The mountains made declarations. They were proud guardians of a crystal bay. They were emerald, amber superheroes.
Rio quickly grew my hunger for heart-centered living. Rio drew me into my animal body. Rio scoffed at my inclination toward shame and demanded that I stop shying away from desire.
Of course, like anything real and full and whole, Rio wasn't perfect. No place should be. No culture has it all figured out. No human is a master.
This city challenged my boundaries, overwhelmed my senses and asked me to refine my understanding of what it means to 'go with the flow'.
Rio for me was, and continues to be, the catalyst for soul-led activation.
Here, I've walked through my most necessary rites of passage.
I've been a girl in love, an amateur filmmaker, a thirsty dance student, a bumbling linguist,
a 33-year-old woman, a professional director, a grounded teacher and a fluent conversationalist.
Rio cradles the monumental shifts of more than a decade of my life.
As I my plane touched down two days ago, and I arrived in Rio for the sixth time, I felt swaddled in gratitude.
I was grateful to wrap my arms around Val and remember that dance class so long ago when we found a way to say - in our broken understanding of each other's native tongue,
"I remember you from a time outside of time."
I was grateful to walk down the street beside Feijao's strong, protective presence and remember the skinny 19-year-old he was when I met him at a cipher in a city park and he first offered to walk me home and keep me safe.
I was grateful to wake up to the scent of jungle and city loving and hating each other - something raw and floral - wet and loud.
Returning used to be riddled with anxiety and longing. I fretted about how to arrive and how to say goodbye. I worried intensely about the space between the United States and Brazil and the way I felt divided by two completely different experiences of living.
Returning has grown into an act of prayerful presence.
I no longer feel the need to categorize or divide any part of any world in which I live.
Everything is everything.
I know so much and I know so little.
This wise universe is made to embrace multiple realities.
And the places we love - they carry a magnetic kind of music. They call to us over and over and summon our integration. They remind us how multi-faceted the human condition is. They help us offer our name up as a blessing. They invite us to claim our part in the big, wide, wonder-filled world.
Photo / Ian Scheider
The color of my partner’s eyes is somewhere between amber and obsidian. While I try to keep myself present, while I ponder the question, to pretend or not to pretend, I focus on the ashy lightning of his gaze. If I was a tree in the desert, I’d surely be struck down.
He has a tendency to stare at me with no time limit and no agenda other than truth. It’s overwhelming to be held accountable for my own wholeness. Being whole requires courage. It requires transparency. It requires trust.
I don’t want to answer the question he’s posed, so I grin a toothy grin and blink.
“I don’t know,” I say. And then I laugh a little to emphasize how light and unencumbered I am by the heavy vulnerability of humanness.
His dimples rise to the surface of his skin. His eyebrow arcs. “I know that grin,” he states. “It’s your fake smile. Don’t bullshit me.”
The question posed was, “What are you afraid of?”
The context is, my partner and I are wildly, soul shakingly in love and I left a happy marriage to a wonderful human to be with him. The context is, my partner has been in the middle of his own divorce proceedings since before he met me and it’s more complicated than mine because he has two children. The context is, many people I care about have grown silent since I committed the taboo act of ending things with someone truly awesome. The context is, everything about all of this is complex and challenging except the truth at the center:
We love each other wholly and intensely. Our relationship inspires our personal growth daily. There’s nothing we don’t want to witness in each other and although I thought I’d be partnered for life when I married my former husband, things changed. Change happens. The heart can love deeply and profoundly and yet sometimes the soul will still need to open her palm and let it go.
I’m shattering a cultural myth I’ve unconsciously subscribed to for years. I call it thehappily ever after story. It tells us that the ultimate goal is to partner in a for-life kind of way, so that the ‘work’ will finally end. Happily will become the status quo. The pain and loneliness of searching will cease. We will be complete and we can finally chill out. The quest can end.
The revelation I’m having, as I sit with the phrase, what are you afraid of, is that the work of embodying our humanness is never over. Intimacy, whether romantic or other, invites us to look at all our fears and our projections. It invites us to own the truth if we want to deepen the connection. It invites us to figure out what the hell the truth is in the first place. It invites us to be shamelessly imperfect.
No. easy. Feat.
My partner interrupts my silence when he says, “Jocelyn, if I wasn’t down for all of you, if I couldn’t hold space for all of your emotions, then you should seriously be questioning if you want to be with me.”
I feel shaky. I feel the resonance of a fear that rubs up against the prospect of acceptance and it goes something like this: Maybe he thinks he means that, but just wait. Just wait until he sees a part of me he doesn’t like and bails.
In other relationships this fear has played out. We human creatures are not always capable of holding space for each other. I’ve been on various sides of the equation. I’ve been unable to witness my partner’s vulnerability because it brought my own issues to light and I’ve had partners who were unable to witness my vulnerability because it highlighted theirs. I’ve damaged relationships by expecting a partner take responsibility for my own co-dependent or wound-driven needs and I’ve taken on a partner’s issue as my own, until it suffocated me with resentment.
So how do we feel the fear and do it anyway? How do we stick with this brave thing called intimacy? I left a very actualized man who was absolutely down to do the work with me. Intimacy is not a simple noun. It’s complex to say the least. Love is the electric code of nature destroying and creating itself and the older I get the more awe I feel. Love is not some perfect happiness. It is a continuous dance with birth and death. The width and the depth of connection calls on the width and the depth within us and it can be tempting to shut down. It’s easier to repeat known patterns than to create new ones. But it’s the new patterns that lead to evolution and I believe evolution is the point.
I am lucky to have a very wise model of a man in my father. My father has always said that growth is about inclusion, not amputation. I reflect on his words before I take a breath. Before I dissolve my fake smile like butter inside a frying pan. Before I let my face melt into sadness. And then I bare everything. The entire messy wholeness.
“I’m afraid that I’ll never, ever get over the grief of leaving my best friend to be with you.
I’m afraid that your divorce will take years and you and I will live a half life together in a hellish limbo.
I’m afraid that after months of being with me and noticing that I am a human inclined toward emotional highs and lows, you will throw your hands up and say, Enough!
I’m afraid you won’t be attracted to me if I stop waxing my upper lip.
I’m afraid we will forever be excluded from social circles we used to frequent because our partnership is so triggering for others.
I’m afraid my ex-husband will read my writing and question the truly profound depth of love I’ve felt for him since the beginning and feel for him, still.
I’m afraid of moving too fast and too slow.
I’m afraid of running into my former sister-in-law at a coffee shop and getting a latte thrown in my face.
I’m afraid of not showing you that I love you enough.
I’m afraid of showing you that I love you too much.
I’m afraid. I’m afraid. I’m afraid.”
He is silent. My words hang in the thick evening heat and I shudder in the wake of their emergence. Then he offers me the kind of smile you offer a baby who has yet to do anything the world considers wrong.
And he says,
“I’m afraid you’ll abandon me if the legal process of my divorce takes too long.
I’m afraid you’ll resent me for the pain you feel about leaving your ex-husband.
I’m afraid you’ll think I’m weak for staying in my marriage for so many years when my marriage wasn’t working.
I’m afraid that someday, when we have a baby, you won’t be attracted to me because I’ll no longer be of use to you.
I’m afraid I tell you I love you too much and it annoys you.
I’m afraid I lose my wallet and my keys too much and it annoys you.
I’m afraid of fucking up.
I’m afraid. I’m afraid. I’m afraid.”
I will now echo this refrain - it is easier to repeat known patterns than to create new ones, but it’s the new patterns that lead to evolution. Truth telling is the first step toward creating new patterns. With every revolution around the sun, I come to the startling conclusion that I know much less than I imagined I did when I was fifteen. However, in the presence of our naked confessions, I know this:
Transparency is where intimacy dances.
To voice our fears with vulnerability rather than disguise them with defense, is how we grow love.
Being met with compassion, curiosity and grace is always, always what we deserve.
Meeting others with compassion, curiosity and grace is always, always worth the effort.
And all the unknown - the fucking mystery of loving - it is a primal, sacred storm.
So I say, let me be a tree in that holy desert.
I am rooted, I am ready.
Teach me how to be tender and how to be bold.
Conduct your prayerful power through me.
Let my love strike truth with the blazing grace of lightning.
Photo / Dan Watson
I do this strange thing in public restrooms.
I'm sure I'm not the first person to do strange things in a public restroom.
Probably not even the first person to blog about it - though that's not a rabbit hole I'm super interested in exploring.
It happens like so:
I am in a restaurant, a bar, a cafe or any communal area, (library, bank, museum, airport, hotel), where lots of humans share space and follow prescribed rules for how they express themselves in said space - and I excuse myself to go use the restroom.
Whether or not I actually have to pee is irrelevant. Sometimes I do, sometimes I don't.
A one-person, private bathroom is ideal. A multiple-person bathroom with individual stalls makes what I'm about to detail much more difficult to accomplish privately.
I walk into that tiny little room, I lock that sticky little lock, I take a long, deep breath, I look at myself in the mirror and I start to dance.
I start to shake and make weird noises and flail about.
Now let me be explicit about something - although I happen to be a professional dancer and choreographer - the movement that takes place in my private restroom session is not graceful or sharp or precise or high caliber. I would love to imagine that it's quirky, inspired genius - like Margaret Qualley in that bad ass new Kenzo perfume commercial.
But the truth is less that and more this - I look like a bobble head doll with glitching robot legs and a popcorn popper for a pelvis. What I'm saying is, I totally freak the fuck out.
Because after I bobble-popcorn-glitch, I can handle moving around in a public setting where appropriate expression is highly monitored. I can handle sitting in the midst of so many beings with so many feelings and so many words that hide so many feelings.
As an empathic, kinesthetic creature, my instinct is to translate perceptions through my body. And though I've just revealed something that will make everyone I know imagine my bobble-head absurdity whenever I excuse myself to use a restroom from now on, I'm certain I am not alone.
I believe we all have empathic, kinesthetic inclinations. I believe it is the disavowment of those inclinations and the shaming of our body and its expressive prowess, that creates so much sickness and disproportionate violence in society.
I believe we are desperate to translate the world and express our translations out loud.
Children do it until we teach them not to.
Yes, they are exploring the capacity of their body and their vocal chords, but they are also acting out their human experience, kinesthetically.
Have you ever seen a kid start shimmying and flapping, all of the sudden, in a grocery store?
The synthetic and the wilderness - the truth and the untruth - the human and the spirit - it's A LOT to process. And this sacred physical tool? It is meant to digest our humanness. It's not meant to be shackled in shame - it's not meant to become smaller and quieter and less noticeable. It's meant to change and grow and age and strengthen and fall apart and be messy and be ugly and be gorgeous and heal and learn and nurture and televise the story of being alive.
The story of being alive is not harnessed and expressed solely through dance or sports or yoga - although these are each fantastic outlets.
The story is channeled through our tender and attentive presence with our own physicality. The story is honored when we stand up to the myth of physical sin and fully inhabit the wise and patient vessels we were born into.
If you are at this point in my public restroom confession, it means you did not dismiss me, so I dare to ask the following questions. The label warns that uncomfortable soul searching may occur if questions are fully ingested.
Do you find yourself feeling half-spoken, half-heard or half-moved?
Does your body heat up with energy like a pre-meditating volcano?
Does your body have an empty space that howls with numbing wind?
In what ways do unexpressed perceptions, translations and stories get locked in your body and become weights that burden your joy-making?
In what ways are you authentically drawn to televise the story of being alive?
If you aren't ready to televise publicly, where are all the best one-person public restrooms in your area?
How can you listen as deeply to your body as you do to your mind?
How can we all support each other to freak the fuck out, in ways that make us more whole and less divided?
How can we learn to encourage vivid, healing expression, even if that expression alters the prescribed rules of our communal spaces?
As we forage for the answers, I offer up this final prayer:
May we cleanse the poison of repression and write new narratives where violence is not the desperate outcome.
May we design more sacred pathways for deep elucidation.
May we honor the unique beast inside of us and in the other.
May we lock ourselves up less and grow community more.
May we open all the doors to our crazy, perfect dancing.
I am a Portland, Oregon based writer, filmmaker and choreographer. I believe stories activate the code of empathy, dissolve the grip of isolation, voice our animal truths and hunt our human treasures.