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.
Photo / Redd Angelo
Loyalty can be heart breaking
Unconditional love can be soul quaking
The landscape transforms
and suddenly you are wide eyed - you are mapless
Lead yourself on a trust walk
Find the sixth sense that feels like gratitude
Call on the brave witness who slices through the pain of loss to say, "Yes. And now?"
Loyalty can be heart breaking
It rewires the brain
It does not collect shame
It is generous love without martyrdom
It is precise tenderness
It is the quest to learn yourself and to honor others by acting on what you discover
It is learning how to be integrated and kind and honest
It is rigorous curriculum
Self assessments are mandatory
Loyalty can be heart breaking
The heart breaks so that the soul quakes
The soul quakes so that the mind can make new alliances with the truest truth
With the you-est truth
Loyalty can be heart breaking
And that's okay
It is the hardest and the easiest thing
It is paradox, manifest
It is the poison and the prayer
It will kill you and rebirth you
Loyalty can be heart breaking
And you, human creature, you were always meant to break apart
You were always meant to be this free
Photo / Danielle Macinnes
*Dedicated to the Rieke Elementary School staff of magical beings and superheros.
I once had the privilege of bearing witness to the divine child in action every week when I was a part time dance teacher at a local elementary school. It’s there that I led kids into a big, open space where they were allowed to coil their bodies around rhythm and explore the limitless menagerie of movement creatures that stalked their wild, wide imaginations. The inhibition that stoked their wonder was something I revered. It allowed them to be risk taking. It allowed them to discover essential truths and ancient myths through the vehicle of their bodies.
We enjoyed a game, my students and I, that we came to refer to as the Tell Me A Story game. It was simple in concept and profound in practice. I asked them to tell me a story about something specific, using movement and no sound. Straightforward examples I used to begin were things like, “Tell me the story of planting a garden. Tell me the story of why the sun sets. Tell me the story of your favorite pet.”
They threw themselves head first into these exercises. They wanted nothing more than opportunities to tell stories kinesthetically. Our kinesthetic synthesis of mind and emotion is, after all, one of our greatest human capabilities.
We soon entered more complex and layered story scenarios. Things like, “Tell me the story of loneliness.”
One child went to the corner of the room, sat down and tilted his head toward the floor. Another child crawled on his hands and knees toward his friend and reached out for her. A third child laid down on the ground and looked up at the ceiling as if the ceiling were a universe of endless stars.
It always quaked me - their willingness to tap into their own human vulnerability and the collective vulnerability of their parents, their siblings, their teachers and the world.
Kids are perceptive as fuck, I’m reminded, time and time again.
We then delved into magical story territory. Things like, “Tell me the story of when rainbow warriors ruled the earth and the moon was made of dolphins.”
It was abstract, yet they were fully able to inhabit abstract places. They were not worried how other students did it. They were curious about the interpretations of their peers, but they didn’t look to their peers to set the template. They trusted their own imagination. They trusted their own creative instinct - limitlessly.
Why, as we grow, do we disconnect from the medicine of our divine, inner child? Why do we block an untamed trust in the wisdom of our non-linear instincts? Why do we stop harvesting the beauty of a flexible mind?
Because society values clear divisions between children and adults. Because we become wounded and afraid. Because we do not want to be rejected.
We ended with, “Tell me the story of how to save the planet.”
I asked this often when I taught. I asked this often because every time they danced the answer, I learned something new that gave me faith.
Here is where I’ll make a confession. There are times when I disavow my sense of wonder and magic and enter into a dark underworld in which everything appears hopelessly beyond salvation. So I stored these dancing moments with my students up and I reached for them when I was drowning in my own cynicism or despair.
Their saving-the-world-stories looked like one girl gathering a circle of her friends and linking hands. A boy smoothing his palms over the ground with loving attention. Two children jumping up and down as they faced each other and giggled. A student cradling something invisible and humming softly. Two kids slamming their bodies into the mat against the wall, over and over and over.
There is a deep value in the kind of courageous play my students showed me when they danced the world into salvation. Truths that allude our serious, adult examinations of the planet, they surfaced like sacred shadows on the water.
I believe the power of deep play is its ability to dissolve rigidity and apply the medicine of magical thinking. To access our unruly, creative potential we must forget everything we know that divides our world into yes and no, good and bad, this or that. We must be uninhibited in the exploration of our imagination. We must be ceaselessly dedicated to the delight of the task at hand. Exceedingly present. Righteously mischievous. Wondrously enraptured.
We must be our first selves again. The selves we knew before anyone ever shamed our dancing into stillness. The selves we knew before our fear of being outcast. When community was foundation, hearts were trusting and imaginations were free.
Photo / Stefan Kunze
Go now and build a madness nest
a treasure chest
a place to rest
so every woman who is seeking solid ground can land her feral dancing
can wail her prayers and chanting
her no apology passion
and her sacred, soulful ranting
This is our demand
This is the voice of snakes
and the psalm of hands
All your sisters before you - they knew
All your sisters before you - they walked through fire too
They faced the shaming and the shunning
Yet they fanned the holy humming
Then they welcomed a new coming
We need your wildness, Woman
We need your wolf howl, Woman
We need your deep scowl, Woman
We need your truth vow, Woman
We need it as much as we we need
your care taking
We need it as much as we need your love making
Because Kings and Queens - they're one
Because divided kingdoms are done
The world needs all of you, but more importantly - you need all of you - the rushing river cluster star loud scream soft melt hard thrust slither kiss ALL of you
YOU need your wildness, Woman
And it's not going away
It's not giving up on you
It's hunting you like a focused warrior
Ruling you like a golden empress
Rocking you like an ancient cradle
Injecting your life with
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.