Monday, November 24, 2008

Moving and Yoga...

What a week! We moved into our new apartment on Friday and are in the process of unpacking and wondering why on earth we have two sets of differently shaped ramekins.

Then last week I took two workshops with the amazing Shiva Rea. The yoga style is so up my alley - devotional, ecstatic and completely organic. Incredible!

Finally, during this weekend's teacher training we had an inversion and arm balance workshop with Simon Park, who is a great teacher and really cute (not that I noticed - I was only focused on my own practice, of course). It was amazing how being upside-down brought up hidden emotional issues around moving - funny how that yoga stuff has a direct impact on the internal world. Go figure!

More to come!

(Shiva photo by Michael Sexton. I couldn't find the credit for the Simon Park photo. Drat!)

Monday, November 17, 2008

Intermission: A bit of randomness

A while back, my blog buddy Beweaver, tagged me to write six random things about myself. I need a break from heroic community (nobody said being a hero doesn't mean we can't sit and have some hot chocolate, right?), and after doing a Sanskrit immersion weekend for my yoga teacher training, my brain is pretty fried.

A little narcissism should fix that right up!

1. I'm a huge opera queen. My husband long ago realized that my listening to the Metropolitan Opera Broadcast on Saturday afternoons was a super gay version of the straight man's football game. "Coach, are you blind?" and "Come on! Carry the ball!" turns into "You call that a trill?" and "I've heard elderly church choirs tighter than that!" As a side note, I'm a major Maria Callas fan and have been since my teens. In my opinion, she is the go-to for operatic interpretation and inspiration, although in today's day and age, Renee Fleming (whom I just saw in "Lucrezia Borgia" at Washington National Opera) is the best thing on record. She's amazing, and onstage, she's spellbinding.

2. I hate Jell-O. I think it's just vile, and even worse are those freak-ass Jell-O molds with all kinds of shit in them. As if Jell-O weren't bad enough on its own, people have to put those crappy "Mandarin" oranges in them?

3. When I was a kid, I used to put on my headphones, stumble around on the lawn like a drunk and lipsynch "The Ladies Who Lunch" from Stephen Sondheim's "Company." And yes, this was the front lawn.

4. I've never done any drugs, including pot. It somehow never came up, although I did turn down coke once.

5. Despite being able to whip up some mean tarts (French and Italian), bake a layered lemon cake filled with my own lemon curd filling, make puff pastry, and other assorted desserts, I am absolutely powerless in the face of a good chocolate chip cookie. I'll happily eat an entire batch and love every minute of it.

6. I adore makeup. I think a little glamour enhancement is a wonderful thing, and if there wasn't the threat of getting my ass kicked, I'd probably wear it everyday. Ideally, a little eyeliner, mascara, lip gloss (which I do anyway) and glitter (which is also not uncommon in my daily life). Did you know that the ancient queer priestesses of Cybele, the Galli, mixed flecks of gold into their face paint? Ancient world precendent for the holy uses of glitter!!!

There are some rules with this random post game, but I'm going to bend them a bit. Instead of tagging six other people, I'm just throwing it out there that anyone who reads this and has a blog can write their own version of this on their blog: write six random things about yourself and link to the person you got the idea from. (Oh, no, I ended the sentence with preposition - eeeeeeek!)

Have a great week everyone! I'm moving to a new apartment on Friday, so I'll return to heroic community stuff next week.

(The first photo is of Callas from a 1958 production of "La Traviata" at Covent Garden; the photographer is unknown. The second photo is of Elaine Stritch, who was on the original cast recording of "Company" and sang "The Ladies Who Lunch," getting her Tony Award; it was taken by Suzanne Plunkett of the AP. The third photo is, of course, "Sesame Street's" Cookie Monster. I had a big stuffed toy of him when I was little that I used to lay my head on at night. I don't know who took the photo; it's all over the place.)

Friday, November 14, 2008

Part V: The Belly of the Whale

According to myth scholar and folklorist Joseph Campbell, after the hero crosses the First Threshold, s/he enters into the belly of the whale - the place of annihilation.

The hero disappears a la Jonah, Raven of the Pacific Northwest cosmologies, Little Red Riding Hood, and the Zulu story of two children and their mother being swallowed by an elephant. Yet, as Campbell points out, "the disappearance corresponds to the passing of a whorshiper into a temple - where he is to be quickened by the recollection of who and what he is, namely dust and ashes unless immortal...Once inside he may be said to have died to time and returned to the World Womb, the World Navel, the Earthly Paradise."

Part of the major point of this leg of the hero's journey is the obliteration of the former self. The individual walks into the adventure believing in who s/he is, but at this point, nothing is for certain, and really one of the only certainties is that the hero is nothing and no one at all.

I suspect at this point the individual slips into an understanding of the vast expanse of the Multiverse itself. In another view - if we are all made up of strands of energy like a web, we also harbor within our bodies and within our energetic fields the spaces in between - the no-thingness that can be seen as a unifying factor in all of existence.

As we've done before, let's take a look at how this stage can manifest in a group attempting to form a heroic community.

One option is that the group of people has to willingly let go of all preconceived notions of what this kind of group "should" look like. Non-attachment to outcome is the name of the game here - not that we shouldn't care about what our goals are, but that we recognize that whales lie in wait for any people ready to take the journey.

This could also be the time during the formation of a group where it seems like it's going to fall apart completely. Perhaps the vision falters, people lose interest, others decide it's all bullshit and time to head back to their own lives, finances go to hell, relationships are strained - everything looks bleak. Yet, these experiences are instrumental to the path itself and the eventual outcome of the adventure. Without these dark nights of the soul, the group can not hone its vision and actual implementation of collective core values.

It's interesting to note where the whale/monster comes from. This is a creature from the deep, the ocean of the collective unconscious. In particular for a group, what are the things that threaten to annihilate us? What monsters of the depths must we confront in order to move on to the next stage of development?

(As a side note for literary nerds, I can't help but think of Melville's master work Moby Dick. Ahab pursues his monster, trying to conquer it and take revenge for the loss of his leg that's broken his spirit. Yet, in the end, he, too, must succumb to obliteration in order to move beyond his hatred, rage, colossal arrogance, and bitterness. This book has long been one of my absolute faves; if you haven't read it and have a long winter ahead, go for it! It also contains one of the most famed homoerotic scenes in American literature.)

(The first photo is taken by Ray Alley. The second image is of Jonah's swallowing from an old bible. From what I can gather, the last painting is done by Lasaine Brizzi. The site I got it from had no info, but there is a signature on the painting.)

Monday, November 10, 2008

Part IV: Crossing the First Threshold

After attending a wonderful spiritual retreat over Halloween and spending time with friends in Minneapolis, I'm back in D.C. (which looks brighter and more full of hope given recent events!). I want to continue on with adapting Joseph Campbell's hero's journey to a heroic community, a group of people willing to take on a unique position in the world, uplifting themselves and all peoples.

This installment is all about crossing the first threshold, where the hero encounters the "threshold guardian at the zone of magnified power. Such custodians bound the world in the four directions - also up and down - standing for the limits of the hero's present sphere, or life horizon."

This is the point where the hero really has to pony up and step into the great beyond in a deeper way. This has happened, to some extent, by heeding the call to adventure, but that was before encountering a major challenge and an embodied experience of what it means to leave the comforts of everyday life.

"The usual person is more than content, he is even proud, to remain within the indicated bounds, and popular belief gives him every reason to fear so much as the first step into the unexplored."

Campbell references the ancient maps of the world where dragons lie at the ocean's edges or the monsters who wait in the wilderness for the wandering tribespeople.

However, a key point is that this first threshold often focuses on "the pairs of opposites (being and not being, life and death, beuaty and ugliness, good and evil, and all the other polarities that bind the faculties to hope and fear, and link the organs of action to deeds of defense and acquistion) are the clashing rocks that crush the traveler, but between which the hero must always pass."

Now, here's my spin on that pairs of opposites thing - this is where Queer Magick can serve every hero (community or otherwise). Part of Queer Spirit's power lies in the recognition of walking a third road - not black or white, good or bad, male or female, but something altogether different - a third road that encompasses all paths.

To the task at hand: what does crossing the first threshold look like for the heroic community?

I think a great amount of it might have to do with ego/self, which can tie in nicely to overcoming binary/polarizing thinking. The community members need to accept and understand that life is not all about them as individuals, but about the health and vitality of that community. That's not to say that our individual happiness is dirt - that would be binary thinking. What if our individual happiness and the community happiness can be shared goals and ideals? That's a third road.

In our American culture, which greatly values the power of the individual to overcome all obstacles by himself (and I use "him" acknowledging the patriarchal aspect of this construct), coming together into a community can be really challenging to everyone's notions of the four directions and how the world has acted up until this point.

Some personal confession: I'm all for these ideas. I think they're great. Does that mean I'm all happy-go-lucky about it? Hell, no. Part of it freaks me the fuck out. Do I have to live on a commune spinnng hemp bracelets in order to do this? Do I, even worse, have to share a room? On a more serious note, does this mean that an entire community of people whom I love have access at all times to hold me accountable for my actions and choices? That definitely sounds like a big threshold to cross into an unknown that, given the way I've lived until now, is pretty god damned scary.

Yet, as Campbell points out, when Jason and the Argonauts make it past the clashing rocks (two cliffs in the sea that smash together, making passage a dicey prospect), the cliffs fell still and have not smashed together since. Once we go beyond those polarities, they cease to exist. Consciouness once raised can not be lowered.

(The forest image can be found here. The image of Pan, seen by Campbell as a prime example of a figure who stands at the threshold of opposites, was done by Eric Pouhier. This photo is by the AP and accompanied a story about a modern attempt of the Argonautika.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Tears In My Eyes

Upon hearing the news of Obama's victory, I started to cry with relief and a real sense of hope for this nation and the world. What a grand day!!!

I'm still in Minneapolis after going to a witch gathering called Earth Conclave. I've gotten to visit with dear beloveds and meet some new folks, too, that I've been hearing about from for years. It was fantastic, and a highlight was walking up to the Bear Mounds, ancient sacred sites in Iowa along the Mississippi River.

I'll be back in Washington on Friday and then deep into yoga teacher training for the weekend, so I'll probably write a real post next Monday or so, moving onward into the journey of the heroic community (something we did ritual work around at Conclave).

Blessings to everyone!