Meditations: Inheriting My Mother’s Garden

There’s only one thing I know how to do when I feel badly – meditate. But it took me years to discover this secret. Years of trauma and meandering in and out of empty wells. When I was younger and attended church with my mother and grandmother I remembered being frightened by the seemingly violent emotion of women in church. They would rock and weep and sob loudly. They would pass out on the floor. Once I saw a large woman “get the Holy Spirit” and she hit her head falling on the alter. No one moved to help her. I grabbed my father’s arm and said “Daddy!! Daddy! That lady!” He looked over lazily and said “Oh. She alright.” I was mad at him for a long time about that and refused to go back to church with him for some weeks. My dad and I were like that: we’d get mad and stop speaking then get over it and go on.

When I saw “The Color Purple” at the movie theatre the first time with Mother and Nanny I didn’t understand Miss Celie and why she talked to God. I didn’t understand the songs in church like “Jesus Is My Friend”. Frankly I always had serious difficulties with Jesus. Well not with Jesus exactly but with Christianity, I never understood. I still don’t despite having a Theology degree from an undergrad Jesuit college. Christianity leaves me cold. I just didn’t get it.

But I had an innate understanding of spirituality, however. Even as a girl I was always happy cobbling together little rituals and prayers that I stole, magpie fashion, from my exposure to other religions. Judaism. Hinduism. Buddhism. Finding yoga and a yogi whose words finally made sense changed my life. My first experiences with meditation were so amazingly successful that I remember feeling suffused with a goodwill and confidence, or perhaps just an old fashioned blessing. Those early meditations carried me through the worst, emptiest, most frightening times of my life. It was the first time in my life I was confronted with human evil. I know nothing of supernatural evil like the Exorcist (and since I get so scared in horror movies that I literally cry tears of fright I hope never to encounter it.) But simple, commonplace human evil is its own terror, the kind that leaves you shivering in the bed in bright daylight fearing what will come next from someone’s spite and general lack of compassion.

Maybe your experience in life is devoid of anything that you would attribute to spiritual resolve. For me I can’t imagine my life without it. I spend a lot of time in meditation asking Why this? or Why that? Technically that is prayer. Meditation is the listening part. Somedays I’m good at calming myself and patiently falling into that Place. Some days though the fear and despair block your attempts. But that’s when you must work hardest.

My favorite thing is when an answer actually comes. Meditation is like going into Bergdorf Goodman as a beggar and having every salesperson from all the high-end boutiques greet you as a queen. “Take this!! And you’ll need this too!!” …”Oh have you seen our newest line? Have some! Oh did you take extras for family and friends? Here!! Here!” (Yes there is probably something wrong with describing my spiritual life in materialistic terms but this is my metaphor. You can go describe yours like Walden Pond or Dover Beach or whatever. My meditation is like Bergdorf Goodman, I say.)

It’s getting amazing answers from the void that are so extraordinary that it sometimes puts me in a good mood for weeks at a time. The other day I had barely been sitting for five minutes when a story idea dropped in my lap beginning, middle and end.
Someone hurt my feelings recently and I’ve spent a lot of time listening for some — what? Wisdom? Answers? Yes. — some explanation. Trying to find a salve for my heart because I feel sad.

I look at myself in the mirror and to see my tiny self. Though my face doesn’t necessarily display my age I know recognize myself as those women from my childhood. The Miss Celies. The emotional crying women in church who held it together all week long until they could make it to Church on Sunday and let their emotions free.
Except that I don’t wait until Sunday. I’ll go meditate two, three, times a day if I can. I keep asking the Universe the same question until I get an answer. In that, my spiritual practices are no different from the way I am in talking to real flesh and blood humans all day long. I like to get RESULTS.

So now I save my emotions and tears and even some joy for entering the Spiritual Bergdorf Goodman of the Universe. Alice Walker’s essay “InvSearch of Our Mother’s Gardens” was probably the most impactful thing I read in college. She talks about the fragile, mental artists who had very little in their material life and such rich emotional artistic and spiritual lives, and I remember recognizing all that she discussed as if it were a future memory. Perhaps I have finally entered that vague future memory at last.

Advertisements

Lamentation Blue

The wind took my voice as I cried
for the ruins of myself
for suffering by time
refracted, shot through, by a mirror of light
upon the ebb and flow of ocean and tide

there is the scent of grief inside my dreams,
and whispers of smoke upon the horizon
are haunted by ghosts of my home far away
murmuring songs in the key of life by day

we shall travel in disguise from the garden
take me gently – as I live by night –
we will journey to earth’s edge in order to escape
into gratitude’s gentle embrace,
free from rue
liberty, at last, from lamentation blue.

amidst shades of mourning
the twilight sleep of grief wanes and dies
dampens no more mine own eyes.             I beg thee, take me when you go on contradict this fiction of the heart, whilst I weep by the eastern star  anguish will redeem me upon the dawn.

prayers  for all women upon my lips
for struggle and distress, creation and bliss
a palette of grace inside my heart
detoxify my intentions from regret
for this vision quest, vivid purpose to forget the very bitterness of you      and that devil, lamentation blue

UnTitled

Arrwork: Illustrious Cry Me a River by Nguyen Thari Nhan

Loneliness is an echo chamber playing the voices of fear, the enemy of one’s self, the battles whose guns ricochet within the soft palate of the mind binding insecurity to the ever present need for companionship, betrayed ~

it is the place where need is manipulated by despair, and hope betrays solitude inside the soft boundaries of the mind where damage manifests as bruises, soft fruit with prints matching abuser’s ~

and inside the storm is the eye of the warrior entrapped in the winds of time and turbulence~

the cyclone is the laugh of madness, murder in the warrior’s mind, where the turmoil saturates what was once peace, sensory bliss. In the storm you fight and learn to spit upon base cowardice ~

I do not fear, I do not quiver in the storm. Lonesomeness girds me tight on its harness, sound regrets among the fallen, notes captured by me which now I own for my cause~

I am chaos embedded within the storm, a careless power from the void emerged, and born flinty like glints of iron ore junked in the veins beneath the skin, only so much restless dust~

In my mind I roam, meander, wander in uncharted territory ever forbidden to the Others who cannot cross past the revolutions of pressure as I do~

This is chaos, the enemy, artificial order where others sit gluttonous, saturated in false promises, slick from regret

While I dance and roar and make a friend of the rain

For Mommy: A Prayer

The Universe ~ God’s body ~ is pregnant with love
that is stronger than pain
than hunger
than nihilistic darkness and absence of  hope
His Love escapes Time, prances and capers across the conscious Universe
dusting us, His creations and image, with the power of light
the powdery stuff of stardust to blanket us
and protect from sorrows in dark of night
Within His luxuriant embrace we are sheltered from hollow despair

Surrender and abundance are the ecstatic destiny awaiting us all
transformed through each lifetime
if you would but travel his roads
for you should discover the finale to toil and sweat soaked years
and the infinite shall enfold you to bring you home again
to grace and mercy beyond the veil of tears.

Becoming a Soul Mistress: Black Women on a Journey out of Hell

More Thoughts on the maligned Angry Black Woman: From Self Destructor to Survivor

The next hurdle to be conquered  by  the much maligned  Angry Black Women can only be won by harnessing that passionate energy and directing one’s  intensity for creative and productive purpose. The passion is anger, pain, desperation, the unrequited love that we feel for our families, lovers, our country. Allowed to fester it is our greatest danger, our most dreaded enemy; if it is not re-directed in a positive fashion it can eat you alive. Witness already vulnerable  black women imperil themselves with excessive weight and food addictions, crippling depression and other untreated mental illness, as well as other chronic medical ailments like diabetes, heart disease, pelvic pain. Allowed to turn inward, that passion destroys the Self, and in the meantime it can make everyone around  that woman  miserable as well. 

The grief of watching mothers, sisters, wives, daughters killing themselves slowly by supping on anger is a familiar experience to black men and women.There is a great well of power within black women who are the most expert survivors in American culture. But we are experts in suicidal behavior as well, which is what swallowed pain, anger and despair amounts to. If we look at some of the great icons of black creativity  like  Ntozake Shange, Alice Walker, Toni Morrison, Iyanla Vanzant, Oprah, Michelle Obama we see women who  have grappled with these issues of self destructiveness in their personal lives, but they have managed to harness some of that energy into positive  creativity via art, writing, spirituality and social outreach. These roads of creativity are the ultimate saviours, saving us from ourselves.

What is the quick and easy way to analyze one’s anger, to change it into productivity?

Is there a formula for this? In short: NO there is no formula, there is no EASY way to positivity and productivity. Many women – myself included – are often taken to the brink of death before they learn that in order to survive the only choice in life is change.

And it is a terrifying journey, that Only Choice/ Change issue. It is a lonely journey. But the spirit improves over time. You develop greater strength, even when  the terrain becomes daunting the deeper you travel into  previously unexplored territory….

We,  the Angry Black Women, are seekers in the quest  for Validation. Acceptance. Success. Creativity. Spirituality. Safety. Security. Unconditional Love.We are seeking Peace. But the Truth that you must contend with before these gifts can ever be attained is that  only YOU are responsible for your own success or failure.

Those virtues are attainable. Yet, no one denies that the road is long and hard. Just the fight for stability in one’s life amidst the struggles with bills, under-employment at low wage jobs, student loans, and family responsibility threaten us with overwhelming despair in the face of one’s fragile and newly formed determination. These challenges are the  mundane  distractions, real and frustrating, difficulties that we all face.

But the first task in developing and strengthening that spiritual determination is a simple one: begin  each day in the soft quiet embrace of meditation. Focus in complete silence and get in touch with one’s soul. In this way you begin to take responsibility for your well being and discover the whys and wherefores of one’s  anger and other emotions as well. This is the essential first step. Prepare to be surprised continuously once you begin this journey. Make room for a new friend in your life; make room for the side of your Self  that you have never seen before.

The holy grail that you seek upon  this visionquest is  Peace. From the outside forces beyond our control. From racism and sexism. From ourselves. And we are seeking the comfort of that Self that we know exists inside though it has hidden itself away in fear.

This is the journey out of hell.

It is travel from the suicidal pact of self  destruction to the ultimate freedom that accompanies self- mastery. Every black woman who has experienced suffering –through racism, sexism, the demons of addiction, and the heartbreaking  routine of inane “work” which provides little income yet still denies one the opportunity of true expression — is on a journey.

Your final destination — like Alice’s trek across Wonderland to the Eighth Square —  ends at the place where you shall be crowned in majesty as the Soul Mistress of power and love that is inside. The gift is the return to Self.

What every black woman seeks is to become the Mistress of her own Fate and  Queen of her Soul.