Om Mani Padme Hum

My mom loved Kuan Yin. She had three statues of the Goddess that, when mom died, were passed sown to me and my next oldest sisters. I cherish mine. She stands tall, hair piled high on top of her head, a slight serene smile, eyes closed. Her right hand is bent up at the wrist, the thumb and middle finger touching slightly forming the Shuni Mudra. In her left hand is a scroll. She wears a beaded necklace that hangs low on her chest and is almost swallowed by her flowing white robe, She stands upon a cloud, or maybe it’s waves. Her earlobes are long. The Goddess of mercy.

I can remember singing songs about Kuan Yin when I was a child and chanting Om Mani Padme Hum. I had not a clue what it meant but I know that it was for her and that when I thought of her, I was filled with a sense of peace and compassion. I even dressed as her for Halloween one year, or as we celebrated it, All Souls. But went to the Church Universal and Triumphant where we walked around and got candy (organic, fruit juice flavored candy and carob chips) and hung out with other little kids dressed as angels and archangels eating fruit leather and bobbing for apples. Vey wholesome stuff.

A few years ago, I lost almost all of my material possessions in a house fire. I’ll tell you more about that later but one of the things that survived was my beautiful porcelain white statue of Kuan Yin, the Goddess of Mercy. She was blackened with smoke and damaged from the fire. I packed her in a box, sure that I would clean her up and restore her to her rightful place on my altar one day soon. She ended up at my dear maestra’s house when I left Arkansas for Minneapolis to live in the house that I grew up in with all of my siblings. I’ll tell you more about that later. I left Kuan Yin with my teacher because I knew that she wold be safe there and would have a place of reverence on her altar. I did my best to clean her up before I bid them both a tearful goodbye, promising to be back as soon as the fates would allow.

I returned about a year and a half later, married to the love of my life and eager to start a family with him and to show him a special part of my heart that can only be found in Arkansas. When we found out that we were pregnant, it was such an unimaginable joy! We could not believe it. When we found out two weeks later that we would never get to meet our baby, that the very existence of this developing life was threatening my own and that it was it or me, we were devastated beyond comprehension.

My teacher and dear friend had come to visit me the week before and we had shared out news with her. We are expecting! We had shrieked and hugged and it had all seemed so perfect and so surreal. I called her freaking out when I saw the brown blood. I knew that they say it is nothing to worry about until it turns red but I worried nonetheless. I wailed and shrieked and was inconsolable. I had to have an operation to remove my Fallopian tube. It had burst and I was bleeding inside. My teacher came to visit me. She brought me my Kuan Yin.

I had the thought, I need to make an altar for Kuan Yin. Instead, I set her near my plants, where I could have her near me but it was not the appropriate place of honor that she deserves. I kept thinking to myself, I need to make an altar for her with fresh flowers, and pinks and purples and crystals and I won’t let it get dusty with fresh water and a small offering of rice each day.

She has been trying to come through to me. In a conversation with my dad I told him that I was so sad that I don’t have dreams about my mom where she is well. I dream of her sick. I want that relationship with her, that unconditional love that I felt when I was a baby and then it changed into something else and I felt like I could never make her happy, like she was always judging my actions and that I would never be enough. I resented her and I was angry at her for dying. I was angry at her when I lost the baby. I have an unresolved relationship with her and I love her so much that it hurts. All I ever wanted was for her to be proud of me and to want to be near me and to be near her. I was so in love with her and worshipped the ground that she walked upon We all did. My dad told me that she adores me and that he has made his peace with her and that she loves me unconditionally. He mentioned Kuan Yin and told me that she is watching over me. I bawled my face off on my way to work and then went home and chose all of the most beautiful pictures of my mom to put around my room and on my altar. I get to remember her how I want to.

I started thinking about publishing a blog in 2013. I set up the WordPress site and got busy ignoring it. I would always have many, many excuses as to why I would never write in it or publish anything. It’s almost like I was torturing myself by not allowing myself to do the one thing that I needed to make sense of it all- to write. So this old thing has sat here for four years, collecting dust. I always say that I am a writer (to myself in my head) but when it comes down to it, I have been to afraid to write.

After experiencing an ectopic pregnancy and subsequent removal of my Fallopian tube, I realized the depth of my power for repression and also realized that if I continued down that path, I would die innumerable creative deaths. I have to give birth to the wisdom that is inside of me. I have a story that needs to find it’s way out of my and into this world. It’s a matter of life and death.

Somehow, i got the courage to publish my first blog post but before I did, I renamed the title of the blog to “The Jewel in the Lotus.” I did this because I have always been fascinated with this concept. To me, it has symbolized that we are the treasure that we seek. The seeker and the treasure are one in the same. That is the Jewel in the Lotus. I am embarrassed to admit that I did not make the connection between that name and the name of the sweet Goddess of Mercy, Kuan Yin until just a few days ago. A fellow blogger “thetarotman” mentioned me in a post and talked about Kuan Yin and the Sanscrit mantra On Mani Padme Hum. The very chant that I wold repeat as a child Kuan Yin IS the Jewel in the Lotus. In fact, her mantra, Om Mani Padme Hum is just that, mani=jewel and padme=lotus. I had been singing her sweet name since I was a child. She has been coming through to me so sweetly and patiently and gently and persistently and overtly but I have not put it all together until now. I can feel my mother’s energy in it. I can feel healing goddess energy wash over me.

Kuan Yin is the goddess of mercy, and compassion, and fertility, and children. Of COURSE she is:) Now that I have made the head to heart connection, I will make a special time tomorrow to decorate an altar to Kuan Yin and to bask in her healing energy and to chant her sacred name. She can give the unconditional love that we all crave for she is the compassionate mother. With that insight, i dedicate the following poem (written several years ago) to her and to my mother, Mary Jean. PS. I wrote this just before I met the woman who would become my teacher.

 

 

I can imagine a personal relationship with the Goddess

With the most beautiful woman that I have ever seen

her heart is made of rose petals and light emanates from her fingertips

She created us all and can heal each one with a kiss

She is my mother and she has called me back to my house.

“Daughter, return from the world and return to your Divine place of birth

I want you to dwell in this house with me once again.”

I hear her call through the fog of earthly dreams and the veil of earthly pleasures

“I will come, mother”, I tell her. Just let me finish

what it is that I am doing.

I tremble, I am filled with doubt.

Surely, my mother could not want me after all these years. Surely, I am no longer capable of attaining communion with divinity. My years on earth have hardened me and spoiled me against it.

Better that I should stay here, doing what I know.

But she continues to call me. More insistently.

“Daughter, return to me. Cast off your earthly suffering.”

I hear her call in my heart and try to ignore it.

I chase every rabbit down every hole, spend days wandering in their lairs, lost and confused, thirsty, tired

Earthly food does not sate my hunger and earthly drink cannot quench my thirst.

With dead eyes, I wander, the echo of my mother’s voice still calls to me from a far-off land

One day, in desperation, I pledge to make the journey. Totally alone this time for I know that this is how it must be

I start out and fall. I crumple to the earth.

This is where it all ends.

I am sure of it.

I will crawl back to earth and disappear slowly.

But my mother, honored by my effort, pathetic though it be, she comes to me.

She gathers me effortlessly into her arms

“Daughter, at last you have come back to me.”

And she holds my head up, facing out, upon her chest

her maternal breast that has nourished the world

since the beginning of time.

her jet black eyes sparkle, the skin around her eyes crinkles up as she

bursts into a radiant smile that sets the sunrise ablaze.

We hover there, midair, watching the sun come up.

The strands of our hair blow together in the wind

“I will never let you go”, she says.

Unable to surrender, I use my last bit of strength to argue

“but mother,” I say “I did not make the journey to you.

I failed. I fell after two steps.”

She smiles and hugs me tighter.

“Daughter, all I want is you. In your heart, you intended to make the journey,

but I have decided to carry you.

You are tired and weak and need to rest. Now, close your eyes.”

I fall asleep laughing and crying in her arms.

When I wake up, we are home.

 

 

Wild Things or Tiger Tamer No More

Several years ago, I went to the zoo. The zoo used to be a guilty pleasure for me. I knew that it was terrible and that the animals were locked in too-small cages and were sad and depressed but I liked to see them. Now zoos just make me really, really sad because I realize how incredibly selfish it is and I cannot pretend anymore but there was this one time that I remember vividly.

I was at the Como zoo in early spring in Minneapolis. The weather wad barely warm yet and all of the animals were either still hibernating or not moving around too much. Except for the tigers. There were two of them, a couple, I think. I watched them for quite some time. They were playing with an old basketball, walking along a fallen tree and generally behaving like big overgrown house cats, rolling on their backs in the brown grass and tumbling with one another.

I was mesmerized. There was a little place to sit and press your nose up against the glass and watch them from above. Their habitat was on a lower level but there were all sorts of trees and places for them to jump us and move around. All of a sudden, without warning, one of the tigers started walking toward me. She climbed up the cement blocks and ended up on my level, where she placed her nose against the glass, opposite my own nose, which was pressed up against the glass too.

I could hardly stand it. There was a shiver of terror that skittered up my spine as I realized how close that I was to this mystical creature. I took in her colors, the shabbiness of the dirty fur near her stomach a sharp contrast the the bright orange on her back. Her whiskers that twitched, her pink nose. I could almost feel her breath. We stared into each other’s eyes.

What took my breath away (I hadn’t realized that I was holding my breath until she walked away) was the color of her eyes and how she looked at me. I felt so special, looking into those deep green eyes. I knew that she was singling me out and that she knew that I was someone who “knew.”

I would later tell that story as if I had met a celebrity.  So proud that this animal had chosen to spend a minute looking into my eyes. She gave me some of her power that afternoon and now, as I look back on a poem that I wrote years ago during a bad breakup, it seems particularly relevant as I recall the time that I literally stared a tiger in the eye.

Tiger Tamer

you just squeezed the juice right outta me

woke up that tiger who’s been pacing in her pit
i have been feeding her sparsely for years
barely keeping her alive.
The taste of some big game was all it took
she’s hungry now-
strength back
snorting, pacing, panting.
her eyes gleam and she smiles
can’t tell if she’ll hurt me cause
after all
she’s wild
stretched up against the walls, i can almost feel her claws against my toes
taste her hot breath on my face
you know its not the back of my neck any longer
and that’s progress
which I’ll take in any form
after all of these years of trying to be a tiger tamer
i think its just best to let her out and see what happens
a worthy opponent

My Pain is My Power or Radical Honesty

The idea that there is a vast storehouse of power and energy and experience that we can access from the painful experiences in our lives is not an new idea. Look at any artist, writer, singer, etc. and ask about their inspiration for some of their best work. A lot of it comes out of intense pain. No-that is not exactly what i am talking about. Rather, the idea that our personal capacity to heal others comes from this acknowledgement of the pain and of sitting down with it and being honest about our experience with it, there in lines or capacity to heal ourselves and other. The idea that someone who is so severely wounded and broken could draw power from those wounds to heal herself and others in the revolutionary idea.

My biggest source of pain has been fear of telling the truth. Fear that I could not handle it, that others could not handle it, fear that everyone would find out how fucked up I am, and that no one would love me if they really knew me. Somewhere along the way I decided that the best decision for me was to keep my head down and not cause too much attention. As a child, i learned to lie to protect people from the horrible weight of the truth. I ended up getting myself so caught up in a web of deceit that I could never begin to remember who I had lied to about what. When I was about 12 or 13 years old, I remember reading an essay that my late uncle had written about finding the love of his life in his 50’s and he talked how he proposed the idea of practicing radical honesty with his love. What that meant to  me was telling the truth at all times no mater what. WHAT THE FUCK!!!! That went against just about all of my training and experience and seemed like a foolhardy idea that would only get one into a world of trouble.

At the time, I didn’t necessarily buy this idea. I thought it was nuts. But the concept stuck with me and I have come to realize that it is the only way. I am still convincing myself that this is the best way. Love everyone and always tell the truth. To someone who had relied on lies to get her by, there is something so incredibly overwhelming about this idea. This innate belief that if I even tried to do something like that, I would spontaneously combust or something. Partly because i had no idea how to even start and partly because it seemed so fake coming from someone who had told so many lies in the course of her very short life. That phrase, radical honesty, stuck with me although I would not attempt to practice it for years but more about that later.

At the time that I was learning that there even was such a thing as radical honesty, I was deep in it up to my eyeballs in lies. I had so many secrets and so many identities! Hiding my eating disorders, my kleptomania, my self-harm and budding drug and alcohol addictions, coping with unrealized sexual abuse and balancing being a caregiver to my sister and younger brother and sister, being held to an extremely high academic standard all the while holding the precarious emotional balance in my family was too much for anyone, so I blew it all up when I turned 17. More about that later.  I was the ultimate chameleon and prided myself on being able to hang out with anyone and to adapt to any situation. I was a chronic people pleaser and would bend over backward (especially for men) and put everyone’s desires above my own. One one hand, I felt trapped inside a Dali-esque painting in my mind.  Juggling various identities and story lines  was exhausting and was doing my best to keep them all straight, to keep the worlds from intersecting but it it was taking all of my strength. Later I would discover drugs and alcohol, giving fuel to my fire and allowing me to keep this illusion going for years to come. Denial, substance misuse, and losing myself in relationships would be what got me through my teens and 20’s.

My 30’s got off to a pretty crazy start. Everything was blowing up in my face and I was starting to realize that I would have to make a change bit not really sure what to do. It was around this time that I latched onto the idea of motherhood and became obsessed with the idea. Sure that this would be what would save me. I would get it together for another person, a baby. I would give up all of my destructive habits and everything would somehow be ok. That was not my path and despite my efforts, it did not come to pass.

Until just before my 34th birthday when part of my body literally exploded. I was pregnant but in the wrong place-my Fallopian tube. It was either the pregnancy or my life and I was rushed into the hospital for emergency surgery. Months later, I am not coming to terms with the idea that I could never have carried that baby because it is not mine to birth. It never was. I need to let go and allow my true self to be born and to unleash the torrent of creative energy that has lain buried for years. That is my baby and the thing that I have been most terrified of. Unless I embrace radical honesty, I might just end up dying with my song still inside of me. This is my biggest fear and as scared as I am to hit publish on this first post, I am more scared of what might happen if I don’t do it. So here goes nothing…