Rumi-nating on the New Year and sharp knives

First I have to notice.

The month before Rosh Hashonah is devoted to reviewing one’s accounts, seeing what is in need of repair – how my ways of doing and being have uplifted or downtrodden, made whole or split, brought solace or suffering. So first comes noticing.

Some years that is all I can do, and then my resolve to repair, restore, make whole does not have much flesh and bone behind it.

This year I have been blessedly hit with insights into very fundamental dynamics about how I live my life and move through the world, so much so that I can quite literally feel my body moving through space made solid. I can feel with my senses the effects as I move through the world unaware, in self-protective mode, how one “no” after another leaves the world around me roughed up and distressed. And how different the effects when I am awake to my full and imperfect humanity. Then even the “no” changes meaning and claims its actual power.

As I enter this New Year, I am deeply resolved to notice, and to choose the sharp blade as a kindness to myself and the world.

May you be blessed to be a blessing to your dear ones and to the world in the year 5778.

 

Rumi-nating

by Sara Eisenberg

 

I would say yes quickly if

I could, Master Rumi, if

I would.

 

Drowsing or distracted I am clumsy and

ragged, no

less nor more than any

one, propelled through

space thick with love

that I take for wood or

ice that needs a

roughly-handled

saw, a NO that is my first

response.

 

There is nothing for it.

Once born, I am skin and mind-

bound.

 

Then I remember God said and it was

very good.

 

How I would be

fresh from the water stone,

a keen blade slicing through

life, leaving no jagged open

seeping wound.

 

You would only feel the lightest

caress on your bare

skin, met, set

apart from all creation by your precious

unequalled existence.

 


The following came to me some time after I wrote this poem: while I do not keep kosher, I know that to minimize suffering to a permitted animal, a knife used for slaughtering must be extremely sharp,  is inspected both before and after the  slaughter, and must be applied in a single uninterrupted movement that does not tear tissues.

Your motive question: What is it you are trying to solve?

The power of a motive question

I have been asked from time to time in my nondual healing studies – usually as I try to avoid one of my personal demons by pinning down some new piece of understanding, knowledge or skill:  “What is it you are trying to solve?”

The “answer” to this question is not a statement, but another question – what I call a motive question, because it is one that moves us powerfully – and unconsciously – into action over and over again throughout our lives.

A motive question makes its presence known in our lives as we repeatedly circle around frustrations, guilts, and disappointments. It dogs us through serial (if monogamous) relationships, work lives, creative endeavors, week-end workshops, pilgrimages, marches.

In the past few days, inspired by the courage and vulnerability of my healing colleagues, I have once again taken up that question: What am I trying to solve as I live my life?  It has ushered me deep into weeping with loneliness. I have explored this loneliness before through poetry about my very early life, but I rarely allow it to arrive so fully in my consciousness or my body.

I could say that my motive question is: How can I live so that I avoid feeling this loneliness? Many other voices and opinions chime in. Some sow delight in my being, others plague. I write down what each has to say. Eventually they drop into song together, a refrain of yearning and commitment, a truth-filled response to my motive question:

I can bear to show up and be seen

I can bear to speak and be heard

I can bear to touch and be touched

I can bear to hold and be held

as the woman I am

as the Jew I am

in all my whiteness

not only for the sake of others

but for my own sake.

Perhaps this is the right timing for you to begin to inquire into your own motive question.

There is no more holy work. It solves nothing. Yet it brings healing and awakening to your soul and to the world.

 

 

Holy work

by Sara Eisenberg

 

As I sit to

engage in this holy reckoning,

the Corn Maiden is not her erect

sun-reaching self.

 

Instead her head rests against the flank

of the Blue Deer,

whose song calls her into existence,

sings to her: “multiply and feed,” and

settles each and every god into

her role.

 

And so chaos yields to One, separation

after another,

glistening particulars across all

firmaments, oceans, marshes, deserts,

across all concepts, beliefs, borders, memes.

 

The body of the world is all hands and eyes, they

touch and bless each

shape and texture as it comes into

life, catches vivid fire, warms and burns,

 

touch and bless each

small death-into-life before the body wearies

altogether,

 

touch and bless,

clapping and

shining with tears

of a joy so great

even sorrow

finds lodging.

 

Being special is different from what I was taught

Like all human beings, I want to know that I am special. I was schooled to earn this state of grace by being different:  by standing out, cultivating individuality. Excelling. At all costs, avoiding the ordinary.

At some point in my healing and awakening, it occurred to me that we are each an ongoing special event. That is, we are each a unique archive of happenings and choices, blessings and curses: circumstances, encounters, people, places, words, fragrances: beautiful and plain permutations that cannot be replicated.

Life happens and we choose.

On the one hand, irreplaceable specialness everywhere. And on the other, nothing out of the ordinary.

A great angelic tenderness arises when I walk through the world with this vision.

 

traveling with Angels, or

on the verge of tears

by Sara Eisenberg

 

every once in a while, an Angel descends,

or perhaps rises up within.

eyes peer out through the heart,

the cityscape vibrates with saturated colors,

and the plain beauty of strangers crossing

paths, intent on some other

street corner that says

“home.”

 

i dodge a plastic cup blowing across my path,

a guy in cap and tee-shirt dodges traffic.

the post-office clerk takes time to show me the proper way to handle the various stickers involved in sending certified mail.

a bass rhythm shakes my car as i pull up to a red light.

 

Tenderness, that’s her

name.


Banner photo: Superstitions II, Alicia Armstrong. Eno Gallery, Hillsborough, North Carolina

More poetry: http://alifeofpractice.com/musings/transition-and-mischief-makers/

http://alifeofpractice.com/poetry/women-friends-come-bearing-gifts/

 

Hit a blank wall, writer’s block? Practice!

Facing a blank page and a blank mind, I could either turn off my computer and go on to my to-do list for the day

OR:  practice, and go right into that blankness.

I chose practice.

In these dog days with the heat turned up globally, locally, and for so many of us, very very personally, I invite you to do the same.

Solo practice is sometimes necessary, if not always virtuous.

So if you need to, grab a hand, grab two hands, practice together.

 

Blank

by Sara Eisenberg

 

we pull back from one

another,

me and words, untagged,

into our plain

 

space

 

it is August,

too many stories on walkabout,

shimmer

in the heat and rise

as steam, follow the occasional

 

downpour

 

Yesterday Lisa and I sat, two herbalists under

a generous urban tree we could not identify,

relieved to leave aside too-difficult topics over

our sweating icey drinks.

 

I faced a plain, freshly

painted blank

wall, three stories high, an open

invitation to any street artist just beyond an easily scaled

 

fence

 

(at four years of age I straddled Blanco,

many hands high)

 

summer’s hot magic: i walked right into that wall and spread myself out,

three stories high, plain,

you couldn’t see me there for all that white brick,

 

without story,

without moniker,

wholly untagged.


 

More on Practice: http://alifeofpractice.com/musings/when-receiving-becomes-a-gift/

Elegy for Young Elm Trees

Six young elm trees have volunteered over the years, taken root right up against our home, as if protecting us from unwelcome forces of nature that might come from any direction. The tallest among them hugged the west side, and provided welcome shade from a summer afternoon sun that seemed to hang in the west for an unnatural number of hours, baking the house and its inhabitants. But it was starting to dislodge the roof shingles, and I had put the tree work off as long as I could.

 

IMG_2552So last night at dusk I took  a chunk of my favorite dark chocolate (Icelandic, 70%) and a handful of ceremonial tobacco and circled our city lot in clockwise fashion. I made my offerings to the young elms. Gave my thanks for their shade, their anchoring and protection, and suggested to them that they might want to loosen their roots a bit in anticipation of the saws that would arrive this morning.

This morning Excel Tree Service made quick and noisy work of the whole thing.

 

Tonight I grieve the elms. This plot

of land is altered, atilt, ill at ease. I am

exposed, off balance, as if someone has made quick

and noisy work of me. These rough-hewn lines

stand. I run

my hands over their rough bark.


A Hymn to the Plants:  http://alifeofpractice.com/musings/915/

 

Bless the world with your practice

Bless the world with your practice

Whatever it is that you practice, do you pause to consider your intention? to direct your heart?

Whenever  you practice, recognize that it benefits the world, not just you personally.

Recognize that your practice simultaneously uplifts you and other humans and living beings.

Recognize that your practice simultaneously nourishes your soul and the Soul of the World.

Strengthen the healing and awakening power of your practice for the greater good by bringing greater consciousness, choice, and precision to your intention.

Then open your being and let it fly.

Bless yourself and the world with your practice.

 

Pardes

by Sara Eisenberg

 

Standing plain, cupped,

bending barely audible lunar winds towards You,

wedded and bedded,

drawing out each fine, twisted silken thread.

Say us together, a single illumined word.


 

For more on Blessing: http://alifeofpractice.com/daily-practices/a-blessing-habit/

For more poetry: http://alifeofpractice.com/musings/transition-and-mischief-makers/

http://alifeofpractice.com/poetry/women-friends-come-bearing-gifts/

http://alifeofpractice.com/poetry/still-life-with-cat-2/

Instructions to a gardener: know your gesture, praise life

I’ve been taking instruction from weedy plants now for some time.

Dandelions tell me where the topsoil is depleted of nutrients.

Blackberries and creepers teach me close and diligent observation and pruning.

Plantains reveal the paths that heavy rains travel across the surface of our back yard,  a low point into which the whole block drains.

Every  plant – and every human being – makes its characteristic gesture.

The plants remain single-minded in their praise-fest of life.

We humans, not so much.

 

Instructions to a gardener

by Sara Eisenberg

 

Let the dandelions

root

and carry buried nutrients to my soil

surface.

 

Give the thorny blackberries room to spread, increase their fruiting.

 

Let-be the creepers to shade

an interior

life.

 

Prune

the

mind.

 

Follow the plantains as they

follow the

water

path.

 

Every green thing is pre-

occupied with,

gestures us towards

redemption.


More praise for the plants: http://alifeofpractice.com/musings/915/

More on spring plants for cleansing: http://alifeofpractice.com/herbalism/choose-a-spring-cleanse-thats-right-for-you/

More poetry: http://alifeofpractice.com/poetry/still-life-with-cat-2/

 

 

This healing and awakening is “tacky,” i.e. real, human

Being more human, not more perfect can be so tacky: I have to mind the gap between the uncomfortably real and the idealized. Just now that means grief and anguish.

MIND THE GAP: I have always loved this sign that populates the London Underground, warning against a misstep between platform and train. The GAP I most need to MIND these days is the one between my Idealized, cleaned-up version of healing and awakening, and the Real Thing. I misstep daily, often without realizing it, as this rare dream illuminated for me a few nights ago:

I was in a cavernous, empty building, industriously erecting a sweet human-sized structure, well-proportioned, using high quality materials – there were four sturdy corner posts of well-turned and polished wood, a roof of shimmery colorful fabric overhead, some ethereal walls that left it open to a welcoming entry on all sides, until….

It abruptly collapsed…

And I found myself in the same cavernous, empty building, erecting – all higgledy-piggledy – a tacky little structure, a jumble of unidentifiable discarded materials, where everything was askew but managed to stand serviceably enough.

As I woke with these two images in mind, I could only shake my head at myself, recognizing the small structures were, respectively, my idealized image of a healed and awakened Sara, and the actual harum-scarum, raggle-taggle, hobson-jobson (to borrow again from the British), healing-awakening hot mess that I am.

As I woke, I was saying to myself: this is so tacky. Being more human and not perfect can be so tacky.

My dream was reminding me to be real, to reconcile myself one more time to my imperfect humanity.

Being real right now means I am awash in grief and anguish.  It means…

my cells are weeping

my nose is snotty

my sleep and defenses are shot

my invisibility cloak is inoperative

my frozen interior is melting

my fasciae are gaining in tensile strength and fluidity

my own hand resting on my thigh is penetrating comfort itself

anybody could find me and kill me off with a bit of kindness

I am finally, deeply, feeling a healing version of vaporous unseen and unnamed forces that have shaped every relationship, my very view of the world. Have propelled my movements through life, at times inflicting on others the very same neglect from which I suffered.

It is almost four years since I wrote the first drafts of these poems out of the shape of the relationship with my mother that I could sense kinesthetically with my whole body: a difficult yet mentally idealized picture. Now these poems are more vivid and alive:  salty, wet, and full of feeling.

So this healing and awakening is truly tacky, built of all manner of imperfections, mine and my mother’s. Uncomfortably real. But sturdy and not prone to abrupt collapse.

language is on my face

by Sara Eisenberg

language is on my face, Mother is un-lettered, i, an apple fallen close to her trunk, just beneath her tree, flat, looking up at her, a moon circling in a distant galaxy

 

Mother

by Sara Eisenberg

i am a world suspended upon

nothingness

 

launch myself on the wind

of my own arid breath,

mingle materially with

emptiness,

tract upon barren tract

until i

come up

up against

push up

up against

push,

push,

not landing,

push

against cloth black against darkness:

the shape of my mother,

herself bereft,

a mirror covered

against mourning,

swallowing light.


For more poetry:

http://alifeofpractice.com/daily-practices/an-exaltation-of-particulars/

http://alifeofpractice.com/poetry/women-friends-come-bearing-gifts/

 

Still, life with cat

Lilah came to us as a rescue cat. We were smitten at first sight.

She had been with us for some years before our cat communicator told us that we were meant to make her healing services available to our clients. For a period of time, I kept a lovely portrait of her in my rental space – now that I have a home office, she participates in person, once I have checked with clients about cat allergies.  Contrary to Mark Twain’s caution, she can and does “improve the man” but without “deteriorating the cat.”

 

Still, life with cat

by Sara Eisenberg

 

Indifferent to the opening of a can

but never to a human arrival,

all silk, darkness, and underfoot,

Lilah appears

in answer to a summons

we two have not heard,

plants herself in doorways,

demands we remain alert and

agile in our gaining years,

 

and also roams the the neighborhood.

She is known to have preferred life on the street

to people who were not up to her standards,

though we never learned the precise details.

 

When my children were young, their friends called me

“Laurie’s Mommy”  or “Jenny’s Mommy,”

now I am “Lilah’s owner” to my neighbors,

even though we all know

no one owns

a cat,

ever.

.

But oh for life as cat, a body that

joyfully, madly shoulder rolls in pursuit of tail,

bounds straight up a tree trunk to the roof,

rounds itself into any soft corner!

Still, life with cat keeps me

close to mystery,

as every day I fall anew into

her shimmering green

eyes.


More Poetry:

http://alifeofpractice.com/poetry/women-friends-come-bearing-gifts/

http://alifeofpractice.com/musings/post-card-dancing-with-life/

 

 

 

Thank you to my women friends who come bearing gifts

From birth to death, life is a messy proposition. Sanity, strength, hilarity, tears: I get through one thing after another thanks to my women friends who come bearing gifts and sorrows for one another.

This poem is for you, my true goddsibbs.

 

Birthing room etymology

by Sara Eisenberg

 

On any given day

I ponder

your dear faces:

you

and you

and you,

my godsibbs,

women I would invite

into my lying-in room,

my dying-in room

where fluids leak

sour, briny, pungent.

You have your wits about you,

words precise, blessed, musical,

walk right into trouble,

knives

at the ready,

to cut or cut out,

needles

at the ready

to mend or embellish,

soft cloths and lavender water

at the ready

to cool a feverish brow.

Your strewing herbs are

affection, regard, discretion –

with them you refresh the air, comfort us

in this dark, warm chamber.

Through what meanness,

incomprehension,

listening at the keyhole,

did affections thus exchanged

become idle, trifling,

and the speakers

thereof

common

gossips?

 


Image is fabric on canvas by Kenneth Ngosi that I photographed at the Hillsborough, NC Gallery of Arts.