Give Over The Melody Line [on KS Friday]

as it is songbox copy

Spiritual teachers across traditions suggest that the reason we suffer is that we focus on what we think should be/supposed to be instead of on what is. The dedication to being someplace other than where you are will split you every time! The notion that you can be someone other than who you are (at this moment) will cleave you in two. And so, we have traditions of mindfulness (be where you are) and acceptance (be who you are) and forgiveness (be at peace with who and where you are). The cliff notes version: stop hewing yourself in two and you will stop suffering.

This is the seed-idea that inspired AS IT IS. This is what is supposed to be. All is as it is, as it should be.

I delight when Kerri tells me the story behind a composition. This morning, as we listened, she asked me to pay attention to the melody line. The flute mostly carries it. The keyboard – what she is playing – is in a support role. She said it this way: the keyboard gives over the melody line. The flute gives it back. The keyboard returns it to the flute.

No resistance. Relationship. AS IT IS. These, too, are spiritual suggestions for mending the hew. I’ll add to my canon as a practice for presence: give over the melody line.

 

AS IT IS on the album AS IT IS, available on iTunes & CDBaby

 

read Kerri’s blog post about AS IT IS

 

by the fire in breckenridge website box copy

 

as it is/as it is ©️ 2004 kerri sherwood

Be Clumsy

a detail of my painting, May You Be.

a detail of my painting, May You Be.

Clumsy (klum’ ze) adj. 1. lacking dexterity, grace or skill; awkward. 2. ungracefully shaped or made; unwieldy. 3. awkwardly or unskillfully said or done, ill-contrived.

“We don’t allow ourselves to be clumsy,” Kerri said. “Life is clumsy.”

Many years ago I read a commentary that suggested we moderns have a harder time of feeling good about ourselves than people of ages past. The argument went something like this: we have an impossibly high standard to meet and it is mostly illusory. For instance, our predecessors compared themselves and their successes against a relatively small village populace. We are swimming in pool that stretches around the earth. The athletes in our ancestral villages ran against their neighbors, the artists created for a specific purpose that served a tangible need in their community. Our young runners know to the hundreth-of-a-second what greatness requires. They run against the world. Our artists rarely know outside of their own inner imperative why they are creating. With no outer limit they spend a great deal of time wondering if their work has any impact or greater significance. With no outer limit it has no defined audience or community. Stephen, a gifted and prolific artist, used to ask, “Why don’t people recognize the value of art?”

The argument is largely a question of access. Our predecessors had limited and very abstract access to the news of the day, to the happenings beyond their region. We have a 24-hour global news cycle that comes to us on multiple devices that are designed to grab and keep our attention. It is not passive. On our multiple devices we are bombarded with images and messages of what we should look and feel like. Yet, almost all of the images populating our personal measuring stick are constructed. They are manipulated, retouched, powdered and Photoshopped. Legs are stretched. Wrinkles are removed. Sunsets are filtered. We measure ourselves against illusions.

Thus, intermediaries are everywhere. Interpreters abound. I rarely go into a gallery without a curator telling me why the work on the walls is important. The news of the day makes us the rope in a tug-of-war of interpretation.

Art, like life, like deep spirituality, requires direct engagement. It is made rich in the rough draft and the mistake. The broken road is interesting, vital. Learning is a process that takes time. It is messy. It is clumsy. It is not straight, paved, and has no road signs. And, it cannot be walked alone.

There is no forgiveness (of self or other) on the path of perfection; forgiveness is in short supply when the standard is both impossible to attain and an illusion. On the clumsy path, on the messy and muddy road, lives grace, generosity of spirit and deep forgiveness.

Clumsy (klum’ ze) adj. 1. Human

May You Be

May You Be

 

Place No Blame

a detail of my painting, "John's Secret."

a detail of my painting, “John’s Secret.”

I’ve been thinking a lot about forgiveness. Earlier today, Kerri read an article to me and the author, someone with terminal cancer, wrote that blame is a waste of energy. Life is too precious to waste on blaming. Forgive and move on.

My meditation on forgiveness has inadvertently become a meditation on blame. As it turns out, forgiveness and blame are often dance partners.

My favorite phrase of this week: Blame, no matter where you place it, does no good. To me, the crucial concept within the phrase is this: blame requires placement. Although it might feel otherwise, blame is not a passive act. We place it. We aim it. It is a way of making meaning of things that don’t feel good. I’ve written that blame is like sugar; it is addictive. It is choice wearing the mask of it-happened-to-me. Oddly, as an active choice, blame actually inhibits action and as an inhibitor it does no good either for the placer-of-the–blame or the recipient. It stops motion. It is an energy eddy. It is destructive both ways.

Forgiveness is also not a passive act. Forgiveness takes more effort because forgiveness is an unmasked choice. It, too, requires placement and aim. It is also a way of making meaning of something that doesn’t feel good. But, unlike blame, forgiveness does great good for both the giver-of-forgiveness and the recipient. It creates motion. It is generative both ways.

Forgive

lightghostWe’re already snowed in and the word is that the blizzard – the real blizzard – won’t start for another hour. Looking out the window Kerri said, “This storm is angry.” It is. This is not a gentle snowstorm. The flakes are not fluffy or big; they are enraged bees that sting. We watched cardinals, brilliant red amidst the flurry of white, hunker down, bobbing in branches of the pine tree. Tripper Dog-Dog-Dog slid off the deck into a drift and emerged with a beard of snow and a look of confusion. He ran outside, felt the bite of the wind, and almost knocked me over running back into the house.

We sat in the living room and watched the snow swirl and howl. We talked quietly until the light waned and we noticed that we were sitting in the dark. It was as if the ferocity outside the house required hushed tones inside. Life is like that – inner turmoil often looks like a quiet exterior just as violent storms require us to talk in gentle voices. Balance is always present although not always recognized.

Lately I’ve been meditating much on the word “trespass.” Once, I had an experience with the word “trespass” that was nothing short of mystical. It altered the course of my life. According to the prayer, one must trespass to be forgiven. Life is nothing if not full of trespasses and those who trespass against us. Crossing boundaries and holding boundaries are both learned skills that require a good deal of trespassing.

Forgiveness feels good. Whether you are the giver of the forgiveness or the receiver (or both, when, for instance, forgiving yourself), it just feels good. Those violent outer storms will always lead to inner peace if you follow them far enough. It is the natural order of things. All that is required is a recognition that stories change like people change; that stories change when people let go of old stories. Miracles happens when, in hushed tones, the story of a trespass is retold as a story of forgiveness.

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A detail from my painting, An Instrument of Peace

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Trespass And Forgive

from my Yoga series of paintings.

from my Yoga series of paintings.

I’m back in the choir loft staring at the stained glass window. We’re having a conversation about the word ‘trespass;” it has lately been central to my meditation.

When I was a kid my cousin, Randal, and I used to trespass a lot. There was an old abandoned house built on a hillside. It had a big fence around it to keep us out. It also had the best tree swing in the world so it was worth the breach. Using the back porch as a launch pad, we could swing out over the hillside and let go, falling into a pile of mattresses and foam rubber stacked by all the trespassers. Many times we ran or hid when the police came to shoo us away, always returning when the coast was clear for another swing. It was thrilling.

I’ve trespassed a lot this past year, not into abandoned properties but into places within myself that I had erected fences, places I was not supposed to go. That is the necessity of growth. Transformation always requires a trespass. In stories it is the equivalent of leaving home and going where you are never supposed to go, the place where the monsters live, the place where the entire society (your psyche) tells you never to go. And, so, it becomes the one place that you must go to grow. It is usually ugly and messy and filled with betrayal – and that is the point: all the order dissolves into chaos so that a new order might emerge.

And, in the trespassing within, we trespass against others, especially against people we cherish. They are part of the old order. When the internal order dissolves, the outer order dissolves, too. That is also ugly and messy and filled with betrayal. There is loss of friendship. Love is tested.

My stained glass window tells me that forgiveness – of self and other – is a necessary step on the path to the new order. Trespass is a wrecking ball. Trespass is thrilling. The cops in the head (to borrow a phrase from Augusto Boal) will drive by to run you off or make you hide. The cops in the head will tell you that you are not safe or that you are doing damage that cannot be repaired. Fear wears a badge of authority. Fear wags a finger and calls you traitor, liar, or coward.

Trespass makes all things true and nothing true; that is the point of chaos. All location points disappear. My stained glass window tells me that forgiveness is new location point. It is an anchor. It is a sign that the new order, the butterfly, is emerging from the mush of chaos. Just as trespass is an essential movement away from the known, forgiveness is essential to return home. And, in story terms as in life, when you come home, finally and at last, after all of the trials and all of the betrayals, after all the mess and ugliness, you are new, so home is new, too. When you trespass, leave, and return, you find that there are no more fences and no more badges keeping you out. You find that the swing is available anytime. Love is reformed and everything becomes possible.

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