The Hidden Blessings of Liminal Space

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If you are observant, you can notice the subtle changes from week to week during this season. We have arrived at the end of January, which means that we are at the midpoint between the Winter solstice and the Spring equinox. Ancient peoples celebrated this season with festivals of Imbolc (Gaelic/Celtic), Candlemas (early Christian), and Saint Brigid’s Day (also Christian). However one chooses to think of it, including Groundhog Day, even though some are deep in Winter’s freeze and polar vortex weather patterns, we know that before too long the signs of early Spring will show themselves to us in the northern hemisphere again.

Ranchers and farmers will be busy with calving and lambing during the month of February. Farmers are also buying seed and planning their spring and summer crops. We can take a cue from them and prepare our own life’s soil, planting seeds of inspiration and desires for what we want to happen later on in the year. I’ve noticed that it is usually during February that the seeds of our dreams and desires germinate, and tiny, imperceptible roots begin to grow. By March, we can begin to see the very first green sprouts break through the cold, dark soil of our imagination. With tender care and diligence, we nurture those fragile, tiny shoots and help them to grow stronger, as their roots continue to extend down into the rich humus where creativity and inspiration live. In fact, human dreams and earthly plants have a lot in common beyond simple metaphor. We, like the plant realm, create from seemingly nothing, starting with an invisible thought of something we wish to give life to in the fertile dark. By the time the thought becomes a tangible thing that we can see and experience with our senses, it has grown from thought to fragile physicality—like the plant, a dream seedling needs nurturing and protection.

What would you like to grow and nurture in your life this spring and summer? Choose the seeds now, plant them in the fertile dark of your imagination, then abide in liminal space as you await the miracles that those seeds will eventually produce. Give your dream seeds enough water and care, but don’t fuss over them too much or you may harm them. Let them slowly unfurl from within the dark womb of Mother Earth, all the while trusting and allowing them to naturally grow in their right timing. Trust in their inherent wisdom. Do not force, or impose your will upon them. Just let them be, and abide with them in the season’s rhythm as people have done for many thousands of years.

During the coming weeks and months, work to let go of worries and anxiety concerning the daily news (nearly all negative and fear-based), the global situation (ditto), and the climate (which is going to do what it does regardless of your anxiety or anger about it). Instead, focus your energy on what it is you WANT to have happen in your world, and in the common world of all living upon Gaia. She needs your positive, joyful energy more than ever before. Alongside your own personal dream seeds, also plant and nurture the seeds for all humanity and life on our planet. May we each and all do whatever we can to add to the love, joy and peace quotient on Earth this year.

Roma’s Breakthrough Moment for Social Justice

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Image credit: https://www.vox.com/2018/11/20/18102734/roma-review-netflix-cuaron

I got the chance to see Alfonso Cuarón’s new film, Roma, this past weekend. Now that it has garnered many Academy Award nominations, in addition to myriad other prestigious Best Picture awards globally, the buzz around this film has grown huge. Cuarón has created a masterful film in the tradition of the great 20th century filmmakers, such as Bergman and Fellini. Roma is shot in black and white, filled with quiet, contemplative moments, symbolism and authentic touches to give the viewer a true-to-life portrait of his childhood family’s life in Mexico City 50 years ago.

Many reviewers have already written of the nuances and reasons why Cuarón’s film has become an instant classic; therefore I won’t go into those details in this post. I have, however, been pondering an equally, or perhaps even more important aspect to this film’s worth. I would argue that Roma couldn’t be made before now; that it is only in the late 2010s that Western society has evolved enough to understand and accept the nuances of Cuarón’s childhood story, as told from his middle-aged perspective. For the protagonist of his film is Cleo, his family’s young, shy, lovely indigenous housekeeper and nanny. From the opening scene until the last, the story unfolds from Cleo’s unsentimental point of view. We watch her daily life unfold, intricately entwined with her employer’s family’s lives during the years 1970-71. Together they experience the joys and heartbreaks of life within a socially separate, yet loving relationship. Cuarón unflinchingly and tenderly shows us Cleo’s story: arising before the family, helping all four children get ready for school, taking the youngest son (Cuarón himself) to school after the older siblings have left, cleaning, washing the family laundry on the roof by hand (during the days before modern washing machines had arrived for upper-middle class urban Mexicans), along with all the hundreds of small acts of service that a domestic worker does for her employer in the course of a day.

Cleo, like most indigenous Mexican domestic workers, comes from a poor, rural village in the countryside. In the middle of the story, the family and she have gone to visit other family members at a country hacienda for the winter holidays. They walk up and down the hills and valleys of the sunny day, as Cleo reminisces about her home village. She remarks that it looks similar, and the sounds and scents are the same. The wistfulness and longing for her home are apparent, even with English subtitles. Hers is not an easy life, and yet her employer’s family is kind, loving, and obviously care for her a great deal.

There are other striking things about this film. Because it is Mexican-made, Cuarón had the artistic freedom from censorship that American films do not typically enjoy. During a love scene between Cleo and a young man, Fermin, it is he who is nude in the hotel room, while Cleo is discreetly covered by the bedsheets. Cuarón is very careful throughout the entire film to respect the actress who plays Cleo, Yalitza Aparicio, and takes pains to keep her body protected. This was a refreshing reversal from typical American films which have no problem with the feminine body being completely revealed, while the masculine continues to be censored, even in 2019.

In fact, the entire film portrays Cleo with the utmost respect and even reverence. For me, the fact that the housekeeper is the star of the film, and the White-European Mexican mother (excellently played by Marina de Tavira) is the supporting character, proves that we have reached a tipping point for social and class justice in the Americas. The subtext throughout Roma suggests that now, 50 years later, we can finally honor and recognize the invaluable contribution of indigenous laborers to Mexican (and consequently, American) society. In the current state of extreme class and social chaos in which we find ourselves here in the Americas, Cuarón dares us to embrace the indigenous as a beloved part of ourselves, to realize that we are all intimately connected, to move beyond the notion of us vs. them, and to admit that our lives work best when we put love for one another above the false ideas of separation and hierarchy.

If you haven’t yet seen Roma, and are interested in its themes and social commentary, please find a theatre in your area and treat yourself to this important film. And if you’ve already seen it, feel free to leave a comment with your thoughts and feelings in the comment box.

 

 

 

 

The fine line between self-deprecation and inflated egoism

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I have a friend who is a blogger. Since 2017 I’ve been reading her posts, and have witnessed her progressive changes on both inner and outer levels. When we met, she was a die-hard meditator working at a meditation retreat center on the west coast, trying hard to love it and fit in with the culture. But once we had a few deeper conversations, I understood on a gut level that she wasn’t happy there and didn’t truly fit the peculiar mold of human that could stay at a place like that for any length of time. Sure enough, only a couple months after I left, my friend quit her position, packed up her stuff, and headed southwards to the Bay area. There she hooked up with some people who offer year-long, esoteric apprenticeships for those who desire to meet and work with their wild shadow self through lots of time spent in nature, rituals and circle work. Throughout the year she blogged about her journey, experiences and the emotional rollercoaster she rode throughout.

My friend is a prolific and eloquent writer. She writes from the depths of her passionate soul, and isn’t afraid to be painfully honest in her posts. She’s great at self-deprecation and describing the hard edges of her lived experience, in an effort to give the reader the full expression of her deep and often sorrowful soul life. She’s also quite funny, often irreverent, and sometimes names the tender wounding within our common experience in a remarkable way. Now that she’s gone through her initiation year, she’s changing the focus of her blog to be a guide for those who also wish to venture out into the wild nature alone and unaided. This is admirable and useful information to offer readers. However, she also continues to write her honest-to-a-fault blog posts for her faithful followers. She asked me for feedback about her new direction recently, which got me pondering.

The crux of the dilemma my friend had, and which I think many bloggers also have, is finding the balance between not coming off sounding like an egotistical, arrogant know-it-all, and writing in a way that is so honest and authentic that one ends up disparaging oneself, sounding either depressed, confused, or simply the polar opposite of an expert on the subject. This is an issue in the field of blogging and of writing nonfiction generally. What can be done?

This question begs us to go back to the roots and ask, Why am I writing what I am writing? What is the purpose of this blog at its core? Am I in a position to be an “expert” on this topic? And if so, then just how honest about the whole process should I be? Where is the line between authenticity and loss of respect? Between expertise and arrogance? Between not enough information and too much? The other important thing to consider in all this is, Who is my audience? What are they interested in? Am I writing to please them and keep them coming back for more of my blog posts, or am I writing what I please and if they like it fine, and if they don’t, that’s fine too?

These are real questions that all writers who are serious about their craft (in this case, blog) need to be asking themselves. And it’s good to recognize that the answers are dynamic and will change as you change and evolve yourself as a writer over time. There are several factors to consider around having a blog, such as, is my ultimate goal to have a solid and high number of followers? Do I want to make money off the blog (monetize it), and if so, how and for what purpose? Am I mostly interested in the literary value of the work and wish to offer readers something of value and quality when they take the time to read a post? Or, is my blog mostly for entertainment, news, or a how-to type blog? Then, there’s the question of mission and vision: is my blog a way to promote my business venture, used as a marketing tool? Is my blog centered around a noble aim, like social, racial, or environmental justice? Is my blog a platform for my deeply and passionately held political views? Or do I have a particular cause I am promoting or wanting supported, such as animal rescue, human trafficking, criminal justice or educational reform?

I think it’s safe to assume that most people who take the time to build a blog, write posts, and work to get a following, do it because they feel what they have to say is important to some people. It’s far too easy to compare my blog to another’s and feel that mine is sorely lacking. If I write posts that I consider to be high-quality content, yet only twenty or fifty people read them, compared to thousands who may read a travel, food or sports blog, chances are good I will get discouraged. perhaps even giving up on writing eventually. Blogging is a numbers game, among its other dimensions.

We are living in a world that values material success above all. Our heroes are the people who have made it—they’re rich (obscenely so, usually), physically perfect, usually under 35, and mostly famous. Look online for bestselling nonfiction books, and nearly all of them will be stories of the people who made it in the world, in one form or another. Which is fine, I suppose, except that for me there’s something simply not REAL about all of that. Is the purpose of life, of living, really to get rich, stay thin, ripped, and sexy, and be able to buy your happiness and anything else you want on a whim? Or could it be that there is much more to being a human incarnated on the planet now, a larger story unfolding that we have yet to truly understand?

Back to my friend’s blogging story. She asked for my opinion, so I told her that it seems at odds to have a blog that simultaneously offers expert advice and techniques for wild nature solo adventures, and also tells her personal story of loneliness, anger, fear and sorrow, interspersed with humor and moments of joy and bliss. But I could be totally wrong about that. Readers, what do you think? When you follow someone’s blog, what are you hoping to get out of it? Do you want their expertise? Or their brutal honesty? Or something in-between? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comment section, if you are willing to share with us here.