Unleash

What I care about in this life are all things that lead back to my body.

Beauty. Sensuality. Emodiment and self-possession. Pleasure. Expression. Connection.

I am ambitious for those things. Whenever I have been determined or brave it was in pursuit of them.

On this website, as a counsellor, I write, trying to express my thoughts about the body – my relationship to it, my beliefs around it – my passion for it – hoping they’re useful to anyone who reads them, anyone who *also* seeks these things.

As an aerialist, I worked for a couple years on technique and strength and stamina to take those feelings and intentions and *use* my body to speak *for* my body.

I’m on the other side of my first performance – thinking of new routines, new moves, new ideas to explore and express. Ways of sharing this work with people that dovetails into my work of energizing others as they cultivate their body love. In the meantime, I would like to share that first performance.

first, a video:

then, some context:

out of the frame is my wheelchair that I use full-time to get around. I was born without a tail bone and a bunch of confused nerve endings. My legs got left out of the electrical loop. I was never supposed to sit upright independently. Parts of what you just saw, is unexplainable, medically speaking.

And also because I have never been able to really explain it either.

A fact I have spent a long time frustrated by. I felt burdened to extrapolate, give meaning to these feats I regularly undertake. To declare whether I am disabled or not disabled, to choose one side or the other and to have a full understanding and personal responsibility for the effect my feats have on other people.

I felt the need to have well-thought out responses to the social reactions around me and how that must relate somehow to the psychological state i’m in or my beliefs.

I want to explain it and myself so it can be duplicated by other people who tell me they admire it, wish it for themselves, grasp for it and don’t find it. If I knew how the mechanism worked, despite how it looks or seems, then I could help, and that includes helping myself out when I’m grasping and not finding.

But I don’t. I have no idea how it works.

Now, more context:

what you don’t hear is how much I complain and whine about how hard it is or how frustrated I am with the process. It’s a lot. People see the end result and often tell me how inspired they are by my ‘can do’ attitude. And I always feel terribly guilty and dishonest. I never really went through it all cheery. I vexed the entire time. I pouted a lot. I tried to back out. I lost hope. Thank god for incredibly patient coaches who take me at face value (I showed up, so I must intend to keep trying, whatever else is coming out of my mouth), but who also don’t take it all too seriously – or give up on me.

I started aerial silks almost two years ago on a whim. It sounded cool. It sounded fun. I was drawn to the quirkiness of it, and by some instinct my body has for what it can do and the pleasure I get from doing things that make me feel strong and agile. This instinct is almost entirely subconscious and impervious to my attempts to tease it out and explain itself to me so, despite my body’s tendency to be really precise and particular about what It can and can’t do by the time i’m conscious of it I’m left with two explanations: because I wanted to, or, because I didn’t feel like it.

And when people were asking me what I think about independence or the experience of the disabled person or anything at all in the vicinity of being an inspiration, strength, ability I always felt like there was something really jackassy about saying ‘uh. I just felt like it so I did it and it worked out?’ like i’m leaving out the essential and secret ingredient to a family recipe. (I slowly grow more aware of how it’s the opposite. I get really jackassy and defensive when I try to make more out of it than there is. When it feels to me like my abilities are a lot more like brownies from the box than any secret-recipe type of accomplishment.)

I took a weekend workshop with the Aerial Angels while they were in London, Ontario where we made up variations that suited me on the fly and mostly just had a blast. I was still an anomaly, but all the trying stuff out and the inventions and variations were interesting to every one. It levelled the playing field.

That weekend Allison Williams told me that what I was doing on the silks was interesting and had potential. If I wanted to ever pursue it she thought it was a totally viable path for me.

And then I was hooked.

That’s what I wanted. To perform this. To create aerial pieces that intrigued and awed people and expressed something different than what I was used to expressing through music, to push that boundary in myself to use my body to say something.

It’s been two years since then. most of that two years I could barely string two moves together before having to come down. And there was a lot of discovering what I couldn’t do. And don’t forget all the whining. Especially about how scared I am of heights and how I don’t like letting go when i’m up in them.

And there was a lot of insecurity. My body doesn’t make straight lines. not those glorious acrobat lines I enjoy looking at. my feet flop around in a sloppy, dangly, unintentional way. Always in the back of my mind was this discrepancy between how I wanted things to look and how they actually did when I got to see them. I am impressively strong, and I easily trust that, but being graceful? It almost hurts to even try. (when people started to compare my movements to lightening, I eased up on myself a bit, because that’s cool.)

And when I think of all that: How it should be impossible, how I whine about all the parts, how my insecurities are fiercely flailing all over the open air, how some really cool stuff is actually impossible, how long it took to get anywhere near performance quality, how much farther I have to go to hit some of my highest hopes for this…

…how am I still doing this?

I have no idea how it works. I have no idea how I work, when I get right down to it.

I want to know. So much of my struggle, my *effort* as a counsellor, an artist, a human being has not been in the pursuit or expression of things – but in trying to understand how they work. I feel afraid to not know how they work. I feel like it’s a failure to help others If I can’t explain it. Like it’s an incomplete effort. Like, knowing *how* they work is permission to *let* them work for me.

This miracle body.

This miracle life.

I don’t know how it works. I feel so vulnerable saying it. like a mantra. over and over.

I just don’t know.

Finally:

That video is a small excerpt from a routine I am currently working on. It’s based on a lot of the ideas I’m trying to write about here, and the inadequacy of these words is the driving force behind this routine – I *can’t* say these things. I try to talk about it *all* the time. The words contradict me or are adjacent to where I desperately mean for them to land.

So, I move instead.

p.s.
My first ever silks performance will be on the 28th of April as part of Heliummm’s student showcase. If you are in or near New York City, I would be so happy to share this moment with you.

sometimes i ask to sneak a closer look
skip to the final chapter of the book
and then maybe steer us clear from some of the pain it took
to get us where we are this far
but the question drowns in its futility
and even i have got to laugh at me
no one gets to miss the storm of what will be
just holding on for the ride
the wood is tired and the wood is old
we’ll make it fine if the weather holds
but if the weather holds we’ll have missed the point
that’s where i need to go

Indigo Girls

Lately, I have been finding myself snared by an incredible, efficient thinking-person’s trap. “Here is a reasoned explanation of why this circumstance is not fair, isn’t my fault, there’s nothing I can do, I don’t know what to do, i’m exhausted from all this responsibility so i’m giving up” trap.

It starts by not seeing these as excuses snatching me away from taking on the weather of living my life wild, way out beyond conventional expectations.

I don’t see them as excuses because I have been believing that excuses are like lies, that i’ll l be able to spot an excuse, a way i’m letting myself off the hook or defeating myself by the mark of untruth in what i’m saying. I put all my focus on uncovering the fallacies and self-deceit all the while the excuses sit in plain sight as completely legitimate accountings of the difficulties and unfairnesses and uncertainties in the rigour of being who i say i want to be and doing what i say i want to do.

I *am* tired. And scared. Bruised and battered and forgetting over and over that I choose to be way out here where there are less rules and less people who can see what you need or what you’re trying to do. It’s true that i’m having lonely moments and feeling thin and flayed. It’s true that a lot of it is unfair, that it’s hard. And that I don’t always know what to do.

But just because they are *true* doesn’t mean they aren’t excuses.

I *like* my intelligence. It has been one of my strongest and most reliable allies in my inner growth and general achievement in life. But it has this pitfall: my reasoning for why i can’t do something (or shouldn’t have to) or for procrastinating are air-tight, inarguably accurate representations of the snares, conundrums, complexities and obstacles that are inherent in achieving the stuff that matters.

I have a really hard time with this. Not that the stuff that matters is hard, but that it sticks my nose in the stench of life’s unfairness, it’s un-answer-ables and how we struggle and hurt for it -any excuse I make to get out of this trail of despair and out of responsibility for doing it anyway and bring the wonder, be the source of what i want – takes me out of my integrity.

Whenever I say ‘it’s not fair? what am i supposed to do?’ I become unqualified for the job of being who I want to be since a fundamental part of that job is figuring out what to do whether it’s fair or not.

Whenever I get into a conversation with someone about why I’m not avoiding something – the more scared i am of what is being asked of me the more likely i am to win the argument in defense of my limitations. the better i am at spotting incredibly *good* reasons to avoid the challenge all together.

And at first, and for a while, it feels reassuring to be able to win that conversation that talks me out of being able to move forward or doing anything at all or stay mired in self-pity or self-reproach, I don’t have to bear full responsibility, which is an instant form of relief when i’m in any form of panic or uncertainty. All without admitting to being scared or feeling helpless – you see, it’s not *my* fault – it’s these very good reasons. I still get to keep my self image of being capable, or strong or brave or honest and showing up to the subtler and more intense layers that are left to me now because excuses are lies we tell ourself and i’m just addressing real issues. A self-image that drains of any substance or evidence the more I stay bound to my reasons.

and no matter how many times i hear the lesson that successful people don’t make excuses, that successful people feel the fear and do it anyway, successful people don’t say ‘i just need more time’ or ‘i need this thing to change first’ or ‘i need to know how it will turn out first’ It never really applies to me because i’m not making excuses – i’d know if i was because excuses are dishonest and i’m just perceiving the realities, the limitations as they are. There’s nothing I can do.

But there’s a voice in me that isn’t concerned much with success or being right. A wild voice that is more like weather than words. It sings me this song

It tells me that my tears and fears and ‘i don’t wanna’s are just part of the weather. It tells me whether i’m right or not, not to miss the point.

Love should grow up like a wild iris in the fields, unexpected, after a terrible storm, opening a purple mouth to the rain, with not a thought to the future… ~Susan Griffin

We’re sitting in my living room as the afternoon leans into evening. I’ve made an herbal tea he’s never heard of before and there’s a tense kind of excitement between us. We have flirted with the idea of connecting more deliberately than just running into each other in town, at the coffee shop, and here we are, unsure of what exactly is drawing us in.

So someone starts in, a topic and the conversation is off like a loose wire, whipping and thrashing around without anywhere to ground. I can feel the looseness of it but i can’t get my orientation and then he says:

“I just feel like you’re trying to teach at me right now. Like you want to move me from where I am to where you think I should be.” He pauses and keeps his eyes on me for my reaction. I cock my head to the side and scan for panic. My heart pounds and my body heat rises in an ascending flash but I take a breathe and feel an instinct to wait.

“it makes me want to get up and leave…” My body quivers, but all the tension has leaked out – i’m on the verge of something – in the realm of the verge. We share another pause, both of us waiting for what comes next.

“…but, I’m also riveted.”

I’m glad I waited. The quivering, weak knee uncertainty is a kind of pleasure to me now. The intensity of being unveiled and keeping my eyes open for it brings me a rush and thrill that I have learned to be compelled by when I used to be terrified of it. I feel just like a wild iris, opening to the rain – where I used to stay cramped under ground at any sign of storm.

For large parts of my life I couldn’t tolerate the heart pounding, chest fluttering or quivering in my body so fierce I might shudder apart. The anticipation in me of an intimate moment felt like a threat. I grew brilliant instincts to detect those moments coming and even more brilliant tactics at avoiding them. On the outside the defensiveness was clear, but on the inside I felt protected, sort of. I had backed away from the verge, at least.

But, I was also bold, and wild at heart, and some untamed instinct to push up to the surface and revel in the storm kept me unsatisfied and suspicious of the effectiveness of my barriers. The sense that what I was hiding was still visible started to leak in and unsettle me. I started to feel that the only person not getting a good look at what I was hiding was me. And the way I was deflecting these moments started to feel worse than what I felt I was deflecting attention from. An essential vibrancy in me was dehydrating and I craved an ease in my own skin and in interactions with others that I could see in the people I admired.

So I turned around and headed down the path of self discovery. Yes, at first it was so that, once i’d rooted out the unlikeable bits, I could change them – but it was a motivation so intense it bolstered me through the toughest part. Which wasn’t what I thought it would be at all. It wasn’t all that hard to learn the ways I could be annoying and self-righteous or to learn my unique use of judgement and defensiveness. Unearthing the places where who I said I was, wanted to be and actually were to find they didn’t converge as seamlessly as I hoped – touching the tenderest part of my insecurity and shame – was more interesting and empowering than I would have thought.

The hardest part of it all was tolerating the moment of being on the verge between me and hearing someone else’s experience of me – the intensity of being at the edge of an even more intense experience and knowing it was coming. And it didn’t matter if I had an idea of what the person was picking up on already – ‘oh yea, I know that about myself’ wasn’t a particularly effective anecdote to the quivering. It didn’t even matter if what was coming was good – anticipating touch or adoration was just as unbearable. Because there was something vastly different about *me* knowing it or feeling it in the privacy of my own psyche and discovering it out there interacting with other people where they could see it and respond to to it.

But I had to learn to tolerate it by letting it happen, by not avoiding it anymore. So I went in search of a community of people to help me do it. I found the Ishayas, who taught me to meditate, and who held regular meetings and retreats where this kind of reflecting and relating, seducing the verge to them and plunging into intimacy was a pivotal part of their practice. What they cared about was consciousness and supported each other and themselves to practice it at all times.

I adored them. I felt, for the first time, that I could risk the exchange of seeing for being seen. I knew that these people, more than any other people, would do it right even though I didn’t know how to do it at all. I felt that they could help hold me steady at the verge, at the sharpest edge of my anticipation and teach me to withstand it.

And they did. Because, while they were gulping in glimpses of what I was most ashamed of in me, they were also seeing what was most powerful and vivid in me and understood that that part of me could not only withstand the intimacy I avoided, but was made for it. Each hour of practice, and conversation was building my stamina for discomfort and and all the ways we can be unsettled, by joy or by pain equally.

And eventually it was tested during a 10 day meditation retreat. After each session of meditation we would be asked to share our experiences. I was familiar with this process and had been using it for months to practice being very clear and honest about how it was with me.

I smothered an entire afternoon in wailing sobs. I couldn’t get a handle on where the sobs were coming from and I’d even been wondering secretly if I was in control of them – if i was stopping them and starting them more by choice than by natural release. Which was a key uncertainty for me in my life – what was *real* about me? what was *genuine*? Out of that uncertainty I felt like I wanted to share – like my words could give me some context for what I was feeling – but not knowing where I was really coming from translated into not really knowing what to say. I grasped onto things that sounded good and put them out. When I was done one of the teachers at the retreat asked me, “would you like a reflection on what you’ve shared?” It wasn’t a totally unusual question, but he hadn’t asked any one else that the entire retreat. Before I could think about it I said ‘yes.’

Another teacher, a woman dressed all in black to represent ruthless compassion, spoke up and said, ‘To me, what you shared didn’t sound true, more like a performance. toward the end you calmed down a bit and i heard more of something that was real.’ Her voice was soft and she held eye contact with me – there was no sound of accusation or tone of disapproval, just the articulation of her sense of what I had said.

But I was frozen in horror. I didn’t cry but my eyes went bleary, almost dead. The room buzzed around me and my skin felt like the lead aprons you have to wear when getting an x-ray. My ear drums filled with pressure and white noise. Her words felt true and horribly untrue simultaneously. A tiny part of me knew exactly what she was getting at, that she had sensed what I had been trying to grasp myself but found too subtle. The more familiar part of me just felt battered by it, and I could not bear the way it ripped right through me. But what I also couldn’t shake, even in my self-serious stuppor, was how noble she had been and how I admired her – in the midst of feeling like my worst had been exposed I was uncovering something strong in me. I easily knew how she would have resisted saying to me what I resisted hearing. My accepting of this exchange would mirror her courage in instigating it. And I wanted that. I was coming to see that the messy way I exposed myself was something I wanted to give elegance to, not destroy.

But first, I hid all the rest of the day and into the next. I indulged my wounds and bruises.

During the next evening’s sharing I was curled up in a ball in my corner of the room hidden by the chair the person next to me was sitting on and dead quiet. One of the teachers checking in on me asked if I was alright and said ‘it seems like you’re not here with us.’

“that’s because I don’t want to be here.” I said in all my petulant glory.

I couldn’t help it – I couldn’t bring myself to sit up and be part. It was such a complete indulgence in immaturity but it was all I could do to cope with what I was feeling. I had simply avoided moments like this or outright defied them from even my own mother so effectively that I had never really just taken it in.

I might not have been handling the whole thing with any class or dignity but I *was* doing something differently. I was soaking in the vulnerability it had plunged me into like pushing myself to stay a minute longer in the freezing arctic water.

I didn’t know where to go next, but I was learning that *what* she had seen wasn’t all that serious to me and *how* she had said it wasn’t all that hard on me. It was *being* seen itself that was a kind of agony to me. I didn’t even know why.

And then a woman who had come all the way from New Brunswick to Ontario to participate, a woman with a small, smiling face and pure eyes who lived alone in a cabin in the woods and said achingly loving things in a french accent that somehow made her seem more mystical than real, a woman who had her feet in the earth and could tell the truth about herself in a way I had never heard before, pulled her chair in front of me and started to speak.

“when the Ishayas came to teach me in my home I found myself wanting to show them how I already knew so much of what they were saying and how living by it had enhanced my little life. I wanted to be the star of the conversation and make them like me, until I realized that they *did* like me and I could relax.” Her voice wove a magic spell over the room, my ears cleared of the white noise and my skin started to feel the slightest tingle of night air whispering against it.

” It reminded me of the rose in the story of the little prince. She was an agony to befriend, whiny and difficult, and needy. Vainly trying to be the star at every one else’s wedding, so to speak. But the little prince tended to her, he loved her and eventually, he learned that she was irreplaceable to him and went home, for her. To me, Erin, you are the rose.”

The pounding in my heart started to feel strangely good. I knew what she was saying and why I had hurt so much. Would I ever be loved if other people knew what I knew about me? I wanted to have time to change those things first, to smooth out every single petal of my being, take my time and then emerge pretending it had just happened to be glorious. But they could all see it. She wasn’t saying that it was okay to put on shows of myself and leave it at that, but that when I was putting on shows the people who loved me went right on loving me. Every person who had loved me did it knowing how much like that rose I could be. Even here, with my pout so much like her way of feigning a cold to bring the little prince to his guilt for her, someone saw the trick and loved me. While I was ignoring it and pretending it away, they were accepting it. They were tending to me. And I was missing it.

I uncurled from my ball under her words and turned to look at her. My whole body moved with the kind of tenderness that hits you when your joints are falling apart from a fever. I was slow and weak and utterly cleared out. I looked at her, but more, I let her look at me. I let the room know that I knew I was being seen.

That moment changed everything about my relationship to the verge. My body heat rises, still. My skin tingles and my hands quiver and my heart throbs, but I know it as an intense pleasure – so near unbearable. I started to find how hungry I was to be seen, to know that I could fail to be completely and utterly appealing at all times in all ways and still have loved ones.

I approach the verge any time something intimate or intense is about to happen, anytime I wander the edges of where I am about to grow, the edges of what I don’t know about myself or about life. Anytime I’m about to take a physical or emotional risk.

There was no way to take those risks when I couldn’t even stand the sensation of being on the verge of them. I had to learn – and practice – opening my body up when it wanted to clench and curl up. I had to practice keeping my eyes open while I dove in. I had to learn to breathe when my ribcage felt like a hummingbird slammed against it looking for the way out. I had to learn to sit very still when my heart begged me to run and deflect, because something delicate was unfolding. Something I needed in order to be whole. Because turning away before the end meant I would miss out on the best part of the love pulsing at the heart of my life.

We’re still on the couch, in one of those generous moments that slows down to let you get everything you need to from it. I’m holding a tea cup in my hand and twisting it from the bottom to feel the texture swirl in my palm. I’m looking back at myself from this vantage point, and the contrast makes my cheeks sting from the courage of the moment. Not just my courage, his too. I swallow through a clenching gratitude.

“You’re right. I’m doing that. I got this idea in my head that I loved more than I wanted to figure out what you were saying. I get preachy when I’m….”

“Excited.” he finishes for me with a flash in his eyes.

We can tell each other how it is and it’s not the end of the world, or the end of the love, or the end of being riveted by each other. In fact, most of the time it’s not much of an event at all. 10 years ago this way of building luscious respect would not have been possible for me. And now, not only do my relationships bloom with this brave showing up, but I pick up near perfect strangers in the world who want to open their mouths to the wild rain without caution for their future as much as I do. So we do.

We do it because it continuously gives us back to ourselves when we do, and because I have never felt sturdier in the raging intensity of human interactions as I do now. A sturdiness that lets me take exciting risks and come out intact and powerful on the other side.

I tell this story because the kind of people who gain something from working with me tend to be seeking their own sturdiness. A sturdiness they need because there are risks they want to take.

And this is the way I build my sturdiness – by building my tolerance and stamina for the undersides and the darkness and the variations of intensity life is capable of producing.

I build it by sitting longer and longer, breathing deeper and deeper in the swirling discomfort of anticipation that overwhelms my senses – sitting there without moving too soon or too fast or too erratically away from it until it’s time to thrust upward to the surface of the visible world, mouth gaping for nourishment.

By letting myself feel the pleasure of the moments before a risk is taken, desire the pleasure of it and move my body in a dance toward it keeping my eyes wide open.

By building relationships with people who help me do this, who hold the world down while i’m gone, who go on loving me when I’m off on some tangent of my personality, who tell me brave truths and then sit with me while I take it in, who will hear brave truths from me in turn and build our sturdiest self out of the raw material of our intimacy with each other. People who can see when I’m shutting the intimacy down and ask me in one way or another if that’s what I really mean to do.

Where you avoid your growing edges, the cracks between your darksides and the topside world, the places where any intimacy at all; even being loved, aches more than you can bear – I hope you will take a breath, find a steady hand to hold and stretch a little closer to the surface than you ever would have before. Until the storms you once avoided become your playground.

Indian artist, Anjolie Ela Menon:

“I inhabit a place which I can share with no one for any length of time. This place is subterranean, remote and inaccessible. It is a lonely moonscape of my own making; trespassed upon by the occasional bird or animal, and the protagonist is often the person I yearn to touch, the person I long to be, or just me screaming to be let out!”

what does it look like, the realm of your creative spirit? that place you must descend into and travel in distinct solitude, without even the comfort of being able to point to it for someone else to glimpse, not even able to compose a postcard from within it. How do you know when it’s calling you? how do you gain entry? how do you keep yourself there despite the distracting topside world that screeches at you in a fury of abandonment?

For me, I know it by a poignant and sweet and unfixed melancholy and the way I am suddenly struck by an awareness of excruciating details about things in a kind of relief image to their usual ordinariness. But not in the form of ideas or logic or systems explaining themselves in my head – more visceral. Like I’m suddenly experiencing an ordinary moment exactly the way it would feel to read in a book but an exquisite book about something that matters to me. And I read it with my senses and translate in my being instead of with my eyes. The defined edges and solidity of my body that is normally a barrier between me and all of that dissolves into a softness and quiet. It feels as though if I move or make too much noise or let myself be distracted from it my body would become solid, dense and my senses filmy and clogged. Everything will go back to being hard, plain, ordinary. What has become bathed in this glow will go back to being one thing or another instead of the shimmer and mystery of being many things at once. The tingles and butterflies of unreality will firm up.

And I have to come out of it into the solid world eventually – a balance between the two is essential for getting anything meaningful done for me but, I have learned that it is essential to me to spend time in this place every day – I don’t have to do anything in particular there – though it is my best writing mood – but I have to dwell in it, experience my immediate surroundings from inside it or I dry up and wither. Because of that I cultivate a way of living that lets the slip into this space happen as naturally and often as possible. My huge windows and the singing of green and birds and the languid napping of my horde of cats, the rainbows that I tell seasonal time by, the way I set up my space and even the happy bi-coastal arrangement between me and my love are all trails that lead me into my dreamspace.

In this place, I also often meet with my council where they are not limited to words and conceptualizations to get their wisdoms across to me.

In the quote, Anjolie says: “the protagonist is often…who I long to be”. That’s why I need to go there. My art form is the cultivation of who I want to be and how I want to live. I need to ache with longing for that person so that the inspiration for my efforts is rich and steady. Growing yourself into yourself out of vast possibilities is my passion and it lives in this ‘moonscape’ like a haunting.

There is the first stirring awareness of a new realm inside you, a forming perspective – you dip in a toe – you dive in – and suddenly all sense of place evaporates. Like being deep under murky water – without a line between you and the boat on the surface there is no way to tell which way is up or which side is which – no orientation at all. All differentiating features are gone – no light, no contours. Your senses implore into the vastness for any clues but find nothing.

Your body is wandering around in the topside world like all is normal, but inside it’s like that – you have no orientation. You can’t even explain to the people around you this nothing that you can’t orient yourself in. No words seem to hold together long enough to get all the way to them that you have no sense of yourself in relation to anyone else or any other part of yourself, let alone your surroundings – let alone describe what this new awareness is of – not even to ask for help. Fish, describe water.

But then, in a moment resigned to being lost like all the other moments in this place, something changes. You read something, maybe or overhear a snippet of conversation or someone puts together familiar words in a different way. From somewhere a phrase lands on you like a line sent down to you from the surface. You grasp that line and suddenly those words have given shape to the strange landscape your drowning in. You take in a desperate gulp of air like someone being thrust to the surface at the very thinnest edge of hope.

Your eyes lift to a horizon and a sense of place settles into you – a feeling that means ‘I know where I am’.

It doesn’t matter that the horizon is months worth of distance from you – you know where it is. You can choose which way to face, you can decide which direction to move in, you can start the exploration that will give you more and more information – filling in the details.

Word magic is everywhere – collect it like stones from a riverbed – the smoothest, prettiest, heaviest, thinnest – whatever feels right in your hand. When it bubbles up from the lyrical genius in your own mind praise it heartily. Leave trails of it behind you whenever you wander into an unknown forest so that once you’ve hunted your treasure, you can find your way back out again to the world where you’re of use. Don’t wait until you’ve already lost your sense of place to start planting markers – by then you’re so lost it feels like all you can do is hope someone will find you there and fish you out. Every day you can collect words to build the mystery and magic of your story, fleshing out the details of a landscape only you will ever see so only you can really look at it and ever describe.

Your telling of what you’ve built and what you see will be word magic for someone else just discovering that some mystical and strange places exist in them – your telling will be the line that sinks down to them to give them back to themselves again.

Picasso was born in a shed in my back yard over a decade ago. She is my ally. She is particular, and if you can get over yourself and your expectations of how cats should be, she doesn’t seem snobby or ornery. And that is her magic. She’s only aloof when you want it so bad you would be happy to change her in order to get it. In other words – when you don’t deserve it.

She has spots:

Behind the woodstove…

…back of the couch, the window ledge in the first picture, along side my thigh. And she occupies them completely. It’s as though she were holding down a corner of the universe her focus is so acute.

When she feels her corner has been cosmically disturbed she opens her eyes as wide as an enigma and meows at you with a crackling intensity – she’s not being moody, she’s just that fierce, stop taking it so personally – something is off and we must attend to it, is all. When you’ve decoded her noises and resolved the imbalance she flicks her tail and narrows her eyes appreciatively and heads back to her spot to be left alone – and to leave you alone.

She respects your space. And when the air shifts into the promise of a storm – even when it’s one of those inner storms – a person, sitting on my couch, inching their way up to a steep edge – she is the type that is drawn closer by the danger. She is calmer in a wild wind than on a mild day. Her eagerness alone makes you feel safe and anchored. How bad can it be if the wailing wind makes her purr? How much death could there be nearby if the thunder makes her roll onto her back to expose her softest parts?

On days when there are no disturbances, and the mundane tasks of bathing, filling up the food dish, and napping have been seen to, she especially likes me to read her poetry out loud.

When death comes
like the hungry bear in autumn
when death comes and takes all the bright coins from his purse

to buy me, and snaps his purse shut;
when death comes
like the measle-pox;

when death comes
like an iceberg between the shoulder blades,

I want to step through the door full of curiosity, wondering;
what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness?

And therefore I look upon everything
as a brotherhood and a sisterhood,
and I look upon time as no more than an idea,
and I consider eternity as another possibility,

and I think of each life as a flower, as common
as a field daisy, and as singular,

and each name a comfortable music in the mouth
tending as all music does, toward silence,

and each body a lion of courage, and something
precious to the earth.

When it’s over, I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was a bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.

When it’s over, I don’t want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.
I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened
or full of argument.

I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.

~ Mary Oliver ~

(I accidentally disappeared this and have now reappeared it thanks to someone’s rss feeder)

The first thing I will tell you is that I get so enraptured with the
shades of green and the tendrils of light that unfurl across my floors
and the sounds of my pets breathing softly and the birds nesting in my
eaves and the rush of being in transition and encounters with people I
love so completely that I don’t always come around to this website for
updates.

But you will not worry, my dears. You know the sound of all-is-well
when you hear it.

You want to be so overcome with the delights of your own life that
your knees get a little weak and worry slips off you. You want to
build a way of living that is like a rapture to your soul and silk on
your skin – it fits but it’s easy to slip off, and feels so close to
naked when it’s on. You want to be surrounded by things that take your
attention so deeply to the core of life and the core of who you are
that unless a task is right in front of your face you wont fully
realize it exists. It would be hard to learn that from someone just as
fettered with their concerns as you are.

My own life is the model of what I can help people come to in their
own life. It’s my playing field, my laboratory and testing grounds. If
I want to understand something, I get as close to it as a I can. I let
it take me to it’s extremes and show me all it’s facets. If I can’t
access it myself in some way, I can’t pass it on. The stuff that suits
me, that draws me more fully into my life, I keep close to my skin –
the rest I keep in books. And what suits me is letting my pleasure
lead, and my inner wisdom round out how I account for my days. I crave
to be useful like any soul does – but I don’t have swells of ambition
about it. Mostly, I am ravenous for the kind of self knowing that sets
everything at ease and makes sheer, unfettered presence possible. When
someone is asking me to help them uncover the same kind of self
knowing and instinct for life for themselves, my entire being reorders
itself around the effort. I dissolve into the task.

The same way I dissolve into the particulars of these sweet moments.
This morning is feeling particularly intoxicating because I’ve just
returned from Manhattan to find a spring has rioted lustily around me.
Green in debauch quantities languish across the limpid sky. The
inhabitants of my mini zoo are utterly content and every little motion
I make (pouring espresso beans into the grinder, slicing an orange,
even filling the dishwasher) have a patina of romance to them from the
deliberateness and attention to each sensation. The city was handsome
and romantic, too. But the whirling, dizzy, can’t-keep-up-with-love
kind that leaves your cheeks flushed and your heart racing.

I digress. Being caught up like this isn’t about being flaky,
unreliable, distant and disconnected. It’s just that the best of what
I have to share with others happens in real time and then it passes –
and that’s the work I care about – being available to that magic. I
love this unleashing home, too – but it’s capable of being as vivid
and vital and pulsing as one-to one, real-time. When I am not updating
posts it’s because I’m in the real world being utterly present to
clients, to beauty, to desire, to the medial realms, to my family and
home. But I am not hiding. I check my email frequently, my phone is
turned on, I even leave my door unlocked so friends who stop by don’t
have to worry whether or not i’m there (my cats are indiscriminating
snugglers).

If you miss me or just feel the urge to be in touch, leave a comment –
be conversational or inquisitive, it doesn’t have to be relevant to
the post – I love to hear from you, I love to keep in touch and share
the stories of our days and our ruminations – especially random,
off-topic inspirations that strike us and don’t let go until someone
has heard them.

Just remember to enjoy the lushness of the quiet times.

E.

First, go here and read as Catherine slips behind a veil and brings out a still beating, blood-dripping truth.

Then come back and I will make you the gift of a song…

Catherine talks about the ache of the responsibility of those of us who are healing and teaching.  How we are asked to be aware of the pain of others while knowing we can’t – take it away for them, make it our own, smooth it out and then hand it back in the form of a blessing.  We can only know for them that they have what they need to figure it out.

And this applies when it’s between you and yourself.  The ability to withstand your own pain and know that no one else can take it away, smooth it out and hand it back to you in the form of a blessing.  You have to build stamina for it, and dwell as close to your heart as you can wait until an instinct begins to form that will whisper to you what is right for you and how to move as you are.  Except while you are attempting stillness, everything around you is in a nightmare of a rage.

My understanding of the brutality of transformation came to me when I realized that all the things I had set as my goals for my inner work required sacrifices of other things that had been sources of comfort,  and limiting though they were, I was insulated and seemed safe.  But  I was ripping into jagged pieces from the tension of trying to clutch the soothing things to me and also be liberated.  Each time I finally got to the point where I couldn’t hold the two ends of my self together anymore and I knew I was loosing my grip, I found a new ability to surrender – to choose to make the sacrifice that had felt like it was being ripped out of me anyway. But I didn’t get instant peace or rest. The tearing went right on happening, but it changed from feeling like pointless tortue to being ravishingly obliterated by forces of nature.

This song is about being brought to your knees by your own pain, by the pain of those around you, by the all-consuming ache for everything you can’t fix or make better. to be dashed to pieces against the rocks or incinerated by flame – all to smooth your surfaces to reflect the vastness, all to refine your chemistry to it’s purest form.   The brutal indifference with which the forces dismantle you and the gorgeous intimacy with which they reveal you to yourself. The way I know how to let gorgeous and brutal fit together is in song.

How do you like my new space?  I kept the wild splashes of paint, but had things tidied up a bit.  And I am in the process of creating videos and a possible newsletter – a newsletter of dares, perhaps.  It’s all in a brew and just about anything could rise up to the surface – anything you’d be interested in seeing or reading about to add to the cauldron?

I couldn’t have made it over here on my own.  I reached out.  I asked my friend Ty from Unorthodox Creativity to help me because Ty is someone I like and trust.  I got a response right away.  Overnight I had this whole new home and Ty was really amazing at walking me through the different steps, holding my hand and making it fun.  If you want to read some great fiction, have a comfortable place to be creative in, learn some new things about yourself each week or get a new internet home built to your liking I recommend making friends with Ty yourself.  It’s awesome!

For now, as a housewarming present,  I dare you to say hi to me, let me know you’re here – let me know I’m speaking to you in some way.  You’re welcome to show up in the comments or my Inbox (erin@erinunleashes.com) if you’re in a private sort of mood – I can appreciate that.  I’d especially love to hear what sorts of things are on your mind, tickling your heart, stuck in your throat, sitting on your chest or bringing goosebumps to your skin.

Now I must find myself a real-life door mat that says ‘I Dare You’ on it.

 

 

 

I’m Erin

I am an aerialist, comedian, writer and sex icon to the world.

Find me on instagram: erinunleashes

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