My Secret Love of Playing in the Mud

I find great comfort with my hands in the dirt, the earthy musky scent feels like home and carries me away to some place that never was and always is.  You know, it never occurred to me until today that my love of mud might be inescapable. I have a Capricorn sun and a Cancer moon/rising. Both strong in their element, Earth and Water combine, their life force the essence of who I am.

No story about the love of mud would be complete without the rain-soaked gardening-turned-mud-fight expedition. It hadn’t rained in forever. Honestly I was tired of they dry. I was also tired of watering the garden with chlorinated city water. One evening, while cultivating, as all good gardeners do…pulling weeds, trimming back dead foliage, and communing with the dirt, I decided to do a rain dance. And dance and pray I did. Such was my conviction, my ecstasy; my husband couldn’t help but join me. As we danced the skies darkened. Bree (the names have been changed to protect the innocent) came out to join us….she was 8 or 9 at the time. The rain came, and boy did.it.come. Instead of running for shelter we continued to dance and play, and in our play we became muddy messes. Once we were already muddy it didn’t really matter, the mudslinging began.

I am so tempted to say “ and it wasn’t your garden-variety mudslinging either….”, but that would be cheesy, so I will refrain.

We laughed and threw mud, dodging and hiding around the various garden florae. I think Bree was in a state of wild shock. Not only were we letting her play in the rain and mud, but actually encouraging it. As our fun and laughter found its way to a natural end, we shed our mud and rain soaked clothes and streaked for the house.

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Maybe it started when I was a kid, I don’t even remember how old. I spent some time growing up with my grandparents, and even after I was re-united with my mother and we moved to Pennsylvania, I spent many summers in that small Arkansas town from which I hail. My cousins and I loved to play in the dirt….no, not dirt. Mud. I have no idea how we did it, but we convinced my grandmother to carry a 5 gallon bucket of water out to the edge of the driveway, where we spent many afternoon playing in the mud.

My grandparents, on my mother’s side, lived outside of town. In fact, when I was a teenager we lovingly called it BFE. If you’re not sure what BFE stands for:

Urban dictionary says it means: Out in the middle of fucking nowhere. http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=BFE

It took at least 30 minutes to get to town, and doing so was a grand adventure. We traveled several miles down a dirt road, the old wooden single car bridges, with boards barely wide enough for tires, always enchanted me. Ah, but I digress.

My grandmother would carry buckets of water, when we could convince her to, out to the edge of the driveway. My cousins and I made all sorts of mud beings, but our favorite was mud pies. Not the mud pies your mother warned you about….these were completely organic made only from the freshest ingredients, by hand, that day. Sometimes we even taste-tested them. One day we thought it would be a wonderful idea to rub the mud over our entire bodies.

Being from a very unaware and racist south, it wasn’t such a big deal to do what we thought of next….our grandmother and my aunt were walking back from the garden just as we had finished adorning ourselves with the finest mud a 5 gallon bucket of water and a dusty driveway can make. We ran up to them, so excited about our clever idea we could hardly contain ourselves.

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“Look grandma! Look! We are little colored children!” “Hush your mouths!” my grandmother and aunt admonished, half laughing and desperately looking around to make sure nobody heard.  Looking back I’m not sure if they were more concerned with the unveiling of a family’s racist mindset, or embarrassed that we would associate ourselves as such people.  Either way, nobody could hear! Remember…

We were in BFE.

Thank goodness I’ve outgrown the mindset that sees nothing wrong with having fun at someone else’s unthinkable expense, and being totally oblivious to the attitudes it perpetuates.

Dare I tell you the story about camp??

I was an adult this time, still just as full of wonder and adventure and silly desires as ever, on a wild adventure in southwest Missouri.  A group of folks gathered to unpack the story of Mary Magdalene, to use it as a magnifying glass, blowing up some piece of our lives so we could see ourselves more clearly. There were many paths to follow, many aspects of the story to embrace. I chose the Sex Path. Don’t giggle. It’s not what you’re thinking… It was a path about finding our authentic “yes” and our emboldened, honest “no”. It was a path about shedding culturally indoctrinated norms to find the values that were really ours. It was empowering and liberating at the same time.

And…

We did Mud People.

Mud People is an exercise involving cosmetic mud, varying degrees of nudity, and the practice of asking for and giving permission. We gathered tentatively and excitedly by the mud that had been strategically placed in a small grove of trees near the back edge of the land, ideally located next to a cool, flowing creek. The instruction was to be as clothed or unclothed as we were comfortable, and to have fun creatively, tenderly, playing in the mud…always asking for very specific permission before we painted anyone else. “May I rub mud on your left shoulder?” And as the recipient, taking a moment to notice what was happening within us, was there a gentle discomfort? A slight unwillingness? Or did our “yes” come from a place of desire for connection, authenticity, playfulness? It was so empowering, so vulnerable to ask and be willing to hear the answer, not as a message about me rather as a message about the other person’s comfort or trying on their newly empowered “no”.  When we were done, we went to the creek and, in the same caring, tender, boundary-honoring manner, we helped each other wash the mud away.

And honestly, it was so much FUN playing in the mud!

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And that, dear reader, is the story of my secret love of playing in the mud.

 

 

Photo credits in order of first appearance:

http://www.zimbio.com/pictures/8Tx_2Pktxby/Michigan+Kids+Celebrate+Annual+Mud+Day+Festivities/KHA7l8yVkha

http://www.nbclosangeles.com

http://www.mdolla.com/2015/02/bloco-da-lama-is-brazil-mud-party-18.html

 

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Hear the Call

“Your nakedness is medicine.  My medicine.” Is that what I heard her say? Did I really write all that? Naked. That’s for sure… But, if I don’t lay my heart on the line, who will? If I don’t create space for vulnerability and deep connection, who will? If I don’t shed layer after layer of pretty – socially acceptable – nice – who will? These are mine to do. And, though it scares me to death, knowing what’s mine to do is the force that drives me, the fire in my belly, that hunger of my soul that will not be denied.

I have heard the call…the knock at the door still ringing in my ears. The knock at the door that caused a tremor in my being, an instant fear that froze me where-I-stood.  I have heard the knock at the door… that I can no longer deny. Once the knock is heard, there are only two choices. The knock is like a fork in the road. I either answer or I stay very still, very quiet, and pretend I’m not home. Held captive, immobilized by fear, I’m left continually wondering if the call is waiting on the other side of my door, waiting for some sign of life, waiting for some reason to keep knocking.

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Fear is there. That part is given. Do I turn toward it, offering my most fierce compassion? Or am I held captive? I have heard the knock at the door and, my friend, I answered. What I didn’t know, what I couldn’t have expected, is that by turning toward the fear a seed of courage took sprout. That tiny sprout laid its roots deeply in my heart and there it still grows with wild abandon, giving my heart more reach than it has ever known, pushing past self-constructed walls, breaking through real and imagined barriers.

Courage grows rampantly, first creating one small crack, then another and another until an opening – like a beam of light through a break in the clouds – is made. As if my heart were a substance governed by the same laws that govern gases, it expands to fill the container, the container that now is no container at all. Where once I feared expanding into oblivion, now I dance those streets in ecstasy.

I heard the knock at the door, and I answered…

It’s My Pleasure…

Pleasure.  Pleasure in my life.  Pleasure in my creative process.  Where does pleasure come from?  What does it mean to find pleasure in some thing or act?

My first thought is of physical pleasure…that very earthy, almost tangible joy I derive from my body’s sensations: the tingle of a lover’s touch, the warm embrace of a dear friend, butterflies in my belly, a really great massage, a super comfy pair of lounge pants after a long day dressed more formally, a savory meal that delights all of my senses, the sun on my skin…especially after a long winter.

Pleasure, however, is inherently an emotional and spiritual experience – the experience beyond physical stimulation, reaching deeper than my senses: expansiveness and connection created by a spiritual practice, the sensation that floods me, growing from deep in my center, when I am of meaningful service to another human being or to life itself, immersion in the flow when I am fully engaged in my creative process; when I am playing for the song…  Where does that pleasure come from?  How can I experience more pleasure – giddiness – excitement -sheer joy – deep satisfaction?

Understanding what brings me pleasure is key to cultivating pleasurable experiences.

I cannot consider pleasure one dimensionally.  In this multi-dimensional world there are at least two sides to every coin.  When I think about pleasure, invariably I also consider pain.  Pain, the places where I get stuck, whether they be in my creative process or life in general – stuck in a pattern, stuck in an attitude, stuck in some emotional prison.  Being the other side of the coin,  pain is the inverse of pleasure.  When I understand where or why I’m stuck, when I understand the source of my pain, I can shift from reaction to compassion, from reaction to response-ability.

Understanding what brings me pain is key to mitigating painful experiences.

When I contemplate the experiences in my life that brought and bring me pleasure – the times I am open, engaged, immersed in the beloved flow and when I contemplate the experiences in my life that brought and bring me pain – the times I am contracted, apathetic, fighting against that infernal ebb, my awareness is shifted to a similarly inverse relationship: opportunity versus obligation.

Being the human that I am, I have a natural resistance to obligation.  I resist demands on my time, energy, heart, creativity – any of my resources.  Whether the obligation generates internally or externally, it has the same effect: resistance.

Obligations manifest themselves as shoulds: should exercise, I should eat healthily, I should develop a spiritual practice, I should be of service, I should  be happy.  Oh…if only I had a nickel for every internal or external “I should be happy”….well, you know the saying!  Obligations manifest themselves as previously made commitments.  I said I would and now I am obligated.   Obligations manifest themselves in the form of expectations: expecting others to meet some need of mine – a need for consistency, trust, safety, love, self-esteem.  I oblige my pleasure, my happiness, to your willingness, availability, and awareness.

Oblige: to put under binding contract  (Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 5th Edition,  1940)

All of these manifestations chip away at the pleasure inherent in every choice.  Every choice is born from obligation…. or opportunity.

Who doesn’t love a great opportunity?!  Everything in my life was born from a choice that I made.  Understanding that concept is the epitome of personal responsibility and freedom.  When I am free, I experience pleasure.  When I enter consciously into the choices I make, fully aware that I want to make them, fully aware that the experiences I choose are an exercise in mitigating pain and cultivating pleasure, I give myself the opportunity to derive the greatest pleasure from my choices.

 

I have the opportunity to love the way my body feels when I exercise, when I have been exercising, when I am strong and flexible; when I have the opportunity to pursue other pleasures without the limits of a neglected body.  I create the opportunity to experience self-love when I make healthy food choices, when I prepare a wholesome meal for myself.   I find great pleasure in the opportunity to experience the expansion and connection born from my spiritual practice.  I have the opportunity to witness the softening and gratitude that dances across another humans face when they feel important enough to have been cared for; when I have been of service in a meaningful way.  I have the opportunity to choose happiness in the face of adversity and move through life with joy and peace.  I get to feel the lengthening of my spine and the power of being able to look people in the eye when I either follow through on my commitments, or make response-able, alternative arrangements.  I get to experience great pleasure from your presence, and even greater pleasure from your love and esteem when my ok-ness and worth don’t hang in the balance.

Can you feel the subtle difference in your body when you shift from I should to I get to….from I have to, to I want to?

When it comes to my own creative process, when I sit down with a piece because I should, because I need to, because I’m obligated, I often experience the frustration and pain of stuck-ness.  If I seize any of the opportunities for self-love and pleasure listed above, I can often move from stuck to flow.  When I fixate on the outcome, whether it’s the finished painting, poem, blog post, or process and product of coaching, I imprison creativity and block flow.  When I am playing for the song….the opportunity to engage for the joy of engaging, fully connect with my muse in service to the connection…I am immersed in flow.  In that immersion is indescribable pleasure.

 

Time For Love — Ideas for working self-love into the over-extended schedule

I did it!  I signed up.  Even with my already over-extendedschedule, it was something I couldn’t resist. “The Blog Your Heart Out Challenge” starting on Valentine’s Day 2015 was calling my name.  I have never written a blog before, but with my intention to develop a website devoted to putting my writing, art, and personal evolution out for the world…it seemed like a good idea. So, I signed up.

The very first challenge, Grounding Your Writing in Self-Love, asked us to write for 10minutes creating a list of what we do, or would like to do, that is truly nourishing for our creative spirit, body, and heart.  When finished, we were to select 1-3 of the practices we were willing to commit to for the 2 week Blog Your Heart Out Challenge. Knowing I was going to select 1 -3 practices to do every day created resistance in me.  I know all too well the demands on my time already, and committing to adding more to my schedule felt like more than I could do.  More than I really even wanted to think about.  However, I did sign up for this.  I know there is something to be gained from meeting my resistance head-on.  I have faith in the process.  I started my list.

I am fully aware of the importance of self-care, the revolutionary power of self-love.  And,somehow, in the busy-ness of my every day, that is the ONE thing that gets sacrificed on a regular basis.  The very thing that sustains me, opens the channel to my muse, powers my creativity,gives me the strength to face a relentless to-do list, keeps me calm and centered, and cultivates my ability to connect with others through first connecting with myself is the very thing I so easily cast aside with the “I don’t have time” mantra I find myself constantly chanting.  “There are only so many hours in the day,” I tell myself, attempting to ease the pain of my own neglect.  I discovered that my resistance to this exercise was actually an act of self-love, protecting me from further over-extension.  However, the intention of this resistance and the impact were incongruent.  I need self-love to be effective in every other thing I do.  There had to be a way to meet both needs – the need to protect myself from further over-extension and the need to incorporate self-love practices.

What occurred to me during this 10 minute exercise was a more poignant awareness of the importance of self-love, a more heartbreaking awareness of how easily dismissed this practice is in my life, and, most importantly, the possibility that self-love does not have to take dedicated blocks of time.  The practice of self-love, I discovered, can be simple gestures, divine intention draped over a mundane task, easily incorporated with what I already do.

Believing that others might also struggle with the practiceof self-love and self-care, and curious if they too may have no idea how to fit the practice in an already over-full schedule, I decided to share some ideas of how I will incorporate this practice in my life.  Maybe these ideas will create a crack in the paradigm of ‘not enough time’ and generate some creative ideas of how you can add self-love practice to your life, without adding to your to-do list.

·     Add some intention to my daily shower, washing away stories that don’t serve me, negativity, and other stressors.

·     Make a little altar to myself, maybe on my dresser with its grand mirror.  Maybe leave tokens or gifts for myself.  Take amoment to                  light a candle and catch my own glance.  Just a moment.

·     NVC Body Scan. Take a moment, especially lying in bed before I drift off to sleep, to scan my body for any tension, pain, or area that grabs my attention.  Ask it what it’s trying to tell me, what its name is, what it’s born from.  See ifthere is a feeling living there, born from some unmet need.  And then ask what I can do to help meet the need.

·     For at least one meal a day, be fully present to my meal.  No multi-tasking, no reading, answering emails, occupation with my to-do list, some unresolved interaction,or whatever else may be running around my mind. Be fully present.  Notice the aesthetics of my plate, the aroma of the food, the taste and texture that explode in my mouth, and the nourishment my body feels from the feast.

·     Imbue the task of housework with an ambiance of self-love, creating space that nurtures my serenity and sense of well-being, rather than the attitude of “something I have to do” and “just get it done”.

·     Get enough sleep.  My schedule is very demanding and what I know about myself is if I don’t get 7 hours of sleep, I am emotionally incapable of dealing with the pressures of daily life. I become overwhelmed, intensely negative, and lose my ability to cope.

Hopefully this crack in my paradigm of ‘not enough time’ will grow, and my awareness will flood with more ways to incorporate self-love as a daily intention and way of moving through my to-do list.

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