Posted in Creative Nonfiction, Essay, find yourself, General Interest, Guest Writer, Karen Fayeth, meditative

My Moment Of Zen

respiteIn a full to overflowing bathtub, I relax, soaking the ache out of legs and content to be surrounded by water. It’s not long before I slide down, legs crawling up the wall under the shower, head dipping below the surface. My right hand plugs my nose and my left hand covers my eyes like a sleep mask and water fills my ears.

I savor these few moments I have to just float in nothing.

The water amplifies noise but bends the sound waves into something more beautiful. Even the passing fire truck with its shrill siren and blaring horns sounds almost musical when passed through my warm, clear water. The rhythmic hum of the clothes dryer puts me in a trance and I enjoy this until my lungs ask politely and then not so politely if we can surface and take in some new, unused air.

I reluctantly rise up and gasp in a big breath and go under again. It’s just too delicious and quite addictive. This time I think about buying a snorkel so I can stay under the water and still breathe. I’ve considered buying a snorkel so I can stay under my bath water ever since I was a kid.

Even as a child I was drawn to the solace and quiet of being under water. One early evening as I was taking a bath and creating my own sensory isolation chamber, my mother walked in to check on me. As any protective mother of three children would do when presented with the sight of her youngest lying apparently lifeless in a bathtub full of water, she freaked out.

My mother yanked me from the water and shook me hard, shouting my name. I unplugged my nose and uncovered my eyes and said, “What?”

I got a well-deserved and thorough chewing out and was told in no uncertain terms that I was never to simply slide under the water and remain motionless. Ever.

When I later emerged from my bath and got dressed and ran a comb through my unruly long hair, I was confronted by my father who ripped into me for scaring my mother.

I always thought that was quite unfair. I didn’t set out to intentionally scare my mother. I simply wanted a moment, if even half a minute, where I didn’t exist in the world. Where everything was blocked out and time slowed down and sounds bent in pleasing ways.

My solution thereafter was to continue to dunk my head well below water and plug my nose with my right hand. With my left hand, I would raise it above the surface and wave it like the Queen on parade so that any passerby would know I was still conscious, just submerged.

This seemed a suitable solution for all. A nice compromise.

I’ve always wanted to visit one of those sensory isolation tanks. It sounds like a little slice of heaven to me. Floating in a tank with no light and hardly any sound and just the quiet to embrace me. Yes, I think I would love this very much.

The Good Man thinks I’m half a bubble off level to consider this. “I always figure while you are locked in there, the people outside will steal your stuff or do something weird,” he says.

This is how his mind works. This is not how my mind works.

A few years ago we visited a spa in Calistoga, California. The spas in Calistoga are known for their mud baths. You give them money and they allow you to slide your nekkid body into a warm tub of slightly sulphurous goo. The weight of the mud resists your body, you actually have to dig in there. Once settled, you are surrounded and suspended and oh my goodness I could have stayed in there for weeks.

The Good Man did not feel as kindly toward the mud. He said he was antsy the whole time he was in there and ready to vault from the tub. He couldn’t wait for it to be over. I never wanted it to stop.

Perhaps it’s something Freudian that I like to slip into warm suspended places and forget about things for a while. I choose to think it rather normal to want to seek out genuine moments of respite where the world and all its crazy spinning and shouting and clanking and cruelty goes away, for just a moment. For as long as it takes me to hold my breath.

Until I buy a snorkel.

– Karen Fayeth

© Karen Fayeth, copyright 2013, all rights reserved. Bathtub image found on Rodale.com and all rights remain with the website and photographer. Bio photograph by Claudia Akers.

webheadshotKAREN FAYETH ~ is one of our regular contributing writers. She is our new tech manager, site co-administrator along with Jamie and Terri, and fiction and creative nonfiction editor. She blogs at Oh Fair New Mexico. Born with the writer’s eye and the heart of a story-teller, Karen Fayeth’s work is colored by the Mexican, Native American, and Western influences of her roots in rural New Mexico complemented by a growing urban aesthetic. Karen now lives in the San Francisco Bay area. When she’s not spinning a tale, she works as a senior executive for science and technology research organization.

Karen has won awards for her writing, photography, and art. Recent publication credits include a series of three features in New Mexico magazine and an essay with the online magazine Wild Violet. Her latest short story will be published in the May edition of Foliate Oak. Karen’s photography is garnering considerable attention, her photo titled “Bromance” (featuring Aubry Huff and Pat Burrell) was featured on MLB Network’s Intentional Talk hosted by Chris Rose and Kevin Millar.

Posted in Contributing Writer, find yourself, Spiritual Practice, Terri Stewart

FINDING YOURSELF Part 2: What Story Do You Have to Tell?

What experience of the presence of the divine can you speak to?

Where has grace moved in your life?

Every time I meet with youth in detention, I am interested in hearing their story. Monday, I heard the story of a young man who is extremely disappointed in himself. So we read the Tales of the Pointless People by Dan Ehrlander. Here we explored that the keeping score, comparing, ourselves to other, leads to spiritual death. Holding yourself responsible and bearing guilt beyond your capacity are two separate things.

“Write your story as it needs to be written. Write it honestly and tell it as best you can. I’m not sure that there are any other rules. Not ones that matter.” ― Neil Gaiman

What story do you have to tell?

sailboat

“It doesn’t interest me what you do for a living. I want to know what you ache for, and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart’s longing.

It doesn’t interest me how old you are. I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool for love, for your dream, for the adventure of being alive.

It doesn’t interest me what planets are squaring your moon. I want to know if you have touched the center of your own sorrow, if you have been opened by life’s betrayals or have become shriveled and closed from fear of further pain! I want to know if you can sit with pain, mine or your own, without moving to hide it or fade it, or fix it.

I want to know if you can be with joy, mine or your own, if you can dance with wildness and let the ecstasy fill you to the tips of your fingers and toes without cautioning us to be careful, to be realistic, to remember the limitations of being human.

It doesn’t interest me if the story you are telling me is true. I want to know if you can disappoint another to be true to yourself; if you can bear the accusation of betrayal and not betray your own soul; if you can be faithless and therefore trustworthy.

I want to know if you can see beauty even when it’s not pretty, every day, and if you can source your own life from its presence.
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I want to know if you can live with failure, yours and mine, and still stand on the edge of the lake and shout to the silver of the full moon, “Yes!”

It doesn’t interest me to know where you live or how much money you have. I want to know if you can get up, after the night of grief and despair, weary and bruised to the bone, and do what needs to be done to feed the children.

It doesn’t interest me who you know or how you came to be here. I want to know if you will stand in the center of the fire with me and not shrink back.

It doesn’t interest me where or what or with whom you have studied. I want to know what sustains you, from the inside, when all else falls away.

I want to know if you can be alone with yourself and if you truly like the company you keep in the empty moments.”

Oriah Mountain Dreamer*

Shalom,
Terri

* Oriah Mountain Dreamer is the author of several best-selling books: The Invitation (now translated into more than fifteen languages), The Dance, and The Call: Discovering Why You Are Here. Her book, What We Ache For: Creativity and the Unfolding of Your Soul, explores the challenges, rewards, and necessity of doing our creative work. 

mailTERRI STEWART is Into the Bardo’s Sunday Chaplain. You can expect a special post from her each week. She comes from an eclectic background and considers herself to be grounded in contemplation and justice. She is the Director and Founder of the Youth Chaplaincy Coalition that serves youth affected by the justice system. As a recent graduate of Seattle University’s School of Theology and Ministry, she earned her Master’s of Divinity and a Post-Master’s Certificate in Spiritual Direction with honors and is a rare United Methodist student in the Jesuit Honor Society, Alpha Sigma Nu. She is a contributing author to the Abingdon Worship Annual.
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Her online presence is Cloaked Monk.This speaks to her grounding in contemplative arts (photography, mandala, poetry) and the need to live it out in the world. The cloak is the disguise of normalcy as she advocates for justice and peace. You can find her at www.cloakedmonk.com,www.twitter.com/cloakedmonk, and www.facebook.com/cloakedmonk.  To reach her for conversation, send a note to cloakedmonk@outlook.com.
Posted in Contributing Writer, Essay, find yourself

FINDING YOURSELF Part 1: The Freedom of “I Don’t Know”

1-1213801011KG6LToday begins the first of three features on finding yourself.  “Be True to Yourself” would be another good name for this series with the perspectives of three writers:

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Part 1: The Freedom of “I Don’t Know” ~ Natasha Head
Part 2:
What story do you have to tell? ~ Terri Stewart
Part 3:
On the Razor’s Edge ~ Jamie Dedes

The Freedom of “I Don’t Know”

There is a peace to be found in releasing labels, brands and notions we are conditioned with before we even have a chance to determine if this is who we want to be. Every day, I feel as though I am failing in the expectations others have for me, yet…I know I cannot let their preconditioned labels define me.

The little bit of myself I have been able to hang on to, throughout all the many roles we get sucked into, shows in my writing. If I had to name the biggest reason why I do write, it’s to hang on to me. The one thing I can be sure of in this world is the girl sitting in the dark corner alone, tattered notebook and cheap pen, ink spots on her fingers and a desire to be left alone with her thoughts.

This is my church. I can enter anywhere, on any day, at any time. I am always accepted, I am always welcomed, and I always feel…right.

I think that sense of “right” is one of the hardest things to find in this world. For so long, I tried to shape myself to fit in so many ways others told me I had to in order to be part of the crowd. They would fight me tooth and nail when I asked a question they couldn’t answer. They would belittle and scorn me for not taking as faith what they never had the courage to question. Where is the poetry if we are not allowed to question? Where do great ideas and new discoveries come from if we are not pushed and encouraged to seek further.

When they come at me now…wanting to know my beliefs, where I pray, where I’m going to go when I die…I’ve learned they already know the answer they want to hear…and I’ve learned the only compassionate one I can give, so as not to offend and engage is “I don’t know.” Really…what other honest answer is there? It turns a soldier into teacher, a teacher to a guide, and suddenly a new path unfolds with an invitation to explore. I have learned so very much…simply by admitting, I don’t know.

And at the end of the day…how much does it matter if it steals from the gift this lifetime is? Our true blessings are found in the now. In the time we have right now to help, to lift up, to learn, to love. Imagine, if the world could stop debating what is personal and individual to everyone, and simply come together to make the most of where we’re at with what we have? If there’s one thing I do know…it would have to make it a much better place…a much better now.

– Natasha Head

© 2013, essay and portrait, Natasha Head, All rights reserved
Photo credit ~ Petr Kratochvil, Public Domain Pictures.ent

9-1NATASHA HEAD debut poetry collection (from Winter Goose Publishing) was Nothing Left to LosePushcart Prize nominee for 2012. A year later – almost to the day – her newest offering, Pulse. was releasedNatasha blogs at The Tashtoo Parlour and participates in a leadership role on d’Verse ~ Poets Pub. She is the founder and coordinator of New World Creative Union