58. Checkmate with Ourselves

BLOG 58: January, 2000—I remember now where I was on the eve of this millennium. Do you? I was in Taos, New Mexico, in the mountains somewhere far away from civilization as the entire world braced itself for what we called “Y2K” (when all computers would possibly shut down, and the world as we knew it).

As we all prepared for a Y2K disaster, I was in the middle of nowhere, drumming in the new millennium with my friend Eric Perry and others. I barely remember that time, other than the fact that I had flown out to San Francisco, CA, from my parents house in New Jersey, to pick up my car (I had left it there a few years earlier because I wasn’t physically up to driving it back East after becoming injured). Eric came out to California to drive my car—with me lying down in the back—on a journey East, or at least halfway to New Mexico, where he lived.

When Eric and I arrived in New Mexico, I helped him decorate his room and we visited Acoma Pueblo, a native village on top of a cliff set up for tourists to visit. Due to my long term injury I wasn’t able to walk  much, but enough to see this village and befriend a stray dog who followed us to our car. After the dog looked at us with longing eyes and a guard told us to take him—he didn’t belong to anyone, he said—Eric, who could barely take care of plants, became a dog owner. We named the little one “Acoma.”

By the time New Year’s Eve approached,c31d532e140f6c8af13c69ef86fc2705 the three of us were drumming away in Taos. Despite being out in nature, I remember feeling disconnected—even in Albuquerque where the Sandia Mountains that had once called me were. My body was still struggling to walk, and my soul questioning why I had stopped in the middle of the desert on my way to California almost four years earlier only to break myself and still be struggling. Why had I followed a spiritual call only to be broken and to feel disconnected from all that had initially connected me?

That year, 17 years ago, my father had called me to tell me he would fly out to Albuquerque to drive me and my car back to New Jersey, to my parent’s home.  I accepted and soon my car and I were back with my parents.

It was a strange place to be—in the same place, or worse, than I had been four years earlier. It was only later, when studying with one of my spiritual teachers, Martín Prechtel, that I would understand that space I was in. We’ve grown up inside this “empire,” he’d say, and we’ve learned to live with the empire mind. Yet, he’d explain, there’s another part of us, “the barbarian,” the one who’s wild, free, connected to nature, our nature, that wants to come home.

In a world where we have continuously fled, especially West, there comes a time when we’re forced to stop, he’d say, where we face “check mate.” Neither the Empire mind nor the Barbarian can move as they are in stalemate, seeing the other for the first time and determining how to make peace w540ab52e39f2f19b2fea568f2462612aith one other since both are a part of ourselves (my apologies to my teacher for not sharing this as eloquently as he did!).

As I look back, I see now, that I was in a place of checkmate, unlearning the parts of my mind that had imprisoned me while getting to know this Barbarian part of me that had rarely had a voice. Relearning a way of being, and making peace with what has been, can be long journey—one that isn’t just about this lifetime, but many before, tied to our ancestors and this long earth walk we’ve all made, I later realized.

Today I feel at peace, and I’ve become a beautiful woman who honors her soul’s path. But, I realize that this place of checkmate, this slowing down, and even being stuck for a while, is always with us. We live in a world that demands we keep up while drawing our attention with endless technological inventions and constant marketing. So coming home to the Barbarian part of us, to our freer, more connected nature, requires daily mindfulness. It requires we know that following our soul’s voice is a commitment, and a muscle we must exercise so we don’t become lost inside the hustle and bustle of this empire we live in.

My Novel, Child of Duende: A Journey of the Spirit, is a story of checkmate, of coming home. Check it out on Amazon: Amazon Page  or at www.michelleadam.net. Also, watch a brief video on “duende”, “the spirit of the earth”: YouTube Video

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55. Honoring Body, Earth, and Air

Blog 55: July, 1999— “I lay out big like New Mexico tonight, the stars speckling the skies in every direction,” I wrote after relaxing outside my parents’ home under New Jersey skies. “It makes me aware of how amazing it is to be walking on this earth. What a gift it is to be inside this wonder—to know that every day we have this, yet we crowd our thoughts and lives with so much that clutters our view.”

Then, it seemed, life felt more alive, more resilient, inside the warmth of summer. I was reminded of what I had once had. I had danced in New York City before becoming injured, and I had lived in New Mexico where the earth and her big skies had invited me to slow down, even though I wasn’t ready.914e43fb9aef1d21aab3d064540aae1e

“When I think of dancing now, I think of an inspiration that followed me, almost stalking me. I still feel how beautiful it was to dance, to take that deep breathe that is dance,” I wrote. “I want to start again, slower this time, with care and love, listening and understanding that this body is my love, my gift. When I do, I will know how a body is, what a body means, how it is mine in more than dance to take care of.”

That day in New Jersey was like today in New Mexico. Storm clouds cleared to reveal snow-covered mountain peaks as the sun melted the cool breeze dancing inside springtime. I stretched, walked with a friend, and enjoyed being in this body that has been through so much—so much of my neglect and taking for granted the gift of what I had been given. I remember how, when I had lived in California (after leaving New Mexico, and before that, New York City), I had felt such immense despair at not being able to get out onto the land…with the idea of not having open skies, trees, fresh air, and water to bathe in when my soul felt weary.

Back then, I had taken for granted my body’s gift—the gift of housing my soul, my life’s force—and, in the pursuit of becoming someone, forgot the importance of my connection to the earth. Now I know how precious both are, and that, in our neglect, it can take a long time to repair the damage we’ve done.

Today, I think about how we, as Americans, have been blessed with living on this breath-taking land once called Turtle Island by Indigenous Americans. Yet, recently, our leader has threatened to roll back protections for land and air. It’s in the name of progress and jobs, President Donald Trump says. Yet there’s no progress when we can’t drink the water, breath the air, and celebrate this body of life we’ve been given.
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There’s no progress when we no longer wake to visible sunrises or share in the diversity of people, plants, and animals that makes this earth so precious.

I reflect on my journey of unraveling the layers of my mind’s clutter so that I can care for my body, my home, and live from a place of greater gratitude for this earth life we have been given. For me, pain cleansed and cleared away layers that maybe, without it, would still be blinding me from the gift of my body and this earth.

Maybe, just maybe, we don’t need so much pain to learn the gift of what we have right here, in front of us, though. Maybe, as we journey together through the troubled maze of our time, we can all let go of the clutter we’ve carried and make room for a more sustainable and healthy earth walk.

*My novel, Child of Duende: A Journey of the Spirit, is a story honoring the earth and the spirit of “duende” within. Check it out on Amazon: Amazon Page  or at www.michelleadam.net. Also, watch a brief video on “duende”, “the spirit of the earth”: YouTube Video

 

54. I Want to Challenge You

 

Blog 54: June, 1999: I want to challenge you—yes, you, reader of this blog—to ask yourself: “What is my hunger?” Last week, I wrote about hunger, about my hunger of almost 20 years ago, and my current hunger. As I perused my journal last week, as I do every time I write this, I came across a piece of writing on hunger that struck a cord. So, I decided to create Part 2 of last week’s blog. Here it is, beginning with my journal entry from years ago:

“As I write this, I can hear the voices that have challenged my hunger all along,” I wrote in June, 1999. “The voice is that I am alone, that this hunger belongs only to me, and that everyone is quite normal in their view and understanding of the world. This is a strange and pathetic lie that I grew up with, that you many have grown up with: that we have no hunger; that we have no “self” that is incapable of rationalizing the answers to our existence; that we need no answers because we are the pathetic answer that walks this earth pretending to know—pretending to know that we live and die without much more to our existence; pretending that we are not vulnerable, that we do not break, that this world cannot break us and hurt us and teach us to love.”

These words from years ago may seem harsh, yet I grew up in a family where emotions were rarely expressed. My ancestors had fertilized the ground we walked on with potent seeds of stoic strength that they’d grown so they could survive horrid wars, immigration, and challenging life lessons. Yet, this stoicism masked a grief that needed, one day, to be unearthed.

“I intend to speak to those whf77ad40934475fcab37c7a5736a3b646o find my words resonating with them. Otherwise, why read? Art is, after all, this wonderful world in which we can share, express, and crawl out to the edge of a limb and cry out our existence so those who are afraid to climb can see that it is alright, that we were meant to climb, to sing, to explore this world that is only ours right now,” I wrote. “I can’t believe that this hunger is not in every breathing soul that exists—from the Buddha who found peace, to the musician who, with all her might, sings
to us a kind of longing that only a song can sometimes do so well. I have seen hunger in my father’s eyes—in the way he cannot keep still, driving wherever he can to find his hunger sated for brief moments. Or in my mother, in her later years, wanting so much to find warmth in companionship.”

Most recently, my father’s hunger was there until the very end of his life, days before he died, on February 23, 2017. He longed to walk, to try one last time, as his legs gave in below him. He longed to join us for a toast and dinner at the table, to be a part of the life. He longed for peace from pain, for some understanding, it seemed, of what awaited him after life. My family and I all longed to be there with my father, to feel the tenderness of his final weeks that had been absent many years earlier. I longed to be there to help my father transition, to breathe every last breath with him, knowing each one could mark the end.

As I sit now, alone, writing, feeling the reality of all that has passed, and of my father who is no longer here, I wonder about this thing we call life. No rational mind, no preset ideas, no justification for my father’s passing—at 79 years old, and no earlier or later—can change or ease this reality of life and death. Despite all I’ve learned about life, and spirit, and all that passes, I still ask myself, “Why?” “Why does all life leave its form to become something else?” “Why do we, as humans, have to feel loss?” There’s a hunger in that. There’s a grief. There’s a stark reality that life is so immensely precious, and that any denial of our hunger to live this life as fully as we know how, now, and no minute later, would be a lie toward life itself.

*My novel, Child of Duende: A Journey of the Spirit, is a story of following this hunger home. Check it out on Amazon: Amazon Page  or at www.michelleadam.net. Also, watch a brief video on “duende”, “the spirit of the earth”: YouTube Video

 

 

51. Riding Off into “Las Pampas”

BLOG 51: June, 1999—“There are so many times you have been with me, and yet I have not seen you. I feel touched, moved, overwhelmed inside this little heart of mine by the guide you have been so long—an angel so present on this earth, so alive within me, so much a part of me,” I wrote from my parent’s home in New Jersey 18 years ago. “I feel like I have been gone so long, wayward in search of myself—a decade of scraping down every wall to discover this beauty beside and inside of me…this stalwart tree, ever-growing slowly, gracefully upward, as I have stretched out, spreading arms that reach out to embrace the sun, eager to get there.”

These words made up a letter addressed to MAGIC itself, and to a dear friend of mine, a past partner. After all, isn’t magic in both—inside ourselves and in relationship?  While today is a different time, and magic may be too general a word to apply to my present moment here with my ailing father—I’ve been reflecting on what it must be like for him to soon embark on what may be a potentially “magical” journey into the afterlife.

My father has always been quite the scientist, carefully reflecting on the reasonable, proven aspects of life. I wonder now, when he’s in tremendous pain, and asks us to help him die, whether he has a sense of where he’s going (if anywhere at all).

Some years back, after he and I had visited my Argentinean cousin, Carmen, who was extremely frail and dying from a brain tumor, he confessed to me, in his apartment living room, that the idea of death really scared him. It was clear then, as now, that he was reflecting on his own death.

Last night, I sat with what it would be like to have no imagined sense (or a very existential one) of what we call the afterlife. I’ve always had a strong feeling of spirit, or what life without a body would be like. If anything, I’ve found it much more natural and real to be with the world of spirit than body. But for my father, who prided himself of being very athletic and intelligent, and having 5d0235715e06de38848b7e112c1f3ec8the independence and strength to control his destiny, death may be a different kind of beast for him to face.

If it’s true what a friend of mine once said—that, after death, people see and experience that which they believed to be true in this lifetime…that our beliefs dictate what’s next…or at least for the first part of our journey—then I wondered what current beliefs were dictating my father’s sense of what awaits him. Is the pain I see him going through, both physical and emotional, a part of his battle between his current beliefs and what is to come? Does it have to be this painful leaving this earthly plane as we prepare to shift as the caterpillar does into the butterfly?

As I sat at my father’s bedside one evening, I asked his mother’s spirit, our shared ancestors, and angelic beings to visit him in his sleep to give him a glimpse of what’s possibly next. Then, a beautiful imagine came to mind. My father has always been an adventurous soul, I thought, and he had always said he would have been a “gaucho”, an Argentinean cowboy, if he hadn’t taken a more practical route in life. So, then, why can’t he ride off like a gaucho into the vast grasslands, las Pampas de Argentina, when it’s his time, and begin his adventure beyond his body as one of the greatest freedom he has ever known?

With that, I smiled, and he fell asleep.

*My novel, Child of Duende: A Journey of the Spirit, is a story of spirit and coming home. Check it out on Amazon: Amazon Link or at www.michelleadam.net. Also, I’ve created a short new video on duende, the spirit of the earth, and on my novel. Check it out: YouTube Video

 

 

41. Big in Love

WHAT PROMPTED YOU TO BECOME BIG IN LOVE?

BLOG 41: September, 1998—Another month passed by in New Jersey, with the highway noise bleeding into the background of my consciousness as I unraveled this person I had been. And almost every day and evening I wrote, adding sentences to my novel from an unknown place.

“Writing this book is hard,” I scribbled in my journal. “It’s hard to get to the heart of it. I feel like I am gnawing away at the edge of the bone… My characters also feel small, and they are in a small world. I need to give meat to those seeking, living characters wanting to be what they can be. As a writer, I need to be many more people than me. I need to look inside and understand more than myself.”

As I explored the depths of where my novel wished to go, ideas came to me—inside the music I played and the space I created of eternal night. Some of these ideas seemed so outside myself, so irrational, that I would call a friend and share what was coming to me. Rather than tell me to pull back, and not go there, he always inspired to me to follow this irrational, out-there idea, and to let it tell its story and purpose. That extra prodding from a good friend all3bb1bb45b56a2988fbf4a474dab45607.jpgowed ideas that had begun in my mind to seep into my bones and discover their resonance for a larger story than me.

This journey inward beyond the musings of my mind, would not have been possible if I had not been injured and been guided into a vulnerable, still place within me. It became so clear how I was unraveling that part of me, driven by ego and insecurities to become someone big. Nothing grows grand and beautiful without solid roots, and this time was about growing and feeding those roots of mine so I could create an enriching story. It was also about letting go of the need to push outward when the rich soil of my life lay within.

“I’m always amazed at how I feel this great responsibility to do something big in this world, to affect change, to give in a big way,” I wrote in my journal. “But another part of me wants to live simply, to eliminate all this bigness and just concentrate on breathing and loving.”

Today, years later, I see that it is through breathing each moment in and in loving that we become big. We become big through letting go of that which we are determined to be. We begin to dance, sing, and be the joy we have always been with those we love. Together we can celebrate life and be the gift that makes us so much more than just ourselves.

WHAT PROMPTED YOU TO BECOME BIG IN LOVE?

*My recently-published novel, Child of Duende: A Journey of the Spirit, is the culmination of years of musings and gnawing at the bone. Check it out on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Child-Duende-Journey-Michelle-Adam/dp/099724710X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1474233011&sr=8-1&keywords=child+of+duende  or at www.michelleadam.net

37. Where do Wild and Order Meet?

WHERE DO WILD AND ORDER MEET FOR YOU?

Blog 37: April-June, 1998—“Do you know where sex and love meet? Do you know where wild and order meet? Do you know where thoughts and actions meet, where the sun meets the skimming edge of the earth?”…

I wrote these words from New Jersey, inside my parent’s house in Ho-Ho-Kus, a town half an hour from New York City. At age 30, I was settling into my new home with my parents, adjusting to this insane reality of suffering immense pain when walking, and needing family support to heal. Inside the emotional challenges of living with my parents, I began to build my inner strength and resilience through meditation and writing (writing my novel, and reflecting on life in my journal).

So here I was inside this constricting order (for an artist, the NJ suburbs and my parents’ way of living was a great contrast to mine), determined to remain “awake” to the wild, free spirit that I was. So I continued to write:

“Wild and order meet in a place of art—sacred art. Not just the art of fine pieces mounted on walls for sale, or the art of a solo journeyer’s day in and day out, trying to make sense of his or her life. No, it’s the art of living, the art of bringing together the unity of inside and out that completes us like rivers merging into the sea.

“This is the art that, in its magic-making, cannot distinguish between worlds, cannot distinguish between right and wrong, left and right. In its magic-making, we do not need 557424_171105909691323_1799474373_nto know answers. We do not need to know distinctions. We need only know that we are alive, and that in our aliveness the distinctions between inside and out are only a deeper urge to deny that we are God.”

*My recently published novel, Child of Duende: A Journey of the Spirit, is about this kind of magic. Check it out on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Child-Duende-Journey-Michelle-Adam/dp/099724710X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1474233011&sr=8-1&keywords=child+of+duende . I will also be celebrating an evening of Child of Duende Storytelling, Spanish Guitar (Ronaldo Baca will be playing Flamenco Guitar), and Tapas at the Corrales Community Library in New Mexico on Thursday, September 22nd at 6:30p.m. http://www.corraleslibrary.org/event/join-local-author-michelle-adam-for-an-exciting-evening-of-storytelling-spanish-guitar-and-tapas-as-she-reads-from-her-new-novel-child-of-duende/ (here’s a link to an article for the event:   http://alibi.com/art/51899/Telling-the-Souls-Truth.html).

WHERE DO WILD AND ORDER MEET FOR YOU?

36. Change and Constant: Two Sides of the Same Coin

WHEN DID YOU RETURN RELUCTANTLY TO WHERE YOU STARTED?

Blog 36: April, 1998—I was back where I had started one and half years ago—at my parents house in the suburbs of New Jersey. Not one bit of me imagined I’d be back or wanted to return. After all, I had left my parent’s house seeking a new life on the West Coast, free from the angst I had felt on the East Coast.

It seemed I returned the same person I had been, though, other than more vulnerable and scared. The protection and walls I had built for myself as a teenager and beyond had crumbled to the ground and all I felt was the shell of my body that ached when I moved.

The first nights at my parent’s house were nightmares. I couldn’t sleep. An immense fright gripped me. I felt unsafe. I didn’t know why, but I couldn’t relax. This was not home. I was not home. Who I needed to become didn’t have a voice here. So I wrote:

“My nerves are throbbing a heartbeat of exhaustion. Where’s the line between pain and love?—that thin line that time breathes between the past and the present, as the future becomes an amalgam of the two. Every day, my body is deciding, crossing the blurry lines of time, of truth and reason. Throbbing, my legs are throbbing. They’ve had enough and yet it’s not over yet. My soul’s on fire, determined for me to hear her cry. I keep listening. Stillness settles in my bones, while my whole body beats a heart that doesn’t stop.

As I returned to the place I had begun, having  changed beyond what I could have imagined—struggling to walk and no longer the tough, willful young lady I had been—it pained me to experience the angst I had lived when with my family and on the East Coast. I was living what the 19th century French critic, journalist and novelist Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr once wrote: “The more things change, the more they stay the same.” But what for? Why return here? I asked myself.

Maybe I needed to unwind much more than I had ever thought, and I had to return to the place where the winding had begun. And maybe there’s some truth to a recent blogger’s analysis of Jean Baptiste’s epigraph: “Change and constant are two sides of the same coin, one we are rarely taught to see as whole. One without the other should feel like the sound of one hand clapping.” (Sean Owczarek)

If this is true, then maybe change couldn’t occur for me without the constant of family and home to remind me of that which I was changing from.

WHEN DID YOU RETURN RELUCTANTLY TO WHERE YOU STARTED?

This blog tells the story behind the writing of my recently published novel, Child of Duende: A Journey of the Spirit, available on Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/Child-Duende-Journey-Michelle-Adam/dp/099724710X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473572064&sr=8-1&keywords=Child+of+Duende  (more information on my website: http://www.michelleadam.net)