75. Beyond Fear

BLOG 75—(present reflections tied to August 2000 journal entries about my healing and novel writing journey)—I want to talk about fear. Yes, fear…the kind of fear that’s more than a feeling or moment. The kind that years ago, during my summer of healing in New England, gripped me, held my body like a fist I had to work so hard to open.

“I’m not feeling fear like a character in a story,” I wrote back in August of 2000 on the farm. “I am fear. It owns me and makes me dangerous to myself because I can’t separate my night dreams from my present reality.”

Prior to my New England summer of healing from physical pain, I would never have said that fear owned me. I was so busy running forward toward some promised land, some imagined future, that I had no idea of the fear and fright I carried in my body. It literally ran me, ran my life, and like so many of us, I hadn’t stopped long enough to truly listen to my body’s messages until that summer of 2000.

Then, during hours of healing work, dreams, and meditation, I discovered how paralyzed my soul, my essence, was by fear, by the simple act of being in this world. For some reason I was scared to feel, to embody my life, so I kept attempting to leave my body, running away from myself.

“I was an actor and observer in my dreams in the past,” I wrote back in 2000. “But now, in these situations (and dreams), I am awake and there is no beginning and end. There is just one long moment of life and death in my body, and I’m scared for my life.”

a4673f71c116515340caf78047a35d5dDuring that summer, I would wake up at night feeling unsafe in my own room. And the worst part of it was that the fright in my body was so strong I couldn’t tell the difference between dreams and reality. They were one of the same. And not knowing why I carried such fear made it even more difficult.

No matter how bad it got, though, I stayed with the nightmares, with my program of healing, discovering a world inside that had something dark and ominous to say. After all, I knew I had to experience the nightmares in order to move forward, to walk again, with grace, in this world.

So, bit by bit, I learned how to be here, on this earth, as I gardened, meditated, and discovered peace and quiet. I began healing so much that one night a crow came to visit me in my dreams. It rested, full-feathered and black, on a tree. In my dream, my housemate, Cassie, told me that “it (meaning the crow, which seemed to represent me) has finally recuperated from the torture and pain and now needs to be nurtured. Its wings are able to fly, but the crow needs to be watched, making sure it doesn’t hurt itself again.”

My dream was a clear sign that I was on the right path after almost four years of pain and little mobility since injuring myself in New Mexico. While I was relieved by the progress I had made, I soon had another challenge facing me. I was traveling away from my place of retreat in New England to see my family—my father, mother, sisters, aunts (who were visiting from Argentina), and my nephews—at a reunion in Upper New York State.

The last time I had been with everyone had been three years earlier. I had visited in crutches from my home in Oakland, C95d89adad1bcbd7204bce0f705806471alifornia, and when I went I felt very little support. This time, I was worried I would attacked again for being weak and vulnerable. So, before traveling, I prayed hard, asked spirit, God, to give me the resilience I needed to not only survive my family reunion, but remain true and rooted in myself.

Committed to being real, and honoring and nurturing myself, even in a situation I feared would be cold and difficult, shifted everything during that family reunion. Rather than experience what I had during my last visit with family, I felt strong, clear, and, in some ways, supported. It wasn’t perfect, as few family reunions ever are, but I discovered that I had become a stronger person. Even one of my sisters acknowledged that it was nice to have me back—that I really seemed present in ways I had not been before.

So when I think back to all the fear I carried then, and how I had moved through it to become more fully myself, embodied and alive, I truly understand what it takes to be here on this earth. I get that sometimes we, as humans, walk around as souls afraid to be in our bodies. We don’t always know why we are afraid, or that we even are, but we don’t feel at home. We feel lost, stuck, paralyzed by life.

There is a place beyond fear, though, and that place is inside of us. Deep within. We must be with ourselves, understanding our shadow, the dark places that want to speak to us, and not run anymore. There is no place to go, no promised land, because we are the promised land we’ve run from for too long. We carry our home inside, beyond fear.

My Novel, Child of Duende: A Journey of the Spirit, is about moving beyond fear and coming home. It’s available on Amazon at Amazon Page  or at www.michelleadam.net. It can be ordered at a local bookstore as well. Also, watch a brief video on “duende”, “the spirit of the earth”: YouTube Video

 

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73. Giving Thanks for My Life and Work

BLOG 73—(present reflections tied to August 2000 journal entries about my healing and novel-writing journey)—Long days and nights of summer mist; consistent poetry workshops on Mondays; daily walks in the woods, every day with more strength and presence; evening feasts to cicada rhythms with visiting family and friends; swimming in the pool; tending to the garden; and meditating, healing my hips, and writing my novel’s story led to a special  moment on August 18 on Skimmilk Farm in New England…

Jean Pedrick and I at Skimmilk Farm (photo of a black & white picture taken by Carl Hyatt in 2000).

… that special night I finished my novel, which back then was simply called Duende. This 80,000 word manuscript began merely as a short story with no goal other than to follow the hunger that lay inside my aching body back in 1996, yet four years later it became my novel. I let out a sigh of amazement as the stars filled the skies on that August night on the farm. And not only was my novel finished, I was also healing my hips and beginning to walk again.

“Last night I finished Duende,” I wrote back then. “I completed my book at about 2 a.m. and then sat in front of my mesa, my altar, taking in the message and love of Duende, the spirit that rests in my bones, that is my bones, wanting to speak. As I wrote the last pieces of my novel, I felt the hunger, the altogether chaos and wildness of that earth-honoring self that I was, that we all are. I sat with that part of myself that surrenders to knowing, to truly understanding; that stands in the middle of the jungle, in that space of not separating from the jungle that is my body, that is myself, crawling its vines, its seemingly chaotic and random living through me, through us…that part that doesn’t try to figure out and dissect what is (for that will kill us), but surrenders to not knowing all the answers; because to know it all would be to separate ourselves from source that is so much bigger and vaster than ourselves and

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Jean Pedrick and I at Skimmilk Farm (photo of a black & white picture taken by Carl Hyatt in 2000).

yet is ourseleves as well. To contain this vastness would be to kill ourselves, to destroy the very part of ourselves that yearns to fly and live and truly taste the truth of our existence. This, I felt, was the duende that led me to write my novel and the very story that wished to teach me and others about an essence of life that we all have access to.

Back in 2000, I thought I had finished my novel, yet there were many more layers and chapters to write. I don’t regret any of the lengthy process of it. Not one bit. Not the years with several agents who shopped my novel to big publishers with optimistic reviews but no takers. Not the years of rewrites and further rewrites. It all became a part of a journey home to duende, to this spirit inside me that I continue to celebrate every day. The end of my novel then, and the publication of my novel more than a year ago became, in essence, the beginning of my true, fully-realized life.

Today, as we celebrate Thanksgiving, I stay home nursing an intense cold. But I’m grateful.  I am grateful that the life I live now comes from deep within me, that it comes from my spirit, my essence coming first in whatever I do. There’s a sense of peace in this, a sense of knowing there is nowhere I need to go, that the richness of each moment is here, inside me, and around me. If I honor my creative spirit and surrender that which guides me in each moment, all will be okay.

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Photo of a photo taken by Carl Hyatt in 2000.

A few weeks ago, I also offered a Shamanic Writing Workshop with Burt Kempner, a fellow author, and remember feeling gratitude for having completed a successful class. At one point I was with my partner, Gorky, and he was sharing with me how wonderful the class had been. As he said these words, I began to cry a sense of recognizing that I had come home; that I was doing my life’s work on this earth, even if it was bit by bit as I worked a so-called day job. What a gift to be with someone I loved and to share in the harvest of all that I had worked so hard to become!

On this day of Giving Thanks, I give thanks to the fact that I not only published my novel (after completing it 20 years ago!), but that I can share my work and my life’s passion with my partner, family, and friends, near and far, who have seen me grow into the person I have become (and thanks to those who dropped off Thanksgiving food to me!). What a blessing to be surrounded by love and also be guided by a vaster universe that weaves its magic through me and all of us!

Blessings to you All!

Give a gift of magic, spirit, and returning home with Child of Duende: A Journey of the Spirit, for these upcoming holidays! It’s available on Amazon at Amazon Page  or at www.michelleadam.net. It can be ordered at a local bookstore as well. Also, watch a brief video on “duende”, “the spirit of the earth”: YouTube Video

57. Eternal Life Carved into Love

BLOG 57: November, 1999—The tiny white bird that had appeared as an angel had definitely been an omen. Peace and healing had flown into my life on its blue-tipped wings after two-plus years of healing from physical pain at my parent’s house in New Jersey. It was time for me to learn about the medicine of spirit that would become my life’s path.

In November, 1999, I was in New York City, taking a workshop with a Peruvian medicine man, Oscar Miro-Quesada. Everything in this world was available for me to be in relationship with, he had said, and it is through relationship that I can access spirit and the teacher and healer I am to become. My ability to love would be directly connected to, and completed affected by, my ability to follow my path as a teacher in this world, he clarified.

Oscar insights were new for the 30-year-old I was then—the one who, during my time in the U.S., had been raised in a material culture. We could give to plants and that plant’s spirit could give back to us in return, he had said. All I needed was to recognize that my love and light affected everything I touched, and in turn it affected me. What we love always gives back, he added, because the act of loving in itself opens us to receive, and in receiving we can trust and allow spirit to move within us.

48ab1c5a9c96f84bf8229947db55b60bInside the hustle and bustle of New York City, Oscar Miro-Quesada shared a message that I have since learned well. Spirit moves through love, he had said, and love is light that reflects off everything it touches. Start with what draws you toward its beauty, he added, and then build gardens from there.

Oscar’s message of years ago was timeless. I especially felt the truth of his words yesterday, on Earth Day, as I awoke with a deep sense of love inside my friends’ home (I was cat-sitting for them). Every corner of their home is filled with furniture, artwork, and relics that they have brought here, to New Mexico, from practically every continent on this earth.

The intricate, indigenous crafting of life into form surrounded me with a sense of origin and love as I looked out toward the Sandia Mountains. It prompted me to think of my recently-deceased father, of his apartment in Argentina filled with antiques from Spain. I had cried so deeply when I had been with him there, feeling the depth of his love for the walls, the furniture, and life of his apartment that he would soon 1d1bc48863c13eb2ef0764a32fb4fd65leave behind. I sensed then that even the furniture and walls would miss him.

Memories of my father’s apartment soon
transported my mind back to my childhood in Spain, where the antiques of my father’s apartments had come from. It was in Spain that the land, her people, and her buildings had been intricately carved into eternity. It was there that I had felt an ancient love tied to origins. People back then, in the late-seventies, had yet to be the consumers that Americans had become; they had yet to see life as an end, as a place to get to. Life remained a relationship crafted with sacred reciprocity and love as Oscar had spoken about.

As I looked out toward the mountains from this place filled with ancient origins, I felt my love for Spain, my father, my ancestors, and their connection to the earth. My father’s apartment still carries his spirit and love so strongly that it’s as if he had never left. It breathes the breath of my ancestors and that place of origin that only comes alive when we love deeply the people, the land, and that in our homes that we have deemed inanimate in this world. This loving relationship to all that has taken form remains as an echo on this earth far beyond our death. It holds eternal life carved out by our love.

My Novel, Child of Duende: A Journey of the Spirit, takes place in Spain, a country and people with an ancient history still alive today. 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

 

 

53. Hunger Sleeps Sweet Ashes in my Chest

BLOG 53: June, 1999—Imagine yourself stuck, with little capacity to move, with nowhere to go, nothing to accomplish. Just you. Alone. Would you be able to be still? Would you be still enough inside to feel your spiritual hunger?

Almost twenty years ago, while living in my parents’ home in New Jersey, that was my story. But being still enough to hear my own longing was anything but easy. I struggled to walk, but slowing down inside, being still, remained an immense challenge.

“I hear a voice on the radio in the other room, the sound of a busy world. It distracts me. It makes it hard to hear my hunger. It numbs my existence once more, and builds within me a hunger that so often reappears in extremes, in grand desires to escape the chaos and find a place of stillness to hear myself,” I wrote in my new journal I had just dedicated to hunger itself. “This is the modern world after all. This is the challenge we all face in hearing and addressing our hunger. What once was with us every day as a joyful hunger or longing has become a kind of ravaging ghost that you and I don’t know how to see, yet we feel it grab at us, tease us, make us restless.”

Back then, hunger was a kind of longing for what I couldn’t have in the moment no matter what I did. I wrote, “I can address my hunger by relocating, in my mind, the places where hunger was most awake, most present, and in ways, sweetly: the fields in Spain, the long b6cc3f020432ec5efd545b633828c5b9waiting for God to appear, for a voice to speak to me before a magnificent landscape; driving west out into desert, wide-open skies; or more magnificently, standing on the mountains, the Sandias, watching the bright white clouds, like cotton balls, spreading their wings throughout the entire stone and tree landscape; or driving, driving along the roads of New Mexico, chasing the clouds, with pinks, blues, oranges, purples, tormenting the skies with a surreal godliness that I longed to reach, to hold onto, in my most humble way, by driving, driving, and not slowing down.”

Then, when I found moments to be still enough to feel my hunger, to hear the words that wrote stories into my novel, I traveled inward to faraway lands. “Hunger, she sleeps sweet ashes in my chest, a silence longing for itself,” I wrote the lines of a brief poem. “I hear her stumbling sounds in my heart. I listen and I write.”

With nowhere to go, I wrote, and I allowed words to be my meditation. It’s no different today, as I sit here sharing my reflections of past and present. After a week of moving too quickly for my soul’s pace, and prior, with a month’s time with m1e98d8e0a905478eea6d6f086bf020b7y family and father before his passing, I cherish coming back to this page. Back to you: stillness and hunger.

When I was crippled by pain, my time of
forced meditation—of writing my novel and discovering the story inside “the remotest mansions of my blood”—was a blessing of sorts. I lived inside a cage that required the inside come out. But, now, as I share my novel, travel to be with family, and juggle teaching, writing, and bringing my art into the world, there seems so little time for slowing down. The hunger remains, but its more subtle, less drastic. The hunger is for the quiet, for the listening inside, for a place of presence that can’t be found in all the running around.

It’s found here, though, as I write, as I watch the moon rise, as I let the sound of all this technology, all this doing, be taken over by bird song crawling along the vines in front of my New Mexico home. The song has always been here. The moon, she has always been here lighting the night sky. Yet I am the one who has changed.  In making time, as once I was forced to do, to feel into this stillness that carries my hunger, I can find my way back to me, to all that I has always waited for us inside this presence.

*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

 

52. Answer to a Prayer before Saying Goodbye

BLOG 52:  June, 1999—Have you ever written a letter to your father, or someone, with no intention of sharing it? I did, many moons ago, on Father’s Day, as I lived in my parent’s house in New Jersey, healing from physical and emotional pain.  

“It’s strange celebrating Father’s Day with this silence between us,” I wrote. “Your silence, your temper, your not being there when you were really needed in these past few years has made me sad about this family and our relationship. All I’ve ever wanted is for us to learn how to show care and love to each other—to feel that we don’t have to compete against each other, but rather let family be a place where we all feel wanted … I know that you are scared to be vulnerable to show that you have needs and care, but I hope that, as we age, we can make less room for judgment, and more room for enjoying the time we have. I hope there can be years in which you and I, and all of us, can take a few chances and express ourselves as friends.”

This letter to my father never made it into his hands, but my wishes did come true before my father’s recent departure from this world. It was about five years ago that I had called him up, broken-hearted about the relationship I was in at the time, and how I had
learned to be in relationship. I asked him to help me break these old patterns of intimacy (or lack of intimacy) I had learned growing up. It was a bold move on my part, but I was so broken, unable to sleep, that I took a friend’s advice and reached out to my father, toward the origin of my pain.

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“Maybe you can help me,” I had said to him in tears. Without needing to explain too much, my father surprisingly told me he understood, and that the way he and I related had been passed down from his grandfather to his mother to him and then to me (and my siblings).  His next words were life-changing. My father said he regretted, to that day, not having had quality time with his mother before she died (later, I learned that they had had harsh words with each other during his last visit with her in Argentina). In his own subtle way, he let me know that he didn’t want this to happen with us.

The following spring, as my relationship with my then-boyfriend finally came to an end—and upon my request—my father and I shared a month together in his apartment in Buenos Aires, Argentina, where he visited a lot since retiring from Corporate America. That was about three years ago, and it became the first time I had quality one-on-one time with my father. We slowly opened our hearts to each other to create a relationship we had never had. It wasn’t easy, but during that time, I discovered my father—big-hearted, alive, and celebrating life with dinners and gatherings with childhood friends and family who were tremendously dear to him.

As our time together came to an end, after two days of my father driving me through the streets of his favorite city in the world, sharing his love, we sat across from each other over a meal. In an unprecedented manner, he told me how special I was and how much his friends had loved me as he did.

IMG_1683The following year, my father insisted we return to Buenos Aires together. I shared songs and poems with him and friends, letting my father know how precious this time was. He reflected back to me how I had finally come into my own after years of searching. That summer was when he also told me he had chronic leukemia (in addition to his Parkinsons and crippling pain)—a disease that would require undergoing months of chemotherapy in the U.S., followed by more treatments and surgery for melanoma, which he later had. Our visit together was one of his last to Argentina before his death.

This past month, when my family and I gathered to be with my ailing father, caring for him for multiple weeks around his hospital bed in my parent’s living room in Virginia, it seemed my letter and his wishes had been answered. The father my sisters and I had known growing up had become less afraid to share his heart, to reach out and finally have a loving relationship with us. Because of his desire to have a fuller relationship with his children than he had experienced or expressed with his mother, he was able to leave this world knowing that he had done something beautiful. On February 23, at 2:03, as my cousin, Domenica, and I held his hands, he left knowing that we had given each other a gift that had become an answer to my letter and our mutual prayer.

*My novel, Child of Duende: A Journey of the Spirit, is a story of coming healing and coming home. 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

 

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