Ravenrock is a ranch property in New Mexico where I teach retreat but also spend time in solitude. It is quiet, pristine canyon and rock rim land where I’ve put up a barn to work and be.
September slips away unmarked by achievements or conversation. I’ve been at Ravenrock in solitude for ten days, growing more and more silent. The beginning was difficult. Now, suddenly, it isn’t. I do the projects I had set up to protect myself, to soothe my fears and solace my grief, but more and more pass through the activity as if it was soft and edgeless as fog. The activities protect but also, like fog, have hidden Earth and its high blue canopy. It isn’t the action of the activity––the lifting and putting and schlepping—which has been troubling me. It is the hooks inside that are bustling, driving, gibbering promises of reward and merit. Read more
The few days following an intensive retreat—this writing follows my annual Summer Movement Monastery at Ravenrock—is an especially potent passage. Day to day consciousness is returning since I am not longer practicing 6 hours a day with the community. Yet all that has happened inside me during the previous two weeks is unfolding. I remember these periods following Sufi Camp as well.
Aftermath at Ravenrock
I sit on the Porch watching the thronging hummingbirds and, in the far distance, Hermit’s Peak. 7:30 my phone tells me. I could wear my watch as I did during retreat, but it now sits roundly on a high shelf serving as a tiny, barely visible clock while I begin to once again forget time. It is only a few days since everyone left. The sessions are suspended until we next meet. The Barn is empty of bodies yet full of the grace we all spun. In the aftermath, I read Rumi who makes graceful sense. I sit in the field of the One, the Most Subtle Read more
Amanda wrote. She had been thinking of me, of Dancemeditation because she wanted to get going on a daily personal practice. This was not the first time she approached me. Her persistence is a good sign. Many people seek me out expressing anything from an interest to a desperate need for a regular practice. In response, I have organized trainings bursting with techniques to deepen and relax, increase sensorial existence and calm overactive minds. I have made instructional DVDs and online courses to sustain practice at home. As well, I have written extensively about every aspect of practice. Considering this, I briefly wondered if I had done too much, fostering dependence, making the trudge appear more entertaining than it is. This time with Amanda’s request, a wave of clarity washed over me. I had never said the one, most important thing, possibly because it seemed too obvious. I don’t know. But I had not said this one thing… Read more
I saw Alan Rickman in a ‘civilian’ moment and have never forgotten it. Ten years ago in the lobby of the Minetta Lane Theatre, Greenwich Village, NYC during intermission at Martha Clarke’s “Garden of Earthly Delights” in the mill of buzzing strangers, there he was, a few feet from me. I poked Ric in the ribs and whispered frantically, “Snape!” Read more
On the New England coast, my childhood December in this house was music, music, music. Two years ago, December was Dad dying. A year ago, my newly replaced hips were mending. This December, the unseasonably warm world is magical. I walk along a foggy beach or in hidden woods, fallen leaves rustling under my feet. I visit Mom at her assisted living and, curled up on her bed, our arms around one another, we smile and sing in whispers like little sisters. I light evening fires in the fireplace, clean old dust out of closets, and toss the clutter my parents got too tired to oust. Lilies and white mums draped in ivy and spewing a frond of Norfolk Pine deck the mantle. I listen to the foghorn, the boat horn, the wind splattering rain on the south facing windows. I love being inside in the storm, wrapped in the house, like being in the womb, safe, not yet born. Read more
Outside the march of wide-eyed windows hovered a soft, gray dove of a day. People swathed in loose garb pooled on clumps of blankets. I knew them well. Seekers. Those with a faint curiosity rarely curve into my orbit. Seekers, often not understanding why they have driven or flown exhausting distances, come to struggle with frustrations that have been brewing for months or years. They settle on the pale wood floor which is harder and less reassuring than their comfortable couch at home, a home which may not feel like home anymore because obligations have filled every corner and pushed their souls out onto the back porch. Read more
A dervish turns in white garb. A beautiful performance, beautiful costume. The tall hat, special leather shoes, a long circular skirt hemmed with rope to pull the fabric into a disc is crafted to be seen. But for most turning hours, dervishes whirl in soft, old clothing, in the shadows, feet bare and hair ragged. It is not the look of it, but the true heart heating… Read more
My body strengthens and slowly begins to elongate. I trust her to find her way. I trust her to do as much as she needs and can. She returns to me as she can, and I feel the happiness of her mending in the wisdom of her own timing. A year after surgery, she gives me more than bits and spurts of energy. We have chunks of industriousness and verve. We move, wider, faster, longer, more happily. We are together again, my body and my head. Read more
A storm grumbles in the distance, plodding slowly across the canyon from behind the mountains. A wood pewee sings over and over and over again a clear plangent descending note. Sitting in the Ravenrock Barn, I grieve both parents. Until now, I haven’t had time, energy, or distance to grieve, my hip surgeries coming so soon after my father’s death. (My mother, still alive at an Assisted Living, seems permanently away at college, living in a dorm, having a happy life with not only no thoughts of me but no thoughts at all.) Here, where nothing but a few inherited rugs and pieces of china are associated with my past, I can look as one gazes at a valley from a summit, no longer seeing it from within in myopic fragments.