At the recent Kripalu Intensive, on the last day, Loretta read this stunningly beautiful poem to all of us. It captured our state but took us beyond as well. She has kindly let me share it here.
Under Shiva’s Gaze
Shiva graces our Dancing
As we enter the Great Temple of the Body.
There is a big idea is Sufism known as Nafs. Resistance to practice is entwined there. Nafs, in brief, are self-destruction. More gently put, they are the aspects of self that undermine core soul hungers of Self. They can show up as fear, doubt, or lack of self respect. Read more
Ric and I drove around to the Bill Pyles’–Volunteer Fire Chief– house in tiny Romeroville to purchase a second 1600 gallon cistern. (We already had one lurking near the barn.) It was too big too strap to our truck so Jamie hauled it the following evening once again through mud. He is good at mud driving.
According to Bill, who knows the formula, our capacious roof should be able to collect 800 gallons of water from one inch of rain or ten inches of snow melt. Terrific! My goal has been to get the catchment in place before the winter snow in the hope of harvesting enough snow melt and rain to provide for the coming needs of earth floor construction and possibly a portion of summer retreat next year.
Ric and Jamie had two hours to get a large PVC pipe, mounted below the gutter for the gutter to drain into, as well as the fittings onto the cistern before the sun set. They worked steadily as the light dropped lower and lower.
The final day on the barn is a day of finishing—edges & trims. All the doors and windows have been framed and installed except the slide doors, which lie in position on the ground at the south end, ready to be hung.
Tim gathers tools, piling leftover lumber, propanel, and insulation as Steve and Juany measure and mount the slide door track. They all stop and smoke a cigarette around noon.
I walk around, inspecting, asking final questions about the bottom edge of the west wall which doesn’t touch the ground. Steve nods. “See it touches on the east side. The ground slopes ever-so-slightly which is why that side has a gap,” he explains. The barn is level and squared. I’ll have to seal around those edges before winter. I continue to inspect and see nothing to complain about. The barn is clean and sharp and wonderful.
They grind out their cigarette butts, heave up the first slide door, working it onto its track. Then the second. Jauny shoves them together. Thunk! He gestures to the door, like the circus lion tamer, “Fits snug as a glove!” And it does. The barn is done.
They will go now and I feel both sad and relieved. It’s been a consuming five days; I can use a digestion period. We shake hands. I give them the second half of the payment, a small tip each, a box of Chocolate Chip Oatmeal cookies for the ride home, and to Junay for his birthday, a set of antelope antlers I found on a hike. I wave them off and stand in stunned silence. Has this really happened, this thing that six weeks ago was phone calls and internet digging? Did I really find Wilson Pole Barn Company, research them, vet them, put in an order, transfer money from one account to another, send in the first half payment, fly out to the mesa and find the site, locate a jackhammer and a hauling tractor? Me, a dancer, who knows nothing of all this? Yes. I did. I cry as I imagine myself managing to do this, choosing it, learning it, and moving forward instead of thinking I can’t, or getting stuck, or saying that I’ll do it later.
It is a beautiful barn. A perfect barn. I feel such affection for the wonderful crew (Wilson Pole Barn specialists out of Wagoner, OK) who hammered in every nail by hand.
The barn looks like a barn. Tim makes the frames for doors and windows. All the wood is there. I love how you can’t see the barn until you are almost upon it, yet it has that lovely and inspiring view of Hermit’s Peak. Yay ravens!
This is for me the first major endeavor where the ideas and actions remain. As a dancer, all my work disappears—a performance that I prepare three months for is over in twenty minutes. The same with dances that I choreograph on others. My memoir was better. It lingers as do videos, but both of these are projects that are consumed rather quickly by others and which once I’ve completed them, I rarely look into afterward. The barn however is there. I will be going in and out. I see it again and again as I walk the winding dusty track between the pinions. I think back to the moment when the ravens revealed that spot and think how in just a few days, the Wilson crew is evolving the insubstantial into substantial. Not six months, or a year or two years. No. It is happening before my eyes. Like a pre-digital photographs in a dark room. The edges sharpening, the form filling, timbers, metal sheets coalescing into a barn!
A seed that has found ground and does not blow away…
I watch them continue steadily on. Very zen-like without any zen to their self-concept. Tim leans intently over the saw horses to trim a piece of 2X4 for a window frame. Every frame he has made fits perfectly. He didn’t finish high school. Never saw the need. None of the three have much use for college—didn’t go themselves and can’t see how it would have made much difference to their lives. If their kids want to go, they shrug, its up to them. On day #4, I hear more detail about their lives and opinions as they chug down orange soda (Tim), 7-Up (Juany), and Coke (Steve).
Steve has been married twice. He is wise. He has gentle sotto voce advice for impetuous young Juany, who, at 29 , knows it all: is so decisive, his wife spends all his money!, she wants him to make more money but she wants him home. Juany wants to get home soon cause he loves his little girl who misses him, she wants her daddy. Yes, he loves his wife BUT… And there is always the “I love my wife, but,” in every break-time effusion. Steve listens, off-hand, dropping a bit of succinct, calm advice here and there which is mostly ignored.
A dramatic day. I watched in awe for an hour as the guys erected the rafters. First, the pre-fabbed trusses were laid on the ground inside the barn parameters below where each would be hoisted aloft. Tim climbed up to one south-most corner, and Steve to the other corner. They perched 12 feet up, like gargoyles, chatting while Juany tromped below getting things ready. He threw one end of a rope up to Steve and attached the other end to the first truss lying on the ground. Steve hauled the truss as far up as he could, then Juany lifted as Steve continued to pull until his end was up and leaning on a top brace. Then Juany to the other side where Tim hauled up. Now the truss hung upside down, its ‘v’ pointing to the ground with its wide edges at the top corner of each wall. Juany then nailed a 2×4 to the tip of the truss pitch and, on a teamwork “Go”, swung the point upward to vertical, bracing it from the ground while Steve and Tim nailed their sides in. There was a bit of nailing to do along the face of this truss and some pitch boards to secure it. Steve and Tim, relaxed, poised acrobats, danced and balanced beautifully on those top beams. Juany had the grunt work below as they continued in sequence down the line until they had all ten trusses up.
I was totally enthralled. Smooth, experienced, elegant. they worked quietly, just the sound of hammers striking the wood. No nailguns, no power drills. I felt their energy going into the nails, into the boards, into the large, sturdy poles. This is a human barn made by men who are seasoned artists. Now I understand Steve’s impeccable posture. In perfect balance, he trots around on the roof beams, sure-footed as a high rope walker.
By the end of the afternoon, the barn’s bones were there. I can now see the entire skeleton and have only to fuss in my dreams over where the doors and windows should be placed.
I couldn’t focus on anything else much today. Excited, I ran back and forth from cabin to barn site, called or emailed a bit here and there. A dream is coming true.
I drive into Las Vegas to get their payment sorted, ready for when the barn is done in case it is done by Sunday when my bank isn’t open. I hate to go in. The sun is out but I know the road is not yet dry. And sure enough it is still horrible. I have to go off-road in a couple of spots, nearly getting lost on Trigg land and leave telltale tracks in the grass. But I finally get off the mesa, dash into town, to the bank and post office, and back up the mesa, fearful of the clouds blowing up fast over the land. I make it back. The crew has finished digging the holes and now set the poles, standing them upright, filling around the base of each. They are deep in the ground.
I brought them some Trader Joe oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. Juany returned my container later. “We et ‘em all up!”
At sunset I stand on the road and look into the site. All the poles are set, standing vertically now, every ten feet. They ring the full footprint, like Stonehenge. Like a temple. I feel a surge of joy. I walk into the site. The 2X6 lumber that will form the wall supports lie along the ground delineating where the walls will be. Jackhammer, sawhorses, shovels, hammers, saws litter the enclosed space. Despite this, I see the dance space; it is a beautiful dimension. I can see that the shed will be perfect for a sleeping room on the SW corner and a summer kitchen with a long wooden table toward the NW for people to eat and prepare meals, or just sit and talk. I see where the slide doors will open in the back, and which tree I will prune a bit so it grows into a shade tree like the one on Rocky’s land beside what used to be the stone schoolhouse form the Depression era. I turn and look and pace around in the golden late afternoon light. A home for my work.
“Now it is the time to know that all you do is sacred.”
I read that the night before the barn was scheduled to arrive when I was very very blue, very alone, very unsupported. No one was going to be here from my world to celebrate, to cheer me on. To be excited with me. Of course I have been keep this somewhat secret so how could I have had that support, but I guess I thought Ric should drop everything and fly out. Then I read the Hafiz, realized I was being childish, and settled right down. I was able to get out of the lonely child head and see that this project will be the source of great joy, peace, deepening, beauty and Beauty for years to come, for me and for others. Read more
In retreat trainings, relief is always there. For everyone. Improved health is always there, spiritual growth is always there. For everyone. Beyond this basic healing, there is a range of benefit for participants and this has to do with individual propensity and intention. I see three general types show up at retreats—Passengers, Voyeurs, and Seekers. Passengers need contact with those embraced by Path, and will find healing. Voyeurs show up for drama, highs, or escapes; that can only go on for a short while before the process burns them out. There is a lot of ego there, and a tough road ahead.
Seekers find their hearts opening to the Path—that great gift feeling of ‘coming home’. These people are fortunate. They have inner certitude about their experience. Soon, however, they need to choose to gratefully, responsibly cultivate evolution. What does this look like? Arrive with good intention, participate with respect and fullness, then take care of yourself after trainings. Personal practice gives the transforming self time and sanctuary.
In striving for this, we grow to understand the embrace of Path.
Post-retreat there is a tendency to go home and blow it. Blow all the money! As one friend says, “It’s easy to piss away all the energy built up in retreat, overworking, over committing, letting it leach away.” It is extremely unwise to squander the work done in training periods because this is dangerous to body and being. In retreat we fill our circuits and forge new tendrils, then these need to ‘set’. They need to cohere. If, after a training period, the we forget about or actively destroy the energy by not caring for our health, eating badly, getting into tumultuous relationships in work or life, then we not only undermine health and mental stability. We also damage spiritual capacity. We damage spiritual potential. We burn our circuits. You can do this a few times, but after a while the body being wears out. It’s like, How many times can your break your ankle in the same spot before it hardens?
I have lifted the requirement of daily practice from those in Intensive Training, but I still recommend daily practice—daily ‘remembrance’, as the Sufis call it. Remembrance of our Truth. I don’t want to police it, not because I’m lazy; I just think it isn’t serving the people who train with me. It puts the struggle for one’s Path outside the self, keeping the self from ‘growing up’, spiritually-speaking. Each of us has to recognize our resistance, our choices. We need to reflect on them and weigh them. No one can put you on your own center. If you want it—inner peace, authenticity, perception, solidity—you have to strive for it. Struggle for it. A child’s little legs must work. It’s best if I step aside there. Go head—have your own intimate self-dialogue about that.
Our questions: What is important to me? Where does real happiness come from? When do I feel most whole? If spiritual path is where we live in Truth, then a regular return to the Doorway is one of the most crucial stages of growth. Retreat training and personal practice open that Doorway. Over the years, I’ve personally come to rely on a brief but focused daily practice, thus my recommendation. I hope for us all that the heart will cry for it and land us in a quiet room, with closed eyes, breathing, moving, feeling the world beyond thought. I hope the practice calls us to it. Wouldn’t that be wonderful…But if not, well, what are you going to do about it?