Where Has All The Writing Gone?
Seems it’s been forever and a day since I’ve sat myself down here at the computer and let the words come floating out as they may. Since I’ve returned to the Bay Area from Esalen, my writing has been quieter than at any other time throughout this journey. I wonder about that and while wondering, am grateful that I’m not fretting about it. Not too much anyway. What I know is that in these last eight months, I’ve tapped into the writer in me in a way I never have before. So I trust that place now, also in a way I never have before. It’s okay, I remind myself, I can take this break, let the silence in, let the full-tilt living and experiencing take front-burner, center stage rather than the stepping back, reflective focus that is required for the writing time. Oh, truth be told, I can’t say I haven’t been at all concerned or a tad worried. “Ohmigod, ohmigod, am I ever gonna write again” has floated through a few times. But as I have developed the somewhat fleeting skill, I notice the thought, I see it coming, I recognize it as a seductive habit of the mind and I send it on its way. With this one, I gave it a little chuckle or two, said “Oh, c’mon, don’t be ridiculous, I’m a writer, of course I’m gonna write again,” and welcomed it to take its leave. Which it did. If only I could do so with a few thousand other thoughts. Ahhh, well, a work in progress I am, I am. As is my writing. And I realize, too, that there is a natural contraction after a wide expansion – much as I/we may sometimes like it, there is no staying wide open all the time – check out flowers, check out the sea and the tides and the seasons – don’t believe me, just look at the natural cycles all around us to teach us a thing or two about rhythms. Oh, I mean, teach me, teach me.
Ahhh, yes, the natural cycles. Here I am in northern California, the day after the Autumnal Equinox and I can tell you, I feel autumn in the air like I haven’t in years. And that’s because it hasn’t been in the air that I’ve been in for the past many Septembers. Oh, there is a change of seasons in Hawaii – subtle as it may be – just like it’s not so dramatic here in California like it is on the East Coast. I notice leaves falling, changing colors and I notice the slant of late afternoon light with a glare that arrives at a different, sharper angle. And I notice the chill of the morning and nighttime air that tells me it’s time to find my way to warmer climes and soon.
And so I will; of course, I will. I take my leave of my beloved Bay Area in just 10 days. Something sort of panicky arises in me as I realize it’s so soon – I’m still not done with being here; part of me is still not ready to go back to the islands, while at the same time, it feels time to embrace the next step. I feel myself moving into that in-between place that is so familiar to me as a traveler, as a pilgrim. I’m still here, very much here, but I am anticipating the energetic shift of moving on to a new place. To a new place – like other places on the trip – I hadn’t expected to be the next place. But so it is. Still, I am not quite headed ‘home’. From San Francisco, I go directly to Maui, to visit my dear friend who has just moved there and to attend Maui Sufi Camp for a week with another dear friend and hopefully some new ones. We’ll be in circle, dancing and singing and chanting and camping and eating yummy food – all with the backdrop of magical Maui. Some of you regular readers (unless I’ve lost you all with my long absence) might remember Maui calling when I was somewhere on the other side of the world. Well, I’ve finally taken the call and have decided to go there directly rather than back to Puna for only a few days and then back out again. So onto Maui I go on October 4th!
As I was just writing “Puna” and as has come up many times in conversation of late, the word “home” doesn’t quite seem to fit anymore. I’m not making any decisions from this geographical distance and all these many months away; but I do have the strong sense that Puna is pau as my full-time home. That part feels clear, good and ‘right.’ What doesn’t feel at all clear and what I notice is causing some recent angst is … okay, then, well, where is home exactly? I know all about it being in me, with me, wherever I am; I think I know about that better than many. But still, the greater question is now appearing more loudly and fully than at any other time of this journey …
It’s been causing some stress for sure, even some fear has arisen, which is not so normal for me, or certainly hasn’t been for the past years, those many months leading up to and planning this pilgrimage, being on it and of it and fully immersed in it. But it seems that something is shifting now. The full circle is coming to completion. Not yet, not quite yet, but I am aware that I am in the closing orbit of this time. And in so doing, I’m aware of what it’s like to return from a Vision Quest, recognizing that the Incorporation Phase of the process is the one that in some ways, matters most.
What do I do now with all these experiences, all that I’ve reflected on, learned, grown from?
What is the next step?
How do I find it?
Once it’s clear what it is, how do I manifest it?
As I’m writing these questions, I realize that I will do it the way I’ve done every other step of the process. Of life. But it feels different right now. Somehow it feels like it’s time for me to take a gargantuan leap. Yes, even bigger than all the leaps of this entire trip. A leap into an unknown, uncharted place. Not of the external world, but from the world inside of me. It’s time … I know it’s time and yet as I stand at this precipice of my own longing, my own desire, my own truth to stand up, to say that I’m ready to stand in my power in a way I never have before … damn, I feel scared. Scared? Of what? Oh, I’m not so sure it’s even fear, but what I know is true is that the Inner Critic has shown up. Truth is, I have some very clear ideas of what comes next, without necessarily clear steps on how to get there. But as I sit and ponder these plans, that voice of doubt and uncertainty is getting in my way. We’ll have to have a little conference sometime soon, as I think it’s a good idea to make friends with this voice, to hear it out and see if there are any pearls it has to offer; but then I know I need to take charge and not let it take too firm of a rooting anywhere in the vicinity of my dreams. because these dreams have been too long in coming, too long in manifesting and this is the time, I know this is the time for them to come true! Wow, that was a really long sentence – I could go back and break it into two or even three, but no, the whole thought came out just like that and so I’ll leave it that way, grammar police be damned!
Ahhh, just this short time of writing feels lovely. I’m sitting in the sun in my Tiburon home, a slight chill of a breeze wafting through every so often announcing Fall’s arrival and as is so usual when I put words on the proverbial paper, my mood has shifted, I feel more connected to self and Self; and I remember, oh, I remember how grateful I am.
Lest you imagine that my time here is just one fun moment after another – sweetness and light and all that – let me remind you, it’s me who’s talking here. I don’t do all sweetness and light! Ohyeah, I love the access to nature and the incredible beauty everywhere and the hiking and the culture and Spirit Rock and the cauldron that is the San Francisco Bay Area, an energetic field like no other I know of. And I am deeply and truly bathing in the comfort of my loving connections here – with Mary and Flea and Jim and Donna and Tho and Dom and Cathy and Jeanne and Valerie. I feel so grateful to have the time to live so geographically close once again to those I love so dearly, to deepen friendships and reconnect with family. But make no mistake, I’ve had plenty of challenges while here, too; and having those connections has made moving through them all the more possible and maybe even graceful.
I’ll have a little something to post about that part of the journey another time. For now, I’ll just say that last night I pulled a movie out of the closet from where I’m house-sitting and watched, “Must Love Dogs.” No, damn it, it wasn’t about dogs, as I expected. What it was about was precisely the part of my time here that’s been the biggest challenge, sans the perfect Hollywood ending and the perfect Hollywood body. More later. Way more.
What hasn’t particularly been a challenge, but what has been a source of deep reflection is that I turned 55 recently – whoopie, a palindrome year! My first year of legitimate senior discounts and probably some mail awaiting me from AARP. But more importantly, a time of embracing this “Second Half of Life” not with the lens of what I’ve lost from my youth, but how this time, like no other, offers opportunities for a fullness of life that beckons with possibility. Yep, it’s a big focus of my musings these days and I am eager to share more as it comes forth.
Here’s a little something from Angeles Arrien who has written extensively about this time:
An Excerpt from The Second Half of Life: Opening the Eight Gates of Wisdom by Angeles Arrien
“More of us are entering the second half of our lives than at any other time in history. Our numbers are growing rapidly, and as life expectancy continues to rise, more of us will find ourselves living much longer as elders than did our parents and grandparents.
“These extra years, even decades, extend the blessing of life. Yet in many ways we are not prepared to live them fully. Our culture has lost the capacity to acknowledge and value elders the way many other cultures around the world do. We have forgotten the rites of passage that help us learn to become wise elders, actively participating in our communities and living a deep, fulfilling life. Unfortunately, our culture’s current perspective is that the second half of life offers only decline, disease, despair, and death. . . .
“Many world tales and perennial wisdoms point to eight metaphorical gates of initiation through which we must pass in order to develop fully into wise people, or elders. These gates are archetypal passageways to deepening our experience of life in our later years. They offer powerful tools to help us shift our perspective. They map a new landscape for the second half of life, grounded in multicultural traditions that honor elders. . . .
“The lessons offered at each of the eight gates rigorously prepare us for our initiation into elderhood. The Silver Gate challenges us to invite new experiences into our lives. The White Picket Gate asks us to reflect on the roles we have played earlier in life, and learn to assume the new role of elder. The Clay Gate urges us to care for and enjoy our bodies, even as we come to terms with their limitations. At the Black and White Gate we learn to deepen our relationships in more intimate and mature ways. The Rustic Gate encourages us to use our creativity to enhance our lives, contribute to our communities, and leave a lasting legacy. At the Bone Gate, we develop the courage to be authentically ourselves in the world. The Natural Gate calls us to replenish our souls in silence and in nature and to take time for reflection. When we reach the Gold Gate, we actively engage in practices of nonattachment and prepare for our passing from this world.
“The second half of life is the ultimate initiation. In it, we encounter those new, unexpected, unfamiliar, and unknowable moments that remind us that we are a sacred mystery made manifest. If we truly understand what is required of us at this stage, we are blessed with an enormous opportunity to develop and embody wisdom and character. We enjoy limitless possibilities to restore, renew, and heal ourselves. And because of our increased longevity, for the first time in history we also have the opportunity to create a map of spiritual maturity for future generations to use as they enter their own later years.”
I’ve come up with some of my own reflections about the facets of this diamond of middle age. I’m excited to share them, again, another time. Right now, the day is calling for me to go off into it – a hike is on the horizon – as calls almost daily – as is a visit over to Berkeley for a stroll through that like-no-other city and then tonight, the closing performance of the longest running solo show in Bay Area history for which I’m hoping to procure a ticket to the sold-out performance of Not a Genuine Black Man by Brian Copeland. My skills of persuasion being what they are, I imagine I’ll find a way to squirm my way in!
Once I take my leave of all this stimulation that surrounds me here, I’ll have my quiet time of deeper reflection, more writing, and time to make some specific plans. Yes, my own personal change of seasons and time to go inward will soon be upon me. For now, I’ll drink deeply from the remaining warm and sunny days, continue to Be Here Now, let my thirst be quenched by the bountiful cornucopia that is this Bay; and trust … deeply believe and trust in myself that I have what it takes to stay present, stay focused and bring my dreams to life!
May we all be so blessed!