Walking into the woods

five of thirty

“I went into the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.” – Thoreau

poolThe A1C was high.  To a diabetic, that’s a hard line.  This week’s efforts were good, with three eleven mile bike rides, two swims. Still not getting my food right.  I know that’s more important than the exercise. Working on it though, have some buffalo broth in the crock pot.

The yard is in disarray.  It’s rainy enough and still warm enough, that I can’t keep up with the mowing. It’s time for cutting back and cleaning up leaves. It’s time to let things go.  All the while I’m moving into  a winter training mindset – so from the being out of control end of summer splurge to the point of dealing with harder weather. I’m getting ready to answer the wet darkness and hours of boredom with physical effort.

It’s easy to get scared of this phase -the rebuilding.

Last years goal setting and achieving are past.  The days of letting go are past too.  I guess somehow they roll together.  Can’t come off of sustained effort without some type of off season.

But that sports and season analogy only goes so far.  When we’re talking about building habits, then the off season can’t be a hedonistic off season.  All the effort that went into not doing, or having, or consuming things turns back on itself.  The energy stops being about constraint, about not doing. It becomes doing, it becomes hunger. I let it run. I do what the fuck I want to do.  At some point, some year, when the issue is building habits to carry one through life, then the energy during building phases shouldn’t be about “not” having or doing, it should be about layering in the cool, healthy and happy skills.  Note to self.

But we all know the cyclist who gains too much weight in the off season, the athlete who gets too far out of shape. Where’s the balance?

At the end of the day I do what I want.

Yes, it’s the kind of “I’m going to eat all those strawberries” kind of want. On the edgier side, it’s even “I’m going to drink all that beer” kind of want. I do it. Many do. At my age the main weaknesses are fried foods and ice cream. Owning that is something I’m learning. Maybe too much.

There’s a status that goes along with the ability to just fucking enjoy yourself that comes from resiliency, being unaffected. The status of the unaffected: You relax; you get curious about what’s around, maybe chuckle at the reactions of the uninformed. Nice, yeah. But when the status is tied to consumption, to unbalance in the self. Maybe it’s not really unaffected. Maybe it’s too much.

Too much, because there’s a entire other part of me that loves being in control, that loves quiet strength and elegance. This is the side of constraint. I want that side too. And the displayed power of striding through the world, taking and doing what I want, needs to be balanced. It needs to be framed with the inner power of a equally strident conscious choice to not get lost to ecstasy, to pleasure.

And as I write that, I know there’s screams going off all over the place. People will feel the need to say “life is for living! Life is for enjoying!”

Time for a note, to say I choose to not get lost to ecstasy, or pleasure, is not to say that either is good or bad.  It’s not to say that I don’t. It may be closer to saying I’m not going to turn left all the time just because it feels good. Sometimes I need to turn right because that’s where I need to go. Sometimes I need to turn right to know what that feels like. But more importantly, the message I’m trying to convey here is that I need a steering wheel. I need the gears, and cogs and hydraulics and electrical current and struts and bars … all the pieces that enable either turn to happen.

Once I have that, I don’t really care about making any kind of judgement on the relative merits of being hedonistic or being Spartan. I’m both.

Which direction I turn, towards a mind blowing pleasurable experience, or towards the control that’s needed to achieve anything else I want (and mainly in this regard I want self protection or improvement) … which direction I turn is really irrelevant. I need a steering system. I need to be able to eat when I want, drink when I want, meditate and be quiet when I want, run, climb, swim, bike, fuck, snuggle and cross a fucking desert, when I want.

When you’re dealing with illness, and life starts limiting you, that stands out sharply, with edges that cut. I want choice.

What that takes is to sometimes hold back, definitely to hold back from self destructive tendency, and to sometimes let go. Sometimes I have to run off cliffs to find them – just not twice.  This isn’t hard stuff. It’s what they could’ve taught us in junior high.

The Harder Thing

Three of Thirty.

Two months of feeling sorry for myself – enough.  reset to ought.

170 for the Hilly. This one is about goal setting and hard things as much as it’s about moving through the world with arms wide open. The Chilly Hilly is a bike ride of 35 miles, all hilly, in February. Need to have a loose light body that’s resilient and strong.

21 weeks from now. 32 lbs and 10 lbs of muscle gained.
21 weeks. Add 25 miles. With hills.
21 weeks. Max out the facial softness and the healthy metabolism.

Max out the cold training.

What am I talking about?

Hot Yoga.
Swimming.
Biking and Hi Intensity training.

Do the hard thing. Do the Chilly Hilly. Possibly fail? Yeah. But learn from it all. Learn from the effort. A long time ago, my Aikido Instructor said something like “It’s all training.” He said it in an inclusive way, like all life is training. I rejected that. Still do.
Life is for living.
But now, I’d say what he said, with some nuance. Yeah, it’s all training – in hindsight. Laughing and loving while your going through it, that’s living. That’s staying soft. That’s how you break through hard walls. Learn from the path, but enjoy the path.

Be soft. Be present.

All that to break through. Break through the myths. And the myths of hardness are as much about that being false, as about the idea of being all that. The idea that you’re going down a wrong road is a myth. Being a guy and doing hard things is fucked up they’ll say. But that’s wrong too.

You could say that the false male myth is one of hardness, one of goal only. You could say.

Instead what it needs to be about is progressive iterative and cyclic moves towards a goal. But the goal is softness. The goal is open arms, strength resiliency and love.

Staying content with the cycle itself in order to maintain balance, maintain health, sometimes just maintain.

At some level I want to say it’s about not caring. That’s not quite it. It’s about staying relaxed while going through the work. It’s about that being the achievement. And in staying relaxed, to keep caring and feeling.

My Nutritionist said most of what I’ve gained was inflamation. Some fat, yeah I know.

Right now: 201 lbs, glucose 131. Tomorrow the numbers start.

Tomorrow, you suck. I know. Let it go.

I feel fine. Just not good. So, time to go. Time to get to good.

Right now, my biking is at 11 miles (last week did 16). Cycle that up to the Chilly 35.  Slowly.

And if I’m going to really be writing. If this is supposed to mean anything, then I have to say: diet-wise, switch to fat, cut the carbs, stay loose, move gently but move.

That’s what breaking through walls is. Staying soft. Staying. Sticking. Sticking with it. Never giving up.

Never giving up on yourself.

A Little Bit of Crazy

Two of Thirty

mars_atmosphere“Need to Science the shit out of this.” -The Martian

I’m not going to get this right.
Not with the amount of time I have and the amount of science it’s going to take. I’ll fill in the pieces later, keep moving; fill in the colors later, draw lines now;
flow to that part of the brain that is tracking now.
Yeah, that’s what I’ll do.

Ever seen the dervishs? They whirl. The drummers drum. The church choirs sing, and the monks meditate. The charismatics speak in tongues. The pagans trance. I’ve been many of these.
And I’ve been an engineer and a scientist.
There’s a reason to take your mind along a path of Faerie, or along the story line. It’s because our higher mind isn’t made for shifting. We don’t change our minds very easy. And that’s a good thing.
I need to pour energy into getting through whatever task is in front of me. That takes being single minded. But ideas only go so far. Every piece of reason or driving logic we have that gets us through the day needs to be parked in order for the neurons to clean out, for the growth along other pathways to happen, to reveal more. Yeah, that’s one thing.
To learn more. To learn more than just the steps of the task before me, I need to be able to shift sideways.
To let go, too, I need to be able to disengage from the task, the line of thinking. Whatever it is that challenges me in the day. That’s the thing that’s keeping my mind going. It’s keeping me away from sleep. It’s keeping my cortisol levels up. When I was younger, that cortisol, I’m sure, was mixed with adrenaline.
I can say it was from PTSD. There, said. But, I want to say it from the standpoint of a symptom of a condition, only. And that condition is present in many, and to some degree or another. Saying that for a reason. Because the diagnosis isn’t the story. It’s not the end. It’s not even that interesting. Let the size of it go.
Then I do drumming, singing, speaking in tongues, meditating, whatever as a way to shift sideways, step back, break through the hard crust of that bad medicine.
Shit happens. You work through it, step sideways, take care of what’s needed and move on. And the moving sideways is this ecstasy thing. Oh yeah, you can do it with some booze or some bud, but that just stops the firing of the pathways, it doesn’t relax into new ways. And it does it, too often, at the cost of carbs (and all their side affects) or at the cost of other social ills (not what this is about). So yeah, you can R&R your way out of it.
But it you’re stuck, poor (like a college student), committed to the point of “not going anywhere” or for any other reason not able to physically change the world or routing enough, then it’s the ritualistic ways of ecstasy you need: meditation, dancing, drumming, and on to poetry and music. I’d even throw some hypnotism or cognitive therapy into that mix, except I’m not that smart.
Oh yeah, I’ve heard surfing too. I guess it depends on what you have.
It helps me get away from my monkey mind, jumping around in my my fiery neocortex, or up out of my lizard brain, a slower rhythm of not enough thought. And I’m sure it gets me away from the mouse mind too.
The Christians have the three, Father, Son, Holy Spirit – or closer to home, body, soul, and spirit. The neopagans have the talking self, younger self and Deep or God Self. In evolution it’s lizard brain, mouse, then monkey mind.
It’s more than likely something more than three. It ain’t one. We, and life, are made up of so many parts, it’s ridiculous. Whatever we have to do to just chill out and let that be, that’s a good thing. It’s a practice I want to have in my pocket.
In my pocket, though. Contained. I won’t over glorify anything. Prayer or meditation may just be mindfulness, trance may just be focus, and ecstasy? Well it’s where you find it. But find it you must.

The Weight of Time

Tolmie on the Salish
Tolmie on the Salish

I’ve been working an effort with a friend that has to do with ancestor healing. How do we heal the scars of the past that go back generations? How do we reach across time?

And I’ve been getting this sense from somewhere deeper down. It’s been coming through over and over “Your problem is with time.” I’ve been writing it just like that. I’ve been hearing it as from a spiritual messenger. And it’s come across as a riddle. I knew I wasn’t quite understanding it, until now.

I’d thought it was about aging. I thought it was about me realizing I didn’t have as much time, that the time in front of me was likely less than the time behind. This morning I realized how wrong I was, why the sense of me not getting it was prevalent.

It isn’t about time that I get.

It’s about the weight of time sitting on me, about me letting it sit on me. Getting older means acquiring wisdom; we all tell each other this. But what we call wisdom can be full of so many things that just aint so. And the weight of all that past knowledge wants to compete with what we’re living right now. Past knowledge wants to rule the roost of who we are now.  It’s time to let the “now” in.

Yesterday we went to Tolmie State Park. We’d started out looking for a beach, and I went quickly through the checklist in my mind before suggesting T – longer shoreline, not so rocky, beach close to drinking water and restrooms, she added. It was awesome, still don’t know why more people don’t go. Oh yeah, very limited parking.

But, I’ve been there so often in my life. Let’s see. First time there I was seventeen, thirty seven years ago. Since then, I’ve walked the loop countless times. Only swam once before yesterday.

These days, I’m enjoying the benefits of lost weight. One of them is looking better. And looking better in swim suit, without my shirt, in the sun. Yes, in the sun. Seems so odd for me, Northwest boy that I am jumping all over that. But I am. There I said it.

The tricky part is not to dwell on past darkness. Yes, I’m getting metaphysical here, slightly. No, it isn’t about depression, or the Seasonal something disorder I’ve heard attributed to us N’rwesters. Might be about Vitamin D. I don’t know. But first off, let’s get out there that much of life, and what goes on around being fully alive, I’m not going to know. I might “get it” briefly, struggle to remember it, but “know”? That takes some work, precisely what this is about.

Because, most (and I mean all) my life I’ve been overweight and hiding. Rarely going out. Then, if I did, I’d need copious amounts of alcohol to feel like I was blending with my counterparts, my herd. Don’t get me too wrong, here. As I aged, I gained enough confidence in myself to fit into my circles, to be happy. But just happy enough, like just healthy enough.

And if you’re just healthy enough, as you age, that will be taken away early. And if you’re just happy enough, well, that’s the malaise. Right?

Malaise; M-A-L-A-I-S-E: A condition of weakness or discomfort, often marking the onset of a disease.  A vague or unfocused feeling of mental uneasiness, lethargy, or discomfort.

It’s often used to describe a slump that other things go through as well, like a country, or a baseball team. So it is somewhat diagnostic, right? One Google link starts to talk about how when feeling this you should sit down on the couch. Yeah, there’s like a prescriptive side to it.

But now, wrap this around a life. Wrap this around your life. Then figure out the way out of that malaise. Seriously, figure, it’s doable. All around us are stories of people who improved their life, improved the lives of others around them too, of the tribe. And they did it in ways that just didn’t mean moving down the street and taking their bullshit into someone else’s space, trying to appropriate health and happiness. They don’t do it that way. I didn’t do it that way. Day by day, we don’t.

But looking back, when you realize, you’re happy, you’re healthy -maybe for the first time. When you look back, it’s too easy to let all of that -All the experience of unhappiness – overshadow.

That’s when I’m glad I’m a witch. That’s when I’m glad that my new love is too. So let’s unpack that a little. Let’s talk about witches enough to take the edge off for some folks.

What we claim, we modern witches (aside from working with unseen forces, which may fall under science as only a spectrum differential), is that we wholeheartedly claim the practical realm of worldly sensations and delights to help us define our spirituality, and we refuse the spiritual highways that are benignly handed down to us by our cast-in-place religious powers. We believe that our gods (or elements, or spirit guides) are with us in each moment. Everybody had this from birth. You get talked out of it. So claim your own spiritual authority, that’s all you need to call yourself a witch. You’ll be burned just for that.

Aside from all that, we work towards another thing: the ability to change our minds at will. When completely stressed and moving into some automatic “fight or flight” mode, when we know we are moving into those realms where we can act out the more destructive parts, we learn to shift. Put simply enough, to take a breath and relax, let our mind pull us away a bit, and relax, to choose happiness and fun. REFRAME. Yes, these are all cognitive habits. And many eastern, and mystical, practices share this with us, the witches.

But, there, ‘nuff said. So some can read on, because I’m glad my love is a witch, a holy woman (Wyna Wanka). That she matches me in this experience of

… having stepped out of the malaise.

Because, shadows can want to follow. Our minds, for years, build neurological pathways. We get used to thinking particular ways, to being a particular way – get this, to being a particular person. Yeah, you can call it personality. And part of personality is nature, as in inherited, or DNA. And part of it is nurture, as in created (and creating every second, like right FUCKING NOW), or RNA. Look it up, DNA, RNA. We’re writing the story of our RNA right now, every single cell of our body is handing on the story of us. To our next selves.

And we can influence that in huge ways. Try not to think of Trump when I say “HUGE ways”. See, I just fucked with your mind a little bit and influenced how you think of this. And we do that to ourselves ALL THE TIME. The cells of our body are taking part in this huge orchestra, that includes our thoughts.

So when I say I’m glad my lover is a witch, it’s because she sees me working with these shadow selves, these past selves to strip away the past old “nurtured” ways. She sees me doing that and joins in, with insight and love, to honor and help. When this is happening those old selves aren’t condemned, they’re set free. We work to give them expression to give them new nutrition (new information about what life can be) and rewire the RNA (let’s say “realized state”) back towards the raw potential of my DNA. Click, click, click. Hear that happening in your head right now? It’s possible.

And I look for ways to dance with hers too. That act gets me out of myself, away from the self consumption. It fires off the mirror nuerons (look it up). There’s this amazing energy loop of attention and healing going on. It’s not always comfortable, but it’s real.

And what’s left right now, as her and I talk, and spell, and sing to each other. What’s left is this shadow work- and the glory of the dance.

Yes, you can’t make the past go away. It has weight. You can’t pretend you’re someone else. I will always be scary in anger. I will always carry my metal plate in my ankle, separated shoulder, and scars of barb wire. But, having taken the steps to get healthy, to leave behind old habits (and in the process, an old body), you can still love and be who you’ve been. I can still be me, Lyle E, Ten Crows, just someone more purely myself.

Because that old way of being, like an old skin (I’m laughing because this is literal), just falls away. I preen, I compete, I look forward to stepping out now. I dance with my old self, honor these older parts of me, and deal with some of the fears, in order to know it’s all complete, a cycle. Call it growing up, call it karma, enlightenment, call it just wising up, there’s so many words for it. It never stops, like the cycle of breath, or the wheel of the seasons.

The storm is where we came from. And we’re not afraid. Darkness has a story too. It’s full of as much love and meaning as the light of day falling on us right now. Right now has a weight too. NO FEAR.

Feathers

I have a feather.

It’s long and black and white and gray. It has leather and beads on one end. It was given to me to honor my leadership. This was something I did not ask to do or receive, only acting out of my pain during a time of great loss. I did this to just simply hold things together for myself and others, to hold the circle.

The feather, in it’s current form, was crafted by a man of violence and misogyny, blessed by a holy man and given by a woman who’s known poverty, violence, love and pain her whole life.

And I look at it and wonder if I should have accepted it, having known the violence. Having been violent, I wonder if I should have kept it. But I know there is no other way, my violence in self defense is part of the dance that’s seemed to sunder all of us. I have my part in this, even though I’m not sure what. So I take it onto myself. We are strong like this. It should be accepted.

And I look at my feather and wonder if the Medicine man, honored to our family, knew the source and story as he blessed it. I wonder if his spiritual bells were going off as he did his work, or if that sense had worn off of him somewhere. I wonder if it had worn off of us. Maybe his Medicine was stronger, I tell myself.

If I can carry this like a Lakota, then I could finish the story, I know that; but every step I take on my grandfather’s side of the path decries every step I take on the other doubting, coldly consuming, western way of me. That is the other that, too, holds a value.

The feather brings me back to violence, heritage, love and doubt. It holds a lot for me.

The man who made it was Sioux, and so afforded some right to craft the thing, the gift of the sky, and our sibling spirit bird – his destructive violence somehow overlooked. But I can’t believe that – I think it’s carried in the eagle’s call across the land, splitting the sky.

The Medicine man was loved by me and mine, part of our family. I will never know, nor want to, what his spirit told him of this while he did the blessing. I carry that paradox as a door to my own spirituality. I gave up needing the right to call on the spiritual decades ago. Whatever I am, I am spiritual.

There is no badge or credential that opens the door. There is no feather or feathers we can cover ourselves with that will grant us entrance. No act of courage or leadership will allow us to say we’re forgiven, in order to simply keep on walking. It’s the stories that weigh us down, hold us back. They do that until, so sick of the morass, the same stories propel us forward to do, and be, something else.

There was a fence on the reservation that I needed to get across. I would ride my pony to my friends house, where we would all get together and go ride in the hills. Once you got to a certain point, it seemed like there were no more fences.

But, getting there, I had to ride along a fence to get to it’s end. And I would always wish I could just pass right through, take a straight line. But the poles were there and the wire. the barbs had already taken parts of me. I fear them.

So I would daydream that I could just float right through without being touched, me and my pony ( a mare named Mike). I could feel us just passing through, but it would never happen.

So my path became a fence, that called the pain. I know the answer, and I can sense a chap named Genesh on the other side.

But I need other feathers.

Creds

I’m going to reclaim fucking everything.
Going to bring up everything that meant anything.
Digging in the dirt.

Lakota, Celt, Saxon, Christian, Jew, oh, the books, zen, Buddhism,… My spirit, my gods, my eyes.

Football, hunting, weeding and planting, martial arts, D&D,  playing mindless computer games, books,

The first dance, the first kiss, the first song.

Nothing gets glossed over by the current, the powerful.

I’m going to reclaim the earth – First water, then more- by taking science and passion and building a wall between destruction and the web of grounded life.

That’s reclaiming to me: getting, and keeping, what was lost;

Honoring those parts that lift us up; checking the hurtful.

Where the anger comes up. Yeah, it does.

From somewhere near those “before” gods. From any gods that gave me this lonesome life,

Even if they’re only in me.

The demand has to be “what? Why?” and not just me, but all those hurt and abandoned.

If I can’t be that honest with the gods, I’ve only given in.

A medicine man asked me if I knew my mom was a tribal judge.

Yeah, I knew. And I knew I belonged. No matter the voices that tried to push me out.

And I knew my other grandmother was a red headed Irish women, a Kelly. And others, Scott, English, they go. My blood’s code. Yet, cast out, I go where I want.

This is what I call reclaiming. There’s a lot of legacy and history out there to the reclaiming movement, but I’m not going to refer here. I’m just going to say it, then reconcile later. I believe we need to reclaim the old spiritual paths in order to find the gods, or goddesses. I believe the latest religions, especially the religions of the book, are just viral memes, that, while while holding all kinds of truth, are just the latest. I believe the job is to learn enough of them to help us with the here and now, with our gods. And I believe we are always with our gods. Not someone else’s.

If I broke my ancestral creds down like people, I could say some are family, some are friends, some are lovers. I would say this from the standpoint of how they affect me, not with any judgment of comparative value.

For the work I have to do, these are the badges that will allow me to talk with tradition.

I recently read a rant by someone who didn’t like their history, ritual, or symbols used inaccurately by others. And, make no mistake, it was a rant. Hit me like that. Kind of “it’s mine!” reaction.

If I was the culprit, I could see myself apologizing. Maybe apologizing if my acts were portrayed in any way as being that person’s ways, that authentic thing. But if not, if I was just painting my face (and I think that’s what it was) because I thought it looked cool. Even if I wanted to use it in my own ritual. If that was my intent, I would never apologize.

When I was young I had horses. They taught me so much. I don’t believe there is much comparison to the type of bond that can be experienced between horse and human. I appreciate the care that needs to be established for their welfare, the offering of their bodies. I was with them, and I was human. In so much of my Lakota heritage, horses rule. We are there together.

But horses are not indigenous in the Americas. I’m not saying this out of some oversized gratitude towards white or western culture. I’m saying this out of a gratitude towards my indigenous ancestors. You see. Here’s an important part of our Lakota heritage. We take what we need.

There was no honoring of Europe for the horse. In fact, stealing horses was a skill very much appreciated. Steal a horse, take coup, steal a wife. Ownership is such a construct. Maybe why I like trickster gods. These aren’t things uncommon in my heritage from that side. But neither are caring for children and elders, or love, responsibility, or spirit.

It’s human.

I wonder if an unquestioned guarding against appropriation is a colonial reaction, a side of guilt. And I am saying, just the unquestioned part, the policing against walking down those paths, needs to be done carefully. All our gods are only ours. Call them what you want. Those bonds are for no human to judge.

The tribes are putting themselves together  They’re beginning to resurface in the world’s mix of culture. They need all the support and respect we can bring to do that, to honor their sovereignty. Culturally, that’s important. We need to help draw those lines. But I won’t throw my lot in with selfish gods.

See, there’s another part of Sioux heritage. It goes like this: We are all related.