“The gift you carry for others is not an attempt to save the world, but to fully belong to it.” – Bill Plotkin
A little over three years ago I discovered how to access a part of myself that would show up elusively in what Father Richard Rohr calls, ‘naked now’ experiences. I remember the first time…
I was 10 years old, my family had just moved to Colorado from Connecticut.
My dad drove the moving van. Wavering around in the lane in front, he led the Blakeman pack, providing a constant source of mini-heart attacks for my mom. The rest of us, my mom, us three kids, a dog and bird, were squished into our old Ford two-tone station wagon – plether seats, wood paneling, and a pesky tendency to overheat, we wavered across 7 states with my life-sized stuffed bear, sitting in a rocking char on the roof of the station wagon, holding a sign that said: “Colorado or Bust.” Somewhere in Kansas we lost a hubcap, the rocking chair, and my bear.
But I digress. Those first years as residents of Colorado we tackled the sites of the region with the vigor of addicts. My dad would come into our rooms and wake us up, eyes twinkling “get in the car kids, we’re going!” Rocky Mountain National Park, Canyon Lands, The Grand Canyon, Dinosaur National Monument, Moab, Arches, The Great Sand Dunes, the Four Corners – you name it, we did it.
I loved the adventure of these trips – the excitement of not knowing what we’d discover, or where we’d end up. Under the huge expanse of sky and desert, the sun setting brilliant pink and gold on the horizon, the profound middle-of-nowhere-ness juxtaposed against red rock and breathtaking scenery, I had my first taste of the Grand Mystery – my first real memorable spiritual experiences.
I stood on an outcropping of sandstone in Mesa Verde National Park. Sweeping vistas of canyon, cliff and cave contained Anasazi dwellings, houses, gathering spaces and all signs of a people who lived in the midst of the Mystery long ago. To my left in the stone were petroglyphs of a child’s hand, just my size and divots in the steep rock, worn black from years of hands and feet – a pathway. I cannot put words to my inner experience at that moment but suffice to say I began right then to loose myself, my identifications with my I-Am, my story, my world, my 10-year old understanding – and began to find (an ever-evolving process) the greater gift of natures woven web, the greater Thou.
Albert Einstein said:
“The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science. He to whom this “emotion” is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder, or stand in rapt awe, is as good as dead. His eyes are closed.”
This rapture, then and now, provokes a surrendering to the overwhelming spontaneity of NOW. In the movement arts, I understand this surrendering, and access it, as flow – a balance between effort and grace, between mind and heart, that meet in the throat chakra, the center of communication and creative expression.
A little over 3 years ago I picked up a hula hoop and fell again into the Mystery – the source of my art and science – which is really just a fancy way of saying I surrendered to the integration of my whole being, my true self, as celebrated in the throes of the dance.
In July of 2007 the String Cheese Incident played the last of their shows for an undetermined period of time at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Colorado. This band had/has an uncanny ability to surround themselves in prolific community – a community that grows and grows… Throughout college String Cheese was the central channel and unifying thread that we planned everything around and weighed everything against. For me they represented freedom, laughter, travel, dance and ecstatic states. They played the soundtrack to my unfolding self-discovery.
I’ve always loved the music of course, but the real meat of the love was the experience. The wild, colorful and encouraged expression, the sweet rootsy Colorado mountain vibe, the raw adventure of the tour – driving across the country to reunite in the high of community, the exchange of story, the songs about those same places that touched my soul – Little Hands, Desert Dawn, Black Clouds…
I still pinch myself when I think back to that time – a sense of total wonder that somehow, someway, my first hula hoop ‘gig’ took place at these shows. Through near-blinding bouts of nerves and excitement, I danced that celebration – the sweet and sour of an era coming to a close and the magnitude of to-be. I wrote then:
Because here I am…or I-AM, rather, after 6+ years of following my favorite band around the country…no – world, with my family and my hoops and even if I tried I couldn’t separate my heart from sight or memory and in retrospect FULLNESS is all I feel and is truly all I take from the experiences of the past 6 years of my life. Pure blissful, contented and grateful, overflowing fullness…
And a lot happens in 3 years. Lives have taken on new flavors; groups dispersed to pursue new passions, we’ve moved, grown, changed, and lived life large. I’ve discovered other communities and new things to stand up for. I’ve learned inside the hoop and out, to delight in the Mystery I was introduced to so long ago. But as it tends to happen, there are some things and some experiences in life you that shape you and leave an imprint – for good or for worse – on the soul of your being. So you can imagine that when String Cheese announced a return to Red Rocks this year, the overwhelming urge was to complete the full circle in dancing prayer. To express my gratitude again and again for having such experiences – made all the sweeter for the passing of time.
Last weekend, under a full Aquarian moon, the Guru Purnima moon, I stepped into the light on stage right, standing on the exact spot I did three years ago. The reverberation of the notes of Land’s End rose, growing faster and faster whirling my prayers for my teachers, for the world, for the light residing inside us all, but most of all for the Great Mystery who shows her face inside our great passions, our fantastic experiences, our most intense moments.
When I was ten I stood on the edge of the canyon, eyes filled with tears of wonder in the face of sheer uncertainty. To feel that alive and paradoxically that insignificant, to really feel the gift that is the dance, is what makes a national monument a spiritual experience, or how a band becomes a right of passage.
I’ll leave you with this piece written by Walter Pater in 1868. He describes, so beautifully, the nature of high intervals, the aesthetic experience. May we all find Truth in these exquisite passions…
While all melts under our feet, we may well grasp at any exquisite passion, or any contribution to knowledge that seems by a lifted horizon to set the spirit free for a moment… We have an interval, and then our place knows us no more. Some spend this interval in listlessness, some in high passions, the wisest, at least among “the children of this world,” in art and song. For our one chance lies in expanding that interval, in getting as many pulsations as possible into the given time. Great passions may give us this quickened sense of life, ecstasy and sorrow of love, the various forms of enthusiastic activity, disinterested or otherwise, which come naturally to many of us. Of such wisdom, the poetic passion, the desire of beauty, the love of art for its own sake, has most. For art comes to you proposing frankly to give nothing but the highest quality to your moments as they pass, and simply for those moments’ sake.
Walter Pater, 1868.