We Are All Phenomenal Women

This poem came serendipitously my way today. I love it because it’s so full of love! The most important love, the love that precedes all other love – self love. I think it should be the anthem of every woman and that if we could all feel this way about ourselves, we wouldn’t let, as she puts it, others violate that space inside us that needs to remain inviolate, the space where we meet God. Amen to that!

Phenomenal Woman

By Maya Angelou

Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size
But when I start to tell them,
They think I’m telling lies.
I say,
It’s in the reach of my arms,
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips.
I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

I walk into a room
Just as cool as you please,
And to a man,
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees.
Then they swarm around me,
A hive of honey bees.
I say,
It’s the fire in my eyes,
And the flash of my teeth,
The swing in my waist,
And the joy in my feet.
I’m a woman
Phenomenally.

Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Men themselves have wondered
What they see in me.
They try so much
But they can’t touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them,
They say they still can’t see.
I say,
It’s in the arch of my back,
The sun of my smile,
The ride of my breasts,
The grace of my style.
I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Now you understand
Just why my head’s not bowed.
I don’t shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud.
When you see me passing,
It ought to make you proud.
I say,
It’s in the click of my heels,
The bend of my hair,
the palm of my hand,
The need for my care.
’Cause I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

From And Still I Rise. Copyright © 1978 by Maya Angelou.

A Little Bit of Bliss

Image © Issare Rungjang courtesy of Dreamstime.com

Sometimes when I do yoga I am filled with this sense of calm contentment…happiness is what some might call it. Today was one of those days.

It’s flat and the surf has been non-existent or marginal since I returned from Canada on the 13th of May. I’ve been frustrated and irritable, in part, because of the poor conditions, in part because life hasn’t been cooperating, hasn’t been giving me what I want in other ways either. But today, today I meditated for the second time in a week after months of neglecting that practice and then I did my yoga.  By “my yoga,” I mean I did a series of asanas (postures) that were prescribed for me by my teacher and some that I do because I like to do them. They speak to my body in a way that is pleasing and brings a pleasant, healthful feeling to my being. Today the result is that, despite the way I’ve been feeling of late, I’m smiling as I type this (a gentle, non-tooth-revealing smile…one might even say a Mona Lisa-esque smile).

It wasn’t just the meditation or postures that led me to bliss today, it was a whole combination of things. The music that played as I moved into the next series of postures (Rejuvenation by Ron Allen), the uncharacteristically cool breeze wafting through the windows and across my body, the slight scent of pineapple in the air from the fruit left, like an offering, by my dear friend upon departure. It’s the book I’m reading too, that has given me a sense of inner peace and acceptance of things I have little control over. Things like who I fall in love with and how they react to my love. This little book is so full of wisdom and Truth that it blows my mind every time I pick it up. I’m underlining, in pencil, the passages that strike me and that I know to be the kind of wisdom that will set me free. Free from anxiety, free from loneliness, free from the depression that comes from anxiety, loneliness and a sense of having no control over one’s destiny that plagues me from time to time (particularly when the surf is off).

The book to which I am referring is “Love, Freedom, Aloneness: The Koan of Relationships.” It’s a compilation of teachings given by Osho, an eastern mystic to whom westerners flocked in the 1970s. I was introduced to the teachings of Osho by my Dutch artist friend. He too flew to India to hear him speak after a colleague of his underwent a dramatic, positive transformation by the experience. Like so many mystics, Osho is not without his detractors, nor flaws, but more than twenty years after his death he maintains a loyal following and his teachings continue to be published as theme-based collections by a major New York publishing house, St. Martin’s Press.

Of love, Osho said:

Love yourself…This can become the foundation of a radical transformation. Don’t be afraid of loving yourself. Love totally, and you will be surprised: The day you can get rid of all self-condemnation, self-disrespect – the day you can get rid of the idea of original sin, the day you can think of yourself as worthy and loved by existence – will be a day of great blessing. From that day onward you will start seeing people in their true light, and you will have compassion.

Create loving energy around yourself. Love your body, love your mind. Love your whole mechanism, your whole organism. By “love” is meant, accept it as it is.

Love is possible only when mediation has happened. If you don’t know how to be centered in your being, if you don’t know how to rest and relax in your being, if you don’t know how to be utterly alone and blissful, you will never know what love is…[because] Love is a sharing of overflowing joy. [During] meditation one is bathed in one’s own glory, bathed in one’s own light. One is simply joyous because one is alive, because one is… The greatest miracle in the world is that you are, that I am. To be is the greatest miracle – and meditation opens the doors of this great miracle.

When my meditation practice of many years waned a while back, as it often does, my yoga teacher said matter-of-factly, “You must make time to meditate. It is the most important thing. Everything else comes after.” I looked at her in disbelief and she responded, “Yes, more important even than asana practice.” Then, sensing my resistance, she looked at me sideways and said in her don’t-mess-with-me voice, “Just do it! Just sit. How hard is that?”

I’d love to hear from readers about your experiences with meditation. Or perhaps you’ve wanted to begin a practice of your own, but don’t know where to start. Here’s a link to a great little book that helped me get started.

If not for you

If not for you, babe, I couldn’t find the door
Couldn’t even see the floor
I’d be sad and blue if not for you.

If not for you, baby, I’d lay awake all night
Wait for the morning light
To shine in through
But it will not be new if not for you.

If not for you, my sky would fall, rain would gather too
Without your love I’d be nowhere at all
I’d be lost if not for you
And you know it’s true.

If not for you, my sky would fall, rain would gather too
Without your love I’d be nowhere at all
Oh what would I do if not for you ?

If not for you, winter would have no spring
I couldn’t hear the robins sing
I just wouldn’t have a clue
Anyway it wouldn’t ring true if not for you
If not for you, if not for you. 

Bob Dylan

An Ode to My Valentine

February 14, 2010

Our adultery falls like water from heights infinite. Yet I cringe at the secrets we share as my love lies sleeping. We lay among so many memories, shared, yet independent – the staff of life, wine brought unexpectedly by friends, the quality of both.
We snuggle deeper and the truth of shared anxiety rises and falls like swells on oceans perturbed by weather’s breath. Dear Henry whispers “Big Sur awaits our reunion and the union of Earth and Spirit still.” I quiver at the thought and then…relent.
He understands my dilemma, because he shared it once, so that his words resonate like the bells of Saint Sebastian’s calling home the faithful. He talks of expectations, of mores, literacy, and scoffs at the convention that so many chase like dogs sniffing after rotting hunks of flesh. We are surrounded by blank walls, no window for distraction, yet we turn to our surroundings for inspiration. We share good wine with artisan cheese and bread, good bread. And France, oh France! Would that we could be there together, just once.
But we are separated by time, not distance. Thirty odd years. And yet, it feels like we inhabit the same space. He reads my mind. Tells me what I need to hear each time I turn to him. He is an attentive lover by all accounts and this is no exception. He embraces me with his words, creating tension and a longing so profound that no cavern can compare. I am left breathless and exhausted, wondering how it is that I allow him to penetrate so deep. His heart, like an arrow, piercing mine with his consciousness beyond expectation. Every time.
“Once more,” I think.
And we return again to compart our common compulsion, me and my love, my Henry Valentine.
.

A Love Poem

Aimless Love
by Billy Collins

This morning as I walked along the lakeshore,
I fell in love with a wren
and later in the day with a mouse
the cat had dropped under the dining room table.

In the shadows of an autumn evening,
I fell for a seamstress
still at her machine in the tailor’s window,
and later for a bowl of broth,
steam rising like smoke from a naval battle.

This is the best kind of love, I thought,
without recompense, without gifts,
or unkind words, without suspicion,
or silence on the telephone.

The love of the chestnut,
the jazz cap and one hand on the wheel.

No lust, no slam of the door –
the love of the miniature orange tree,
the clean white shirt, the hot evening shower,
the highway that cuts across Florida.

No waiting, no huffiness, or rancor –
just a twinge every now and then

for the wren who had built her nest
on a low branch overhanging the water
and for the dead mouse,
still dressed in its light brown suit.

But my heart is always propped up
in a field on its tripod,
ready for the next arrow.

After I carried the mouse by the tail
to a pile of leaves in the woods,
I found myself standing at the bathroom sink
gazing down affectionately at the soap,

so patient and soluble,
so at home in its pale green soap dish.
I could feel myself falling again
as I felt its turning in my wet hands
and caught the scent of lavender and stone.

Lunatic Love

Certain things are universally true. At the beginning and end of every day humans are all looking for love and would all like for that love to be unconditional. A true love that accepts us exactly “as is”, blemishes (physical or otherwise) and all. We may look in different places, objects and people for this perfect love, but the fact that we are, all of us, looking for love of one kind or another would be difficult to dispute.

Ultimately, we are all residents of the bargain bin of love.

So many people spend so long looking for it that when it finally appears shock and wonder take hold and they’re not quite sure what to do now that they’ve realized their dream. Doubt sets in almost immediately. Is this really it? Or am I imagining “it”?

Once the initial honeymoon period “life is so completely unbelievable grand” subsides, contentment and doubt do a back and forth dance of messing with the mind. The mind, mind you, not the heart. If the love was true to begin with the heart always knows it and the mind just gets in there and tries to make a mess of things. Even before this period though, when things are still relatively new and intense, there is a sense, gained from prior experience, that maybe this too could all fall apart into discontentment, resentment and finally revulsion. Fear plays its game with your mind.

Fear resides in the mind. Love lives in the heart.

New love has inspired songwriters as long as they’ve been singing them. David Bowie’s Heroes, is a favorite. Failed, crumbled and destroyed love has probably informed many more. Achy Brakey Heart by Billy Ray Cyrus would be one of the least favorites. But few songs address with such alacrity as the group Cake what goes on in the minds of many as their love matures, solidifies. As we become more comfortable with one another we let it all hang out, risking that the romance will be lost. Romance is not love, but can the loss of one mean the death of the other? As the song suggests, to love madly, to love without reserve and without the interference of the mind may just be the ticket.

Love You Madly

I don’t want to wonder
If this is a blunder
I don’t want to worry whether
We’re gonna stay together
‘Till we die

I don’t want to jump in
Unless this music’s thumping
All the dishes rattle in the cupboards
When the elephants arrive

I want to love you madly
I want to love you now
I want to love you madly, way
I want to love you, love you
Love you madly

I don’t want to fake it
I just want to make it
The ornaments look pretty
But they’re pulling down the branches
Of the Tree

I don’t want to think about it
I don’t want to talk about it
When I kiss your lips
I want to sink down to the bottom
Of the sea

I want to love you madly
I want to love you now, yeah
I want to love you madly, way
I want to love you, love you
Love you madly

I don’t want to hold back
I don’t want to slip down
I don’t want to think back to the one thing that I know I
Should have done

I don’t want to doubt you
Know everything about you
I don’t want to sit across the table from you
Wishing I could run

I want to love you madly
I want to love you now
I want to love you madly, way
I want to love you, love you
Love you madly