Honoring the Costs of Military Service

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Soldiers going off to war. PTSD. These are words and images that we have seen before and know something about, even if we’ve never experienced it ourselves.

Perhaps because I grew up in a military family, on this Veterans Day my mind goes to the costs of military service at the very personal level. Take this family photo by Abby Bennethum, of her then four-year daugher Paige, unable to let go of her daddy’s hand as he was called into formation to serve in Iraq. It spoke to many of us, both through her hometown paper and then through more national coverage. I first saw the poignant photo through the USAA website months ago, and it remains in my heart still.

There are the separations, and moves from one part of the country or the world to another, at a time of the government’s choosing, to a location you may or may not have requested. There are many ways, large and small, that our country’s soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and Coast Guard members have given of themselves in service to our country. If this is or has been you—thank you for your service.

I saw a video that truly brought home for me the deep costs some service members experience…click on the image to the right to watch it for yourself. It’s about veterans experiencing PTSD and some practitioners of Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) who work with them. You see the in-the-moment effects on the vets of recounting their original trauma, along with the effects since coming home, and glimpses of what they went through to become freer from its grip. For anyone who would like to explore receiving similar help for themselves or others, the Iraq Vets Stress Project offers some resources. There is also a Real Warriors website that offers a different array of support for vets’ “resilience, recovery and reintegration.”

Note: Experiencing these vets’ stories through video was a powerful experience for me, and I used a variation of EFT while watching it to work my own emotions that came up. The video below shows the points for SET, a simplified version of EFT. It gives you a chance to try out an energy tapping technique for yourself in 10 minutes if you’re interested. (Obviously for those experiencing PTSD and wanting to try EFT, the Iraq Vets Stress Project would be the best resource, as an experienced practitioner is important.) I chose this video because Steve Wells demonstrates here a hand technique that can be easily used in everyday life…and that’s what I used while watching the vets video.

As I said, I experienced a lot of emotions just watching the vets in the “Emotional Freedom for War Veterans” video, and I have never been in situations close to those described. Again my thanks to all those who have served as veterans, and to the vets in the video who were willing to share so nakedly of their experience.

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Dancer and choreographer Martha Graham’s (1894-1991) famous quote has always resonated with me, especially  when she said I don’t even have to believe in myself or my work, only to allow it to be and come forth.

After reading the context of her words, I am even more moved. I have felt the divine dissatisfaction both Martha Graham and her protegé Agnes de Mille (1905-1993) spoke of, and it now feels a divine gift, rather than a flaw to be gotten rid of. It speaks to my artist’s soul, and frees it.

In case it resonates with others, here it is, from Agnes de Mille’s 1950 autobiography, Dance to the Piper, in context. It starts with Agnes de Mille’s words.

“The work wasn’t good enough. All changed, all passed. There was no way of ensuring lasting beauty. Verily, I wrote in water and judging my work with a dreadful dispassionate vision, perhaps it was as well. I spoke to Martha Graham on the pavement outside of Schrafft’s restaurant. She bowed her head and looked burningly into my face. She spoke from a life’s effort. I went home and wrote down what she said:

‘There is a vitality, a life-force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep open and aware directly to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open….’

‘But,’ I said, ‘when I see my work I take for granted what other people value in it. I see only its ineptitude, inorganic flaws, and crudities. I am not pleased or satisfied.’

‘No artist is pleased.’

‘But then there is no satisfaction?’

‘No satisfaction whatever at any time,’ she cried passionately. ‘There is only a queer divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than others.'”

I think when I first read those words many years ago, I thought, what an awful way to live, I never want to be that way…I want to be happy with my life.

But as I live more, I keep finding life is not, at its root, either/or, but closer to both/and. The divine dissatisfaction that Martha speaks of is what I feel at the root of creation…because it is so clear, feeling the divine perfection coming through and then seeing how imperfect it is as I seek to bring it into form.

And yet there is also a feel of perfection in its imperfection, so that those words no longer hold the same meaning as before. It is Martha Graham’s queer divine dissatisfaction as it rests in the arms of the unchanging. There is such joy and aliveness in it, this feeling at the source of creation. It is the beat of the universe, in its unendingly changing form.

Let’s dare to be sacred fools, dancing with life and allowing its vitality to be translated through us into action. In and through our own queer divine dissatisfaction, let’s allow our own unique expression to find its life in this world, for the sake of all.

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Imaginal Buds

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In writing about changing hotels instead of trying to rehabilitate the rickety hostel that’s my life right now, I also thought of that poor old caterpillar liquefying within its coccoon. Not a neat and tidy process, that. And how, as Osho says, a butterfly cannot prove that a caterpillar can become a butterfly.  Not only isn’t there a way, but what would be the point? One has simply to experience it.


I realized it’s time to just be with the liquefying of the coccoon of my life. Something new is emerging, and this is just part of the process. I’m glad I don’t need to keep on trying to put all the cells back the way they were! Wasn’t working anyway *wry grin*.

I also decided to google for a little verification that caterpillars do indeed liquefy in the process of becoming a butterfly. And in the wonderful serendipity that is also my life right now, I found this beautiful explanation from Earth’s Birthday Project of what actually goes on inside the crysalis:

“Inside the pupal exoskeleton, the caterpillar’s organs liquefy in a process much like digestion. Some tiny cell clusters, called “imaginal buds,” remain intact. These growth centers contain the chromosomes that carry the butterfly’s genes. They have been inactive throughout the caterpillar’s life, protected deep inside its body. Now the caterpillar body excretes a hormone that signals them to start growing and form all of the butterfly’s body parts. As they develop, imaginal buds absorb nutrients contained in the liquefied caterpillar body. In a few days, the pupa becomes semi-transparent, and the colorful butterfly begins to appear faintly inside. A day or two later, the butterfly emerges.”

1. Butterfly emerge crop_lifecycleonenessbecomesus.comTo me it perfectly describes our growth transformation when we start liquefying the ego life we’ve spent a lifetime building and choose to instead grow the seeds of our soul’s calling. Those imaginal buds of our soul have been patiently waiting until we were ready to grow from them. And in those soul’s callings are the blueprint for a radically new life to form from our soul’s essence on out.

It’s not about knowing how it will turn out…though the capacity to join in co-creation is there…it’s about hearing the whispers and following them, not knowing where they will lead. That is much more scarey for me, much more uncertain. And so much truer to the soul depth of my experience.

I give thanks for my imaginal soul buds.

If you’re interested, Butterfly in Transformation has great pics and video of the process (and is the source of these shots).

Categories : A Sacred Fool
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I’m changing hotels

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I had a dream last night about trying to find my way back to my hotel room. It was a hostel-like facility with small narrow hallways that kept turning direction and incredibly rickety elevators. The elevator door would open but the only way for me to tell where I was was to make my way to a window or area that opened to the outside, then I could tell how high up I was and what direction I’d turned by the scenery out the window (which tended to be other buildings).

I kept getting out, see the change of scenery and that I was higher up than my room…make my way back through the maze, take another elevator…see new scenery, again too high up…try again.

I woke up and thought: I’m changing hotels!

Why expend so much energy trying to go back to where I’ve been, to my hotel room as I knew it, when I’m growing into such a better and more alluring space? I mean, it’s the difference between that rickety hostel and a luxurious room at Loews Lake Las Vegas, which is where a workshop I’m considering attending is being held. Take a look at this:


Now that’s a hotel room!

It also represents where I choose to head more than where I’ve been. And I woke up realizing I’ve been wasting a lot of energy trying to get back to where I’ve been.

It’s like my mom always said to me growing up: you can use anything you want, but put it back where you found it. Well, as my life has been shifting and as I step into my destiny, I haven’t been able to get back to where I found anything, let alone be able to put anything back. That’s what my dream was showing me.

And what I realized was, in this instance–that’s a good thing. Let it go, and move where my soul and destiny is calling me. That’s more important that figuring out where I’ve been, or trying to neaten up an old life that’s falling apart. Instead embrace the change and make conscious choices about what I create.

Categories : A Sacred Fool
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We all know the triangle of disempowerment…that interrelationship of victim, perpetrator and rescuer that perpetuates no matter which of the 3 roles we happen to play in the moment. Changing roles doesn’t free us from the triangle, it just changes the scenery.

Stepping off the triangle becomes more important as we seek to dream a better world into being. From a shamanic perspective, what we see in the world is a reflection of where we are in the moment.  If we want to see more peace in the world, a peace that comes from within allows space for it to come into being without. If we remain at war with ourself, battling our different roles, even as we try to dream in a higher destiny for the world, aspects of that inner war are still projected into the future we’re dreaming.

By claiming our role as creators and consciously shedding our roles as victim, perpetrator and rescuer, we each take our own steps to being the peace we wish to see into the world.

Here is one man’s example:

Thank you, Daniel Beaty.

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