Raw and Ripped Open
Barn's burnt down—
now I can see the moon.
I’m in Abiquiu, New Mexico, right now where the night wind rolls like ocean waves, rocking me back to myself. So many days I have dreamed of this place—the deep silence, the stark, hot rawness that strips the soul bare. I really love it here—nothing but sky and clouds, cracked earth, strong light, and space. In this naked land I can feel my heart. I can feel her tender crevices and secret wounds, her buried beauty, and her yearning. I can feel her sweet, searing grief and her hunger to be seen and known.
Being here has been challenging, yet so beautiful. No distractions, no people, no nothing. Just me and my heart and a stack of sorrow that I keep offering to the southwestern sun.
A few months ago I had the desire to visit New Mexico. I used to come down here every now and then when I lived in Colorado, and I always felt a sense of home. This time I wanted to visit Abiquiu, even though I had never been before. I knew it was home to Georgia O’Keefe’s Ghost Ranch and a monastery called Christ in the Desert, but that’s about all. Much to my good fortune, I found out that a friend of a friend owns an organic farm there and she invited me to stay. So I rented a car in Albuquerque and made my way to her amazing sanctuary by the Chama River. That’s where I am now and she is actually away, so it’s just me and a symphony of crickets, a zillion stars, two caretakers, three dogs, and one 36 year-old horse.
Although I spend a lot of time alone when I’m at home, there’s something different about being here. The vastness of the sky and the intensity of the elements turn me inside out. It’s very healing, but I have to admit: from the moment I stepped off the airplane, I have been crying. Part of it is the nostalgia of being out west again and part of it is the bare beauty of the desert. But most of it is that I finally have some space to connect with myself and this overwhelming heaviness keeps rising up from my depths, begging for release.
This last year has been one of the hardest of my life. I hesitate to say thehardest because each period of life brings its own challenges, but this past year has been almost unbearable at times. I have experienced the continual falling away of people and things that once gave me meaning. I have felt incredibly stuck and bereft about my still-unfinished album. I have felt humiliated, lonely, exhausted, confused, and painfully aware of my flaws. And I have endured a relentless churning deep inside my being—a churning that has brought up all of this old, shadowy stuff and made me question just about everything in my life.
Sometimes these periods happen—they’re like intense clearings that level the house so a new structure can be built. And while it’s really not fun, I know it’s necessary. In my experience, if we go too long without heeding the call to step into a more authentic existence, life will make sure it happens one way or another. At such times, everything and anything that no longer serves our highest good may come undone, forcing us to let go and open to the unknown. While this may look fierce on the surface, in actuality it is nothing but grace that makes things fall apart so they can be put back together in a new way. It’s a painful process, but it has to happen. And it’s happening for me.
Four years ago I jumped off a cliff into the void. I left my familiar world, moved to the Berkshires, and devoted my whole heart to being an artist. At first I had no idea what that would look like because I never considered myself a creative person, but I knew I had to unearth my unique voice. Much to my surprise, that's what occurred. It was wild and beautiful and challenging and shocking, but somewhere along the way I took a deep breath... and never exhaled. What happened is the sweet, innocent artist in me was born a bit premature. She busted out of the birth canal, did a few flips, sang a few songs, and then realized she wasn’t quite ready for the world. So a few months ago she went back into the womb to cook a little more. At the moment she’s still there in the dark, ripening.
All of this is just to say that I’m not sure where I’m going or what I’m doing right now. I just know that I’ve been very out of balance and my energy has been scattered and stressed, trying hard to be a self-employed, single woman in a vocation that is still so new and unfamiliar. I know I’m on the right path, but I need to find a way to walk this path with more gentleness, trust, and joy. I need to do some self-inquiry and get clear about what I want to offer and how I want to serve. And I need to slow down and come back to a more yin space.
What do I mean by "yin" space? I mean a way of being that is more yielding, open, and embodied. More, well, feminine. In order to create a new dharma for myself, I’ve had to draw on a lot of my so-called “masculine” qualities: clarity, direction, assertiveness, bravery, initiative, and independence. It’s been wonderful to tap those traits, but ultimately I prefer to rest in my feminine essence, which is more intuitive, nurturing, and receptive. I’ve honestly been living like a monk in a hermitage for the past few years with a one-pointed focus on my work, and in the process I’ve inadvertently turned away from some really important things like intimacy, vulnerability, softness, sensuality, surrender, and the simple beauty of being. I’ve felt so hardened over with a shell of protection, trying to be strong and not fall apart, but the time has come for that shell to crack open.
The truth is, although my career has value because it’s the outward expression of my soul, ultimately what matters to me is love. And, sadly, love has felt very far away for the past few years. So many of my old, young patterns of closure have come to the surface and embracing those patterns with compassion hasn’t been easy. Still, somehow I’ve been able to hang out in that black hole of pain and look my core wounds of unworthiness, self-loathing, and shame right in the eye. Somehow I’ve been able to sit in the center of my greatest fears and not turn away. It’s been excruciating and amazing and, by grace, I’m finally starting to love those perfectly broken parts of myself and to see that they are nothing but love in disguise.
Nevertheless, things have felt ‘off’ for a while and it’s time for them to change. Of course I’m all for living at the very edge of life and making endless love with the unknown. I’m all for screwing up and learning from my so-called “mistakes”. And I’m all for bawling my eyes out because I don’t know where I belong or why I push love away so much. I’m all for all of it—the whole damn, delicious mess. I want to embrace it all because every path is a one-way road to awakening in this joint. At the same time, I need to live in alignment with my heart. And if my mind is on fire and I’m not tending to my feminine depths or honoring my sacred desires or making space to just be, then something has to shift.
In the Tibetan tradition there is a term called bardo. Bardo means “intermediate state” and, though it’s traditionally defined as the period between one life and the next, I’ve gone through several so-called “bardos” in this one incarnation. You know those times when everything feels like a liminal zone where the old hasn’t fully disintegrated and the new hasn’t fully arrived? To me, that’s a bardo. And it’s a pretty uncomfortable place to be because there’s not much to hold onto. Right now I’m in that kind of space. I have the sense that I’m being squeezed into something new—I just don’t know what that new thing is yet. I know I can’t run back to my old way of life, but I don’t know what I’m moving towards. At the same time, part of me has unwavering faith that this is exactly what’s supposed to happen right now. And in that flicker of faith, everything is okay.
Recently I read some interesting stuff about butterflies. Do you know that before a caterpillar becomes a butterfly its entire being turns to liquid? Yes, the little leaf-muncher actually digests itself, releasing enzymes to dissolve all of its tissues. Once that happens, the nectar reconfigures itself into a new form, the chrysalis cracks open, and the butterfly emerges—crumpled and vulnerable with tiny, wet wings pressed close to its body. Clinging to the shell of the chrysalis, it pumps fluid into its wings to expand them and within just a few hours the bright soul is ready to fly.
Sweet blog reader, right now I feel like my old sense of self is being liquified. I can’t seem to grab hold of my identity and solidify it like I always pretended to in the past. I can’t figure anything out. Am I a singer? A writer? A woman? A child? A lover? A lion? A healer? A poet? A plum? A friend? A freak? A cloud? A song? A name? Maybe I’m all of it, and nothing. And maybe it doesn’t matter. It just seems like there are certain times when we’re asked to let go of an outgrown way of life and open to something new. But in order for that process to unfold, we have to drop all of the things that stand in our way and allow the intelligence of life to transform us into the fully flowered beings we are destined to be.
It’s at times like these that all we can do is offer everything into the cosmic fire and keep letting go. In Sanskrit there is a word called svaha. Svaha is an exclamation that essentially means, “so be it” or “all hail”. It’s an expression of offering and release. When I really don’t know what the f%*k is going on and all of my conceptions are snapping like dry twigs, I can’t think of anything better to say than svaha. It’s sort of like telling the universe, “I don’t know anything, so I’m throwing everything into your compassionate inferno: Endless failures. Svaha! Praise or blame. Svaha! Lost love. Svaha! Blocked creative energy. Svaha!Joy, jealousy, sorrow, and success. Svaha! Purity and pollution. Svaha! Humility and arrogance, pain and pleasure, self and no-self. Svaha!”
I realize this may sound a little heavy, but from my perspective it’s not. It’s just the natural evolution of life—creation, preservation, and dissolution. Even though it hurts beyond words sometimes, the dissolution phase has to be honored, too. If you look really closely, you can see that a new light, a new creation, is hiding just beneath the surface of whatever is falling away. A snake only sheds its skin when a new skin has already grown underneath it. When it’s time to evolve into something bigger, the snake has to shed its old layers. If it doesn’t it will suffer greatly, and maybe even die. We, too, are like the snake—we have to let go of our worn-out self-concepts and attachments. And we have to trust that, as we endure the painful process of letting go, a beautiful new reality is already there, waiting for us to step into it.
When I look with honest eyes, sometimes I can see a new life for myself. I can see an existence where I don’t berate my heart for being human and I don’t divide my being into “good” and “bad”. I can see a reality where I embody love—not just as a platitude, but as a lived experience. Not just as an idea, but as a vibration that permeates everything. I can see a world that mirrors back the beauty that I am instead of the lies that my mind conjures up to stay safe and small. In truth, this new life already exists in the space between my thoughts. It exists in the center of this very moment. And it exists when I drop my efforts to be someone special who is trying to get somewhere. Where could I possibly go? The only real destination is here.
Right now I don’t have much to offer but the messy madness of my journey. In this story, there is a woman. She likes to forget herself and sing. She likes to feel things deeply, drink tea, write crazy blogs, and listen to the rain. She likes to read about saints, wear red, and play with her hair. She doesn’t know what will happen in the next chapter of her book, but she’s doing her best to stop grasping and let it be revealed.
There you have it, sweet blog reader. Do you know that I love you? I do. That may sound like bullshit, but I think we both know there’s a place deep inside where all of us are madly in love with each other. Let’s hang out there for a while. Or forever.