Mandalas, Taiko, and the BFG

“This is the third year in a row you know.”

“For what?” I said to my Pay Attention voice.  I was coloring a mandala after putting the last kiddo of the day to bed, washing the last dish, double checking the last door lock: I wasn’t exactly opposed to revelations, but I was tired.  I followed the thought anyways as I continued to pull colored pencils…

2015–While reading Women Who Run With the Wolves I resonate with the wisdom of The Scar Clan chapter, and before I know it, I am designing altars to parts of my life where I am leaving something behind–history that wants to be present, habits, foundational beliefs, others errors I’d claimed as my own. You name it, I found symbolic representation for it.  Then one by one, as I understood it to be time, I left them in different places.  One under a seat on Caltrain, one in a park near my home, one outside my dance hall one chilly Monday night while the sweat dried on my neck.

2016–I spend two months walking the labyrinth at the German/Chinese school.  I walk at night with the cleaning crew giving me a wide berth, I walk during the weekends when a church rents out the space–kids occasionally watch me as they play tether ball in the courtyard nearby.  I walk in the rain, I walk in the cold, I walk bored, and I walk interested.  All I really know is–I need to walk.

2017–My movement teacher gives the entire Monday night set up crew books of mandalas for 2016 Christmas.  Another friend gives me the loveliest box of colored pencils, bursting with shades of every color.  I consider that maybe I’m looking stressed out to people, but that brain squiggle disappears the moment I start my first mandala.  Around the same time, I decide to take up Taiko drumming with my whitey white self.  Why Taiko?  I saw a flyer one day walking down Castro Street and thought, “Yes, that.”  The rest is history.  I learn to get my tall self low to the drum, I learn to swing high and fast and hard, I learn how much Epsom salts I needed in my bathtub each Sunday night.

I was shocked and grateful as I wrapped the blanket tighter in the drafty house.  I know what I need.  I’ve always known, even when I’m not listening or don’t have the tools to implement actions.  I even know the best sequence in which to provide these things to myself!  My rational brain looked over the list and took stock of what I think I gained from each.  The altars helped me review where I’d been, but more importantly, they helped me start to shift my relationship to change.  In the past it had been something that was done to me, but I began to see that I could participate in it through both welcome and release.  If I was willing to pay attention, I could make transitions.  My days and nights in the labyrinth helped me to really start listening to myself again.  Even when I felt like it was a wickedly stupid idea on the way there, and my time would be way better spent on Netflix, on the way back there would often be a clear action I wanted and needed to take.  It deepened the process of slowing down and paying attention, this time to the present instead of the past.  Finally, playing in color and sound at the beginning of this year is shifting how I take up space and how I take in what’s happening around me.  Both music and color dissolve the boundaries and expectations I put upon things.  As two of our universal languages, they broaden what I can see through my limited cultural lens.  And as I inhabit this moment in my life, I very much want to see bigger.

In all of these very different, very meditative activities, I feel a new capacity arising: the capacity to welcome surprise.  And not just the good surprise, like flowers or an unexpected compliment, but the surprise of ‘the yearly rent hike is in and I have 18$ in the bank.’  A question I have recently asked myself is, “When life bumps you like that, or harder, could there possibly be love in the bumps/slams/dings/squashes/crushes?”  Though I have not had anything violent enough happen recently to test that question, my feeling is that the answer, underneath all the heartache, is yes.  There is love in the bumps.

Simply put, the universe seems to be investing a lot these last few years in helping me become more flexible, more fluid in the way I respond to my life.  I think where I get in trouble is when I spin my gears over the question, “Why?”  Is there a momentous thing coming that will require all these lessons?!?!  Maybe.  But I think it’s just as possible that they are simply for the “purpose” of helping me be me in the truest way possible in any moment.  Whichever line of thinking is “correct”, I know longer fear I’m going to miss whatever is coming.

Yesterday I watched the Disney remake of Roald Dahl’s BFG on Netflix.  It opens with our heroine wandering through a darkened orphanage with this voice over: “It was the witching hour, when the boogie man comes out.  The girls say the witching hour arrives at midnight.  I think it comes at three in the morning, when I’m the only one left awake, like now.”  She goes to the window when she hears a noise, and accidentally catches a glimpse of the giant.  Before you know it, a big hand comes through the window and plucks her away, and the adventure begins.  My reaction?  I knew I hadn’t been feeling like reading lately because I’d been thinking of the wrong books–esoteric, serious, grown-up titles.  They are all things I truly want to read, at some point, but my brain is asking for different fuel now.  I had the briefest moment of poo-pooing my desire to read children’s books, but then I simply said to myself, “We don’t argue about this stuff anymore.” I knew I’d be in the library before the week was over, checking out all the Roald Dahl books I could, both read and unread, to commence another meditative leg, to answer another curious call.  I will provide myself with what I need, even if I don’t quite know yet why I need it.

I’ll let you know how the reading goes!


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I am a former teacher, writer, dancer, aspiring Taiko drummer, and artist. I am trying to listen to the journey, no matter where it turns, and pump out a whole lot of magic while I do.

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