THE MIDDLE PLACE

The Middle Place

11536119_10155754172050230_1356899731788923307_nedit

It is in the middle of the place

Where you finally break down

and take the brave journey into your self

Recalling what it was like in vivid detail

Dancing in rhythm to the red hot intensity

of the whole world.

When you could wish for the rain,

To fall down harder,

Knowing it could hear you,

And laughed with you.

Dancing abandoned in warm summer puddles,

It is to this Middle place we must bravely return;

To when one face had two heartbeats,

And we knew all we would need to learn.

When all of the hopes of the world were within us,

flowering within in each cell

we have only reveal it.

Before your skin puckered

and became stained with spots

Before you knew more of what you were

And less of what you are not.

But try you must!

And know that it is not the first thing,

Nor the second or maybe even the fifth thing you try,

That will bring you back from the edge

Of what you believe is your own demise.

Listen to the simple creeping desires

that sounds like the ripping shred

of an old worn out skin,

This is how you will transform

this to that

Here to there,

Then to now.

This is how you will begin again to choose

and move

Past your own freezing point.

As you already know

The Tin Man needed to take one screeching step

Back to himself to recall

How freely his limbs had once moved,

and just knowing this

made him want to run and play

Again.

And although a beloved voice

Can no longer stir the wind,

It is still the music in the rustling of the autumn leaves

And skies of birds chanting in conspiring harmonies

That tell the greater story that you were meant to hear.

It says…

Don’t put the book down before you reach the ending

It has not yet been written!

Perth and Peace Here we Come!

**this was more like a journal entry so I never put it out but as I reread a couple of things (something I nearly never do) I saw this, the fresh reaction to see the Dalai Lama and just felt like tonight the message I and 20000 other people received might be useful. I left his talk with a full and hopeful heart…i hope you feel it yourself. Namaste

******************************************************

July 2015

Perth here we come! Farthest place from Montreal possible and its just AMAZING TO ME…that i will get to sit in the presence of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and other peacekeeping folks from all over the world. WOW!

My mom would have LOVED this…in fact, I’m pretty sure she is orchestrating the whole thing from on high…

She would have loved it all…even the hard stuff.

Even the places where we are challenged to stay centered and peaceful, but strong in desire to unite with non-violence, compassion and love.

yes – peace doesn’t mean nothing bad will happen

Peace doesn’t mean there is nothing to fight for

stand up for

be for

be against…

Peace means that we know we stand even in the middle of the storm and we will not break with the wind.

Wind is good.

It is alive and always changing. Just like the planet…and us. Same thing.

And here it is the weekend of wonders…

May all sentient beings know themselves as each other…Just for a day 😉

peace and joy to everyone on this celebratory weekend!

Taking Depression on the Road

Taking depression on the road…

Travelling all over the world is beautiful, adventurous, romantic and fantastic. I feel like a “citizen of the world…and I love the whole thing – the good, the awesome and the ugly.

But let’s face it – it’s not all roses and can be equally difficult and dangerous for those of us who travel with medical issues like depression or other mental health issues which make us look healthy on the outside, while our mind is melting into something untouchable. Indeed the challenge is mighty to maintain the balance we all require for wellness – but a person with depression must be diligent.  It can be a massive challenge at times to just feel like a normal person in your skin, alone in crowds of familiar-like faces but apart from the motion of another world.   It’s a very strange feeling.  And I really did my best – but there is no way to replicate the kind of gentle balance you can create for yourself in your home environment, when you know the food, the roads, the people – it’s just different.

I must admit I was entirely dismayed when about 9 days after arriving in Australia I dropped into a deep dangerously dark place after trying hard to keep my feet on the ground and carefully walking the edge of a very precarious mind. I hadn’t felt like that in years! Traveler’s exhaustion coupled with the fast pace of each day “trying not to waste a second” of where you are at, knowing it could be the only time you see it, rich food, booze, sugar – my body probably went into some form of shock.   When travelling it just goes with the territory that your physical balance is completely shot with constant restaurant meals, wired eating hours, too much food, wine and not enough weed – harder to find anywhere when you are new. Imaginably for anyone, there are variety of reasons why when travelling you basically relinquish control of your body to the elements of the land you find yourself on.

It is my hope to use my own story with purpose to help break the stigma of depression. It is so important that we are speaking openly about our struggles when it falls on us like a lead weight.

If you’ve never had it – you won’t understand this.

But if you have it – I hope this will make you feel less alone.

Just in case you are not familiar with depression, I’d like to emphasize three things –

1- Depression is not “a bad attitude”, lack of knowledge or some weakness that those without depression don’t.

2- You cannot overcome depression through “sucking it up”. I saw a tee-shirt in Sydney that said…

“Depressed? Have a cup of cement and toughen the fuck up”.

Really…c’mon people.

3- Depression does not go on vacation just because you do. And maintaining the necessary disciplines you need when you are totally outside of your comfort zone – presents some unique challenges.

Medicine…

As a person who uses “natural and usually illegal” means of managing depression, the challenge is greater, because no matter what country you travel to, obtaining such “medicine” requires that you get to know folks a little less than casually or they think you are undercover something or other.

So, four days into Sydney, in the largest city I have ever been in, I found myself quite literally on my knees.  It was wicked. I sat in the bath crying, praying – and feeling like a burden to the entire planet – depression closes the world in around me and makes me the only thing I think about – not good for anyone.  For whatever reason (every good depression has its own “theme”) this was all about the past –  I began reviewing all the regrets of my past – which are very few actually except for the absolute bleak loss I feel when I think about the people and animals I love who have died in the past few years.  Depression brings back the ghost of deep grief for me.

Over the years I have come to understand that even the darkest times will reveal eventually to me a reason –  that it is inevitably something I need to see inside myself, and that those are the times when self-care is absolutely mandatory. The idea that “happiness is created from the inside” is poignant and sharp like a good Pinot Noir.  But you can’t think your way out of depression. The only action to move towards healing is non-avoidance – not try and rid yourself of it, but to recognize, reflect and adapt.  It is imperative you remind yourself that everything is changing – all the time – the happy things the sad things – are all changing.  So – as my mom loved to tell me…

“This too shall pass…”

Even if you don’t believe it.

I know how lucky I am – even when I am in the darkest of them all. . Unlike the people I see living on the streets who suffer from mental health issues, I have a fantastic partner, who is always standing at the ready to help bail me out of this place.  But this one was different – even he was afraid he wouldn’t find me in there.

Here’s how I handle depression…I get into a bath and I cry, and I pray and then I cry and pray more.

My first “bath tub” prayers were to my mother. I miss her in such a tangible way, especially as I travel.  She was my entire inspiration for loving the world and travelling through it like I do.  When I first found out she was my mother, my family sent me to Africa to live with her.   This was my first experience far from home, but unlike the experience I have had in any place since, Africa was home to me.  My feet touched the red soils of Guinea and I was simply – home.  I was happy there with her, basking in the hot African sun, reveling in the multicultural celebrations of living in an expatriate environment. My friends were from all over the world, from all imaginable places. Emmanuel from Ethiopia, my best friend from the US and my first boyfriend from Belgium. I heard the drums, I danced in the rains, and said forever more that we shared a common disorder – la malady d’afrique – my heart was left in Africa.images (1)

In the bathtub that night I prayed…oh did I pray. For a miracle. I needed a good one because nothing looked like it would ever feel good again. I fight with my husband, angry that he is talking to work while I fear I may be dying – not even imagined, it was really how it felt. I think about my mother – my mother – my mother – how she could always talk me down from the ledge, I didn’t even to tell her, she just knew me like two cells from the same being know each other.  I miss my friend.

12191947_10156223241230230_5654482010872487659_nI find it cold here in the deep city – I mean “people cold”. Everyone rushing to work running never saying good morning or making eye contact. A person could really get lost in such a place. But I break free from john and I go and sit on stairs, away from the maddening crowds, where evening commuters are passing by.

I think about the David white video on vulnerability and I think:2014BrochureTours

12239727_10156238747300230_7625399099372976869_n

“Fuck it. I’m going to sit here and just be.”

I think about what a long way I am from who i used to be – from shopping in New York for dresses as a young woman, only caring about my hair and shoes – to sitting here in my Nepalese poncho and ripped jeans, messy hair – I have never looked (or felt) more homeless in my life. It also felt more free than my “former designer self” had ever felt.

People are rushing by me in the evening commute.  I count – one, two three – But no one looks at me, or acknowledges me. I feel like a ghost – invisible. I imagine this is what homeless people must feel like. The loneliness of being invisible and sad was almost indescribable.

I keep my eyes down mostly, sitting on the cement stairs, away from the world walking above me. Occasional post work commuters pass by me, I see shoes – jogging shoes, pretty pumps, sensible men’s shoes.

27 people go by before a man stops in mid step and asks

“Excuse me miss are you OK?”

All I can say as I look up at him is

“You’re number 27….”

He looks confused and a little embarrassed – apologizes to me and moves on. Clearly concerned but not wanting to invest any time.

images (2)

I continue to count pairs of shoes, my mind still begging for a miracle in this cement world I had crouched in.  I see more people, more shoes.  More time passes.  I think about the 15 times a day I stop in the city to make human contact with a homeless person – and I am awash in the wonder of how amazing that must feel to someone that may have this kind of loneliness  every day. I feel sorry for myself – why isn’t anyone doing for me what I freely do all the time?

“Am I the only one who cares left on this planet??”

Hopelessness.

Just in time – a nice pair of casual sneakers stops and I look up to a bright green shirted man; he is number 72 but I don’t say it wanting to be alone as much as I wanted him to not leave.

He looks at me authentically concerned;

“You ok mate?”

I decided to be honest,

“Not really. I have had way better days, but this will pass. Thanks for asking.”

I try a smile but it probably comes out looking like post stroke victim smile all crooked swollen eyes sadness leaking from my face.

He lingers and looks at me then. It was clear he was no stranger to deep sadness.  He had been there, done that and had gotten the tee shirt.  I was grateful for the understanding and connection.

“Good on ya!” Giving me a “that’s the spirit” kind of look.

“You take good care of yourself”, he added sincerely and went on.

That was just enough real human contact for me to be able to get up to my feet and walk back to our hotel to greet my worried husband, wondering at my gratitude for having had the opportunity to feel like a homeless person for a while.   It made me want to tell you how important it is to someone feeling bad, homeless or not, to feel humanity from you, even if you don’t have money to give a person – that exchange can make all the difference.

But then…

The next morning when I didn’t wake feeling any better, I dragged my sorry self-downstairs to smoke a cigarette (I know I know – I’m trying to quit I swear). I was working on a hopeful song, inspired by talking to a young musician excited about her first composition – I felt a focus that was not ME. Very important!

It allowed just enough to open a crack of light…possibility.

The smoking area is a big common square with comfortable benches where people commune to smoke and generally look at their cell phones. I went to be with my poetry. I sat on a bench, concentrating on my own composition when suddenly the blackest man I have ever seen in Australia, I mean BLACK like Africa beautiful black, comes to me and interrupts saying with an angry voice almost, no eye contact,

“May I sit here?”

I look around – most of the benches are empty – why would he want to sit with me?

“Sure”, I say lamely.

I see he is obviously homeless, dirty pants and shirt, and probably suffers from something like paranoid schizophrenia or something along those un-socially acceptable mental health illnesses that cause so many to be homeless. His eyes have no “connection” with me.

“Of course”, I smile at him, wiping the rain off the bench so he can sit in a dry place, pretty sure no one had done something nice for this guy in decades.

Just that first action of doing a kindness for someone else – thinking about someone other than my self – was a great start back to me.

He looks at me long and hard, watching my hand move back and forth across the wood of the bench, a distress, beginning a hushed conversation with only himself.  I lean into him, trying to understand.

“Are you African?” I ask bluntly.

“Yes of course, where the hell do you think I come from” he says in a thick beautiful delicious accent – a

Balm to my ears.

I have to turn my head so he doesn’t see my tears – now from gratitude.  I know it’s my mother sending me what I need…no one else would know this.

“Where do you come from?” I ask trying to get him to focus his talking on one thought.

“Africa…Africa. I left Africa when I was just a child. I am from nowhere now. Everyone my family is all dead form there – there is no more Africa.” He says almost angrily.

download

I think about the beautiful smiling children I loved so much in Africa…the real people who danced and played and understood the way of nature.  The fresh smart beautiful people of Africa, no pretention and such honesty we have never known in the west.  I wonder sadly if this man was one of those proud children learning the drum from his father in a circle of proud family and tribe members.

He starts talking nonsense – about his wife and loss and sadness…

“You are the nicest person I have met here”, I interrupt him unable to hide the grateful tears in my eyes.

He is quiet.

I think he hasn’t smiled in so long his face seems stuck in this frown.

“I’m a musician”, I tell him. “Music makes me feel better”.

I sing him a song – he closes his eyes.

We agree together that the world is fucked up because not enough people sing a dance.

I tell him it would be grand fun to bring a drum into this common place and make the serious people dance so they speak again to the wind – like we did in Africa.

Now he is laughing – and we are both laughing.  I put my arm him and I hug him.

“You are very wonderful”, I say to him.

“Your energy is why I am here – you speak to me”. He says quietly – suddenly completely “there” with me. I feel the power of this.

We sit again quiet comfortable like old friends.  I put my hand on his arm and we are happy…connected and not lonely. Not depressed – now we feel good together in our aloneness.

Soon, his busy speaking mind takes over and he is forced to move on by its vapid imperative to him.

The most unlikely, my husband and his coworker and I go to the Manly Island ferry – world famous for its view of Sydney.  I can tell you right now that touring was NOT in my plan – I could barely have wrapped my mind around being near people, never mind travelling by subway and ferry with crowds of fellow travelers.

But hey – if I have learned nothing else my plans are always not as good as god’s plans…and I only wanted to feel less sadness. I was – as they say – as willing as the dying can be.

We take the subway, my eyes are swollen. I see myself in the window – I look old and tired.  My eyes avoid further self-scrutiny.

Arriving at the quay for the ferry my husband says…

“Jo – do you hear it?”

I am breathing in the fresher air of the harbor incredibly grateful for not being in the city, feeling my feet reconnected…a peace coming over me.

“No”, I say to him distractedly.

Then I hear the sound…the Australian didgeridoo. It has been my only desire to connect with and learn from the Australian aboriginal people, who are incredibly difficult to find in the cities.

Suddenly my feet are running…I am, literally tearing through the crowds, pushing the too slow aside. Maybe I am running for my life? It feels like I am running to someone or something familiar.  I couldn’t have stopped myself if I would have tried.

12191908_10156242879525230_5081364547507608394_n
The Shaman who shakes the Joy from the places it hides.

And then I am DANCING…the dig playing under me lifting me up, and old man and me – he is shaman, dancing beside me. I have rain sticks and I am leaping all over I feel the power of it all and I am ELEVATED by it.

The old shaman invites me beside him – a dew dance. I am FILLED with it all – like a magic that is so hard to describe to you, UT I really want to try.  I want everyone to know this so possible.

He looked at me, and the man on the ground playing the dig and suddenly we are the only ones there.

I feel it shift in me – my joy. He has shaken my joy free – is all I can think.

We leave them eventually to take our ferry ride – but what happened next was all miracle.

My energy so high, everywhere we went people were smiling and talking to us and everyone interchanging.  The ferry people around us soon became like friends, interchanging our experiencing around the world. Talking about how amazing it was to all be together tree.

I can ASSURE YOU that had I gone on that trip with the original energy I came with – one of that would happen.

So here’s my point –

Travelling with depression can be hard – a dive it happens to you, well then you have some work to do.

  • Take exceptionally good care of yourself
  • Create write draw express.
  • Stop caring about what people think.
  • And most important…WAIT FOR THE MIRACLE.!! don’t be so impatient 😉
  • The lower down you go – the greater the beauty that is available.
  • Be a badass…and love it all!

And so, now we are on a different route, back on home territory for us in Australia continuing on with the old shaman’s lovely energy forever inside my heart.

FILLED WITH GRATITUDE and determination to keep myself as well as possible for the people I love and this world I am dedicated to.

Peace!

Shopping With Jesus

There are many challenges to be faced when travelling. One of my biggest hurdles is feeling comfortable in your skin wherever you are. this is massive for me- and often difficult – especially when I find myself deep in a city environment.  I suppose maybe everyone feels like they are in some way “different” from the people around them, but here in Brisbane, 10,000 miles from my peaceful home on a farm and three days of travelling later I find my hippie self feeling sad – hopeless even as I watch the milling of crowds and the focus on buying everything they don’t need. I think about other places, hungry children, no water, war – why ca’t I just enjoy this like everyone else can??

I am in the middle of one of the most wealthy and
cities I the world. Brisbane is a smallish city actually, but everyone here is incredibly well dressed, and carry the “British” politeness that can seem a bit (a bit??) aloof.

john and I go to the local Brisbane City market, where there are fresh fruits and veggies, organic stuff and the most delicious frozen lemonade I have ever had.  That was great – no discomfort. After the sweet little market, we find ourselves in a shopping mecca of rare proportions.  Air condtioners blast cool air onto the cordoned off open high end retail street to enhance to experience of visiting shoppers. Local folks come out at lunch time and mill about the long road closed off for the exclusive stores – Versace, Rolex, Gucci.  Shop windows with beautiful new fashions, flowing and shiny. A massive wall of art looks like an explosion of butterflies, and an old man is playing a tin flute and tapping his foot. Well dressed children walk with their well dressed parents look straight ahead and don’t return my smile. Chinese and Hong Kong clients adorned in snappy asian fashion; a parade of humanity in a sea of commercialism.

Meanwhile, all I can think of while I am walking through this mass of materialism is how ridiculous I feel.  Part of me wants to look like those beautifully dressed, shiny haired women, with their perfect shoes, and matching handbags.  Yup – part of me really wants to be part of that group that no one looks down on. No one pushes around. The group that has a protective wall of money and a feeling of entitlement around them. I was a full member of that unfortunate club when I was younger – but here I am torn.

My feet are sore, and I reach down to take off my shoes.  My messy hair spills into my face, I am swetaing and it all stick to me. I look up – Figuring I must have looked like  a Muppet for  second.  I remember the conversation last week when my daughter remarked to me as I stood in our living room wearing my Nepalese poncho and thong sandals, that my wardrobe looked remarkably like I went shopping with Jesus. Maybe I need an overhaul.  at phillip island

I look down now, here in Brisbane at my Jesus feet, my hippie shirt and I am suddenly thinking about a hair cut, pumps and an A line skirt like “in the old days” when I was working in the “real world” as a sales rep and had “an image to maintain” and there were rules about this kind of stuff. I hate rules.

Suddenly I am full of shit, and nothing I wear, nothing I do to my hair, not even a pair of Luis Vuiton would make this all ok.

I am disgusted. I am sad and i feel hopeless – standing in the  of the center of this massive milling well dressed aloof crowd. I take my shoes off.  I feel the ground beneath my feet and exhale with  great pleasure. Looking around I feel a wash of gratitude at my freedom. Let;s face it – those other people could not take their shoes off. They would not put their feet on the earth to remind themselves that we are all humans travelling a journey together. They would not seek eye contact with me or anyone else – they are too busy thinking about how they can sati=sfy their next desire.They can not- their choices have compromised their freedom to be.

I am grateful for my free feet – my naked feet now burning on the hot perfectly paved nearly golden lined streets of Brisbane. I am grateful for my freedom – for my choices and for my ME-ness.

Yes…

Maybe I look like I shopped with Jesus. Maybe my clothes isn’t fancy. and Maybe I don’t have a fancy office and a big car. No – the whole PLANET is my office i realize! And my job – is MUSIC. wow – how awesome is that.

My confession to you dear reader is that I like poverty. I like poor places and I like poor people. Why? Because they are easy to understand, relate to – get them and they get me. There is a kindness that exists in poverty that is certainly absent in Gold trimmed cultures. there is a feeling of connection and purpose and commitment to goodness that you will not find on Wall street.

I heard of a place called Bhuto that actually measures the wealth of its nation according to GDH – Gross Domestic Happiness.  How awesome.

Today I will be alone in the city, and I will go back to the “golden mecca”, take my shoes off – hell maybe I’ll even play int he fountain.

And Ill stop caring about how I look, and who I am in the world outside my own heart. A

I will make eye contact even if my fellow humans dont want it – and to the best of my ability I WILL LOVE THEM ALL.

Shoe less, messy haired and jesus ponchoed – its just me. That’s it.

🙂

PEACE!